Excellence without Money! Redux

excellenceWell, for those of us who work at state unis with fiscal years that begin on July 1, the budget crystal ball is becoming clearer and clearer.  There is no money to support our excellence!  Notortious Girl, Ph.D. reports that her uni is considering furloughs that aren’t pay cuts, but rather “two unpaid days a month (where we´re not supposed to work — yeah, right) comes out to 6% of our work days, which means that my tenure raise is effectively wiped out before I ever see it.  Add to this the suggestion from our dean that the course releases that allowed us to teach 3-3 rather than 4-4 may be going away (but with no decrease in research expectations), and you can see why I´m cranky.”  Crank on, my friend–that is one bum deal.

It all stinks–but it’s that “no decrease in research expectations” that I think faculties must protest.  At Baa Ram U., my department has no raises to offer and zero travel money–but, we haven’t had to fire anyone, and we aren’t facing an increase in our teaching loads.  A colleague of mine commented yesterday that we might need to consider suspending the tenure clock or revising our tenure standards for junior faculty if this is our new reality for the next several years.  I think this is correct–and if I were a recently hired Assistant Professor, I’d feel like I had just pulled the short straw in a bait-and-switch.  But, this is the Golden Rule, friends:  those who have the gold make the rules.

Should universities–and the people in the states who b!tch and moan endlessly about taxation–get the benefit of our full workload when they’re not paying for it?  Continue reading

Happy Father's Day?

happyfamilyClio Bluestocking has written a brave and disturbing post about her childhood and adolescence called “Daddy Issues.”  Go read it now–here’s a sample from the conclusion, in which her father tells her that if a man used her sexually and then showed contempt for her, “I’d feel sorry for you, . . . but I’d understand him:”

In that moment, I knew that my father did not respect me. After 2 decades of similar incidents, I finally realized that by simple fact of 2 X chromosomes, I was never going to be a full person to him. My brothers would go through the world as men, while I was supposed to go through the world for men. Men were full people, and I was not. What’s more, I was supposed to embrace that role, and any rejection of it was a problem with me, not with the world.

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

Then, you get nephews. Sweet, interesting, little boys who could grow up to be sweet, interesting grown men. Could. They think that you are kinda cool too, because they are little boys and have no real frame of reference. Then, you see their fathers (your brothers) and their grandfather, praising them for grabbing women’s breast, teaching them to say the most disgusting sexist words, and telling them that if they whine or cry (as small children do) that they are being “girls” and being a “girl” is bad. You see that, and you see these sweet little boys are being taught to hate you.  Continue reading

Since when is faster necessarily better?


"I'm late! I'm late!"

In “Fast Tracking a Ph.D.,” Judy Beth Morris assures us that earning a Ph.D. in three years is possible.  While university presidents and deans of graduate schools everywhere will be thrilled to read her article, I’m not sure why the rest of us should be excited–just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s desirable.  Morris explains how she earned a Ph.D. in Communications in under 3 years:  careful mapping of coursework, a supportive advisor, and above all, a relentless focus on the dissertation:

It’s essential to zero in on a dissertation topic as soon in the process as you can. I figured out pretty quickly what I wanted to do with my dissertation; I had the first chapter by the end of my first semester. The professor of the film history class I took that first semester assured me that it was a worthwhile dissertation topic: the “extended adolescence” of Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy films and how and why the films resonated with Depression-era audiences. I knew that I would have fun researching this topic, so getting it done was not going to be a problem. Thus, the “dissertation topic” piece fell into place for me.  (Ed. note:  why the scare quotes around “dissertation topic?”) Continue reading


aspin1Yes–CanadaGoose and Meg were correct:  I spent Monday night and Tuesday in Aspen.  (Or, “Aspin,” as Harry and Lloyd might call it.)  It was the usual Colorado mountain town mix of swells, old hippies, college ski bum waiters, immigrant seasonal laborers, and the strolling poor–only moreso.  I can see why all of the Hollywood types like it–it looks exactly like a set design of a Colorado mountain town. 

As for yesterday’s quiz, I thought the “Thumbing Station” sign gave it away graphically, with its striking similarity to the design of a famous American’s first political campaign poster.  Regardez, encore:

Continue reading

Tuesday morning mountain town blogging: hitchin' a ride

thumbingstationHello, friends!  Famille Historiann is on its way East again to return to the High Plains Desert and our little ranch on the plains.  (And what a stall-mucking awaits us when we return!  Horse sitters ain’t what they used to be, I tell ya.)

I thought I’d share with you a little clue as to where we landed yesterday afternoon, and where we’ll be spending some of the day today.  This town is like Martha’s Vineyard in that it’s one of the last places one can hitchhike without (much) fear–see the photo of the designated “Thumbing Station” (like a Bus Stop) sign at left. Like Martha’s Vineyard, this is probably because this is an isolated and rather exclusive little town–it got a lot of attention in the 1970s as one of the few places in the U.S. where the Sixties still raged on.

The first commenter to guess our exact location wins a Historiann tee-shirt!  (As in, from my dresser drawer.  I don’t have a blog tee-shirt designed yet.)  Carry on with the discussion in the archives below, or guess away in this thread!

Librarians, archivists, and access to archives

archivesIf we all are to take Sister Agnes’s advice and consult manuscript archival material, we all must rely on the goodwill and advice of librarians and archivists.  I have never run into any problems getting access to the sources I wanted to see, since my research has been in U.S. and Canadian libraries and archives, some public but mostly private, reasonably well-funded and staffed by professionals.  Other, less affluent countries can’t offer scholars the same access and professionalism–for example, the chair of my department tells stories of research in Venezuela, where the archives he works in may be randomly closed because of a saint’s feast day, other religious festivals that may close the archives for weeks on end, or simply because they don’t have the money to turn the lights on.  I have heard similar stories about research in provincial Russian archives from other friends.

I’ve been fortunate, in that most of the librarians, archivists, and curators who have assisted me have been really interested in my research and eager to share their particular knowledge with me–their expertise has unquestionably enriched my research.  But, I have heard other people’s stories–and they have told stories about archivists who see themselves as gatekeepers of the archives rather than ambassadors between primary sources and researchers.  For example–Notorious, Ph.D. tells a story of an archivist who maybe–maybe–is coming to see her as a serious scholar because of her persistence over the past decade, but for much of that decade, he wasn’t especially friendly or helpful to her.

The worst story about archival gatekeeping I’ve ever heard has nothing to do with lack of resources, but rather, with the fact that a quirky personality was permitted to assume too much authority over records owned by a major research library.  Continue reading