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Category: Being Human in Academia

Not just business as usual

Not just business as usual

I’m in week one of remote teaching and learning, after a two-week “break” during which faculty were frenetically retooling classes, and students were trying to figure out what to pack up and where to take it. My campus has been pretty spectacular about offering all kinds of support systems — from a food pantry and emergency grants for students to tenure clock pauses and revised (extremely humane) policies for faculty course evaluations to careful plans executed so as not to…

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Do you know who your “Committee of No” is?

Do you know who your “Committee of No” is?

One of the most useful things I have figured out in my career is that I need help saying no. Looking around at academics, it seems pretty clear that we fall into roughly two categories: those who can’t say no and those who never say yes. How to be somewhere in the middle is turning out to be the great conundrum of my professional life. This is both a personal and a systemic issue. I am personally always inclined to…

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Department Administration & the Awful Reality of the Internet Mob

Department Administration & the Awful Reality of the Internet Mob

I wrote an email this past spring that no department chair should have to write, but that increasingly, I think anyone associated with academia needs to remember we must write. It was addressed to the head of campus communications, pointing that person to a new article in a large mainstream publication, which talked in some detail about an academic field in ways that could easily draw the attention of an internet mob–those virulent wielders of word torches who are organized…

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Getting it Wrong in Public

Getting it Wrong in Public

The most recent Collective Twitter Gasp Event has been focused on Naomi Wolf and her book about men executed in England for the crime of sodomy throughout the nineteenth century. Wolf read decades of Old Bailey records, and built the premise of her book on the phrase, “death recorded”–which did not mean what she presumed it meant. The gasp is not so much that she misread her evidence, but that she came to understand this fact during a live BBC…

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Being a thoughtful academic is more work than just being an academic

Being a thoughtful academic is more work than just being an academic

In a long Chronicle essay that came out today, there is a point at which the author describes his dissertation advisor’s tremendous ability to nurture his growing dissertation and his spirit with a combination of extensive, timely feedback on his writing; conversations in which it seemed this highly successful academic was genuinely interested in his ideas; and thoughtful attention to him as a person and not just as a laboring mind. In other words, the writer asserted, she seemed to…

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That UIUC job ad doesn’t say what people think it says; in some ways, it’s much worse

That UIUC job ad doesn’t say what people think it says; in some ways, it’s much worse

There’s outrage all over social media today in response to a University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign job ad* that is being widely derided for asking academic adjuncts to teach courses for free. If that is what the ad were asking for, it would deserve the most acidic vitriol flung by the strongest hands, the most strident criticism shouted to the rooftops. The thing is, that is not what the ad is asking for. And what the ad is asking for is…

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The Chastising Professor

The Chastising Professor

Earlier today, I read a mini-rant by a professor I don’t know, who was fuming over students who don’t do their homework. She wrote that, having been educated to PhD level herself at the University of Hard-Assery, she didn’t tolerate slackerdom in her classrooms. As a student, she had once had a professor pitch a fit that involved throwing and kicking things in his fury over student unpreparedness, and she had taken away from that incident a healthy respect for…

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