The UK Job Market, Part IV: Interviews, British-Style

By Alice Kelly, Ph.D.

Alice Kelly is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Her academic training has been in the UK and the US. She completed her PhD in English at Cambridge in 2014, with a year as a Fox Fellow at Yale, and before that she studied at Sussex, Reed College (Portland, Oregon), and Oxford. She has taught English and History in the US and the UK. Having applied for academic jobs on both sides of the pond, she understands the challenges and opportunities of being on the transatlantic academic job market. Alongside her academic research on twentieth century literature and culture, she advocates healthy writing practices. At Oxford she founded the TORCH Academic Writing Group, which she has written about in Times Higher Education.

www.dralicekelly.com

@DrAliceKelly

This is the final post of a 4-part series by Alice Kelly on the UK job market. Previous posts are:

Please, Sir, I Want Some More Employment: Applying For UK Jobs, Part I – The Lay of the Land

The UK Job Market Part II: Research By Numbers, or The REF

The UK Job Market, Part III: “I Beg Your Pardon, But May I Have This Job?” (The Winning Cover Letter)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Great news – you’ve received the email inviting you to interview! Unlike the US system, British interviews do not usually have the two- or three-tier process of Skype interview or MLA interview, followed by a campus visit. Instead, you’ll be invited to interview directly at the university for usually one day. This will have a short lead-in time, maybe ten days or two weeks after you receive the invitation, so you need to start preparing immediately. If you can’t attend the university in person, you can ask whether a Skype interview is possible, although this can bring its own problems (ensuring a good connection, screen freezing, etc.).

There are different types of interviews for different jobs. For example, a one-year Teaching Fellowship will understandably have a shorter interview process (a 30-min panel interview and a 15-min teaching demonstration) than a permanent Lectureship (a 30-min panel interview and a 45-min presentation, followed by a question and answer session). Postdoctoral Fellowships may or may not require candidates to be interviewed. In my experience, only candidates for Lectureships will be wined and dined (I mean, ahem, taken to lunch or dinner). Candidates for Teaching Fellowships, Postdocs and Research Assistantships will be in and out fairly quickly – probably 1.5 to 2 hours.

Panel Interviews: These are usually thirty minutes, with a selection committee comprising of the Head of Department, somebody senior in the School (such as the Dean of Humanities), somebody from Human Resources (to check fair protocols are maintained), and sometimes another Faculty member from the Department.

The panel will ask you questions based around some usual themes, which you can usually work out by closely reading the Further Particulars. In preparation, reread your cover letter and write out potential answers for questions on:

  • Your previous research (including methodology) and publications
  • Your current and future research and plans for publication, including how they are timed in relation to the next REF
  • Your teaching experience to date
  • Courses or topics that you would be prepared to teach in their department
  • Your motivation for this particular post – how your research and teaching experience fits into this department and university
  • New ideas or skills you can bring to the post
  • Your administrative skills
  • Your record of public engagement/scholarship
  • Do you have any questions for us?

Teaching Demonstrations: These may be anywhere between 15 to 60 mins. It is a slightly weird exercise if you have to pretend the panel is a group of students, but go with it. Alternatively, they may put you in front of an actual class. Just the same as with a teaching demonstration in the US, the challenge with the shorter slot is conciseness – how can you showcase a number of your skills as a teacher in one well-planned exercise? The challenge with the longer slots is devising and organising a series of interlocking, well-planned exercises, which keep students engaged. Obviously be attentive, organised and interesting throughout.

Presentation/Lecture: The UK version of a US job talk. Not all UK universities require this – it’s entirely up to the university. If so, you will be asked to give a 30-45 min talk on your work, which is usually open to anyone in the Department who wants to attend. You may therefore need to pitch your talk to those outside your field and use it as a means of demonstrating that your work has broader implications for the field. You may be asked challenging questions, but take them in your stride – they’re probably testing whether you’ve got anger management problems, rather than the content of your answer.

Tours: You’ll probably only get this if you’ll be at the university for longer than a year. Look interested and remember that you are being judged as a potential colleague for all the time that you are on campus.

Dinner with potential colleagues and/or other candidates: Dinner with potential colleagues – fine. Remember this is a more informal version of the interview, so you will be on all the time, and don’t get drunk. I’ve never been asked to have dinner with other candidates, but I’ve heard horror stories from others. Why anyone thinks this is a good idea, I don’t know. If it happens to you, go with it. Your fellow candidates will also not be appreciating the extra awkwardness of an already difficult situation, so take comfort in that and try to make it work for everybody.

After the interview: Unlike the US, you’ll be contacted fairly quickly – often that day if you’ve got the job, or within a few days if you haven’t. Don’t despair if you don’t get a call that day though. Sometimes one candidate has to interview later, so decisions will be on hold until then. If you’ve got the job, great! If not, you were on the shortlist and your time will come. Every application and interview is useful experience – and usually provides some great stories!

So that rounds up your series on applying for academic jobs in the UK. Hope you’ve enjoyed it. Tweet me your British job application wins and fails @DrAliceKelly

#MakeupMonday – Christmas Makeup

When I was a teenager, each Christmas brought disappointment.  Every year I would ask for a book. And every year my mother would get me makeup. It was so upsetting on so many levels. I was a baby-academic striving to find myself and my way in the world. I got no support on this journey whatsoever from my family, especially my mother, who considered college for women essential, yes, but only for finding a college-educated husband. And graduate school? That was unheard of.

This image is called “Perfect Gift for Girlfriend”

And while I wore makeup at the time and enjoyed it, the annual Christmas gift — always one of those huge impersonal gift sets, with 20+ shadows and blush and lipcolor —  still felt like an insult. It was a version of femininity that was not mine, and that I obviously didn’t want. The annual Christmas makeup kit encapsulated my whole struggle as an intellectual young woman in an uber-conventional family in 1970s suburban Pittsburgh.

Flash forward to Christmas 2017.  My daughter got me a Becca Wake-Up Call Kit, and I was thrilled beyond measure. And I got her a Sephora Highlighting Stick, and a Lorac Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales (!) Eyeshadow Palette, and she was delighted.  Because makeup is a love that my daughter Miyako (18) and I share, as readers of #MakeupMonday series know.  There is no conflict for us between our brainiac and our makeup-loving sides.  We geek out to the latest WaPo analysis of gerrymandering (she is a Poli Sci major at Berkeley), and then move directly to the pros and cons of a sunset eyeshadow look and the proper level of highlighter. She’s grown up with me as a makeup and fashion-loving academic mom, and when I visit her at Berkeley our agenda includes going to her lectures AND to Sephora together. It’s really a pleasure.

And our makeup gifts are highly targeted.  I adore all things Becca, and Miyako knows it.  The two items in my Wake-Up Call Kit could not have been more perfect for me–one is the kind of shimmery primer I love, and the other is a Becca version of the YSL Touche Eclat highlighter pen that I had bought at the Berkeley Sephora a few months ago but had to return because it was the wrong shade.  And her Sephora highlighting stick, and goofy Pirates of the Caribbean eyeshadow set that I found on sale at Nordstrom Rack, were just right because a) she has been wanting a stick highlighter, and  she had just been telling me how much she wanted to move out of her customary neutral palette, but didn’t want to commit to any particular color range or high end items until she’d tried lots of different options.

And our makeup gifts are a shared and evolving mutual project.  So, on Christmas morning a little conversation made it apparent to me that Miyako would actually have preferred the colors in the OTHER eyeshadow palette I saw at Nordstrom Rack, the Smashbox Double Exposure set. So when I was out doing some returns the next day, I picked that up for her, planning to take the Lorac back. But then we sat down for a long and intensive comparison of the two sets, we concluded that in fact *I* should keep the Pirates of the Caribbean palette, because it turns out that it has four colors that perfectly substitute for a little Maybelline set I’d bought a few weeks ago to try out a cool gray/taupe range inexpensively.  You can see them on the far right vertical row!

And so I am now the owner of a Pirates of the Caribbean eyeshadow palette (missing its included eye pencil because Miyako immediately made off with that). I just tried it out and love it! 

And Miyako has a new Smashbox palette that looks amazing–she just ran out to show me as I was writing this post.*

All of this to say…  it makes me feel happy in my heart to have Christmas makeup be a way to really see and be seen with my daughter. It’s healing in a way.  It really shows how makeup can be bad OR good–it all depends on how it’s used and shared, and what expectations are embedded in it. It doesn’t have to mean superficiality, and it can be a path to pleasure, creativity, and connection.

~~~~~~~~~

*She also just called out, “Mom, I’m out of BoyBrow!”  🙂

And, shoutout to my son Seiji (17) who got me this lovely sparkly tennis bracelet!!  They do know their mom!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*My regular intro:

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.

Here is my weekly reminder:  I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), I suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.

For previous posts, see the following:

~~~~~~

Dealing with Sexual Harassment Intersectionally

As I continue to think about the outcomes of the Sexual Harassment in the Academy Survey (now at almost 2000 entries; it is still open and you may contribute your own story using this form), I want to direct attention to the incredible work done on the Conditionally Accepted column (originally blog) founded by Eric Anthony Grollman, and currently published in Inside Higher Ed.  That space has featured a series of posts on sexual harassment from POC and queer perspectives over the past year.  I’d like to feature some of those in the coming weeks.  This one is titled,  Navigating Harassment As a Young Black Femme, by Gabi Jordan (pseudonym), an Assistant Professor of Sociology.  The author’s words:

“I am a light-skinned, mixed-race black woman who is visibly feminine, with big curly hair and what is considered to be both a “voluptuous” and “fat” body. Consequently, I have been subjected to aggressive street harassment, followed by men in stores, grabbed by men (and women) in bars, had students write offensive comments about me in their course evaluations, and witnessed rape “jokes” being directed at student athletes in the middle of a writing lab.

I have even experienced sexual harassment at the hands of fellow academics. For example, at the 2016 American Sociological Association annual meeting, I had the unfortunate experience of having a male professor comment on my “beauty” in the middle of a conversation about my research, with him reaching out to caress my face.

A lifetime of men (and many women, too) feeling entitled to make lewd comments or touch me without my permission has, in some ways, made me numb to the ways in which my body is viewed as accessible. My research on the intersections of race, gender and sexuality has allowed me to intellectualize why such harassment often happens. Yet even with the minor protections that an intellectual understanding of these experiences lends me, I continue to struggle with being socialized to believe that I am somehow complicit. I often feel guilty about wearing makeup and dressing in formfitting clothing, even as I wear high necklines and hemlines that come to the knee. Despite teaching my students about how the notion that women are sexual gatekeepers is part of an oppressive gender structure, I have a hard time not blaming myself for the harassment I experience.

My physical appearance remains a factor in everything that I experience in the academy, particularly the ways that my students and my colleagues find it appropriate to speak on my attractiveness (or lack thereof)….

I spent most of my graduate training unsure to whom to report these encounters and feeling awkward about discussing them with my (black, cisgender) male adviser. That awkwardness mostly stems from my own insecurities about admitting that I am vulnerable rather than deficiencies on my adviser’s part; in bringing up my harassment, I confirm that I am a sexualized body. Due to having had colleagues who are men of color tell me that the racialized and gendered harassment that runs rampant in higher education is something that I should “get used to,” I feel hesitant to bring up how my appearance impacts my ability to teach, to network with others or to conduct my research.

When I did report to one of my university’s human resources offices, I was told that I was not guaranteed any anonymity and, in the case of the coach’s unwanted attention that I described above, he would be let off with what they called a “positive confrontation” that I was assured would not enter his employee record. Instead, I was moved to another writing center and forbidden to work with student athletes who were members of that coach’s team. Essentially, this suggested that I was actually at fault, rather than the man who invaded my personal space and asked me inappropriate questions.”

A recent story on sexual harassment in the academy notes that women of color may experience especially high rates of harassment:

“In a 2017 survey of astronomers and planetary scientists, 40 percent of women of color felt unsafe in the workplace because of their gender, compared with about 20 percent of white women. Twenty-eight percent of women of color in the survey felt unsafe because of their race” (Vox.com)

Many stories in the Sexual Harassment Survey by women of color echo Dr. Jordan’s. Here is one:

“I was dressed up to give a lecture in a tasteful outfit which included a knee-length pencil skirt and knee-high boots–holdovers from a previous job in an non-profit office setting. He came up to me in a hallway and stood much too close to tell me how “sexy” he thought my outfit was and how I should dress like that more often.”

The impact of this kind of aggression cannot be overstated.  The Survey contributor goes on:

“That was the last time I ever wore a skirt. The rest of the time in the program, I dressed androgynously in jeans and over-sized t-shirts. I also stopped going by his office. Whatever contacts or advice he could have given me was not worth having to listen to his creepy comments about his loneliness or how he’d love to have his female students to his apartment, but “the bed is much too small.” I felt that he was testing the waters to see if he could get away with more than just saying something questionable. I decided I never wanted to be alone with him, ever.”

As story after story on the survey show, the impact extends profoundly into the victim’s ability to work in the field, and sense of worth as a scholar:

“I changed the direction of my study so I would not have to take his courses, or include him on my dissertation committee. It caused me stress and made me doubt myself and my worth as an academic.”  She went on, “It made me question why I was in academia in the first place.”

In this case as in almost all others, the harassment goes completely unpunished. “Comparing notes with other females students, I found out he did it to almost every women he encountered, but since he was a decades-long member of the faculty, nothing was ever done about his behavior. He may have received a slap on the wrist about 15 years ago, but that’s about all.”

Dr. Jordan comments that her experience contributes to “well-documented evidence of the ways that femme people are subjected to particular kinds of surveillance and, subsequently, harassment and violence. My membership in a discipline that recognizes and produces knowledge about various forms of sexual violence yet also fails to address harassment forces me to realize that there are still many gaps in how sociology departments and national organizations take steps to protect scholars.”

As the contributor writes: “The worst part of all this is that I am a 1st gen graduate student and a WOC and this person makes a big show of being a friend to women and underrepresented groups in academia. I can see how he can be manipulative, especially with younger women who may not know how the professor/student relationship is supposed to work.”

Dr. Jordan ends with a call to departments and campuses to become far more proactive in creating transparent systems for “those with social and institutional power to intervene and quickly shut down inappropriate behavior.”

As departments, campuses, and disciplinary associations grapple with the results of the Survey (and informal accounts suggest many are), I urge them to be aware of the particularly damaging impacts to women and femmes of color, who, as Dr. Jordan notes, “already must anticipate that they will be viewed as less capable based on racist and sexist assumptions,” and who lack a deep bench of potential mentors due to the under-representation of women and people of color on campus.  While Dr. Jordan was able to overcome this experience and continue on in her field, countless stories in the Survey show victims hounded out of the academy entirely. Any stated commitment to “diversifying” the department or field must engage directly with the ways that systems of racism, classism, ableism, and homophobia intersect with gender in these structures of power and harassment.

 

There Is No Moral Relativity in Sexual Harassment – a Guest Post

I am still contemplating my own words in response to the Sexual Harassment in the Academy Survey. For now, I want to share some astonishingly beautiful and poignant words by Dr. Ani Kokobobo, who wrote the following for the Chronicle of Higher Education: There Is No Moral Relativity in Sexual Harassment. I share with Dr. Kokobobo’s permission.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dr. Ani Kokobobo

Ani Kokobobo is assistant professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Slavic Department at the University of Kansas. She has written over twenty academic articles on questions of the body, violence, and sexuality in Russian literature and has a monograph forthcoming in February 2018. Her writings have also appeared in The Washington Post, Salon.comLA Review of Books, and the Chronicle of Higher Ed. When not writing, she teaches Russian literature and mentors graduate students.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In a recent article for New York Magazine, Rebecca Traister notes that the #metoo movement is as much about work as it is about sex, or the “economics of sexual harassment.” In other words, besides the punishable sex crimes and the harm sustained because of harassment, this movement also documents the harm done to women’s career aspirations.

Looking at the problem from this vantage point leaves less room for moral gradations. If the problem is primarily sexual, there is quite a bit of room for distinguishing, as Masha Gessen does, among degrees of sexual infractions. From this perspective, groping is less problematic than full-on sexual assault, being propositioned is less objectionable than groping and forceful kissing, and so on. The Al Franken case has been an important test of the moral relativity of the #metoo movement. In the end, some people, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who recently called for Franken to step down, are uncomfortable with the idea of gradations.

Yet when it comes to professional damage, the financial impact of sexual harassment is an issue no matter how seemingly minor the incident — and this is markedly apparent in academia. A recent survey conducted by Karen Kelsky, founder and president of the consulting firm The Professor Is In and a columnist for The Chronicle, has elicited some 1,600 stories* of sexual abuse in higher education. The number of these #metooPhD stories is growing daily, capturing a problem of enormous scope.

As Kelsky writes about the database of stories, her objective is to make “visible” the “systemic, institutional, and patterned nature of sexual abuse in the academy. … You cannot solve a problem if you can’t see it.” What her survey makes visible is the astonishing array of examples of trust-based mentoring relationships — intended to guide and empower — that have resulted in the objectification and sexualization of students.

At times the entries relate incidents of outright sexual assault. At times they consist of grooming for a sexual relationship. I wondered what was worse: the random groping at a conference or the inappropriate sexual conduct of a trusted mentor whose intellectual approval someone cherished.

The survey also tells an equally devastating story of professional and economic loss. The worst predators systematically sought to destroy the academic careers of their victims, discrediting their dissertations and research interests. Often the sheer presence of the harassment pushed women off their career paths. Many respondents noted being forced to switch fields or advisers, transition out of hard-earned tenure-track jobs to escape their predators, or simply giving up on academe.

The survey suggests that even in cases of mild harassment, in the form of indirect remarks or a timid proposition when rejection was immediately accepted, the damage done to professional lives could be overwhelming. Often in these reports, colleges protected their investment in superstar professors, while the harassed saw their careers derailed, with the loss of both time and money.

The economic detriment to harassment victims exists in every profession where #metoo stories are emerging. In higher education, and particularly in fields like the humanities, where economic factors are already stacked against aspiring scholars, the professional damage seems all the more disturbing.

Kelsky’s survey also reveals the considerable mental-health damage done by the harassment, as virtually all participants listed themselves as sufferers of anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Even if the immediate sexual trauma was not overwhelming, the resulting impostor syndrome and general sense of failure were crushing.

Power is an essential element n most of the harassment and abuse cases being reported. But at colleges, the classroom considerably amplifies that power. Besides the expectation that professors be experts in their fields, they are simultaneously ascribed larger roles — not only scholars and teachers but also priests, therapists, life coaches, parental figures. These roles intensify both the conventional power dynamics involved in most stories of harassment and the vulnerability of our students and subordinates.

I remember my own lack of professional self-esteem when I entered graduate school, at Columbia University, many years ago. In a small humanities field with marginal job prospects, I needed desperately to believe that I could succeed, even though employment statistics said otherwise. In retrospect, the #metooPhD stories suggest that I was extraordinarily fortunate to find mentors who showed enthusiasm for my ideas and the intellectual contributions I could make.

I recall being considered an intellectual with worthwhile new ideas by a faculty member who went on to advise my dissertation. I cannot emphasize enough how important this endorsement was to me at 22. It helped me keep moving forward, past the crippling self-doubt and career uncertainties. Anything other than absolute support and encouragement would have altered my path.

Kelsky’s survey suggests that many other students were not so fortunate: Some found ways to survive despite financial and psychological damage, but many voices have been lost.

So I wonder: Is there really any room for gradations of sexual harassment and abuse in higher education, at least where students are concerned? The result ends up being the same — victims fail to live up to their potential. Can we afford that failure? Should we not hold ourselves to a higher moral standard? I don’t have all the answers, but the questions must be asked.

*Now about 1850 (12/17/17)

#MakeupMonday: The Makeup Tool I Can’t Do Without

Ok, technically it’s Thursday but it’s been a big week. The Sexual Harassment Survey continues to fill; we’re now at 1760 entries, and I’ve received over 150 emails sharing the names of perpetrators (oftentimes more than one name per email, by the way,  with no significant overlap among names so far.  When I do see multiple victims name the same perpetrator, I intend to ask if they’d like to be put in touch). I’ve been interviewed repeatedly about the Survey, most recently by the Wall Street Journal. Reporters seem to be stunned and horrified. And why wouldn’t they be?

Anyway, that has been consuming.

And then the Alabama election. There’s so much to say about that, but I’ll limit myself to this observation–>

So it’s Thursday when my Monday post goes up. Ah well… it’s OK, because this may be the last one for awhile.* That doesn’t mean I won’t do more (for example, I recently upgraded my blush–and I had one expensive misstep, and one completely free solution!), but the arc I imagined ended here, with the makeup tool that has transformed my makeup life.

It is: De’Lanci Makeup Brush Wrist Holder with brush-cleaning sponge!

This product is so marvelous!  When I first started seriously doing makeup, especially eye makeup that required lots of different small brushes, I would inevitably end up fumbling and dropping them all over the dresser and the floor.

A little fur… a little poop…

It is one of my struggles in life that I absolutely, pathologically, cannot stand to fumble objects. I go completely ballistic. I lose my shit. This is in fact the reason that I will only use cordless vacuums.  One too many sobbing jags trying to get the cord past the table leg….and I was…. just…. “that’s it, i’m out.”  And for a decade cordless is how it’s been.  Amazingly, only in the last two months did I finally get a Dyson.  With two rabbits just now, and their collective fur, hay, and bunny poops everywhere, something needed to be done.  Yeah, the Dyson deserves the hype, I have to admit.

But anyway, back to makeup.  My struggle to juggle the makeup and the brushes, all while leaning into the magnifying mirror, in the midst of the chaos that always prevails on my dresser-top… well,  makup just wasn’t fun anymore; it was becoming an exercise in frustration.

But as we know there are few logistical frustrations in life that a little shopping won’t solve, so of course I turned to Amazon, and lo, these wrist-thingies exist.

Now, reviewers on Amazon seem much more excited by the fact that it is covered in that brush-cleaning spongey material, than that it is a super-convenient way to hold your brushes in the morning before coffee. I’m not sure why that is.  I do like and use the brush-cleaning spongey stuff, but it’s not a deal-breaker. I have the same spongey stuff in a little canister as well (I found it at TJ Maxx for a couple bucks) and sure, it’s great! I love it! It means you can reuse the same brush with a different color, right away! Super convenient!

But for me the real draw of the wrist-thingie is:  no fumbling. Every brush I need is right there when I need it.

And a day that doesn’t begin with me dropping things is a day that is at least starting out halfway decent. Even if Miyako remarks, appalled, “Mom! What even is that?? Only makeup artists use those!”

I highly recommend!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*My regular intro:

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.

Here is my weekly reminder:  I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), I suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.

For previous posts, see the following:

~~~~~~

Our #MeTooPhD Moment

Today is Friday, when I post academic advice blog posts.  This week, I would certainly expect to post about the anonymous Sexual Harassment in the Academy Crowdsource Survey which in the space of exactly one week has garnered 1378 entries, and counting.*  That is 197 per day since it went live.  THIRTEEN more were added just in the time I have been writing this post.

If you wish to contribute your own completely anonymous account, please do so through this submission form, which will automatically enter your text into the spreadsheet.

I created the Survey, and the #MeTooPhD hashtag on Twitter, to provide a place for women to share their stories without fear of censorship or judgment, to know they are not alone, and to find strength in numbers and a foundation from which to recover and perhaps take action. There are many awful outcomes of sexual harassment in the academy, but perhaps the worst is that women are forced out of the academy entirely because of it, depriving the world of their talent, their gifts, their insights. And in truth, is this not ultimately the agenda of all sexual harassment in all fields?

The Survey has had quite an impact. I was interviewed for the CBC As It Happens radio show (which also aired on NPR), and have talked to reporters from Buzzfeed, Marie Claire, and Toronto Metro and fielded many other inquiries.

I can’t bring myself to write in detail about the contents of this Survey right now, however, because I find it completely overwhelming.  I can only read it in short bursts, because the things the brave contributors describe make me feel ill.  And not only the survey–my email inbox is filled with almost 100 emails from women naming their rapists and harassers, as well as the university administrators who protected them. They don’t send these names, and I don’t receive them, because we want to go public. They send them because they just want to tell someone.  They just want someone to know.  I am honored to be trusted with these names.

The stories are distressing to read, but they are not personally triggering to me.  I was not sexually harassed during my years in the academy. My male professors and colleagues treated me reasonably well, and when they didn’t, it was more in the realm of general shittiness than anything that could be listed in this survey.

I want to make that clear, because there are a couple of entries on the spreadsheet that try to make the point that “truly accurate representation” would include mention of women not being harassed, of women being treated with respect, in the academy. I can barely find words to express my rejection of this view.

Nobody gets a cookie for refraining from harassing women.

The fact that I personally didn’t experience a personal case of sexual harassment does not mean that such harassment was not rampant in my surroundings, and that it did not fundamentally shape the conditions under which I and all other women pursued our academic careers.

What the survey shows is that sexual predation is utterly pervasive in academic settings, and colors virtually everything we do.  As I said to reporter Colleen Flaherty, when she asked me for my thoughts on the Survey for her (excellent) piece covering it (thank you, Colleen) in Inside Higher Ed:

“I created the survey to give victims a place to share their stories, to know they are not alone and to realize the systemic, institutional, and patterned nature of sexual abuse in the academy. This is not meant to be a scientific survey; my goal is to provide a public space for the truth of sexual predation to be shared to help lessen the shame that victims feel in a context of secrecy, intimidation and silence, and also to remove plausible deniability by institutions. You cannot solve a problem if you can’t see it. This survey aims to make the problem visible to all.

What we see from the survey stories are three themes: first the pervasiveness and severity of the abuse — extending to rape, intimidation, and terrifying levels of stalking over months and years; second, the systematic protection of abusers over victims, and the sheer force of patriarchal solidarity in keeping powerful men insulated from consequences, and thus able to continue harassing tens or hundreds of victims over decades (and as bell hooks says: patriarchy has no gender, meaning, powerful women often support abusive patriarchal academic structures that victimize junior women); and third, the devastating consequences for academic women, leading to the loss of their contributions to the world of scholarship. Countless women on the survey describe being hounded out of the Ph.D. entirely, being forced to change projects or advisors or institutions, resulting in disrupted work and loss of funding and continuity, being forced to conduct their work under conditions of terror and siege — some even describe having to hide in closets and empty rooms to avoid their harasser, or having to move their residence repeatedly, or avoid certain conferences or meetings. How can best work be done under such circumstances??? The result is an incalculable loss of women’s contribution to scholarly life. When people bemoan the loss of the contribution of Famous Man X, they are ignoring the loss of contribution of the 5 or 25 or 50 or more women he harassed out of the field entirely.

I hope that this survey makes for a powerful #MeTooPhD moment in the academy which will disrupt its entrenched systems of sexual abuse once and for all. I hope it makes men feel uncomfortable, and makes them closely examine their own behavior and that of their male colleagues, and ask: how have I participated in or enabled similar stories to those I am reading here? The goal is not for women to try and stop being harassed. It’s for men to stop being sexual predators.”

I can do no better than to end this post with the piece Dirty Old Men on the Faculty by Sheila McMillen in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week (bolding added).  McMillen had a long career and has things to say. Her words burn.

Let me provide a little history.

In December 1973, when I was a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, Esquire magazine published an article by R.V. (Verlin) Cassill, a professor at Brown University, called “Up the Down Coed,” subtitled “Notes on the Eternal Problem of Fornication With Students.” It begins with a student — “the girl,” as he calls her — coming to his office and asking his help on interpreting the Rilke poems he has assigned. He reads aloud the line giving her difficulty: “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders?”

He dismisses her trembling earnestness, her clothes: “dungarees with a patched jacket — a costume I find boring and pretentious,” and assures the reader that the meeting “can not lead to something the reader might find … reprehensible.” He goes on to lament his aging and the end of “the golden era of faculty-student copulation on our campuses,” and adds jocular reminiscences of his escapades with coeds when he was younger. In his view, they were the instigators: “Many girls matriculate knowing that if the professorial lamp is properly rubbed, the phallic genie will pop out.”

Though not well known now, Cassill was at the time a respected writer and teacher. The author of 24 novels, he was a founder of the Associated Writing Programs and, before his time at Brown University, a faculty member at the Writers Workshop of the University of Iowa. Shortly after the Esquire piece was published, The Brown Daily Herald, the student newspaper, ran a story with the headline “Verlin Cassill: Another D.H. Lawrence or Just a Dirty Old Man?” Cassill’s article was outrageous even for its day, and I suspect he intended it to be so — he said in a sarcastic reply that the piece had been written “out of laughter and tenderness” and that he “sneered deliberately.” He certainly ended his Esquire essay on a note of droll waggery, referring back to the Rilke quote: “Who — if she and I cried out in unison — gladly — would hear us among the angelic orders? (A professorial joke. Heh, heh).

I could see the intended humor of the Esquire article, but as a “girl” myself, I also felt like the butt of the joke. When I visited professors during office hours with questions, did they see me giving “wide-eyed … signals of consent,” as a “sly little wonder” eager for their sexual attention? Did they see my eyes as “little jeweled orifices, quivering vortices down which the noblest intentions might plunge and be lost”? I had one more semester until graduation; cautioned, I don’t think I went to any more faculty-student conferences.

Beyond the Daily Herald article and a letter or two, there weren’t any repercussions for Cassill, who continued to teach at Brown until his retirement, as an emeritus professor, in 1983.

That was such a long time ago, you might think.

In 1993, by which time I was teaching in the English department at the University of Virginia, Harper’s magazine published the transcript of a forum titled “New Rules About Sex on Campus.” An editor at Harper’s, Jack Hitt, led the discussion with four faculty members: John Boswell, a professor of history at Yale University; Joan Blythe, an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky; William Kerrigan, a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and Leon Botstein, president of Bard College. The topic under consideration: Should campuses institute prohibitions against romantic entanglements between professors and students?

All four academics opposed a ban. The reasons for Kerrigan’s opposition were astonishing. He said that he often dealt with “a kind of student … working through something that only a professor could help her with. I’m talking about a female student who, for one reason or another has unnaturally prolonged her virginity.” He made it clear that he had been willing to be that helpful professor: “There have been times when this virginity has been presented to me as something that I … can handle.”

Could there be a creepier perversion of noblesse oblige?

To Botstein’s credit, he said. “Let me say this: I think sexual relations trigger a set of ethical obligations,” to which both Blythe and Kerrigan responded: “Ethical obligations?” As if the idea were absurd.

At a subsequent meeting at the University of Massachusetts, the Faculty Senate disavowed Kerrigan’s comments without censuring him. No one at Kentucky seemed bothered by Blythe’s comment.

That was such a long time ago, you might think.

Nearly a quarter-century later, I’m retired. I hope that those in the academic world who are tempted to make the kind of comments Cassill and Kerrigan found acceptable would think twice in this era of social media, when an intemperate remark can bring out the online pitchforks.

But the recent accusations of sexual harassment against faculty members at Berklee College of Music and the University of California at Berkeley, at the University of Virginia, Columbia University, and Dartmouth College, suggest that while faculty members may now be more circumspect about what they say, they remain less so about what they do.

Unfortunately, none of this happened a long time ago.

While faculty members may now be more circumspect about what they say, they remain less so about what they do.

I’ve often wondered if there are more sexual predators in academia than in other environments. Where else is there an unending procession — renewed annually — of enticingly attractive young men and women, often unsure of themselves and eager to be in your good graces? It’s a setup rife with possibilities for manipulation, if one is so inclined. Rather like “shooting fish in a barrel,” as Cassill said, and all too easy.

Some argue that what professors say to students in and out of classrooms is an issue of free speech — oh, campuses are full of sensitive snowflakes who can’t take a joke or compliment. But, according to a study forthcoming in the Utah Law Review, the majority of harassment charges that the researchers investigated included not only verbal abuse but also unwelcome physical contact. That’s when harassment crosses the line to assault.

I’d like to think we’ve finally reached a tipping point in awareness, that the surge in accusations of harassment signals that the attitudes and behavior that Cassill and Kerrigan endorsed will now get the condemnation they deserve. But it’s not enough that predators realize they need to watch their words. They also need to consider their deeds — or be hit with more than a slap on the wrist. I certainly hope that’s what the future holds. I’d hate to think students must wait another 45 years to see real change.

 

For now, this is what I can write.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the women who have contributed to the survey.

*Please note that the number of lines in the spreadsheet does not equal the number of substantive entries. The content is entered through a form, and if someone starts the form but doesn’t submit it, that leads to a blank line in the spreadsheet. Thus there are more lines than there are entries. I have access to an accurate running tally of actual substantive entries, and that is the figure that I cite here and in other writing and interviews.

#MakeupMonday: Introducing Sailor-J, the Beauty Blogger U Need When Ur Exposing Sexual Harassment in the Academy

This week I launched the Sexual Harassment in the Academy Crowdsource Survey and 600+ entries into it, I am just a little…ummm…

SHALL WE SAY…

PISSED OFF?

AND IN NO MOOD TO WRITE A MAKEUP MONDAY POST.

CURRENT MOOD, AS REPRESENTED IN LAST NIGHT’S TEXTS:

Professor Friend: I hate people
Did I ever tell you that my boyfriend told me that he found out a few years ago that female students in his department keep a list of “safe” male professors?

Not a list of unsafe or predatory ones — but a list of “safe” ones

Like unsafe is the default

KK: Wow that is terrible

Professor Friend: I know right??
Somehow it was more upsetting than if he had said it was a list of “bad” faculty tho that still would have been upsetting
I asked him if it was a list of profs who didn’t harass women and he said not only that but also profs who wouldn’t as he put it “act bro-ey” and make women uncomfortable in any way.

And that is really the default isn’t it.

KK: Yes
Dicks.
Bag o dicks
Box o dicks

Professor Friend: Yes
Bowl of dicks

KK: Bucket o dicks

Professor Friend: Bidet of dicks

KK: Basket o dicks

Professor Friend: You beat me! I was going to say basket!!!!

KK: 

Professor Friend:  Bundle of dicks
What’s a term of venery for dicks?

KK: That I don’t know

Professor Friend: A meta-dick? Since toxic masculinity is fractal?

KK: Ur-dick

Professor Friend: Yes!
One dick to rule them all, one dick to bind them

KK:  Hahahahahaha!!!!
Ask not what your dick can do for you but what you can do for your dick.
Give me dick or give me death!

Professor Friend:  Hahahahaha
Because I could not stop for dick it kindly stopped for me

KK:  Hahaha!!!!

Professor Friend: Dance like no one is watching, love like it’s never going to hurt and work towards your PhD like academia isn’t a giant shitbowl of dicks

KK: 
I wonder if I should put this on the blog. The whole thread.

Professor Friend: I don’t know! It’s kind of cathartic — but will it detract from the gravitas?

KK:  After this fucking survey do I care?

And so for Makeup Monday I leave you in the hands of Sailor J, the beauty blogger we all need today.

 

As she informs us, “Since it’s simply for the dick, we have to do it.”

 

 

 

And remember: “So long as you look like a newborn baby, men are willing to mate with you.”

(Find more Sailor J here: Twitter: @_xjjsmithx_ Insta: xx_jjsmith_xx )

 

 

A Crowdsourced Survey of Sexual Harassment in the Academy

Sexual harassment is rampant in the academy as it is in every other industry.  The entrenched hierarchies of the academic world, the small size of most scholarly fields, the male dominance of virtually every field other than women’s studies, the culture of collegiality (read, evasiveness and pretense) that predominates, and junior scholars’ desperate dependency on good references for career advancement, make for conditions in which sexual abuse (and indeed abuse of all kinds) can flourish with impunity.

Because it is so difficult for many victims in the academy to speak out about cases of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, I have decided to create an anonymous, opensourced Sexual Harassment in the Academy survey (similar to the one I created years back on Ph.D. debt – see the Ph.D. Debt Survey here).

You can share your own story using the Survey Submission Form below.

My hope is that this survey will allow victims to find a safe way to anonymously report their experience of sexual harassment. My goal is for the academy as a whole to begin to grasp the true scope and scale of this problem in academic settings.  I hope it provides aggregate information in the form of personal stories of abuse and its career outcomes for victims (which, as a cultural anthropologist I consider the most potent form of data), paving the way for more frank conversations and more effective interventions.

Women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual harassment, and until this issue is addressed head on, women will continue to be hounded out of academia, as they are from every other career from comedy to politics. I hope that gathering stories will allow women in particular to know they are not alone, and create conditions for women to thrive in their chosen careers.

Share your own story using the Survey Submission Form just below. 

PLEASE BE AWARE: Your answers will automatically be entered (totally anonymously, with no way to track your identity) into a PUBLIC SPREADSHEET, VISIBLE TO ALL, which you may view by clicking through to it.  Please do not share any information you don’t wish to be immediately visible to the public.

To share your own story of sexual harasssment in the academy, CLICK HERE FOR THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT SURVEY SUBMISSION FORM; this will enter your story into the public spreadsheet

And here again is link to the SPREADSHEET OF RESPONSES (as of late December with 1900+ entries), where you can follow each individual entry through all of its elements: SPREADSHEET.

The stories on the spreadsheet make for brutal but urgent reading.  Thank you to all who have participated. And thank you to those who have followed up by email to name their harassers and the administrators who protected them. I have a long list. I promise to keep this entirely confidential, but will use the names to potentially connect victims of the same perpetrator. You may email me at gettenure@gmail.com to add your story.

The sum total of these almost 2000 entries allows everyone to see that sexual predation is endemic to the power hierarchies of the academy in ways that almost perfectly parallel Hollywood: powerful older men are gatekeepers to vulnerable younger women, use their power for sexual predation, and are then protected by other senior men and women invested more in preserving the power structure than in defending victims. Women of color are doubly vulnerable and doubly bullied when they see redress.

This piece by K.A. Amienne, Abusers and Enablers in the Academy, lays out the dynamic of enabling that prevails:

My department chair had all the security that race, class, gender, and tenure at a top-10 university can bestow. And still he was too afraid to do his job properly. I was a woman, a student, crushed under debt, without institutional support, and minus parents or any other safety net back in the working-class world from which I’d come. How was I supposed to confront this professor on my own when people who could have — and should have — would not?

So I did what a lot of women do. After earning my Ph.D., I walked away from a life in which I’d invested time, money, and work. I spent the next several years blaming myself, replaying the scenes, repeating the words of those in power. I had mixed feelings of relief and resentment as I met others who told different versions of “Yes, everyone knows he’s like this.”

Sharing your story, even anonymously, can be transformative for victims. You can see that you’re not alone, that you did nothing wrong, that the structure sets you up for victimization and systematically prevents consequences for the perpetrator. I believe this document removes plausible deniability from academic institutions about the pervasiveness and severity of sexual harassment, and I hope that it can promote greater peace, clarity, and resolve among its many victims, no matter what they choose to do moving forward. Solidarity.

#MakeupMonday: Travel Tactics

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.

Here is my weekly reminder:  I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), I suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.

For previous posts, see the following:

~~~~~~

As soon as I hammered out all of the makeup solutions I’ve described in previous weeks, I quickly realized that I was going to have to next figure out how to take them on the road. Because I travel–a lot.  At least one trip a month and usually more.  I’m either traveling nationally or internationally to give talks and workshops on the academic career, or I’m visiting my kids away at school, or other family and friends.  And of course travel is a core part of your academic lifestyle, as well, what with conferences, and research, and living (usually) far from family and friends…  so, today I talk about how I manage taking my makeup on the road!

The two things I have found I cannot live without are a good, segmented makeup bag, and a lighted travel mirror.  I’ve tried to do without both of these things, and I’m never happy.  The fact is, I wear a lot of different products, and I don’t want to do without them while in transit. So I need a bag big enough to both store and organize them.  And because my 50+ year old eyes are just terrible, I cannot even begin to imagine applying makeup without a serious 10x magnifying (and lighted) mirror.

Both of these items took a lot of trial and error to get right, but here’s what i use.  This bag pictured below (versions of which you can easily find basically anywhere), and this mirror, which I found on the AS SEEN ON TV SHELF AT RITEAID for $18!!! ——->>>

I tried the little 10x magnified suction mirrors that you can find at the drugstore, but the problem is that the suction cups never work, eventually fall out and get lost, and you’re stuck holding the mirror with one hand while trying to put on your makeup with the other, which does not work!  Or even if you CAN use the suction cup to get it to stick to the mirror, so many hotels have the mirror like 3 feet back from where you are standing that it helps Not At All.  So in the end, I knew I needed a lightweight standing mirror, with high magnification, and reliable light for dark hotel rooms, and this one fits the bill and even has some little holders built in to keep your sponges and things in the event you’re staying put for a few days. I admit, I was skeptical. But — so far, it really works!

Now in terms of the bag, I keep it half-prepacked with items that I always need: an extra makeup remover stick, tweezers, primer, concealer, silicone and regular makeup sponges, some face/eye masks and teeth whitening strips, good longwear lipstick (I pack my leftover lipsense samples) and above all: foundation.  The reason foundation is so important in this plan is:  my beloved Becca foundation is liquid, and if I’m to travel with it, I have to put it in my TSA bag!  But I don’t want to do that because it takes too much of that precious space! And also, even when I made a tiny travel-sized Becca jar to carry with me, it just didn’t work with my sponges: the makeup would end up everywhere except the sponge.  It was frustrating!

Eventually, as with so many things makeup, my daughter came through with the solution:  stick foundation.  And that, friends, is now what I rely on for travel.

I experimented with all that I could find, and came up with two that stand out:  Tarte Clay Stick, and Clinique Chubby In the Nude.  The Tarte is a slightly heavier coverage although not as heavy as many stick foundations, and has that characteristic Tarte clay-ey, matte texture.

But the Clinique is light as a feather.  And the Clinique in Normous Neutral is one of the most exceptional color-matches for my skin I’ve ever achieved with a foundation of any kind, so that’s the one I now rely on.  It’s so great that actually bit by bit it’s starting to edge out Becca even at home….  you can’t beat a stick for ease of application! No Muss No Fuss! It’s SO EASY!  At Miyako’s urging, I’m actually about to give in and try Clinique Chubby Stick Cheek Colour Balm, just to keep going with the ease of this whole stick thing….

So my bag is pre-packed with my foundation, and then before the trip I just throw in my eye makeup, brushes, highlighter and blush.  The only reason that the bag is not TOTALLY pre-packed with eye makeup, brushes, highlighter and blush is just the expense of keeping duplicates of all of it.  But someday that may indeed be the case.

I am actually currently exploring some travel sized eyeshadow and brush options to replace my Tartelette, and my huge brush collection, which are both really kind of overkill for travel.  Here’s what I’m looking at: Viseart Theory Palette in Chroma (left), and Smashbox Photo Matte Eyes Travel Palette (right) – as you can see I am into the taupe/stone shades!

For brushes I just ordered EcoTools Eye Enhancing Duo Set because you get four different brushes in a compact travel-sized set, all for $6.99! I’ll let you know how they work out.

The other travel shortcut I keep around is actually a second entirely pre-packed bag for truly unplanned, super-short, last minute trips, when I don’t want to have to fuss around with digging out all my “real” makeup and carefully organizing and packing it.  I just keep bits and pieces of my old makeup in there–the good stuff that I don’t use anymore but can’t quite bring myself to throw out (the Tarte Clay Stick is in there!) – and when Kellee and I decide to make an impromptu overnight trip to Portland, or when I went on a fun yoga retreat with friends, or when my son had an unexpected medical situation away at school that I had to rush to at the last minute, I can just grab it and throw it in the bag and be off in minutes.  I use an old Glossier bag for this purpose!

Because I am OBSESSED with my multi-step skin care (mostly from Sabbatical Beauty!), I of course also keep an entirely pre-packed toiletries bag filled with my face wash, serums, moisturizers, and hair products ready to go at all times!

That will be the subject for another post!

But before I go I will say that for both makeup and toiletries, excellent high-quality travel containers are absolutely essential.  And these are very, very hard to find.  In the US, it’s easy to find shitty ones. It’s incredibly difficult to find good ones.  Lucky for me, I’m a Japan specialist, and therefore I have a lifetime collection of the unparalleled travel containers that are made only in that country. Lucky for YOU, those items can now be found in the U.S. in Muji Stores and available online as well!  They come in every size and shape, and you will never, I repeat NEVER, find travel containers equal to these, for any price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profs and Pints: My Post-Ac Business In Academic Pub Talks – Guest Post

By Peter Schmidt

Peter’s Bio:  In addition to being the CEO of Profs and Pints, Peter Schmidt is a freelance writer and consultant and is working part-time as a Senior Fellow for the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. He was a Senior Writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education, where he worked for 21 years. Before that he covered school desegregation, bilingual education, and urban schools for Education Week. He is the author of Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action (Palgrave Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press), and his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and USA Today. He lives in Washington DC.

Find Profs and Pints on the Web

Find Profs and Pints on Facebook

Email Peter at:  profsandpints@hotmail.com

[KK:  Peter reached out to tell me about his new initiative, and I invited him to share his story here. If you’re an academic – especially adjunct or NTT instructor – in the DC area, talk to Peter about doing a talk!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve seen my share of economic decline and disruption. In my first job as a Detroit Free Press paper boy I routinely brought my neighbors news of the closing of automobile factories and the layoffs of their workers. After graduating from college in 1986, I struggled to find a reporting job at one of Michigan’s cash-strapped newspapers and had to scrape by on a poverty-level income as a freelancer for the Ann Arbor News. If my father had not lost our family’s appliance store to NAFTA, recession, and competition from big appliance-store chains, Walmart or Amazon almost certainly would have done it in. In seeking a career of print journalism just as the digital age dawned, I unknowingly enlisted in a fleet bound for a storm.

Despite all of this, it nevertheless came as a shock when I was summoned into a Chronicle of Higher Education office in late August and told I’d be jettisoned as part of their latest round of layoffs. In my 21 years there I had worked tirelessly, covering beats dealing with college access, academic labor, academic freedom, and education research. I had always assumed that my work ethic, expertise, and commitment to the place would give me job security. Not so.

Now here I am, a 53-year-old treading water and looking for another ship—or at least something to keep me afloat. I’m doomed if I become paralyzed by fear or self-pity. I’m having to think fast. Based on my reporting for the Chronicle, I’m well aware know that many of this blog’s readers are in the water with me, barely keeping their own heads above water in trying to earn a living off academe’s tenure track.

I also know how expensive it would be to go back to school. I’d burn through most of my savings, only to step back out into a labor market in which I’d encounter even more age discrimination than I face now. It had  pained me, as an education reporter, to see how rising tuitions have rendered college unaffordable for many, while driving others to study not what truly interests them but what will qualify them for the sort of job that will pay off their student loans. I don’t want to live out the rest of my working life as a cog in some soulless corporate machine.

Such thoughts weighed heavily on me on a day when suddenly-former Chronicle coworkers had summoned me to a pub for a happy-hour sendoff. I asked myself if I would be able to draw on my experience to devise some new way to make a living. I was already encountering career-transition advice that made me cringe, such as suggestions that employers are impressed by statements like “I saved my company X million dollars by shipping Y number of jobs overseas.” I wondered if I could find an occupation that actually would put me out in front of economic trends and yet would not demand that I embrace the economic disruption that I had watched cause so much misery and send the media racing toward the bottom.

I recalled thoughts about higher education that I’d had as a Chronicle reporter but set aside as impossible to entertain seriously while working there: What if we could circumvent much of the cost of higher education by bypassing bloated college administrations and bringing people who love to learn into direct contact with instructors who love teaching? How eager would such instructors be to reach the general public? If I could revive an ancient Greek education model, and essentially sell tickets to hear Socrates, would I draw large enough crowds to make it worth everyone’s time?

I arrived early for my rendezvous at Washington’s Bier Baron Tavern, a pub known mainly for its expansive beer menu and weekend burlesque shows. I caught the attention of one of its managers and boiled my musings about a new education model into a business pitch, telling him I just might have come up with a way to make money by educating the public and fielding college instructors needed work. . His eyes lit up as he told me I just might have the answer to a problem his bar shares with most others, slow weeknights. Profs and Pints was born.

I have been working frantically since then turn Profs and Pints into a viable business with the slogan “No tuition or tests. Just lectures you’ll love.” I’ve built a Web site, learned the ropes of social-media marketing, and already staged six talks, including two by college instructors off the tenure track. All of my instructors I have put on stage have demonstrated a wonderful ability to engage the public and left their audiences pledging to come back to future Profs and Pints events. My line-up has included experts on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, gardening, the Trump administration, and the use of social-media for political shenanigans.

My initial contracts with instructors guarantee them 70 percent of the revenue from $10 tickets. The events room where they speak holds more than 160. Friends have said I’m being too generous, but I want to reward presenters for taking a chance on me, and to offer them incentives to work to draw a crowd. My intent is to alleviate—not exploit—college instructors’ financial woes. I’m confident that I’ll reap dividends, financial as well as karmic, from having a reputation for treating people fairly. The trick will be striking the right balance between offering potential presenters enough to have them knocking on my door and still earning the revenue necessary to have this business thrive and spread to other venues and cities.

I’ve found faculty members at local colleges incredibly supportive. Of the more than 20 I’ve approached, only two have rebuffed me as not offering them enough pay. (Others had short-term conflicts but urged me to get back to them later.)  I’ve encountered a few bumps—my audience sizes have fluctuated wildly as I have struggled to find the right formula for drawing crowds and come up against forces beyond my control, like nasty fall weather. But I have reason to hope this thing will take off. Other venues have approached me. Journalists have begun to report on my efforts. My company’s Meetup social-networking page enlisted more than 100 members in its first day.

My biggest challenge has been reaching the population my business most seeks to help, adjuncts who don’t have a clear network or much of a presence on college Web sites.  So, if you live in the Washington DC area, or come here to visit, please seek out a Profs and Pints event and have a beer with me. And if you’d like to present–please message me here or DM me at the links above! I’m hoping the room will be so full that it will be clear that I’ve sparked a new cultural trend. If so, you can join me in saying cheers to that.