Thursday round-up: fired up and ready to go edition!

Fired up and ready to go?

Here’s a random observation inspired by the past few days of indolent leisure:  blogging is hard when you’re consuming neither print nor digital media 90% of your waking day!  Anyhoo–I’m still on the road, and still feel like a big emptybrain after all of that reunion partying last weekend (curse you, second bottle of wine!  I curse the day you were bottled!), but fortunately there are still folks out there thinking and writing and making stuff happen.  To wit:

  • CatieCat writes:  “I’ve been thinking a lot about defensiveness: why I feel defensive, when do I feel defensive, what am I defending, all of that. . . . And the single thread that’s coming to me through all the times I can recall where I’ve felt defensive is this one: it was about defending my privilege.”  Discuss!
  • Marc Nouri meditates on the rank of (Full) Professor, and concludes that there are too many “early birds” who haven’t really earned it, even if their title changes.  He writes, “So early birds, who do you think you are coming up for full professor within a few years of getting tenure at your institution? By sheer dint of will and ego, and determination, and the weak will of promotion committees composed of equally confused faculty, you may very well succeed, but will you really be a full professor? That honor, in a more intrinsic and meaningful sense, is reserved for those who take a different path, a more patient, methodical and dedicated path, driven by a deep desire to be something really special as a scholar and as a member of his or her university community. You’ll have the title for some years before they do, but theirs will actually mean something.”  I realized a few weeks ago that I could potentially apply for full next year, but I think I’m going to wait until I’ve got another book fully cranked out.  (Or am I just being defensive?)  The luxury of tenure is not having to rush, right?  (Unless you’re in one of those dreadful unis that wants all Associates promoted after just 5 years!  Yikes.  What’s the point of tenure then, anyway, if they’re still speeding up the hamster wheel?)
  • Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar writes, “[w]hen you’re single with no children, it’s easy to let the academic part of your identity take over your life. But lately I’ve been remembering that before I became an academic, I was a bunch of other things.”   (She’s turning 40 soon, so she’s feeling philosophical.  Indulge her!  It’s free.)  40 is awesome.  I stopped caring what other people think about me, and it was the biggest blow I’ve struck for mental health in my feminist lifetime.  I yam what I yam, as Popeye would say, and people can take it or leave it. 
  • Finally, here’s a golden oldie from 3 weeks ago I’ll leave for your delectation:  “when the hell is President Obama going to send in the Navy Seals, or the Army Corps of Engineers, or someone to clean up the ongoing environmental travesty happening in the Gulf of Mexico?  Is it really the best policy to expect the irresponsible polluters to stop the pollution?  If it’s true that the U.S. government and armed forces combined have zero expertise to stop the spewing of oil and natural gas from the ocean floor, then this looks to me to be a hair on fire lapse in national security!  Could a terrorist have done worse than BP and Haliburton here?”  I’ll just add one more rhetorical question:  Could the American environmentalist left be any more impotent?  What a bunch of stooges and cronies.  If it were a Republican president presiding over this slo-mo disaster, they’d be all over hir.  OK, just three more rhetorical questions:  Bueller?  Bueller?  Anyone?

I hope you’re someplace warm, clear, and un-foggy, unlike me.  But, that’s what I always say:  summer in Maine can feel like November in Ohio, and January on the high plains desert!  (OK, we’ll cut Maine a break:  there’s a reason summer starts on July 1 and runs through September!)

0 thoughts on “Thursday round-up: fired up and ready to go edition!

  1. What I really want to know is, is this Elvgren Studio really still up and running, maybe even turning out “bespoke” graphics for Historiann threads, or do they simply have a back catalogue that’s a million images deep? The oeuvre all looks so first half of the Twentieth Century, but there seems to be no end of ones that fit these posts to the proverbial “T-bone.”

    I don’t like to be a first pitch swinger, but I’ll take a hack at the rank offering. Why not just abolish it? There are so many implicit and generally untransparent institutional definitions that it’s ultimately for the most part just a compensation-template tool. Until some actual job descriptions are generated (wouldn’t you just love to be empowered like a caseworker of some sort to say to your chair or a dean: “That’s not in my job description, buddy. Back off, or I’ll grieve your a$$ to [your state capital here]…” But really, in a very minor academic administrative gig I had once, I was photocopying something on a shared-pool copier in an Ivy-drenched building. Left on the “platen” by a previous copier was a Law School document. One of those memoranda that analyze things in terms of the institution’s self-proclaimed “peer pool,” as in “Big Ten schools, minus two, plus New Mexico State,” or whatever. Anyway, this document proclaimed that an increasing number of law schools had simply abolished the rank of Associate Professor. It was just assistant prof. for the tenure-eligible and professor for those who had met the probationary requirements. I can’t remember what the whole justification was, but why not stop pretending that rank (apart from tenure) has any actual functional significance. Imagine being an “Associate Shortstop” with the Diamondbacks!?! As for the gravitas one earns, that’s still going to come from the inherently unique characteristics of the so-called body of work, anyway.

    I guess that coastal fog is what makes the Maine blueberries taste so good, right? At the other corner of the continent, as I’m recalling from an under-wardrobed month at the Huntington Library years ago, they’re heading into what they call “June Gloom,” so I guess still being back here in metaphorical Kansas is for the best after all.


  2. I SO disliked that Nouri piece. It struck me as just another piece of the idea that academia is a calling (and therefore you should do it for love, not material reward, and if you have a life outside of work you’re not sufficiently dedicated, etc. etc.). If your university has clear standards for full professor and you meet them, go up for full. It’s not like you’re becoming a zen master. (Plus, women tend to take longer to go up for full because they tend to get sidetracked with service projects and are less likely to put themselves forward. This advice sucks for women, who are already underrepresented in full professors.)

    Not to say that people necessarily should/have to go up for full early or as soon as they can, of course. Just that one should go up when it’s right for them, whether or not they’ve achieved some deep mystic wisdom.


  3. On the full professor thing, I think you’re right that there’s no reason to rush to go up the moment that one is eligible just because one can. The luxury of having tenure is that one can take promotion at her own pace. And I have to say, I don’t have a time-line about when I’ll go up for full. I can’t reasonably do it until at least 2016, probably, and I do want to have a certain amount published before I go up, so I may wait longer than that. We’ll see. BUT.

    Nouri’s column REALLY bothered me because it strikes me that his “you have to make a NAME for yourself” shtick (and the characteristics that go along with it, including noble self-sacrifice and ground-breaking research, as he would define it in terms of number of reviews and citations) are perhaps at least to some extent responsible for why so many women get stuck at associate. Because here’s the thing: I’ve served on search committees (including doing conference interviewing as part of that service); I was responsible for revising our undergraduate major; I was central in gen ed revision and in university curriculum; and I don’t see any of that letting up. I’m publishing steadily and people in my field know me and respect me. AND I’m a good teacher So, what? When exactly would be the right time for me to go up? 2020? 2025? According to whom?

    Another thing that bugged me, going along with that, is the very real impact waiting to go up for full can have on one’s earning potential over a career. The difference between going up 5-10 years after one achieves tenure vs. going up 15-25 years later can end up being a 10-20K difference in base salary at the time of retirement. While aging like fine wine is nice and all, I’m a single lady, and since this is the one sure shot I’ll have at a major raise again in my career, I really don’t think that it makes sense to postpone that in order to prove some sort of super-special maturity.


  4. The problem with the clean-up is that nobody in the government has the expertise to do it. Not the SEALS or the rest of the Navy nor the Army Corps of Engineers (who can drain swamps, dredge rivers and harbors and build dams with the best of them, but that’s hardly the same thing). See here for actual mistakes the administration made in this, but relying on BP to stop the leak isn’t one of them:


  5. Quick PC to Indyanna’s comment – my own experience with law schools is the opposite, that instead of getting rid of associate, they’ve simply got rid of assistant; EVERYONE is an associate prof, just some are tenured and some aren’t. I find it baffling myself.

    I’d imagine one of the only justifications for rank is so you can know who’s going to judge your ascension to the next level (can’t have associates voting on who makes full!). But if you get rid of rank, you don’t need that reason…


  6. Ok, so maybe I’m just being defensive, but who the hell really deserves to be a full professor? And why? So you have a higher platform to judge other people from. Women, do not hold yourselves back, because the menz are not, and taking bolder steps towards promotion is one of the many reasons why they are paid more.

    And as for the Gulf: I was thinking as I pjoughed through yesterday’s gullywashers in central Ohio (one is reminded when battling such weather that Ohio actually used to be the West, and it took another half century of imperialism to make it the Midwest) that the government shouldn’t let any corporation do something that the government itself does not know how to fix. This should be a law, because one of the points of government is to step in when folks are f**king up or going rogue in some way.


  7. I admit to reading the Nouri piece before coffee the other morning–but I agree with Gayprof. Who gets to decide what a name in the field means? It sounds way too fuzzy to me–a fuzziness that tends to work to the detriment of women and other minorities in the academy.

    And Historiann–why wouldn’t you go up for full if you have the qualifications spelled out by your uni? This is not a rhetorical question–what are the benefits to waiting?


  8. I’m at one of those unis that pushes all associates to go up for full at the beginning of year 6 after promotion. Like Historiann, I don’t want to go up until I have book #2 at least under honest-to-god contract. Why? Because it would fuel my barely tamped-down fraud complex. Never mind that only one of the full profs in my department has a second book. I just have this idea.

    The “reward” for making full at my uni is supposedly a pay bump. Then again, that was supposed to be the reward for tenure & promotion to associate, and none of us have seen that, either. So let me turn the question around: what’s the point of doing all that paperwork (and becoming eligible for double the committees) before I really feel like it’s time?

    But these are internal standards, and I don’t disagree with those above who say that if they’ve met their own uni’s standards, that’s it, end of discussion. We acknowledge that unis have widely varying standards for tenure; so why should “full prof” mean the same thing everywhere?


  9. (And btw, I really, really like the idea of 40 as marking the beginning of the “I don’t care what other people think” years. After decades of trying to be just-so for professors, tenure committees, and the truly ridiculous men who have crossed my path, I’m so ready just to not. give. a. damn. Whoo-hoo!)


  10. Megadittos (heehee) to TR’s point, which was really my original point: “[T]he government shouldn’t let any corporation do something that the government itself does not know how to fix. This should be a law, because one of the points of government is to step in when folks are f**king up or going rogue in some way.”

    As for the Nouri article: You all are greater levellers than I thought! I think you all make good points about gatekeeping and how this advice is already the advice that women and POC scholars are getting (while they’re fending off requests to be on this, that, and the other committee, btw.)

    Nikki asks why I’m waiting until I’ve got another boook out, and Notorious provides the answer: because it’s a crummy time to go up now, with the economy heading for what might be a double-dip recession. So, I’m just not feeling the urgency. Plus, something else that no one mentioned is that my service load would change pretty dramatically given the age/rank structure of my department, where the Associates form a large lump in the snake’s belly these days. If I moved up to the head, I’d be one of four Full Proffies (and one of only three who aren’t chairing the department), so things like chairing T & P come around pretty frequently, compared to keeping my head down among all of the Associates who are at rank with me and share the load.


  11. I’ll just add, with respect to the slo-mo disastro we’re all seeing: this is why reflexive conciliation is a bad political strategy, friends. Some of us were onto Obama 3+ years ago, and were skeptical then of his aversion to leadership and his apparent need to give away the store to the robbers before they even walked into the place. Conciliation as a reflexive political gesture on each and every issue leads to bad policy, which leads to bad politics. Remember–this hole in the ocean floor was ripped open just about a month after Obama announced a major expansion of offshore drilling, which he did to get Republicans on boad with his energy program. Never mind the lack of oversight in the previous 9 years, never mind whether offshore drilling is safe or prudent on its own merits–just buy off the opposition so we don’t have to fight.

    And that, my friends, is how you go from a 70% approval rating to being a one term president. You can’t say I didn’t warn you! The only thing Obama has going for him is that Republicans are hardly going to pick up the mantle of environmentalism now–they’re still all gung-ho for offshore drilling, of course. It’s quite possible that the Repubs will be twisted in even more ideological and political knots than the Dems. But, that’s a run on fouls, not a home run. Obama might still pull out a win, but only because the other team sucks more than his team.


  12. Well, it’s kind of funny, because you and Notorious are following Nouri’s advice. I think in some ways it’s silly, because most of us are not ever going to be “names” outside our little corner.
    But I’d be a big fan of saying that to be a full professor you need to be taking some responsibility toward your field, and not just yourself.


  13. Hi Susan —

    I don’t think of it so much as following advice. What’s happened in my case is that I’ve internalized standards of my Ph.D. institution, which, like most Ph.D.-granting institutions, is the research model: one step in the promotion ladder = one book. I’m willing to admit that that shouldn’t be the model at teaching-intensive schools. But once I get an idea in my head, it tends to stick with me.


  14. “[T]he government shouldn’t let any corporation do something that the government itself does not know how to fix. This should be a law, because one of the points of government is to step in when folks are f**king up or going rogue in some way.”

    I kind of find this a strange idea, perhaps especially in the US which is very against having a ‘big’ state. You can’t really have a government with an expertise in everything without having it employ a lot of experts and having an awful lot of government monitoring of private business. And, given that the so much R&D and new ideas come from private companies- and that so much of the higher education system is also private- how do you continue to produce new ideas, new products, new technologies, essential in the modern capitalist economy, without allowing private companies to take risks.

    Similarly, even in older technologies- like drilling for oil- if you want to use oil as a fuel source (which the US state clearly has a huge investment in)then you are always going to be engaging in environmentally risky behaviour- regardless of expert advice. I mean presumably if we followed the ‘government must be able to clean things up standard’, we would stop using fossil fuels altogether, given that it is highly unlikely that the state will be able to deal with global warming after the fact.


  15. “You can’t really have a government with an expertise in everything without having it employ a lot of experts and having an awful lot of government monitoring of private business.”

    I think that’s what we have–it’s just that the benefits of this are privatized, while the risks are socialized in my country. Big Government works for Big Business and so-called “free market” capitalists–they only pose at hatin’ on the big government when BG threatens to work for the people who are paying for it. I’ve known for a long time that agribusiness and pharmaceuticals, just to name 2 examples, wouldn’t exist without BG to send them taxpayer-funded research and AFDC and Medicare and Medicaid to bail them out. Now, in the past 18 months we see that BG exists to keep GM and Chrysler alive, as well as the big investment banks. Everyone who’s already rich has their hands out in this country, and everyone who’s already rich gets their helping of BG welfare. The poor, not so much.

    Why don’t we socialize Big Oil, just like Venezuela? Let BP spend its last dollar on this fiasco, then take over since it’s going to mean a massive public investment that’s going to be key to the cleanup and recovery of the Gulf. Then, let’s NOT de-socialize it (unlike the car companies and the banks) and we’ll see how fast people can wean themselves of their addiction to fossil fuels!


  16. if you want to use oil as a fuel source (which the US state clearly has a huge investment in) then you are always going to be engaging in environmentally risky behaviour- regardless of expert advice.

    Indeed. As much of a mess as oil spills (all of them, not just this one) are, nobody seems to stop driving their cars. As many people who have died from black lung and as many mountains (+flora +fauna) have been displaced (into nearby stream valleys), nobody seems to stop using electricity. Federal regulation has taken the edge off, no more breaker boys and all that, but clearly we are willing to let somebody else pay the price for these things. Global warming is much the same. The industrialized world has created it, the industrializing world is making it worse, and as long as those two envision themselves keeping ahead of the impacts, it will go on as it ever has, and the low folk on the economic ladder (and on the beach) will pay the price.

    In other news, a new set of Kavli Prize Laureates, Norway’s retort to Sweden, were announced today. Quelle suprise, dudes! Selected by a committee of dudes!


  17. So do you believe CatieCat, defensiveness is a sign of privilege! The conversation over there sounds like a lot of very earnest, very white people talking.

    I feel defensive when I’ve made too many concessions already, compromised with the other party to the point that if I give one more inch my very integrity will be compromised. I feel defensive when I’m being projected into, having words put in my mouth, etc., or when I am being ordered to do distasteful things, or act against my own best interests, act in dishonest or unethical ways. I feel defensive when I am being invaded. Why do I feel defensive rather than angry? Because I was raised to believe I did not deserve any space of my own, so when I claim any, I feel guilty, so I get defensive.


  18. “I hope you’re someplace warm, clear, and un-foggy, unlike me.”

    We are expecting triple digit weather here this weekend, and drought measures are already about to be upon us.

    I wish I were in Maine.

    On more substantive matters, though: arguments like Nouri’s feel a bit like a slap in the face in a profession that is already so difficult to break into. Perhaps it’s just my “about to enter the job market without much hope” mentality, but it’s hard to hear–on the one hand–that your chances of making it into a tenure track job are next to nil while on the other hand listening to full professors intone that the ranks of the Chosen are too open. I realize he’s talking about promotion, not initial hiring, but nevertheless, it rubs the wrong way.


  19. On the Big Gov issue- I guess- coming from a UK perspective- the idea of the government stepping in and ‘fixing’ anything with the bail-out has been superseded by a general concern that it was done without a due reference to expertise- that is, they threw money at a problem without really knowing if that was the right thing to do. The question in the UK has actually been over whether the government has the expertise to make these sorts of decisions- do they have the know-how to fix anything. I guess, in that sense, we really haven’t been that concerned with the idea of government intervention itself- but then until recently (with the change of government), big government was not seen as a problem here.


  20. Without reading the Nouri essay, it sure seems like his point is that “full professor” is both a job title and some kind of mystical mode of being. I’ll just point out that is it possible to have a real impact in one’s field, wide publications, respect of colleagues at institutions in this country and abroad, do substantial service at one’s own institution as well as with institutions like the NEH, and all the other things that go (I suspect) with the “idea” of a “full professor” and still have a different job title like, say, “Teaching Assistant Professor.”

    What a romantic view to be able to imagine that what one is and what one’s job title is ought to be in alignment somehow, and that one should make decisions about one’s career simply to ensure that they are! It’s the flip side of thinking that folks who get jobs in academia do so because they deserve them.

    When those who hire and fire see things in terms of deserving and ensuring a match between qualifications and job title, then we can talk, maybe.


  21. I basically agree with Tom. I commented first time without clicking on the link. Having done so, the piece has a sort of weird combination of callowness and magisteriality that doesn’t seem to fit together very well. I would renew my suggestion, however, that we consider pruning away a lot of this ancien-courtly titularity that implies the honorific without much attention to the (non)differentiation of functions.


  22. To possibly pile on: I found the Nouri piece completely and totally bizarre. Tenure requirements are rarely in black and white? It’s a little different at our state school, where the book requirement for tenure is explicitly stated: if you don’t get a book in press by the time the time limit is up, you hit the bricks. (Of course, it needs be a quality book–but the book requirement is strict.)

    Of course, we have a set timeline for full professor as well–a requirement that is increasingly true at many universities, as I gather. And here, too, the requirements are fairly clear–a book is the general standard. (Here there’s more fudging around the edges.) Who do I think I am coming up for full professor within a few years of tenure? I think I am someone follow the guidelines laid out by my university.

    Moreover, does the author really not know that a non-trivial number of academics (I can think of many historians, for instance) parlay an outside job offer into a promotion to full? It doesn’t always work, to be sure. But please–to pretend that promotion isn’t sometimes a game of hardball negotiation and chicken reflects a remarkable naivete (or something). I’m glad Prof Nouri is waiting to come up for full when he’s earned it; I’ll give him the number of a friend of mine who parlayed an outside offer into a sweet promotion and raise and maybe s/he will pick up the dinner tab when they hang out.

    (And is it me, or did others wonder about this: what’s up with the italics?)


  23. @Historiann – The associate bulge sounds familiar (and not just in my midsection); at my u that means associates are increasingly pushed to do full-type service, including chairing major depts. It also means that a good number of people are kind of stuck at the associate bulge, unable to finish the second book, which is required. There may be some departmental culture issues at work here — and speaking of privilege, when brilliance counts more than publication (or perhaps I should say the rhetoric of brilliance) faculty productivity goes down.


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