Professor mamas - how to deal with academic politics - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-26-2012, 08:49 AM - Thread Starter
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I have a question for professor mamas out there - I work in a very contentious environment, in every way - tenure decisions, hiring decisions, curriculum decisions, are made in a environment that is very, well, contentious, sneaky, underhanded, and political. It drives me nuts to no end.

 

I fight my colleagues about every decision. Some people are on my side (mostly the younger people), but the old men - typical older male associate professor types - who do no research, have an outdated view of the field, and make way more money than the women - are not on my side.  Every major decision keeps me awake at night and pisses me off.

 

I have colleagues who take the approach to just not let it bother them - they just do their work (what they love), and don't get involved in the politics. Honestly, that is very appealing. Why fight things that you can not win, and in any case, fighting about things like hiring and tenure decisions are not what makes me a happy person, y/k. However, when I try to do that, I can't stop thinking about the nasty political stuff, and the way that decisions are made (and the impact of those decisions). It is hard to remove myself (in my mind, at least), from the dirty academic politics.

 

I know that nasty political environments are pretty common in academia. How do you all deal with it? I do have tenure, btw - if that matters in your response.


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Old 02-27-2012, 07:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Nobody?


Mom to DS 12/07 and DD 11/13, plus a bunch of chickens, dogs, and cats.

Moving past many years of infertility and always thinking of my friends in the infertility forums.

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Old 02-27-2012, 07:38 PM
 
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I'm a prof but on sabbatical this year, so I just earned tenure one year ago. Pre-tenure I stayed out of all politics both departmental and university wide. I have not had time to know what I am going to do post-tenure. The faculty in my department have a good relationship so if there is an issue, it can usually be worked out. My personality leads me to stay out of most of the politics. I will save up until there is an issue that I really care about.


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Old 02-28-2012, 09:27 PM
 
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I'm not tenured yet.  My department definitely has factions, and groups of people who have a hard time getting along with each other.  The bad blood goes back long before I arrived.  As the only tenure-track person in my department, I stay out of it.  

 

There are other dissatisfied people who are much more proactive about it.  One woman in our department got a grant from NSF to do a study of gender issues and equity in the STEM fields at our institution.  The results from this pilot grant could be used to apply for a much larger grant to actually enact changes at the institutional level.  If you feel the need to DO SOMETHING about things, there are ways to be proactive about it.  

 

Beyond that, I don't know.  I've never enjoyed immersing myself in politics, so I admit I am more apt to stay away from it all. 

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Old 03-03-2012, 05:15 PM
 
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I have recently entered the field, having just completed my Ph.D..  I have been teaching at university for seven years as an adjunct. Currently, I work at a community college in which there are no full time faculty, so part-timers play a large role in decision-making.  Like you, I find myself at the other end of a spectrum that has been dominated by instructors who have been at the institution for a long time and haven't stayed abreast of current issues in the field. 

 

You sound, like me, like a person who is very invested in the direction of higher education and takes to heart the failures of a department as a reflection of your perceived failures at providing the kind of environment or pedagogy that you believe is valuable.  When you're up against THAT kind of agenda then there can seem to be very little relief.

 

On the other hand, I have learned something from all the stress, frustration, and -- frankly -- man-slaughter level anger that greets me each day in the workplace.  There is a thick line that I need to draw between the infectious, bilious cloud that can consume me and the healthy, brilliant life that I want to live...and to protect. 

 

There is a battle in academia on all fronts.  The battle has always raged and it will continue forward.  You and I are little heads somewhere in the mess, screaming out, raising our fists, and trying to change the direction of a herd. 

 

Sometimes it is good to remember that we are responsible for our own lives -- even the climate in our own classes -- but we are not solely responsible for the ruin of humanity.  We want to say that we try at the end of the day.  So we try.  But, trying needs to be enough sometimes.  And, it DOES make a difference.  And waves ARE made by you and what you do and what you believe in.  Trying much harder isn't going to accomplish anything more, most likely.   Expend the energy that you have set aside for the workplace, and nothing more.  Portion yourself out.  And breathe.


Professor mama dedicated to natural birth, breastfeeding, growing our food, cloth diapering, hunting, foraging, a Nourishing Traditions lifestyle, no television, no vaccinations, no circumcision

 

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Old 03-05-2012, 08:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. modest, you are totally right. I have been trying to not get bothered by it all, but it is so totally crazy sometimes - the stuff that academics to. It is hard to stay out of it.


Mom to DS 12/07 and DD 11/13, plus a bunch of chickens, dogs, and cats.

Moving past many years of infertility and always thinking of my friends in the infertility forums.

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