Vulnerability, Anonymity and other words I can’t spell

Although untenured people may believe differently, there is no line in the sand when you become “safe”. When you can say whatever you want. Safety and security are  not binomial, but a continuous and subtly changing function of time. Yes, tenure does provide significant job security, but it is not a done deal, carved in stone and immutable in time. Just because it is much harder to fire someone, does not mean that the bastards can’t make your life miserable. Do you really want to go to work where you are hated? Where your job changes frequently and for the worse (“we’ve decided that you need to teach this extra course next year”, or “now that you are tenured you need to be head of advising or remediation or curriculum or something else that will suck up lots of time and if you screw it up, you will have hundreds of irate students and faculty all over your ass”)? Or the more subtle forms of unpleasantness – watching the deadwood get more $$ than you, get raises you don’t (“well, Potnia, you just have not met expectations this year”). Or, being told to do a job (“please develop a faculty development program”), work your ass off, and then have everything you tried to change dismissed (“we don’t really need this”) or attributed to someone else (“George did such a good job of making this happen”)?

For me (and perhaps I blogged this before, I am old and can’t fucking remember), a breaking point came when the Dean called me in for a chat. She said my chair had been to her to complain about me. My lack of loyalty. My lack of work (despite more pubs & $$ than anyone else in the dept). My disrespectful attitude (ok, this was probably true). She sighed and said “you have to get along with him, can’t you fake being a team player?”. I stared at her. She then said “you know, he just really hates you.”. When the Dean tells you the department head hates you, its time to go.  Looking for a job is never, ever easy. There are different problems at different ages. The logistics for me are much easier now than when I was a sprout. But other problems abound. It is not worth boring you all with the details.

So why do I blog anonymously? Because The Chair From Hell is a vindictive bastard. He may not touch me, but he denied the dept’s help in getting a visa for my foreign postdoc renewed (“you really should find a citizen to do this work”).  Junior faculty I support and mentor, are just not treated as well. It’s not just that he would be even more angry with me, he would likely take it out on others. Besides if I continued “Shit my Department Chair Sez” one of my favorites, and yours too, to judge by hits, he’d haul me into court. He had staff fired (and lied about why) for mentioning a health problem of his to someone else (who tattled).

There is lots else to read about why anonymous blogging exists. Lots of people have lots of good things to say about this. Go read them. Contemplate the difficulties of the universe. And realize that everyone’s life is hard in one way or another.

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