Thursday, October 08, 2009

On Compromise (And No, This Isn't about Service)

So I got a request. A request that came down from my dean through my chair. The request was to move my request for sabbatical from Fall semester to Spring semester.

The reasons for this were sound. Too many faculty were requesting sabbatical for Fall, and some of those faculty technically fall in the same teaching areas. Will there be courses for students who need to graduate? Will all faculty who apply for sabbatical in our department get it if we are competing amongst ourselves?

But let me tell you. I found myself massively pissed off at this request to accommodate when I found it in my in-box. And let me tell you why.

I am the only faculty member in recent memory (if ever) who has published a motherfucking book prior to tenure.

I am one of the most published members of my entire fucking department in reputable scholarly venues, even though I've only been here since Fall 2003. The most published person, in reputable scholarly venues, has been employed here since before I was motherfucking born (1972).

I have never had a sabbatical (one only qualifies at this establishment after tenure), and I have only had two courses of reassigned time for research since my arrival, and yet, the above is what I've accomplished.

I have a service record that is, compared to people at my rank, above and motherfucking beyond. Community service? Done it. Department service? I can't even count the ways I've served, and on important committees, too, in addition to in totally invisible ways. University-wide service? Been there done that, and particularly with MUWCI most recently, but other things, too. Professional service? Dude, I'm the president of a motherfucking MLA Allied Organization, I'm a peer reviewer for three journals (currently), and I've done more besides.

Dude, give me my sabbatical for the period of time in which I've requested it. I'm a good risk. I've never failed to deliver on promises I've made when requesting support (a) and I've delivered above and beyond even when I've motherfucking been denied support (b). You give me the sabbatical I request, and I'll clearly achieve what I've promised with that award. How do you know? Well, maybe because I'm one of the few people in my department who's ever produced anything worthy of note. Whether I'm obligated to do so by such an application or not. Oh, but also, the very few times I've been obligated by any small amount of institutional support? I've never failed to meet the goals I'd said I'd achieve.

You know what pissed me off so much about the request I'd received to change semesters? To compromise for the good of the department? I know, because of the tiny bit of effort that I put into thinking about this when I was asked.

1. The person who likely applied for the slot of "Competition #1" for the Fall semester because he's trying to extend the maternity leave/sabbatical situation that his partner (also in our department) has worked out for this year. Let's just note for the record that I was the one who insisted to both colleagues that the partner should get maternity leave plus the sabbatical leave that had already been awarded. I don't think that sabbaticals should be used for maternity leave. On the other hand, I also don't think that people who are not proven researchers should trump my motherfucking application for sabbatical at a particular time because they happen to have infants. Dude, sabbatical is about research and research potential. Period. And you, compared with me, don't compete.

2. The person who likely applied for the slot of "'Competition #2" for the Fall semester is likely the person who was the "internal candidate" for my position. (Times were flush, and they converted this person from lecturer to t-t, while at the same time hiring me from outside t-t.) Let's note that this person does not do scholarship in "our" field at all. Rather, he writes poems and fiction (which I've heard he forces students to listen to him read in literature courses - not creative writing ones) and he teaches One of the Most Difficult Novels of All Time, which at minimum in all contexts (grad and undergrad) takes 6 weeks to cover, in three. And then he gives his students a certificate congratulating them for "reading" it. I wish I were kidding. In other words, this person, seriously? Nice enough, on a personal level, but really, you're going to ask me to change my sabbatical request for this person? Seriously?

And you know what I wanted to respond, when I thought about the request that I received to change my plans to be a "team player" for the department?

Fuck you, fuck you, FUCK YOU.

What I actually responded with was a detailed, bulleted list that delineated my reasons for needing the sabbatical for the period in which I requested it. 'Cause, see, here's the thing: I already and really had reasons for requesting it for that period of time. Ones related to my potential to produce. Because isn't that what a motherfucking sabbatical application is supposed to be about? I know, I'm naive. How could I imagine that this would be the case.

To my chair's credit, he got my reply and he totally was all "I hear you" and he didn't try to persuade me to change after that. Have I mentioned recently how much I think my chair really rules? Dude, he rules. He is like the Uber-Chair. All that said though? How dare he try to get me to budge on this. How dare he even ask. Because, seriously? I deserve some motherfucking credit. I deserve some motherfucking acknowledgment. At the end of the day, it's totally clear that I am teh awesome. (Not in myself, but just according to CV criteria). With that being the case, being "equitable" doesn't involve asking me to fuck myself, knowing that I'm a good department citizen.

(FYI, I talked to my chair today, I learned that it was Colleague #2 who caved.)


Lawgirl said...

So proud of you for sticking to your guns!! I am sure that your chair knows that you are the person who deserves it.

You know your situation better than anyone. If you're right about who was up for it (and not being in the academic world, I have no idea if that stuff is confidential or not), then I also think you're right about the reasons. I know this will probably start off another storm of controversy that it's parents vs. non-parents - but I have also witnessed my requests for certain things be given less weight as a single, childless person. Knowing that ahead of time in some situations, I would actually offer to work around the parents (Christmas, for example, as that really is more for kids than adults). But in this case, no, the sitch does NOT warrant it. The sabbatical is NOT about family-time or vacation.

Likely, your Chair wanted to be able to tell the others - I asked and it just wasn't possible. That makes the most sense.

Susan said...

Sure, you work things out. In a perfect world, this is sorted out at the departmental level in advance, but yikes.

Bridgett said...

The other two were dudes. Of course you were asked to rearrange your plans for their convenience.

Bardiac said...

Go you! Good job, and good luck on the sabbatical front!

BrightStar (B*) said...

Was it the case that everyone who applied for fall sabbatical leave just had to give more rationale for why fall and not spring? I could imagine getting more requests than anticipated for a particular semester, and a more detailed rationale helps make the decisions at the departmental level. I wouldn't have been offended at being asked for further rationale. I would have been offended if, having provided a good rationale (assuming it was more targeted to research goals than another person's rationales), then I was asked to be the one who switched. It's good to hear that you have a good, sensible chair!

We deal with this issue among my group of program area faculty. We have courses to cover and grant responsibilities (and associated course releases for the grant). We have to balance course coverage concerns with research goals / course releases. This means that not everyone can take all of their course releases in one semester, so people who teach similar courses sort this out among themselves before the chair would see it. But it's a different situation.

Anyhow, rock on that your situation turned out well for you!

Rose said...

They asked the woman among the three to yield to the group's collective interests? How odd (NOT). Administrators usually take what they think will be the path of least resistance: ask the woman, ask the youngest person to give in. Good for you for sticking up for yourself.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Did the Chair ONLY ask you? or everyone? Because the latter seems sensible, while the former? lame.

Digger said...

If you were the only one asked, I'd be PISSED OFF. It isn't clear, though, if Awesome Chair actually asked all 3 of you to reschedule... did #2 cave only after you said Hell No?

Still, details aside, yay for you!

Bavardess said...

I'd have some righteous anger at that, too, especially if I had even an inkling of suspicion that the request was because I was a) younger and/or b)female. Good for you for taking a stand, and I'm glad it worked out. (Does this mean the sabbatical is confirmed? or are there still more hoops to jump through?)

Anastasia said...

you are my hero.

Janice said...

Those of us who are helpful, accommodating and demonstrate that we put the interests of our department before our own, time and again, get these requests while others don't. It's sadly common.

It was no problem to me when, on my last sabbatical, I was asked to take it in winter term instead of fall. It really peeved a colleague who was unhappy to have to cover a field I'd done since hiring more than then years before. But? So not my fault!

Since then, with the retirements and new hires, we realized that we would have had four faculty members taking a sabbatical in the same year if nothing was done. This would have destroyed our program so we appealed to the VP to allow us to rejigger our sabbatical schedules enough to spread out that pain a little bit. I should be getting my next sabbatical a term earlier than I would have, otherwise, but with no adverse effects for our program offerings.

I would certainly suggest to your chair that, projecting six years forward, the department start planning now for the next confluence of sabbatical requests.

Dr. Crazy said...

Aw, you guys :)

Still more hoops to jump through (which may be one reason why I'm so irritated by this whole thing - asking people to move around now is all about trying to make weaker applications less noticeable to the people who actually do decide about sabbatical leaves), but at least this particular hurdle was managed without too much effort on my part.

I've been thinking about it: one reason that it made me so angry, I think, is that I have this notion (totally not grounded in reality) that one thing that being a high achiever should mean is that I don't have to deal with BS - that I should just get what I want (within reason) without a hassle. It's whenever I get hassled that I lose it, because to my mind that demonstrates that people aren't acknowledging me adequately. The screwed up thing is that nobody else understands this logic of mine, nor do I really communicate it to people, so it's pretty lame of me to get all enraged when I'm operating under a Code with which all other people are basically unfamiliar :)

Ann said...

What Janice said. Your chair went to you with the request because you're reasonable and pretty much guaranteed not to lose your $h!t to his face.

I also think the commenters who suggested the gender angle are probably not incorrect. After all, anger is a masculine privilege. I am very glad you pushed back--not only did you prevail, but you may also have planted the seed in your chair's mind that will perhaps make him think twice before asking you for a concession in the future.