Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Uh Oh

Twice in the past two days I've said things that were, well, less than politically self-protective.

I asked a rather pointed question in a public meeting. When one person was asked to respond, he stood with his arms tightly crossed over his chest, toeing the party line.

And tonight, I talked too openly at a gathering about a problem. With a dean. Who is sort of part of the problem.

In neither case can I blame alcohol or anything like that, just built up frustration.

If tenure is worth anything, then it's worth being able to ask questions and tell a dean that there is indeed a problem. For too long, in too many situations, I've hunkered down and kept my mouth shut, just trying to survive and get by.

Even with tenure, it's way scarier when you don't care enough about getting by to hunker down any more.

4 comments:

  1. Good for you, using your tenured position for good. Hooray!

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  2. bibkit3:44 AM

    Sometimes I think discretion is overrated. People fear speaking up because they believe (whether rightly or wrongly) that it will necessarily lead to a negative outcome, that you must "pick your battles". However quite often, the main negative outcome is that they seethe and are frustrated by the status quo!

    They never think that possibly saying something might actually help the situation. Even though it may seem self evident, all stakeholders to a "problem" may not necessarily perceive it the same way nor even be aware that it is one and why. In fact sometimes staying quiet could have the opposite effect of what one supposes. The existing problem could be one that might eventually lead to real harm if left unaddressed rather than the imagined discomfort of a confrontation or so-called political fall-out. So, as the saying goes, they suffer in silence.

    As you pointed out, the issue for you may be more the method and venue in which you chose to air the problem rather than that you said something about it. You admitted that this was the result of pent-up frustration, and I would agree with you on that. This is why it is important to try to deal with things before we reach that state or we are likely to take inappropriate risks in an attempt to relieve the tension for ourselves.

    Try to idenitfy or seek out the more formal and accepted ways within your setting of communicating this problem, before taking the politcal suicide approach. Only use that as a last resort!

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  3. If tenure is worth anything, then it's worth being able to ask questions and tell a dean that there is indeed a problem. For too long, in too many situations, I've hunkered down and kept my mouth shut, just trying to survive and get by.

    Exactly. You've worked long and hard to get to a point at which you can openly confront these sorts of issues. You deserve to be able to do this.

    And I'd bet that there are plenty of un-tenured people who're thanking you for saying what they can't.

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  4. I have a colleague, who, in the very first faculty meeting after his tenure came through, asked three pointed questions of the dean.

    I hope that (knock on wood) should I become tenured, I'll make it more of a point to ask hard questions. Isn't that what we're supposed to be good at? Thinking critically?

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