Saturday, September 7, 2013

My first two weeks as a tenured professor

...are weird. Lot of things are happening, some positive, some less so. And there is a bunch of stuff that I just cannot write about, although it would help me as a way of clarifying some situations a little bit. Here is what I can say, even if I am a little vague

- I seem to have made the most obvious mistake a newly tenured professor does: taking on way too much service work. And it is not going to get better. For better or for worse, I seem to be emerging as a major player on campus, and we are in a time of transition. I don't know how I feel about it, or where to find the balance. I loathe professors who think committee work is beyond them. At my institution, it is your opportunity to be engaged, and have a say in important matters. Occasionally, the administrators actually listen to you. Those who shun committee work are the first to complain and criticize, and they don't understand when you tell them that no, you cannot have this program running next semester, because the natural channel for it to get approved is to send it to committee X and B. It actually pays to know how a bureaucracy works, you can get things accomplished. So on one hand, I think there is an opportunity opening for me. On the other, I still need to find a better balance

- I have the feeling that agreeing to serve on a certain committee in exchange for getting out of teaching Spanish composition (I didn't get a course reduction, just a less grading intensive class) was probably not a good idea. Oh well...

-Unrelated to my previous point, I seem to have made an enemy. While I was never BFF with this person, it took me by surprise. Zie has managed to make my life more complicated than it should be. It caused a lot of anxiety a month ago. Then I remembered I had tenure. After a week of repeating that to myself, I got the courage to ignore this person attacks and attempts at micromanaging, and do my own thing. It helps that zie is passive aggressive (so ze won't confront me) and not terribly smart. Zie has turned important people off with hir behavior

- Related to that, what kind of person thinks that saying behind my back that I don't know anything about assessment will discredit me in front of my colleagues? That is just odd. It is not true, but if people want to believe it, I'm fine with it. It actually allows me to avoid something I find no pleasure on.

- As far as classes go, I can't complain. I have a bunch of sweet freshmen in my language class, and students I've had many times in my two lit classes. The only thing I need is getting used to teaching five days a week, and use my time more efficiently

- I like my new Chair a lot, but I seem to be in the minority here. She has a strong and sometimes harsh personality, but I've seen how she single-handily managed to reverse the administration decision on an issue that landed my university on the front pages of the Chronicle and Inside Higher Education last year. I respect that a lot. But I suspect there is sexism in certain colleagues who cannot tolerate a no BS boss. It sucks to be told that I am the new Chair favorite, but I will not join the herd just to be oppositional.


  1. I noticed that in my previous post, I said I would have a 4 days a week schedule. Somebody pulled seniority on me, so it got changed to five days a week 2 weeks before classes started. I was not happy.

  2. This is my first year with tenure, too, and I also have additional service requirements. Two of us got tenure at the same time - my male colleague was told by our dept. chair that getting tenure meant that he could take a break, think about the next big project, while I (female) was told that I should do more service. Um...

    Anyway, with respect to your large new service job, it sounds like it's an opportunity to influence things, rather than just a time-consuming task that won't matter in the long run. A senior colleague who guards her time jealously once told me that her strategy is to say no to meetings or committees where it won't matter whether she is in the room or not. I found that to be very good advice.

  3. On the language program thing. A subcommittee has been set up to choose a new textbook. It includes 5 of 8 faculty in the program. No clear reason why the 3 have been excluded, unless it is that a certain book has been chosen and the 5 on the subcommittee are those expected to lie down and ratify. When subcommittee meets I am tempted to move that we invite the others. Is this too much of a war cry? I have lain down and ratified before, on the theory that I have other battles to fight, and come to regret it since it meant I got saddled with incoherent books. Advice?

  4. @Anonymous: it is an opportunity to influence things. We are in the middle of changing the Core Curriculum requirements, so we will have to live with the results for a long time. Also, some people (though not all) in the administration are behaving more and more within the business model (with talks as to "Why can't the professor of psychology teach a communication class?" sort of thing), so the Commitee I am in will be in for a long battlr. My feeling is that in 5 years, I will be a little jaded, but I will have learnt a lot. Then it is up to me whether I want to be Chair or not (I've already been told that). Also, the new Provost is huge on service for promotion to Full (although nobody says he will remain there in 5 years)

  5. @ profacero: it depends who has been excluded? Are you in it? We are dealing with the fallout of a textbook selected only by one person. It is horrible. On the other hand, 8 people can be too much.

    1. I'm in it. Current textbook was selected when we were 7, on a 4-3 vote; I was in the 4.

      Minority very upset. Now all of said minority is on the subcommittee, and 2 of the 4 winners last time.

      It is difficult not to assume the committee has been stacked in a certain way, for a certain reason.

      Namely: 1 person se rebaja a flirtear con el chair (que no está en español). This person bases book choices on which textbook company representative mejor le hace la rosca and also wants something very traditional. Person #2 also wants something very traditional. Person #3 will do whatever these two say. That leaves only 2 left on committee with PhD, training, who read book reviews, keep up somewhat in SLA, etc. We are the ones who won last time and the instructors who voted with us have been excluded from the committee. It has been alleged that these instructors voted with us not out of agreement but out of obedience.

      Furthermore: my colleague and I are the oppressors because we are not native speakers of Spanish but we have Ph.D.s. It is unfair of us to have done these degrees, colonialist and imperialist, even.