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Posts Tagged ‘Memoirs of a SLACer’

A recent discussion on campus alerted me to the fact that mentoring has changed. Models with a single assigned mentor (or anti-mentor) are no longer preferred. Instead, everybody should have lots of mentoring relationships in which all partners mutually benefit. The result is “mutual mentoring.” According to the NEA’s summary, mutual mentoring involves:

  • mentoring partnerships that include a wide variety of individuals—peers, near peers, tenured faculty, chairs, administrators, librarians, students, and others;
  • mentoring approaches that accommodate the partners’ personal, cultural, and professional preferences for contact (e.g., one-on-one, small group, team, and/or online);
  • partnerships that focus on specific areas of experience and expertise, rather than generalized, “one-size-fits-all” knowledge;
  • a reciprocity of benefits between the person traditionally known as the “protégé” and the person traditionally known as the “mentor;” and
  • perhaps most importantly, new and under-represented faculty members who are not seen or treated solely as the recipients of mentoring, but as the primary agents of their own career development.

All of these things sound great! Who will be arranging these relationships for me?

That, apparently, is my responsibility. Here are “some good first steps to create a Mutual Mentoring network of your own”:

  • If your department already has a formal mentoring program in place, take advantage of it, but keep in mind that the mentor chosen for you, or by you, as part of this program should not be your only source of professional support.
  • Ask some key colleagues whom they think you should approach about your specific subjects of interest. Keep in mind that there are many different ways that you can “click” with a mentoring partner. Who teaches classes similar in size to yours? Who uses a particular classroom technology that you’re interested in adopting? Who seems like the best overall personality match?
  • Identify near peers (colleagues who are close to your career level). Near peers can be particularly valuable because their experiences as newcomers are still reasonably fresh. Helpful “global” questions to ask near peers include: What do you wish you would have known when you first arrived? What is the most valuable thing you’ve done in support of your teaching?
  • Look for mentoring partners outside the faculty ranks. A talented, tech-savvy student may help you navigate a new class management system, while a librarian specializing in your discipline may be able to recommend hard-to-find resources.

I don’t think that new faculty should shirk the responsibility of forming networks and I also recognize that some of these are relationships that many people already have being recast as mentoring, but there also seems to be a disconnect between people saying “we’ve recognized that the best way to be successful here is to meet a lot of people inside and outside of the institution who can help you in different areas” and following that up with, “good luck finding them!” In an ideal world, experienced faculty would reach out to new faculty (who are busy enough juggling teaching, service, and research), not the other way around. I guess that all junior faculty are in charge of changing the culture now.


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For your viewing pleasure, and in light of the response to her video for “Formation” and Super Bowl appearance (backlash to which, according to one Fox News writer, “continues to grow”), here is Saturday Night Live’s brilliant response, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black”:

 

Keep in mind that if your workplace is freaking out over the realization that Beyoncé is, and has always been, black, you might need to put on some Adele to sooth them:

 

Update: Here is a more detailed discussion from Doug Hartmann.


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I don’t even know what to say about this, other than to wonder about the motivations of the board of trustees and that I’m fairly certain that Newman has “caused considerable damage” to the University through the creation of this climate of fear. So much for the protections of tenure.

Here is a story about the situation from Inside Higher Ed (this is the one I’ve seen most frequently on Facebook) as well as one from the Washington Post.

Update: The fired faculty members have received offers of reinstatement and the faculty as a whole has called for Newman to resign by Monday morning.


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Many believe that Super Bowl 50 will come down to which team scores points while stopping the opposing team from scoring points.

Whether you want to understand football sociologically or want to ignore it altogether here are some links to help:

Enjoy the game (or don’t)!

Image from VectorBelly.


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Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 9.23.26 AMLink: https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/695759776752496640


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Continuing on the topic of student conceptions of research, another issue I have encountered as students conduct literature reviews is the belief that Jstor is the first and last place to look for academic research. This belief seems to be less prevalent at my current institution than my previous one, but many of my past students never even considered looking for sources outside of Jstor due to the convenience of full-text articles.

One problem with this is the fact that Jstor only provides results from the journals in its own collection, artificially limiting the resources that students have available to them to whatever Jstor has been able to negotiate for. (I wonder if students would be equally willing to limit their movie viewing to those that are available for streaming on Netflix, which has similar convenience and limitations.) The second problem is that even when Jstor does include a particular journal, access to that journal is often limited by a “moving wall” of three to five years. There are many topics for which recent publications contain important insights that were overlooked in the past but that students using Jstor would not have access to for several years (I was once accused of not knowing the literature in a particular area because I had not cited an article published a month or so before I submitted a paper to a journal!).

These issues can cause problems but are not lethal to a student’s chances of doing well. A much worse (though much less frequent) problem I’ve had when students use Jstor is that they think of Jstor as the source of the articles they are using. In the minds of some students, they are reading articles from Jstor rather than from The American Review of Criminal Awkwardness because that is where they got their articles. These rare students don’t realize that Jstor is like a shelf holding specific issues of specific journals rather than a publisher of academic information.

As professors, we can begin to address these issues with our students but the ASA citation guidelines can also help by not instructing students to include web addresses for PDFs that they downloaded from online databases. It is time to recognize that the database through which you access a source is not nearly as important as the original source of the source! (A source is a source, of course, of course…)


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When discussing research methods, there are a number of barriers to overcome in the ways that my students think about research. One is the frequent use of the word “experiment” as a generic term for “study.” Although that is annoying, and some students still do it after a semester of methods training, I’ve found that it is even more difficult to reconcile students’ various uses of the term “research.”

In high school and some college departments, a research paper is one in which you combine information from several sources into a single paper. In this context, “research” consists of the gathering of sources, likely from Jstor and other electronic databases. Within sociology, I think that these papers are better conceptualized as literature reviews or review papers. In contrast to my students, I think of research as the collection and analysis of data, though even this is complicated by the fact that many sociologists who use existing surveys will never collect their own data.

Due to this terminological confusion, there must be at least a few students who enroll in research methods courses wondering how many ways there are to search Jstor and why they have to spend an entire semester learning to do so. Discovering that they will spend a semester discussing ways to collect and analyze data must be a shock!


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Seven* years ago, having accepted a tenure-track job offer and realizing that my ability to give graduate students advice would be greatly diminished by working at a small liberal arts college, I started this blog by bragging about my job market success. Over the years, some things have changed (I finished my dissertation, started my first job, then started my second; I started a corresponding Facebook page) and some things have not (I still use the same now-ancient theme for the site, I still occasionally think I’m clever, I still like giving people advice).

As I said on the site’s fifth birthday, I originally thought that five regular readers would make writing this worthwhile. Now, I’m closing in on 100,000 total views. (Don’t scoff. Not everybody can be like Conditionally Accepted with their hundreds of thousands of views and getting called up to the big leagues!) Even though I’m not writing about grad school and the academic job market nearly as much these days, I hope that people are still finding my career musings worthwhile. Since WordPress now distinguishes between “visits” and “views,” once in a while I will notice that somebody new has discovered the site because the daily “visits” will remain constant while the “views” climb, which is always nice.

When the blog was three years old I posted lists of the most popular posts and my favorites. (Those lists of favorites still make up the “good places to start” section of the blog – maybe I should update that…) It is harder to remember which posts were my favorites now that I’ve written over 700 of them, but the post that brings people here in the most ironic fashion is probably the one in which I talked about Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs, quoting one of the twitter responses in the title. Over the years I have seen quite a few people arriving at the blog by searching for the title of that post, but I don’t think that an analysis of racism is what they’re typically expecting to find. Take that, racists!

In other news, today Mattel announced that Barbie now comes in three body types: petite, tall, and curvy. I have no doubt that Mattel purposefully shared this news on my blog anniversary in an attempt to bury it (like when companies release bad news on Fridays). Clearly, the two posts I’ve written comparing Barbie to Lammily and their nearly 400 combined views are the reason for this change. Take that, Mattel!

Given the huge effect my blog is having on racists and toy manufacturers, it is clear that similar influence on sexists, classists, and college administrators is not far behind. Yes, I think it is safe to say that my work here is nearly complete. Maybe this will be my last post!

*If Prince didn’t work so hard to keep his songs off of the internet, I would put a link to the song “Seven” here.


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The other day I shared Terry McGlynn’s recent post at Small Pond Science, “The tyranny of the 9-month position,on Facebook, wondering if those outside of the sciences would feel the same way. Like most full-time faculty, I’ve been on nine or 10-month contracts since starting my first tenure-track job but, perhaps unlike my colleagues in the sciences, haven’t often given it much thought. Like me, my colleagues in the sciences are expected to get much of their research done in the summer. Unlike me, however, they are also expected to supervise student research that ties them to their current location even if their need for lab equipment does not. This sort of unpaid summer supervision is essentially a requirement for tenure. For me, working with students would look good but would likely also slow me down, so I am able to choose to do this some years and not to do it other years.

Because of the problems McGlynn details that are associated with unpaid summer work, it seems that colleges and universities would be tempted to switch to 12-month contracts. Not, mind you, that they would suddenly give everybody a 33% salary increase, but that they would admit that the nine-month contracts of the past were bullshit and align the contract period with reality. This seems like a simple fix. Change the terminology to reflect what people have been doing anyway and everybody should be happy, right?

Probably not.

At my previous institution, where I had a 10-month contract, the Provost liked to remind faculty that they were actually under contract for the first half of June and that, as a result, it was not unreasonable to require attendance at on-campus meetings after the spring semester had ended. Faculty, especially those outside of the sciences (who were going to be there anyway), did not like being told where they needed to be while completing their summer work (even if they would typically have been doing their summer work on campus) because time without students is sacred.

Imagine this alternate sequence of events:

  • Faculty in the sciences who are expected to do unpaid work in the summer call for more pay or at least a 12-month contract that recognizes their summer work as part of their typical duties. A school certainly isn’t going to offer 33% of one’s regular salary for the summer months and isn’t going to give the scientists different contracts than everybody else (making their pay look artificially lower) so, instead, changes everybody to 12-month contracts. Things continue as normal for a few years, with scientists staying on campus for their summer work and everybody else working from home, working from other locations, or just not working.
  • Eventually, the millionaires on the Board of Trustees start to wonder why faculty are receiving 12 months of pay for nine months of work and the administration decides to formalize summer workloads, requiring proof of “scholarly progress” to remain in good standing. The administration also realizes, though, that more summer courses would increase revenue and offers these to faculty in lieu of scholarly progress. With all faculty on 12-month contracts and many faculty teaching in the summer, the administration begins requiring committees to meet in the summer as well to deal with the issues raised by the now 12-month academic year.
  • The faculty complain. The millionaires on the Board of Trustees tell the faculty that these moves are necessary to remain competitive in a challenging economy and that since faculty are under contract they should be on campus working like those in other industries. The millionaires on the Board of Trustees spend their summers in Europe, “working” remotely, as faculty used to, but do not recognize the irony of their situation.
  • Life has not changed for the scientists, but it has become appreciably worse for the rest of the faculty. The rest of the faculty blame the scientists for ruining their lives. The air conditioning does not work correctly in any campus building except the administration building.

I am sure that this will eventually happen, probably everywhere and maybe with less blame for scientists. In the meantime, however, the desire to maintain the current academic calendar and refusal to be required to attend committee meetings in the summer among non-scientists likely prevents the change to a 12-month contract from even being thought of at most institutions. I guess I had better enjoy my nine-month contracts while they last!


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A long time ago in the Milky Way galaxy, Star Wars came out and prominently featured one woman with a lot of lines and… basically no other notable women. In December, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens came out and prominently featured another woman with a lot of lines and… a few other women. There was a crucial difference between the prominent women in each of these movies, though. While Leia in Star Wars was undoubtedly a main character, the movie was centered on her brother, Luke, to the extent that at one point Leia is rescued by men like another princess would be (repeatedly) starting a few years later. The Force Awakens, however, undoubtedly centers on Rey.

That Rey was a major (if not the major) character was not surprising to anybody who followed the early rumors about the movie, but it might have been surprising to anybody who purchased some of the toys that came out before the movie was released. In response to her absence from a Star Wars Monopoly game, Hasbro claimed that it was intended to “avoid spoilers.” Even J. J. Abrams, the movie’s director, called her absence “preposterous,” noting sarcastically that “It doesn’t quite make sense why she wouldn’t be there. She’s somewhat important in the story.” An updated version of the game will feature Rey, but the situation also prompted some to wonder what toys for other movies would look like with their starring women removed. (Saturday Night Live‘s recent sketch about whites receiving awards in movies about blacks is also reminiscent of this.)

Why is this important? Many have praised Rey for being a feminist hero but not a “female hero,” meaning that she gets to do the same things that a male hero would do. (Not surprisingly, there have also been some complaints.) Rey is obviously important to young girls but I also like Mike Adamick’s argument that Rey is the hero that young boys need. As Adamick states, “She’s a role model for the boys in front of me — and the millions like them — who continue to grow up under a steady drip drip drip of societal sexism that says even fictionalized female heroes are unbelievable, let alone that our real life heroes shouldn’t be paid as much as their male counterparts or be in control of their own bodies.” Rey contradicts these ideas and we need more characters like her.

I should note that although Hasbro doesn’t seem to get this, at least the creators of a few commercials for Disney (the company that now owns the Star Wars franchise) and Toys ‘R Us do:

 

I guess that companies hear us most loudly when we speak up for women’s representation with our wallets.


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