Hannah’s tenure year, part I

Today’s post is the first in a two-part series written by a junior scholar I’ll call Hannah who endured a rocky tenure review.  Hannah was lucky in that she works on a unionized campus, and she had supportive departmental colleagues.  She wrote to me late last summer when things started to go bad, seeking my advice as Historiann.  I encouraged her to reach out to as many people as she could on her campus and in her discipline, and to tell other people what was happening to her because abusive colleagues and administrators thrive on the silence and shame they hope to instill in junior faculty facing the threat of failure.

Hannah prefers to publish this post pseudonymously, because as she put it in an email to me recently, “I’d like to go up for full professor some day.”  But in the spirit of telling her story and refusing to be slienced or shamed, she has agreed to share her story here.

Tenure review is one of the final rites of passage in the academic world. Professors fortunate enough to have tenure track jobs dread its arrival, and tenured professors (or so I am told) try not to think about it. At its best, the tenure process provides both assessment and affirmation for the years of work leading to the review itself, at worst, it can become the stuff of nightmares. My experiences fell into the second category, and it is both Historiann’s and my hope that they may prove helpful to anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation.

I am a professor in the humanities at a regional state university. Both my department and my dean’s office had positively evaluated my scholarship, teaching and service during the five years before my tenure review. I’m also in a book-intensive discipline.  My book was not yet in print but was under contract to be published in the fall of my tenure review, and the last two professors in my department both received tenure with books published during the tenure review process. I also had published articles in peer reviewed journals and begun work on a second book, including an article under review and two planned conference presentations. Continue reading

Public service announcement: ask for mentoring assistance. Don’t pay for advice.

Friends, beware of former academics peddling CV, job application, and career advice if what you’re looking for is a career in academia. They charge you money to do what your peers and colleagues are happy to do for free. I’m not going to name any names or provide any links–you know who I’m talking about.

I don’t get their business model.  Maybe it’s unfair of me, but I always wonder about the value of advice from people who have left academia.  If they’re so savvy, why did they leave?  The people who know what’s going on in academic hiring are the people working in academia now. Because most of us believe we have an obligation to help our colleagues succeed too, we’re happy to help out. Trust us, not the people who are likely to have been trained outside of your discipline who will charge you for advice or editing that may work against your interests. Continue reading

Will this election put an end to the War on Expertise in this country?

Probably not, but wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?

In honor of our ongoing War on Expertise, I bring you a link to a post of mine from two years ago, which featured a This American Life story about Bob the Electrician, and his deluded belief that if he couldn’t understand the Theory of Relativity, that meant that it was bunk.  Because everyone everywhere all the time should be able to understand everything, so one person’s as good as the next when it comes even to the trickiest of intellectual or policy questions.  It doesn’t matter if some of us have devoted our lives to the study and mastery of some forms of knowledge, nor if we actually do this for a living.  From my post on July 15, 2014:

To summarize:  Bob takes a year-long self-funded sabbatical to study physics and prove that Einstein had it all wrong.    [Reporter Robert Andrew] Powell tries to get real physicists to read the paper that Bob produces over the course of the year, which turns out to be quite a chore because it turns out that Bob is kind of like the old joke about asylums being full of Napoleons:  there are thousands of cranks around the world who believe Einstein’s theory–and by extension all of modern physics–is wrong, and they are a plague upon real, working, university- and U.S. government-affiliated physicists in much the same way that Holocaust Deniers, Constitutional Originalists, and Lost Causers are to historians; climate change denialists are to real climate scientists; and anti-vaxxers are to real physicians.  In sum, these cranks have no confidence whatsoever in expertise or in the value of the credentials that real historians, scientists, or doctors have.  But yet, they crave their respect and demand to be acknowledged by the experts.

Continue reading

Generation and gender in “hating” Hillary Clinton

Go read and consider Michelle Goldberg’s analysis of “The Hillary Haters” at Slate.  The nut:

Few people dislike Hillary Clinton for being too moralistic anymore. In trying to understand the seemingly eternal phenomenon of Hillary hatred, I’ve spoken to people all around America who revile her. I’ve interviewed Trump supporters, conventional conservatives, Bernie Sanders fans, and even a few people who reluctantly voted for Clinton in the Democratic primary but who nevertheless say they can’t stand her. Most of them described a venal cynic. Strikingly, the reasons people commonly give for hating Clinton now are almost the exact opposite of the reasons people gave for hating her in the 1990s. Back then, she was a self-righteous ideologue; now she’s a corrupt tool of the establishment. Back then, she was too rigid; now she’s too flexible. Recently, Morning Consult polled people who don’t like Clinton about the reasons for their distaste. Eighty-four percent agreed with the statement “She changes her positions when it’s politically convenient.” Eighty-two percent consider her “corrupt.” Motives for loathing Clinton have evolved. But the loathing itself has remained constant.

I wonder: what is the through line in all of this ressentiment?  Continue reading

“I am an investigative journalist, please take me seriously.”

We love your brave and adventurous journalism, Suki Kim!

We love your brave and adventurous journalism, Suki Kim!

Click away from this blog immediately and go read Suki Kim’s angry and disturbing article “The Reluctant Memoirist” about the marketing and reception of her book Without You There Is No Us:  My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite.  It’s a fascinating exploration about the intersection of journalism, marketing, race, and sex.

Some of you may remember hearing about her book, which recounts her daring and adventurous mission to penetrate and report on North Korea by working as an ESL teacher at an evangelical Christian university that catered to the DPRK’s elite young men.   In her article for The New Republic, where she serves as a contributing editor, she recounts the potential danger she faced in the service of reporting on the world’s most locked-down and closed off dictatorship, or “virtual prison state,” as Kim calls it: Continue reading

“Pocahontas”: an insult, or an inspiring diplomat and politician?

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

I’ve been meaning to write for weeks about Donald Trump’s nickname for Elizabeth Warren.  As a historian who has written a few books that include some Algonquian (Eastern woodlands Indian) history, and a lot of women’s history, it’s been on my mind.

But first, a little background:  last month, Trump started calling her Pocahontas, intending to smear her for once checking a box on an employment form claiming Native American ancestry:  Continue reading

The Great Silence: apologies, and my return to blogging.

Ursuline chapel and convent, Quebec City, 2015

Ursuline chapel and convent, Quebec City, 2015

I know I’ve been very quiet lately.  I’ve been traveling for nearly three weeks, mostly tending to family affairs and doing a little research along the way.  I’ve also had the chance to spend valuable time in conversation with friends in Michigan and New England, a rare pleasure all the more precious because of current events, which utterly bristle with hostility and violence now.  I feel very sheltered and cared for by all of you, in comparison to so much of the rest of the world.

Although I’ve blogged extensively about the peculiar ferocity and gendered nature of gun violence in the United States over the past 8-1/2 years, I must admit to being completely hollowed out by the horrors of the mass murders in Orlando 10 days ago.  What does it matter what I or any of us write here, with that kind of nihilism plus access to semi-automatic weaponry living among us?  Unsurprisingly, the killer was a 100% homegrown American man, and like so many other American men, he was deranged by anger, misogyny, and his own sexual desires.

I may have more to say about this, especially the fact that the murderer targeted a largely LGBT and Latinx crowd, something that’s been lost in the panic about his supposed motivation to join ISIS/ISIL.  I’ve been happier living in my imagination in some of the more peaceful corners of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the past few weeks.  We all must consider how we can take the best of the past and make it a living tradition, and leave behind the worst:  injustice, brutality, corruption.  Historians struggle with these issues more than most people, I suppose.

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Edward Carson (@ProfCarson44) of the Christian Century to write something for their history blog, Then & Now.  Here’s an excerpt from “What future is there for religious women in the west?” Continue reading