Saturday, November 16, 2013
Why I Wrote The Scholar's Survival Manual.
My motives in writing about scholarly life on my blog are twofold: I hate watching people make big yet avoidable mistakes. And what was good enough for me is not good enough for others-- I could protect them. Moreover, it was a way of writing it down rather than have it floating around in my head, seething, getting me upset or angry.
I was on the University Committee for Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure, for a number of years, perhaps half my time at the university, in a number of periods. In my role, for six years I read all the dossiers from all fields at all ranks, so I saw a broad range of fields and problems, and along the way I learned lots about other disciplines and professions. The Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and I would discuss my observations. When he looked at my blog, he encouraged me to make it into a book. At first I was reluctant. But he was persistent. And then when I took all the postings at that point (700+), and sorted them and discarded repetition, I could see how it might well be a book. Still, lots of editing, advice from the publisher who was interested in the book, and further editing was needed to make it into something that worked. I tested it out on some students, and they thought it useful. I should note that over the years students and junior faculty from from lots of universities told me they found it helpful, as well. What I was saying was useful, although nothing I said was new. I found a way of penetrating people's defenses and encouraging them to act rather than be defensive. It helped that I was willing to make fun of myself. Coming from New York (Brooklyn), it seemed that I was much more direct than most of my colleagues, although I just thought I was saying what was obvious.