Monday, July 30, 2007

My first time...

The end of July. It is less than three weeks for my very first semester at my new tenure track job. I have settled into my office and I am deep in preparations for my classes. Before arriving here, I was asking the question how to best play the game of departmental politics. The options are to take sides or to remain neutral. I have decided to not play any games and just to be myself, and take the side of the colleague in a departmental fight whose cause I believe to be the most rational.
Another issue that I have been facing the last couple of weeks is that my new colleagues have already found many house hold chores for me to do: Pricing and organizing new software for the student computer labs, initiating a student departmental club, writing a grant proposal for new instruments, becoming an active member in the student organization on the other end of the campus, etc. And my first paycheck doesn’t arrive until September 15. Teaching and Service and Scholarship – I understand, but how much service is too much? I am usually eager to participate in “extra-curricular” activities, but now I had planned to spend all my time on getting experimental results for publications, and it seems like every colleague has some other chore in mind that keeps adding to the list. So who do you keep happy? The most influential faculty, or the ones that you like. This is the first time for me where I will have to bear the feeling of compromising or having to balance between my principles and what gets me ahead in my career. Life as a graduate student and post-doc seems so much less complicated now. In addition everyone seems to know exactly, which Service activities and committees to join are best for me. Of course every colleague has something different in mind. Aaaaaaahhhhhh! I have the uneasy feeling that matters will only get worse.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


There has been a discussion on the blogs (Lesboprof and Dean Dad) over negotiations. I have to say, that sometimes it matters in which division you apply. Research start-up is a much more sensitive point than a leather office chair in the sciences, when you're bargaining over 6 figures (and yes, science tenure track newbies, you can get 6 figs even at a SLAC!) to set up a lab. No start-up, no supply for the essentials, no research, no publications. I sometimes don't understand the humanities. You base your offer on office furniture??? In my mind, office furniture is only important, if you can transform a hard heavy leather chair into intricate and highly sensitive spectroscopy instruments. Who cares what you sit on? It won't get you tenure!
Aside from research start-up, when I applied I was told by many friends that it was essential to bargain for your salary. Well, there is no little birdy to tell you how much is too much. I only had chronicle numbers to rely on, so I decided to go 15% above the published numbers when I went into the dreaded phone negotiations, and I got 10%. But Lesboprof is right. Chronicle numbers don't give you an average across the field. So as she advised, I should have contacted their library. I wished, I would have had her input 9 months ago.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Me Tarzan you Jane

Not to worry. This is not an explicit post about me being dragged off to a tree house by a man wearing a leather loin garment. It's fortunately more harmless.
I have been pondering for a while on what Amanda I. Seligman has addressed in her First Person narrative over at The Chronicle: How should students address you? Amanda is an advocate for offering her students to be on a first name basis with her, but finds out later that not all students are comfortable with this familiarity. She is not so much worried about not earning respect from students based on the familiarity fueled by the first-name.
Well, I am. Just yesterday I was mistaken for a student strolling across campus. Last week at a dinner party hosted by Department Chair with students and faculty present, Department Chair’s husband asked me when I will graduate. Clearly, I need to work on appearing more like an adult. How can students possibly trust someone to teach them understand upper division science who they could envision as their dorm roomie? First-name basis? I just don’t know. There are the nightmares of a lecture hall of students in paper ball fights around a bonfire of textbooks with me tied down against a urinal in the men’s restroom. I however might not even have a choice in the matter. The conundrum is that most of the members of my department are on first-name basis with their students. If I insist on Dr. TenureTrackNewbie, I will radiate self-esteem problems. Perhaps I underestimate my future students. Maybe despite the familiarity of the first-name they will show mercy and not toss me into the school fountain while pouring chicken noodle soup all over me because I have to give them a C…
In the end even Amanda doesn't have an answer even after years of experimentation with the various approaches. I am greatful for her 1st person narrative, and I am curious if other faculty have any words of wisdom.