Monday, March 16, 2009

Because Some Things, You Just Don't Post to Facebook

It's been years, thankfully, since I've had a UTI, but surprise! Here it is! Hey there, old friend! I wasn't really looking for you, and yet here you are!

Gee, it's been a long time. I thought I was getting really good at making sure that I drank enough, avoiding e coli, peeing before and after sex. You know, all of the things that I'm supposed to do, and do consciously, just to avoid you. But apparently something went wrong, because here you are. And here you stay, despite the fact that I've now drunk half my body weight in cranberry juice, shelled out $22 at the natural food store for cranberry pills, and halved my coffee consumption. In fact, you seem to be a particularly tenacious version of yourself, since none of this is putting a dent in you. Which is odd, because in the many many times that you've come to visit in the past, I could basically cut you down to size in a matter of hours. But you're apparently moving your furniture in and stocking the fridge---you're thinking you're here to stay, I imagine.

It's not that I don't enjoy having you around. Really. I mean, I'm probably better hydrated than I've ever been in my life. And hell, I'm really clean. The kind of clean that comes from scalding hot baths at 2:30 in the morning in an attempt to flush you. Nothing says "good morning" like urethral-pain insomnia!

So, thanks to you, I'm going to renew my relationship with my doctor. Hooray! You and me will just have to sit here and stare at the phone together until the office opens at 9. I suppose we can sing a few verses of Kumbaya if you'd like. Since we're such close pals and all, having spent the last 36 hours together, do you think you could prep for my two classes today?


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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Monday, March 02, 2009

Not Dead. Just....Thinking.

Um, hi there. Remember me?

Once upon a time, I was a snarky tenure-track faculty member, full of vim and vigor (some might even say piss and vinegar), armed with a killer fashion sense and her very own blog. So what happened?

Oy, last semester was a doozy. When last we saw the Fluff, she was in a swirling pit of rage and resentment, some of which was unbloggable for confidentiality reasons, and some was just a never-ending screed about how pissed off I was at the world, and thus, nothing that needed to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting blog world. In other words: some of what I wanted to talk about I couldn't, and some of what I couldn't help saying needed to not be transcribed. So, sorry to leave you out of the loop, and you're welcome!

As a point of re-entry into the academic blogosphere, let me say this: I think something weird happens to one's brain in the semester of tenure application. [In the grand tradition of universalizing my own experience, I'm going to assume that this is true for someone other than me.] Once I turned in the binder from hell, I spent the rest of the semester trapped between the inevitable (but unnecessary) existential fear of being fired, and the anticipation of how burningly resentful I would be of everything I had done for the last five years if I were denied. If you were trapped in my cranium in December, you would have heard this:
"I know everyone gets tenure, but this is a horrible economic year. What if I'm the first ever to get fired?"
"Oh, puh-leez. You're not going to get fired."
"Dude, if this place doesn't give me tenure, I'm going to kill someone. I've done five times the amount of stuff that I'm supposed to have done. None of which was done by some people who were recently tenured. Fuckers. Why on earth have I prostituted myself for this crappy job?! I hate everyone who's ever asked me to do any form of service, and I hate myself for doing it."

Charmant, non? Again with the "you're welcome."

Suffice to say, now that I've gotten the good news and it's actually starting to sink in, I find the entire mental merry-go-round ridiculous. Ha! Good one, tenure system! Funny! I guess the joke's on me!

Now that the resentment is diffused a bit (and strangely, it's only a bit, for reasons that I may blog about later), I'm struck by the ways that I'm constantly being brought up short by the recognition that I don't HAVE to do certain things in order to feed the great gaping maw of tenure application. Example: the form for committee self-nominations just came out last week, and despite the fact that I currently sit on the most contentious and crap-slinging committee on campus, I grudgingly perused the list of open seats on other committees. And then I remembered: I don't need to pad out an end-of-year faculty report. I can do it if I want to, or I can sit this round out.

And thus, I think I'm entering the unmapped territory of intrinsic motivation. For the entirety of my career (such as it is), motivations have always been clear and provided by the accepted trajectory of academe. Apply to graduate school, get into graduate school. Finish coursework and write prospectus so as to begin dissertation. Pass prospectus defense so as to become ABD. Write dissertation so as to finish degree. Finish degree and publish so as to apply for jobs. Get job and teach, research, serve so as to get tenure. Get tenure so as to have a job into perpetuity. Get a job into perpetuity so as to...? What goes here?

It's not the case that I didn't enjoy myself along the way. In fact, I might seriously look back at this train of milestones and make the argument that I managed to get them done because I did what I wanted, as opposed to ignoring what I wanted or thought was most engaging. However, even in the best of all circumstances, when my own desires overlapped with a particular stated goal, it was always the case that any given project or undertaking was a two-fer. I'm interested in researching this topic AND I need to give a conference paper for my tenure file. I'm invested in co-sponsoring this series AND it looks good for my college service.

Aside from the carrot of promotion to full professor (which seems a LONG way off), the two-fer is off the table. So. What goes here? I'm genuinely interested to figure that out.

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