Archive for the ‘Work-Related Rage’ Category

So, as I indicated a few months ago, I am applying for promotion to full professor this fall.  Here is what I wrote then:

It has become apparent that I must apply for promotion to full professor in the fall, even though I am in no way certain of actually getting it.  However, it hurts me not at all to apply, while the effect of me going up alongside others who will be applying will potentially have a positive effect, whether I get recommended for promotion or not.  So.  (Note: I am insecure about my application for reasons that have little to do with my CV.  The tiny bit of myself that is insecure because of my CV is basically because of how I was “mentored” by senior professors in my department, even though my research is in fact stronger than any of theirs was when they applied for promotion to full.)


Let me amplify this tiny paragraph a bit.  What I said about “mentoring” was an oblique way of me saying that I was actively discouraged (in some cases) and benignly ignored (in others) when I asked for advice about preparation to achieve full.  And sure, I’ve done more than these assholes in my department who are the first hoop through which I must jump (all white males over the age of 50 – that’s right, we don’t have a single female full professor in our department, let alone anybody of any sex who is a person of color) have done in terms of scholarship, but that isn’t really my problem, at the end of the day.  My “problem” (I put it in scare quotes because I’m sure they would) is the fact that I have been doing the work of three or four fucking people since attaining associate professor and tenure, and while I have been “thanked” (those are my scare quotes), I have not been recognized in any tangible way for my fucking excellence and for the fact that apparently I’m an unstoppable workaholic.  In fact, the most “recognition” (my scare quotes again) I have received is to have a giant target on my fucking back and to be vilified for the good work that I do.  Oh, and to have administrators let people vilify me in the interest of letting “everybody have a voice.” (To be clear: I don’t think assholes who suck at their job should ever have a voice.  Because I am a little bit of a fascist in my heart. Or at the very least a monarch who believes in the Divine Right of Queens.)

Anyway, one of the things that has been preoccupying me this summer is the putting together of my promotion application. In some ways, this has perhaps been more preoccupying than it would have been in years previous, or in years subsequent to this one.  See, we’ve got a new dean and a new provost who are entirely untested.  Who knows what they will think? This, of course, leads one to flights of fancy where one tries to imagine “WHAT WILL THEY THINK WHEN THEY LOOK AT THIS EMAIL SAYING THAT I WRITE CLEAR AND ELEGANT PROSE?  SHOULD I INCLUDE IT?”.  I have no concrete evidence of what they think matters. Further, this is the “transition year” between submitting a physical binder (ONE AND ONLY ONE BINDER) and submitting all materials (NO SPACE LIMITATIONS) in an electronic format.  Now, I WELCOME the electronic format.  BUT, given the fact that all my department focused on for the past 10 years was using a highlighter (like, a HIGHLIGHTER) and putting all your shit in plastic sleeves (because that is “professional”), as opposed to talking about the CONTENT one should have for either earning tenure or earning full promotion (“We don’t want to limit people”), one is in a position of constructing this application without any guidance.

Luckily, the electronic format my institution has settled on is to build your application in Blackboard, which I am very comfortable using.  And I had a 40-minute meeting with an instructional tech person and that answered any questions I did have.  Further I have always measured myself against the standards of my field, so I am comfortable with my achievements in teaching, research, and service.  In fact, in putting everything together, I am more than comfortable.

Let’s also note that I’ve developed EIGHT brand new courses since applying for tenure in 2008, I have a clear and consistent publication record – which I won’t detail here but which, while not R1 quality, does clearly meet the standards of my institution if not exceed them – and I spear-headed the first revision of our major in 30 years, and I was an integral worker in changing our General Education requirements, and I chaired committees… yeah, I feel like FUCK YOU to anybody who would dare to deny me.

But, see, this FUCK YOU is kind of the point of this post. First, I think wanting to fuck people over is a really shitty reason to apply for promotion, even though that is a strong motivation of mine.  Second, I don’t believe really that I will be evaluated on the basis of my accomplishments, nor do I believe that those accomplishments will actually be weighed fairly against other people’s.  Third, I think it really sucks that I am operating in a vacuum in compiling these materials and that I don’t feel comfortable being open about my desire to achieve full promotion or to ask for advice.

So what I’m doing in my application is this fucked up passive-aggressive thing where I promote myself but I also draw attention to everything that other people aren’t doing.  I am daring them to deny my promotion, as opposed to seeking promotion.  And I am passionately pushing myself forward, while also surreptitiously tearing other people down.  This is all fucked up and wrong.  And I hate it.  And it shouldn’t be what happens.

And I certainly shouldn’t be thinking that it’s ok if they deny me promotion as long as they deny the people that I don’t believe should get it.  That makes me not only a dick, but also an intellectually dishonest dick.

That said, those motherfuckers had better fucking vote to make me a full professor.  Because I fucking deserve it.

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The beginning of the summer break is always a tough transition for me.  This is not a complaint – just a fact.  Moving from 9 months of meetings and classes and students and deadlines and committees and blah blah blah into lots of unstructured time requires a lot of focus and a huge change in priorities and perspective.  This is probably true for most academics with the privilege of a tenure-track job, though I suspect the shift is a bit bigger for those of us who teach at institutions with heavier teaching loads.  (Note: I know that contingent faculty would kill for this “challenge,” and thus, let me reiterate: I’m not complaining or talking about how hard it is to have a summer without teaching.  I’m very lucky.  I get it.)  But so usually at this time of year I end up making a lot of Big Plans, and then I get all Overwhelmed, and then I freak out a little bit THAT SUMMER IS OVER BEFORE IT HAS BEGUN, and then I settle in and get some good stuff done.

This year, however, my usual “process” for “easing” into the summer has been compromised.  How?  God, where even to begin?

  1. People keep coming to me for Insights, Support, and Advice.  Now, this is happening because I Know Many Things.  And it is my natural tendency to want to offer Insights, Support, and Advice, for, as a Leo (ha!  I’m only half-kidding), I really do believe that I am the absolute best person to ask for these things.  (This is a personal weakness of mine. It relates to my susceptibility to flattery.)  So in the past couple of weeks I have received a barrage of emails and had at least three lunches that are All about the Things in the Department, which is really a distraction from list-making and freaking out.  Yes, I know that I shouldn’t allow this to happen to myself.  Yes, my mother has told me for at least 20 years that I need to stop my impulse to play “Dear Abby” to people.
  2. It has become apparent that I must apply for promotion to full professor in the fall, even though I am in no way certain of actually getting it.  However, it hurts me not at all to apply, while the effect of me going up alongside others who will be applying will potentially have a positive effect, whether I get recommended for promotion or not.  So.  (Note: I am insecure about my application for reasons that have little to do with my CV.  The tiny bit of myself that is insecure because of my CV is basically because of how I was “mentored” by senior professors in my department, even though my research is in fact stronger than any of theirs was when they applied for promotion to full.)
  3. Department administrators have initiated a policy change, via email, as of 5 PM Wednesday.  The chair had scheduled a personal day Thursday, which effectively closed off the possibility for any sort of open discussion.  The policy change itself is not something I actually have a huge problem with.  But do I have a huge problem with the way in which this was handled?  Yes I do.  And do I have a huge problem with the fact that when they finally did offer some (inadequate response to questions today that it was made very clear that they were not going to be available for any other communication again until Tuesday?  Yes I do.  And do I have a problem with the fact that this policy change, while obviously (to me) necessary in the short term, is basically a band-aid over a giant gaping wound, and it does not address the source causes of the problem, nor have they appeared to have thought about the sources of the problem?  Yes, I motherfucking do.
  4. Further, and this relates to both 1. and 3. above, I appear to be the person who is going to explain all of this shit to my colleagues, even though a) I had no role in the decision and b) I actually have no authority to answer anybody’s questions.  So why do I bother to do this totally uncompensated work?  Basically, I’m trying to calm people down so that they don’t do something that totally makes us all look like lunatics to our (new) provost and incoming (in July) new dean.  I really don’t want to be part of the Crazy Department.  This shit reflects badly on me, too, yo.  (I am sorry to say, I have not been wholly successful in this effort, though I do think I have stopped some lunacy from getting out into the world.)

So that’s the overview.  These are the four thematic areas of my problems, but I’m sure if I were to list off all of the details, they would amount to 99.  But to quote Jay-Z, because clearly, we should all quote Jay-Z, “I got 99 problems, bein’ a bitch ain’t one.”

The good news is, I am on track to getting my book manuscript revised, polished, and out and under review by September, I’m going to Italy to present on something that might become the foundation of my THIRD book project in LESS THAN A MONTH, and I found out yesterday that a special session panel on which I will be a presenter at MLA 2015 in Vancouver has been accepted.  Oh, and I have finally been sucked into Twitter fully, and I am excited about my potential to use it for offering resources for the courses that I teach. (So no, it’s not Dr. Crazy twitter – it’s Real Life Professional Me Twitter.)

I do believe that is all for the moment.


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So the 2013-2014 academic year has come to a close, all of my grades are submitted, and graduation on Saturday was grand.  I love graduation.  A lot of my students did decide to walk in graduation, and I am especially proud that all of *my* students who walked wore sensible shoes.




AND FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, WEAR SHOES THAT FIT YOUR FOOT!!!! YOU ARE TEMPTING FATE! THE GODS WILL GIVE YOU BLISTERS FOR YOUR HUBRIS! EVEN IF YOU MAKE IT THROUGH ALL OF THE PROCESSING, YOU WILL BE WALKING BAREFOOT TO THE CAR WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE AND YOU WILL BE HOBBLING FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS!  (It is also the case that there is a strong inverse correlation between heel height and academic honors: smart women tend to wear sensible shoes, though there is a variable for sorority membership, apparently, that skews these results.  It is also the case that women in the humanities and hard sciences tend to be more sensible about footwear than those in other disciplines.  Yes, this is what I think about to pass the time during the reading of the names.)

As is typical, the faculty who attended are the faculty who always attend.  As much as it pisses me off that so many in my department violate the faculty handbook by never attending graduation and that they face no repercussions for this dereliction of duty, I also did say on graduation – and I do actually believe this – that they are the ones who are missing out.  Yes, graduation is long, and it’s boring, and we all have things we could be doing from 8-noon on a Saturday morning.  But you know what?  It is the one time in the year when the faculty are given a loud round of applause for the work that we do.  And it is so gratifying to see my students so proud of themselves and their families so proud!  And everybody – EVERYBODY – is happy! And it matters so much to students and their families to see faculty there cheering them on.  I do a lot of crap in this job that I resent for one reason or another: I feel nothing but positive about graduation.  It reminds me of why I do all of this in the first place.  Indeed, it’s the whole point.

So I went to graduation on Saturday, and that evening CC and I hung out and drank wine and kvetched and ate pizza.  I arrived home at around 9:30 to an email from one of my colleagues.  A colleague who didn’t go to graduation and who, as far as I am aware, has never gone to graduation.  This colleague wants to “pick my brain” as a result of The Dumbest Survey in the Whole Wide World, which was inflicted on us by an ad hoc committee from within my department.  Note: the survey results have not been distributed, so I, ostensibly, have no idea what they say.  (I have more of an idea than this person might suspect, mainly because, like Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls, my hair (although not big) is full of secrets.)


But this colleague was on the committee.  The colleague didn’t indicate what the survey revealed, other than that it revealed “issues.”  The one thing that the colleague did reveal in the email is… wait for it… we should have another ad hoc committee to address the issues!!!!  What do I think about that?!?!

People, I can’t even.  It’s like Groundhog Day.  So you just “served” on a totally ineffectual committee that produced no results, took no action and for which you did no work, a committee that reported nothing to the department, and you want another goddamned committee?  And that committee would look suspiciously like the committee that you had two summers ago that was basically organized as the “I hate Dr. Crazy” committee?  And you want me to say that this is a reasonable, productive, good idea?  What the WHAT?

The first thing I wanted to write back was, “Fuck you.  Seriously.  Fuck you.”

I didn’t write that.

The second thing that I wanted to write was a lengthy email that listed all the reasons why this was the stupidest proposal in the whole wide world.

I didn’t write that either.

Nah, what I wrote was that it would be better to talk in person and that we should have lunch.  Basically, I felt like if I was going to spend an hour on this, I might as well have a nice lunch, at least.  And, in the “keep your enemies closer” school of collegiality (which, let’s note, is fucked up), I figured it would be good to get the whole story about what’s going on here – or as much of it as I can.  I hold out, say, 10% of hope that this lunch might aim things in a productive direction, i.e., not toward another ad hoc committee, and so for that reason I do think it’s worth my time not to just blow the whole thing off.  (What do I think would be a productive direction?  These people take on meaningful service and they use the avenues that are there through standing committees to initiate proposals that address their concerns that then we could vote on as a department.  The time for brainstorming and fact-finding is D-O-N-E.  Either put yourself out there with a plan or shut the fuck up, I say.  Also, the idea that they “can’t” do this because some people “dominate” the conversation?  It’s a red herring.  The reason some people might appear to be dominating is because they are the ones who do the fucking work!  Do the work and you have a voice!  It ain’t rocket science!) But I also intend to make it clear that I don’t want any part of all of these behind-the-scenes conversations, and that I’m busy with my own projects over the next academic year – in the summer, with research and professional development, and in the academic year, with my own teaching and real service commitments – on standing committees in the department, college, university, and profession.  Hopefully my willingness to meet will be seen as me taking their concerns seriously, even if I think their methods are bullshit.  But if not, well, I did what I could.

So.  Bullshit committees produce bullshit surveys that produce bullshit results that don’t get distributed and then new bullshit committees are proposed.  Yeah, that’s an effective path toward solutions to very real problems.  NOT.


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My Survey of British Literature from 1800-Present Course

I just read their second papers for me.  (Let’s note: not everybody who teaches surveys in my department actually assigns formal essays.) This second paper assignment involved them choosing a primary text from the syllabus from after midterm – so a text from 1900 onward – and they had to offer an interpretation of the text and they had to incorporate two journal article secondary sources to provide context for their claims.  Now, we have no requirement for writing in these courses (which is something I want to change down the road, for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I think they need reinforcement in between composition courses, the intro to the major course, and their upper-level courses) but I am a Mean Lady.  I was so proud reading those essays, on two counts: 1) overall they did very, very well – better than on their first papers, which were less challenging and that counted for less in terms of the final grade, and 2) they wrote about so many things! and had so many amazing ideas!

People talk about how students refuse to do challenging work or how they aren’t willing to be independent critical thinkers.  In a class of 23, I had papers on (in no particular order):

  • Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier”
  • Wilfred Owen’s “Dolce Et Decorum Est”
  • W.B. Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan”
  • T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land
  • James Joyce’s “Araby”
  • D.H. Lawrence’s “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter”
  • Virginia Woolf’s “A Mark on the Wall”
  • W.H. Auden’s “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”
  • Stevie Smith’s “Not Waving But Drowning”
  • Stevie Smith’s “The Person from Porlock”
  • Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse”
  • Derek Walcott’s “A Far Cry from Africa”

Clearly, there was no “easy option” with that sort of representation of texts.  They wrote about what they cared about!  And they did some research and provided context for their claims!  And I didn’t provide assigned topics, and there was no plagiarism (though, to be fair, there were some difficulties with citation, but no out and out moments of stealing other people’s ideas).  I couldn’t be more proud of them, and I couldn’t, frankly, be more proud of myself for getting them there.  Yes, I had a GREAT GROUP this semester.  I can’t take credit for that.  But I CAN and DO take credit for inspiring the work that they completed.  And with just a handful of exceptions, they earned Cs or better.  They rose to the occasion.

A Bullshit Department Story

This isn’t really a story.  It’s really just an “issue.”  See, we have problems right now (and a problem that frankly isn’t new and that I and others have brought up prior to this) with recruitment and retention of majors, and, going along with that, there is a contingent within the faculty who feel (rightly or wrongly) that they are disenfranchised because their courses are not attracting students.  I’m not going to get into the specifics, for what I think should be obvious reasons, but “people” (people) who are very disconnected and disengaged like to blame a lot of different things for the issues with enrollments (for that the issue really is, although there are various pretexts offered that seem disconnected from that on the surface)- from the chair, to other colleagues, to students, to the curriculum, to the institution overall.  Hell, maybe it’s all about how the humanities are degraded in the current cultural conversation. All of this connects back to my Survey Says post.

How the Two Connect

Recruitment and retention of majors (and attracting non-majors to courses as well) depends not upon sacrificing rigor nor does it depend upon instituting more and more requirements – whether at the level of the course, as in Student Learning Outcomes (which let’s note, the Disgruntled in My World would not be encouraging), or at the level of curriculum, in terms of making requirements more stringent in terms of what students must complete (which The Disgruntled do seem to advocate).  You know what it depends on?  INVESTING.  INNOVATING.  INSPIRING.  And also, less abstractly, advertising, advocating, and admitting that some of this shit might be our own (my own) goddamned responsibility.

So it’s finals week and I am buried beneath the grading.  But you know what?  My students are rising.  And my courses for the fall don’t appear to be in danger of being under-enrolled.  And maybe those two facts aren’t totally disconnected from one another.

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Short version: budget cuts, unilateral moves by department administrators without adequate explanations, and People Going Crazy.

What hurts my feelings most about this is that I am stressed the fuck out (a) and that people who ACTIVELY HATED ME AND COLLUDED AGAINST ME not so long ago are now seeking me out as an ally (b).  Because, you know, allies.  (The thing about me is that I will say what I think but I have no interest in being an active member in any faction.  Which perhaps makes me ill-suited to life in most English departments.)

You know what I think?  First: do they think I have amnesia?  That I don’t remember when there was a target on my back, placed there by them?  FUCK THEM if they think that I will just join their fucking club as if I DON’T recall when these people went after me.  Second: I care about STUDENTS and not about either this bullshit administrative shit nor do I care about my colleagues (or even me) getting preferred teaching schedules.

Jesus MotherFUCKING Christ.  I am so filled with stress and rage that I can’t even talk about it.

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  • The longer I teach, the more I realize that actual “grading” at the end of the semester means little.  I mean, I go through the motions, but I’ve started doing this thing where I predict what my students will earn based on their work up until about midterm/75% of the way through the semester, and typically what they earn is about what I predict (within a plus or a minus), regardless of end-of-semester assignments.  Now, part of this is because I don’t believe in weighting Finals so heavily that they can totally change a grade.  Part of why I don’t believe in this is pedagogically sound: it’s because, in the classes where this was possible, I used that so heavily to my advantage as an undergraduate, so I slacked for like 10 weeks and then I pulled out all the stops at the end, and I actually didn’t retain or learn very much.  But I won’t lie: part of why I do that now is laziness: the grading at the bitter end will be less brutal for me as a professor.
  • It’s been interesting (and gratifying) for me to see the way that certain students who started out weak at the beginning of the semester (in more than one course) and who took advantage of my offer to meet with them really were able to improve BY VAST AMOUNTS by the end.  They have improved so much, and I really see that as the result of one-on-one instruction.  Worth noting: this is why I get annoyed by colleagues who don’t hold office hours (even though we are “required” to do so) or who make their office hours so rigid that it prohibits students from taking advantage of them.  And when people say, “But students don’t come to office hours,” I will admit that my response is, “Um, mine do.  Sometimes I hold like 6 office hours a week because there is so much demand.”  Maybe it’s not that “students,” generally, won’t come, but that you suck.
  • This is also why I hate the process of student evals, though, because yeah, you might have gotten Ds on a couple of papers, but that doesn’t mean you will get a D in the class. WHY CAN’T STUDENTS UNDERSTAND MATH?  I believe in giving you the D that you deserve, but I also weight earlier grades less than later grades, so you should know that if you LEARN over the course of the semester that you will be fine.  But students (or at least my students) don’t get that, and so I get semi-crappy evaluation numbers, just because THEY CAN’T DO MATH.  They are all like, “she thinks this is a GRADUATE COURSE,” when what I’m actually thinking is, “IMPROVE!”  And almost universally, they do.  And their grades are FINE, in the final estimation.  (When I say “fine,” I mean that a large majority of my students end up in the A-C+ range. And not because of grade inflation.)
  • On Students Not Understanding Math, why do students who haven’t submitted more than 60 percent of the assignments in a course think that taking the final will allow them to pass?  Why do they show up after they have disappeared for 8 weeks?  Just why?
  • I also have had a couple of students this semester who took a course with me at the sophomore level and then another at the junior level, and it’s been gratifying to see (in terms of looking at how my grading shakes out) that those students earned higher grades in the lower level course than in the higher level.  Which, I think, is as it should be.  (Note: I didn’t do this intentionally: it was how it all shook out in terms of assessments and rubrics.)  Expectations should be higher in upper-level courses than in lower-level courses.  I’m glad that mine align with that ideal.
  • I have weird dry skin issues because of the weather this year.  It sucks.  (I typically have really good skin, so perhaps I’m being a baby.  But I am used to having perfect skin, and this is unacceptable.)
  • A thing that has been annoying me lately in my department is that a certain minority of my colleagues have been bitching at Every. Single. Department Meeting. about how their courses don’t make enrollment and about how it’s the fault of the curriculum, and they do so under the auspices of agenda items that are not about this issue, and they never bring forth a proposal (to put on the AGENDA for a vote) to solve the “problem” that they see.  (My annoyance stems from the fact that a) I have to listen to them bitch unproductively, and b) they end up getting “rewarded” with 2 preps rather than 3 preps or the 4 that I teach because their courses get cancelled.) Right, now, however, I am less annoyed because in spite of the fact that I am teaching an upper-level course next semester that is for all intents and purposes a “new” course (it’s been on the books since Vietnam – literally – but it hasn’t been taught for the 10 years I’ve been here) is totally fine in terms of enrollment, whereas some courses that should have NO PROBLEM (think: SHAKESPEARE) have been cancelled.  Here’s the thing: maybe the problem isn’t the curriculum, or the students, or the schedule.  MAYBE THE PROBLEM IS YOU.  The problem doesn’t appear to be ME, even though I am ostensibly among the toughest (if not the toughest) professor in the department.  (These colleagues often argue that the problem is because their courses are the most rigorous… except that’s totally not what’s going on.)
  • The dating.  Where do I begin?  There are two primary guys right now: Geographically Convenient Guy (who literally lives like an 8-minute leisurely walk from my house) and Tortured Artist (whom I will go out with this weekend).  I like GCG a lot. (We met Tuesday.) Partly because of the convenience, I won’t lie, but even aside from that, he has lots of good qualities.  I’m less enthralled with TA, just because he seems so EARNEST (though perhaps I will find that he is a delight upon meeting? And I do like his name better than I like the name of GCG, which I realize is weird and shallow, but a good name goes a long way).  At the end of the day, though, I’m enjoying the dating fun, and it is taking the edge off the end of the semester nicely.  Worth noting: I found both of these dudes in the sad sea of what I think is the cesspool of internet dating – Plenty of Fish.  Also worth noting: they are both better (on paper, and in life) than any guy I’ve ever found on sites that require one to pay money… it just took me sifting through the dregs of society to find them.  (Seriously: the DREGS.)  So we shall see.

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So today, as with every Tuesday, I was back on campus less than 12 hours after I left it, because I have The Most Awful Schedule Ever for the Third Semester in a Row.  That’s not news.  And yes, most Tuesdays I end with me feeling depleted.

But I’m especially exhausted today because it was the Big Deadline for an internal grant for which I applied.  I also had a couple of other things to apply for internally – one by the end of the week and one by next Monday, so I bit the bullet and completed all three applications (which all required just slightly different information and formats, so it was a total pain in the ass) today.  Depleted doesn’t begin to cover it.

The Big Grant application I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks.  And I’m in no way certain of getting it, even though I was very diligent in formulating the application and making sure I hit all of the items on the rubric that they use to evaluate it.  (Side note: it is SO MUCH BETTER, if more time intensive, now that The Committee that Decides on Internal Grants actually explains what the application requires, what projects can be funded through this grant, and what criteria are used in evaluation.  When I first arrived 10 years ago, there was little to no concrete guidance about what the applications should include, which was… problematic.)  But anyway, even with that diligence and investment of time, why am I unsure about my prospects?  Well, first off, people in The Humanities rarely get this particular award.  I’m not sure if it’s because people don’t apply or if it’s because they don’t understand how to write grant applications or if it’s because there is a gigantic bias against research in the humanities because my colleagues across campus don’t understand it or value it.  Probably some combination of the three.

But I had an idea for the Big Grant (by big I’m just referring to the application in relation to the other stuff I applied for – it will give me personally no actual money, but if I get it then it will pay for some software/work that will buy me time, which would be grand) that I thought I could sell to people outside the humanities, which they would understand as research and not “clerical work” (which let’s note constitutes a lot of what “research” in the humanities involves but no level of explanation seems to penetrate the brains of my colleagues outside of my discipline or the brains of my administration, who value research involving labs and co-authors much more highly than they value the kind of stuff that people in single-author fields do). So I feel like I’ve got a 50/50 shot.  But if I get it, then I will totally write about it here and tell every single colleague who cares in the humanities in my institution about it, because I might have discovered the One True Way to get access to this money.  Maybe.  But it definitely ain’t a sure thing.

And then I submitted another application for professional development money from my College, which I think has a pretty good shot, depending.  Depending on what?  Depending on how many people apply.  Because I got this money last year, and I can imagine them denying me if there were first time applicants in the pool if there were more applicants than there was money.

And then I submitted an application for a course release, which I’m about 99 percent sure I will not receive, mainly because the only reason I was “allowed” to submit the request was because a colleague of mine was told by the provost to submit one, and my chair (kudos to my new chair!) wanted to be equitable and open up the opportunity to others who had expressed interest.  See, my dean has basically said to the chairs (“basically” meaning that all of this has happened not as a policy matter that is in writing but rather as an ad hoc thing he has “told” them and they’ve gone along with since 2010) that course releases for anything other than administrative purposes won’t be considered.  Because, you know, he can’t be bothered to read and to reject applications for release time for other things, I guess.  On the one hand, this is about the budget, and I get it.  On the other hand, how are you going to fight for more money in the budget if you have no clue what faculty are doing and you have no evidence that more resources are needed?  (Note: course releases are available for research in other colleges at my institution).  My dean is “stepping up” to faculty after this academic year (don’t you love that euphemism?).  I’ll let you infer how I feel about that.

So basically I invested about 20 hours of time in composing applications for institutional support for my research, support that would ultimately benefit my institution in a host of ways – student success, getting a woman in my department fully promoted, institutional reputation – and I might end up with nothing for those efforts.  But hey, you can’t get support if you don’t ask for it.  And you can’t bitch legitimately if you don’t get denied the support that you need.

All this work isn’t for nothing, even if none of it works out.  It’s prepared me for external grant applications for next year, and it’s got me started thinking in a systematic way about my THIRD book project (even though I’m not done with the second one).  This is all good.  And it’s also good to do these things because it makes me recognize the quality of my ideas and the high esteem in which my work is regarded outside of my institution, mainly because such applications require you to self-promote.

That said?  I am exceptionally pleased that I don’t need to write anything for a while that waxes poetic about how important I am.  I hate this fucking genre, though apparently I’ve gotten a hell of a lot better at doing it in the 10 years I’ve been on the tenure-track.  And I’m feeling satisfied, because even if I don’t get diddly from all of this effort, at least I know that I’ve communicated what I am doing and the value of what I am doing without apology.  I’d rather dare them to say no than anticipate rejection and fail to try.

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I am a person, historically, who has great difficulty with 1) not getting all riled up when contentious items are discussed in a meeting and 2) not speaking my mind about those contentious issues.  This has been a problem for me throughout my career – beginning in graduate school (seriously), continuing through my pre-tenure years (though I worked really, really hard – sometimes even successfully – to control my impulses during that time), and coming into full flower in my years since earning tenure.

But in the past year or two, I’ve realized that the only person I’m hurting by giving into those impulses to get Riled Up and to Speak My Mind is myself.  See, it turns out that my righteous indignation and impassioned speeches have not tended, most of the time, to make a real difference in things that are stupid.  And when they have made a difference, I’ve often had to pay for the difference that was made in the form of bearing the brunt of various kinds of blame, more work, and less job satisfaction.  So, I’ve been trying to mold myself into a “new, serene me.”

Today, I think that I reached a new milestone in my quest for serenity.  See, I knew that a particular discussion item on an agenda promised to be tense – that the discussion might even become shouty.  So I brought my most complicated lace project that I’m knitting to this meeting.  Oh happy day!  The meeting was tense, and some people did get a little exercised.  But not me!  I was focused on yarning over and slip-slip-knits and kitting two and three together!  Purling purling purling on the even rows! I listened, and I had opinions about what was said, but my hands were busy.  I made one comment – and it was productive.  Otherwise, I kept my head down, stitching away.  (Note: I wonder if in a less egalitarian time historically if this is how women used their handcrafts – to allow them not to lose their minds at things that pissed them off.)

Now, nothing was decided as a result of that discussion, and nothing was accomplished either.  By staying out of it for the most part, I didn’t shirk any responsibility, nor did I just check out of the discussion – I was very engaged in listening.  What I did accomplish, though, was keeping my head cool and getting through 6 rows of my pattern.  And further: I was not the most angry person in that meeting!

Will anything actually happen with this contentious issue?  Maybe something will, but not before next academic year, if at all, and if it really comes up for something more than discussion, like in the form of a voting item, that will be my moment to sound off.  But for now?  I am so happy that I didn’t get provoked.


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Yes, I have the PMS.  This makes me bitchy and mean.  And probably less politically astute than I should be.

So my righteous indignation?  Let me produce two scenarios for you:

1) There is a rule that prohibits cross-listing courses that count for General Education credit with courses that could count for something else.  The idea being, according to our accreditation agency, that we should actually have a unified, real general education program.  Seems pretty clear, right?  Gen Ed should be separate from other enterprises.  It should be a program.  This is the spirit of the thing.  Wouldn’t you think that this would imply that you probably shouldn’t offer a course that is, technically, separate from the gen ed course, but which meets in the same room, with the same texts, and with the same instructors, with the same discussion?

Regardless of whether it’s not a technical cross-listing, that is the same class, right?  Apparently, the people in charge of putting the schedule together in my department didn’t see the logic in this.  “NO!” they said.  “It’s not the same course!”

2) Imagine that prior to this semester, the only courses that were in danger of being cancelled just so happened to be ones that would be affected by the (illegal) cross-listing.  (Yes, mine was one of those, though it all worked out in the end.  Look: I don’t apologize for my turfiness in this.)  And let’s also imagine that a colleague (that would be me) would have alerted the people in charge of the schedule to this problem in like February.  And let’s imagine that this person (ME) is the one who will be most fucked over by ignoring her earlier complaint.  “You shouldn’t judge the way your colleagues teach their course (in the field that you were actually hired to teach in! which neither of them are MOTHERFUCKING QUALIFIED to teach in), Crazy.  You are unreasonable, even though you are explaining very reasonable things about upper-division course enrollments and how they work.”

Combine 1) and 2).  Imagine Crazy in the white hot center of both, and imagine her department administrators treating her like she doesn’t know what the fuck she is talking about.  GRBEWAAAAAHHH!  Yes, I might have been a little bit of a monster.  And I might have made an indication about it to my dean, and I might have tattled about it to the director of the general education program.


The point is, I was an asshole all day, because I was RIGHT, and only after my chair was told by the Dean to do what I said did this situation get resolved in a reasonable fashion.   CLEARLY you wouldn’t think that I know SHIT.  As I wrote on Facebook today, this place is totally fucking bogus.

The bad news (or maybe good news?) about all of this is that I’ve finalized the books I’ll teach in my upper-level course in the spring, all inspired by teaching a course that is for motherfucking adults and not children.  Problematically, primary themes will be madness, suicide, abortion, rape, incest, drugs and alcoholism, and murder.  Ah, well, these are all award-winning stylistically phenomenal novels! Fuck you, students!  Fuck you, colleagues!  Fuck you, me!  Deal with it!

And yeah, I submitted my application for the NEH Enduring Questions Grant.  No, my “Enduring Question” was not, “Why not fucking kill the people I work with?”  It also was not, “Why not kill myself?”

But it is submitted, two days before the deadline.  And if I get it, I’ll talk about it LOADS.  Until then, you have to put up with my rage (at least when I’m PMSy and righteously indignant.)

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Fed the Motherfuck Up

I understand that the course of true academia does not run smoothe.  I understand that there are snags and kerfuffles and miscommunications and problematic situations.  And, for the most part, I accept all of that.

But I am motherfucking fucking done with this semester, for the following reasons:

1) When I object to sloppy argumentation in a grad student’s culminating project, it is not appropriate for my colleague to counter with, “but a lot of feminist scholarship does the same thing, so isn’t this bullshit ok?”  (Note: what I said was, “um, it’s still sloppy argumentation.  Yeah, I’m a feminist, but I’m a scholar first, and you can’t get me to back down by pulling the, “your sisters did this first” card.  Because I don’t give a shit if there is shitty feminist scholarship that you want to cite as a precedent for this shitty scholarship – it’s still shitty, and I, as a feminist, refuse to sign off on it.  Fuck you and your full professor rank.)

2) No, my fucked up teaching schedule is not my fucking fault, even if I have innate curiosity and excitement about new things.  It is not a matter of me needing to “figure out what I want to be when I grow up,” and yes, that is a direct quote from my chair.  It’s even more clear that it’s not my fucking fault given my chair’s question today, after I gave him my “what I want to be when I grow up” schedule, about “whether I’d be interested” in teaching one course out of my field and another barely in my field in order not to have those courses deleted from the catalog . This immediately after I’d given him a two year rotation based on “what I want to be when I grow up,” as well as on what I was hired to do, and which I already have compromised on because “but we really need you to do x, y, and z because of all the things.)  Note: I’ve got something like 11 preps over 4 semesters while many colleagues of mine have… um…. maybe 6.  Also, let’s note, he didn’t ask those others whether they’d “be interested” in these dead fucking courses, even though they are precisely the people who can’t make enrollment and who aren’t contributing to our major.

3)  I’m a bad teacher this semester.  I’m not going to lie.  I am. In two of four classes. You know why, though?  Because workload in my world is not distributed equitably.  And because I’m floundering and because I’m fucking my students over because I can’t handle it.  And it sucks.  And I don’t want to do it, but here I am.  Fuck.

4) Drawing a line in the sand about what is “fair” isn’t necessarily what is just for faculty or what is best for students.  I’m just saying.  And it’s also not necessarily what’s best for a department.  It is the path of least resistance, though.  And that’s *grand* for conflict-averse administrators.

And with all of the above?  I am now in a mode in which I am all about extricating myself from obligations and I’m all about taking care of myself.  ‘Cause you know what?  Why should I take care of anybody else?  And I hate being so self-serving, and I hate being put in the position where I can’t do what’s best because doing the best means that I’m getting fucked over.  I hate that I can’t do my best work, but rather that I have to protect myself instead.

It’s worth noting that even this is a privilege – a privilege of tenure – that I can tell people to fuck off for fucking me over or putting me in a position that is compromising.  But I’m angry.  What kind of privilege is the privilege of saying “go to hell?”  What kind of privilege is the privilege of saying, “I hate you and I hate everything you stand for, or I hate everything about you because you refuse to stand for anything that matters?”  That’s not a privilege.  That’s garbage.

So I’m fed up.  And I’m not playing this game anymore.  And the only pleasure in that is that the people who want me to play this game will be in a bind when they realize that I refuse to play.  And it sucks.  Not only in my work-life, but also for students, who honestly deserve better.  Well, at least “my” students will get better.  But fuck the rest of them, and fuck my department.  Because while I hate it, I’m nobody’s martyr.  And no student would be best served by my being one.


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