Greeting me in my e-mail in-box first thing this morning was a request that I fill out a survey by Robert Townsend, the numbers guy at the American Historical Association. Having nothing terribly interesting to do at the moment, and lots of uninteresting work that could stand a little more procrastination, I filled it out and “shared” lots of opinions in the “your thoughts please” text boxes where available. I don’t know if I’m on some kind of permanent list of 1990s Ph.D.s who bother to fill out surveys, but I think I’ve answered previous generations of this survey before. (I’m happy to provide another set of crunchy data points for the AHA–why not? After all, you all know that “I like to share.“)
Here are my impressionistic memories of the survey:
- They asked how many total blog posts I’ve written (answer: 1,117, until I published this one. How did they know?), and how many in the past two years. (I guessed about 800. That may be a bit high now that I think about it, but it’s not far off.) In any case, I don’t remember blogging being a part of the survey before.
- I pointed out once again how pathetic it is that most people get only 6 weeks of paid maternity or parental leave, and most are left to negotiate coverage for their classes by themselves, as though universities still haven’t caught on to the fact that women are on the faculty now and are no longer only staff members. How many parental leaves will most women and men in academia take in practice? I know of only a few overachievers who have 3 children, but the vast majority of academic women and men have just one or two children, and frequently they’ve already had them before they’re employed in a tenure-track line anyway. In all of its history, two women in my department have taken a maternity leave from a tenure-track position to give birth to two infants. Two. And the first maternity leave for a tenure-track historian wasn’t taken until 2003! (Yes, Baa Ram U. is an institution founded in the nineteenth century that apparently missed entirely the appearance in the 1920s-40s, then disappearance in the 1950s-60s, then re-emergence of women on the faculty in significant numbers in the later twentieth century that is the usual pattern for American colleges and universities.)
- The survey asked what they should do with the data it yields to the AHA. I asked them to find a trillion dollars to fund higher education at appropriate levels, given the burden for the economy we bear as the creators and preservers of what’s left of the American middle class. More seriously, I asked them to address the desperate problem of the casualization of the academic workforce and the reality that this is how tenure might be killed–not outright through legistlation, but slowly and softly by eliminating it at the start of people’s careers.
- Several times when I came to the bottom of the page and clicked “next,” it took me all the way back to page 1 of the survey. I had to click through all of the completed pages again (although the boxes I checked or otherwise filled out appeared to be recorded) to find the place where I left off. Then, I’d have to fill out the page I had just filled out AGAIN. This happened twice or three times–other people not so committed to procrastination as I might give up before the results are recorded.
- The survey forced me to confront my growing fears that I’m a “stalled” Associate Professor (tenured and promoted nearly 7 years ago, in 2004), although I can’t say that the service burden at my uni is the problem. After all, because we haven’t run searches for three years, that relieves a great deal of the traditional service burden! I think the bigger problem is my failure to win a grant, and the absence of meaningful support for research at my uni. But, really: what’s the rush? We haven’t had raises in three years either, so what would be the point of hurrying up a book I’m enjoying thinking and writing about at a deliberate pace?
- And now, Robert Townsend may have to throw away the data from my survey because I’ve made it so easy for him to pick mine out! (Sorry!)
Did you get this survey too? What did you think? Are you stalled at rank? Do you care?