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Friday, August 25, 2017


The idea (found this article via Clarissa's blog) is that:   

When white men do more service, women and people of color will have more time to engage in research. We do not have to level the playing field by asking people of color and women to act more like white men. We can level the playing field by asking white men to engage in their share of service, too.

This is from a faculty member where I teach, so I am a little embarrassed at how simplistic this sounds.  On the face of it, it seems logical, right?  There is a finite amount of service, a finite amount of time each person has, so if we shift the burden we will have more research from one demographic.

I am trying to imagine, though, a scenario in which we white men could do more service and magically make our non-white-male colleagues produce more research.  It doesn't work like this. My female colleagues who produce ample amounts of research are also stars in service. A man from my department who has always done a lot of service, while also excelling research and teaching, is now a vice-chancellor, probably perpetuating the white male hegemony in administration in the process.

People who excel typically do so by excelling in more than one area. If those who excel are white men, then of course we should ask people of color and women to do the same thing. In my experience service is valued more in those who also do research, and much less in those who load up on service in order to have an excuse not to get their research done.

Look at the cv of her dissertation advisor.  Should he have done even more service than he has done in his life? Would that have made some other person of a different race and gender into a distinguished professor?  

[Update:  Also, this takes away agency from those who would presumably benefit. Women and POC would have to wait around for the white men to start doing more service.]


profacero said...

Oh, yes, it works like that in most of the profession. You are in a bubble. Anyone without tenure or tenurability can get away with not doing service, and sit on committees in name only. But the work has to get done if the major is to be saved, so others have to do the service without credit -- sometimes even hiding the fact that it is actually they who have done it, so as not to offend anyone by doing it. White men can get away with doing nothing as well, take the big-credit service positions and then not do the work. But if you are woman or POC they get mega-pissed off if you don't, yet also take points off if you do. Or get it reclassified. Most recently service in national organizations got reclassified for *me* as a teaching activity, and I got a 0 for service to profession. This kind of thing doesn't happen to the white people and the ones who teach in white fields. ALSO anywhere they publish is defined as highly competitive and first tier, because they published there, so it must be.

profacero said...

Example: if I and the brown guy don't volunteer to do scheduling for the whole department, it will be done such that our classes don't make (put them at the same bad times, so they conflict with each other and with other required courses). Objective: screw with us and with the major, try to bust it down to a minor. So we do it but on paper others have credit, and we take the heat for anything anyone doesn't like, and people are mad because we succeed. BUT we have to, can't let the whitemen do it because then because students will not be able to make timely progress to degree, and our classes won't make, and we'll have required multiple independent study projects for education majors who aren't ready for that, *and* an extra service course. (We wanted to just schedule for ourselves, but we were told we'd be allowed to do that *if* we also did it for everyone and made everyone happy.) A LOT of service is like this: necessary prophylactic against sabotage and harassment. That's the reality.

profacero said...

And: there are just some basic things that have to get done, or you don't have a major. I've worked in places where deans and department chairs, and other administrative staff, did service and administration that here, is to be done by regular faculty in field or subfield, without administrative support. And when there are almost no regular faculty since 70% are contingent, it is a lot of administration and service. And it *is* appreciated and respected far more when done by white men, not other people, and that is *regardless* of research record. And it isn't really an option to say no, because saying no means things like not having any type of study abroad to offer, i.e. it means rejecting basic components of things, dismantling basic services to major. This post seems like shadowboxing, literary, imaginary, abstract, theoretical, alienated from practice, defensive, supercilious, condescending, right-wing.

Jonathan said...

Ok... Probably then there is not a solution if an institution is that dysfunctional. It certainly isn't the one proposed in the rather simplistic post I was criticizing.

White men who do service do so to become administrators and their work is more valued if they do it well, as you point out. They ago across the street and earn three times as much as the professors. I've seen if with Danny Anderson, now with Stuart Day...