Monday, June 20, 2005

Faculty/Staff divide

Thanks to timna, for pointing out this article in the The Chronicle about the problem of academically-oriented (Ph.D.'s or I'd say, near Ph.D's as well) people taking non-academic jobs in academe.

It's interesting because I feel like if I did produce research, it would be valued, maybe not in quite the same way, but people would find it useful. I feel like I am encouraged to do research, but I often can't find the time during the say. Research, as you all know, requires extended periods of quiet time reading, writing and thinking. In order for me to do research, I would need to leave my office and go over to the library. Or I'd have to do it outside of work hours. In the first scenario, I would feel guilty if I did this too often because I'm supposed to be available to assist people who phone, e-mail or stop by. I think people would find it frustrating if I became really difficult to reach.

Today is a good example of how problematic this is. I got in this morning and began making final preparations for a video chat that was originally scheduled for 10:30, but got moved to 11:30. I had to set up the equipment, clear one meeting out so we'd have some setup time. I began this process at 9:30. When I finished around 11:00, I had someone waiting for me to help with video editing and I need to help the same person with something else at 2:00 after I've finally had a chance to eat. (I'm sitting in the video chat writing this). So it will be 3:00 before I'm free. There will be tasks waiting for me I'm sure. This is a typical day.

Outside work hours is difficult as well since I have other things to do then like my own writing unrelated to work, having a life, dealing with kids.

The problem I see is that a job like mine would be more effective if I made the time or was more encouraged to take the time to do research. Keeping up with what's going on in my field would benefit the institution as a whole. Plus, my research often leads me into other fields, giving me a common language with some of my faculty colleagues.

I haven't yet had the experience of faculty dismissing my knowledge as the writer of the article has had. Instead I often have the experience of the faculty thinking that because I'm staff and don't sign my e-mail with M.A. or Ph.D. that I don't have any knowledge to begin with. Or that I only possess specific technical knowledge. Sometimes they don't get that I am well-read, both in my field and just generally.

My recent satisfaction with my job comes in part from faculty recognizing me as an intellectual instead of "just a techie." It's often as simple as asking me "What do you think?" or responding to a suggestion I have with interest, indicating in some way they're taking me seriously. I have recently experienced this in spades and it is such a nice experience. I will likely never finish my Ph.D. and because of time constraints in my job and family life, I will likely never have an extensive research agenda. But I do think broadly and deeply about lots of things. All I ask is that people acknowledge that.