Quite some time ago, I wrote a blog post and later deleted it. I deleted it after a professional grapevine indicated that the post—and perhaps this entire blog—was viewed by some as my self-aggrandizing and dismissing the knowledge and experience of senior colleagues. Especially those with more time in the faculty chair than I had. Basically, I deleted it because some folks didn’t like what I had to say. Or so I heard.
But deleting something I had to say is not why I’m here. Or it shouldn’t be.
I wrote in that post about the odd position I often find myself in as an academic, trained as a scholar and teacher, but so often required to operate in my work life in a whole host of ways and with a host of skills not really provided by my graduate study. I wrote about “translating” between academics and non-academics in higher education. And my words gathered the responses that they did—from others and, ultimately, from me.
I should have responded differently. I should have responded by talking a bit about how I came to the skills I use every day in my work life. In extreme brief, I was academic staff before I was faculty. And I worked for years outside of higher education—to support my graduate studies, before ever beginning them, and between graduate degrees. I took an unusual (to some) path that included newspaper work, extensive freelancing as a writer and graphic designer, desk-based work at non-profits and associations. And that path helped prepare me—with my academic training—to manage an academic office. I didn’t stay long in faculty-only employment by choice—because it wasn’t for me. I’m one of those folks who turned down a tenure-stream job and has never held one. I was lucky enough to move back into the work I really enjoy in higher education, which I love. Faculty life isn’t for everyone who completes a doctorate, but higher education is not only for faculty. Institutions run on the power of people with many kinds of educational backgrounds because they are necessary. We all bring diverse perspectives that are needed, and I believe mine is one of them. That is why I am here. But my voice—and the voices of those in positions similar to mine—certainly should not be, cannot be, the only ones in the room, any room.
We have no universities without faculty, and my decade of work on higher education labor and contingency have taught me the unquestionable value of tenure. We need faculty who are able to speak because they are not afraid for their jobs, and without that, we don’t have what a university should be, even if we have a university. But we also have no universities without leadership and without operational staff of all kinds. How could faculty fulfill their roles as faculty unless someone else was taking care of other business?
I guess what I am saying is that we are all in this together, and we need to do a better job of getting together because we can’t risk falling apart in our valuable enterprise—educating students for all of their tomorrows.