Monthly Archives: April 2012

Being Faculty

So the first week of the semester in PFP, we had to quickly write down what we thought it meant to be a faculty member.  Looking back at it, I must have really been in a bad mood:

A faculty member at a college or university is a person who wears many hats.  Through the course of your day, you are a teacher, an advisor, a committee member, a researcher… just to name a few.  A faculty member is someone who better have a pretty strong ability to balance multiple projects at once.  It is not a 9-5 job—some days you work from sun-up to sundown.  Summers aren’t “Free Time” like so many non-academics believe.  Every vacation ends up involving your research at some point.  Being a faculty member means not seeing your family from Thanksgiving to Christmas, even if you’re actually home every night.  It’s constant, lifelong learning.  It’s never quite growing up—you’re always around young people, and your job still involves going to school every day (and being excited about snow days, in spite of what you may tell your students).  It’s fighting with the administration for your students, knowing that gaining opportunities, funding, and time for your own students may end up being detrimental to other departments (and feeling incredibly guilty about that—usually).  It is fighting with sports for the “real” reason students should be at college.  Spring isn’t March Madness—it’s job talks and committee meetings.

After that, I ran out of time to type.

First off, wow, this is pretentious and horrible.  I swear I haven’t doctored it in any way (clearly–look how bad it is!).

But there are some points in there I still believe are true, even after this semester.  As faculty, we really are people who have to “switch gears” constantly, balancing home life and work life; teaching and researching; faculty committee member and student mentor.  Through all of these switches, we have to stay up-to-date on our fields.  We can only emulate the importance of lifelong learning to our students if we ourselves remain active learners.

I think I was probably a little on the administration in my initial write-up.  Many things happen at the higher admin levels that as individual faculty, staff, and students have no concept of.  We have talked a lot this semester about ethics and standards, and faculty members should always stand up for what they think is right.  As Dean DePauw reminded us all spring, it is important to know where your ethical lines are before you enter a situation with a student, fellow faculty member, and even the administration.

My “being faculty” statement is not as comprehensive as I would like, but I think that’s OK.  If I knew everything there was to know about “being faculty” at 26, having not yet officially been a member of any faculty… well, that would be pretty ridiculous.

PS:  I still get excited about snow days…


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The Price of Academic Writing

In NMFSS yesterday, Gail made this excellent point regarding scholarly articles:  “We pay you a little bit to write your article and then we pay a *lot* to the publisher to get it back!”

She’s absolutely right.  Our colleges and universities (assuming you’re in academia of course) pay us our wages.  And those wages cover our teaching, research, and service.  So yeah, she’s right, at the end of the day, a little bit of those wages go toward writing that article.  We are not paid by the journal for these submissions, nor do I necessarily think we should be.

This article is then published in an expensive journal, which the library has to buy either in paper copy, or in digital copy, or in both!  Without a library account you cannot access this material.  Anyone can walk into the library and use it, to be fair, but not everyone has digital access.

I know for a fact that the cost of these journals is problematic for many university libraries, especially in light of state-level budget cuts (for state schools).  At a former institution, we were sent a list of journals to be cut one year, and unless we made an incredibly strong case for a particular journal, they were cut at the end of the year.

Why are we limiting information to only those who can afford it?  How much farther and faster would knowledge advance if we didn’t exclude people simply because they cannot afford 35 bucks to read an article?

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I like to think I’m pretty good at figuring out when I have offended people and am fairly willing to apologize immediately.  My mouth often goes faster than my brain, so this happens enough that I feel like I can speak to how good I am at fixing it.

So when I encounter a situation where someone is being antagonistic to me, and I honestly cannot figure out why, I tend to think that there’s probably nothing I can do to change that situation (wow, I’m just abusing adverbs everywhere).

Thank G-d I have a pretty thick skin.

More often than I would like, I sit in academic, professional situations and watch posturing that I just can’t understand.  Often these situations arise on power-relationship dynamics (men/women; profs/grad students; older/younger).  Quite probably, insecurities I cannot even begin to understand are fueling them.

When “I’m smarter/better/older/whiter/male/younger/taller/female/educated-er than *you*” get in the ways of meaningful dialogue, learning, and just being humane to each other, it infuriates me.  Sometimes I feel empowered to respond to these situations; other times, I sit back and let the jerk (let’s use our 5-year-old words) be a jerk.  Jerkiness will out, G-dwilling.

At the end of the day, I really only have control over my own actions, appearance, and knowledge in any professional (or personal, or random, or ANY) situation.  And if I come off as a jerk, that’s my own fault.

Don’t be a jerk.

Luckily, I have some brilliant academic role models I pull from.  People who are willing to not be in the experts in the room at all times–who encourage the rest of us to step in where their knowledge may be lacking.  I love them for pulling me through the days where the wangst (wank-angst) gets to be too much.


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Why aren’t we reading Lyotard?

For my Religion and Modernity in the West course this week, we read Jean-François Lyotard’s “A Report on Knowledge.”

Let be honest and say I haven’t finished it.  I might be missing something huge.

I am taking both GEDI and NMFSS the semester, and as I read through the intro and beginning of the short work (yes, I have no excuse for not having finished it), I was drawn to Lyotard’s discussion of the importance of understanding how technology is changing the way we learn.  In this new technological age, language becomes incredibly important (this is all on page 16 of the edition I have).  As part of this shift towards a more communicative society, he sees narrative and story as becoming more and more important (page 19).

Narrative becoming more important.  People telling their stories.  You mean… like blogging?

Lyotard wrote this work in 1979, and honestly, it is asking the same pedagogy and new media questions we are still asking.  I forgot to look at the title page when I started (my bad…), and from his language and discussion, I pegged him in the late 80s/early 90s.

Lyotard isn’t in our NMFSS textbook, and frankly, I’m shocked.  Because this guy is seriously awesome.

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Networkin’ Knowledge

Today’s post is brought to you by 21st century Brain, sponsored in part by growing up in the 90s.  Blog posting while paying attention in class.  Go me.

One of my classmates, blogo-named Nature, posted this entry a few days ago about Knowledge Networks.  After explaining his connection to this area and feeling like he needed a push into the next step of knowing about Knowledge networks, he ended his post with this:

What should I be reading?  Who should I talk to?

I get that he meant this specifically with regards to Knowledge Networks, but this is really how feel nearly every day.  I wonder if this is just the plight of the grad students, to feel like we never know when we’re reading enough, or if we’re reading the right thing.  Talking to others is an entirely different set of terrors, because that actually involves having to interact in an weird master/student relationship.  No one wants to look ignorant, especially in front of the person with the “answers.”

I’m aware that this post does not really do what Gardner asked for (like how I pinged an entry that has nothing to do with this post, G? Pingbacks and Knowledge Networking FTW!), but this quote of Nature’s stuck out to me for better or for worse.

ETA (04/04/2012 05:02):  Well everything is connected, isn’t it.  That post of Gardner’s I connected to talks about how we can have time to be so plugged into the Series of Tubes.  That came up in class today.  Oops.

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