Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tenure Woes...

Currently the department is debating the procedures for reviewing junior faculty. This seems to be an annual event in the time I have been here. Senior professors gather and debate how best to predict our future. Most often, the results have been disillusioning.

My childhood imagination of work had some serious misconceptions. Growing up watching television, I envisioned that work involved drinking coffee and laughing with my coworkers over the day’s foibles. Realty has dashed those hopes. Of course, I also envisioned secretly changing into Wonder Woman and fighting crime on the side. Those hopes have been equally dashed – for now.

The academic world seemed to promise a path of intellectual rigor and growth. In my naivete, I thought that conducting research and encouraging students would ensure one’s success. As my partner is fond of pointing out, though, the academic community is not a meritocracy.

Instead, junior faculty face numerous snake pits as they try to please their colleagues, students, and administrators. At least weekly, one of my colleagues stops by to determine my “progress” toward tenure. Usually this is little more than an excuse to dismiss whatever research or publication I have in front of me as "too regional" (read "too ethnic").

This is not to say I hate my job. On the contrary, I can’t imagine anything I would rather do than research and teach. I am just saddened that many of the senior historians imagine themselves as gatekeepers. It also seems to be the least productive members of the senior faculty who are most interested in keeping junior people out. Perhaps they simply have the most time to come up with ways to harass us.

Gosh, though, I wish they would take up another hobby. Building ships in a bottle seems infinitely more relaxing than picking on your junior associate.

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