Monday, March 12, 2007

Does any of this count?

As I sat down to work today, I was reminded of the recent conversation between Horace and Tenured Radical about what things count in terms of academic service, citizenship, or what have you. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my day:

Work-related stuff
  • Wrote recommendation letter for student who graduated several years ago.
  • Finished and sent report on a short book proposal.
  • Read and return proofs for a short article.
  • Wrote e-mail responses to various people I've never met, answering questions about an author, about copyright, and about other issues. Most of these were of the "here's where you could find the answer to that" kind of replies. In my more self-deluding moments I see this as service to the community at large.
  • Wrote a gentle response to a grad student (not one of mine) who couldn't figure out where to find a book. I looked it up, pasted in the information, and then suggested that WorldCat could work the same magic for her. (Okay, I didn't use that level of snark in the message.)
  • Made plane and hotel reservations for upcoming conferences. This always takes about twice as long as I think it will.
  • Called about a journal subscription.

    Home stuff
  • Shredded and shredded and shredded the usual junk mail and credit card offers, since we're assured that meth addicts are ready to steal our identities if we don't do this. I don't know how so much of this gets sent, since I've opted out of all the mailing lists I could.
  • Wrote out bills, made online payments, etc.
  • Walked to the Literary Post Office to mail the bills. This is what passed for exercise today, since I ran as well as walked.

  • None of the home stuff counts, of course, but that's why I included it: none of the work stuff really counts, either. And yet neither space could continue to function if the tasks on this list and others like it didn't get done.


    Sisyphus said...

    No, no, the book proposal and the article count ... or at least are baby steps _toward_ counting, and the travel arrangements are necessary for you to _get_ to the location to give the paper and have it count on the CV.

    The rest, it is true, count in an ideal world of the scholarly community and not on a tenure file. Hold out hope that karma works!

    Horace said...

    It's funny, I think that the language of "counting" is how the conversation is rememebered (and indeed, what TR took issue with). [Dear god I'm sounding defensive!]

    What I hoped for in that conversation is not just what counts, but how we value different types of work, and that counting toward T&P is just one way we might assign value to our work.

    Obviously, things like gentle mentoring of grad students who aren't one's own has value, and may reflect precisely some of the most valuable work we do on some scale.

    What TR seems to be advocating is to abolish tenure so as to dismantle that particular system of valuation of work. The jury's out for me on that particular conversation (I haven't got any perspective on it), but I am glad that we're thinking here in bloggyland about other sorts of things with value, particularly things outside of work...

    undine said...

    Sisyphus, I totally have to go with the karma idea, or else this day of spring break would seem to be eaten alive by . . . nothing.

    Horace, I'm sorry; I did oversimplify what you'd said in your post. It's just that the two were combining in my mind as I worked my way through yesterday's list.

    I want to write about tenure soon, because while there are abuses (as TR and especially Dean Dad, who hates it, point out), it seems to me the only protection against the Wal-martization of the university.

    Horace said...

    Oh! no apologies necessary! Because frankly, for all that I think that tenure will be no problem for me, it still is the benchmark against which I judge many things, for many of the reasons that have been discussed lately.

    The point everyone seems to be making underneath all of this is that there's a great deal to academic life that doesn't count on a scoreboard, but is incredibly valuable. Anyway, I look forward to your thoughts.