Monday, February 26, 2007

Boop Boop De Doop!

I have had a bumpy few days, oh fans of the Radical. A tenure case I am connected to is slowly making its way to the end of what we euphemistically call "the Process." Separately, the lousy History Department poohbahs and their various minions once again made it clear that Women Do Not Count. We female bodied people all agreed after the hiring meeting that we could have sent our votes in by carrier pigeon for all that any of the men listened to what we said. One of us would raise a point about scholarship or fit in the department and one of the male bodied people would raise his hand as if he was going to respond to this point but would then talk enthusiastically about -- himself. Or what someone who retired five or six years ago would have thought about the candidates. Or tell us that the candidate that was preferrred by the male-bodied was brilliant! Brilliant!

Oh but never mind. I'm sure the hire will work out. And no, it wasn't the one who I so avidly hoped last week would prevail, but bitterness is not called for: it's a nice candidate all the same and perfectly smart. He is a male bodied person who, as I understand it from the meeting, has "muzzle velocity," a phrase which I believe is something in man-speak that means "I love you!" If it means something else, I hope I can acquire it, as it seems to be an admirable quality that causes the male-bodied to pay attention. Soon I will find out-- instead of going to the department meeting this week we girls are going to have a Koffee Klatch instead and I will ask them if I have "muzzle velocity." On the other hand, what do *they* know?

But enough of the History Department. Here's the good news: my dean (I think of him when he does good as *my* dean) is trying to get the provost to approve putting tenure-track lines in programs. This is a very good move. Actually, when my dean does stuff like this I want to do things like send him flowers and hop up and down. Or tell him he has muzzle velocity.

This was particularly good news in a one-week period in which news about The Program, separate from the usual fol de rol dished out by the History Boys, is not so good, particularly for the person who will be in charge for the next two years. Moi. I have learned that, upon becoming chair of The Program in July, I will have to deal with the consequences of muliple Missing Persons, launching two searches (if I'm lucky); the possibility that at least one member of my faculty will be lured away by a Research I university; and several other absences and possible absences that will just about complete the job of eviscerating one of our concentrations; one and perhaps two post-docs in The Program forgoing the second year of their fellowships to take jobs; searches for two post-docs for the following year that have to be done regardless of whether these post docs stay or go; and a possible failed joint search with yet another department which will surely have to be re-run next year if it actually does go down in flames.

Mother of God. It is best not to think about it. "Finish your book while there is still time, Radical," Sailor the Dog whispers in my ear as we nod off to sleep.

But the good news is: the dean has a plan -- tenure track lines that we would control ourselves, thus making The Program less vulnerable to departments screwing up or getting shirty on us or not tenuring people because they are interdisciplinary. And frankly, most departments don't "get" interdisciplinary work and we have to spend endless hours explaining what The Program does, and that it is really A Field, with Journals and Graduate Programs and Stuff. I don't know why they don't ever seem to understand this, but they don't. Or they do, and then they say, "Yes we'd be happy to hire with American Studies as long as the person can teach two sections of statistical analyis." It's a lot like saying, "I'd love to hire someone who can teach History. And Physics. Whaddya say?" No seriously -- the number of people with American Studies or Cultural Studies degrees who can teach quantitative whatever could dance on the head of a pin with the angels. And quantitative types think cultural analysis is like reading the backs of cereal boxes for a living.

So if the dean's plan works this is all good. And I think it should work because he wants it to, and he is a more or less conservative guy who should be able to sell it. Also it won't cost the provost a nickel (okay, maybe a nickel) because we would be using lines that are already vacant. The problem is -- if it goes through, the search (or possibly search-es, since the dean has encouraged us to go for two lines) will run -- next year.

So the one good thing that has happened (and I have not told you several of the bad things -- like getting sucked into a meeting and getting yelled at relentlessly by a colleague who was yelling at everyone and seems to be losing his marbles and missing my train so that the only way I could get to dinner on time in Big City was to take the Acela for zillions of dollars) has happened at a moment when I am least able to greet it with the unmixed glee it deserves.

But since recovering from the Unfortunate Events I know that the Goddess reveals her logic all in good time. She has muzzle velocity.


neophyte said...

Wikipedia to the rescue for me:

Except that it left me still more confused. Your new hire is a (phallic!militaristic!surprise!) projectile, destined to explode and cause widespread damage, panic, death and injury before the end of his career? Wow. Those alpha males must really be on to something.

Perhaps I should drink more coffee before attempting more Taking Language Literally jokes. Anyway, I dig your blog, Radical. Lots of luck with all that work.

Sisyphus said...

Neophyte ---- at least he'll get on to the damage, pain and death right away , not like those new hires that dick around for a couple of years before really getting on to upholding the patriarchy. No, he's a real "straight shooter," a "son of a gun" who'll explode right out of the starting gate.


TR, I sympathize with you and all the hiring/tenuring bureaucratic crap. How could they have not liked the brilliant and articulate (woman) scholar? It sounds worse over in history than in my English dept. ... or maybe it's just more subtle here. I'll be keeping my eyes extra peeled to see if I haven't just been ignoring things. Oh joy.

anthony grafton said...

It took me four years running Princeton's interdisciplinary Humanities Council to learn what Radical has already got absolutely right: departments don't wish interdisciplinary programs well. They don't understand them, they want to take their FTEs but not to grasp what they add to mainline disciplines. Saddest of all, even chairs whose own work is genuinely interdisciplinary often become fanatical fighters for narrow disciplinary and departmental interests if they suspect these are in any way, however tiny, at stake.


As to us aged white males: we'll be at the knacker's yard soon, but even that happy prospect doesn't excuse exhibitions like the one described here.

Sigh again.

The Combat Philosopher said...

It has become a rule of mine to find my 'bullshit detector' in hyperdrive the moment a phrase like 'muzzle velocity' shows up. Metaphorical language such as this is a sure sign of utter tosh being spoken. Other favorites in the same vain are 'energy', 'synergy', 'feel-good factors'. The list is endless. Trust none of it.

As for 'interdisciplinary', this too is a dangerous kind of term. To admin types, it often sounds kind of funky, though they seldom have a clue what it means. To people in traditional areas, the term sounds flakey, as they too do not know what it means. To a person such as me who works in a truly 'interdisciplinary' area, it means more work for no more pay, or recognition. Finally, there are also certain special kinds of mutants who haunt universities who claim that their 'interdisciplinary' training gives them some special kind of magical insight that enables them to see things that other cannot (ghosts?). This is usually accompanied by the announcement of the most trite insights, in a melodramatic manner. Thus, although 'interdisciplinary' is a term I embrace, it is also a term I have learned to fear.

The Combat Philosopher

LumpenProf said...

Congrats on the tenure lines for your program. That's wonderful news. My own institution seems to be going backwards on this issue. I posted more about my own sad story here:

Paris said...

Just in case enquiring minds wanted to know, there has been a dissertation written on cereal boxes (although not limited to the backs):

Cultivating green ethos: Organic rhetoric in the mainstream market by John Christopher Ervin, Ph.D., University of Louisville, 2004.

The abstract begins:
This dissertation applies Burkean rhetorical theory to organic breakfast cereal boxes.

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