For the second year in a row, our University faculty was asked to undergo a performance evaluation to determine who will get a pro-rated productivity based bonus (PBB). For a princely sum of $100-300, we filled out forms, produced portfolios of proofs (certificates, publications, etc.) and prepared to be measured in each of the following areas: teaching, research and publication, service to the University and larger community, and professional development. The PBB is equally loathed and feared; it makes the mediocre and the overachievers stand out. That a 35% weight was assigned to research and publication meant that in one sweep, probably 3/4 of the faculty went to the bottom tier in the performance ranking.
As a tenured professor and a University Scientist 1, my entire academic year is dedicated to meeting benchmarks such as the PBB. In my calculation, I need to publish at least 2 single or first author peer-reviewed articles (one in an ISI journal); complete at least one research project; present a paper in at least one conference and get Very Good marks in student evaluations for 2 terms. This is very tough, considering the competitiveness of research grant applications and the rather lengthy turnover between article/book submissions, review, and publication. In this compressed timeline, the race is perpetually on to get something out or done by 31 December.
In my case, this means a life of pipelines; I am constantly implementing projects, preparing proposals, submitting a manuscript and working on a draft all at the same time. The greatest challenge is squeezing in the field work (for interviews, library research) and the writing in between the teaching. We are only given separate one-month summer and two week- semestral breaks; it is not enough time to produce the volume of work that counts. What counts? Given that a measly 15% weight is given to University service and public outreach, I am least inclined to do committee work as it does not constitute optimal use of my time. Volunteering (including my monthly posts at University of Venus and lecturing gigs), I do because I want to, but I try very hard to dovetail them with my research or conference outings. Nevertheless, I find it unsettling every time I ask the librarian to issue me a certificate indicating the peso equivalent of the books donated as part of the book drive my husband and I run, or request for the outreach program office to declare how much funds I raised or turned over as donations from my own network. This focus on quantification of volunteer work leaves me feeling sour.
My academic performance pie is divided in line with the PBB metrics and loaded with the right ingredients: networks, opportunities, and experience. Sure, it comes with a killer calendar, multiple research projects and consultancies, and traveling. But of late, I am buoyed more by the amount of work I am putting into activities that count less (and pay none)-- mobilizing resources from my outside networks to give books to far flung schools, extending aid to typhoon-ravaged communities, helping improve the army’s community relationship, and contributing to lasting peace in Mindanao. It means forfeiting time for sightseeing or making social calls to friends in favor of long hours of preparing presentations, engaging in small talks and considerable investment in email follow up. To many, it may be a poor trade off, but each injects much needed conviction in what I write.
Rosalie Arcala Hall is a Professor at the University of the Philippines Visayas and a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus