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.
I’ve spent the last four years doing contract and sessional teaching gigs. When colleagues, friends or family ask me where I’m based, I self-identify as an itinerant academic and then explain that I’m currently at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Eyes light up at this response, and they lean forward intrigued, looking to hear more, and so I go on to explain where my teaching has taken me. I won’t lie – it’s not an easy career path, particularly at this stage. But then I look back and consider all the benefits I’ve reaped in the past four years, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing.
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’ve commented already on the goals I have for this blog, but I’d also like to reflect a little on my inspiration for it. I was very lucky to work with three fantastic women as graduate students during my first few years of teaching. All have since finished their MAs with me and have gone on to either doctoral programs or law school. They were all a joy to work with and I learned so much from each one of them. I know they are already doing amazing things with their lives and I look forward to seeing where they end up in a few years.