Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Friday, July 08, 2005

New developments in academia

Okay, so according to the pseudonymous Ivan Tribble's article in my favorite publication on the planet, The Chronicle of Higher Education, having a weblog is very nearly enough to disqualify you from an academic job pool. My favorite passage, with emphasis added to the best bits:

"The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum."


So, lemme get this straight: Even if you have a blog which remains profoundly diplomatic about professional controversy--nay, even if your blog scrupulously avoids any mention of potential professional controversy at all, you are a "security risk" to departments that might otherwise be interested in hiring you, because you might one day be tempted to write something said department might not want others to know about?

In other words, anyone who blogs is untrustworthy, a suspected biter of those who feed her, a potential Bolshevik lurking in the departmental washroom.

This kind of thing is why I'm staying anonymous and asking all my friends and readers to help me stay that way by avoiding specificity about my name, specific geographical locations of long-term residence (past and present), publications, etc.

I'm also staying anonymous because it's easier for me to say the sorts of things I started writing a blog to say: to work through my ideas on matters professional and personal in a format that's accessible to friends and other like- and unlike-minded folks who can help me achieve greater clarity through their responses. And I can't be accused of "airing departmental dirty laundry" if I give everybody pseudonyms, stay nonspecific, and don't actually name my institution.

But, honestly, the necessity of this kind of paranoia and secrecy is upsetting. I'm trying to give myself a chance at an academic career by dotting enough Is and crossing enough Ts to remain an acceptable candidate, and apparently, that has to include concealing the existence of my blog. But I'm not sure I like the price I'm paying to stay "marketable," not only in this way, but in many others.

I know not all of academia is as petty as the search committee described in Mr. Tribble's article. But really: do I want to work with/for people like this? Do I want to work in an environment in which people are asked to pretend that they're colorless cardboard cut-outs who never watch TV, get pissed off about traffic, or have an opinion that's not couched in peer-reviewed prose and published in a journal? No, I don't. And I chafe at playing by a set of rules that seems to be set by people who fit that description.

In other, related news, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has decided that professors should be investigated to discover whether their political views are being "forced" on their students. Hmm. Guess who's behind this measure? Guess who voted for it? Guess which kinds of "political views" are most likely to be considered unacceptable when "forced" on students? (For a hint, check the quote which ends the article.)

And guess who gets to decide what's "a political view" and what's "a fact"? If you were going to say "Well, people who're qualified in the field and therefore able to make a reasonable judgment about things," you'd be wrong. Because it's going to be a legislative committee.

I need some reminding, right now, of why I want to be a professor.

Scratch that. I need reminding on an almost daily basis.


UPDATE: Other blog posts about Tribblegate include that of our favorite e-saloniste, BitchPhD, as well as those at ABD: AlmostBloodyDone; Acephalous (who quoted me and gave me a trackback--sexy!); Badgering; Blogenspiel; The Chutry Experiment; Colin vs. Blog; Daniel W. Drezner; Financial Rounds; Frog in a Well; Information Overlord; Jess's Journal; Lawyers, Guns, and Money; The Little Professor; OneMan'; Planned Obsolescence; Profgrrrrl; Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast; So, Anyway . . . ; and Yellow Dog.