15th 2010
I am the woman who does all the committee work

Posted under: Gender, jobs, women's history

And now, a funny, thanks to reader and commenter John S. who sent this along for your delectation.  It’s a letter from one faculty member to another, “I am the woman in your department who does all the committee work,” by Sophia Gould.  It begins:

I received your email about the tower you are building in the woods with a few Amish masons, and of course I understand that you’ll be unable to notify us as to what classes you’ll be teaching next semester, or when you’ll be available to meet with your advisees. With your permission, I’ll rely on last year’s schedule and again sign you up for two five-person sections of “Lyric Sexuality.” I will also schedule some extra office hours to collect mucous-soaked, germ-infected tissues from each of the suicidal girls you seem to enjoy mentoring when you are not laying stone.

Here’s my favorite part:

As you recall, you agreed to chair our hiring committee, but since I know you’re “bad with paperwork and deadlines” I will continue to fill out the “administrative paperwork” that amounts to reading and summarizing all 300 applications (or twelve feet of paper) for you. When we meet to discuss candidates, I will count on your voicing your commitment to affirmative action, as well as your support of young men who write about young men, unless they are too talented, in which case you’d prefer a woman who will do all of your committee work.

Hee-hee.  Read the whole thing, and draft your own paragraphs to add to it in the comments below.


27 Responses to “I am the woman who does all the committee work”

  1. widgeon on 15 Dec 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I want to thank you for that moment of levity in an otherwise dull department meeting, when you suggested I could call my next seminar “Victoria’s Secret.” Such a clever pun on my name, and so erudite. The laughter of you and your compatriots lifted my spirits.

  2. Historiann on 15 Dec 2010 at 11:51 am #

    ZOMG! Good one! I think the dudes in my department would be mortified if another dude made a joke like that. (I’d like to think so, anyway.)

    widgeon, one thing you might consider is starting a blog and complaining about how you were treated by your former uni. You’d be amazed at how much more deferential people are to you when you do that. So that might be what explains the politesse I see.

  3. Trudy on 15 Dec 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Loved it! I especially enjoyed the snarky takes on course titles! Especially because I an unimaginative and never manage to come up with anything but the most pedestrian course titles. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Western Dave on 15 Dec 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    I’d also like to acknowledge your help with the fall department social. It certainly was nice of you to be flexible enough about the venue to leave the arrangements to others. You were also very thoughtful in making sure there was no leftover wine, removing even the unopened bottle that was actually a birthday gift to me. Thank you for looking out for my health in that fashion.

  5. Notorious Ph.D. on 15 Dec 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    “I just wanted you to know how much I appreciated your service on the recent hiring committee, and your strong advocacy for that one candidate inspired us all to invite him to campus. Of course, since this campus visit took you away from buying furniture for your new condo, I can perfectly understand why you decided in the middle of the visit to cancel your portion of the visit; it was, after all, only a hospitality thing, not a ‘real’ meeting. But it occurs to me that your directions to him for how to catch the bus to see some interesting things a few miles away from his hotel might be confusing to someone from out of town. So, if it’s not too much trouble, can you give me his cell phone number so I can offer to meet up with him? I’ll ask my close colleague to accompany us. It’s her birthday, but I’m sure she’d be happy to step in. Thanks!”

  6. Bardiac on 15 Dec 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    And thank you for letting the rest of us know that you and your poker buddies decided that we really, really need to require the dead white guy class in the curriculum. I hope it didn’t take too much time away from the poker.

  7. LadyProf on 15 Dec 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    You have taught us all so much about the principle of comparative advantage: Some colleagues, like you, have the capacity to declare a vision for all of us to live by. A larger yet humbler set of colleagues, including me, are suited to carrying the visionaries’ bags, freeing them from petty demands. My service cohort functions best when it takes care of dull yet necessary trivia. We all have a place in the grand mosaic that is our department, and we give thanks.

  8. Feminist Avatar on 15 Dec 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for insisting on holding compulsary two-hour departmental research seminars at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Your devotion to the field sets an example to the rest of us in the department, who put frivolous desires such as care-giving and family ahead of scholarly endeavour.

  9. Dr. Virago on 15 Dec 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    This isn’t funny. I work with this guy.

    OK, it’s hilarious, but I really do work with this guy, without exaggeration.

  10. Indyanna on 15 Dec 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    And oh yeah, by the way, the Forest Service rejected the draft EIS that you/we/I did for the tower you’re building. And Chris, your former intern, who now works for Congressman Routabayga, called on Monday to say that she can only delay the wetlands hearing and hold off the inspector general for so long if you don’t start answering your blackberry messages… The part about the “in-kind” payment scheme for the masons you hired isn’t playing too well over at BLS either.

  11. Janice on 15 Dec 2010 at 5:31 pm #


    I’m now one of the “old women” of my department so these behaviours aren’t bugging me at the department level because I work with a bunch of peers or young whipper-snappers. But, oh, there are some other parts of my professional world where these words hold true.

  12. Historiann on 15 Dec 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    Heh. John thought you all would enjoy this. Here’s my contribution:

    Thanks for expressing your views on Affirmative Action so openly in a recent department meeting. I think it’s evidence of our commitment to collegiality that we can be so frank with each other about our political and philosophical views. I look forward to hearing more of your earnest opinions at the next meeting when you’ll have the opportunity to share your views with the university’s EEO officer.

  13. Susan on 15 Dec 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    I am so sorry that I have not yet posted the application forms for the research grant competition. I thought that reading 130 job applications for one search, and 50 for another, took priority. Applications will be announced at the same time they were last year, and not to coincide with your schedule of travel to conferences.

    I am sorry I have not yet reviewed your course proposal. I realize that it’s hard to be in Italy for the holiday while some of us are giving exams and interviewing job candidates, but I have to make my priorities somewhere.


    As you can see, even as an old lady, I work with two of these guys. Sometimes I excuse them as being European. Sigh.

  14. Tenured Radical on 15 Dec 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    I would like to thank you for announcing, as we were discussing what positions to apply for in the coming year, that our field in the department is ” too thin” in your view. As the other five of us are women, we appreciate this characterization, and would only remind you that we are working on “too rich” for next year.

  15. Comrade PhysioProf on 15 Dec 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    I am extremely grateful to all the members of the hiring committee and congratulate you each on your inventiveness in devising your own creative and novel scoring systems for the applications instead of using the boring familiar one that I stupidly asked you to use. I am also extremely grateful for the consequent opportunity to have spent the extra 30 minutes we needed to add to the meeting because of the incommensurability of each of these creative novel scoring systems and the vibrant discussion that engendered, as otherwise I would have had nothing to fill that time and been very bored.

  16. HistoryMaven on 15 Dec 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    I continue to marvel at your generous advice to all the department’s graduate students, including my teaching assistants. When you enlisted them to distribute posters about the lecture series you oversee, you offered them the opportunity to “think like professionals” and made it clear that disseminating information was much more important than keeping office hours and advising students. Even mindful for others, you didn’t burden your part-time administrative assistant with such a vital, community-spirited task. I’m thankful, too, that the time you spent mentoring my students did not detract from the reduced courseload you received to maintain the six-lecture series over the academic year.

    This really happened.

  17. Western Dave on 15 Dec 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Hey, mine really happened too. (Although I conflated two separate instances. The faculty member actually in charge of the social who said, “oh anywhere will do” after the person who hosted for something like thirty years declined due to the failing health of his wife, and a fellow graduate student who stole my birthday wine, er, protected my health. I’m pretty sure it was Dave Fivehead. But there were a lot of Dave’s there, I could be wrong).

  18. truffula on 16 Dec 2010 at 1:00 am #

    Thank you for assuring me that you “don’t view women that way.” You may want to examine that assertion in more detail at some time in the future, but at present just let me assure you that Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action are not about you. (At least not yet.)

  19. Lance on 16 Dec 2010 at 5:04 am #

    More gallows humor from the real world:

    “I appreciate that you’d like to get more involved in graduate education again, especially now that your divorce is final.”

  20. Historiann on 16 Dec 2010 at 5:48 am #

    Thanks, friends! (Now my computer screen is covered with coffee from my spit-takes this morning.)

  21. Knitting Clio on 16 Dec 2010 at 6:18 am #

    I’m so thrilled that you refuse to learn how to use email and write multi-page memos in long-hand, which you then ask the department secretary to type and to your colleagues in Northern Cyprus. It’s such a valuable use of her time and the fifteen other full-time faculty in the department can make do without her services.

    [this is based on a true story -- the Dean finally got this guy his own graduate assistant to type and send/reply to his emails for him]

  22. Knitting Clio on 16 Dec 2010 at 6:19 am #

    oops, should be “type and fax to your colleagues”

  23. wini on 16 Dec 2010 at 8:32 am #

    Thank you for your advice about mentoring during the tenure track years. I especially appreciated your insights into our honors program. Although both of my advisees have been (extremely intelligent) white males, I’m sure you are correct that the program is worthless now because of affirmative action. I will be sure to turn down all women and people of color who approach me over the next four years. And, finally, thanks for your advice about only taking on one honors thesis per year. It is so nice to hear a senior faculty member agree with a decision I told you about 2 years ago. (To be fair, this was not someone in my department.)

  24. Perpetua on 16 Dec 2010 at 11:26 am #

    Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me. I appreciate your many, well-thought-out, and in-no-way-illegal opinions about my reproductive decisions and the effects these decisions may have on my productivity and chances at achieving tenure. I was also grateful to hear your perspective about my “maternity leave” and its potentially detrimental effects on my male colleagues who also have children but who did not apply for such leave. I am surprised to discover that family leave is a tool for discriminating against men, since I was not aware that my leave would provide me an unfair advantage over my male colleagues, or that it functioned both as a “paid vacation” and “paid research leave.” The female members of this department are lucky to have a senior colleague who feels comfortable telling us how many children to have, and when we should have them.

  25. Anonymous on 17 Dec 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Because I support men’s active involvement in parenting, I was pleased that you felt taking your daughter to her piano lesson was more important than the meeting of our search committee. Of course, when the meeting was scheduled three weeks ago and you agreed to the time, you had no way of knowing that you had this obligation, piano lessons not being predictable (or rescheduleable). At the time I was raising my children while long-distance commuting, it was crucial to be highly organized so as to meet all my professional obligations and not be “mommy-tracked.” I am glad this burden no longer exists, at least for men.

  26. Anonymous 2 on 18 Dec 2010 at 1:18 am #

    Of course I was more than happy to take on some of your core teaching so that you could focus on your research. It is always a pleasure to see senior colleagues progressing in their careers.

    I also enjoy our little chats about the joys and travails of raising children. So much unites us, despite the fact that I am a single parent and you have a stay at home partner with a private income. I really treasure your insights on the difficulties of juggling work and home life.

  27. Rebis on 28 Dec 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    Really, I completely understand the importance of granting the men in the department parental leave at the same time as their wives have it, even if you couldn’t see your way to letting me have any sort of leave when my own pregnancy put me in the hospital — as you said, “I have to learn to pay the consequences of my decisions.” After all,we have to help the men juggle their complicated lives.

    (really happened)

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