There have been some interesting conversations going on in the Twittersphere over the weekend, that’s for sure. It’s MLA weekend in Chicago, and the tweets on precarious labour and big conferencing have been particularly fascinating, because they question how much the tenured professoriate really cares to know about the struggles of the precariously employed. Here in New Brunswick, Canada, we are in countdown mode as we await a strike deadline at my home university (it expires at midnight tonight). I have felt particularly precarious in these negotiations, because even though I am in a full-time tenure-track position, I am on maternity leave this year and the effects of a labour action on that status have not been made entirely clear. In the midst of all of this, I have been catching up on old tweets about Faculty Orientations articles, and I found some feedback on Jacob Remes’s recent guest blog contribution “For Complaining: Three Anecdotes, and an Argument.” One tweeter (@imposterism) used the analogy of kvetching Ring Theory (see this article in the LA Times for a explanation of Ring Theory and for a useful graphic, which @imposterism references) to discuss the politics of tenure-track employees complaining. To quote @imposterism: “while relative privilege doesn’t erase value of complaints, it should perhaps determine their direction and aims.” Yes.
In 2014, one of my goals is to update this blog on a semi-regular basis (every week? Every two weeks? We’ll see how it goes). I’m starting here by outlining some topics that I hope to cover with the help of guest bloggers in the next few months.
Part of this effort will involve expanding our guest bloggers to include anonymous writers, so that we can try to cover some of these issues with greater honesty. Many people have approached me to say that they want to write something, but have said they are afraid to speak their truths online. I hope that this blog will provide these important voices with some writing space soon. (If you haven’t contacted me yet with an idea because you have been hesitating to put your name on something, I hope that you will take this as an open invitation!).
Editor’s note: This first guest post comes to us courtesy of my partner, a fantastic social worker who has accompanied me to two university towns as I pursued graduate school and my first job. I am interested in his perspective here because I often wonder what it’s like for him to be plunked into a new environment that is at first dependent on my professional life (we do talk about this privately, but having these conversations in public are also important). I think it’s crucial that I acknowledge here that his constant support is a large part of the reason I successfully finished my doctorate, found employment, and have been able to have a child pre-tenure. I know that this is an enormous privilege and one that is not awarded to everyone, and I would like to be able to tackle that as a separate post – it is not my story to tell, but it might be yours, and I would like to hear from you!
I was sitting around my living room this week chatting with my partner of 12 years and her mother about work, careers, and life in general. We were on the topic of the adjunct/sessional professor system in academia, and began discussing how many people find themselves in part-time employment because they are in a relationship with another academic and trying to live within the same vicinity of one another. My partner stated that she started writing her blog to help her think about issues such as these. I chimed in, as I so often do, with a sarcastic quip about every professor needing a social worker as a partner and how she should write a post about this for her blog. She then suggested that I stop the “oh so important task of editing my fantasy football team” and write the post myself. Since I am still waiting for a trade for my quarter back and running back I thought I would give it a shot.
I spent some considerable time today trying to craft the perfect post about all the exciting topics I’m hoping to cover over the next few months. However, making that list of ideas readable is more difficult than I thought it would be. I’ve also bugged some people to guest post for me, and am exciting to receive them (you know who you are!). Who will win the guest post race and be the first to orient us? Stay tuned…
In the meantime, I thought I would offer some thoughts on my own experience of transitioning the great divide from graduate school to the tenure-track treadmill four years ago. These are probably tainted reflections at this point, because I’m remembering them from my current position of increased confidence and security. But nevertheless, I think they hit on a theme that I’d like to raise on this blog in a couple of different ways.
My friends over at Hook & Eye posted today about dreaming communities of care in the academy. What a wonderful thought. I love it. And I have to say that I have experienced the generosity that they speak of here more often than I have not in my academic life. I try to pay it forward as much as I can, but I am also someone who is imperfectly generous and who can have difficulty setting boundaries on such things at times. I imagine most of us struggle with this.
I have given a couple of invited lectures on what might be loosely described as “professional development” since finishing my PhD. Along with a colleague and friend, I have also organized a few sessions on this topic at the annual meeting of my scholarly association, the Universities Art Association of Canada. I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback on these lectures and sessions (good, great, bad, and ugly!) and I’d like to find a way to continue these conversations online. I’m also thinking about my former graduate student self and some of the things I worried about at that stage in my life (not being good enough, getting a job, if and when I would have children). I don’t have any easy answers to these subjects now, because I am still figuring a lot of it out myself. But in conversations with graduate students and emerging faculty a lot of these same themes reoccur. What I would like to do here is write about some of these things myself, while also soliciting the writings of others who inspire me.