"Stuck In The Middle"
"Well I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right,
Well I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you"
Sometime ago I proposed turtle for the CM vocabulary—for not all older men are silverbacks. It didn’t catch on. I wonder if too few quiet old men prodding along exist. So let me turn to you: May I ask the considerable, creative wisdom of the CM community to come up with a new word?
The recent posting about burnout made me take a look here at Ambitious State. Perhaps what I see is not common. And in an earlier entry about “work” and “job,” I detailed how outrageously unfair we are to adjuncts whom we call contingency faculty. But I’d like a word for the newest type of “permanent” faculty that I see: Somewhere between silverbacks (and turtles) and unicorns, it is the recently tenured and promoted associate professor.
Because the provost and his minions threaten departments with the “loss of lines,” many senior folk have become increasingly protective of the colleagues working toward tenure. Here, that means: “Junior colleagues” have no service obligations. They enjoy favorable teaching assignments-- two-days-a-week work schedules, no early morning classes, no evening classes, no introductory courses, no survey courses, upper-level seminars that they are encouraged to develop in concert with current research projects. They hold their classes in the smaller classrooms that limit the size of classes (by twenty percent) because of strict fire codes that set maximum class sizes. They are assured of a 3/3 teaching load—never having to apply for it, justify projects, or offer “deliverables.”
And I support all of those measures. Our students love our “junior” faculty, we respect them, and I sincerely want them tenured: First, for the all the noble reasons. And of course, to be honest, the selfish ones, as I don’t want to redo job searches, start over, etc.
Yet, once they are tenured and promoted, they become. . . . what? They are NOT senior faculty members. While tenure is increasingly difficult here, earning the rank of Professor seems next to impossible.
And they have more work than ever. Now, they are required to do service. Their tenure applications and tenure bring attention. Committee chairs looking to fill up committees turn to them—often by suggesting that service is the key to promotion to Professor. (It is not.) Deans “call in favors.” Department heads trying “to fill out the grid” (as the provost requires) schedule them in larger classrooms, three or four days a weeks; they now MUST teach the required courses. They must apply for the 3/3 load—and deliver.
I will admit that I considered them "senior" faculty. Yet I was wrong.
We tenure them for a job, obligations, demands, and expectations for which they have not prepared. And yet we expect them to be able to start what is in real ways a new position—more challenging, more exhausting, more stressful than the one we asked them to do to prove themselves.
They are not Professors—with higher salaries, license (to say no to deans and committee chairs), and time to deliver on research projects. Yet we expect them to “do their part” as “senior members of the department,” that is, support the junior faculty, pay back the department, etc.
Congratulations on tenure: “STFU and get to work.”
So, what’s between the silverback and the unicorn? Between "senior" and "junior?"