Tenured Radical has a nice, long, seasonal post full of advice for newly hired term or tenure-track faculty, and some pointed reminders for those of us returning to the same old positions in the fall semester. Go read and cogitate, and let her know what you think. I especially wanted to highlight these two paragraphs:
Do not volunteer, stupid. You know who you are — whatever your biological gender, you are a girl. You are the one who finds the silence insufferable when the chair has asked for someone to step up, and you think it is your job to make everyone feel good again. Why you? And why now? At least go away and consult your job description before you go all Do-Bee on everyone. It isn’t your job to see to it that everything gets done — it is the chair’s job, and believe me, s/he will figure out how to do it.
Underrepresented faculty in underrepresented fields have no obligation to extend themselves without end to under-served students. Sometimes I look around me and it is so frackin’ obviouswhy the scholars who are perpetually sicker, angrier, more exhausted, and frantic about meeting deadlines for their scholarship share certain characteristics. We are queer, we are of color, we are international scholars, we are women, we are feminist men. We are the ones who, in order to make space for what we care about in institutions, do it ourselves. We invent the programs, then we chair them. This is what Jean O’Brien and Lisa Disch write about in an article I strongly recommend (and that partly inspired this post) “Innovation is Overtime: An Ethical Analysis of ‘Politically Committed Labor,'”(Aiku, Erickson and Pierce, Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations: Life Stories from the Academy Minnesota, 2007.) We are the ones that advertise our universities’ “diversity” when we labor outside the classroom. We are the ones who students seek out to teach the things they never had a chance to learn in high school. We are the ones who students “like us” and the ones who hold similar political commitments flock to in droves.
I loved this book–in fact, I wrote one of my very first bloggy posts about it back in the winter of 2008, highlighting the same essay as TR does here. It’s worth a look for those of you who believe that your experiences on a university or college faculty are different somehow from most of your colleagues, but you can’t quite name or describe why that is. Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations is chock-full of real life stories of people’s careers, and how their race, sex, and/or sexuality has affected their engagement at their universities, and their universities’ engagement with them.
And just a reminder, friends: Don’t be afraid of being called “selfish.” If you are in fact “a girl,” it will happen anyway, so do what you need to do to succeed. (I think I need to add that post to our collection of Lessons for Girls.) And if you aren’t in fact a girl–well, live it up!