Life after tenure

This is apparently the current meme. Meanwhile I railed against negativity in the writing group today. I have never been an adjunct so I speak from “privilege” but believe me when I tell you I have been through more kinds of academic hell than most people still left standing. In particular I know what it is to land somewhere and not to be able to afford to leave, and also to realize one has no power over the reigning irrationality but must bend to it as the dependent classes do. I know what it is to wish I came from a tradition of something like slave resistance, so that, in my fantasy, I would have resources and a community to help me avoid having my internal power so eroded by the situation.

Tenure in my state means this. Promotion and raises do not come with it — you go up a second time, redoing the process, to make Associate Professor and people are regularly denied then. There are people now who are being held back from promotion because the institution does not have the $600-800 per annum that comes with the title. The meaning of tenure under the new rules in my university system, furthermore, is essentially that you cannot be downsized without at least a year’s notice.

I woke up this morning in pain from sleeping on the thin futon in my home office. I sleep there because I rent the real room to tourists so I can make my mortgage. I do this because we have not had a raise in five years and there is none in sight, and because there has been inflation and because the amount of personal funds we invest in the job is increasing. I might break down and buy a real mattress. Our insurance does not cover vision or dental work. The bone density test cost $450. When I saw the bill I declined to do the other tests they say you should do at 50. I am considering taking a summer job at Barnes and Noble or Starbuck’s because they pay into Social Security which my state does not, and I would be well advised to qualify for it.

I kept my research program up consistently this year, for the first time in many years. It gives me a great feeling of stability. I asserted myself in a few other ways and as a result I have far greater peace of mind than I have had in some time. Friday I called a committee chair to let him know what I was going to do and not do so he would not be blindsided. I found out how much support I have campus wide and what a great colleague this committee chair is.

I woke up this morning worried since my classes were not really ready and my grading, not really finished. I decided I would just have to take charge of the day: if I passed my disappointment and anxiety on to the students, I would only make them feel insecure and create tension. I put on heels by Dansko and a sundress by Calvin Klein and no, I had not paid full price for these items but yes, they both really do fit and one can dance through the day with elegance. Because of working on the deck all Saturday, I am tan.

Now some of the teaching tasks that seemed impossible yesterday seem easy. You have to stand in your authority and take charge. This is something tenure makes it marginally easier to do, but only marginally, and it is something you have to do starting long before. My word to the suffering academics is that they should sleep a lot, eat fresh food, take vitamins, wear great clothes, follow their instincts, watch their backs and speak their minds. Everything is easier if you are true.


2 thoughts on “Life after tenure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s