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It snowed in Toronto on Wednesday night and the roses outside my house got a chilly surprise. I also got a chill running down on my spine on Tuesday when I attended an event for new faculty titled "Surviving the first two years on the tenure stream."

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Well-intentioned, no doubt, but I came out in a frenzy: the session was about how to ignore all your other duties (and life in general) to make time for writing. And that is, not just any old writing, but writing either your book (that is, scholarly book, not fiction or poetry) or articles to be published in peer-reviewed academic journals (even edited books don’t count). I couldn’t stop thinking how I’ve been wasting my precious time on writing the wrong kind of stuff: blog, articles to Sami newspapers… However timely the topics might be, it’s the wrong kind of writing that nobody cares as far as tenure is concerned. Horror! Yet when the initial panic subsided, I got somewhat irked: Am I supposed to completely give up my sense of responsibility to society I live in, to my people, the advancement of Sami society and indigenous rights in general in the name of my career, in the interests of my tenure file? No I won’t, was my quick internal response, but there’s always the principle of balance. The conspiracy theorists, of course, would be quick to point out that this is how the system makes sure to keep academics on a short leash… But they’re wrong, I remind them (and myself): this applies only to us on the pre-tenure treadmill.
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4 thoughts on “Anxiety on the tenure treadmill

  1. and that’s why the majority who get through the t-system are no longer politicized; rather, they play it safe. Bendy-wendys at the best and at the worst, Isn’t it disheartening to see how those in tenure-stream clamp their mouths shut in public spaces so not to ruffle anyone’s feathers? There’s something to be said for the “freedom” for those on the contract end of things. We have very little to lose when we speak out, as our jobs are already so precarious. I’ve seen people on tenure stream step very gently in classes, too, so not to disturb students. I think tenure should be sacked.

  2. It’s a terrible world out there in the academia – it’s very self-congratualtory and continues to create an ivorytower and really, gives very little thought and respect to what goes on in the ‘real’ world unless it somehow boosts the positions of the academia. They are similar to corporations althought their currency is publications and research money rather than profit. And it won’t stop after you get tenure – then you are in the promotion mill and if you are good engouh, eventually when you are a full professor, you can actually choose what and how you do, but the rest of the academia will then condemn you as a ‘traitor’. I’ve seen it happen and I admire those who can put themselves through it. I could not. But Rauna, I know that you can if you want to.

  3. I think I heard that Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) had a hard time getting her work published about DDTs. She got around it by publishing in popular journals. (She was also, originally, a poet.)

    What is it worth to ‘gain the world’ and ‘lose the soul’ as the saying goes….we must follow our hearts. Publish what/where we believe in.

    Good people on the tenure track – can help change the tenure track – contribute to the process itself, make the process itself less literal, more creative, more transparent. Look – and listen – way, way beyond the fear.

    Cheers Rauna!

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