Archive for September, 2008

September 11th 2008
Department of Corrections

Posted under Gender & jobs & unhappy endings & women's history

I have been reliably informed by a colleague at my former institution that I was mistaken on the facts about my major antagonist’s career.  I had written on my blog in this post that,

[m]y major foe at my former university was someone who was tenured but simultaneously (and humiliatingly) denied her promotion to Associate Professor.  She had published a book after all in a department that didn’t require a book, whereas men in the department had recently been promoted to Associate Professor before tenure and, in one case, without a book at all.  (That’s right:  men without books?  Can’t wait to promote you!  Women with books?  Wait a year or two, then apply again.)  There was a whole class of women assistant professors who got that treatment right around the time I was hired, either within their department or at the college review level.  Need I point out that the curious creature known as the tenured Assistant Professor was a pink-collar only rank?  Unfortunately, this individual’s experience resulted not in anger and radicalization, but in shame and internalization, which was then directed outward not at the people who caused her misery, but at other targets below her on the hierarchy. 

(I’ve highlighted the incorrect assertion in bold letters.)  My colleague-informant at my former university says that my major antagonist was not denied promotion when tenured, but rather tenured and promoted at the same time.  Portions of this post were then quoted in the story published by the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this week (which I again blogged about here), so my error was repeated and amplified.  I apologize for my error, and take full responsibility for it.  Speak, Memory! 

By way of explanation, I can only think that at this distance, I’ve conflated her story with those of the “whole class of women assistant professors who got that treatment” within the space of a few years, right before and right after I joined that department in 1997.  Of four women up for tenure, one was tenured and promoted (she had a book); one was tenured but denied promotion at the college level (although she had published a book); one was tenured but denied promotion by the department, and one was tenured and (as I recall) didn’t even apply for promotion that year because of what she had seen the other women go through.  Clearly, this is a shameful record that strongly suggests sex bias and mistreatment of women, which was part of the larger story at my former institution, and which was clearly relevant to the way I was mistreated as a young woman and a women’s historian there.

But, I was still wrong on the facts of the one case, and I deeply regret not checking my memories with my former colleague before going public with the misinformation on this blog.  I am very sorry.  But, given the new facts at hand, they beg the question, why was this woman so miserable?  Her case may prove the larger point that bullying can infect the whole atmosphere and poison people who aren’t themselves the objects of bullying behavior.  I also strongly suspect that she was herself mistreated, even if she wasn’t denied her promotion.  The bare facts of someone’s rise through the ranks don’t reveal what the experience felt like.


September 11th 2008
Jerk du Jour: Robert Felner, bully par excellence!

Posted under jobs & wankers

If you see this man on your campus, alert the authorities

If you see this man on your campus, alert the authorities

Speaking of academic workplace bullying, today we find an interesting story at Inside Higher Ed about a (now former) Dean at the University of Louisville who sounds like a real piece of work.  Go read, shudder, and thank your lucky stars that this guy is now unemployed and no longer in a position to do harm to faculty, students, or any other institutions of higher learning.  (For now, anyway).

The story has it all–an allegation of sexual harassment, a dodgy doctorate awarded to a crony after only one semester of work at the university, alleged misappropriation of federal grant money, and (of course!) retaliation against anyone who tried to do hir duty and stop this guy.  As one former UL faculty member who worked there for 32 years said, “He did the Russian mafia thing: If I can’t kill you, I’m going to kill everybody you care about.” 

What also piqued my interest was the angle of the story, which is that harassment policies focus on sexual harassment and ethnic intimidation.  If someone is an equal opportunity creep, it’s very hard to take action against hir:

Felner, whom the university provided with legal counsel, always fared well in the faculty grievance process. Of the four cases that came before the University Faculty Grievance Committee, which is made up of faculty members selected by their units, the dean was never found to be at fault. But a number of the complaints about Felner never made it into the grievance process, in part because faculty members said they felt intimidated or were told their concerns couldn’t be handled in a process designed to address policy or procedure violations.

“The grievance process, as it stands, doesn’t have room for [addressing] people being jerks,” says Beth Boehm, the outgoing Faculty Senate chair, who is working with a committee to revise the process.

This is a point made in the comments to the previous post by D. A. Xue and Shaz.  As Shaz said, “people who are asses to everyone are often not breaking any rules, other than civility. Much easier to take official action against a sexist/racist/etc. than an equal-opportunity bully.”  Or, as Mary Ellen McIntyre, one of the UL faculty who complained about the “environment of fear and retaliation” that Felner created, said:  “It’s more about ethics than policies. It’s more about morale, and respect — the kind of stuff that you really can’t grieve.” 

Another issue in this story is the way in which institutions always maneuver to protect administrators.  Could this be because it’s other administrators who have elevated the jerks to their position of authority in the first place, and then it’s also the other administrators’ call as to whether or  not to defend them?  Hmmm?  (This is something I saw at my former institution:  once someone is made a chair of a department, unless ze kills someone with hir bare hands in full view of the Dean, the Dean and other administrators are very unlikely to take action against the offending Chair.  For taking action against a department chair would be a tacit admission that one’s judgment was flawed in permitting that person to become a department chair in the first place.)  I should note that the IHE story points out that the president and provost of UL have apologized for supporting Felner and keeping him in his position as long as they did.

Good for UL for seizing the opportunity to revise their grievance process.  Perhaps UL will craft new grievance criteria that other institutions can use as a template to draft policies that will allow them to weed out the bullies.


September 9th 2008
Academic bullying: these boots were made for walkin’

Posted under Gender & happy endings & jobs

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a major article out now on bullying in the academic workplace, “Academic Bullies.”  I was interviewed and extensively quoted in it, so if you’re curious, you can read it to learn the heretofore undisclosed location of my first tenure-track job.  (Many thanks to the article’s author, Piper Fogg, who provided Historiann with the free link.  Piper is a young go-getter with her eye on the main chance, so look for her byline in other high profile publications in the years to come!)  I think the article is a good overview of the problem, it offers some possible solutions, it points to resources for people who find themselves in similar straits, and my hope is that it will draw attention to what many of us in the academic blogosphere know is a major problem in our work environments.

These boots of Historiann’s were made for walkin’, and I’ve never regretted my decision to walk out of that university, saddle up Old Paint, and ride on out to Baa Ram U.  I hope those of you who are still stuck in a bullying environment are busy photocopying your CVs and dossiers and will all have good luck on the job market this year.  Changing jobs is not possible for everyone–family obligations, medical issues, spousal employment, or other factors mean that not everyone is as free as I was to change jobs, but I strongly believe that it’s the shortest and fastest route to preserving your career as well as your physical and mental health.  Institutions always have more money and time than individuals, and if your department or college administrators are unwilling to intervene effectively on your behalf, then you owe them nothing.  You’ve already put up with more than should have been expected of you.

For those of you just tuning in, or finding yourself in newly desperate circumstances, here’s a roundup of my major posts on academic bullying:

Workplace bullies and the academy, March 28, 2008

Academic bullying and discrimination round-up, yee-haw!, April 10, 2008

Don’t sue–run for your lives! (part I), June 24, 2008

Don’t sue–run for your lives! (part II), June 25, 2008

Academic workplace bullying:  run away, indeed!, June 27, 2008.


September 9th 2008
What is “professional dress” in academia?

Posted under jobs


Unless you’re a politician, suits have been kind of out for women for quite a while now (pants suits, skirt suits, wev.)  I wore them a lot in the late 1990s when I started my career–they were more in fashion then, and I hoped they would enhance my authority in the classroom.  But, I think it’s time to revisit the rules of academic fashion.  (Or rather, to discern if there are any, whatsoever.)

I was on sabbatical last year, and so spent at least the first half of each day in my pajamas most days.  I’m back in the classroom and in meetings again, and I’m wearing mostly dresses now, or skinny jeans with boots.  It’s what I want to wear, but I wonder sometimes if my students don’t know who’s showing up to teach the class:  Donna Reed or Patty Smith?  But to tell you the truth, I don’t really care what they think.  I’m confident that my students think that I’m older than dirt and dress worse than their grandmothers, so I’m beyond all that.

Do you wear jeans to work?  It’s a relatively new experiment for me, and I tend to dress them up with blouses or sweaters, jewelry, and the shoes or boots.  One of the first times I wore jeans to work a few years back, one of the adjunct faculty (someone older than me) said, somewhat sarcastically, “you’re looking pretty comfortable today, Historiann.”  That kind of piqued me.  I said, “Well, ever since I was tenured a few years ago, I figure I can wear whatever I like.”  It seemed inapprorpriate for hir to comment on my clothing–I would never dream of saying anything to anyone about hir clothes, unless I was paying a compliment.  I also seriously doubt that any of my tenured male colleagues have ever been addressed that way–and here in Colorado, many of them (and some of my tenured female colleagues) wear jeans.  (The jeans/cargo shirt/fleece or canvas vest look is fairly standard for male faculty, and many women faculty too at Baa Ram U., but there are a lot of people here who teach at the Vet school, or in Animal Science, or work in the biohazard labs, so that uniform may be only practical.)

What’s your line of professional/unprofessional?  What would a colleague have to wear (or, rather, not be wearing, as may be the case) for you to volunteer your displeasure at hir costume?  Pasties?  A leisure suit?  A bare midriff?  A “wife beater” t-shirt?  Real life stories of uncollegial rudeness and/or scandalously inappropriate clothing will be most welcome in the comments below!

UPDATED 9/9/08, EVENING:  New Kid on the Hallway has come though with the link I wanted, which was a discussion of gender and dressing for the classroom.  She wrote,

Because [women faculty] HAD to figure it out – because students respond very differently to men and women teachers. I’ve certainly known students to mock male professors’ clothing (usually when such clothing consists entirely of jackets produced in the 70s, or rotation between the same three outfits). But it’s different from when they mock women professors’ clothing. Bad dressing doesn’t seem to undermine male professors’ authority – in fact, it might enhance it: oh, look, they’re so smart they don’t care about clothes. If you’re a woman, however, and you don’t care about clothes, you’re just a mess, a slob, and unworthy of respect. And if you do care about clothes, then you’re frivolous and not serious about your work, and unworthy of respect. Or, god forbid, you’re a slut, and obviously unworthy of respect.


September 8th 2008
Men Who Get It

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

While most of the bloggy stuff I link to is written by women, because of mutual interests and not by design, I want to take a special moment to acknowledge the contributions of those among us who are not women.  These non-women have typed up some good stuff recently, and I want to acknowledge their contribution to intelligent political discourse.  So, let’s all light up a mandle instead of cursing the darkness, and enjoy:

  • George Lakoff “frames” much of what I’ve tried to communicate here over the past 10 days about “be” campaigns versus “do” campaigns, and why Republicans are so darned good at the “be” campaigns.  (H/t to Roxie, who is female but is of another species, and so is also not a woman!  See her latest post on Palin and how her fundamentalism is not being read accurately by the Demoratic Dimmesdales among us.)
  • Matt Stoller makes good points about Dem cluelessness about the charms of Sarah Palin, and the dangers of Dems “not getting it,” comparing some Dems to “insiders during Stephen Colbert’s white house correspondent’s dinner, insiders that insisted he wasn’t funny because they were the butt of his jokes and they couldn’t see it.”  Ouch!
  • Arthur Silber at Power of Narrative, both here and here.  Re: the second recommended post here, I also listen to some right wing talk radio.  (Here is where you might suspect that “Historiann” is actually an elaborate internet hoax being perpetuated by a 70 year old man!  But–I’m not, in spite of the AM radio quirk.  Ask GayProf–he met me in RL, and can vouch for me.)  I only listen late at night, the local guys on the 10-1 a.m. shift and the national B- and C-listers I catch,  not the big shows like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly.  But, trust me:  from what I hear, right wing talk radio is alive with excitement now in a way it hasn’t been all year long because of Palin, and because of the paroxysms of rage and disbelief her nomination has elicited from the Democrats.


September 7th 2008
POWs in the eighteenth century

Posted under American history & captivity & Dolls & O Canada & unhappy endings

Did you know that John McCain was a P.O.W. in Vietnam?  Me neither, until I heard it about 600 times at the Republican National Convention!  (Someone, please explain to me exactly why Wesley Clark was wrong and was an ineffective surrogate for the Obama campaign.)

Anyway, this lovely September Sunday morning must have been much like the dry and sunny late summer days in which French-allied Abenaki typically attacked English houses and villages in Northern New England and Western Massachusetts, and marched away with their prisoners of war.  The winter attack on Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1704 notwithstanding, the vast majority of captive raids, like the vast majority of other eighteenth-century military engagements, happened from July through mid-October.  Any earlier than that interfered with the agricultural calendar, and any later than that made for rough overland travel into (or out of) the northeastern backcountry.


September 6th 2008
ZOMG: Erica Jong is working for the Republican Party!

Posted under American history & class & wankers & women's history


Thanks for nothing, jerk.  Erica Jong calls Sarah Palin “white trash” and implies that “rednecks” are lesser Americans (h/t Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Professors):

White trash America certainly has allure for voters. Some people think rednecks are more American than Harvard educated intellectuals of mixed race. God help us in the next election. The NRA and the oil industry sure won’t.

As a very wise young historian once said, “keep it up, Dems!  Remember:  the people don’t think you’re laughing at Palin.  They think you’re laughing at them.

Apologies to Rose at Romantoes for suggesting that she was using the phrase “shut up” too much in her posts.  Obviously, there’s not enough shutting up happening around here.  We could all use a nice big cup of…well, you know.

UPDATE 9/7/08:  Well, well, well:  that strategy of Democrats and so-called “progressives” piling on Sarah Palin has worked really well–for John McCain!  Rasmussen has him tied now with Obama, and the Gallup daily tracking poll has him up by 3 points (margin of error 2 points)!  (H/t TalkLeft.)  Wow–great job, “lefty” blogs and “feminist” concern trolls!  Keep it up, and we’ll be on our way to a McCain landslide.  Keep laughing at the rubes, and McCain will laugh all the way to the White House in January!


September 6th 2008
Academic blog roundup: I know what you did this summer edition

Posted under art & Gender & happy endings & jobs & the body & weirdness

We’ve had some recent reader complaints that Historiann has been remiss in posting pictures of cute cowgirls lately, and we agree.  (Although, don’t you think that real-life North Country Gal, Rootin’ Shootin’ Sarah Palin counts just a little bit?)  So, here you go complainers!  Didn’t we overhear you complaining about the coffee and beans at a Dude Ranch out thisaway, too?

Give the people what they want, I always say, so here’s a little roundup of news, previews, and advice on the academic blog circuit:

  • Tenured Radical was on the job all summer long, working on her series of posts containing advice for both job seekers and search committees.  Yesterday she offered a post about applying for jobs when you already have one.  For those of you behind in your mandatory TR reading see these posts on how to write a great letter of application, and (for those interviewing hapless young victims) how to write a good job ad and how to be a good search chair.  Next up, she promises advice to search committees as to how to evaluate a pool of applicants.  
  • Adjunct Whore (who is really Tenure-Track Whore now) has had a couple of really bad weeks, but all is well and order has been restored in her universe.  Still, I sympathize with her fears that both her body and her blog had been taken over by hostile invaders.  As a family member of mine famously says, “After 40, it’s all patch, patch, patch!”
  • Squadratomagico is back home from Burning Man, and we all eagerly await photos and descriptions of what she saw there, (especially any Barbie- or other doll-related displays, natch.)
  • At RomantoesTom Rose explores his her hatred of the “mawkish and bombastic” Bob Seger in “Shutup in Aisle Five,” while Rose and also writes “Meet the New Right, Same as the Old Right, now STFU.”  (What is it with the shout-outs to shutups at that blog?)  I guess I would say that it’s refreshing to hear at least one major party in this country speak out against sexism, however disingenuously–I’m just really sorry it’s not the Democratic Party! 
  • Cakewrecks does it again, with some cakes that make taxidermy for household pets look like a classy afterlife.  (So it’s not an academic blog–but you all don’t post enough photos of stupid cakes on your blogs, so what’s a girl to do?)


September 5th 2008
HBCUs tops in making African American STEM Ph.D.s

Posted under jobs & race & students

Inside Higher Ed reported this week that a new document from the National Science Foundationsays that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) educate a disproportionate share of African American women and men who go on to earn Ph.D.s in the STEM fields.  (STEM = science, technology, engineering, and math.)  In some ways, this is not surprising:  given the data we have about the greater percentages of graduate degrees among women who attended women’s colleges, it would make a lot of sense that African American students who have the opportunity to study in an environment where they are typical instead of exceptional, and where they can work with a variety of different faculty of color, would be more encouraged and better supported in their ambitions.  This is a notable result in that unlike women’s colleges, which are all SLACs (small liberal arts colleges), HBCUs are a mixture of SLACs, research universities, and large state universities, so it’s not simply a question that faculty at SLACs have more time and energy to mentor their students.

The report also suggests that HBCUs are doing this despite a disproportionate lack of resources:

[Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund] said the performance of historically black colleges and universities in producing black doctorate recipients is all the more noteworthy because the institutions receive “disproportionately fewer dollars [in federal research support] than comparable institutions do.”

“When you look at the NSF dollars that go to HBCU’s, they don’t reflect the disproportionate production of graduates in the fields the NSF cares most about,” Lomax said. “It would nice to see the money reflect the kinds of disproportionately strong production that is coming out of these typically underresourced institutions.”

Commenter Shireen Lewis, the Executive Director of EduSeed asks, “why isn’t funding going to those who are getting results and making an impact?”  She notes that “We at SisterMentors[one of EduSeed's projects] do not have the resources of either a predominantly white institution or a HBCU, yet in a little over 10 years, we have helped 30 women of color —- most of them Black women —- to complete their dissertations and get their doctorates. Many of these women are now professors at predominantly white universities and at HBCUs.”

Keep the roster of talent at SisterMentors in mind, if you’re doing any hiring in the next few years.  The women in this program look to be mostly social scientists, and not in STEM fields, but it’s an impressive list of ABDs in any case.  And, hey–NSF?  Heed your study and start sending the money to places that it will do the most good–HBCUs, which tend to be underfunded anyway, and have much smaller endowments than historically white colleges and universities.  They’re working for the advancement of science in the United States, and they’re getting results.

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September 4th 2008
Tragical History Tour: Why We (Don’t) Fight.

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

No, not the RutlesBob Somerby!  Just go read it and see how it’s done.  Bob shows all that we can 1) go after Palin without talking about her hair, glasses, legs, uterus, or leaking amniotic fluid, and 2) offer grudging respect to the Repubican party because they take care of their own.  Democrats?  Not so much.

Let’s repeat what [Carly] Fiorina said: “The Republican Party will not stand by while Gov. Palin is subjected to sexist attacks.” Remove the limiting term there–“sexist.” Thus adjusted, Fiorina’s statement explains our electoral politics over the past twenty years.

The Republican Party will not stand by while its candidates get attacked. The Democratic Party, and its major affiliates, have done just that. For years.

.     .     .     .     .     .     . 

Yep! There was some sexism in the coverage of Palin–and the Republican Party fought back hard, exaggerating as it did. But then, during this same campaign, a major Democratic woman was gender-trashed from December 2006 on. Eighteen months later, Howard Dean explained why he didn’t speak up. I don’t watch that much cable, he said.

As recently as last evening, some of our fools continued to say that they feel “insulted” by Palin’s selection. If they had an ounce of sense, they’d instead feel insulted by Dean. 

What was it that Palin said last night?  Oh, yeah:  “There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you…and that man is John McCain.”


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