Pelo Telefone, sung by Bahiano (1916)

Colleague, by telephone: You must help me, as I am terrified. I am painted into a corner, it is not easy to move from here and I cannot afford to move soon. I need to make tenure, really need it. Yet conditions are such that one cannot work to it. And I have found I am powerless to change these conditions, or even to make others see a change is the answer, despite the fact that a change would clearly benefit one and all.

Z: All I can say is, I am glad to know I am not the only one with this problem. I thought it was my lack of skill, or some situation unique to me.

Looking back on this long-ago day I remember the terror and I think it all has to do with the earnest Advice. “If you do not do exactly this, you will die!” appears to be what we both heard or knew.

My book on this, if I actually write it, will have to do with the variations on standard strategies. It will also have a different point of departure since most others appear to believe the hardest part of an academic job is research. I keep thinking this is a book for graduate students and new faculty, like so many others, but I wonder whether it might also be for their advisors.


What I am tired of is the state of emergency. When do we sail in clear water, when do we get free of the wreckage, when do we hit our stride.


3 thoughts on “Pelo Telefone, sung by Bahiano (1916)

  1. On unintended consequence of tenure is that it makes shopping around for the right workplace impossible.
    I’ve worked five different teaching jobs where I am now before finding the right fit.
    So it becomes a matter of luck for academics to end up at the right institution.

    1. Well, stars do shop after tenure. But yes, if there is anything that needs to be “fixed” about it, it might be the way in which one becomes an indentured servant because of it and in a way, disabled by the process. That is part of the Tenured Radical’s argument against it, I think.

      Me, I am in this state because the university and I would both like me to be having more fun and getting more done, and yet the conditions for this do not really exist. It is easiest for us all to say it is my fault because then the system does not have to look at itself too closely and I do not have to admit defeat. At the same time, this is demoralizing in its own way.

      1. I have heard that for professors the first job is totally random, luck of the draw, but the second is the one that fits you. That is because while at the first you defined yourself well enough that you are seen more clearly on the second round, and are more likely to be perceived as right by a place that is more right for you.

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