On Being New Faculty

This repost is dedicated, variously, to Clarissa, Feminéma, Jonathan Mayhew, Historiann, New Kid on the Hallway, Tenured Radical, and Undine, to a few others I have forgotten, to some interesting assistant professor blogs like Paper Chase and Uentdenckt that have disappeared.

Remember, I am for the rights of adjuncts and I believe they should have real jobs with benefits. I am for the creation of more tenure track jobs, and for early tenure. But I am amazed by the poor behavior of some assistant professors. I never did appreciate being considered an oppressor by people whose continued employment I was trying to defend. I have even been harangued by such individuals about how I, as “privileged” senior faculty, ought to “show solidarity” by driving them to the grocery store, in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, when I was on my way to meeting on the budget.

When I was an assistant professor I was more mistreated than you know. I have since spent a great deal of my time and energy trying and sometimes succeeding in protecting instructors, adjuncts, and junior faculty. I think I am within my rights not to be treated rudely by them now. In addition, it is an unfortunate fact that in some cases these people really only want help because they know giving it will cut into my leisure and research time. So no, just because you are a graduate student, an adjunct, an instructor, an untenured person, a foreigner, no, I do not owe you typing or rides.

Once I rented my house to a new assistant professor at half the cost of the mortgage, because we were paying her so little. Some months later she left it full of ants and filth, with a note saying she was sorry not to have cleaned, but was also sure I would understand that getting her articles out was more important. So, while I understand very well about oppression and poor working conditions, I also think some of the newer or more marginal people could also well afford to be less oppressive. And there is a lot of poor behavior I am not impressed with at all.


8 thoughts on “On Being New Faculty

  1. Thanks for the dedication!

    I don’t know about other people, but I never suggested that adjuncts and instructors were oppressed by Assistant, Associate and Full Professors. I think they are oppressed by the system that erodes the institution of tenure.

    I also believe that you don’t owe any rides or absolutely anything to anybody. If you want to do somebody a favor, good for you. If not, that’s your right that nobody should ever dispute.

  2. O good, I knew you’d say something helpful. I’m reacting to Tenured Radical, who doesn’t believe in tenure yet has advice on how to get onto the tenure track for people who are working in other tracks, and to her detractors, who point out that they may never be able to get onto the tenure track and so their strategies have to be different. I think both sides are insane and that the institution of tenure needs to be restrengthened.

    I am also tired of hearing tenured folk described as oppressors when we are desperately trying to keep peoples’ lines. Lately I have even been teaching in another department so as to make sure our newest hire’s seminars fill. He is still going around saying I am trying to attract students out of his courses and into mine.

    Another one said I was an “Anglo Saxon Puritan” (which I guess he thought would hurt my feelings) because I objected to his conversation about which women faculty were or were not “rapable” (a compliment, in his view).


    (And come to think of it, this is one of the main things I don’t like about so many university faculty I met after graduate school — they seem to have not been popular enough as undergraduates to be frat boys, and to be indulging in that kind of behavior now.)

  3. Cheers to all faculty behaving courteously to one another. And to faculty like you who take their responsibilities seriously, and recognize how much power they have to ease the burdens of junior faculty and the less powerful.

  4. Hi Didion!


    Also, I totally “get” new faculty culture shock, which is why I am so nice. I remember not being sure I was qualified to teach such advanced courses, and having research as a priority when the institution needed my teaching and service, and feeling outright scared because the activity that would save me in the short term would kill me in the longer term. Still and all, the entitled and exploitative behavior of some people amazes me, and even though I disliked Tenured Radical’s post, I also think she was right to slap a few people down.

  5. “Another one said I was an “Anglo Saxon Puritan” (which I guess he thought would hurt my feelings) because I objected to his conversation about which women faculty were or were not “rapable” (a compliment, in his view).”

    -Sheesh, there is every kind of jerk in academia. I’m very glad that I just lock the door to my office and sit there quietly, blogging. This way, most of people’s obnoxiousness just passes by me. Of course, I’d also rather be a Puritan a hundred times over than let such comments slide by me.

  6. I’m too much of an extrovert and also too kind. This happened by phone, at night, to my house; said person was feeling justifiably upset by some other events and given that he was new and all of this, I let him talk. This is how he repaid me! Next he stopped speaking to all women faculty, alleging that since we were unjustifiably offended in random, incomprehensible ways he was better off not acknowledging our existence. And this was an untenured person — talk about cheek!

  7. Maybe it’s a good thing, you know. It doesn’t sound like women faculty would benefit all that much from speaking to him.

    It is true that one can be too kind for one’s own good. For me it isn’t easy to say no to pleas for favors and assistance. So I prefer to make myself unavailable most of the time. I don’t have voicemail for this reason.

  8. …and I don’t answer voicemail, I have a recording on it saying to keep trying or send me e-mail if I don’t pick up the phone and they really want to get in touch with me!

    (I made a decision when I was a small child, never to be as cold to others as my parents were to me, and this makes me too kind. I’m also used to boundary invasions from childhood — invade me and I’ll feel I owe you my very soul — until I realize what is going on, of course. Being used to and also freaked out by this combination of boundary invasions and extreme coldness is my therapy issue. It’s also why everyday academia is a familiar yet unhealthful environment for me — invasions from freshmen and desperate faculty, isolation from home and friends, coldness of the institution and the desolate countryside.)

    On that man, correct. And it’s partly my fault we hired him, at that place. But then everything back there, in those days, was so odd.

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