Sunday, February 4, 2024

Naked and Afraid

I’m being dramatic of course: I am fully clothed and just a bit rattled. I am writing this entry on Thursday, Feb. 1st for publication next Monday, Feb. 5th. Today is the day that the faculty votes on whether I will be offered an additional five year contract, or I will be out of a job on July 1st. To be crystal clear, I am not really expecting to be shown the curb today. I feel valued at my school, and I think they would feel a loss if they let me go. I believe this. Intellectually, I know this isn’t going to be an issue, but emotionally, I must say that it doesn’t feel great to have such an important decision seem so completely out of my control.

Part of this feeling of vulnerability may stem from my first gen background. My parents worked in the garment industry and my maternal grandparents worked as a milliner and a produce buyer. I am the first woman in my immediate family who knows how to drive, went to a four year college, and then on to law school. For me, having control of how I am perceived and discussed is therefore really important. I would never say I am self-made--my family was wildly supportive-- but I also do not want to be unmade by others.

I think one of hardest parts of this process is seeing the Committee memo that essentially lays me out bare circulated not once, but twice to everyone (including me). I am glad there will be no paper copies circulated both for the trees and the possibility of it moving beyond our faculty (which I know is also very possible, if not even easier, via email, but somehow paper seems like more of a security risk, which only goes to prove my addled state). Everyone gets to know about my course evaluations, syllabi, PowerPoint slides, and scholarship. And the folks who get to vote to keep me or not include:

  1. People who have known me since July 2023;
  2. People who have been here for a year or two but haven’t met me at all;
  3. People who are actually leaving at the end of the semester;
  4. People who have been unprofessionally rude to me in Committee meetings;
  5. People who have said no to a tenure track possibility for ASP; but then there are also:
  6. Amazing colleagues I have known for over 20 years;
  7. Amazing colleagues in my ASP department;
  8. Amazing colleagues I consider friends (these past three are not mutually exclusive categories);
  9. Fabulous colleagues who support changes in ASP status; and
  10. Wonderful administrators I am not sure can vote but have always been quite supportive.

In short, a lot of my jury may not consider themselves my peers. And they will get together in a big room (and I am not going to be there as per tradition) and talk about me and then they get to decide if I can continue doing this job even if some of them are uncertain what it is. The fact that I need to do this every five years (although when I started it was shorter intervals) is frustrating. If my position doesn't merit tenure-which I understand is a long investment in me by my school--then why so much repeated scrutiny for something that clearly isn't considered all that important? I know this lesser status is a construct, but a process that is a reminder of this status over and over can't be the best practice. I have been through this more than seven times already.

So, when quotes from my course evaluations are circulated far and wide, I feel particularly exposed (although they were all positive quotes). When someone comments (again, positively) on the quality of my slides, I feel invaded. And when I am told that my scholarship is nice but not tenure worthy, I am livid, because tenure is not even on the table.

The only thing on the table is me.

(Liz Stillman)

**UPDATE**:  My contract was in fact renewed by the faculty on Thursday and nice things were said about me during that meeting. I am, although still slightly salty about the process, very pleased with the result.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2024/02/naked-and-afraid.html

Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink

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