Junior faculty should be seen and not heard?

A friend once told me that junior faculty should be seen and not heard. I’m not good at that. AT. ALL.  When I was growing up, my dad always used to tell me that my grandparents thought like this about children- and I found it sort of humiliating then, and I find it sort of humiliating now. My rational (and way older) brain realizes that there may be truth to this though for junior faculty.

Re-reading the comments one of my colleagues made to me in a recent email made me think about this, in addition to related issues of emotional decisions and gender, once again…

Why do we let men get away with publicly displaying their emotions? This is the crux of the problem.  Time and time again in faculty and committee meetings, men get away with emotionally grounded rationales. The concerns of angry or upset men are taken very seriously.  Angry or upset women are completely dismissed, and neutral women are essentially ignored too. Until we start calling a spade a spade, I see no way out of this. But I need to keep quiet until that tenure decision is made, as children should be seen and not heard.

Of course there is so way much more to discuss (I’m fried from a long day of meetings so there is no promise of gramatical correctness today) in that comment than just jr. faculty should be seen and not heard….

So let’s discuss…

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Junior faculty should be seen and not heard?

  1. But I need to keep quiet until that tenure decision is made…

    That’s the kicker, isn’t it. The reality is that many (all?) departments have one or more thin-skinned senior faculty capable of carrying a grudge. But is that really a good reason to stay quiet when you have something to contribute? Or if some old fart throwing a hissy fit needs to be taken down a notch or two? In the end the answer will depend heavily on who the particular junior faculty member is and how much solid support she has among the senior faculty. One poor letter from a spiteful senior faculty member won’t cost her tenure if all the others are glowing. But several poor letters? That gets dangerous. Unless the junior faculty member has multiple R01’s and a couple of publications in C/N/S…

  2. I’m in a really small all-female department so keeping quiet isn’t really an option. The only problem is that I’m really good at putting my foot in my mouth so it’s only a matter of time before I piss someone off.

  3. Why do we let men get away with publicly displaying their emotions? … The concerns of angry or upset men are taken very seriously.

    Obviously written by a woman who has absolutely no concept of societally required restrictions on male public displays of emotion. How seriously are sad or worried men taken? Compare and contrast with how seriously sad or worried women are taken. How tiring does she imagine it must be for men to have anger be the only emotion they’re allowed to display?

    One thing I like about the current fiscal crisis in biomedical academia is that it narrows the focus to objective measures of junior faculty success. As the value of quantitative measures of success (like dollars) increases, the value of qualitative measures of success (the opinions of senior faculty) become less relevant.

  4. “One thing I like about the current fiscal crisis in biomedical academia is that it narrows the focus to objective measures of junior faculty success”

    I don’t get how this is true at all, when the fiscal variables are determined by peers (i.e. senior faculty in study sections). The fact that arbitrary grant decisions rather than arbitrary evaluations of collegiality are the dividing line is not really an improvement.

    Same goes for papers in CNS. You have to have more respect for the peer review system (for grant and papers) than for the peer promotion review system to come to your conclusion, and I’ve seen no great difference between the two.

  5. Neurolover:
    Same goes for papers in CNS. You have to have more respect for the peer review system (for grant and papers) than for the peer promotion review system to come to your conclusion, and I’ve seen no great difference between the two.

    If you’re referring to my comment “That gets dangerous. Unless the junior faculty member has multiple R01’s and a couple of publications in C/N/S…”, that’s not what I was getting at. My comment was more along the lines that a superstar junior faculty can more afford to speak up than most junior faculty. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be (it shouldn’t), just that that’s the way it is. I’m also not saying junior faculty shouldn’t speak up. I think they should. On the other hand, I understand why so many don’t.

    Whimple, could you perhaps clarify the following?

    Obviously written by a woman who has absolutely no concept of societally required restrictions on male public displays of emotion. How seriously are sad or worried men taken? Compare and contrast with how seriously sad or worried women are taken. How tiring does she imagine it must be for men to have anger be the only emotion they’re allowed to display?

    I would like to think you didn’t mean it to sound as arrogantly boorish as it reads.

  6. whimple you are deranged. As senior folk start having grant problems it makes them devalue grant award as a measure of quality. After all if they are the bomb and can’t get an R01 funded…

  7. Whimple-

    I’ve got to call bullshit on this one- ‘How seriously are sad or worried men taken? Compare and contrast with how seriously sad or worried women are taken.’….

    I can tell you crying for women is a professional no-no… and crying (and sadness???, which I have never seen anyone say that they are ‘sad’ about an issue that comes up in faculty meeting) women in faculty meeting aren’t probably taken very seriously at all- and are written off as ’emotional’.

  8. I kept quiet for a couple of years after landing in what I soon discovered was a very dysfunctional department. I think overall it was a good strategy…for a while…in that I didn’t get pulled into the nasty politics. Just kept my head down and worked. But, one day, I snapped. I felt like I was being pushed around by several different people over various issues and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I spent a couple days having confrontational exchanges with some of my colleagues, and was then amazed at how my life immediately seemed to improve afterward.

    In retrospect, while keeping quiet may be good strategy in some situations (e.g. untenured faculty), you have to remember that it is just a strategy. You can’t let it start defining you. And sometimes keeping quiet is just not in your self interest. My two cents.

  9. BM: hadn’t thought of that… uh-oh… Although, from what I see here, we are willing to throw faculty positions at anyone coming in from the outside with significant cash. Since having significant cash is rarer today than it used to be, people in this position have more bargaining power than they used to. We (the Dean, not the department) are firing all junior faculty without serious cash now, so departmental collegiality isn’t saving anyone anymore (here anyway). Junior faculty with cash have the option to walk, often into better circumstances elsewhere. These junior faculty here have not been shy about exercising this option, so people with this option have increased leverage at tenure-time.

    Neurolover: The fact that arbitrary grant decisions rather than arbitrary evaluations of collegiality are the dividing line is not really an improvement.

    For junior faculty that do speak up (for example about coursework, administrative burdens etc.), I think being evaluated by grant panels that don’t hear the speaking up is an improvement over being evaluated by people that do hear the speaking up. If external evaluation is emphasized over internal evaluation, then you can use your voice more internally without as much fear of negative repercussions (not that this is an excuse to be nasty to people).

    Odyssey: I interpreted the quote given as “men are allowed to express emotions, but women are not.” Was I wrong in that interpretation, or do you really believe that?

  10. whimple- yeah, I know what you are saying. I think I was getting more at damned if you do, damned if you don’t. so you have to have $$ or you are out or can’t get a job. true. but then there seems to be this discounting function of “this grant review is broken/random/whatever now so you are just lucky, not good.”

  11. ‘men are allowed to express emotions, but women are not’

    Ah- Whimple- last I checked anger is an emotion, and there is little consequence for men to display this particular emotion in a professional setting. Not true for women.

  12. I think I would dispute your correspondent’s “time and time again” perspective and give partial support to whimple. It is by no means cost-free for men, junior especially, to get “angry” all the time. Essentially, the less steady the ground on which you stand, the more you have to watch it. so being junior, insufficiently productive/kewl/inboyz, gay, minority, etc….all are factors which cause men to rein in their opinions and emotions, just as with women.

    With that said, I do agree that the costs are WAY lower for men given approximately similar status and it may be the case that no woman who rants and raves is going to get away with it- obviously many senior men do get away with high drama approaches. I dispute the notion that it is routine and that there are no costs even for the biggest of the big. And not infrequently I see the angry tantrum being used in a clearly intentional and tactical way.

  13. It really depends on whether you’re in a functional versus dysfunctional department… If you’re in a functional department there will be fewer problems, but there still will be problems, and if you have useful suggestions or want to participate in making decisions, there shouldn’t be any problem in doing that if you’re junior faculty – Assuming of course that you’re respectful, recognize the value of experienced views and learn from them, etc. There shouldn’t be emotional arguments in those situations. The key is to pick your battles – if you mouth off on every issue that’s a bad thing, obviously, and you also have to be willing to sacrifice your time & volunteer if you do voice an opinion.

    The absolute worst advice is the absolute “seen and not heard” one… If you *never* voice an opinion, then that will definitely be damaging when it comes to tenure. The key is to find a battle & make sure that your comments are as well-considered and informed as possible.

    Also, and this is a particular challenge for female junior faculty – you have to formulate your comments in such a way that your ideas are clearly acknowledged as being from you, so that goodwill is reflected on you and not transferred to some other faculty member who jumps on your background. (Without seeming like an egomaniac, obviously, but the balance between arrogance and confidence is tougher for women in the still male-dominated social norms of faculty meetings.)

    (If you’re in a dysfunctional department – well, being seen and not heard is absolutely a must.)

  14. Odyssey: I interpreted the quote given as “men are allowed to express emotions, but women are not.” Was I wrong in that interpretation, or do you really believe that?

    I read it as “angry and upset” in faculty and committee meetings. Having sat through countless faculty meetings where a couple of senior male colleagues have been allowed to rant until their faces went blue, whereas the rationally-expressed concerns of junior women in the department are often dismissed out of hand, yes, I do believe we white males can get away with expressing anger more.

    Do I believe men express all their emotions equally to women in society at large? No. But that’s not what this post is about.

  15. Having sat through countless faculty meetings where a couple of senior male colleagues have been allowed to rant until their faces went blue, whereas the rationally-expressed concerns of junior women in the department are often dismissed out of hand, yes, I do believe we white males can get away with expressing anger more.

    Ever see any junior male colleagues get away with this? Can you disprove the null hypothesis that a small percentage of ALL senior faculty (both male and female, white, black, pink, green or whatever) are rantingly abusive, or do you have enough data points with senior non-white women to say conclusively that ranting abuse is an exclusively white male behavior?

  16. I have to say that I feel fortunate to be in a department that not only treats it’s junior faculty really well, listens to them and may even value some of their opinions over some of the senior faculty (as a whole), but is also gender-balanced. In our department, though faculty meetings rarely get heated, it is often the female faculty that are loudest. That may just be a function of the personalities of our senior folks, but still. Much of the stuff that I have read from junior (especially female) faculty have to put up with is completely foreign to my department (at least so far, in conversations I have had with other junior faculty), and for that I am glad.

  17. Ever see any junior male colleagues get away with this? Can you disprove the null hypothesis that a small percentage of ALL senior faculty (both male and female, white, black, pink, green or whatever) are rantingly abusive, or do you have enough data points with senior non-white women to say conclusively that ranting abuse is an exclusively white male behavior?

    You got me there. Nope, haven’t seen any junior male colleagues get away with ranting. Actually, I can’t recall them speaking up much at all… And disproving the null hypothesis? C’mon, this is anecdotal stuff. I’m sure a small percentage of all senior faculty rant on unnecessarily.

  18. I have to say that I feel fortunate to be in a department that not only treats it’s junior faculty really well, listens to them and may even value some of their opinions over some of the senior faculty (as a whole), but is also gender-balanced.

    My department was with yours until the last clause.

  19. My (female) Jr. Faculty strategy has been to be vocal when with individual faculty or in small groups, specifically to seek out the powerful people and talk with them if I think something is amiss. This works in that it gives me influence over issues I care about. In faculty meetings, I think it best to just watch when the big boys wank – this is where the “seen and not heard” comes in.

  20. sciencegeek-

    I tend to use the same strategy as you- I speak up in small groups of people where I feel safe, I solicit the help of individual allies something needs fixing.

    In faculty meetings I try to ask questions about how things work – because there is a lot to learn- but I want to stay out of controversy in this setting if I can..

  21. wow, I just saw that post and read through all of the comments. The best part was that one of the very first few comments was defensive! Um, SAD men in faculty meetings? Right.

    It is also interesting that people use extremes to make points that are obvious and not worth making – of COURSE blue-in-the-face anger is not effective, of COURSE being angry all the time is not effective for anyone. People move to extremes when they are having trouble sorting out the gray area, to avoid grappling with the issue that men often use emotion (anger) and it is very effective. The fundamental issue is that the window of acceptable professional behavior for women is very very small compared to that of men. Identifying and airing specific discrepancies, like use of emotion/anger, is critical.

    Kudos to drdrA for generating discussion on this! Please do so again and again and again.

  22. Pingback: Steal my thoughts… « Blue Lab Coats

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s