Happy belated Labor Day to our US readers. Hope everyone took (or takes) a minute to learn the history of Labor Day in the US.
Today, the day after, I’m specifically thinking about the labor of “diversity work.” Who is doing it? Who ISN’T?
Why does it matter? As TSW author dualitea recently wrote, there appears to be a discrepancy in majority identities and who shows up to do the learning and labor of evidence-based inclusion.
Academia is seemingly these days always talking about diversity. But is it working? Who is doing the working? The work that institutions are doing so far may not be working. A new NBER working paper indicates that hiring ‘chief diversity officers’ is not significantly correlated with increased hiring of non-white faculty across 462 universities.
So I’d like to suggest some homework for scholars in our reader community who, like me, identify as white – go read On Being Included: On Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (2012) by Dr. Sara Ahmed.
As she herself says of the book, “we need to work on the university when we work at the university.”
This is not labor that should be asked of marginalized faculty, who are already shouldering more unpaid and undervalued labors in the academy.
As TSW author Acclimatrix recently also wrote, there are many kinds of labors in the academy. One way to be a respectful, kind colleague if you’re a white scholar in the academy is to take on some of the labor of working ON academia while working IN academia.
I’ve been engaging in some resistance activities in the last few months, as one does in these times. Organizations, marches, and coalitions are sprouting like Bernie Sanders stickers on Subarus this time last year. People are fired up, doing things for the first time. And that’s great, it really is! It’s so inspiring to see the new energy, the sense of urgency and purpose, because we’re all coming together for the great cause of equality.
Except when it’s not, because we aren’t.
Before you quit reading or accuse me of being divisive, let me explain: many of my colleagues and friends are new to activism. Trump’s election terrified them and lit a fire under their bums to the point where they are finding themselves doing things — activist, things — they never imagined: calling officials, protesting, rallying, writing letters and op-eds, hanging out at Standing Rock or occupying offices. And many folks are joining or starting new organizations to try to Do Something, Anything, Right Now, to Make Me Feel Like it’s All Going to Be Okay (TM).
What’s the problem with that, you might be asking? Isn’t that good? What could go wrong?
The problem is this: Continue reading
We’ve been busy. Organizing, mourning, resting, strategizing, spending time with loved ones – not to mention all our paid (+unpaid) labor as academics.
As TSW writers and readers know all too well, our work (every dimension of it) didn’t just begin nor will it end with the change of any administration. For many of us though, the work (every dimension of it) feels more urgent now than ever.
There’s a lot more to say, and lots of voices we want to feature in this space to speak, to listen, to make change.
And we also need to – and do – act “in real life.” *
There is SO MUCH to do though, that it can feel overwhelming. And in our role as academics, especially in a climate that wants to censure topics and conversations in the classroom (Exhibit A, Exhibit B) and eliminate academic freedom by eliminating tenure (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), what can we do?
I think lots of things, and lots of “small” things that add up. Which brings me to:
A woman’s place is in the syllabus.
“You’re such a productive academic mama! I didn’t do anything the first 4 months after my kid was born.”
Reading this recently in my inbox was unsettling. It was in reference to the fact that I was writing and replying to emails, with an infant at home. What the sender didn’t, doesn’t, understand is that I don’t feel like I have much of a choice. As an early career academic trying to figure out The Next Steps (AKA someone hire / fund me please!), there are a round of grant + fellowship deadlines this fall that won’t come up again for at least another year. And by then I won’t be eligible for at least one of them. In other words, external forces just don’t care what else I have going on. Their deadlines are not negotiable.
To some extent, I get it. I really do. I’ve ended up backing out of or turning down several things this fall that understandably are time-sensitive and involve large groups of other people- conferences, workshops. Deadlines and set time-frames help organize these groups and keep everyone on task. And these opportunities are important, but I just couldn’t make them work this fall.* One workshop required that I teach a module to peers on a pre-determined schedule, which I couldn’t commit to [with an infant nursing on demand who isn’t taking a bottle]. One conference was willing to let me present remotely/electronically, but said I had to commit to being available to answer questions live [again, I didn’t think that was a realistic option personally].
But I truly do not believe that this kind of inflexibility needs to be true for all academic opportunities. I feel especially strong about this when it comes to grant deadlines. Continue reading
At first shrug, this sounds like a simple question: when should you defend your dissertation, whether that’s MS or PhD (or other terminal degrees like MFA)? If you’re an advisor, when should you let your students defend?
The ‘right’ answer could be: when they’re ready. Of course! But the timing of that, in practice, is far more complicated. I strongly believe part of good mentoring is helping students move onto The Next Thing – whether that’s another degree, a postdoc, an academic job, a non-academic job, or something else. So the timing of students’ defense and graduation should help them get there.
What’s so complicated then? Lots of things. Continue reading
Earlier this week, Professor Terry McGlynn shared his story of how he found science as a career path on the Small Pond Science blog. As a woman in the academy who is also a scientist, I wanted to share some of my story.
Why? It’s not that I think I have a particular unique path to where I am now. Mostly I want to share it because there can be so many difficult things about being a woman in science and a woman in the academy. I’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate the path that led me here, to a mental and physical place where I work hard to do work I enjoy while mentoring women students in science – and to thank (although anonymously here) the many women mentors who helped get me here. It takes a village!
There’s certainly a stereotype that kids who have chemistry sets or collect fossils are the ones who grow up to be scientists. Maybe that’s true, but that wasn’t my path – and it wasn’t the way I was brought up. Continue reading
My last few posts on TSW have been less than positive. It is time to reflect on the good things in my life.
I am on the job market again this year. This is not in and by itself a good thing; but I am getting pretty damn good at it. I got a good number of interviews, and just got back from my last campus visit a few days ago. I won’t hear back for another week or so, at least, so this is when hope is at its highest. Even when I don’t get offered a job these days, colleagues on search committees reach out to tell me about the good aspects of my application and to give me feedback on why the choice went another way. They don’t have to do that, and I appreciate it very much. I actually really enjoy the visits themselves — traveling to new places, meeting faculty members I didn’t know before and interacting with bright students, giving a talk and getting asked good hard questions, getting to think about my future and how I would like to shape it. I also have an excellent support system that helps with everything from listening to me practice my talk over Skype twice in one week to fixing page breaks and font issues in my handout the night before the talk. I am very lucky. Continue reading