Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Outed.

After talking to Fab I've asked Leslie K to post this note for me.

I'm a longtime RYS/CM community member. I've been on the page since early 2009.

Last month I posted something that I ended up using part of in an email to some departmental colleagues. One of them recognized it from the website and asked me if I wrote for CM. I sheepishly admitted I did - because he's a friend - and I didn't think much of it.

It turns out my friend told some other colleagues, and not everyone was charmed with the information. A couple of colleagues read the page a bit this week and took it to the chair. The chair in turn told me yesterday that it was in department's best interests (and my own) to "disassociate" from CM as he found the page "objectionable." He did it in a kind way, but his message was clear.

I don't think we're doing anything wrong here. I am not ashamed of what I've said about students, colleagues, and academic misery.

But as a tenure-track professor in a small department, I don't want even 1-2 people thinking poorly of me. I didn't want to publicize this information at all, but Fab suggested that it was an object lesson about our pseudonymity.

I never should have made the error of admitting anything. I certainly shouldn't have copy and pasted my own CM text and shared it with folks whose reactions I couldn't be sure of.

I think my colleagues on CM are much more enlightened and open than anyone I actually work with, and, stupidly, perhaps, I forgot that fact.

I will continue to read and support the page, but I'm going to back off posting and commenting under a name that is now known to my colleagues.

I hate sharing shitty news like this, but I'd tell each of you to be aware that there may be people you work with who might react like my colleagues did.


65 comments:

  1. Get a new name and get your ass back here, and don't make any more stupid mistakes like that!

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  2. Change your name, get an (avatar) face lift Keep posting. Advisory: text analysis has gotten quite sophisticated, so even disguising your style could give you away and then be confirmed by algorithm.

    Is there a witness protection program for academics?

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  3. Should you have posted this at all? I'm serious here. Might we not want to take this posting down--in case your chair is checking the site to see if you're "complying?"

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  4. TubaPlayingProf makes a good point, but the writer of the letter above was cautioned with exactly the same advice.

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  5. I have never shared anything from here with any of my colleagues for exactly the same reasons. If it's a story from elsewhere, I will send the original url. I agree completely with Stella, and good luck.

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  6. Wow, that's really sad.

    I don't post here, but I do respond under a name that could identify me with a quick google search. I've always said that I couldn't imagine anyone objecting, but now I wonder.

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  7. "A couple of colleagues read the page a bit this week and took it to the chair."

    This statement is crushing to me. As an old-timer, I remember a time when denoted "being united as allies." Now, we use "back-channel" email messages and closed-door meetings instead, and colleague means "co-worker."

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    1. Still, backstabbing in academia is nothing new. As no less than Henry Kissinger observed: the reason the fights in academia are so vicious is that the stakes are so small.

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    2. What _possible_ motivation might someone have for "taddling"? Does the chair put smile stamps on a name chart in the hallway for a good behavior?

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    3. AdjunctSlave:

      I suspect that those people do it because it makes them feel important and they can score points with their superiors. I've had that happen to me a few times throughout my career and almost always those who ratted on me were motivated by self-interest and maintaining a good reputation with their masters. Those same people would have sold out anyone for the right price.

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  8. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure my chair knows the name I post under.

    Suggestion: CM Musical Chairs Day!

    Let's all choose new nicknames and avatars at Christmas, in solidarity with the poster. Odds are I'll be able to identify my favorite commenters (not that you're not all my favorites) and we can all get a clean slate.

    I'm serious. What do people think?

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    1. Or. OR! We could trade names! Dibs on Strelnikov!

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    2. I put dibs on Kimmie of the Kensington Kimmies.

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    3. Dibs on Yaro. That way I can sell it to the highest bidder.

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    4. Aw, I like Proffie Galore, but I agree with doing this for solidarity. Good idea.

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    5. I'm not sure Yaro would receive many bids. Those would be very big shoes to fill.

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    6. Strelnikov could be the new Yaro.

      While I weary of my name, I don't know if we should all give up our names. I have a name in mind that I'd switch to, but I like the continuity. I like "knowing people" and don't particularly like the idea of a blank slate. But if the blog leadership declares a deluge and new beginning, I'll go along with it.

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  10. OK ... I'm editing ... not that I'm paranoid.

    I'm sorry to hear this. That really sucks. I'm an old RYS poster, tenured, and gray haired. Recently, I told a TT colleague about CM and encouraged this person to check it out. There's lots of good advice here, and sometimes it just helps to vent and to see that others are going through the same things that we are. I outed myself to this person, but I would expect that s/he would not do the same, just to be safe. I have no idea if anyone else on my campus reads or posts here, and so there is no need to take chances. We take care of our own, or at least we should. I know that I do.

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  11. I'm sure you must feel betrayed by the colleagues you thought you could trust. I'm so sorry for that. I hope you are able to keep posting comments, at least under a new pseudonym, but perhaps now that you're being scrutinized, that wouldn't be wise.

    Come back when you can!

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  12. On the paranoid side...

    Flush the history/cache in your browser, and don't logon to College Misery from your campus. Instead work from your home computer or elsewhere.

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  13. We look forward to your contributions under a new pseudonym.

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  14. I'm surprised this isn't more common. There's a false sense of security we get on this page because there are so many like-minded folks here. We get the feeling that to share the misery is all right. We know it helps us.

    We know it's good.

    That is not always the case in how this blog is viewed in our real world departments. Many think we're doing something wrong.

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    1. Oh, yes...in my department, any bitching about snowflake behavior is frowned upon, and an occasion for the interlocutor to ask, "Well what are you doing to help them follow directions/complete the work/wipe their asses?"

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    2. Every time I grumbled about my students, hinting that, perhaps, I could get some assistance from my superiors, I'd get answers like: "Well, that's what you get paid the big bucks for." Often, the one who usually gave me that response spent his day sitting on his backside doing next to nothing.

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    3. That is not always the case in how this blog is viewed in our real world departments. Many think we're doing something wrong.

      Yes. I just read a book about the crisis in higher ed and one line from the book was along the lines of "today's professors have nothing but contempt for undergrads." I immediately thought of this blog. Despite commonly repeated declarations here, often sincere, that we complain about a subset of the students (the size of the subset varies by institution, field, and personal experience), a perusal of this blog could certainly give people the impression that we hate our jobs, our students, our superiors and just about everything else about our lives. I can't see that that would be a reason to "taddle," but I can imagine finding that disconcerting.

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  15. Can we do a contest to come up with a new pseudonym?

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  16. I have found such solace here. That's right: solace. I don't know-----since I began reading this blog, I am so much LESS stressed. My colleagues are so kumbaya touchy feeling we love everything. I just CAN'T ever tell anyone at work how disgusted I get. It is like it is not allowed. I think we all share the same feelings but don't feel free to share. Then I found CM, and it was such a comfort. I stopped venting to loved ones (they would shout out a huge THANK YOU to all of you if they could). I stopped fretting about everything so much. I started accepting what IS, what I can't change.

    So I wanted to share the joy, and told one close friend about it. A close friend at work with whom I DO share some part of misery. My office mate. She's great.

    She does not approve of this site. She does not say that, exactly, but she does not come on here, and the one time we talked about it, she was sure it would have the exact opposite effect on her that it has had on me.

    I really don't know why every academic does not love this site. But I am so glad all of you are here. You have all made a real difference in my life.

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    1. i totally agree with bella. this place has saved my sanity countless times.

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    2. Totally agree! Went on a rant over student evals in a meeting yesterday like I would have done on here and gotten 100% support here. In the meeting, everyone stopped to stare at me and the chair of the committee said, "Well, aren't we Cynical?" and I agreed that yes... I am, but...

      I know where my support system is, as crazy as that sounds.

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    3. You sure do! WE are here for you, CC!!!!!

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    4. I think it's partly a matter of temperament. Some people really are happier looking for the bright spots; some of us are much more comfortable when we can point out, and have confirmed, that some aspects of our situations are pretty bad, and then keep trudging on, doing the best we can. It's hard for members of one group to understand the other (which doesn't make either wrong or right, just different).

      In my case, I could also argue that childhood trauma plays a role. For part of my childhood, my mother was seriously ill, and both my parents were in some degree of denial, to themselves and definitely to their children. I actually did better in some ways psychologically after she died, which sounds awful -- but, well, at least it was clear just how bad the situation was, and I found that less stressful than an atmosphere of suppressed/denied anxiety. But perhaps that brings us back to temperament; my sibling didn't pick up on the pre-mortem anxiety much, as far as I can tell, but was very worried afterward (mostly that my father would also die).

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    5. My colleagues are so kumbaya touchy feeling we love everything. I just CAN'T ever tell anyone at work how disgusted I get.

      Right, but when this blog itself gets all "touchy feeling," that is sacrosanct. A while back I made sarcastic remarks about gushy, feel-good stuff and made some people here angry. Every group has its own rules, its own notions of where the lines are between snark and solidarity. I'm okay with that. I just wanted to point out that for some people this site isn't only about posting snark and venting frustration and rage. It has its "kumbaya" moments as well, just like your department.

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    6. Hi AdjunctSlave! I am sorry you caught some heat here. It never feels good to be on the receiving end of heat (at least, according to my temperament, it doesn't). I did not see what you are referring to, but I am wondering if it is just that, when people are in a touchy-feely-kumbaya mode, they don't want others to be sarcastic about it, here or anywhere else.

      I definitely know I must not mock the touchy feeliness at work. And not really because I have anything to fear. I am in a place where I can be known as the college bitch, and it would not hurt me a bit. I just don't want to rain on their parade.

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    7. @Bella -

      I made a little fun of Yaro, twisting what he had written in one of his warm-and-goodness posts into sexual innuendo. It was juvenile, but fun. For me at least. Others didn't find it amusing. I also got called out for making fun of people's worship of Yaro. I'm okay with this and have nothing in particular against Yaro or his fans. There was one other time as well when I made fun of a serious posting on a serious issue with an unhelpful comment. Again, I was in a snarky, sarcastic mood and went too far. The comments got deleted and I'm okay with that.

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  17. Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author's department head.

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    2. This comment has been removed at the behest of the author's colleagues.

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    3. There never was a comment. Comments don't exist.

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    4. This comment may or may not exist depending upon the observer.

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    5. CM refuses to confirm or deny that anyone has commented.

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  18. Anybody heard of academic freedom? If you had tenure, you'd have every right to tell your chair to go jump in a lake. Telling people what they can't read or comment about came into question in the time of, oh, Martin Luther? It certainly was by the time of Voltaire

    But then, watch out: there are sharks in your swimming pool (to mix a metaphor). I suggest that once you are granted tenure, you ask your Chair to put onto the agenda of the next faculty meeting a rousing rendition of "Kumbaya," to drive home just how sappy they are. (Betcha it'll go right past several of them, even so.)

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    1. I'm guessing tenure is not already had, so one must maintain good will among those who might serve on the committee???

      I am confused by the notion of academic freedom. I was always under the impression that one only has academic freedom within one's subject area, not freedom to be academic... if that makes sense.

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    2. The phrase "tenure-track" rather gives it away...

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  19. It's disturbing enough that "a couple of colleagues read the page a bit this week and took it to the chair." That's not what "colleague" connotes, at least in my book.

    But the chair's response is even more disturbing: "[He]in turn told me yesterday that it was in department's best interests (and my own) to "disassociate" from CM as he found the page "objectionable." He did it in a kind way, but his message was clear."

    None of us should even have to get on our freedom of speech, First and Fourth Amendment, or academic freedom soapboxes. Department chairs or colleagues may (or may not) find CM "objectionable," but they do NOT get to tell any of us to "disassociate" ourselves.

    On my campus, department chairs are faculty members, not administrators. They do not have any kind of supervisory authority over other faculty members. If an administrator--who does have that kind of authority--were to order a faculty member to "disassociate" him/herself from CM, our faculty union would file a grievance. And we'd win.

    The chair handled this "in a kind way [?], but his message was clear."
    So what was the message? No more CM, or else? That seems to be some kind of a threat. I'd call his bluff--because this IS an important issue.





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    1. "Colleague" sounds better than "miserable cocksucker."

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  20. Well this is certainly chilling. I wonder what would Yaro's chair do?

    I can understand why a pre-tenure proffie has to go with what the chair 'suggests'. I remember those days and I certainly would have been afraid to post or comment back then. Like TPP I deplore that our colleagues are instead our competitors, working the angles for preferred classes, for grants, for space, for perqs, for status, for brownie-points-earned-by-tattling-on-the-newbie.

    And like Bella says, this page and RYS have saved my sanity often. Pouring one out for a fallen comrade.

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  21. Academic freedom should not entitle a professor to gratuitously insult his or her students with your identity easy to recognize. I don't know if that's what you posted or how easy it was to identify you, so this statement may not apply. I know that I insult my students and occasional coworkers and bosses here on a regular basis. Therefore, I protect my anonymity.

    I think it is entirely reasonable for a boss to tell an employee to stop posting comments on the internet that undermines the objectives of the person's employer. One objective of a college is to no piss off parents of current or potential students. I'm not entirely happy with the way academia is run like a business but it is. I grudgingly accept that and try to work within that framework.

    If I were your department head, I would care most about the quality of your teaching, service and, if appropriate, your research. As for your blog comments, I would give you my opinion of the blog (objectionable or not) and recommend that you create a more anonymous profile. What you do on your own time without anybody tracing your activities is not my or the university's problem.

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  22. The place I used to teach at was obsessed with its public image. Anything which would call that image into question, even if it was true, would be harshly dealt with.

    I once met someone who used to teach there long before I started and he mentioned that he was thinking of writing a book about that establishment. Word about it somehow got back to that place and he apparently was threatened with legal action.

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    1. That's bullshit; we have too many of these Leon Botstein control freaks running around "managing" schools into the ground, obsessed with prestige. Prestige is not what is making higher education great; you earn prestige for doing great things, it is the aftereffect. And we can see here that this culture of prestige has created a fragile workplace where the truth about the institution is feared and opinion on the institution is stifled.

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    2. He could always write it as fiction. Then nobody would believe that anything in the book could be so horrible and actually existing in real life. Then when it hits the top 10 of the NYT bestseller list, he could reveal it all as TRUTH.

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    3. It would be like The Jungle. Only not necessarily the socialistic parts.

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    4. Richard Russo's _Straight Man_ did this for me--it is a hilarious and fabulous read! Fiction, or not so much...

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    5. "Prestige is not what is making higher education great; you earn prestige for doing great things, it is the aftereffect."

      EXACTLY THIS.

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    6. Vindictiveness was one aspect of my former employer's culture in which it took great pride.

      The place was bad when I started there in the late 1980s. In the mid-'90s, it went through a major reorganization and one result was that a lot of silverbacks, many of whom were there from that institution's early days, left either through resignation or retirement. Along with their departure was a decline in the professionalism and civility of the establishment, such as such as they were.

      Those silverbacks were often replaced by people who behaved like unsophisticated hoodlums and staff morale, which was poor even when I started there, went down. Many of those replacements seemed to encourage an environment of nastiness and it wouldn't have surprised me if that behaviour was rewarded.

      Nonsense like that was one reason I eventually quit.

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  23. Sorry, but had to take down a thread of comments started by "Unknown," which was, of course, "honest_prof." I have matched his IP address to an earlier one he used when he's posted under at least 2 different names.

    What I thought was sort of clever was he browsed to our site using the Brazilian internet suffix (in this case, collegemisery.br). Of course that didn't hide his IP address from us, but I don't think I would have even thought to try it.

    "honest_prof" has a long history here, and Fab left me his real world email account so I sent him a note explaining that the rules of misery are posted and that I was going to use them. He's flouted them often, of course, and I can't imagine he'll ever come around.

    But I felt bad that the whole thread had to go, but thanks to several readers who sent me emails.

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    1. I'm glad it wasn't the thread that began with Frod's self-deleted comment. That one is brilliant -- classic CM. It's always fun to see evidence that we haven't been completely beaten down by the misery, but still know how to play (in our own wonky way).

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  24. I tend to agree with those who are arguing that, as long as you're not clearly linkable to your institution by those outside it (or criticizing students in ways that could be identifiable to others in the same classes), what you do on your own time, on your own computer, from your own internet connection, is your own business. So you should feel free to create a new identity and cautiously wade back into the CM waters.

    But if tenure were (even possibly) at stake, I'd probably be very cautious, too. You can always become active again after you're tenured, and I suspect the AAUP is kind of busy with other things these days (though this could be a case for them).

    One thing I found a bit odd: didn't your friend basically make it clear, by asking you about your possible CM affiliation, that he reads the page frequently enough to recognize content from it? Is the chair telling *him* not to read anymore? Or is reading okay?

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    1. Oh, and thanks for the heads up. It never hurts to be reminded to be careful. I've promised myself I will never admit to a colleague (or any other academic) anything more than that I sometimes read CM, and that only if the other person brings up the subject. I wish I didn't feel the need to be so circumspect, since I, too, think our ongoing conversation, though often profane and sometimes a bit nasty, has real value, and not only because we get a chance to blow off steam (though that's useful, too). There are also some very useful exchanges of various kinds of information, advice, and the like, and, at least in my case, the chance to put our own situations in perspective.

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  25. Colleagues. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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  26. I just know it was one of my favorites here too.

    This is why we can't have nice things in academia.

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  27. I'm in the camp where venting reduces stress. And since I'm sort of stuck overseas, CM has also kept me from deluding myself the grass is greener back home -- in fact, I have a far deeper appreciation of the good things about my job than I ever did before a colleague (a real one!) pointed me towards CM.

    OP, I very much hope to see you back at the compound once things cool off. Give Leslie the secret handshake so we know that it's you.

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