Pearls of Wisdom–The Blog

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“You tell the truth, you tell it well. In the crowded and fetid swamp that is the job market, that is oxygen.” – a reader

If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate.

At The Professor Is In, we have a particular commitment to supporting Black and Indigenous women in the academy. This is a core company mission. If you are a member of these communities, and finances are an issue in working with us, please get in touch to discuss possible arrangements.

A brief glossary of terms used in blog posts:

  • VAP – Visiting Assistant Professor
  • NTT – Non-Tenure Track
  • TT – Tenure Track
  • SLAC – Small Liberal Arts College
  • HBCU – Historically Black College or University
  • PWI – Predominantly White Institution
  • ABD – All But Dissertation (the stage where courses and exams are done and only the diss needs to be written and defended)
  • URM – Underrepresented Minority
  • EID – Equity, Inclusion and Diversity


The Unraveling of America and Academic Denial

A little story:


A couple months ago I was working with a European negotiating client who had a TT job offer in Texas. He had a secure position in Europe and would be leaving it to come here.


As part of the NA work I told him:

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask you to pause and seriously reconsider taking this job in the US, in Texas. It’s not an elite institution or a particularly great offer, and do you understand that you’re moving into a country that is, frankly, a shitshow. And you’re moving AWAY from a secure position in a functional country to do it. Do you understand how bad things are here?”

And then I sketched some facts and figures related to the pandemic, our healthcare levels, MAGA realities, guns in Texas, etc., and sent a link to some news story showing our emergent (at the time) collapse.


This client ended up throwing a fit, demanding a full refund for the work I did with him. He claimed I was “unprofessional” and “condescending” and….best of all… “demotivating.”


He wouldn’t take any of my offered resolutions, and Paypal is such that sellers rarely can win these cases even when we provide complete documentation of the services provided. So I had to give a refund.


This grates on me to this day, and I periodically send this client news stories of the accelerating collapse of the US, and Texas in particular, as COVID ravages us and exposes the deep, deep dysfunctions of American society, not just around health care, but also toxic individualism, MAGA paranoia, violent racism, and the Trump admin’s criminal neglect.


He never responds. I imagine he has me blocked. But I’m petty enough right now that I keep sending them.


I’ll be honest, it grates. There was no greater service I could give a negotiating client right now than to make sure they know JUST HOW BAD THINGS ARE IN THIS COUNTRY.

And what grates more is: I saw this EARLY. I gave him ADVANCE WARNING. Well before things devolved to where they are now. The pandemic had barely started. The Feds were not even in the streets yet. BUT I SAW WHAT WAS IN THE AIR; I SAW WHAT WAS COMING. And I shared what I saw with my client.

But denial and exceptionalism prevailed.

Today I woke up and read this article from Rolling Stone, The Collapse of America, by anthropologist Wade Davis, and thought of this client yet again. Of course I mailed it to him. It speaks from the broad, comparative scope that Anthropology does best.

The American cult of the individual denies not just community but the very idea of society. No one owes anything to anyone. All must be prepared to fight for everything: education, shelter, food, medical care. What every prosperous and successful democracy deems to be fundamental rights — universal health care, equal access to quality public education, a social safety net for the weak, elderly, and infirmed — America dismisses as socialist indulgences, as if so many signs of weakness.

How can the rest of the world expect America to lead on global threats — climate change, the extinction crisis, pandemics — when the country no longer has a sense of benign purpose, or collective well-being, even within its own national community? Flag-wrapped patriotism is no substitute for compassion; anger and hostility no match for love. Those who flock to beaches, bars, and political rallies, putting their fellow citizens at risk, are not exercising freedom; they are displaying, as one commentator has noted, the weakness of a people who lack both the stoicism to endure the pandemic and the fortitude to defeat it. Leading their charge is Donald Trump, a bone spur warrior, a liar and a fraud, a grotesque caricature of a strong man, with the backbone of a bully.

Odious as he may be, Trump is less the cause of America’s decline than a product of its descent. As they stare into the mirror and perceive only the myth of their exceptionalism, Americans remain almost bizarrely incapable of seeing what has actually become of their country. The republic that defined the free flow of information as the life blood of democracy, today ranks 45th among nations when it comes to press freedom. In a land that once welcomed the huddled masses of the world, more people today favor building a wall along the southern border than supporting health care and protection for the undocumented mothers and children arriving in desperation at its doors. In a complete abandonment of the collective good, U.S. laws define freedom as an individual’s inalienable right to own a personal arsenal of weaponry, a natural entitlement that trumps even the safety of children; in the past decade alone 346 American students and teachers have been shot on school grounds.

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It won’t make any difference. Denial is woven into the fibers of academia, and it won’t budge just a mere matter of national collapse.

For the rest of you: please don’t turn away your eyes. Make your choices this year based on reality, not fantasy, even if your advisors or peers are pushing fantasy.

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The Professor Is In now offers Going Postac resources on an ongoing basis as we confront this crisis. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is my Going Postac In a Pandemic webinar. Find it here:

GOING POSTAC IN A PANDEMIC: MOVING ON WITH A PHD IN A TIME OF STRESS

Thursday is my newly expanded Starting Your Own Consulting (or Other Small) Business. Use code WEBZONE10 for 10% off.

STARTING YOUR OWN SMALL CONSULTING (OR OTHER) SMALL BUSINESS.

If you’re reading this later, know that the recording is available here on the Recordings page:

RECORDINGS PAGE

And…. everyone: stay safe, stay angry, and stay focused on what’s real. As painful as it is, we need to stop staring into the myth of US exceptionalism… in academia as well.

Hemostasis – #BLM Guest Post by Tanisha Clark

Today’s post is by Tanisha Clark.

Tanisha Clark is pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Tanisha has an interest in pediatric psychology, specifically the assessment and treatment of children with development disabilities. She is also the Social Justice Fellow at Children’s Health Dallas Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence, where she studies the impact of trauma-informed care training on medical and allied health students. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Spelman College and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Southern Methodist University.

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The world stood still just long enough to hear the roar of our pain. We grimaced in silence and wondered if we had finally shed enough BLOOD to warrant legitimacy. We awakened to a sea of corporations regretting their errors. Companies that spent millions to research the rates at which marketing e-mails are opened could not have possibly had the resources or the insight to understand a day sooner. Validation, gratitude, and accomplishment swelled in the eyes of those newly aware; awakened to another task to be appropriated and fixed. 

Didn’t they see, we were still BLEEDING?

You see, the moment they woke up was simply that, a moment in time, and if this moment does not produce the momentum to change the way that power is exchanged, we will forever be BLEEDING. BLEEDING out boys and girls that should have been allowed to be children, BLEEDING out bright minds and powerful voices that deserved an opportunity to be cisterns from which our people drink wisdom. Still mourning ancestors, we will never know, on a mantle of incomplete family trees.  Consistently piecing together our identities and forever unlearning the names first branded into our skin now seared into our psyche—imposters in a stolen land, ironically built by our own hands. A place where uttering the truth is blasphemous to a system that demands applause for legalizing our existence. 

We have been BLEEDING for over 400 years.

Slowly but onward we have trudged, in Assata Shakur’s words, “A little slower. And a lot more deadly.” With a resolve to annihilate the roots of oppression and hold up a mirror to the world as we profess, “The crime lies in the fabric of this capitalist society, stitched so intentionally with racist ideologies.” Contrary to your narratives, it is not my Black skin, that has been stripped of its roots and admonished to professionally “blend-in.” Yet, as we cover our wounds and mask ourselves to fit in, we are still BLEEDING. With every passing aggression, though micro in size, but insidiously eroding with time, 

We breathe and BLEED until we can do neither. 

“Save yourselves!” the masses once cried. But how can a world with unskilled hands, inept in the art of healing, ask the hemorrhaging to rescue themselves? The miracle is that, while BLEEDING, we’ve produced greatness under the most uncomfortable of circumstances. Yet, you’ve asked us to silence corporate cries that give voice to our pain, because it wouldn’t be fair to make others feel uncomfortable. Instead, we should be optimistic and as malleable as sand, while we simultaneously stand, in a system built with a concrete resolve to ensure that we will forever BLEED. Why do our faces produce such discomfort? Why does our equality make you fret so that you inflict more wounds, thinking perhaps we won’t appear to stand quite as tall as you? Normalizing our degradation in the form of mass incarceration, substandard housing, oppressive legislation, and failing schools.

Then you, yes you, ask us to compete while we are still BLEEDING…

If you are reading this know, we have paid in BLOOD for what was given to some at birth. We have screamed loudly for rights handed delicately to those with power and privilege as a rite of passage. Yet still, we are the most resilient of forces, and we will not be deterred. Our healing cannot be wrought simply by the condolences in your statements, misaligned gestures, and jargon filled words. So, the next time you feel accomplished after posting a hashtag know that I cannot lift my hands to applaud you, because I am applying pressure to my own open, BLEEDING, wounds. 

Hashtags cannot stop hemorrhaging, but ask yourself what your hands can do…

Misogynoir and Other Racist Aggressions in the Ivory Tower: An Open Letter – #BLM Guest Post

Muna-Udbi Ali is an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminology and Justice Studies at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). Before joining CSUSM, Ali worked as a Visiting Faculty in Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology (SSWA) at Christopher Newport University. Trained as an interdisciplinary scholar, her primary research interests include diverse fields such as Black studies, critical race studies, postcolonial studies, Black feminist studies, criminology, transnational feminism, queer studies, public pedagogy, and public policy. 

Outside of academia, Dr. Ali is a community worker, curriculum and policy consultant, researcher, and anti-oppression educator. She has worked in education and curriculum development in Canada, US, Kenya, and Somalia.

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An Open Letter to My Colleagues

Dear colleagues:

I have been a professor for two years at two public institutions in the United States. Although all academic institutions are guilty of pushing out Black faculty, staff, and students, being the only Black female faculty in a white department at a predominantly white institution (PWI) – Christopher Newport University (CNU) – was a soul-sucking, toxic environment, that inevitably pushed me out, as it has others due to deeply entrenched and institutionalized misogynoir. White and non-Black people of colour (NBPOC) colleagues have consistently pathologized my experiences, told me how to feel, and policed and disciplined me for speaking up against anti-Black racism.

I love my job, but critically engaging my white and NBPOC colleagues has taken a huge psychological, emotional, physical, and professional toll on me. No matter what I say or do my Blackness is a threat to them. At CNU, a colleague told me on multiple occasions that “[the department] doesn’t need me” and another, that I was “too confident.”  I would sit in faculty meetings listening to white faculty debate whether my position at the university, as a critical Black feminist sociologist, was needed. This minimizing behaviour led to me to question my validity as a scholar.

It compelled me to leave the institution earlier than expected. 

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about academics and the decline in reflexivity that happens after one receives a doctorate. Sometimes it seems as if ego, dogma, and entitlement accompany the doctorate title. The Ph.D. next to one’s name does not work as a supernatural force field impervious to external values or critiques. Yet asking academics for accountability is like getting blood from a stone–it’s impossible. Imagine being a queer Black Muslim woman starting her first full-time academic position at a PWI in a new country and challenging the motives of ‘seasoned academics.’ I was met with so much racist patronizing and gaslighting behaviour that I was pushed out. 

I accepted a two-year position at CNU as visiting faculty in Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology (SSWA) given the department’s history of promoting contingent internal candidates for tenure track lines, and the high likelihood of a tenure track search in the very near future for a scholar whose areas of expertise matched my own. Such promise was quickly dismissed within the first five-months of my start date. By January of my first year, I was informally told that there was no future for me at CNU. I spent countless department meetings at CNU having the worth of my position in the university discussed and debated in front of me. I was pushed out by a department that prioritized disciplinary purity over my livelihood and over a commitment to racial justice. I was pushed out by a department that weaponized academic pedigree, rather than challenging institutional barriers experienced by all Black people in the academy. I was pushed out by a department that thought their acts were devoid of anti-Black racism or any discriminatory practices because they claimed to understand relations of power and racism as sociologists and anthropologists.  Every time I questioned these departmental debates, I was told “it’s not personal” or “we’re concerned about departmental needs and institutional fits.”  This is personal. These microaggressions are indicative of a larger institutional problem of anti-Black racism at CNU and in the SSWA Department. 

A few simple questions prove this point. How many Black faculty has the department (or university) employed or promoted? What is the retention rate of Black faculty? What are the reasons for Black faculty’s departure? We don’t just leave good jobs, we are PUSHED OUT by white faculty, and administration. The pushing out of Black faculty is not an individual issue, it is a systemic issue that CNU faculty needs to address.

     Reading about racism from a textbook does not mean you understand the experience. The fact that very few questioned the removal of their only Black female colleague demonstrates a lack of understanding and care. The revolving door of token faculty of colour, and the silence around it, needs to be addressed by the department. SSWA is complicit in the lack of continuous and consistent Black mentorship for Black students. What does it mean for Black students when the only other Black faces they see on campus is in service and support work? This university has a long history of systemic and institutionalized racism at every level and requires immediate actions. 

     Academics love studying Black folks, Black culture, and Black ideas. But the minute they engage with Black people, even as fellow colleagues, the first challenge is met with weaponized white fragility that portrays them as victims. So many believe that they cannot be racist because they have spent their life studying and writing about structures and systems of oppression and racism. But theorizing and studying racism or studying communities of colour does not mean you are anti-racist. Anti-racism is a verb. It requires constant re-education and unlearning. That means feeling uncomfortable sometimes. Instead of reacting, it means sitting back and leaning into that discomfort. Uncomfortable conversations are part of our collective growth. It is not possible to be both anti-racist and conflict-avoidant. 

This moment is saturated with disingenuous Black solidarity, empty gestures, cavalier hashtags, and meaningless statements. The time has come for action. Have you contributed to making the university or department a hostile space for BIPOC faculty and students? How will CNU make sure that Black people are empowered and represented in its curricula, departmental meetings, and university committees? How is CNU committed to upending the systemic problems of racism and whiteness in SSWA and all departments? How will SSWA be changing curricula to engage critical conversations on racism? How will SSWA integrate more academics of colour into syllabi? How will SSWA bring an equity and anti-racist framework to hiring policies and practices? How will CNU and SSWA address the push-out of Black faculty and students? How will SSWA ensure that white supremacist logics are confronted and challenged in department meetings? Hire Black faculty in tenure track positions, NOT adjunct or lecturer positions. Stop using the language of ‘disciplinary fit’ to weed out Black candidates from interdisciplinary programs. Stop hiring white folks who study Black people. Stop using white fragility and literal white tears to get your way at faculty meetings. Without engaging with these questions and making radical changes from the top and at departmental levels, CNU is not a safe place for academics and students of colour.

SSWA just hired two more white faculty to start in Fall 2020. As a queer Black Muslim African woman, it is not lost on me that the replacement for my position is a white cis-man who studies African LGBTIQ+ people. Without engaging these questions, the department will continue to replicate its history of pushing out faculty members of colour, like so many departments across the country. Do Black lives actually matter to you? Ask yourself this question before using empty gestures on your social media or performative acts of anti-racism with #BlackLivesMatter or images of you at protests. Uprisings for racial justice are not a branding exercise. 

We are in the midst of a crucial socio-political moment to lobby for anti-racist and social justice-based structural changes at all universities and colleges across the country. I want my experiences to compel you, as faculty, to understand that it’s never too late to do better and be better. 

Sincerely,

Muna-Udbi Ali, Ph.D. 

#Dispatches: COVID Impacts by Career Level, Part II ~ NTT/Adjuncts/VAP

#Dispatches From the Frontlines Monday series crowdsources questions to get a broad indication of how our readers are coping with various challenges.

The question right now: How has COVID impacted your career? Due to the massive number of responses, I will be dividing responses by career level.

Last week I began with Assistant Professors. Today I share responses by NTT/Adjuncts/VAP next week. Tenured faculty and then Grad students and postdocs will follow.

Bolding added for emphasis. I want to draw your attention to the fact that only cis-gender white men report the pandemic having no negative impact on them financially.

New #Dispatches Question will be opened for responses in a few weeks’ time.

NOTE: Please remember that we invite respondents to list their own identifying details. We mostly do not edit these. Respondents share what THEY feel is significant about their identity.

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I was actively looking for the past two years for a TT position after a two year postdoc. I am in a STEM field, where 2020 was promising to be a good year – until March. I currently have a staff scientist position which I was considering to leave for another postdoc – now with the current job market outlooks/economy, I will switch to get the portfolio for a data scientist and try my luck in industry. It doesn’t seem to be a good idea to wait any longer to get a position in academia. [Staff Scientist, Stem, 32, female, caucasian, not married]

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There is no long term – the immediate is all there is. Graduated in December and moved cross country so we could be close to partner’s family in wake of tragic death of a parent. Partner is helping with family business triage. Managed to get a Visiting instructor position at the local college and was planning to go on the market full force this summer/fall pre pandemic. Now, my current institution has announced an upcoming budged deficit in the double digit millions, and the emails we are getting from administration are not inspiring a lot of confidence in those of us on the NTT. Started searching, miracle of miracles found three very late active TT searches and threw job materials together in about 10 days. So the planning is three-pronged-  1) Waiting to hear back, practicing interview strategies. 2) strengthening job documents for hoped-for searches in the fall (unlikely) and planning for fall courses in my current position that might not exist and 3) googling “how to turn CV into resume” and other alt ac resources. [NTT, Social Sciences, White female, 26, married, cis]

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I had already been looking outside of academia for jobs and had just decided (for real this time) that I wasn’t going to get sucked into another adjunct position in hopes of a magical TT job when…this happened. All the jobs I was applying to evaporated, and new listings have been sparse. I’ve been trying to pick up new skills (you know, with all that free quarantine time I have) but between working from home and finishing up my current adjunct job I’m exhausted. On the flip side, working from home has eliminated a huge amount of anxiety around getting to places on time, traveling, switching work environments, etc. I’m thinking I’ll pursue more remote jobs after this. Silver lining? [Ac-adjacent employee and adjunct faculty, Humanities, 35 y/o white single female]

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I have been diligently trying to secure either an academic or museum position (I am an art historian) for seven years now and hobbling along with pieced-together adjunct positions and a mostly unsuccessful freelance grant-writing business I do not have enough time to make profitable. Finally, after years of searching and being frightened about money and health insurance (I have benefits now through my state university lectureship and do not want to lose it) I had more interviews this AY than ever before and 4 final round interviews. My partner had a good offer from a state university, and I had teaching, non-profit, and museum gigs lined-up in the same city. We were preparing to move from our smallish town (coastal CA) to a large city (also in CA) in June. Then the virus came, her job offer was rescinded as the position was canceled (she is a studio artist), she lost her teaching job (still has a low-paid remote customer service job, thank god), and my opportunities faded as museums are closed and the universities’ plans for next year are uncertain. I am now praying I get rehired by the state school where I am happily teaching now so we won’t lose our health insurance — or one of the 3 searches I am still in that have not been canceled can be successful. And I am still applying for whatever jobs that work for me appear. Since 2012 I have applied to over 400 academic and museum positions nationwide. I have already seriously considered other paths, including the single-subject credential, the non-profit/lobbying sector, or even a JD — but I already have 2 MAs and a PhD, 15 years of teaching experience, 5 years of museum experience (all in adjunct positions, internships, and fellowships), and a terrifyingly high student loan balance. I have never had a job I enjoyed more than teaching/research/academic work. My parents are retired professors (state college) and I grew up around public higher-ed — I know what I am getting myself into (in a TT position, if I ever get one). But I have not made more than $30k/year for more than ten years. I desperately need more income, but hope I can at least maintain what I am getting now plus my benefits. I am prepared to be as flexible as I need to be in order to adapt and survive, however.[NTT, Arts/Music/Theater, Straight white male, 45, domestic partner, previously married, no children, six-figure student loan debt]

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No immediate financial consequences, and I have a job for the next academic year. Very concerned about career prospects beyond that. [NTT, Social Sciences, White, cisgender female, age 34, in long-term heterosexual relationship.]

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It’s devastated me financially. All searches I was a part of were frozen or cancelled (including for fellowships and post docs). I’m working a survival job way outside of my field to make ends meet and I’m scared that will negatively impact my ability to get a job in the future (even for alt-ac positions). I am lucky my partner has stable employment, but that only lasts a few more months and then we are going to have to live off of savings and my survival job if nothing comes along. [On the market, Humanities, 28/white/cisgender hetero woman/engaged]

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I have lost all my work. I usually teach 8-10 courses a year, but after the end of the spring semester my summer and autumn courses are all cancelled. Until US borders with Europe reopen that likely won’t change. If I wasn’t lucky enough that my husband works for a big corporation I would be looking at homelessness right now.  [NTT, Humanities, Age 40, white, married, adjunct since 2008, work in Study Abroad institutions in Europe]

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I’ve been fortunate to keep my job without it affecting me financially. If anything, I’ve been saving money by not going out.  [NTT, Humanities, Male, late 30s, not married, heterosexual]

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I am now unemployed, as my one-year position ended and positions for my interviews & pending applications were cancelled. [NTT, Humanities, 35, white, cis female, straight, single]

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I’m not on a contract, as in a contract is issued every year, but I am on a contract as in I may not be renewed if the administration chooses that. I am currently on the schedule for the fall semester but I have no idea how that will look if enrollments aren’t as expected. My chair has assured me that I will be treated like all other faculty, but I am not confident in these words due to my status. It seems that if a department had to make cuts, then they would not want to cut TT folks since those are thought to be the prized faculty. I say thought to be because I know that in some cases, like my own case, NTT faculty are real workhorses of a department providing the bulk of undergraduate instruction and service. So, I remain skeptical about the longevity of my position. If my position does get eliminated, then there is no where else for me to work in my current town because it is a large college town. My partner works in my same department as the target, TT hire and we know his position is likely not going to be affected. However, this leaves us in an interesting place as a couple because we won’t really like our reduction in income should one position get eliminated. So, we would have no option that to just look for positions elsewhere due to that income reduction without the possibility of finding other decent work in our current town.

We didn’t really anticipate having to deal with this issue because both of us seemed like we were in relatively safe positions prior to the pandemic. Our department didn’t have significant budget concerns and our student numbers were increasing.[NTT, Social Sciences, White cisgender woman with a terminal degree and a full-time, NTT spousal hire. Weirdly in a leadership position directing an undergraduate program though NTT.]

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You’re having to figure out living for around $30,000 combined in case I have to give my resignation at my job. We would be at 60 if both of us were totally employed in our current positions. My university has gone back and forth about face-to-face, and I am high risk. I will not return to the classroom if it is face to face. Medical bills are too much for what I am paid, and that is assuming a positive prognosis. Is a heavily conservative area, is unlikely that students will wear mask of their own accord.[Non Tenure Track Lecturer, Communication, Cis, Married, white underemployed woman]

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Proliferation of adjunct jobs. Low wages for TT. Find work outside academia. Forget private school. Age discrimination is real. It is not you. [NTT, Arts/Music/Theater, 55; female; trad male discipline]

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Fortunately, COVID has had no effect on my finances so far. I taught an overload every semester last year as well as a winter and summer course. From that, I made close to $20K on top of my usual base salary. I fully recognize that this makes me incredibly privileged (and it’s fortuitous, because I usually don’t teach overloads but accepted the extra teaching months before the pandemic). My university will have furloughs this academic year and there’s no guarantee that my job will be safe after Spring 2021, so I’m putting all of the extra money into my emergency savings fund.  [NTT, Social Sciences, I am a white man in my mid-30s who identifies as gay. I am in a full-time NTT line at a Research 1 university.]

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I have freelanced and worked adjunct consistently for the past four years. I landed a full-time visiting position in my field this past year. Due to COVID, my university has eliminated ALL visiting faculty with a possible offer of adjunct work, as a ‘replacement’.  The university is still in discussion with the teachers union to determine the full-time faculty cuts for the Fall semester. It is necessary to make 25% cuts in all departments, and therefore, likely my husband (in his 1st year of tenure track job) will also be reduced to adjunct.  Due to COVID, there are no jobs in our field as freelancers to make up the difference in pay. If we both work full time for adjunct pay without benefits, we will likely need to move in with our parents by the end of the year. COVID and the lack of financial support for higher education from both the federal and state governments, has not only eliminated our jobs, but killed any chance at paying off student debt, starting retirement savings, and perhaps eradicated our future career track in both performance and education.[Visiting Assistant Professor, Arts/Music/Theater, mid 30’s, white, female, married within my profession, 4 years on the job market post grad school]

Get a Non-Ac Income Stream – Video Blog Post

Hi all! It’s been awhile. Hope you’re doing ok. Here are a few thoughts about where we are at, and what we can expect for Fall.

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Makeup Notes

The biggest news around here is that I switched my contour product. I never believed that would happen; Kevin Aucoin has been my ride or die for years. But then I found my daughter’s cast off Nars Bronzer Blush and realized that I *could do better*! I got it in the coolest tone they offer – Talia – and it’s just incredible. It blends better then K.A. and stays on WAYYYYY longer. And is a more natural color. All in all–a huge win.

I also switched to Stellar Foundation in shade 504, which I am completely obsessed by. It’s a kind of satin finish that just looks like…. skin. Not too matte, not to glowy… just-perfect. Today unfortunately I layered it over two foundation samples I just got from Sephora (an Estee Lauder and a Pat McGrath) so the color is a bit off – it’s a bit dark/warm – but in future weeks you’ll see it in all its glory.

Also a sample from Sephora: Stellar brand Brilliant Primer! Today I used it for the first time and I like it a lot. I don’t think I’ll purchase it, though, because at my age, I need a pretty powerful blurring primer and this is not that. But it delivers good holding power and some glow.

More big news: Ive switched my blush! Faithful Makeup Monday readers might recall that I’ve been obsessed with Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure forever. Well.. sometime during the pandemic I turned away from the plum/mauve shade range. Why, I have no idea. It just suddenly seemed… dreary. And everything is so dreary that I couldn’t abide making it worse with my blush. So I statted experimenting around, and lo, in my Ipsy bag a couple months ago I got this Manna Kadar Buildable Blush in Bali Babe. It’s weirdly peach for me, yet looks amazing, brightening, and natural. I don’t underestand it but I’m not arguing. I touch it up with another Ipsy get: The Balm Will Powder Blush in Worth the Wait. It’s a tricky product – basically a peachy pink highlighter more than a blush, so it needs a light hand, but it’s good as a boost to the Manna Kadar.

And last of all, a major find which I have to confess, I did discover marketed directly to me on Instagram by Sephora: Hourglass Veil Soft Focus Setting Spray. The model did a full face and ended with this spray and she was SO excited about it that I decided to try it, and yeah, it’s good. It does some sorcery where it blurs pores and lines without being otherwise visible—while setting and holding your makeup. I’m impressed!

Oh and Instagram ALSO delivered up to me the Voir App, and now I’m hooked. With Voir you can try out ALL THESE MAKEUP LOOKS, and it’s very precise and realistic and legit. You actually look like yourself with different makeup on! My mind was blown–i saw looks taht i would not have dreamed of trying myself…but now I will.

Of course I STILL HAVE NOWHERE TO WHERE THIS MAKEUP. But as I’ve said all along, just playing with it is one of my hobbies and I still do it at least once a week. Thank god for live webinars–i at least get to put on a look for those!

Dear White Psychologists: – #BLM Guest Post

This author chooses to remain anonymous. The author is a Black, cisgender woman who is finishing up her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at a school in California.

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Dear White Psychologists:

A lot of you are so damn exhausting! As a black psychology intern who will soon enter the world as a psychologist, I am so concerned about the profession I have chosen. I’m concerned for myself, and even more concerned for BIPOC and other marginalized groups for whom we have the privilege of bearing witness to their healing. The frequency and severity of micro and macroaggressions I have experienced in this field, from supervisors, chiefs of psychology, professors, and program directors are extremely disheartening. I sometimes question if my presence in the profession makes me complicit in this culture of covert (sometimes overt) racism that is so prevalent. It is maddening the countless times I have experienced psychologists’ lack of ability to engage in self-reflection when given feedback about racist policies, comments, and supervision.  Instead, they become defensive and blame the victim of the offense and often expect the victim to teach how to not victimize them! A lot of us are leaving training programs disempowered and utterly exhausted. 

And, if that is how the field can treat us, what are you doing with your BIPOC clients? You cannot compartmentalize white supremacy! Do you hear me? If you are racist with us, it is showing up with your clients. And no, I cannot help you change your ingrained racist ideology. It is not my job, unless of course, you are going to provide me with a stipend outside of this meager paycheck we get as trainees. That is an example of your entitlement and white privilege to think black bodies whom you victimize are required to help you not victimize them anymore. How are you even psychologists?

Quit asking us for tips on not being racist.

Quit breaking down into tears and wanting us to comfort you when you did something racist. 

Quit ignoring our pain, frustration, tears and anger when we experience your racism.

Quit telling us that we are too sensitive to your racism and then when it is popular and sensationalized to be anti-racist, you then want to have five hundred conversations.

Leave us alone right now.

Do your own research. After all, you are already a Psychologist, a Professor, and so ironically charged with evaluating us on the very concepts you yourself are not able to comprehend.


I am sad. I am angry. I am exhausted and somewhat hopeless. And I find very little solace in how Mr. Floyd’s lynching has become sensationalized and you are now appalled and anti-racist. Are you really? Change, sustainable change, is more than statements and posts. If you were not advocating for us in this way after all of the other deaths, what is different now? And I mean advocating beyond simply being a part of an organization that is advocating. How do you show up in your life? Are you an ally when we are not around?  A lot of folks are jumping into the action stage of change without doing the necessary personal work. This tone-deaf, half-assed, “I want to not be seen as a racist” approach, increases the likelihood that people who look like me, including your BIPOC clients will continue to be harmed by the lack of cultural humility, responsiveness, and competence that plagues this field.

Do the fucking work, for real this time. 

Signed,

A tired AF (almost, in one month) Black Psychologist

#Dispatches Resumes: COVID Impacts by Career Level, Part I ~ Assistant Professors

As of today we are resuming our #Dispatches From the Frontlines Monday series, where we crowdsource questions to get a broad indication of how our readers are coping with various challenges.

Right now, #Dispatches continues with COVID (you can see earlier posts here and here). For the next few weeks I will share responses to the question: How has COVID impacted your career? Due to the massive number of responses, I will be dividing responses by career level.

This week I begin with Assistant Professors. I will follow with NTT/Adjuncts/VAP next week, and then Tenured faculty and then Grad students and postdocs.

Bolding added for emphasis.

New #Dispatches Question will be opened for responses in a few weeks’ time.

NOTE: Please remember that we invite respondents to list their own identifying details. We mostly do not edit these. Respondents share what THEY feel is significant about their identity.

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ASSISTANT PROFESSORS DESCRIBE IMPACT OF COVID

Money has become my top priority, even though I originally had other strategic goals for the year. I may have to carry some of my students longer than expected or keep them on as postdocs. My responsibility to my students doesn’t end when their dissertation does! So, I’m redirecting resources into grants and other funding applications. [Assistant Professor, STEM, Cis bi Jewish woman]

~~

Short-term, all I can think about is getting through the day at home and doing the things I must do like clinical supervision and dissertation committee work. Long-term, I’m wondering if this is my time to leave academia. If kids are home in the fall, I just can’t imagine being productive. I was burned out before COVID, but I was managing. Now I’m burned out x2. Burned out on homeschooling and academia. My research has stopped because I conduct community research. My graduate students are managing their own stress and personal experience with COVID. The impact will have an effect on my research well beyond the one year tenure clock extension. Really thinking about leaving academia. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, 39, African-American, woman, married, 3 kids (2, 5, and 13). I am in my second assistant professor position. I’ve already received extension due to husband’s medical issues. I was offered another extension due to COVID. Wondering if I’ll ever go up for tenure.]

~~

I’m up for tenure in a couple years and I feel like my position is secure IF my school makes it (private non-elite SLAC). I wasn’t (and am not!) very concerned about tenure per se as I have cleared the bars already. I went tentatively back on the market last year because of concerns about my long-term satisfaction with this job, but all of that is off now. Head down, get tenure, work like hell to make my school one of the ones that survives while keeping my CV competitive just in case. Besides which, the pandemic has made me really see the benefits of living in a location that was suboptimal in our previous collective life.[Assistant Professor, STEM, Mid-30s white cis female]

~~

Immediate plans are weeding out the nonsense. Turning spare time to help with COVID 19 policy making. Focusing on my students and their well-being. Long term less service. I’ve done enough. Have identified goals as grants and team building and publications with broad rules for each. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, Reader post 92 UK University female]

~~

Our annual salary increase was redacted. My husband, though, just finished his master’s and was applying staff position at the same university but the search was frozen. He’s currently still on the job market. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, 35, Asian, female, married, immigrant in the US]

~~

It has not affected me financially, and I have some survivors guilt about that. I used to be an adjunct and if that was still the case, I would be sunk. I have donated more money than ever in the past several months, mostly to support Black organizations. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, 33, cis, woman, married, 2 young kids]

~~

Losing money. Partner has gone 8 weeks without receiving unemployment benefits but is still furloughed. Paperwork is fine but waiting to be “verified”. Can’t contact unemployment offices [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, White man gay 33 years old partnered]

~~

I’m getting laid off. [Assistant Professor, Humanities, 49 white lady]

~~

I am taking a pay cut in my first year in a tenure track job due to budget cuts. I previously worked as an adjunct and then NTT after that so I already feel “behind” in terms of time in a tenured position as well as in salary. I have also lost several thousand dollars in gig money (musician) and from my teaching at various summer programs which were canceled. I’m concerned that these losses (both financially and in the tenure clock) will further harm my earning potential as a young, female professor. [Assistant Professor, Arts/Music/Theater, Female, married, early 30s]

~~

We will have one furlough day per month. I am the sole provider for a family of six. I’ve had to take on side jobs (related to my expertise) to try to make up for the lost income. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, Female, Asian American, 40s]

~~

I had to take on summer teaching to make ends meet for our family. My husband’s PT job just stopped scheduling him during COVID. He was not fired, furloughed, or laid off. That meant we couldn’t get unemployment and related incentives, nor the paid incentives his job was offering (an extra $2/hour) for those with shifts. He didn’t work a single day for 3 months. This meant that after a combative spring semester shift to distance learning (where our admin made the decision on a Friday to start distance that Monday, against all faculty recommendations), I was exhausted like everyone else. But we were staring down not being able to pay our mortgage, and I’m a medium-income assistant professor in an affordable area of the country. I signed up for a summer course that paid $6000 before taxes, another luxury compared to other faculty, but that doesn’t get paid out until the end of the summer. And it also means I have not gotten a break from teaching since August 2019 (I also taught a winter term course for extra $). In the interim, we’ve had to open 2 new credit cards for necessary living expenses (on top of the 2 we already have). Only 1 of my student loans let me postpone until September. Our health insurance through my university (which both my spouse and I are on) is on a July 1-June 30 annual plan, and premiums just went way up with the new plan July 1st. My employer stopped all contributions to retirement “indefinitely” when they previously contributed 11%.  It feels like we are drowning, and I’ve had some pretty dark thoughts that I’m ashamed of — like what if a car accident just took us out? We don’t have kids, it wouldn’t be that huge of a loss, we’d be free from this financial nightmare, and someone else who needs a TT job could take mine. (I am seeing a therapist and have no plans to hurt myself…just trying to paint a picture of how dire things feel here). I’ve applied to an administrator job at another institution and also have been perusing industry jobs that I don’t feel qualified for, which makes everything feel worse. Not like we could afford to move right now, even with a new employer’s assistance. [Assistant Professor, Professional, 35, Cishet white woman married to a man; 11 years of FT teaching experience. No kids, but we took on FT childcare for 2 kids for the first 4 weeks of the pandemic for a relative on the front lines of health care. It was bananas.]

~~

My university cut our retirement funding match and eliminated our research and travel budgets. If students don’t come back to campus they will likely cut our pay. Administrators have already taken voluntary pay cuts  [Assistant Professor, Humanities, Late 30s, white woman]

~~

for now I’m holding steady. I was expecting a 15% raise this year (merit + correcting for my low starting salary), but that probably won’t happen. no pay cut, though, so I’m currently okay. I just have to be really cautious about my car (was hoping to replace soon with a better-condition used car), and figure out which home repairs to prioritize.  [Assistant Professor, Humanities, 39, white, cisfemale, heterosexual, single]

~~

Lost 30% of my startup and 15% salary during negotiation due to covid. But the offer still went through.[Assistant Professor, Stem, 35 married white cis het f. Accepted faculty position in May. Start date Jan 2021]

~~

My pay has been cut 20% at my current institution. Research funds down 40%. An offer I got in March for a different academic institution had a spousal hire offer for my partner as well, but then when the economy collapsed they downgraded my partner’s 3 year visiting offer to a 1 year with no renewal. So we couldn’t take the offer. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, female, arab, 29 years old, heterosexual, married]

~~

Pay cut by 10% for 3 months. Later informed that after the 3 months, it would be decreased to 6.5% indefinitely in light of COVID-19. Hiring freeze also arose so it was initially thought to hire grad students, but it ‘worked out’ since I bring in 88% of my salary. [Assistant Professor, Public Health (not sure if this is considered STEM in your eyes); yet connected to a Medical School), 37, African American, Male, Married, R1 institution]

~~

Both me and my partner had a 3% pay cut and also our university stopped contributing to our retirement accounts. We have a 6 and a 9 year old, we will be paying a fortune in the fall to get them care as the schools won’t be open in NYC fully but our work surely has doubled. [Assistant Professor, Humanities, 42/Caucasian/  married with two young kids also partner is a full-time academic]

~~

My university did not provide usual annual 2% salary increase and stopped 401k contributions for 4 months (for now). Since classes were taught remotely, I was not commuting for 1.5h daily so it helped me save on some babysitting costs. [Assistant Professor, Health Professions, Female, married,  mother of two young kids]

No Motivation? Look to Your Needs to Find It.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that pretty much everyone we are engaging with at The Professor is In right now is struggling with motivation.

It’s hard to find a reason to work in the face of uncertainty, and far too many things are uncertain. This is especially true for those on contract to universities as we face a fall semester with more things unknown than known and those on the job market.

That may seem like a pretty discouraging start to a column on how to access motivation, but like all things at the Professor Is In and in my productivity coaching, the path to improved outcomes starts with telling the truth. 

And the truth is: These are very hard times.

And hard times, for many people, mean less productivity. And that’s ok. We need to normalize doing less when simply maintaining your mental health demands so much energy.

Still, I know that many of you have work that needs to be completed in order to keep your jobs. So, let’s talk how to manage that, how to find the motivation to Just Do It. (Nike slogan reference intended.)

Much of the reading I do to inform my coaching is focused on working with elite athletes. Their experience has always struck me as similar to those of academics: intense training, a very narrow area of expertise and rigidly prescribed areas in which to test that expertise.

So, I was interested to read a presentation recently on how Olympic coaches build sustained motivation for training. Please note the goal is “sustained” motivation. That should tell you right away that motivation is not in itself permanent. It comes and it goes based on our attachment to our goals. 

The good part is that if it’s missing, you can find it again. The challenging part is that you have to consciously create the environment to get it to stay as long as possible.

A quick aside:

Motivation scholars, who predominantly work in corporate productivity, contend that motivation requires two key factors.

1)    You have to believe that you can do it.
2)    You have to believe that it’s worth it

More recent work argues for a third requirement
3)    You have to believe that you can tolerate the cost.

Two and three might seem like the same thing so let me clarify. All of the hard work to finish a dissertation might be worth it, if the only marker is putting you in position for an increased salary. But, if the cost of finishing the dissertation is exceptional student debt and battered mental health, you not you might not be willing to tolerate the cost.

Now, let’s get back to those elite athletes.

In the presentation, the authors made one key point. Sustained motivation is tied to needs.

Basically, human behavior is never random. We are all motivated to fulfill our needs. Like, when we’re hungry we go seek food. Simultaneously, we all seek rewards and satisfaction for what we do.

The argument then is that motivation is enhanced — easier to maintain — when we meet the basic needs we were trying to fulfill in joining our profession. 

Here are the needs they identified as central to an elite athlete:

The need to:

1.     Experience stimulation and challenge.
2.     Be accepted and belong to a group.
3.     Gain and demonstrate competence to feel worthy.

Sound just a little bit familiar?

It also should not be too hard to see why for academics, motivation might slip right now around Need One: stimulation and challenge.

Where you once might have been looking mostly to your work for stimulation and challenge, right now the job might instead be overwhelming in one more problem to solve, one more idea to think out.  The decision fatigue may just be more than your brain can take.

That doesn’t mean the solution is to not work. The solution is to make the problems much, much, much smaller. Shift your goal to sitting down and writing a sentence rather than 2500 words. Create a very, very low barrier to entry to make room for solving a problem and not being overwhelmed by it.

Then there is Need Two: Wanting to belong to a group.

If the people I work with and follow on Twitter are any indication, the disillusionment with the Academy is at an all time high. The bullshit responses by administration regarding the Movement for Black Lives, the horrifying responses to the pandemic by administration, and the collapsed job market are more than enough to make most people rethink their desire to be in the club.

If you are feeling profoundly alienated from the institution, remind yourself that the institution is not the group you were trying to join when you started the PhD; the scholars in your field are. Look to your fellow academics for connection and meaning making. Take the time to refill your intellectual pantry. 

And finally Need Three: Gain and demonstrate competence to feel worthy.

Ironically, I think this is the place where academics can most easily find and maintain motivation: accruing knowledge and demonstrating said knowledge.  With one big caveat: You cannot look outside yourself for the whole “worthy” thing. Motivation will stay if, and only if, you can keep your comparison to yourself. If you can mark each new sentence read or written as a step toward competence, ignoring what you think everyone else is doing, you can move yourself forward at a steady, equanimous pace.

And just a reminder: Motivation does not stay. It waxes and wanes. Take advantage when it shows up and allow yourself to creep your way back to it when it fades. 

And one more reminder: You are amazing. #MondayMotivation

Educational Powerhouse? Racism and Inaction at OISE – #BLM Guest Post

We continue to solicit #BLM Guest Posts. We pay $150 for accepted posts. Pls get in touch with Karen at gettenure@gmail.com with an idea, pitch, or draft.

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Léa Nsouli, Ateeqa Arain, Steph Pflugfelder and Angela Liu are graduate students in the Leadership, Higher and Adult Education department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. They are passionate educators who strive to create inclusive, diverse and anti-racist spaces both inside and outside the classroom. 

The murder of George Floyd and countless other Black individuals in the United States and Canada has devastated all of us. We have witnessed a historic surge of protests taking place across all fifty states in the US, here in Canada and in multiple other countries around the globe. We are now in a position to do more with our pain and anger. As graduate students at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), we want to speak out about the deafening silence emanating from one of the most prestigious educational institutions in North America.

The present movement centres around a key theme: education. The protests, marches, social media blitzes and resource distribution aim to raise awareness of the realities that Black people face every single day. For decades knowledge of these realities has been ignored and suppressed by more dominant and privileged voices in our society. This movement is to educate us, and as a result seek justice in an unjust world. To quote revolutionary civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the word.” 

With that in mind, let us see what one of the world’s leading educational institutions is doing during these revolutionary and inspiring times.

Not nearly enough. 

Following the unrest and growing protests around the world, OISE took a week to send out a recycled statement to say that anti-Black racism has no place at our school. A considerate gesture, but with no clear indication of how OISE, as a unified community, can be proactive on the matter. Such a delayed response suggests that the institution has not emphasized anti-Black racism in any meaningful way to go beyond platitudes and towards direct and immediate action.

Amongst the four departments at OISE, two sent out statements more than a week later, while others have remained silent. During this critical moment, these departments that are preparing future leaders in the fields of education and mental health must do better. A movement like this that is met with solidarity and action from the educational community can maintain momentum and we must take advantage of our uniquely privileged position to foster real change. Our professors focus their energy on funding and scholarships to support their research, and they know exactly what needs to be done after having studied injustices for years. OISE must apply their research, be proactive, and begin to take transformative action.

Our intention is not to undermine the work that is currently being done by different departments at OISE, but rather to urge the institution to leverage the academic community at its disposal. To create a united community that would join in on the activism, given that they have all the tools and resources at their fingertips. Most importantly, we would like for OISE as an institute to challenge its own systemic racism, speak openly about it, and be transparent and vocal about the actions being taken to combat it. We no longer have time for empty promises in place of action, and we demand the OISE leadership take bold action, starting now. 

Moving forward, OISE should:

  Create safe spaces and procedures to encourage students to speak up about racism that they have experienced or witnessed on an individual and/or institutional level, with the assurance that they will not face any negative consequences

. Lead in creating and sharing well-sourced information regarding Black histories, including the rich contributions Black communities have made to the world and the atrocities and injustices they have faced for community access beyond OISE

  Help build and promote a repository of community-led organizations in response to #BlackLivesMatter, as a large part of the Toronto community to leverage our communities and create allyship.

Express explicitly the ways it has begun the process of change, along with establishing accountability measures to reach significant milestones

  Be transparent and vocal in stating actions being taken at OISE to support Persons of Colour and to fight systemic racism.

How Institutions Protect Racists – #BLM Guest Post

Carolyn Davis, PhD, is a writer, editor, and yoga teacher-in-training based in Austin TX. She rarely updates her public social media accounts because she prefers to live her best life, but you can follow her and her adorable dog on facebook or instagram @mollzy_the_collie.

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By Carolyn Davis, PhD.

White supremacy is the lifeblood of academia, and I learned that the hard way. I moved to Austin, TX in the fall of 2013 to begin my PhD in English at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). The first thing I noticed was that this liberal city, where all the weirdos came to live their dreams of peace and love, was disturbingly white. The graduate department was a perfect microcosm of Austin’s unbearable liberal whiteness. Of the 20 people admitted that fall only two of us were black and, as far as I knew, there was only one other black woman in the program when I arrived. 

I met Will during the week of our white-washed orientation. He was the first black face I saw in the sea of white women I would spend the next six years with, and we both agree that it felt like a lifeline was tossed within our reach that day. On that first day that we smiled at each other across a picnic table, we never could have imagined how much we would be forced to survive together.

You may have read the many articles about sexual misconduct in UT’s English graduate department, which first came to light in 2017 after Dr. Jenn Shapland wrote “Maybe I Just Needed to Kill,” in the Arkansas International. I never met Shapland as a student, and the events she describes took place over a year before I entered the department, but her story was one of the first I heard over drinks with more advanced students. I was told almost immediately to watch out for Coleman Hutchison, a recently-tenured professor, and over the next few years I would continue to hear stories of his arm touches or flirty banter from the women around me. 

As a black woman with no interest in what white southerners felt about post-slavery America, I never took a class with him, and I never experienced the uncomfortably sexual encounters that so many of my peers described to me. I met with him on multiple occasions when he stepped into the role of graduate advisor, and we served on the Graduate Programs Committee for a year, but that was the extent of our interactions. Cole’s effect on my career was much more insidious, and it’s something that hasn’t been reported in previous stories because the complainant had no interest in telling his story to the white reporters who have written their own investigations.

Following Shapland’s article, UT’s Office of Inclusion and Equity (OIE) launched a formal investigation into Cole’s behavior, and the full “confidential” report was unceremoniously leaked and disseminated through the graduate community in the spring of 2018. it specifically noted multiple allegations of retaliation against “Graduate Student four” for his opposition to the use of racial slurs in class. Cole denied this accusation—of retaliation, and the investigation ultimately concluded that the complaint was too far outside of the limit to be considered for the case. Graduate Student four is my best friend, Will. 

In the Spring of 2014, Will took a course with Cole, “Re-Reading the American South in Literature and Film,” where he was immediately confronted with the regular use of the n-word by our overwhelmingly white classmates and professor. On January 15, Will emailed Cole in the hope of facilitating a conversation to preclude a semester of triggering and dehumanizing language. Cole’s response was deceptively civil: “While the word is indeed hateful, I suspect that it will show up more than once in this course. And I will certainly have to utter it again.”

Meanwhile, Cole forwarded the exchange to Department Chair Liz Cullingford and Graduate Advisor Wayne Lesser. Cole expressed his “bewilderment” at receiving such feedback from a Black student: “in more than a decade and a half of teaching, I have never had a student—graduate or otherwise—try to police my speech.” Liz suggested he assign Will an essay on white liberal feelings by another white professor in the department, presumably so he could better understand the necessity of teaching racist literature within the academy. 

Wayne was less interested in pedagogy. “Good grief,” he wrote. “If he says that he can’t abide the uses of language necessary to conduct a graduate level inquiry of the course’s texts and issues, he should see me about changing courses.” “I will find him another course,” Wayne continued, “and advise him to resign from the program at the end of the Spring term.” The exchange ends with Cole’s thanks and a pithy sign-off—“yours in anti-racist pedagogy.”

And so, a year later, Will was at my house recording an episode of our podcast Snatched! when he received the letter outlining Wayne’s decision to place him on academic probation and subsequently pull his contractually-guaranteed funding for the 2015-2016 school year. At the time we had no idea why this was happening, but I know a decaying rat when I smell it. When the OIE report with these emails was released in 2017, I felt both satisfaction and rage; satisfaction because it confirmed what I knew in my heart, and rage at how easily powerful whites can upend black survival.

The known narrative of the situation is that Will chose to switch to the department of African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) at the end of his third year, with no harm. The truth is that these professors, with the responsibility of support our careers, retaliated against him because he refused to let them feel like they were good anti-racist white people.  

These events made me realize that graduate school was not and would never be a safe space. For the next five years I kept silent, listened hard, and put together a dissertation team that demonstrated emotional and ethical strength along with their incredible scholarship. I stopped trying to envision my life as a professor because I couldn’t imagine putting my future in the hands of yet more people who could so flippantly and subjectively dismiss me and my work because I happened to make them feel bad. I struggled daily with depression and anxiety, but in the end I wrote the dissertation I wanted to write and gained the tools to be a stronger woman than I was when I started. 

In the months before our graduation, I had multiple conversations with my committee chair about the swirling negative energy that had enveloped the department since these events came to light. One thing she said has stuck with me for the last year: “it never occurred to me that you all would take Cole’s actions against Will as a sign of his power over all of you.” That, in summary, is the true failure of tenure: much like America writ large, it conflates power with freedom and forgets the suffering left in its wake. 

I’ve spent the last ten months working at a bookstore just to remember what it felt like to love books as experiences, and not just research fodder. With the long term effects of Covid-19 to consider, I’m working from home and finding my written voice again. Will, on the other hand, teaches at a prestigious SLAC as a tenure-track professor and is quite literally living his best black life. We have both thrived despite the ravages of academia, and largely because of each other. 

Until this country’s mostly white tenured faculty recognize and relinquish the white supremacist power they hold over so many futures, academia will never be a home for black, indigenous, and other POC to flourish. I truly believe that much of academia’s racism is because so many of the people in it see race as a theoretical exercise. Academia is, at best, a roomful of people with delusions of grandeur. It neither serves nor deserves us.