I have been reliably informed by a colleague at my former institution that I was mistaken on the facts about my major antagonist’s career. I had written on my blog in this post that,
[m]y major foe at my former university was someone who was tenured but simultaneously (and humiliatingly) denied her promotion to Associate Professor. She had published a book after all in a department that didn’t require a book, whereas men in the department had recently been promoted to Associate Professor before tenure and, in one case, without a book at all. (That’s right: men without books? Can’t wait to promote you! Women with books? Wait a year or two, then apply again.) There was a whole class of women assistant professors who got that treatment right around the time I was hired, either within their department or at the college review level. Need I point out that the curious creature known as the tenured Assistant Professor was a pink-collar only rank? Unfortunately, this individual’s experience resulted not in anger and radicalization, but in shame and internalization, which was then directed outward not at the people who caused her misery, but at other targets below her on the hierarchy.
(I’ve highlighted the incorrect assertion in bold letters.) My colleague-informant at my former university says that my major antagonist was not denied promotion when tenured, but rather tenured and promoted at the same time. Portions of this post were then quoted in the story published by the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this week (which I again blogged about here), so my error was repeated and amplified. I apologize for my error, and take full responsibility for it. Speak, Memory!
By way of explanation, I can only think that at this distance, I’ve conflated her story with those of the “whole class of women assistant professors who got that treatment” within the space of a few years, right before and right after I joined that department in 1997. Of four women up for tenure, one was tenured and promoted (she had a book); one was tenured but denied promotion at the college level (although she had published a book); one was tenured but denied promotion by the department, and one was tenured and (as I recall) didn’t even apply for promotion that year because of what she had seen the other women go through. Clearly, this is a shameful record that strongly suggests sex bias and mistreatment of women, which was part of the larger story at my former institution, and which was clearly relevant to the way I was mistreated as a young woman and a women’s historian there.
But, I was still wrong on the facts of the one case, and I deeply regret not checking my memories with my former colleague before going public with the misinformation on this blog. I am very sorry. But, given the new facts at hand, they beg the question, why was this woman so miserable? Her case may prove the larger point that bullying can infect the whole atmosphere and poison people who aren’t themselves the objects of bullying behavior. I also strongly suspect that she was herself mistreated, even if she wasn’t denied her promotion. The bare facts of someone’s rise through the ranks don’t reveal what the experience felt like.