Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Artful Dodger

What the hell is wrong with men on faculty committees? Especially the older, straight, white men. I mean, DAMN!

After all of the great posts about committee meetings and their limitations and abuses, I felt the need to bitch about my own recent committee meeting experiences and my encounters with a kind of academic man I like to call the Artful Dodger.

Okay, so here is the scenario. As we wrap up the first meeting of new committee to change the world, we start to review and assign the list of tasks we identified to complete before the next meeting. Of course, a few people step up to take on tasks, but those few are women. I suggest that one of the senior white men take on another task, which I swear to God was something as mundane as "ask someone for a document," and the Artful Dodger quickly passes it off to a junior white man. As a result, Dr. Dodger has no responsibilities as we walk away. I am irritated, because I realize that this happens in almost every damn meeting I attend outside my department. Hell, it occurs at some meetings inside my department, too!

I know I am not alone in my frustration. I complain about this phenomenon with women I know all the time.

My favorite recent story about this phenomenon actually happened to a friend at an LGBT meeting. The committee members agreed to pass around the responsibility for taking minutes during their long-as-hell meeting, so no one would get stuck taking minutes the whole time. After three women took minutes, the laptop was passed to the next woman... bypassing 2 Artful Dodgers in the process. That woman, a no-nonsense feminist, said that she would not take notes until at least one of the men had done so. The silence, she told me, laughing, could have been cut with a knife and went on for more than a minute. Eventually, one of the younger gay men anted up and did the typing.

This gendered division of labor--even among the queers--led us to wonder, what happens in all-male groups? Do they forego minutes and between meeting tasks? Do they just pass these along to a secretary or intern?

I rejoice in my few white male colleagues who will step up to the plate and do the shit work, but there are far too few of them. I want to shake those Artful Dodgers by their lapels and say, "This is a working group. That means that everyone in the group is supposed to work, dammit!" Instead, of course, I bitch about it to the gf, who tells me that the situation is the same in business meetings and on nonprofit boards, which does little to pacify me.

So, I am going to take my anger and turn it into something useful. Beware straight white men! I will be watching you to see if you step up in our meetings. If you don't, I predict that I will be that bitch who points out that you don't seem to have a task, and asks you what you would like to do. That should win friends, eh? And even scarier, I soon will be chairing a committee, and I will make sure that each Artful Dodger gets a freakin' assignment to complete. And if you don't get it done, the women on the committee will not fix it for you! No, we will leave it on your desk, let you know publicly that we are waiting on you, and shame you into finally getting it done. Your Artful Dodger days have come to an end!

This has been a public service announcement.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Heterosexism and civility

This is an older post I just found and decided I wanted to post.

Okay, I know that we live in a world that is, for the most part, pretty damn homophobic and heterosexist. I forget that sometimes when I am spending time on my liberal campus in my liberal college town.

I had one of those AHA(!) moments when I found a recent graduate's obituary published online in her local, small-town paper. The graduate was a lesbian in a long-term relationship (think double digit years). Of course, the gf is left out of the obituary in the paper. That kind of thing just pisses me off.

Granted, I am already saddened by the graduate's sudden death. She was a wonderful person, and her premature death is a great loss. But publishing an obituary that omits the gf and her role as a mourner and survivor OF THE HOME lacks civility, grace, and basic humanity.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Okay, no one really commented on this great new word (Overcommitte(e)d) in my last post, so I must re-post on it specifically. I complained in that post about how I was serving on more committees than (almost) ever, and I have since been asked to serve on yet another university committee. The count now stands: 5 University committees and 6 departmental committees, as well as one ad hoc university committee. (I also am serving on 3 national professional committees, but that seems outside the scope of this post.) Now, the academic committees vary in terms of my own day-to-day responsibilities, with some only calling on me once or twice a semester to simply attend having read the documents, while others I chair and require prodigious amounts of pre-and between-meeting work. Oh, and did I mention that I hold a lesser administrative post, with its own work requirements, and I am at an R1, where grants are king and service is an afterthought?

Tenured Radical mentioned that there are many among us who "over-serve" on committees, often because our colleagues are "under perform." I find that to be true, though I also think that some folks who don't serve on committees or, especially those who don't get chosen to serve, tend to be angry that some of us seem to be directing everything because we are on all the committees. Dean Dad wrote a response to TR, trying to blame the situation on the tenure system. I agree with one of his commentators, who notes that tenure in and of itself is not to blame; instead, it is the yardstick by which we measure tenure and the expectations we set for quality job performance. As I said in my response to him, we ought to have quality committee service on the expectations before and after tenure, and if you don't pull your weight, you risk being fired. Of course, that would be a stretch for R1 schools, especially if the faculty member is bringing in massive grants and writing LOTS of articles. Of course, a lot of the faculty who are under performing as regards committee work are underperforming elsewhere, too.

I find it a challenge to avoid committee work, for a number of reasons. First, I like serving on committees, because I like making a difference in the curriculum, current practices, etc. Whether it is a departmental curriculum committee or a university task force on student services or general education requirements, service on these committees means that I am helping to shape student learning and student experiences on our campus. I also recognize that these committees greatly affect the lives of faculty and staff, and I want to make sure that my perspectives (and on university committees, the interests and concerns of my departmental colleagues) are represented. Further, service on tenure and promotion committees in the university and the department have a rather tangible impact on the individual lives of faculty as well as on the well-being of the department as a whole. Committee work matters, and I like to be a part of something that matters.

Another reason I often don't refuse such service is that I have aspirations about moving higher in administration someday, either on the departmental level or in central administration. The more committees on which I serve, the more I learn about the functioning of the department and the university, and the better I can serve in an administrative capacity. And the committee service looks good on the vitae for just that reason. Further, I accept the appointments to the university committees, especially, because the administrators get to know me personally, come to see that I have potential for central administration, and might perhaps consider me for a position.

Now, committee work can sometimes be a serious pain in the ass, especially when committee members act like jerks. Dr. Crazy had a great post about trying to manage a dismissive group of men in her recent committee meeting, a post eerily similar to my own (which was also a response to an earlier post by Crazy...what can I say, I dig her!) ... That is the exception, though, in my current university, and I find my colleagues within and outside the department very solid and thoughtful. And the underperformers generally tend not to show, so we just get the work done around them.

All of that said, at some point committee service becomes too much. I am gonna hold my breath and hope that this year's set of commitments are manageable. The good news is that I can cycle off one of these commitments at the end of the semester, and several of them end when the year ends. And, if the sabbatical proposal gets approved, I will be committee-less for a WHOLE YEAR! Now, that is something to smile about!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yup, got it!

Yeah, that didn't take long. Of course, I don't know for sure that I have the H1N1 virus, because no one is actually testing for it unless you are hospitalized. Otherwise, you just have to hide in your home--drinking fluids, popping decongestants and analgesics, and sleeping--and make sure your classes are covered and meetings are cancelled. Though some friends have told me that I am lucky to get it out of the way early, others have said that it is no blessing and that I can get reinfected at any time. Hmm.

So, as I sit in my hole (otherwise known as our guest bedroom) hoping that my temperature doesn't go up again, I have had a lot to contemplate. Here are my random thoughts:

1. For a lesbofeminist, I really love me some guy movies. Top 5 crappy guy movies that I have watched too many times to count: Con Air, The Negotiator, Fast and the Furious 2, all the Jason Bourne flicks, and Gone in 60 Seconds. Oh, and I also like US Marshals, though I will watch almost anything with Wesley Snipes (even those silly Blade movies). The dialogue in most of these movies just cracks me up, as I noted my comments on Dean Dad's recent post. And I like some action flicks when I am sick at home.

2. Quarantine sucks. I feel sorry for people who were quarantined when life was more primitive than now, what with my wireless internet, cable tv, phone, kindle, and every other damn distraction known to humankind. Of course, perhaps they got better faster than those of us who read our kindle too long. Sigh.

3. There are some really BAD books available on kindle, and I will still read them. I have entered some sci-fantasy adventure/romance book phase, thanks to the Twilight series, and I seem to be have stumbled upon some that are more porn than romance, which is not my scene. I need to head in another direction, but still something fantastic that doesn't bog me down in real people and their messed up lives. Or maybe I will just go pick up "Straight Man" again, which is perhaps one of the funniest academic books ever.

4. Reactionary people never get less reactionary over time... they seem to stay that way, no matter what happens. They never learn to temper their responses or let them stew for a while before sharing them with the world. Unfortunately, knowing this truth about reactionary people does not make me like them any better.

5. I am realizing that I may have over-committe(e)d myself this year. Okay, so that is not a word, but I think it should be. Very PoMo, eh? Like a title of a paper when I was in grad school. "The Overcommitte(e)d: One faculty member, 365 days, and more responsibility than you can shake a stick at" (There had to be a colon, some re-spelled word, and a list of three things following the colon for the title to work.)

6. Tenured Radical is on sabbatical. (Doesn't that just trip off the tongue? It sounds like something like "eating her curds and whey" should follow...) While I don't hate her, I am jealous. Perhaps I should think of this quarantine as a mini-sabbatical, in that I am not at school teaching, but I am still working everyday. Just like my friends the historians, I am locked in a small, dark room, reading books, sneaking in little bits of food and drink, and furtively checking my emails even though people tell me not to do so.

7. I should be sleeping. My sleep schedule is a mess. I have a constant headache, my body aches all over, and I am moderately grumpy, having been sequestered from the not-yet-sick gf for days now. When I am really, really sick, I like being alone, but after days of it, I just want to cuddle up and let her be sweet and close. But I really don't want her to get sick.

8. Perhaps when there is a flu virus going around, a university and its departments should not hold their regular "welcome back" gatherings, celebrations, orientations, and the like. Had I not attended 40 or so of these in the last couple weeks, perhaps I wouldn't be SICK RIGHT NOW. Sigh.

Good news is that I have not had a temperature for about 12 hours, so only 12 more to go for me to be proclaimed no longer infectious. At least, that is what they tell me. I hope it is so, because we have guests arriving from out-of-town this weekend and I have a meeting Friday that I would hate to miss. That last part reveals something really sick about me, I think, beyond the H1N1--and it likely won't get better anytime soon.

To paraphrase an old TV line, "Let's stay healthy out there!"