Monday, April 25, 2011

Fighting for straight rights in a terrifyingly queer world

"We have trouble, 
right here in River City. 
With a capital T 
that rhymes with G 
that stands for Gay...
We've surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,
Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones 
moral in that school!"
--with apologies to Meredith Wilson

Whenever we queers fear that we lack power or falter in obtaining anything close to equal rights, we should take heart that the Texas Republican Party is intimidated by our extensive power base and our cultural and social influence. 

Certain that hetero rights are under assault in colleges and universities near them (namely the always weird University of Texas at Austin and, um, Texas A&M?), legislators in the Texas House have passed a budget provision proposed by Rep. Wayne Christian "requiring state colleges and universities, if they use state funds to support 'a gender and sexuality center,' to spend an equal amount on a center promoting 'family and traditional values.'" The current centers under attack at U of T and Texas A&M are created "for students focused on gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning, or other gender identity issues." After a "serious" discussion of the issues, including a discussion of the definition of pansexuality that required the Representative to apologize to the women in the gallery, the need for such a provision was clear, and it passed with a 110-24 vote.

Tony McDonald, a leader in the Texas Young Conservatives, notes that they helped craft this provision, the one of two proposed that was actually adopted, to ultimately defund these centers. "The traditional values center measure, said McDonald, is not merely about creating family and traditional values centers, but is a “clever way” to work around directly defunding taxpayer-supported gender and sexuality centers that are accepting of homosexuality."

Now, of course, the UT Gender and Sexuality Center, that locus of power, has only three FT staff and some student assistants (who make a whopping $8/hr.), which tells you something about the power and capability of women and queers... With only this small staff, they are able to oppress and undermine the heterosexuality of the (mostly heterosexual) 24,000 faculty and staff and more than 50,000 students. A&M has almost 47,000 students to brainwash, and only one FT staff member to do it! They do have a Christian Faculty organization at A&M, so at least that angle is covered, to balance the advocacy of the GLBT Professional Network of faculty and staff on campus.  And the 35+ Christian student groups on campus, many of which are conservative in theology, can probably provide some of the much needed support to ward off the pervasive influence of the GLBT center on campus.

Lest anyone believe that the brainwashing has been completely successful with students, the A&M Student Senate approved a measure to support the passage of the Texas budget provision and require the university to use existing funds for the campus GLBT Center to support the establishment of the family and traditional values center on campus.

Having to hear about or acknowledge the rights of LGBT people to exist and be treated with respect and dignity is not only an affront to heterosexual Christians, it is disabling and oppressive in nature. Of course, the experiences of LGBT students, faculty, and staff--having to spend all of our lives hearing mostly traditionalist Christian, heterosexual examples, morals, and values in our textbooks, our classrooms, our media, and our lives; being taunted, shamed, and assaulted because of our identities; and not having access to many rights and protections offered to our heterosexual neighbors--is not a problem, because that is the way (their) God intended it. How nice these conservative Christians, who were characterized as "underrepresented" by the Student Senator at A&M, can have some protective legislation enacted to make sure they don't feel any discomfort. They clearly are not as strong as one might think.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Email etiquette

I loved, loved, LOVED this Chronicle piece by Rob Jenkins about how to write an email when you are an academic administrator. I am exactly the person he mentions who has to rewrite the email before I send it.

I certainly have had these days.

My innate tendency is to write terse, pointed emails. My first pass is always something like: "I need this tomorrow." "Why didn't you do this?" "Your instructor is concerned that you haven't come to class for three weeks." Brusque is an understatement. Intellectually, I approached emails as shorthand--here is what I need, period. Why do all that fluffy, nice filler that just clutters up the email and makes me talk about things I don't really care about? I quickly learned that I needed to amend my style and tone to build relationships with colleagues, students, and supervisors, and, ultimately, get the kinds of results that I wanted.

My best teacher was one of my former supervisors. She started every email with something personal, a nice comment on something I had done well or a question about my life or my research. She also thanked me any time I did something for her or the program. Her emails were always friendly and engaging, and I never flinched when I saw her name in the email header. I took these lessons and incorporated them into my own email practice. I would bet that my colleagues are surprised that I don't write these warm, conversational emails naturally.

This is my vision of the chatty, sociable emailer.
I did have a heart-to-heart conversation with a staff person who worked closely with me, explaining my desire to ignore some of the "niceties" in emails when we exchange so many. (Sometimes we emailed back and forth 15-20 times in one day.) She was fine with a short, to-the-point approach, I think especially because I show my friendly personality in our casual, in-person interactions. And I made sure to stop in and chat (about her kids, her sports interests, the latest movie, etc.) a few times a week. I was careful about tone in emails, saying, "Could you get me X?" and "I'd really like the flier to look more like this." I wasn't dictatorial, just straightforward, and it worked for us.

Though I have capitulated to the chatty style of emails, I abhor the extraneous, endless loop of "thank you emails" that pervade academic administrative circles. Once person one says, "Thank you," and person two responds, "You're welcome," the exchange is done. If person two says, "You're welcome, and thanks for your work," I suppose person one can respond, "Glad to do it." But it really isn't necessary in my book. And if person two feels compelled to respond to the latter message, we have officially entered email hell.

I also rejoice when I get a bare-bones email from an administrator, because it allows me to do the same. When a Vice Provost send me a quick note asking a simple questions, such as, "How many students of color are in your program?", and signs it with his initials, it allows me to write a short sentence saying the number and signing with my own initials. No muss, no fuss. Love it.

So, I have embraced my inner friendly, sociable staff identity on emails, and I put it down to the price of the job. I have seen the results, and, therefore, I am a convert. That said, don't be upset if I don't thank you for thanking me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Back in the saddle again

Choirs of angels are singing, horns are blowing, and my resignation letter is sitting on my computer ready to be submitted!

Yes, folks, the Lesboprof is climbing back into the administrative saddle once again come fall. (Okay, this is likely the more appropriate of the metaphors, but when the news came through, I swear there was music!) This change comes following the disappointment of losing an in-house admin job, a sabbatical that was fairly successful in terms of getting over the disappointment and getting out some articles, and a return to full-time faculty status which, while more restful than the administrator position, left me feeling left out and wishing I could make a difference as structural issues arose.

I start the new position this summer, as I was able to satisfy the post-sabbatical requirements of my institution without having to stay an additional year. The new position is a shift for me, as it is at a regional public university instead of the flagship R1. I am certain to learn a lot in this new setting. The new job is a senior leadership position, and it will come with tenure and appointment at the level of full professor (VERY exciting and a big draw for the position). I also get to return to a part of the country my partner and I very much love.

So, we are celebrating here!