June
17th 2010
Further thoughts on loyalty

Posted under: American history, Gender, Intersectionality, jobs, race, unhappy endings, wankers, women's history

As they say, get a dog.

Yesterday’s post about extramural job seeking  and institutional loyalty and your comments have got me thinking.  (Oh, noes!  Say it ain’t so, Historiann!)  Do we really owe our institutions loyalty?  I feel loyalty to my profession, as vexed as it is, because I think what historians do is valuable and worthwhile.  I feel loyalty to my friends and colleagues in academia, because we have to stand together in intellectual and professional solidarity in a world that neither understands nor appreciates what we do.  (I’m sorry if that sounds self-pitying–I don’t mean it to.  I knew what I was getting into 20 years ago–this is the United States of Amnesia, after all, and I am an Amnesian historian.) I feel loyalty to my students, about whom you hear very little on this blog because I have been entrusted with a part of their education, and I take the instruction and encouragement of young people very seriously.  But I don’t feel particularly loyal to the institutions that have employed me.

Given the realities of the academic job market in the humanities for the past 40 years, and the ever-increasing demands for winning tenure, it may even be reasonable to see ourselves in an adversarial relationship with our employers.  This changes with tenure, because tenured faculty are implicated in institutional governance in ways that junior faculty are not.  Maybe the absence of institutional loyalty on my part has to do with the fact that I’ve worked for institutions that deployed the rhetoric of loyalty selectively, when they wanted to extract more unpaid work out of the faculty, for example.  Then, we were one big “family,” but when I went to my “family members” for protection and redress from other “family members” who were treating me badly, I discovered the limits of that rhetoric on “family.”  (However, I have seen individuals work on my behalf, even though it was not in their personal interest to assist me.  That has happened throughout my career, and I was and remain loyal to them.)

Another reason I’m mistrustful of the rhetoric on “loyalty” is that it’s deployed selectively against some faculty more than others.  As many of you have suggested in the comments, women’s extramural job-seeking is understood (and sometimes retaliated against) as unseemly ambition, whereas white men are not only encouraged to pursue other jobs, some are even patronized or scolded for their complacency if they aren’t on the hustle.  Given the hostility that women’s ambition is met with, I think Lance is correct that nonwhite faculty also face similar skepticism and anger for seeking out other employment opportunities.  This is the presumption of institutions that still see themselves as bastions of (white and male) privilege:  We took a chance on you, an outsider in our club!  We employed you!  How dare you respond by finding another job? 

I had a little taste of this my very first year in a tenure track job in my former department.  I won a fellowship from the Newberry Library in Chicago.  When I marched down the hall to talk to my department Chair about what I assumed would be great news–someone else was buying me a leave term so that I could research my book!–I was lectured that “it was good that [I'd] be gone only one semester, because [I] need[ed] to establish [my]self here.”  When I replied that I thought that winning a nationally competitive grantwas a good way to establish myself at that institution, he replied, “I mean with your teaching.”  From that point on, the department that employed me pretended that I must be a bad teacher, because they couldn’t suggest that I wasn’t a good enough scholar.  That’s the price I paid for taking that grant, a price that eventually got so high that I resigned.  The Chair of the department (a different person from the Chair described above) then spread rumors that she knew someone in my new department and that that person had told her that they didn’t really want me.  (Which is why they offered me the job?  Wev.  I was outta there.)

In short, I have never seen an institution operate as though it were loyal to me.  Why should I owe it loyalty?  Do academic institutions deploy the rhetoric of loyalty more aggressively than other employers?  What do people mean when they invoke institutional loyalty?  (Are they really talking about loyalty to themselves personally, or is it rhetoric mean to shame or discipline perceived transgressors?)  What do you think?

46 Comments »

46 Responses to “Further thoughts on loyalty”

  1. Emma on 17 Jun 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Do academic institutions deploy the rhetoric of loyalty more aggressively than other employers?

    IME, no. There is ALWAYS the implication in employment that employees must be “loyal” (and the definition* of loyal is remarkably malleable) b/c the employer has deigned to give them jobs. It’s different from case to case, but it’s always there.

    When the implication is absent, it’s because it has become explicitly stated as a term of employment and is rewarded by “side” compensation commonly known as golden parachutes. IOW, for most highly placed executives (who are overwhelmingly white men), that loyalty is bought with (huge) extra compensation — the mere fact of employment is not sufficient.

    For the rest of us, being “loyal” seems to mean giving free stuff* to your employer. You will never get back free stuff you give to your employer, so it’s better not to give it. Employees are much, much better off seeing their employment relationships as a business deal not a personal lifestyle — you give me X amount of $ to do functions X, Y, and Z. Because that’s how your employer thinks of it. Of course, very few people (myself included) really do think of it like that all the time in all circumstances. But that mindset should be how you fundamentally approach your job, so at least you know when you’re giving things away for free.

    What you have to decide is whether giving free stuff is in your interests or not. Because, of course, sometimes giving free things improves your chances of getting promoted etc. But, IME, tolerating harassment is never a freebie that advances your career. Never. Because if they’re going to harass you — WTF makes you think they’re going to promote you?

    *On the definition of “loyalty” and “free stuff”, it may be coming to work every day, not calling in sick when sick, working on weekends, working evenings, not reporting harassment, allowing harassment reports to be off the record, not insisting that somebody be held accountable for their actions, etc. etc. Lots of people think that “loyalty” entitles them to something from the employer — a separation package, not being terminated, impartial and effective investigation of their complaints, a promotion, etc. It doesn’t. All those times you didn’t report harassment, or worked when sick instead of taking a sick day, all of that is stuff you gave to your employer for free.

  2. GayProf on 17 Jun 2010 at 11:45 am #

    I totally reject institutional loyalty. To my mind, scholars should think of themselves as independent contractors. We agree to provide services to an institution (that include teaching, service, and scholarship) in exchange for compensation. If that compensation no longer seems adequate, or other conditions in our life warrant a move, then we should do so. This isn’t to say that we should try to extract every ounce possible from our universities, but we shouldn’t forget that, at the end of the day, the relationship is still one of employer and employee.

    Like Historiann, I also was once at a department that had a mantra that it was “impossible” (if not downright dishonest) to try and find another job. That, it seems to me, is a sign of a department that no longer thinks of itself as competitive. My current department, on the other hand, has seemingly no ill will toward people who seek other jobs. For them, it is just a part of academia that some people will move around. There are two exceptions, though:

    A) A person who goes on the market immediately after being hired is thought to be tacky (though no long term grudge seems to be held).

    B) The person who goes on the market every other year but fails to generate a new job offer is viewed with suspicion.

  3. Roxie on 17 Jun 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    I wonder if there wasn’t a time, not so very long ago, when loyalty to an academic institution made more sense than it does now. The moms are a little older (both over 50) and feel the tug of loyalty to QTU, but perhaps that’s just because, all in all, the place has been pretty good to them. Or is that they came of age professionally when traditions of shared governance and a less top-down model of administration really gave them a different sense of relationship to the institution?

    That said, I/we find ourselves in complete agreement with Historiann’s claim that the rhetoric of loyalty is selectively and cynically deployed these days. In our rantings about furloughs and other budgetary debacles, we’ve come out strongly against administrators yammering on about the university “family.” When times get tough, Mom and Dad don’t, after all, decide to lay off their kids, do they? Also, we’ve never held it against anyone who put themselves out on the market in search of a better deal. For at least a quarter century, that’s been the only way to get a decent raise in higher ed.

    But, speaking of loyalty, Historiann, how could you put up a picture of a dog to illustrate your point and NOT use a sleek, sexy wire-haired fox terrier? Does our relationship mean nothing to you? Just so you know, you have my permission to steal my pretty profile shot any time!

  4. Notorious Ph.D. on 17 Jun 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    Jeebus. Your penultimate paragraph reminds me of every conversation I’ve ever had with Professor Venerable about my research. This in spite of the fact that evaluations and enrollments show that I’m doing just fine on the teaching front.

    The family metaphor may work, but only if we bear in mind that some families are warm and accepting, while others are emotionally abusive, and everyone has an obnoxious uncle or two.

  5. Feminist Avatar on 17 Jun 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    OMG, Historiann, they like pay you money every month. How much more loyalty do you want?

  6. Indyanna on 17 Jun 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    A certain amount of loyalty is probably implicit in all transactional relationships, including between individuals and institutions, but that it is and should be very finite. It involves things like not doing gratuitous harm to the institution’s interests. But I can’t see it ever extending to not seeking mobility or opportunity, whether elsewhere in the same institution or family (sorry) of institutions, or externally. The presumption that one should homestead, in fact, becomes a latent part of the foundation under practices holding down the employer’s salary costs. But of course, much of what we do or acquiesce in at the department level (from tenure itself to insider “searches” to other job market practices) contribute to the same phenomena. If a bigger percentage of the people who look for other offers actually got them (which ain’t gonna happen in an environment of 100-applicant searches) it would just become normalized and both individuals and institutions would learn how to live with it. It’s the by-definition furtiveness of it all that helps to endow the process with the medieval mental vocabulary. There is a certain amount of collaboration in all this that we possibly don’t want to acknowledge.

  7. koshem bos on 17 Jun 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Dealing with loyalty to an institution requires one to provide a reasonable definition of what the institution is. Are we talking the president of the university, the provost, the dean or department chair? Most of us deal, mainly, with the latter two. Our department chair is elected by the faculty to a limited term. Our last three chair have been disasters for most or all faculty. Among the reasons is their belief that they should be loyal to the dean and not the faculty. No loyalty there then. Our last three deans, in 10 years, have been mediocre at best. They ignored the non PR oriented faculty. No loyalty there then.

    Our schools have become businesses with complicated accounting and no human values. Loyalty doesn’t appear on any ledger I am familiar with.

  8. Historiann on 17 Jun 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    Notorious: your experience with this, and Roxie’s comment, suggest that there’s something generational going on here. I think Roxie is right that youngerish people (below 50, let’s say) feel very about their careers in ways that more advanced scholars may not. But, what is the meaning of institutional loyalty, if it’s not undergirded by a commitment to one’s students, colleagues, and professional achievement? (That is, can anyone at Baa Ram U. fairly accuse me of “disloyalty,” if I’m doing all of the above?) Notorious’s suggestion is that maybe it’s all a rhetorical strategy, this accusation of “disloyalty,” and there’s no there there.

    There. (Sorry to Gertrude on y’all.)

    GayProf and Emma see eye to eye on this: employment is transactional, and everyone knows what everyone’s getting out of it. That’s fair (and as Emma suggests, the wiser course.)

    These complications arise from the fact that for scholars, our employment is only a part of our professional identity. That is, there are lots of “unaffiliated scholars” out there who aren’t employed in the profession but who are engaged in scholarship and publishing. There are also people we work with who are not scholars, and who don’t have a professional identity or work life outside of the university/college. Because of this, we may get talked into many of the freebies that Emma writes about. It may seem like the path of least resistance now–and it may even be the right thing to do. But to expect any “loyalty” or rewards down the line is foolish.

  9. truffula on 17 Jun 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    A certain amount of loyalty is probably implicit in all transactional relationships

    Loyalty or trust? Loyalty may develop where trust is established but it seems to me that trust ought to be the starting point in transactions between employer and employee. The problem, of course, is that management can’t demand (or measure) trust. It can, however, demand (and measure) loyalty.

  10. Lance on 17 Jun 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    I think that the question of loyalty – as it is constructed whenever someone gets a job offer, or threatens to leave for whatever reason – is purposefully vague. I mean, I’ve known senior administrative types to invoke the melancholic image of the new and untenured faculty member, desperate for protection, as a sort of loyalty test. ‘Don’t you want to stay,’ they purr, ‘and see that new Prof. X get tenured? Don’t you want to finish what you started?’ So we should be loyal to who, precisely? To the weak, the Gradgrinds tell us, though they really mean ‘to me,’ or to our supposed betters

    Departmental loyalty is different. In my context, one particularly odd department considers all jointly appointed faculty – or those with “outside” administrative appointments – to be treasonous. I.e., only “pure” commitments to the department merit respect. This plays out in merit proceedings, votes on new hires, and all manner of good, wholesome fun.

  11. Historiann on 17 Jun 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    oh, and P.S. to Roxie: thanks for the permission to lift your mug. I wouldn’t have done that without it! But, I do love that photo of the terribly handsome, doomed Buddy. (Don’t you think Labs are better personifications of loyalty anyway, since they’re mostly dumber than a sack of hammers? Terriers are a little too crafty to be trusted. . .

  12. squadratomagico on 17 Jun 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    I think part of the issue is the distinction between one’s employer at large — which at OPU is a huge bureaucratic institution — and the colleagues with who one interacts on a day-to-day basis. While I’m sympathetic to Emma’s suggestion that one can easily be persuaded to give one’s employers freebies on a regular basis, I think part of that has to do with the ways in which collegiality works. If one insists on doing only the work for which one is paid, then one may feel shamed before one’s colleagues, particularly those who are extremely active. This ramps up expectations for everyone. Moreover, if the university expects a certain amount of work from one’s department as a whole, declining certain tasks on the grounds that one feels one has “done enough” means, in reality, that another colleague will have to do that work.

    In sum, it is easy for me to think of OPU as a faceless corporate employer, since it really and truly is. Yet, declining to do certain tasks — even now, in the age of pay cuts and fewer benefits at OPU — exacts costs in terms of the good will of my colleagues, and the sense of reciprocity and collegiality I enjoy with them. This year, I have said no to a number of little (and one bigger) things, and while I don’t regret it, I also suspect it will come back to bite me in the a$$ someday, regardless of how legitimate I think those refusals were, in terms of the specific terms of my employment contract.

  13. ej on 17 Jun 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    I would echo squadratomagico. I’m on the brink of leaving my current institution, and I feel no obligations to the university itself. I actually enjoyed the look on the Dean and Provost’s face when they were informed that another institution was wiling to offer me the spousal accommodation that they said wasn’t possible. However, I did feel an incredible obligation to my colleagues and to the students to make sure that a replacement was found, and that the transition to someone else was a smooth as possible. And, of course, my colleagues and students were extremely supportive of my decision to leave-the only resentment I felt came from the higher ups.

  14. Notorious Ph.D. on 17 Jun 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Historiann, I think you’ve read my point just right, though I hadn’t though of it that articulately. People who have based their careers more on teaching than research assume that scholars who are more productive in research than they are must be, perforce, worse teachers. What they may not realize is that escalating demands in all areas on junior faculty have meant that we have to really excel at everything, all at once.

    So, yes: rhetorical strategy. An accusation of “disloyalty” is the employer equivalent of an ex saying, “s/he was just crazy.” It means that it’s not their fault that someone leaves; that someone was always a malcontent, and we’re better off without them. No need to rethink our own behavior; nothing to see here, folks, so let’s move along.

  15. Emma on 17 Jun 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Dealing with loyalty to an institution requires one to provide a reasonable definition of what the institution is.

    I think part of the issue is the distinction between one’s employer at large — which at OPU is a huge bureaucratic institution — and the colleagues with who one interacts on a day-to-day basis.

    Anybody above you on the food chain is the institution/employer. Employers can’t act on their own, there is no “General Motors” or “XYZ College” that makes decisions about your employment. Those decisions are made by other employees/agents of the employer who are higher than you on the food chain. That is: if your “colleagues” are above you on the food chain, they are the employer, especially so if they have control/influence over your career by virtue of their position.

    Because of this, we may get talked into many of the freebies that Emma writes about. It may seem like the path of least resistance now–and it may even be the right thing to do. But to expect any “loyalty” or rewards down the line is foolish.

    If you want rewards at the end, you could try sitting down and working up a quid pro quo: “I’ll do X to further institutional objective Y if you grant me A to further professional objective B.” I don’t know if it will work or if it’s even feasible.

    None of this to say is that relationships need to be hostile, aggressive, angry, or less than collegial. And nobody is the perfect bargainer when it comes to terms of employment, me included. Mostly what I’m advocating for is “defensive employment” along the lines of “defensive driving”.

  16. Historiann on 17 Jun 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Emma–I get what you’re saying. And I think your suggestion to see requests as the opening of negotiations is a good one. Does Squadrato’s chair want her to chair a major committee next year? Maybe she’s got some ideas as to other problems the Chair could help solve for her to return the favor. In my department, most people realize that their number will be up eventually, and most people have shouldered the burdens fairly. (At least from what I’ve seen.) But, if *one* person’s service is particularly desirable or valuable on a certain committee or project, then show her with some extra travel funds, or something else to sweeten the pot.

    I reread my post and thought that people might be confused with descriptions of my interactions with particular individuals rather than “an institution.” But Emma gets it right again: anyone higher up on the food chain is “the institution,” to a greater or lesser extent, including all tenured faculty. I told stories about two department chairs and their reaction to my fellowship and job search because as department Chairs, they were authorized by their institution and their colleagues to act on behalf of the institution.

    (So, shoot me before anyone asks me to be department chair.)

  17. Rad Readr on 17 Jun 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Your post, Historiann, and some of the responses raise some interesting questions about loyalty (or commitments) when you bring up “friends and colleagues.” Word to Squadratomagico on the way “colleagiality” creates certain expectations, particularly for those who are more willing to be collegial than others. But what happens when a friend/colleague is also the chair and/or dean? I like to think that friends develop not only trust but also a certain type of loyalty, by which I mean to look out for each other and certainly not do things to harm the other person. That is not to say we always agree but it does imply certain expectations that go beyond those one might have of other co-workers. Which brings me back to yesterday’s post.

    I assume a president and provost have a close working relationship, which may easily morph into a friendship. Did the president (not the same as the institution) experience a sense of betrayal or disrespect? Did he then turn on the provost for the way her actions affected him more than the institution? Did the provost then turn on him and discuss private conversations in the media? I think there was a lot more to that story than what we saw in that article. “Loyalty,” it appears, was deployed to conflict with individual career aspirations. But does that term “loyalty” have different implications when it comes to upper administration? Is that why some administrative searches involve “confidentiality”?

  18. Roxie on 17 Jun 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    Good save on the dog photo, Historiann. As an unrepentant Clintonista, I gotta love a pic of the dear departed Buddy. And you are of course correct about the loyal yet intellectually low-wattage Labs. I was in obedience school with a bunch of Labs and couldn’t believe what a bunch of docile dopes they were. Hey, they’d be great in higher ed admin, now, wouldn’t they? Terriers can be trusted, though. Loyalty born of intelligence is the best kind, after all.

  19. truffula on 17 Jun 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    There seems to me to be a lot of murkiness here about status in the workplace. To my mind, faculty and classified employees are labor and administrators (Chairs included) are management. This is the way my union sees it as well, if you become Chair, you are no longer part of the bargaining unit.

    High-falutin’ notions of collegiality with the boss (after all, the Chair is a member of the faculty, as are the Associate Deans) and loyalty to the institution really disrupt solidarity within the professoriate. This is a super outcome for management because it keeps us all worrying about such things as loyalty and whether or not our peers are doing as much as we are.

    I’m not better than the person across the hall because I’m willing to be overworked (“it’s the nature of the job, I say to my family, I have teaching and research obligations that I can’t not meet…”) and keep coming back for more. I’m just appeasing the boss.

    Just because the prof one step above me thinks and acts like he is management, ready to judge my every action (or inaction) it does not mean he is management. It just makes him a tool of the boss as well.

    We’re credentialed up the wazoo but we are sure gullible when it comes to labor relations.

  20. Comrade PhysioProf on 17 Jun 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    (1) Sad labs are too fucking kyoot!

    (2) I have to say that I *do* feel loyalty to my institution, or at least to the individuals who comprise my institutional milieu. From the deans down to my department chair, and to the vast majority of fellow faculty in my department, I have always been treated as though they are vested in my own success, including the provision of resources–i.e., money and lab space–above and beyond what had been “promised” to me as conditions of my employment.

    (3) I think the economics of medical school research and teaching make this a very different situation than in the humanities. As I have pointed out before, the better mdeical school faculty do at bringing in grant/clinical revenues, the more money the institution has to support its teaching mission.

  21. Emma on 17 Jun 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    including the provision of resources–i.e., money and lab space–above and beyond what had been “promised” to me as conditions of my employment.

    Yes, it’s always to the benefit of management to have a slush fund to distribute at its discretion. It’s something that benefits those who are “in” and disadvantages those who are “out”. It also benefits the institution because it buys loyalty with something they’re not contractually bound to provide and thus can yank at their discretion should someone display disloyalty.

    Now, why would an institution want to buy its employees’ loyalty to an unregulated spoils system?

  22. Sideliner on 17 Jun 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    Fascinating discussion above. Now here’s a question: is all the trouble/ambivalence worth it? I’m a recent Ph.D., about to go on the market this year, and reading the above makes me kinda wonder what I’m getting myself into. That is, if I’m ever so lucky as to get into it.

    I’ve never been very good about institutional authority, but when I quit my corporate job to go to grad school, I sort of assumed I was leaving that kind of stuff behind. Now I see that what I left behind was actually far more straightforward.

    Not that there’s time to change course, at this point. But still, I wonder what advice there might be for us newbies in the crowd.

  23. Z on 17 Jun 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Sideliner — yes, what you left behind was indeed far more straightforward. My advice, though, would be to remember that straightforwardness as a reference point of sanity at least. I have noticed that people who had corporate experience before graduate school tend to be able to keep their feet on the ground, and that is useful in academia, too.

    Historiann — I had a parallel experience at my first job.

    And no, institutions won’t be loyal. I’m only loyal to faculty and library, students, other staff.

  24. Comrade PhysioProf on 18 Jun 2010 at 5:37 am #

    It also benefits the institution because it buys loyalty with something they’re not contractually bound to provide and thus can yank at their discretion should someone display disloyalty.

    This is sort of true, but not quite exactly. The reason that there was a willingness to provide me with “unobligated” resources was that I am extremely productive (i.e., publish a lot of papers and secure a lot of grant dollars), and it is clear that–were I to seek to do so–I could easily find a comparable position at another institution that would–as part of the terms of employment–give me a pile of start-up money and generous lab space.

    So a better way of looking at how this works at medical schools would be as follows:

    It also benefits the institution because it buys loyalty with something they’re not contractually bound to provide and thus can yank at their discretion should someone display poor productivity.

    But yeah, I’m not under any illusion that this has anything to do with what a lovely individual or fine scholar I am. It *is* different from what Historiann described about her first institution, however, in that it is at a first level of analysis purely merit-based: publish a lot and bring in a lot of grant money, and you get treated well.

  25. Historiann on 18 Jun 2010 at 7:41 am #

    I hear you, CPP. But what you said in your first comment is key: you are loyal because you’re treated well by your institution. I don’t feel loyal because I dont’ feel like I’ve been treated well by the institutions I have served in the past or present. As Z. says, I’m loyal to the people who have treated me well in my current job: my current departmental colleagues and the students I teach. But institutions? Feh.

    As for Sideliner: Do what you want to do. All workplaces in every industry/sector can be corrupt and soul-killing, but they don’t have to be. Some places are great places to work. Seek out one of those and have a happy life.

  26. Historiann on 18 Jun 2010 at 7:46 am #

    p.s. to all: for some reason I didn’t get a trackback link, but go read Dr. Crazy’s response to this post, which she wrote after getting a letter from her university president asking her for a donation.

  27. Emma on 18 Jun 2010 at 9:01 am #

    however, in that it is at a first level of analysis purely merit-based: publish a lot and bring in a lot of grant money, and you get treated well.

    Undoubtedly your employer only ever distributes the slush fund on a totally meritocratic basis — despite the fact that the very purpose of a slush fund is exactly to avoid the strictures and transparency of a true merit-based system.

    The thing that maintains your loyalty, of course, is that you apparently firmly believe — despite the inherent contradictions in the system — that you get the extra love just because you’re so good and everybody who doesn’t get them must be so bad. But, because your employer has never formalized the granting of the bennies, with oversight, and guidelines, and tranparency, you can’t easily check on that, can you? And why would you — you undoubtedly deserve all the extra-contractual extras you’ve gotten.

    But if it’s all so above-board and merit based, and the only reason they’d pull one’s support is if he/she become a “poor performer” — why don’t they formalise the system? Why the insistence on maintaining a system where they have extras to give out at their discretion?

    I think if you scratch below the surface of your meritocracy, you might be a bit surprised at what you’d find.

  28. Comrade PhysioProf on 18 Jun 2010 at 9:17 am #

    I think if you scratch below the surface of your meritocracy, you might be a bit surprised at what you’d find.

    I think if you read what I wrote–and which you yourself quoted–more carefully, you’d find the phrase “at a first level of analysis”.

  29. Emma on 18 Jun 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    Yes. My bad. I apologize.

  30. Comrade PhysioProf on 18 Jun 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Apologize? That’s no fun. We’re supposed to FIGHT! That’s what the fucking Internet’s for! lolz

  31. susurro on 18 Jun 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    Like others, I think loyalty and “family” are employed by many organizations/corporations/institutions. My experience is that the more unpaid labor and/or disparity between ppl @ top and ppl @ bottom the more loyalty rhetoric there is and the less actual loyalty between groups at different stages. For me, I was blessed to work in many fields where I could trust in the sense of family despite the rhetorical strategies involved before entering academe, I can’t say the same sense unless of course we are talking about an extended family mid-way through Thanksgiving … But my perception may be skewed from spending too much time at R1s and schools that wish they were even tho they’d have a better chance at selling crack on the open market. When I’ve consulted with unis that are in neither of these categories nor exclusive SLACs, I’ve been surprised at how much loyalty and sense of legitimate connection to one’s institution there really is even amongst traditionally marginalized faculty. I think it is definitely something ripe for research on institutional cultures and their meaning (but of course that would require a miraculous research design that got past the way academe is like family when creepy uncle bob comes to visit).

  32. susurro on 18 Jun 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    “I can’t say the same since”

  33. Z (morped to 1 Tochtli) on 18 Jun 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    There’s a lot to think about here. Now echoing Susurro (in a way), I also meant to say I’ve noticed the rhetoric of “family” is often employed to elicit loyalty, and that it’s precisely the dysfunctional family dynamics I *don’t* like in institutions.

    I appreciate what Emma says a great deal, but I notice that a lot of the free work I do for my institution, I actually do for the sake of the profession. How to separate that overlap? When I work for free, I am also emulating the habits of people in the situation PhysioProf has, namely, he’s a good producer and well treated, so extends gracious professional courtesies but within limits, so he can keep production front and center. Except that I don’t actually have that situation. So, hmmm.

    It is true that many people are very loyal to institutions, even when they aren’t in a position to have such loyalty reciprocated at all.

  34. Z (morphed to 1 Tochtli) on 18 Jun 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    (I mean morphed – sorry.)

  35. Historiann on 19 Jun 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Great points, Z/1 Tochtli–I think you’ve hit on a real issue here about how to sort out what one does for “free” for the profession and what one does for free for the institution. I too have done a lot of uncompensated work for organizations I care about. It seems to be part of how someone stays alive professionally and connected to others–particularly from large, square, landlocked states when one writes “eastern” history, in my case.

    Susurro makes an interesting point about loyalty for smaller/regional unis versus R1s. I’m not at all surprised that people at R1s take a more entrepreneurial view of their careers. But, she makes points that anyone looking for a job, or looking to change jobs, should think about.

  36. Sideliner on 19 Jun 2010 at 9:40 am #

    Me again: I understand that all workplaces can be soul-killing, Historiann, but I can also see from the discussion above that “seeking out” decent ones and going on to have a happy life is not necessarily an easy feat. Especially when a difficult job market means that we sometimes have to take whatever jobs we can get.

    The advice I suppose I was looking for has more to do with strategies for carving out “happy” spaces within institutions that may or may not be soul crushing or loyal. For instance, does one start by saying “yes” to everything and then toning it down later? Or should one be protective of one’s own time from the get-go? As a graduate student I have gotten NO professional guidance on these matters whatsoever. In fact, I don’t even understand how the whole process works. What, specifically, are the freebies that are expected of us? “Committee work” is a vague concept to me. Maybe I’ve had my nose in my dissertation too much, but I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t really understand how universities work, and I wish there were a nice primer somewhere to introduce me to varied expectations that are placed on faculty. Maybe one of those daunting “How to have an academic career” books would help.

    This is not to be ungrateful for the great information laid out above, which is great. But I still feel like I’m listening in on a conversation being conducted in a foreign language I don’t fully understand.

  37. Z (still secretly 1 Tochtli) on 19 Jun 2010 at 10:52 am #

    Sideliner —

    On Committees.

    There are committees one is assigned to and where, especially as an assistant professor, one can and should do a minimum of work. You’ve been assigned so you can see how committees work, become familiar with the issue, etc., and also because you might have some insight or fresh ideas on the task. You’re not expected to take them over, or take on huge amounts of work for them, and you shouldn’t; you do want to take the opportunity to show you can be collegial and responsible and as I say, it is also a chance to observe people and learn about procedures. Leave heavier committee work to tenured people, it is part of their job description and it’s the tradeoff we make for having tenure, anyway.

    On Service Done as a Volunteer.

    Only volunteer for what will be fun and/or prestigious and/or refreshing and/or a learning experience you *want*. Don’t do anything that will be depressing or boring or a time sink if you can possibly avoid it.

    I, for instance, am terrified at this very moment because the woman in charge of the honor society retired. I need to not get guilt tripped into doing it because it will a depressing burden, bad for my work. On the other hand, I am fine with being on academic senate although I could opt out.

    Use the same model for service to professional organizations, professional favors done to people elsewhere, and so on. You’ll know what feels right.

    On Book and Manuscript Reviews.

    Do some, not others; they’re necessary service to the profession but won’t do for you professionally what a publication of your own will do.

    Generally Speaking.

    I do not endorse the situation which gives rise to this piece of advice, but the advice still stands: do the things professsors and male academic workers do, and not the things instructors and female ones do. When in doubt about anything you’re asked to volunteer for, ask yourself whether a man or a tenured person would do say yes. If it is the kind of thing usually assigned to graduate students, women, and instructors, either get out of it, do it poorly so you do not get asked again, or delegate it to an actual graduate student, woman, or instructor and then take the credit for yourself.
    (I am NOT KIDDING, I don’t act this way but most people do and it is THE PATH TO SUCCESS.)

    On Passive Agression.

    This is another thing I am not good at and not interested in becoming good at, but it is the Academic Way and it is what successful people do. Say yes to everything, but then only do what you want. When asked re follow-up, say you are in favor of the project in principle but could not make it a priority.

    I find it this strategy repugnant and irresponsible, and I know it is terribly authoritarian, but I cannot help recommending it to those I wish well because I know it is how we are supposed to be if we want to do well.

  38. Z (still secretly 1 Tochtli) on 19 Jun 2010 at 10:57 am #

    P.S. Sorry about points 4 and 5 above – I think they’re true but they’re too bitter and they’re not for beginners. I reiterate my first three points.

    On Committees.

    There are committees one is assigned to and where, especially as an assistant professor, one can and should do a minimum of work. You’ve been assigned so you can see how committees work, become familiar with the issue, etc., and also because you might have some insight or fresh ideas on the task. You’re not expected to take them over, or take on huge amounts of work for them, and you shouldn’t; you do want to take the opportunity to show you can be collegial and responsible and as I say, it is also a chance to observe people and learn about procedures. Leave heavier committee work to tenured people, it is part of their job description and it’s the tradeoff we make for having tenure, anyway.

    On Service Done as a Volunteer.

    Only volunteer for what will be fun and/or prestigious and/or refreshing and/or a learning experience you *want*. Don’t do anything that will be depressing or boring or a time sink if you can possibly avoid it.

    I, for instance, am terrified at this very moment because the woman in charge of the honor society retired. I need to not get guilt tripped into doing it because it will a depressing burden, bad for my work. On the other hand, I am fine with being on academic senate although I could opt out.

    Use the same model for service to professional organizations, professional favors done to people elsewhere, and so on. You’ll know what feels right.

    On Book and Manuscript Reviews.

    Do some, not others; they’re necessary service to the profession but won’t do for you professionally what a publication of your own will do.

  39. Shane in Utah on 19 Jun 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Sideliner: Coincidentally, Inside Higher Ed published a piece yesterday offering advice to junior faculty on balancing service with other demands on your time. I thought it was pretty good, and might give you a clearer sense of what kinds of service activities might be expected of a beginning academic, and what kinds can help you advance your career:

    http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/jungle/jungle1

  40. Sideliner on 20 Jun 2010 at 7:44 am #

    Z and Shane – thanks so much for your posts. This is exactly what I felt I was missing. And even the bitter bits are very helpful to know about in advance. It’s also nice to know that there ARE different strategies for navigating through service matters, and that one doesn’t HAVE to follow the cynical route. Or at least not always.

    I’ve cut and pasted everything into my one-note file on “career blah blah,” and will return to it all as needed when the time (I hope) comes. Thank you!

  41. Historiann on 20 Jun 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Sideliner: this was a blog post about one specific issue in academic employment, the (in my view) rhetorical call for institutional loyalty by representatives of institutions. This blog and many others (see Tenured Radical, Center of Gravitas, Like a Whisper, and Squdratomagico, for example) have addressed your other concerns many times from many different perspectives. Just search under keywords on our blogs and you’ll likely find what you’re interested in.

    But not all blog posts will address everything you want addressed in exactly the way you want it addressed. You get what you pay for here.

  42. Sideliner on 20 Jun 2010 at 9:15 am #

    Historiann- Thank you for your clarification, and for the links to the other blogs. It sounds like you’re a little irritated with me for seeming to expect your blog to cater to my every need. I don’t have that expectation, and I apologize if you feel that I’ve somehow hijacked the conversation away from the intention of your post.

    But I do appreciate the comments your other readers provided (which came in a form that I have not seen elsewhere, in fact)… and so I thank you for providing a forum forum where there can be some flexibility in the conversation, and where more senior scholars can welcome more junior folks into the fold. Even if, like academia itself, not everyone is always so welcoming.

  43. Z (still secretly 1 Tochtli) on 20 Jun 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Hi again Historiann, this is off topic but only obliquely; I’ll get back to loyalty in the end.

    Hi again Sideliner — speaking of other blogs, search mine under the keyword Blackguard. Blackguard is a character who is trying to follow the model for service outlined here but is doing it in a very misguided way — and he doesn’t know it.

    What’s funny is, he keeps talking about loyalty. Even as he engages in voluntary service whose net effect is negative, and shirks regular service, he keeps saying he is so terribly loyal to certain people and things, and to the institution. It rings so hollow.

    I and one of the instructors, who’s a friend from way back and so I can gossip with him when we go into friend mode instead of circumspect colleague mode, figured out that “loyalty” for the Blackguard just means he thinks he’s found a place that will put up with his self serving self. For a lot of people “loyalty” means something like that.

  44. Comrade PhysioProf on 20 Jun 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Hi again Sideliner — speaking of other blogs, search mine under the keyword Blackguard.

    Wow, that Blackguard shit is fucking wack.

  45. Z (still secretly 1 Tochtli) on 20 Jun 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    Glad you think so, Comrade. I did a search on the term myself after suggesting Sideliner do it, and … yeah, Egads. I tend to defend / justify too much, and to be too “understanding,” so it is instructive to go back and look at my secret reactions.

  46. Z (still secretly 1 Tochtli) on 20 Jun 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    P.S. This recend one doesn’t mention the Blackguard but about half of the things listed are from him. It’s about collegiality, not service, but they’re interrelated. http://profacero.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/academic-mondays-further-advice-to-new-faculty-what-not-to-say/

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