Rather than do a Year in Review (although you should totally read Audrey Watters and Tressie McMillan Cottom and Jesse Stommel’s years in review because they are awesome), I want to publish a wish list I have for higher education in 2014. I’m not doing a year in review for myself because it has been a year in transition for me, and I haven’t blogged as much as I have in the past (although you can read about that particular phenomenon in a guest post I did for Digital Writing Month). I have participated in a number of fantastic projects (I was at DHSI and HILT!), conferences (hey, I was a scholar to watch at MLA 14!), happenings, talks, and initiatives during 2014, not to mention completely changed my career.
So, here are a list of my wishes for 2015 for all of us in higher education:
Perish the Publishing
I submitted my revised dissertation as a manuscript early this year…and have yet to hear anything from the publisher. At all. I can’t even get him to return my calls or emails. I wish something would happen with that. And while that’s highly personal, I think that we need to keep re-examining the publish-or-perish mentality within a lot of higher education.
And that is changing. I’m really excited about the Open Library of the Humanities as well as platforms like Scalar that are opening up the conversation around academic publishing (something a journal like Kairos has been doing for years and years and years and we’re all just catching up). But until we get to the heart of the issue, which is hiring, tenure, and promotion requirements, these conversations will keep happening without much change.
Take a look at the conversations around the ASU nonsense (which will probably happen at my old institution to instructors, too, and one of the reasons I got the heck out of there): the comments on John Warner’s excellent writing on the situation that center around the impossibility of tenured faculty of taking on another course because of their research requirements, which in English means publishing monographs and articles.
This isn’t to say that digital publishing is easier or faster than traditional publishing (it’s not) but to rethink what it means to be “productive” within the system of higher education and what “counts” in terms of what we do and how we do it. Look, this isn’t a new wish for me, but it think that as we push the conversation around how we publish, we also need to push the conversation around how much and what exactly we are required to publish in order to be considered “tenure-track” material.
Give Adjuncts and Contingent Faculty a Chance
This leads into my next wish: please stop simply dismissing and discounting adjuncts simply because they are adjuncts. Mentor them. Interview them. Look beyond the traditional lines of the CV, and look at the skills they present. This is ANOTHER thing that drives me to distraction about the ASU situation is that somehow they are doing the instructors a favor when by taking away service and professional development requirements.
This just allows for the further marginalization of contingent faculty. But we need to change the way we view contingent faculty. I was thrilled last year that I was selected to be a part of the President’s Leadership Academy, thinking it would be a great opportunity, but instead was exposed to just how deep-seeded the view of instructors as “less than” really is.
Then again, I just need to read the comments on any article talking about adjunct faculty to see that over and over and over again.
I didn’t get elected to be the second vice president of the MLA. Which is fine. But of our slate of candidates, the only one who got elected was the one who had the most traditionally prestigious CV. Our candidate statements were identical. What is it about having award-winning books and endowed chairs and other fancy titles that makes you more suited for leadership roles? We are basically saying to contingent faculty, as well as faculty at community colleges and regional state institutions that you will never be leadership material, at least not at the level of an organization that is supposed to represent you.
I have watched friends of mine who are adjunct flourish in non-academic and alt-academic and post-academic roles when they are finally put into positions where they a) don’t have to worry about money quite so much and b) are actually empowered to do things. Someone took a chance on them. Someone took a chance on me, something I will be forever grateful for. There need to be more people willing to take a chance on an adjunct or contingent faculty members.
Stop Breaking Graduate Students
One of the best parts of my job has been that I have been able to spark a more robust conversation around alt-ac careers at my institution. I even gave a workshop for graduate students as an introduction to alt-ac careers. I think the even went well, but there were a few things that struck me after the fact.
The students didn’t want to put their names on the sign-in sheet, demanding to know who would see the list. They were terrified their supervisors would find out. And when I asked what other skills they had, none of them could identify something that they could do outside of their research. At all. They didn’t think they were qualified or even capable of doing anything other than becoming a tenure-track professor. Or a post-doc.
Stop it. Please. Stop scaring and scarring graduate students. I was so depressed after the workshop because so many of the students had the look of hopelessness behind their eyes.
(I’d tie this back to the ASU thing, again, in that they keep producing PhDs that they then hire into their own department as lesser-than participants, basically keeping them as slightly better paid PhD students. But I think you get my point. The thing at ASU sucks and is terrible. If you’re going to just break them, don’t have them to begin with.)
This whole wish list could be about doing better in academia. This year…the racism and the misogyny and the sexism and the exploitation…
It has to stop. And it can stop with us. As “powerless” as faculty all claim to be these days, there are still things we can do. There HAS to be things we can do. We can speak up. We can treat our students and our colleagues (yes ALL OF THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH NOT JUST PEOPLE WHO ARE OF THE SAME STATUS) so much better. We can listen, we can learn, we can work to change things.
We can do better. I include myself in this. But we have to do better.
I guess that’s my 2015 resolution: Do better. If that means I have to claw my way into positions where I can make more of a difference, so be it.
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