“I need to build a house for my house.” So began a reflection at a workshop that brought together faculty and administrators from political science to discuss what graduate students and faculty members need in the academy to thrive. What allows people to have a house for their house?
More often than not, when we think about how to thrive we try to take advice about how to succeed in our particular work settings. And this individualized information can be very valuable. Yet, our tendency is to provide suggestions that work within existing institutions. To be sure, we may share what hasn’t been effective, but most advice comes from a position of successfully navigating current structures by those who have benefitted from them. Among the notable lessons from the recent explosion of news about sexual assault in the public and private sectors is what happens when people in a profession treat persistent practices as universal and out of our control. We have legitimate complaints that we may vocalize from time to time, but mostly we work around the problems we encounter and go about our business because the norms of behavior and structures for advancement seem to provide us few choices. This is particularly true for the more disadvantaged among us, including in the academy, who are encouraged to choose strategically about family, and to negotiate individually and collectively. While well-meaning, the concern is that this contributes to an already lopsided playing field, where the burden rests on those with more to lose.