Saturday, February 24, 2007

Who am I and what am I doing here?

Well, I was just reading Dean Dad's recent post on the short tenure of Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs, known in my Uni world as Provosts. And I have just been thinking about the pluses and minuses of provost (and other central administration) positions myself...

I have long wondered at the phenomenon of new Presidents who get hired at a university and quickly "sweep the decks," replacing most of those people (Provosts and Deans) who work for them. I understand that Presidents or Chancellors need to trust their Provosts thoroughly, since they do so much of the heavy internal lifting. Yet, sometimes the changes seem quite reactionary.

At one school where I worked, the new President came in, spent less than a week with the new provost, and summarily fired her, giving her a day to clean out her office. And this woman was amazing! I know she had herself on the market, because the slashing and burning of academic administrators is a longstanding trend and she was very smart, but it seemed to me at the time that he didn't even give her a chance to prove they could work together. And I believe that the university lost a great administrator.

That lesson remained with me as I took my first academic administrative position. I am not unaware of my own strengths (smart, creative, willing to take initiative, hard-worker) and my weaknesses (quick to forcefully share my opinion, a little cynical about power and its expression, and an unrepentant feminist, which some can see as a weakness). I know that some people are turned off by my directness. Though I am still a tenure-track faculty member, my administrative job is at the pleasure of the Dean, and I am aware of tenuousness of my situation. Add to that that I was hired without tenure, and it can make a girl pretty nervous.

Shortly after my hire, my Dean announced that she was going to retire, and we were conducting a search for a new Dean. Cue the shark music from "Jaws"...

Actually, I was happy with the new Dean--her style is understated and she is a quietly forceful person with a good mind. I also was pleased to be asked by the new Dean to stay on in my administrative position. I was also cautious, because she didn't really know me yet. You never know how long the good will will last or how well we will get along. So, I have soldiered on with the varied administrative aspects of my job, and for the most part, all has gone well. I still don't feel like I know the Dean well, and I don't know how long I will stay in this level of position.

But when I look ahead to jobs up the administrative ladder, particularly jobs in central administration, I worry about the losing the stability that tenure would provide, recognizing the ease with which you can be fired, let go, convinced to move on, etc. And while I eventually think I might want to be a provost someday, I am content to work my way up slowly. And hopefully I can remember to learn a little more each day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Random thoughts on a Saturday

Well, I am busy ignoring applications to our program, doctoral exams, two different pieces that are past due, and too many other things to mention... so I figured I would blog a little.

  1. Great news on a new project! I am going to be taking the lead on a national study, something that will help extend the vitae and give me some big study experience. I am thrilled to expand my purview beyond local issues to something bigger.
  2. I read the coverage and listened to Obama's official declaration for the Presidential race in 2008. The police estimated between 15,000 and 17,000 people in attendance! The man is amazing and inspiring. I don't know what will happen with his candidacy, and whether he can best the Clinton machine, but it will be great to watch.
  3. The world seems to be so freaked out by queers:
  • The legislature in Alaska would rather spend 1.2 million for a special election to deny benefits to the 77 partners of same-sex state employees than pay the benefits.
  • A lot of the professional basketball players had to tell reporters that they would be okay with newly out, former player Amaechi as long as he didn't come on to them. Of course, they added, it would be strained to be in the same locker room as him. (Yet more proof that women just have more confidence in our sexuality; women have to
    deal with come on's all the time, and we don't melt when people look at us.)
  • Legislators in Utah can't sleep until they find a way to keep LGBT kids in their state from meeting and getting some support from their peers.
  • 4. And yet, most soldiers in the military are okay with gay men and lesbians, and a New York Congressman is chiding Condi Rice that the State Department should hire all of the queer linguists that the military threw out.

    5. I don't know what Leonard Pitts is thinking... He is usually one of my favorite columnists, but Friday he wrote some claptrap, agreeing with Dobson, about how Mary Cheney's baby with her partner Heather might be used to argue that fathers don't matter. He quotes Dobson's bogus "scientific" studies of the need for fathers in children's lives. No one should give Dobson more press, especially Pitts. One might argue that it is the set-up for the tear down, but let me be the first to say, it does not work. I may have to dash off a short, aggravated note.

    Okay, enough for now. Hope the weekend treats you well. I need some dinner!

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007


    Well, apparently it only takes a few weeks to cure homosexuality. Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelical minister from Colorado Springs who bought crystal meth and had an ongoing affair with a male prostitute, met with four ministers for several weeks of intensive counseling. (Three years worth of counseling in three weeks, Haggard claims.) Now, one of the people overseeing his "treatment" is quoted in the NY Times affirming Haggard's "complete heterosexuality." They explain this by saying that his behavior, which they call "acting out," was limited to sexual activity with just one person. There were no other affairs in his past. Therefore, it is an aberration, not an indication of Haggard's sexual orientation. Haggard himself also sent word to his former congregants that he and his wife will be pursuing graduate degrees in psychology and moving somewhere in the Midwest, like Missouri or Iowa.

    All of this raises several kinds of questions for me. What has this "counseling" done to Haggard's psyche? While I do not presume to know Haggard's sexual orientation, I am too familiar with the self-hatred that some brands of Christian belief can instill in gay and sexually questioning men to think that this behavior was his one-time "acting out." Even Haggard admitted, back when he was first busted, that he had long had "feelings" that were contrary to his religious beliefs.

    His diagnosis, according to his "Christian counselors," is that he has a sexual addiction. It does seem like that could be a possibility, with the reckless sexual behavior that jeopardized his job and national reputation, although that disagnosis does not negate a gay sexual orientation. Yet, I think the "one-time" nature of the behavior actually works against the diagnosis of sexual addiction, which would require a pattern of behaviors. The DSM-IV says sexual addiction is:

    “distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a
    succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be

    It involves “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”

    So, the disagnosis simply does not work for me.

    Now, I am enough of a traditionalist to believe that married people should not have sex with people other than their partners without some kind of agreement. But I do understand and sympathize with the ways that sexual desire and self-hatred combine to make closeted gay people do stupid things. Therefore, I worry about Haggard's well-being, and I hope he gets real counseling from someone who has been trained.

    And this leads me to another question--who has been ministering to Haggard's wife--in her grief, her betrayal, and her confusion? And what kind of training does this person have? Personally, I don't think the Haggards should study psychology...I think they should seek out professional counseling by licensed clinical social workers or psychologists.

    As an academic, of course, I wonder what the psychology admissions people are gonna do with the Haggards' applications to study advanced psychology? Will the Haggards be applying to mainstream psych departments--you know, the ones that believe that sexual orientation is not "treatable," not immoral, and that it is, in fact, innate? Actually, I read on Slate that the Haggards are going to be taking courses "online" to pursue the degree. Yet another strike against online education.

    What is next for the Haggards, once they have their graduate degrees? Retraining the rest of us homos to act heterosexual? Explaining why the gospel of Jesus Christ really spells out the remedy for homosexuality? I do believe that they may have something to offer the world--there are many people in need: living in poverty, struggling to overcome discrimination and oppression, coping with the difficulties of disease and illness. I hope they turn their social efforts in that direction, instead of using their faith to harm other people who are confused and questioning their sexual orientations.

    I guess, in the end, I am glad the Haggards' faith is strong, because I fear they will need it.

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Sadness on a good night

    Well, I came home from my birthday celebration (which was great fun) to find out the bad news... I just can't believe Molly Ivins is dead.

    I have been reading her essays and watching her on TV for so very long. She was the kind of writer whose wry wit and political wisdom made her a unique voice, appealing to a younger feminist like me. I had always hoped to meet her in person some day.

    I had heard she was sick, but I didn't understand how grave her condition was. To lose Ann Richards and Molly Ivins so soon after one another is just sad and cosmically unfair. Two good, Southern, strong, outspoken, progressive women...gone. As an adopted daughter of the South, and a longtime lover of strong Southern women, I am deeply saddened by these losses. We are better for having had their challenging voices, certainly, but their losses leave a deafening silence.