Archive for March, 2011

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. Continue Reading »


March 6th 2011
Declining a job offer after inking the contract

Posted under happy endings & jobs & unhappy endings

In a post I missed last week called “Things that should go without saying, but obviously do not,” Flavia writes:

After signing a contract to accept a tenure-track job, you should not subsequently back out.

I now know of two people who have done this. And seriously, dudes, what’s so hard to figure out? If you weren’t sold on the institution, you shouldn’t have accepted the offer. If you were waiting to hear from another school where you had a campus visit, you should have told the offering institution that, and asked for more time. But if you thought you were out of the running someplace else, and then they came knocking–or if a fancier job appeared in the spring job list and you applied anyway–you kinda suck.

(My apologies to Flavia for copying and pasting her entire post–I thought that the whole thing was quoteworthy.) 

I can certainly understand that a hiring department that thought its work was done and a tenure line filled in January or February would be irritated beyond measure if they were informed in March, April, or May (or later?) that in fact “their new hire” had decided to take another job instead.  I’ve seen it happen.  (And for the record, it wasn’t me!  Sadly, I’ve never been offered more than one job at a time, or even within a span of several months.)

But–do we really want to hire people who don’t want to work with us?  Do we really want to hire only people who have no other options?  Sometimes other searches take longer, or they fail and have to bring in a whole new slate of candidates.  Just f’r’instance, my university is terrible about spousal/partner employment these days, and we’re just far enough from Denver (about a 70 minute drive to most places, even if you’re driving the posted 75 MPH!) that this is a major hassle for most people with partners or families.  And as much as I like it here, I recognize that my partner was lucky to find a job in the area.  Some of my colleages’ partners have had to retrain for a new career, or they’re still struggling to patch together a living.  Baa Ram U. does nothing for us, so why should we be surprised that people with partners find it difficult to say “yes” to our job offers?

When this happened in my department a few years ago, Continue Reading »


March 4th 2011
Cowgirl Up: my talk at the University of Texas

Posted under American history & Gender & happy endings & jobs

Thanks, Longhorns!

Yesterday, I gave a talk called “Cowgirl Up:  The Pleasures and Perils of Academic Feminist Blogging” at the University of Texas in Austin at the Symposium of Gender, History, and Sexuality, and boy howdy, did I have fun!  (Who doesn’t enjoy talking about herself?  And as you regular readers know, this blog is all about the “me.”)  It was so flattering to be invited to talk to some readers in real life, and get away from my computer screen!  Blogging is something that is so interior and (for me) intellectual that it felt strange to talk about it face-to-face instead of writing about it. 

We had a wide-ranging discussion about feminist blogging, intellectual communities, the ethics of blogging, pseudonymity versus “out” blogging, the question of whether or not blogging should be recognized and rewarded as professional outreach, and why this feminist blog uses Gil Elvgren’s images of sexy cowgirls in its posts.  (More on these issues below.)  The audience–some of whom have their own blogs–kept me busy in the Q and A session afterwards for more than an hour after I left off my prepared remarks!

The folks here at UT have all been so friendly and generous in entertaining me and keeping me company over the past few days.  I especially want to thank faculty members Julie Hardwick and Bob Olwell of the History Department and the Institute for Historical Studies for bringing me to Austin in the first place to participate in the Centering Families in the Atlantic World conference, and Carolyn Eastman of the History Department for inviting me here to talk about “my stupid blog.”  Graduate students Julia Gossard, Jessica Luther, Sarah Steinbock-Pratt, and Kyle Shelton have been great company, too.  And then, as if that weren’t enough to go to my head for the rest of the year, Judy Coffin of the History Department invited a group of us over for dinner at her gorgeous house.  Thanks, friends!  I’ve had a blast.

My talk yesterday focused on four issues:  1) Is blogging a waste of time and/or possibly a danger to one’s career?  2)  I reviewed my brush with notoriety when I called eminent dead historian Lawrence Stone a “complete tool,”  3)  Are blogs vehicles for airing out academia’s “dirty laundry,” for good or ill, and 4)  Why does a feminist blog use images like the one above which might be read as an exploitation of women’s bodies and sexuality.  Here, in brief, are my answers to these questions:  Continue Reading »


March 3rd 2011
Race to the bottom

Posted under American history & class & jobs & unhappy endings

Read Jonathan Rees at More or Less Bunk today.  He takes on the un-killable myth of what academic freedom and tenure do for academia:

Certainly, academic freedom is not a justification for saying anything you want and tenure is not a magic ticket that lets you be an a$$hole for the next thirty years. How many professors think it is? The authors of this piece seem to think it’s a lot.

.       .       .       .      .       .      

“Hate them!,” our new Tea Party Overlords say. “They live on our tax dollars [and] get summers off!” Of course, this sentiment has been out there for a long time, but seems somehow more important in the Scott Walker era than it ever did before. Ed at Gin and Tacos (whose political writing is so good that it makes me want to give up ever writing about conventional politics again due to my comparative inadequacy) covered the reasoning for this well a few days ago:

First they convinced the blue collars to scapegoat the Welfare Queens. Then the suburbanites scapegoated the blue collars and their cushy union factory jobs (hence NAFTA). Then the suburbanites started to cannibalize themselves: first the greedy retirees with their sweet benefits were redefined as Leeches, and now it’s the teachers and public sector workforce. While Americans in general have failed to notice how this game of “Find a new scapegoat every 3 years until there’s no one left with benefits or a salary over $10/hr ” has progressed methodically for several decades, the cops appear to have no illusions about what is happening. They are waking up to reality: “They’re going to come for us next.” Continue Reading »


March 2nd 2011
And the wieners are. . .

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

Sausage party!

Who says the humanities are feminized disciplines?  Not the real he-men at the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Check out this list of the winners of the 2010 National Humanities Medals (h/t reader, commenter, and BFF Shaz.)  Notice anything, friends?  Click here–I’ll wait. 

Let’s go over the list of everyone who’s won a National Humanities Medal since its inception: Continue Reading »


March 1st 2011
Assess-mints, now with extra extra pointlessness!

Posted under jobs & students & unhappy endings & wankers

Oooh, Bardiac–don’t “despair!”  Have an assess-mint–they’re new and improved, with extra extra pointlessness!

Friends, Bardiac is being threatened to perform an assessment exercise, because you know that if we don’t do it, the “they’ll do it to us” boogeyman will jump out of the recycling bin in the hallway and we’ll regret it!  (We will!)  So (the argument goes) we should just do extra work because someone has issued a threat.  But Bardiac is skeptical:

I have to say, I’m so sick of the threat that “if we don’t do it, they’ll do it to us” that I could spit. The they of that threat isn’t doing diddly that’s of use. There’s no serious evaluative stuff happening here, despite blathering and spending money up the wazoo to talk about it. And what is being done is being done to us already, in ways that make me lose a class day in intro writing every fall.

I’ve never yet seen anything useful come out of all the money they’ve spent and all the crap they’ve made us do. I have seen vicious nastiness happen, however. And I’ve seen threats of more to come. Continue Reading »


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