Been here long?

I swore off campus committees for a while after getting tenure for two reasons:

1) As chair of an important committee for two years, I got sick of beating my head against the wall trying to get the head of a campus service division to actually serve our needs.

2) I was pushed into a major non-committee responsibility that takes up much more time than the typical committee/service loads that most people have.

I still have the latter, but I’m back in the saddle on a relatively important campus committee this year.  We had our first meeting a while back.  It’s not too unusual for certain committees to have quite a few junior faculty.  This is not a place where committee work actually makes much of a difference or is particularly respected by administration.  However, one still needs committee work and preferably at least one chairship in your file when going up for tenure.  Fairly typical for most schools, although in places where committee work actually makes a difference, the “old hands” are still often quite involved.

What did strike me was that as we went around the table introducing ourselves (mainly for the benefit of the newest faculty members), it turned out that only one of the committee members has been here longer than I have.  Granted, I’ve been here roughly a decade, longer than any other period of my life.  But, it’s weird to think of myself as being one of the “old hands”.  A typical professorial career for someone who didn’t come into academia from another career is usually 30-40 years.  So, I’m just about into middle third of that career, assuming I don’t jump ship sometime.

Of course, I don’t necessarily expect that I will stay in this place another 25 years.  It needs to grow up a lot to be a place where I will want to spend the majority of my career.  The major service activity I’m doing could go either way in terms of making me feel like I should stay long-term.  On the other hand, I can’t imagine switching to another career unless something dramatic were to happen.  It would have to be a lateral move to another institution, which is a major challenge in academia when you are already at a mediocre place.  (I’m sure that I will go into more detail on this topic in the future.)

I have to confess that one nice thing about having been here for a while is that I finally know enough to go beyond “being dangerous” to “being useful”.  Self-confidence is not my strong suit – unless I actually know what I’m talking about.  On the other hand, my experience as an adult is that just as soon as I think I have things figured out, it all changes.  Maybe this is just one of the steps on my way to being an old blowhard.



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