Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Going Back to the Book

So here are the critical facts about the Unfortunate Events that led both to my acquisition of altered consciousness about academic life and the idea that I might write a blog.

1. Fact: the Events happened over the course of three years while I was coming up for full professor at Zenith, a promotion which was opposed by people in my department who claimed that since tenure my work had suddenly become shoddy and my "pace" was off because I had not yet published a second book.

2. Fact: until my promotion process, almost no one in the Zenith History Department had ever had a second published book as part of their case for promotion to full professor; rather (as the department hand book says) one is supposed to have written a few articles and present a big chunk of book manuscript.

3. Fact: there are aged and not so aged full professors in my department who have published little and/or not for a long time, but that is another blog for another day.

4. Fact: the first time I tried to come up, because my counselor did not bring my materials to the meeting, several full P's declared they did not believe that there was a second book mss. (which there was, a fully revised one), and ruled that I could not be promoted that fall. She asked if she could return to her office to get it, and they said no, called the question and voted in the negative.

5. Fact: the second time I came up, my counselor took the book (a second revision now) and articles, published and in draft, to the meeting, and these same people voted to give me "advice" that I not come up until the book was actually published.

6. Fact: I declined their advice and came up anyway, winning a majority vote because actually the referees liked my book a lot. The bad news was that a minority of the full P's declared that it was their right to disregard the letters, as well as advice from colleagues in my field, and use their own judgement. None of these P's were in my field.

7. Fact: they fought the case through many stages of the process, causing many delays and many reviews and appeals to be convened. This made the next year very unpleasant, in part because it was clear that the entire thing was personal, and in part because, when fighting injustice in universities one must constantly be producing documents, which is time consuming and useless work.

8. Fact: In the end I was promoted by administrative fiat, and received an extremely large raise from Zenith which helped assuage pain and suffering incurred as well as a long sabbatical.

You may ask, Why do this over a promotion to full professor? Everyone who does not work at Zenith asks me this. The answer is that these are very small people, with very small minds, and they were punishing me for flouting their will on a variety of matters on which, as they perceive it, my behavior was Very Radical. Like paying attention to the university's adherence to EEOC in hiring matters, and teaching classes in queer studies in my post-tenure incarnation.

OK, but here is why I finally decided to stop being a tease about the Unfortunate Events: because vicious and unfair criticism of my book became the mode for attacking me, I have been unable to look at it much in about eighteen months. Blame the victim, eh? A manuscript that I researched and wrote for five years has just sat there in the corner for my entire leave. I have written several articles, finished a couple more in the pipeline, done a wad of research on a new book project, gone into motion to get a contract on a neat little textbook on the ERA. But I haven't even been able to look at my book.

I know this isn't what Marx meant by alienated labor, but that's what it has felt like. This morning, after sticking the last article I had had in the pipeline in the mail, I realized I could either write a new article or finish the damn book. I chose the book.

So tomorrow I am going to start final revisions-- two months from sabbatical ending, I am going to begin the final revisions so I can get it to the publisher by May.

Wish me luck.


anthony grafton said...

That's an amazing post and a terrifying story of unprofessional behavior. It's especially good to know that you're working on the neglected book MS. Publishing it will be the best revenge.

Tony Grafton

The Combat Philosopher said...

I suspect that until that book manuscript goes out, there will always be a ghost. So, congrats on your choice. It sounds smart to me.

I am sorry to hear about your dreadful experience. It is the kind of thing that happens in my neck of the woods too.

However, having said that, I also know of people at my place who claim that they have been told not to publish too much, as it makes 'senior' faculty feel uncomfortable.

I happen to know for a fact that this claim is a fabrication. The individual who likes to make this claim, also claims that they were told this because they were female. I hate liars in general. I REALLY hate liars who use alleged gender bias as an excuse for their own shortcomings (they appear to have nothing in print this Century!). Thus, you tale is an excellent example of how things should be done, even when faced with great adversity. So, huge brownie points to you. Oh yeah, congrats on getting full too!

The CP

Carine van Rhijn said...

Good for you TR. Book-bashing is just plain mean and to my mind belongs to the realm of cave(wo)man-behaviour. Time for the bashed book to speak for itself and get over its bruises - if your referees like it a lot, it will probably have a soft landing and never mind the cave(wo)men then.

From my perspective at a European university where people are generally *friendly* and even *supportive* to their colleagues I cannot stop being completely and utterly gobsmacked by stories like yours. I would career-swap into a bicycle-repair-woman in no time.
Bon courage!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Good for you! I wish I could say I can't believe this, but alas, I can. Sometimes people are just amazingly sucky. Good luck on finishing!

Horace said...

What is great about this is that you are going back to the book now for the sake of the book, not for the sake of promotion.

Writing on your own terms, and plowing through the objections of the small-minded, can only make the process of finishing these revisions all the more personally rewarding (and, good lord willing, eventually humiliating to all those TR-hating full P's at ZU).

Flavia said...

Thank you for sharing this--I'd been wondering, actually, about the nature of those Unfortunate Events, and I'm glad to hear that they're in the past and that you're moving (I have no doubt) triumphantly onward.