Guest Post: Tales from the “other”

Today’s guest blogger NotYourOther is a doctoral candidate at a large public university in the Midwest.

As a multiracial woman I have always been an “other”. From childhood on I have struggled with what box to check to identify my racial heritage. Then there was that ever annoying “other” option that further disenfranchised my developing racial identity. My racial ambiguity was never really an issue for me, but always seemed to perplex others, particularly my peers, who often asked the dreaded “so what are you?” question. It seemed as I moved into adulthood and started my career the focus on my race was slightly diminished. I consciously chose to work in agencies where people of color were not always the minority [in number] and my brown skin did not indicate an “otherness”. I contently existed in this fabricated environment for several years until I decided to return to school and pursue my PhD in Social Work.

I am the first to admit that I was desperately naïve in believing that my return to academia would be a utopian experience. I assumed that there would be a higher level of consciousness and self-actualization among faculty and peers. I mean we are social workers, right? Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Early on feelings of “otherness” began and have resurfaced periodically since my first year in the program. I fight with all my self-esteem to keep them at bay and to pack away the subtle microagressions I encounter. I move forward by focusing on my goals and using self-affirmations to get me through the inevitable next set of “other” remarks. I have acquired these coping strategies to survive in an environment that sometimes does not feel ready for me. Such coping mechanisms also keep me guarded and distant from those whose “other” remarks have attempted to damage my spirit whether consciously or not. But eventually, each new encounter adds a little more weight to my load, making it too heavy and I succumb, self doubt creeping in. Continue reading

“STEM departments are family friendly”

Faculty at my institution are upset over the family unfriendliness of the academic schedule.  A particular sticking point is that numerous events at the University begin after 5 p.m. – these are lectures, beginning of the year events, graduate recruitment events, and even job talks (leaving aside the necessity to go out to dinner with seminar speakers one hosts and job candidates if one is on the search committee).  For many faculty, an early evening event is on their schedule at least once a week. This is particularly frustrating to dual-academic partners and faculty with young children.

A survey was sent out to the faculty, and various potential solutions were brought forward. Many faculty would like the University to provide sitters at evening events or set up a drop-in sitting facility. Multiple requests were made for a more lenient Travel Fund for Dependent Care: each faculty member can apply for up to $500 once a year to bring a non-family sitter on a trip, but many argued it would be preferable to have this fund to applicable to non-travel situations (i.e., paying for a sitter when both partners are on search committees and need to spend evenings away from home). But far and away the greatest request was for an end to programming after 5 p.m. As one colleague put it, “In my ideal world, no one would expect faculty to be available after 5 p.m. for professional events.” Continue reading