Sunday, June 29, 2008

I have a real question

Okay, I have a question, and it is a serious one. Why do people get really drunk?

I am not talking about happy-buzzed. I mean stinking, rotten, falling down, slurring drunk.

And I am not talking about people with addiction issues; them, I sorta understand. I mean people who don't drink much normally and then choose to get seriously plastered.

I understand this behavior on the part of my undergrads... they are young and still learning how to negotiate drinking and partying. I hope that they will all make it through this testing time without something very bad happening. But how do I understand this behavior on the part of my very adult colleagues?

I have never been much of a drinker, as my mother is the adult child of an alcoholic. We never had much alcohol drinking in our house, and our mother's constant nag was "never more than 2 drinks... ever." My siblings are much the same as me--a couple drinks, nothing more. My gf is the child of a Southern minister, so her family wasn't drinking, either. So, we pretty much follow the "2 and done" rule in our house. On wild nights, one of us will have 3 drinks...and the other is the designated driver.

Because when you start to drink more than that, it gets kinda ugly. You lose your perspective, any filter you might have on speaking your unpleasant thoughts, your limits, and often your ability to walk, drive, talk clearly, and perform other basic functions. And, of course, you may vomit uncontrollably, urinate publicly, and have sex (willingly or unwillingly) with someone you would otherwise reject.

So, I ask you--readers--why the heavy drinking?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Too many damn tasks

One leadership training session I attended discussed the need to get all of the tasks you are constantly reciting in your head out on paper. This listing should include big tasks (the damn revise-and-resubmit that is sitting on your desk) and the mundane (schedule grooming for the dog and pick up the dry cleaning). The purpose of this exhaustive listing is to take away the enormous pressure of trying to remember everything you have to do, while giving you the chance to organize and prioritize the list. Once you listed general projects, they had to be further broken down into all of their specific parts--making the list even longer.

I am writing this entry to gear up to write the list. I very much need to write it, and then organize it. I find that I am ignoring all of the important tasks that need to get done, feeling too overwhelmed to begin any of them. I am also resentful, not wanting to work in the summer. In fact, it feels a good deal like winter break again--much to do, little incentive to do it.

And the summer is moving by a little too quickly. It is late June already, and I don't have much to show for it.

So, here is my general list of work-related summer projects:
  1. article revision--possibly requiring some additional data analysis--and resubmission
  2. data analysis for research project
  3. preparation of sections of accreditation documents
  4. revision/update of fall course
  5. writing report on research project
  6. presentations of research project
  7. work on my new consultant gig
  8. review student applications
  9. plan orientation for new students in summer and fall
Personal tasks include getting the dog groomed; finding a dentist; getting an annual dental and medical checkup; buying a present for the goddaughter's birthday; and cleaning my car, my work office, the refrigerator, and my closet at home. (Okay, so I am a little bit of a slob.)

There are still a good number of tasks left off the list, but I can see why it feels big. It reminds me of a great study of depression in women I read about a while ago. When trying to answer the question of why women are diagnosed with depression more often than men, the researchers found that women experienced more reasons to be depressed. I think that is the case with academics--we feel overwhelmed because we ARE! And perhaps we are a little self-indulgent, as well. Of course, that may just be me. :-)

Glad we have this time "off," eh?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Knight to queen?

Did you ever have a realization about the changing (growing) status in your academic life? I have recently come to realize that I often approach situations like I am still in grad school... even though that was 9 years ago. I see myself as the young one, the inexperienced one, the one with very little power or privilege.

So, when I was scheduled to speak at a national meeting as one of the featured speakers, I didn't really get it. I just thought folks wanted to hear about the project their group had helped sponsor--and I was the hired hand--so, I was presenting. Imagine my surprise to see myself seated at the head table, with the organization's senior staff and the other featured speaker. As I looked at the Executive Director, I kept thinking, "I've seen your picture in the Chronicle!" But I was pleased to find thatI could contribute to the conversation about current events in higher ed, and even started a conversation that might provide the basis for some of their work in the future. I went home a little stunned by my reception at the meeting, and wondered at what the change in status portends.

Then, a member of our school's senior staff asked to meet with me. We set a time, but never set the location. I assumed it was in her office. Yet, minutes before we were to meet, she showed up at my office to let me know she would be back momentarily. Yes, she assumed the meeting would be in MY office. Let me just say that the only people who meet with me in my office have been students and adjuncts I was mentoring. This new perspective--that of course we would meet in my office--was very strange and yet somewhat satisfying. It reminded me that I have an administrative role, one that bestows upon the holder some (meager) power and privilege. I'll bet she will never know what it meant to me that she assumed the meeting would be in my space.

Add to this that I have just received another consulting gig upon the recommendation of some of my more senior peers--based on my work in the field--and I am feeling like perhaps I have changed levels. Maybe this is reflective of the changes that come with tenure... I dunno. All I know is that it feels like recognition--and I am a sucker for recognition. (Of course, it feels like extra work, too, but that is the price I am willing to pay.)

Of course, even as I write this, I acknowledge how much I am buying into the higher ed hierarchy system, accepting the unevenness of power as it privileges me now. And I do feel a bit like the pretender to the throne, as it were. But there is something nice about a feeling of forward movement, of growth, of progress, that is especially helpful to those of us in the muck and mire of academe, especially academic administration.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No place like home...

Well, I have just arrived home after a long trip, or series of trips, away. To put it simply, the flying sucked. Our outgoing flight ran late, so late that we would miss our connection, so we paid for parking, went home, and planned to fly out the next day. We got a direct flight that day to City B and made it where we were going.

A few days later, I then had to fly to another destination for a conference presentation, which went off fairly well, only to leave again the next evening to return to City B. The quick flights were worth it though, because I got to celebrate my niece's high school graduation.

The flight disasters began again when we woke up in City A (which is where the first leg of our flight was supposed to take us before we transferred to a second plane to get us home). We called the airline to see if we could skip the first leg of our trip and just jump on the second leg. They were happy to accomodate us, if we wanted to pay a small fortune for the privilege. We declined and drove 3 hours to City B to get to the other airport.

It turns out that the plane for the first leg was delayed, and we missed the connection by minutes. So, we spent the night (again) in City A, this time at a seedy Econolodge with a room that seemed constantly damp. (Ew.) At least they had free wifi, and bagels for breakfast. We woke the next day and hopped on a mid-day plane, getting to our nearby city airport just in time for the gf to make an important work meeting. We got home several hours later.

To add to all this flying fun, I dropped my computer on my first day away and messed up my wireless connection, so I have been unable to access the internet from my own computer for almost a week. Luckily, my new phone has a data plan, so I looked at and responded to important emails on my phone. It was nowhere near as good as my computer, but it served its purpose.
All that to say...

And now back to your regular programming...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Still love the heteroSex girls

AKA: Okay, and now for a white lesbo POV...

I read GayProf's post on Sex and the City (SATC), and the post by Anxious Black Woman (whose blog is a great find--thanx GP!), and I have to respond. I liked the movie because (1) my expectations were VERY low, (2) I had no need for the movie to be able to stand on its own, and (3) I was excited to revisit the characters I have come to really enjoy. That said, I acknowledge the movie would be a complete bust for those who didn't watch the show regularly, and it really felt like a superlong version of the TV show. Nonetheless, I am not sure it is the biggest nonfeminist show, as GayProf and ABW would seem to believe. But first, a little personal SATC background...

I watched SATC with the gf. We started watching the first few seasons on DVD when we moved to the deep South and had a summer to ourselves in a new town where we knew no one. And we both really liked it, so we watched new episodes together every week on HBO. This from a couple of dykes who don't know from designer clothes, wear Birks or masculine shoes, and don't wear makeup. Honestly, the clothes looked outrageous to us most of the time...

We watched the show because we liked the women's relationships with one another, and their openness to and about sex and love. While you boys (GayProf) may be good about separating the two (sex and love), we girls know that they tend to be intertwined for most women. And some dykes, while we push for more of a sense of self and power for women in relationships, we still recognize that love relationships don't have to be stifling, degrading, or oppressive. Why? Because for many of us, our relationships aren't. (Not saying that it is a rule, or that lesbian couples are the coolest, tho of course we are!)

When you have watched the show, you know that each of the lead women characters has a set of personality flaws that are longstanding. Carrie is a little narcissistic and flaky; Charlotte is idealistic and a little naive; Samantha has trouble with emotional intimacy and sometimes makes sexual decisions that don't serve her well; and Miranda is a little too rational and emotionally unavailable. Not having this information, and not having seen their growth on some of these issues, makes the movie hard to understand and the characters hard to accept.

That said, I totally agree about the gratuitous addition of Jennifer Hudson's character to the movie. It was lame, her character had the weakest dialogue, and I wasn't sure what the point was other than to point out more vividly how much older these women, esp. Carrie, were. I also agree that there should have been a better resolution of Samantha's character. In the show, after she left her boyfriend in California to become nonmonogamous again, she would have been rapturously enjoying sex in a kickass loft somewhere in NYC. That would have made her blowing out her candles at 50--surrounded by her friends and their families--a little easier to take. (The gf disagrees, and notes that Samantha's decision to leave the bf and be on her own--and not run out for random sex--showed some of her own growth.)

I don't see the show as completely feminist or anti-feminist, really. It just simply is what it is...materialist, to be sure, and female-focused. And a good time, for those of us who just want to visit with our friends, however flawed they may be.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A little thank you note to President Drew Gilpin Faust

Have I said how much I like Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust? Ah, yes, I have.

Well, now, she has taken advantage of a great opportunity to speak out on the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy at the ROTC military appointment ceremony. She did not make an especially strident statement that upstaged the moment for the graduates... no, instead, she just took a moment to comment on the nature of military service. notes:

Faust told about 200 people who attended the military appointments of five
Harvard ROTC members that military service "a pathway to full participation in
American life" She went on to say, "Indeed, I wish that there were
more of you. I believe that every Harvard student should have the opportunity to
serve in the military, as you do, and as those honored in the past have done."

Faust clearly didn't need to make this statement. She is a true ally and a friend of LGBT folks. She has my respect.

I am so pleased to note the pro-LGBT statements, policies, and actions coming from educational and governmental institutions in recent days. It gives me such hope for the future.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A great fucking day

Okay, I first have to write about Barack Obama winning the Democratic nomination. I am not surprised at him winning, however. I claimed Obama as my choice a VERY long time ago, and I have felt confident that he would win since he started kicking ass in the caucuses. I am so proud and excited about his nomination, I can hardly stand it. I want him as my President. I will work for it.

But the gifts just keep on coming. California's Supreme Court has refused to rehear the case supporting same-sex marriages in that state, and they will not issue a stay of implementing their decision. This means that same-sex couples from across the state and around the country can have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state of California as early as June 17th--less than 2 weeks from now.

Note: The initial California Supreme Court decision sparked interesting conversations in our home. The gf mentioned that she has been thinking that we should make our way out to California to get married. I was shocked; the gf is not big on symbolism like that. Especially because the marriage would not be recognized in our SuperDOMA-loving, red midwestern state, but (unlike Massachusetts) it would be legal for us (regardless of our state's willingness to recognize SSM) to get the marriage. I'll let you know if we decide to do it.

And then I hear that US House members have created an LGBT Equality Caucus--the first ever!

"Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Barney Frank (D. Mass.) announced today the formation of the LGBT Equality Caucus. The 52-member bipartisan group, which includes two Republicans [and a great number of heterosexual allies], marks the nation’s first congressional caucus with the express purpose of advancing equal rights for LGBT people, repealing discriminatory laws and educating lawmakers on gay issues. Baldwin and Frank, both openly gay, co-chair the Caucus. "
Apparently, this group has been around as an ad hoc group since 2003, gathering to rally for and against LGBT-related bills. I am impressed with a pro-LGBT group of legislators who are working together to educate their peers, while being chaired by two openly LGBT politicians. I really can't imagine this happening before Tammy Baldwin arrived. As a younger, openly lesbian politician, I think her presence has made a huge difference.

This is a very good day. I need to note it, because they just don't come along that often!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Out lesbian leads R1 public school

Well, well, the tide is turning, the "glass closet" is breaking, and the future looks brighter for openly lesbian women aspiring to the top positions in (public) higher ed administration. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is hiring Cornell Provost Biddy Martin to be its new Chancellor.

Now some of you may recall that Donna Shalala, now President of (private) University of Miami, had been the Chancellor at Wisconsin from 1987-1993. Her sexual orientation has long been discussed and, according to an article from the SF Chronicle, was not a big secret to many, including those folks she worked with in the Clinton administration, where she was Secretary of Health and Human Services. But it is a long way from Shalala's version of lesbian "openness" (i.e., remaining unnamed) to Martin's version.

An article from the Chicago Tribune notes that Martin is a professor of women's studies and German studies who wrote the 1995 book, "Femininity Played Straight: The Significance of Being Lesbian." She is quoted as saying the book, a collection of essays, represents her "attempts to make articulate my lesbianism and other forms of my queerness in ways that refuse invisibility ... and yet resist making queerness all-defining." (Okay, you know she is of a different age and background when she is using the word "queer.") As we know, this balance between recognizing and valuing one's sexual orientation without limiting oneself to only that component of one's identity, is a challenge to all openly LGBT people. I am sure it is somewhat galling, therefore, that all of the coverage of Martin's selection as UW Chancellor has been some variation of "New hire to be first open lesbian leader at large state school."

Nonetheless, I am sure that the faculty are happy for a variety of reasons, as we often are, based on our own agendas and values. One Women's Studies professor noted, for example, that she is excited that Martin has a humanities background and a commitment to undergraduate education. I am sure the Board of Regents is more excited about her other accomplishments at Cornell:

she helped raise $110 million for a life science building, developed a program to make financial aid available to middle- and low-income students, and put together a retention plan for faculty, a current issue at UW-Madison due to its relatively low pay scale for professors, at least when compared to peer institutions.
You can see Martin in action, giving a state of the university speech at Cornell last year, by clicking here. The speech was so good that she got a standing ovation when she finished. (FYI, I have been in academe for more than 20 years, and I have not heard a standing ovation for one of these speeches...ever!)

I have never met Biddy Martin, but I certainly hope I will someday. She looks like a very nice person, not that you can always tell from a picture. And, can I say from my own lesbo-perspective, she is both impressive and adorable!