I am still on strike. I wrote this for love, not for money.
“You were a ‘young Turk’ when you arrived here, but you are no longer,” noted my friend. I think I know what ze means — from my own perspective, at least. I used to know I should protect research time by only participating in large service initiatives when asked by a chair or dean, and maintain teaching integrity by not teaching outside my discipline unless asked by my own chair or dean (and given a good reason). That is what you have to do if you are going to work like a professional, and it does not amount to Young Turkitude. I was impatient, though — still am, when they exist — with some assistant professors who wanted me to put more of my time than the University did into helping them with their work (as opposed to helping myself with mine, which was my actual job description).
I am tickled to know I seemed at that time to anyone like a “young Turk,” because the way I felt was beaten down (although still hopeful and cheery), and the way I soon came to feel was simply beaten up. It appears I was looking better than I thought I was. I definitely had my priorities straight even though I sometimes got derailed from acting upon them. I am actually sort of proud of who I was then, especially given all the trouble I had already seen. I am happy when I see a glimpse of the person I was going around a corner, or flashing in through the windows. I can tell she is coming back to me.
To really be a “young Turk,” however, one must look down upon one’s colleagues and students, which I am fortunate never to have been in a position to have to do. I get irritated at all kinds of things. But I am so — well, let us call it “snobbish” for now — that I do not even go where the people do not seem interesting, valiant and smart. And I have met a few Young Turks in my time, and I know exactly how they talk behind closed doors. And although there is overlap between the two categories, there is still a very great difference between a Young Turk and a beleaguered assistant professor desperately trying to navigate unforeseen shoals — shoals which are often difficult to even identify — and carve out from service and politics the peace of mind and research time that is their job description.
The other week, though, in another state, I had lunch with an old friend who may have become an Old Turk. Ze (not the same “ze” mentioned above) is upwardly mobile by definition, very successful, and very deserving. I admire hir and hir perseverance greatly. However, in one lunch, ze expressed scornful amazement at the news that Ph.D.s from my current institution actually get academic jobs, and then went on to denigrate for unhipness a colleague from one of my former institutions — it being the case that this colleague, although not a person I tend to agree with on much, has made it through even more trouble than the Old Turk or I have, while still getting a lot done and remaining a good deal more menschlig than many. And the Old Turk was at this point the very incarnation of snobbishness.
Listening to my friend the Old Turk speak I was reminded once again of all the reasons why I am so glad I work at a public institution, despite all the problems one has doing so in a poor state, and why I am so glad so many of my students came to college because they wanted to, and not because it was merely expected. And from the Old Turk’s point of view my current institution is not even on the map, but in the city where ze and I were, I had to drive because only I could find the way.
And I would so much rather be able to find the way wherever I am than live in a golden house. And I know I am not alone in this preference. And our Governor will discourage us as much as he can and drive as many of us away as he can. And I do not think we should let him.
This has been what we call in Spanish a “free essay” by me. It is not a five paragraph essay and it does not have only one theme, or only one thesis. It does end with a request, however. This request, as you will realize if you have read this far, is most heartfelt. Even if you live out of state, please sign the petition to the Governor to fund K through college education in Louisiana.