Check out part four of Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s series on advice for pre-tenured scholars. In this essay she warns against the dangers of new professors devoting too much time to trying to bring about institutional change.
If I have seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. A brand new faculty member (most often female and/or under-represented) decides to work single-handedly towards structural change at her institution. Full of energy and righteous indignation, she bursts on the scene fighting every battle imaginable. She spends hours each week sending e-mails, protesting policies, serving on committees, writing reports, and/or organizing students while spending ZERO hours writing. She sincerely promises herself that she will devote her breaks to writing.
But when the breaks arrive, her energy has been so consumed by departmental drama and campus conflict that she needs that time to physically and emotionally recover. As a result, no writing occurs. By the end of her first year, no articles have been completed and nothing has actually changed at her institution. Let me be clear, working for change is not problematic in and of itself, but it is an error if you are doing it at the expense of your research and writing (or teaching if you are at a college where teaching is a significant component of your tenure evaluation). I understand the desire to work for change where you are, but if you fail to win tenure and promotion, any progress you’ve made will likely follow you right out the door….Your Presence and Success Represent An Institutional Change
I wish more administrators would be willing to share that last sentence with the pre-tenured members of their faculties.