I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

04 March 2007

Speaking of Money . . . .

Since my last post was about Poetry magazine and the $200 million Lilly legacy, I thought I should write of more recent happenings with me and money.

I just learned this week that my university's Peer Review Committee has just approved my promotion to a full professorship--I'm currently an associate professor--which means a nice 12% salary increase and the satisfaction of topping out in my professorial career.

The review process for promotion is rather an onerous task, all about putting on the hairshirt, self-flagellating before the Peer Review Committee, your Chair, the Dean, the Provost, and the Board of Trustees, essentially saying that you're somehow worthy of promotion, but only if you can receive their blessing and approval first. All of this behavior, however, starts when you're a graduate student, busting your butt to get through comprehensive and qualifying exams, just to prove that your worthy to start on a dissertation, and then going through the dissertation and defending it and waiting for the approval of the thesis committee.

Then you have to humble yourself through the job process, sending out scores and scores of job applications, go through the meat market known as the MLA Convention, and if you're lucky, lucky, lucky, you may land a tenure-track job, or at least a full-time temporary position, or you are left to be among the chattel of adjunct labor. Then once you get the tenure-line job, you spend your six years trying to get your dissertation published and procuring the favor of all your superiors and keeping quiet about any injustice you witness, all for the sake of receiving tenure and becoming an associate professor.

Thus, by the time you're an associate professor, you have been well conditioned to be a subservient, humble, and entirely beholden member of your university.

For me, the process to become a full professor required that I produce a "Promotion Portfolio," all built around my annual reports: a compilation of annual self-assessments, syllabi, student evaluations, teaching observations, letters of support, publications, and service records. I then wrote a narrative which thread my record, accomplishments, and self-reflection together, all with an eye on the master script, the Promotion Criteria. Yes, I wanted to distinguish myself, but it's a distinguishment that must still fit a prescribed model. My promotion, above all, must confirm the validity of that master script, and it must affirm the fact that I cut myself to fit the fashion of my beloved home institution.

So what's before me? A likely stint as a Division Chair? My first (and perhaps only) sabbatical? And then twelve or fifteen more years as the Old Man of the department? And finally, if I meet the requirements, a retirement with the title of professor emeritus?

Oh, it's hardly this dreary at all (and any career path can be so dissected), but there's a dreariness to it all the same, if I'm to be honest, a point where I wanted this approval of grown-ups so very badly, that began in Mrs. Bevington's Kindergarten. So I'll cap this year with one of my last big gold stars, the favored student one more time.


At 11:06 AM, Blogger January said...

Congrats on your promotion, Jim! I bet if you donated lots of money to your college, they would name a building after you. At least that's how it works on my campus.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger jim said...

Same is true at my campus. We've even go so far as to give up naming rights to individual rooms, and so one of our main "social" rooms is called The Sprint Room.

I've put up my syllabi for naming rights, too. I love the idea that my class on Virginia Woolf be renamed to the "Kripsy Kreme Seminar on Sisterhood: Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell" or the "Taco Bell Survey on Slave Narratives."

At 2:38 PM, Blogger jeannine said...

Congrats - even if it is onerous, it's still pretty cool. I mean, you could go through all that "half-yearly evaluation" rigamarole at Microsoft or AT&T every six months and you wouldn't be shaping young minds for the future then, now would you?

At 11:23 PM, Blogger G said...

You have posted this poem before -- I remember loving it then. Congratulations to you! I'm looking forward to your PT articles - you might tackle the issue of MFA degrees in one of them...just a thought...


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