Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spanking my Inner Moppet

So, clearly, I need to work on this whole "blogging consistently" thing.

Many thanks to y'all for your kind welcomes back and congratulations. I'm happy to be back, and happy to think about rejoining the ongoing conversation. Since a couple of you mentioned that you're interested in the immediately post-tenured musings, I thought I could share a couple of the things that I've been thinking about (because otherwise, you'll have to hear about my spring break, or my marriage, or the exponential growth of my giant ass).

When I think back on my time here at Askesis U., I'm struck by the eternal recurrence of two particular observations involving some of the tenured professoriate. The first is the universal screed: how can that person (changeable with circumstance and context) be such a undermining bully/solipsistic nutjob/abusive, sneaky jerkface/(insert your own description-insult here). The second, of course, is the flip side of that coin: why doesn't someone shut him/her up, or, at least, advocate for the junior faculty who are getting whacked on by him/her?

I think I'm at an institution where we have an ingrained culture of the dyad described above, bought by years of power-grabs and tag-teaming and cults of personality. And I've certainly been on the receiving end of the abuse, while I've watched many of my friends/colleagues go through the same. My sense, then, is that my shiny new tenure comes with some significant responsibility. The first, is, in some ways, the easier and more visible of the two: figure out how to set up a situation for untenured faculty that doesn't mirror the gauntlet that I felt I had to run. I don't want to get some sort of bizarre martyr complex here, I don't think I need to save people, especially those who don't feel like they need saving. So for now, I'm hoping that it's enough to listen when people come to talk to me, and to look for ways to make things like committee appointments, departmental busywork, and course rotation more fair.

The other one is the one that troubles me more, as it seems more insidious. My additional responsibility, I think, is to avoid becoming a self-satisfied, authoritarian baby tyrant who thinks that she knows everything and holds people hostage to her own ideas. Part of me hopes that some of you are saying: "no way! you could never become that person!" [If you're not, skip ahead a few sentences.] Oh, but I could! I really could! Look, I'm basically already that person in certain situations (buying housewares, for instance). In many ways, I think the tenure system, with its complete lack of checks and balances, is a set-up for the production of tyrants. Yogini and I have already discussed two of our courses that aren't going so superbly this semester, and ended by saying: "hey, at least no one is reading the course evals anymore." You SEE?!!

In short, tenure, it seems to me, comes with a set of ethical responsibilities that are the least of your worries when you're assembling your materials. As an inveterate self-flagellator, spending 30 years in a system without many consequences except opprobrium is a recipe for potential disaster. I'm keeping my eyes open for some good role models, and some hidden mechanisms to keep my inner tyrant bound up. In the meantime, if you hear me getting too big for my new britches, start yelling, would you?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh how i've missed you! i have nothing of import to say, except, your title cracked me up. and i'm sure you will grow nicely into your britches.

Sunday, March 15, 2009 3:02:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Awww, thanks! Good to see you too, and just because I haven't been writing doesn't mean I haven't been keeping up with what's going on with y'all. You got your plate full, girl!

Monday, March 16, 2009 8:24:00 AM  
Anonymous The Bittersweet Girl said...

This post reminds me why I'm so happy to have the kfluffian perspective on things academic.

I completely agree with your observation that academia seems designed to tranformed the formerly disempowered into the newly oppressive. I have undergone this transformation myself -- despite all my best efforts to preserve my sense of perspective and claim to ethics. To whit: while a grad student I swore to myself that I would never forget how much it sucked to be a grad student and that I would therefore be a compassionate, caring, devoted, and involved advocate for grad students. Fast forward to today: as an overworked, underpaid, exhausted and stressed out rat on the revolving tenure track, I couldn't care less about my grad students -- I just need them to get their shit done and stop bothering me. Okay, maybe it's not that severe, but you get the picture. And, yes, I have completely forgotten about how hard it is to be a grad student because now I am swearing to myself I'll never forget how hard it is to be tenure-track.

I'll be watching to see whether you, kfluff, can resist the cycle ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 2:03:00 PM  

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