Grown up problems

Why I Don’t Blog As Much Anymore

There have been a spate of posts lately about why scholars blog. This is not a new genre. People have been encouraging academics to blog for almost a decade now. But as Russell McCutcheon, Thomas Whitley, Adam Miller, and Steven Ramey show, scholars are still thinking about whether or not they should blog and what it means for their careers.

I have a very different experience when it comes to blogging. I’m really not blogging as much as I did in graduate school. There are a couple reasons for this. First, the returns on blogging diminish as one transitions from graduate student to contingent faculty to the tenure track. In the first two stages it’s important to appear active, to cultivate an audience, to make sure people in the field know what you are doing. For all of these reasons, there is a big upside to blogging for non-tenure track scholars. In short, blogging is an asset before you get a tenure track job. Audiences and attention are part of the coin of the realm for the non-TT scholar.

But once you have that job (Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise) a ton of new things drop from the sky and onto your desk. You dissertation is now a book manuscript, you are developing new courses, you are part of a department and it demands things of you, the administration is counting on you and they want research, and you’ve just moved to a new city and are trying to figure that out too. The coin of the realm has shifted to peer reviewed publications, assessments of your teaching, and becoming someone you department can’t function without. Because these are things that your tenure and promotion depend on. The audience reach, the clicks, the shares, the networks, and all that attention blogging might bring you aren’t worth as much.

In my experience, blogging is something you should outgrow as a scholar. Blog early and often in grad school. Take everything your write in your seminars and turn it into a blog. Get on twitter. Blog this, blog that. Blog it all. Blog your dissertation. Blog your conference papers. Instagram the books you’re reading. Tweet the marginalia of your reading. Put it all out there. Build an audience. And do all of this while you do excellent research, write an excellent dissertation, and gain teaching experience. Because you have to be good at everything these days. Build an audience, meet people, make friends online and off. Become the one everyone thinks of whenever your research topic comes up over drinks….”You know, So-and-so is working on that for her dissertation. I really can’t wait for the book…”

Then if whatever gods you propitiate happen to bless you with a tenure track job, stop blogging.

By that point you should have an audience. People should already be interested in what you have to say. Everyone now sees your potential. And it’s time to deliver on it. Write articles, write book chapters, and revise that damn manuscript. Hopefully all that blogging will open up some doors for other, peer-reviewed, writing opportunities. Turn that mountain of potential you’ve ginned up into peer-reviewed research that will get you tenure.

Ok, I have to go write now.

Tenured Radical on Tenure Reform: Make It Public

I’m still a long ways away from worrying about tenure but I would love to see this sort of process when I get there.

Therefore, in my view, any real tenure reform has to address the problem of high-stakes evaluations that are done in private.  Secrecy actually permits institutional inequality to thrive, because no one ever “sees” it; alternatively, it allows a larger, skeptical public to believe that a negative tenure decision might be an outcome of prejudice when in fact it has resulted from an honest evaluation of the case.  Breaking confidentiality not only forces people to explain why they believe what they believe, it also creates a far more textured picture than probationary faculty currently have of why some people are tenured and some people are not.All of these things are bad for faculty morale over the long term, and they are bad for how a larger public views the tenure system.

  • Making all materials in a tenure case available to the candidate.
  • Allowing the candidate to respond to questions about hir scholarship that have arisen in the letters and in the departmental discussion.
  • Making minority and majority opinions on each case available in some kind of public document.
  • Allowing all departmental faculty who have voted in the case to identify themselves to the candidate and explain why they voted the way they did.

Breaking confidentiality would have a generative role in positive tenure cases too, since positive decisions are sometimes weighted down with the baggage of negative votes that have been successfully overcome.  These negative votes not infrequently arise from critiques that, although they were not sustained by the majority decision, should not be allowed to disappear either.  Candidates inevitably hear rumors about them, but are justified in not taking them seriously because they are conveyed (often inaccurately) by their “friends” and have been articulated by “enemies.” Flaws in scholarship that are not fatal at the level of the monograph might have serious ramifications down the road if they are not addressed, while originality and risk-taking that has been deliberately muted in pre-tenure scholarship so as not to offend could be usefully cultivated in the post-tenure years.

via Tenured Radical: To Reform Tenure, Consider Breaking Confidentiality: A Novel Approach.