equity · global academy · slow academy · turgid institution

Guest Post: Academic hierarchies

Here is a guest post from Linda Warley, associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo, about her experiences abroad this term.

Academic hierarchies: women and status in different contexts

I am currently a visiting professor at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. A year before I came here, soon after the initial contact was made and I expressed interest in this position, a member of the English department—let’s call her Natasha—was “assigned” to be my contact person. I assumed that she was an Assistant Professor (I knew that she had recently defended her PhD), but it turns out that she is what we call a CLA. (Big shout out to all CLAs who read this blog!) I was somewhat surprised that a sessional instructor would be given the responsibility of looking after me—answering my million questions, arranging for the flat I live in, scheduling my course, getting me set up with a mobile phone, a transit pass, keys to my office, access to the internet, and so on. Natasha has been there for me at every moment. She picked me up at the airport; she showed me where and how to get around; she’s sitting in on my course and is invaluable if I have questions about how things are done at their university, what students need to know or what they can expect. Heck, her husband even fixed a broken cupboard door in my flat. I asked her why she had been “assigned” to me (one would have thought this was a chair’s job, or at least another member of the regular faculty’s job). The answer: because she teaches a course in my area. Ohhhhkay…? It had nothing—and everything—to do with her status.

At the University of Zagreb the department promises recent PhDs three years of sessional teaching, after which their contracts may or may not be renewed. Since there are so few faculty jobs available in a small country like Croatia, this is a lifeline for the newly PhD’d academic. However, unlike at our Canadian universities (at least those that I know), here sessional instructors do not seem to be considered peers. I don’t want to overstate the case at Canadian universities but I would say that we treat sessionals as professional, independent academics. But here it seems that the sessional instructor’s labour is still available to her former PhD supervisor. My colleague refers to her former supervisor as her “boss” (perhaps jokingly) and she tells me that the boss can get her to do all sorts of things, through assumed loyalty and through asserted power. Teach a class while the boss is away. Look up references in the library that the boss was too lazy to track down herself. Proofread the boss’s article. Set and mark an exam for the boss’s course—a course that the sessional herself has not taught. Now, we might get our graduate students to do this kind of thing (except the exam setting bit) BUT WE WOULD PAY THEM FOR THEIR WORK. Moreover, CLAs are not only expected to do administrative work it is often dumped on them. Wow. I would say no full time job means no responsibility for administration—unless I chose to involve myself, which some CLAs in Canada do.

The academic hierarchy here is very Austro-Hungarian. Formal, trenchant. The older members of the department do not have much to do with the younger ones, certainly not socially. And even professionally there is a boundary that is not easily crossed. Most troublingly, the older women professors do not seem to support the younger women in the department. Any male—professor, CLA, visiting professor—is held in higher esteem than their own female colleagues. I have been treated with respect (after all, I am a tenured professor) but also with a certain aloofness. So I’ve been hanging out with the younger women in the department. They are my kind. They are also fun. Being here has taught me a lot about my own context. It makes me realize how much status I do have. I hope that I am using that status partly to foster the careers of my younger colleagues. I was certainly lucky to have been mentored by my senior colleagues, especially the women. After all, isn’t that what women do?

Linda Warley
University of Waterloo

equity · turgid institution

Gender Pay Gap Narrows! (er….)

If you subscribe to Ken Steele’s Academica list, you will have been heartened, Monday morning, to read the following:  

Gender pay gap for academic staff narrows, CAUT study finds: According to a new report from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the gender pay gap for academic staff in the country narrowed significantly. According to the data, the overall gender pay difference was just less than 11% in 2006, down from nearly 19% in 1986.


But wait a second. If you trouble to click through to the report itself, you might want to hold that buoyancy in check. While the report does say, “The male-female salary differential amongst university teachers, when adjusted for academic rank and age, has narrowed slightly in the last twenty years,” it goes on to say, “However, a persistent gap remains, one that cannot be explained by rank or age.”

[Sidebar: Academica apologized “for suggesting anything different than what was outlined in CAUT’s study. We had based our summary on the Bulletin article, not the full report. We have edited the item on our website to include further information contained in the full report. We are considering issuing a postscript in the Top Ten on the report’s conclusion.”]

Connect this to the story in last week’s New York Times about the ambivalent consequences of MIT’s about-face, or to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s recent anemic coverage of women in academic leadership, and it feels like we may never win: as Erin said on Monday, it’s one step forward, two steps back.

The CAUT report, available here, is worth reading in its 8-page entirety. It is significant for adjusting StatsCan data to control differences in academic rank and age. The review finds that salary differentials between men and women are smallest at the lecturer levels, highest at the full professor level, and that salary inequity grows as a cohort moves through the rank. (The study compares women to men only; there is no analysis of race, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. There is some disciplinary and regional breakdown.)

What is most interesting, if also unsettling, is the review’s (short) discussion of why salary inequity persists: 

Overt discrimination may play a role, but it is more likely that the remaining salary differential between men and women is a by-product of university salary structures and procedures which have the effect of disadvantaging women on average. Differences in negotiated starting salaries, though small at first, accumulate over time and generate greater gaps in later years. Most university salary structures also include market supplements and merit awards. It may be that women face discrimination in decisions taken with respect to supplements and merit pay.

Women may also be disadvantaged by the traditional academic salary grid system with the numerous progress through the ranks (PTE) steps. The steep lifetime compensation curve characteristic of such systems tends to reward those with significant occupational tenure. Since women are more likely to experience career interruptions related to childbearing, their progress through the salary grid may be slower and may result in lower earnings compared to their male colleagues.

What troubles me here is the rock and the hard place: on the one hand, the corporate-university model of free-market entrepreneurship (“market supplements and merit awards”) where women apparently don’t promote themselves sufficiently as individuals; on the other, the noble tradition of faculty associations and unions (“the traditional academic salary grid system”) that leaves women disadvantaged as a group. This double bind reminds me why I am always skeptical of critiques of the corporate university (Stanley Aronowitz, Cary Nelson, Randy Martin, e.g.): agreed, the free-enterprise model is dangerous for teaching and learning, but is it really worse, as a workplace, than the old boys’ network? Just think about the actually-existing organization, work style, recent decisions and executive membership of the union or faculty association at your university, and tell me it’s unequivocally good for women. (Really: if yours is good for women, let’s hear about it.)

The CAUT report is at its weakest in suggesting what is to be done:

First, universities should provide for greater gender equity in hiring… Secondly, universities and academic staff associations must … address the fact that … the gender salary gap rises with years of experience and progress through the ranks. Further, institutions and faculty associations will need to assess how current merit awards and salary grid systems may be contributing to the gender pay gap, particularly in later years.

It concludes, “Ultimately, the academic community may need to explore alternative salary systems that will ensure greater parity.”

What would those look like?

For me, answering that question should follow some imaginative feminist thinking about what our universities should be like as a whole. How do we imagine our citizenship in the academy? What should collegial governance look like? What kind of structures do we want to build? What is the right pace for academic life: fast feminism / slow academe, as this blog purports, or something different? What do we want to reward, and how?

And then, of course, the biggest question: how do we get there from here?

feminist win · openness · resolution · sexist fail

The Month in Review

If I recall what I learned in elementary school March is fabled to come in like a lion and out like a lamb. While I have vaguely fond memories of making construction paper lions and cotton ball covered lambs to adorn our class bulletin board, I also remember fretting: what if March came in like a lamb and left like a lion? Worse, what if March came in like a lion and left like one too?

Perhaps my grade-four self was already preparing for the academic life, where March in Canada equals not March break but mid-terms, final papers, and the downhill screaming roller coaster ride that takes us to the end of the semester. Or, possibly, I was just showing early signs of being a worry-wart.

March makes big, lovely promises. One step forward into spring. But March is difficult. Two steps back. Today’s post is a partial review of the month of March.

Last week ended on a high note. It is no secret that Stephen Harper has been no ally of the women of Canada. Among his administrations most egregious actions is the attempt to silence Sisters in Spirit. Inform yourself, and make the effort to get out and vote.

Mid-month we had a guest post by Shannon Dea that was picked up by jezebel.com and garnered Shannon’s post and this site more than 10,000 views in a day. Unfortunately Shannon’s post is about the lack of institutional attention given to a hate campaign that is being waged agains the women of U Waterloo.

There’ve been submissions to This Month In Sexism’s email account as well. Here are some of them:

-Recently the University Librarian at McMaster organized an important agenda setting symposium on the “Future of Academic Libraries.” Of a possible 21 speakers, in the initial lineup 3 were women – the rest men. Egregious in any context, but particularly insulting given that, according to CAUT statistics, a walloping 73% of Canadian academic librarians are women. Adding insult to injury, librarian bloggers who called out the organizers on the omission were accused of being disingenuous, “rattling the cage” and reverse sexism. You can read blog entries about it here and here (note the comments).

At a required professional development conference, one of our reader watched a male administrator cut off, completely misunderstand, and then talk over a female instructor who was trying to ask a legitimate question. The morning of the conference thing was devoted to administrators (predominantly male) telling us about their jobs and what they are doing to supposedly help us (but really, it was about how we needed to do better), and then the afternoon was devoted to the (mostly) female instructors (all instructors, not one of us on the tenure-track) talking about what we did in the classroom. Not one administrator stayed for our presentations. Not. One.

On the other hand, Heather has been writing about her experience of applying for promotion on the basis of teaching excellence. Read her posts closely, they offer templates for crucial, positive institutional change.

Further, some readers have found a moment to share some really positive personal accomplishments!

But then, as guest poster Katherine Binhammer documents, some things haven’t changed.

So where does that leave us? Putting one foot in front of the other purposefully, I’d say. Onward with a roar!
boast post · body · outreach · possibility · you're awesome

Boast Post!

Today, the English Department celebrated the accomplishments of its students, in a ceremony with certificates and sandwiches and sunshine and applause. I had the opportunity both to judge entries in two categories and to present one award, with suitable encomiums for the lauded student. It was the best part of my week so far.

It was just so cheering to celebrate the accomplishments in our department. I’ve still got a real spring in my step (spring–ha! We got 26cm of snow yesterday) just from rubbing shoulders with these students.

So why don’t we do a Boast Post now, as term drains to its very dregs: are you pinned beneath towering piles of grading? Or are you producing towering piles of writing in your coursework or dissertation? Are you eagerly or cringe-ingly awaiting results from SSHRC Standard Research Grant, Doctoral Fellowship, Canada Graduate Scholarship, or Postdoctoral Fellowship competitions? Dragging yourself through to the end of the traditional ‘hiring season’ or wondering what happens after you graduate?

Pause. Centre yourself.

Now: tell me–tell us, readers and bloggers and all of us–one of your recent successes, big or small. A triumph personal or academic that makes you stand a little taller. Look us all right in the eye and say, in a clear voice, “Here is something that I accomplished. Yay for me!”

Perhaps ridiculously, I’m most cheered by the fact that this past weekend I managed King Pigeon Pose. Damnit, I’ve been working on this for years. I needed an assist, but I did it.

“People may smile, but I don’t mind …”

Bert starts dancing around 1:15 — it’ll get you in the mood for celebrating your own awesome self.

Yoga video with Sesame Street characters not sufficiently inspiring? Well, how about my friend Laura Davis, whose new course on Hockey in Canadian Literature is featured in Thursday’s Red Deer Advocate? AWESOME!

So let’s hear about you now!

promotion · teaching

Promotion for Teaching Excellence, Part 2: early lessons

Tell me, Dr Zed, what have you learned about this promotion business so far?

Well, Reader, I’m glad you asked.

Here’s what I wish someone had told me – or what people did tell me and I forgot/disregarded – or, in a couple cases, what’s just totally friggin’ obvious (but I had to figure it out for myself):

  1. Documentation: Keep copies of your stuff, and do your best to keep it organized. I’m a Type A OCD freak and I still had trouble finding things. (Related: I do somewhat regret using bubble sheet course evaluations as Scrabble scoresheets in a fit of pique over the limitations of quantitative instruments of evaluation in the late 1990s – but whatcha gonna do?) If you have a particularly good class, take a picture of the whiteboard. If you take your students to a conference, jot down their names, and the name of the conference, and the name of their presentation, and the date, etc. Many people recommend keeping copies of student work, but this doesn’t sit well with me so I don’t. The point is, you can only send representations of classroom practice, so make sure you have a good range of them.
  2. Evaluation: Get your teaching evaluated broadly, by different constituencies, routinely. Ask a peer to evaluate your classroom practice, but also consider asking someone to review your use of technology, your class website, or your assignments. If your centralized teaching service offers videotaping, do it – and do it soon, so that you can redo it in the (highly unlikely) event you’re unhappy with take one. If you’re senior, make yourself available to review your junior colleagues’ teaching practice and materials: asking senior colleagues for a “favour” can be awkward and difficult. Evaluating teaching is not a favour; it’s a professional obligation. 
  3. Word process your comments on student writing.
  4. Put full course information on each assignment. Okay, I know: this makes me sound like a dimwit. But especially once I started loading assignments into course management software, I stopped putting the course number and date (especially the date) on every assignment. Yes, the system takes care of that for the students – but you will not believe how mystifying it is to look at a final exam for a course you’re sure you taught, a course you must have taught (or else how did you get your hands on the final?) – but damned if you can remember when. Repetition, here, is a virtue.
  5. Archive your course sites. How? I do not know. But I sure wish I did.
  6. Finding good reviewers takes a lot of time. If you’re being reviewed on the basis of teaching excellence, your field is not exactly eighteenth-century literature or European history or any of the typical ways we think about “fields” or “disciplines.” That also means that good reviewers won’t come to mind readily, and they also don’t always come readily to screen, either. Australia struck me as pretty well organized, university-teacher-wise, but most places won’t have Teaching Councils that organize great university teachers for you. What I found useful was drilling down through the department level of schools that have a reputation for being progressive. I also asked colleagues for recommendations – after all, an excellent creative writing teacher is closer to my field than an engineer who’s brilliant in the classroom – and I followed up leads in pro-teaching articles published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, University Affairs and other professional journals. Still, identifying appropriate reviewers was a major, major task.
  7. Track your administrative service. Every year, consider writing a self-evaluation of your admin work: one page, single-spaced, audience = you. These records will remind you of things you’ll totally have forgotten, and they help resuscitate a sense of priorities and key details. “Oh yeah,” I said, on more than one occasion while putting together my promotion package, “I did do that!”
  8. Rethink the CV. My CV is quite different now than it was before I went into this process. For one thing, it starts with a credo, a paragraph at the top that draws connections between teaching, learning, research, supervision, mentoring and service. That credo tells you how to read the CV, because if you expect the research to speak for itself – well, okay, the research will speak for itself, but it can’t speak for me, if you see the distinction. Talk about what you actually do. That line on your CV might stand in for volumes more than the same line on someone else’s – so spell it out. People won’t read between the lines: they can’t. You have to frame this document for them.
  9. Keep in touch with your graduate students. Talk about a white hat brigade: honestly, I can’t bring myself to read the letters from grad students. Every weekend I say I’m going to; every weekend, my courage fails me – I just don’t believe I am the person they describe. Props to you, if you’re reading!
  10. Have a good Chair. I could not have done this without her support, strategic thinking, and just plain hard work – you can see from last week’s list of the submission package just how much stuff she had to corral. No matter how harrowing this process might be for me – and believe me, I find it harrowing – it’s also a first for her: she is taking a risk bringing the first such case forward. How is “have a good Chair” useful advice? Show your Chair the love! It’s a tough job. 

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that putting yourself forward on the basis of something you actually do well – for me, teaching; for other people, writing books and articles – feels really good. It feels right. As I’m fond of saying: when all else fails, it’s nice to have your integrity to fall back on.

      faster feminism · making friends · openness

      Making Connections

      Sometimes I’m shy. I find it hard to advertise myself and my work. Sometimes I even find it difficult too post status updates. In part this is due to only beginning to learn to toot my own horn, but it is also partly due to my reluctance to network. Until relatively recently “networking” has been a term that has me thinking of suits, firm handshakes, and back room deals. But seriously, networking is an important part of what we do.

      Recently one of my colleagues and blogging mentors noted that she’d finally watched The Social Network. I had twitter updates and RSS feeds on my mind when I came across the fact that Tenured Radical has also recently mentioned social networking. Specifically, Tenured Radical thinks through the dictum that networking is a crucial part of the academic’s job.

      I’ve been thinking about networking as the crocuses outside peek through the detritus of winter. Conference season is nearly upon us here in Canada, and as a voice from the un-tenured stream the pros (networking! paper writing! public presentation of self!) and cons (cost! cost! cost!) of conference travel weight heavily on my mind. Furthermore, I’ve had some former students contact me lately asking about how to network which I suspect means 1) how do I do it? and 2) does it really matter?

      So, following TR’s lead I’d like to think through some of my own networking in the past several years. It hasn’t landed me a tenure-track job (yet) but what has it accomplished?

      Fall of 2006: I attend a conference at the other large university in the province where I was completing my PhD. I give a paper which was…poorly received (to say the least!) and am shaken. This isn’t my first conference, but it is early in my PhD programme. I leave, convinced my career is ruined.

      Spring 2006: I attend the annual ACCUTE conference at York University where my dear friend is the President of the Graduate Student Caucus. I tag along with him to the meeting because I hardly ever get to see him. I wind up volunteering to co-steer the GSC for the following year and to take over the year after that. Enter my first experience of being involved in a national committee. Invaluable!

      Spring 2007: I return to the same aforementioned university to give another paper. I am chatting with a friend who introduces me to her supervisor, the incomparable Susan Brown. Susan introduces me to Heather Zwicker (the very same!) and they tell me they’d like for me to write a reflective piece on my hard conference experience for an anthology they are co-editing. You can read about it here. This was my first invited piece of academic writing.

      Spring 2008: I head once more to the close-by university where my PhD supervisor had been invited to join a discussion for a new project. The project was being initiated by Susan Brown and the weekend was co-facilitated by Heather. I was the only graduate student in attendance. I was able to sit in a room full of my now colleagues, then mentors, and watch a project be planned from the ground up. That project is now the path-breaking CWRC. If you’re interested in seeing what it is all about you can send in a conference paper proposal, they are due March 31st.

      Spring 2010: I am at the ACCUTE conference in Montreal where I am chairing a roundtable for CWRC and giving a paper called “Hopelessly Witty or Witless Hope: Notes from LTA-Land” for the Committee for Professional Concerns. Heather is in the audience and we reintroduce ourselves. She has an idea for a feminist academic blog. We talk about it, she introduces me to Aimée, we start planning for what is now Hook & Eye.

      Fall 2010: Hook & Eye is launched. I feel I am able/responsible/willing to speak about my experience as a woman in the non-tenured stream (trying to get into that other stream) and that I have a productive and receptive space in which to do this.

      Granted this is an abbreviated list of networking moments, and I’ve presented one branch of my career that follows a somewhat straightforward pathway. Would I have started a blog about my experience of this profession otherwise? Who knows. Will blogging count as public intellectual work to a SSHRC committee? I couldn’t say. Do I know exactly what the quantitative benefits of networking have been in my career thus far? No, but I can make some educated guesses.

      It can be easy to feel jaded, or even intimidated by networking. Its hard to know how many conferences are enough, or when you’ve over-introduced yourself, but I can say that I’m consistently surprised by the ways in which moments of networking (or moments that didn’t even seem like networking but did require me putting myself and my work out in the world) have come back in exciting ways.

      I’ll leave Tenured Radical with the (second) last work on this:

      “The ability to get things done not only makes life more pleasant, and far richer when you consider time consuming projects like program development and the hiring of new colleagues, but it frees up time to write. It also brings interesting and novel projects — book series, journal articles, special issues, conferences, and Internet-based exchanges — to fruition. This, I think, reveals the basic value of networking: when it works, it isn’t about you. It’s about you in relation to others. Scholarship, at its most effective, is about exchange, not about the grandiosity of one person.”


      What about you, dear readers? Have you any surprising networking successes?
      academy · change · faculty evaluation · ideas for change · promotion · reform

      Mostly, I just like saying the word ‘dumbass’

      “I really thought your talk was excellent,” she told me. “I think people really connected with what you were saying.” She paused. Then, “I have never heard a professor say ‘dumbass’ in a lecture before.” Apparently, lighthearted swearing, employed judiciously, appeals to general audiences, and diminishes the perceived unapproachability of the Sage on the Stage. Or at the coffee bar’s jerry-rigged lectern. Or at the public library’s classroom podium.
      I give a lot of public talks. I love to do them, at staff brownbags, in the library, in bookstores with espresso machines, in classrooms opened up in the evening to the general public, to auditoriums full of high school seniors and their parents. Because I keep getting asked to do more and more of these, and because everyone is always so enthusiastic in talking to me afterwards, I flatter myself that I’m pretty good at this sort of thing–I like to think I’m getting more exposure for my research findings, doing public service with my how-tos, drawing students into the major, creating goodwill for the department and university, and drawing good press for everyone.
      Does it matter?
      Heather wrote this week about a new kind of Full Professor, someone who gains promotion on the basis of teaching excellence. We are learning, I hope her post indicates, how to broaden our understanding of what a valuable, effective, and dare I say, excellent professor looks like. Fantastic! I am really cheered by this development, in part because, as studies show, women so very disproportionately aggregate in the teaching-heavy parts of the profession, and to have a research university promote on the basis of what has become feminised labour? Is pretty damn cool.
      Can I push that door open a little wider? I’d like us to think more about what outreach means. I’d like to revisit that buzzphrase a few years back (um, 13 years) to “go public or perish“: we were supposed to focus more on that, SSHRC prez Marc Renaud indicated, instead of the usual academic target to “publish or perish”?
      I take going public pretty seriously. But I don’t take it anywhere near as seriously as publishing: I calculated as a junior professor that my odds of perishing were still very much higher for failing to publish than for failing to go public. I never, not once, woke up in a cold midnight sweat counting out on my fingertips my number of Lunch and Learn talks delivered, desperate to know if it was enough to make the cut. So maybe, actually, I don’t take it seriously. Maybe no one takes it seriously in the humanities, where we’re not usually developing global smoking cessation strategies from empirical research, or, you know, curing cancer and such. 
      Anyhow, I’ve been parking all my outreach activities in the service section of my annual reports: you know, the part that’s worth the least, that puny “20” dwarfed by the “40/40” of teaching and research. But is outreach not, in many ways, teaching, research, and service all at once? Especially if it draws explicitly on your research expertise? 
      [Note! Let me be clear! I’m not griping about my annual reports or my raises or anything particular to my own situation. Everything is pretty awesome, frankly, and I by no means wish you to think otherwise. But. I’m trying to think more abstractly.]
      So I ask you: Does outreach–going public–really matter? Do you think outreach is ‘real’ academic work? Do you do it? Do you want to? And does being really good or really poor at it matter? How does going public promote excellence, or detract from it? 
      literature · teaching · women · writing

      Guest Post: The Count II, Numbers Close to Home

      @font-face { font-family: “Times New Roman”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; Inspired by Erin’s informative and thoughtful discussion of The Count, Vida’s not-to-be-argued-with graphs of the gender disparity in literary reviewing, I decided to do my own count. How many male and female writers are being taught in undergraduate English courses at my university today compared to when I first arrived 15 years ago? And how has the ratio of male to female faculty changed in that same period? Here’s the count:

      Counting is such a simple thing to do. And, like the lists we should be keeping, we should be regularly counting. But what are these numbers telling us?

      My reading needs to start with qualifications since it has inherent flaws: I relied on the course descriptions of English courses as advertised on our website (1996 stats came from an old-fashioned print pamphlet) and not actual course syllabi. The descriptions have limitations: what do you do with anonymous texts? how do you count authors studied when the text listed is an anthology (I used the gender of the editor)? what to do you with the disparity between those faculty who provide text lists and those that simply say “T.B.A.”? The figures, then, should be considered as ballpark. But even with all the provisos, they say a lot.

      What they scream to me is: nothing much has changed in 15 years. The ratio of men to women taught remains fairly constant (it went from 1.6 men:1 woman to 1.5:1) and the change in the gender breakdown of faculty suggests women academics have not made as great inroads in hiring as we may like to think, especially given that I work in a department (English, UofA) that has a reputation as one of the most feminist in the country. Interestingly, the ratio of male to female writers being taught has remained constant though fewer specific courses on women’s writing are taught today than in 1996 (when a total of 6 courses were dedicated to women’s writing, as compared to 4 this year). I interpret this stat as suggesting women are better integrated into all courses and not just segregated into their own special place (this year’s descriptions, for example, did not include such common statements as the following 1996 one: “in addition to Famous Male, Famous Male and Famous Male we will be reading the lesser-known writing by Lesser-Known Woman and Lesser-Known Woman”). I take this integration to be a good sign. I also observed that the ratio of men’s to women’s writing being taught has remained the same even though fewer women’s writing anthologies are being used. As an example from my own area, a Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama course in 1996 that used a standard all-male anthology as well as an anthology of women playwrights, today lists one general anthology (which now includes many plays by women). What has happened to all those women’s writing anthologies? Are they still in print?

      Now comes the real truth behind the numbers. Guess which course has one of the biggest disparities between men’s and women’s writing? Yep: shamefully, mine. My course in theories of cultural history has a ratio of 4 men to every woman writer. In my defense, the actual course reading includes more women and more discussion of gender than the course description shows. But it speaks to what prompted me to write this blog: while I am a feminist scholar who wrote a dissertation on women’s writing in the 1990s and worked as a post-doc on a collaborative large-scale women’s writing project, I no longer work in the field. After publishing a book on the cultural history of gender and sexuality that included both men and women writers, I’m ready to take a break and have recently shift to work on economics and literature. My work will always include women, but my primary questions have changed.

      Thus, when I offer senior seminars on special topics or graduate courses, they are no longer focused on women’s writing. And I’ve begun to notice a fading interest in my colleagues in teaching such courses, as well as a fading interest in our students in taking them. Are we still committed to teaching women’s writing as a separate curriculum? If so, who is the ‘we’ that will teach them? Am I alone in my generation of scholars who came of age when dedicated courses on women writers were something we fought for and who no longer are interested in the field? Are there others like me out there? My gut is telling me ‘yes.’ Once there was a line up of faculty who requested to teach the course on Pre-1900 Women’s Writing in my department; next year, I am assigned to teach it even though it was at the bottom of my list of preferences. If we no longer hire in the field of women’s writing (or does someone closer to the market know otherwise about jobs offered in this field?), who will teach women’s writing courses in the future? Are such courses a thing of the past?

      Katherine Binhammer
      University of Alberta

      promotion · teaching

      Promotion on the Basis of Teaching Excellence, Part 1: the package

      In a recent post, Tenured Radical argued that one way to reform tenure and promotion would be to make the process more transparent by breaking confidentiality. Hear hear! I’d settle for translucent. Hell, most days I think opaque would be an improvement.

      While my March to-do list is a little too full to add “full overhaul of tenure and promotion practices in the global university,” it’s in the spirit of TR’s call that I offer this post on how I put together a promotion package based on teaching excellence.

      Background: a few years ago, my university made it possible to apply for promotion to full professor on the basis of excellence in research and/or teaching (the italics mark the radical change). Here’s the wording from the Faculty Agreement:

      For promotion to professor, the staff member must demonstrate a strong record of achievement in teaching, research, and service, including excellence in teaching and/or research, or, in rare circumstances, a record of exceptional service.

      That was effective 2008, if memory serves, but to date no one in Arts has tried it.

      Readers, I’m going for it.

      Because I’m in the middle of a year-long process governed by confidentiality, a process that won’t conclude until 9 December 2011, there is a lot I can’t say. But in the hope that what I can say could prove useful, I thought I might offer a few loosely linked posts on this over the next little while. (Let me know if this is of interest to you, right?)

      The first challenge was trying to figure out what to send. Research is relatively easy: photocopy your articles, add the books, write a connect-the-dots narrative and send it off. But how do you get arm’s-length strangers to review teaching?

      Mindful that teaching is more than classroom practice, I put together a prose document of approximately16 single-spaced pages or 8000 words composed of the following:

      1. Intellectual commitments (most people would call this a teaching philosophy, but I was spooked by my friend Kevin’s argument that “teaching statements are bunk” so I call it intellectual commitments – to the field of cultural studies, postcolonialism and feminism) 
      2. Overview of teaching responsibilities (it’s important for reviewers to know what’s normal in your area/institution: classes of 400? a teaching load of 3 per term? do you teach a bunch of new courses or develop one over years and years?)
      3. Classroom teaching: approach, experience, experiments, goals, strategies (including course design, assignments and grading, projects with undergrads)
      4. Graduate supervision & mentorship (including award and placement info for PhD students and a complete list of all the supervisory committees I’ve served on)
      5. Contributions to the teaching of others (in the department, in the Faculty of Arts, in the university, in the profession)
      6. Scholarship on teaching and learning (research, grants, publications, presentations, adaptation of my materials).

      I supported that with the following:

      1. Course outlines: a selection from different levels, areas, and years
      2. Sample assignments and assessment of student work (NB not students’ own work, which I would find ethically suspect, but my word processed comments on essays)
      3. Complete run of bubble-sheet teaching scores (NB complete: I’m always suspicious of selective quantitative data)
      4. Excerpts from students’ verbal evaluations, chosen by my Chair
      5. Peer evaluations of teaching, including analysis of classroom practice, course materials, course management site, and graduate supervision
      6. Self-evaluations (we are required to produce a self-eval of each course: excellent discipline and very rewarding pedagogical strategy)
      7. Letters from grad students, solicited by my Chair
      8. Teaching award descriptions, criteria and application packages (to prove commitment to teaching excellence over a whole career, and not just at the point of applying for promotion)
      9. Teaching-related presentations or publications.

      That came to about 5cm of double-sided photocopies.

      Then the research dossier, truncated a little (no book reviews, no publications that aren’t peer reviewed, only tables of contents for books, etc) and prefaced by a narrative of approximately four single-spaced pages.

      And that’s the package, the physical representation of How I’ve Spent My Time as a Professor, bindered and sent off to – well, obviously, I don’t exactly know who! Which is weird, to say the least, but perhaps the topic of another post.

      academic reorganization · good things · mental health

      Fifteen minutes a day; or, what’s in your lunch bag?

      I’ve noticed that women, feminists, activists, and empathetic humans in general have a tendency to periodically feel responsible for the world. There are so many things that need solving, addressing, unpacking, intervening, and aid. While we can’t turn our eyes away from the hard work that has to be done on a local and global basis… sometimes it is useful and important to focus on the basics that keep us healthy, energetic, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit happy.

      March is a difficult month for those of us working in the Canadian academy. Reading week is long gone. Midterm exams and papers are piled up on desks waiting to be marked. Students are tired and stressed. Professors and administrators are tired and stressed. Any day now folks will start to hear the results of funding competitions and it may well still be snowing wherever you are. It can be easy to forget to take care of oneself. In that same vein, it can be strangely comforting to fall into a routine where your own needs fall right out of your line of vision. Or is this another case where it is just me? In a recent telephone conversation with my wise father (who is no stranger to stressful work environments) he said something that really resonated with me. “Make sure you take fifteen minutes a day for yourself,” he said. “No matter what, give yourself fifteen solid minutes a day just for you.” His reasoning was that it is nigh impossible to really take on tasks–big, small, or middling–if you’re running on empty.

      Hmm. Sounds easy, huh? It even sounds like advice I should already know to take. But where can one find the time? Well, in the name of self preservation, good will, and good nosh, I want to suggest that lunch might be one wee little space to carve out some time to refresh your spirit (or at least please your tum!)

      Frankly, I’m terrible at taking time for myself, even something as small as a lunch break seems like an indulgence. I eat hunkered over my computer or student papers trying desperately not to spill my food on either. And Aimée has written about how finding the time to pack a lunch can be emotionally and temporally taxing. So perhaps lunch is simply a state of mind–the resolution to take a quarter of an hour away from the computer, or perhaps at the computer reading a beautiful food blog or looking at other people’s lunches. Or maybe lunch can be time to get up from your desk and take a walk outside or visit with a friend.

      And perhaps, if you’re lucky, lunch can be about unpacking something special you’ve made/bought for yourself. My dear friend M. writes a terribly witty blog about the importance–and challenge–of packing a lunch. She even offers some suggestions for easy lunches on the go. If you like to dabble in cooking (gosh, I do) but feel pressed for time (gosh, I do) I have to recommend the wonderful recipes over at the Post Punk Kitchen. They are swift, fresh, and usually make more than enough to save pretty leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

      Usually my noontime fare is unpacked at 2pm between lectures and gobbled down between student meetings, but this week I’m going to try to carve out a little more time for myself, and lunch will be my excuse.

      Take care of yourselves, dear readers, and don’t forget to take a break! Maybe you can even take a quarter of an hour to share lunchtime with a colleague. Oh yes, and if you have a moment, let me know what you’re eating. I like reading about food almost as much as I like ingesting it.