March
7th 2011
“Survey says. . . !” Historiann takes the Career Paths of Historians survey, again.

Posted under: American history, Gender, jobs, local news

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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?

25 Comments »

25 Responses to ““Survey says. . . !” Historiann takes the Career Paths of Historians survey, again.”

  1. squadratomagico on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:15 am #

    #5 is an interesting one. I have been slow to get my second book off the ground, and I had a yearlong leave through research grants a few years back; and now I am on sabbatical, finally writing it. It has taken me a while to get to the point where I felt I *could* write it.

    But there is definitely a problem of incentive. Once this book is published, I will get a very moderate raise that might bring me back to the salary I had a few years ago, before my state cut our salaries. However, since I will be a full prof., and female at that, my burden of service (already insanely high!) will likely increase, since (a) full profs. are asked to serve more and (b) women faculty disproportionately bear the burden of service, since OPU strives for sex balance on its committees, but does not in fact have a sex-balanced faculty at large.

    So, yeah, powering through a project that I have enjoyed working on in a more leisurely way just makes no sense, since in fact I believe that finishing it will likely make my campus life *worse,* not better. The tiny extra pay won’t make up for the extra work.

    The chief advantage of it is that I enjoy travel, and expect to get more opportunities for it as a result of having a second book, for conference or speaking invitations and the like. But as far as work is concerned, no good deed will go unpunished.

  2. Historiann on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:26 am #

    “But as far as work is concerned, no good deed will go unpunished.”

    Heh, Squadrato! Love it. It’s funny, because it’s true! And you’re entirely right about the service burden on female full proffies. Here’s where the so-called “Leaky Pipeline” comes home to roost.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one wondering what the rush is. I was the first of our current generation of Associate Proffies who got tenured and promoted, and my “reward” was to Chair Graduate Studies before I had even had a sabbatical.

    Never again!

  3. Tenured Radical on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:27 am #

    As readers know, I am not stalled at rank — but the fear that I was, and that the obstacles put in my way by departmental blockheads could become more intense over time, fueled my determination to press the issue of my promotion when others would have been too humiliated to to do so. One thing I have noticed is that women hold themselves back at Zenith until they have that safe second book in boards. Men are encouraged to go up for promotion with a handful of articles of no particular significance. Having watched this from my perch as a full prof, I have concluded that the only reason for rank after tenure is the creation of new “finals clubs” — full prof, named chairs — that women can be kept out of.

  4. Tom on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I greatly fear I am stalled at my rank, Historiann. But who knows what the future may bring. I can say, with three books out (between 2001 and 2009), and one half-written, I have yet to be asked to speak at a conference or at another university–though I have been asked to submit a paper proposal occasionally.

  5. squadratomagico on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:46 am #

    If I didn’t get conference and speaking invitations that involve interesting travel, and opportunities to meet other scholars working in similar fields, I don’t think I’d be writing a second book. Certainly, OPU gives me no compelling reasons to do so. It’s chiefly because I enjoy being part of a broader international conversation in my field that I keep up a research profile.

  6. Widgeon on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:48 am #

    I have been stalled for quite a few years because of excessive service and a lack of research leaves. But, like others, I didn’t see the benefit of a rush to Full professor (small raise, and even more service). Now, however, the book is nearly done and I find myself newly energized to get to Full. I want the respect from my senior colleagues, and I’d like to parlay it into service that I really care about (vs. service that is assigned to me). This feeling has come as a surprise to me–a little infusion of ambition and wish for recognition after years of plodding along.

  7. Historiann on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:49 am #

    TR: as the author of a handful of undistinguished articles published post-tenure, I’ve been wondering about this myself. Our mutual friend and commenter Susan has also suggested that most women are too modest and wait until the second book is out so that the promotion decision is a slam dunk. Maybe this is a rational reaction to vexed tenure cases? Maybe it’s sensible to let the boys step up to the major service first, as Squadrato suggests?

    Tom: I’m sorry to hear that you’re still stalled. For those not in the know: Tom is a lecturer with a 4-4 load. And he forgot to brag on the NEH grant he won a few years’ back.

  8. Historiann on 07 Mar 2011 at 9:58 am #

    p.s. to Widgeon: congratulations on the forthcoming book! And an excellent choice of press, I might add.

    I understand your new rush of ambition, or at least I can guess: you’re in a Ph.D.-granting department where your work is pretty central to what’s going on. Squadrato and I are both entirely marginal to our departments, and mine doesn’t have a Ph.D. program. (At least, I wonder if that’s part of what’s going on w/r/t our orientations towards our careers.)

  9. squadratomagico on 07 Mar 2011 at 10:14 am #

    *Bingo,* Historiann. It’s hard (for me, at least) to have a fire in the belly for publishing when there is no one on my campus interested in my area. My department really ought to be called The Department of Twentieth-Century Studies. (= 70%, now).

  10. GayProf on 07 Mar 2011 at 10:49 am #

    I am afraid about being stalled and I haven’t even won tenure yet!

  11. Dr. Crazy on 07 Mar 2011 at 11:02 am #

    I don’t feel stalled, but I do feel like I have a few years to go before I’m ready to put myself up for promotion. That said, I am *very* motivated to seek promotion to full because a) *there is not a single female full professor in my department* and b) I’ll have even more freedom to participate in certain conversations about the future of the university and the curriculum, and quite frankly, if I’m going to be stuck here for the rest of my career I’m not interested in a bunch of old boys determining what my campus, my institution, my job look like.

    (FWIW, since no women are at full rank in my dept., service naturally coalesces at the associate level. Isn’t it funny how that works?)

  12. Brian Ogilvie on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Like Dr. Crazy, I don’t exactly feel stalled, but I’m in my eighth year at associate and probably won’t go up for promotion until 2013, when I expect to have my second book done. Until recently it was normal for historians at my university to go up for promotion to full professor on the strength of articles and substantial progress on a second book, but the standard now seems to be a second book (not necessarily published, but completed and in production). For us, promotion to full comes with a $12K raise, so there is a pretty big financial incentive to go up.

    I just finished three years as Graduate Program Director, which took a lot of time away from research, as did, in another way, my father’s final illness and death and my duties as executor of his estate. But, ironically, my first book has delayed things too: I had started a second project shortly after tenure, but after the first book came out, I got a couple invitations to do presentations related to it, one of which led to participating in a multi-year workshop in the field. So the previous book project is on hold, and I now have a *new* second book project.

  13. Janice on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    *waves the flag of stalled ascension*

    I’ve been stalled but, hey!, I was Graduate Coordinator for my department BEFORE I had tenure and promotion. And I held that position for more years than not. While I received a merit increment a few years back, the feedback from my department colleagues was distinctly cranky on the overall quantity of my publications. Message received!

    I recently asked not to be considered for the chair’s position. I’d like to go up for full in a few years. I can’t do that if I can’t publish and if I keep getting sucked into unpaid overloads and burdensome service obligations, I can’t publish. Vicious cycle and all!

    Now, back to writing my paper for the Big Berks.

  14. Matt_L on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I just earned tenure last June, but my research program is definitely stalled. (The teaching is going fine thanks.) I have come to realize that given my teaching load, service and other responsibilities my research is rapidly becoming an eccentric hobby rather than the third leg of my career. Maybe in ten years I’ll have a book and some more articles done, and I can go up for full. Or maybe I’ll be an eccentric crank.

    In the meantime, I need to get back to putting another coat of mud on the drywall in the kitchen. If I actually made a decent salary, I’d be able to pay someone else to fix the crumbling plaster in my house. Then I’d have some time during spring break to go to the library to get some scholarly work done. But at this point, my time is worth more fixing the house than it is being a scholar.

    And no, I don’t ever get to hear from Robert Townsend. But bless his heart for doing all those surveys. They are entertaining to read while I eat my bag lunch at work.

  15. truffula on 07 Mar 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Here at Provincial State U., if you are eligible but decline to go up for promotion, you must have a conversation with your chair about it. Presumably so ze can tell you to get off your lazy @ss. At least, that is the routine in my college (liberal arts & sciences).

  16. Nicole on 07 Mar 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Wait… paid maternity leave? 6 weeks? If we want to use FMLA, it is unpaid. Most people don’t. Sorry… just bitter.

  17. Historiann on 07 Mar 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    I should have said *sick leave*, which may be used for maternity leave of up to 6 weeks. And at my uni, I guess you can’t use *sick leave* unless you’ve physically given birth to the child–so I’m not sure what people do when they adopt or when a father requests leave.

    This seems to be the “industry standard,” unless you’re at a U. California campus, where new parents get one quarter free of teaching responsibilities. (At least it used ot be that way–not sure if it is any more.)

  18. Ruth on 07 Mar 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    People at my uni get actual parental leave, separate from sick leave, six weeks paid leave if you give birth, two weeks if you adopt or your partner gives birth. Applies to all academic employees including grad students. Also applies to a woman whose partner gives birth, or to two men or two women who adopt together, although strangely it does not apply to a man whose partner gives birth unless they are married.

  19. Z on 07 Mar 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    I am technically stalled. Yes, it is because of obstacles. I feel delayed but I don’t feel stopped, or fake, or the other weird ways people can feel.

  20. Another Damned Medievalist on 07 Mar 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    I only got promoted last year, and I’m not actually worried about getting enough done for another promotion at SLAC — although I’m also not worried about going up in (eep!) three more years. Five years from Associate to Full isn’t all that much. I want to get some stuff done that will let me think of a lateral move first.

    Now, ask me again in five years …

  21. Susan on 07 Mar 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Well, FWIW, in my system, the average time for historians to move to full is 10-11 years: it turns out that doing archival research and writing a book TAKES TIME!!!! It’s not like you have a good idea and just write it up.

    So while the standard for all disciplines is 6, history is the outlier.

  22. shaz on 07 Mar 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    What comes after stalled? I’m there.

    I’m not sure if it is because a) I’ve done nonstop service/administrative gigs; b) our insane review system requires 1 published article a year, which takes a lot of time away from a book; c) I made the mistake of doing what I was interested in, so have published post-tenure articles on multiple topics complete separate from any book project; or d) I’ve had a whopping 10 weeks of sabbatical in 7 years (hey, better than nothing!).

    In all fairness, if I really wanted to crank out another book, I would have made different choices. But consider me of the stuck generation.

  23. Feminist Avatar on 08 Mar 2011 at 7:00 am #

    Given that the monograph has pretty much died in many disciplines, where the article is now the central publishing mechanism, is the centrality of ‘the book’ to the historical field the reason why the jump to Full Professor takes so long? And, should we being changing too?

  24. The Path to Full « Reassigned Time 2.0 on 08 Mar 2011 at 9:06 am #

    [...] Historiann posted about her responses to an AHA survey of faculty, and she wrote: The survey forced me to confront my growing fears that I’m a “stalled” [...]

  25. Shelley on 08 Mar 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Out here in California, we’re not sad over the loss of future raises: we’re sad over the fact that corporate greed means that more classes are being cut and more teachers may lose work.

    Thanks for mentioning maternity leave.

    Is the AHA raising consciousness about multi-national corporations? Just a thought.

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