The fourth post in this series, curated by the WPSA Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, is a window into how personal health issues and disabilities influence the understanding of, and approaches to, academic success and failure. Other posts in this series are listed below. If these topics are of interest to you the short course on this topic, Unlocking Success with Failure, at the APSA conference in Philadelphia is underway. If you are interested in contributing to analyzing successes and failures in the academy, we invite you to propose a roundtable, paper, or session to the Critical Perspectives on the Academy section of the WPSA conference, which will be from April 13-15 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Participation requests are due September 18th.
By Ellen Ann Andersen
Based on some commonly used markers, I am an academic success story. I have a tenured position at a university I am pleased to call home and I live in an area of the country I adore. I’ve made a name for myself in my areas of research; my teaching is closely aligned with my research interests. My wife and I teach at the same university and have done so for nearly twenty years. I have also been able to secure academic positions at universities with extraordinary medical facilities and excellent health plans. I’m extremely aware of how lucky I am in all these respects.
At the same time, as my university has increasingly come to define success primarily via scholarly output—which necessarily devalues teaching and service—the temptation to see myself as a failure is all but overwhelming. You see, my capacity to engage in sustained research and writing waxes and wanes with the vagaries of my health, and my health has a wicked sense of humor. I am what might be termed a medically complicated person. My body is like a Russian-nesting doll: health problems layered on top of health problems. I came to graduate school with a mobility impairment and a progressive neuromuscular disease. Working around my body’s limitations was fairly easy at that point. And, in fact, the professoriate can be a terrific place to work for someone with either (or both) of those conditions. Our work isn’t physically strenuous; we work with our minds far more than our muscles.
By John McMahon and Patricia Stapleton
As fall terms approach, one question seems to preoccupy political scientists more than anything else: how do you teach Donald Trump? At the least, this challenge has provoked blog posts, social media discussions, and conversations over coffee (and stronger fare). Benjamin Kroll of Centre College posed the dilemma thusly:
How does a college professor teach with a commitment to politically neutrality and objectivity under these circumstances? Is neutrality in the classroom even desirable or ethically defensible at this point?
I need to figure out… how I can, as a college professor, effectively teach about the presidential election and American politics while simultaneously 1) clearly demonstrating that many aspects of “Trumpism” are illegitimate expressions of American political culture and values, 2) raising awareness of the potential future spectre of authoritarianism that a Trump presidency might enable, 3) emphasizing that there are legitimate reasons to support Trump even if you do not accept the viewpoints and proposals that are not legitimate, and 4) making sure that all students, Republicans and Democrats alike, feel that they are welcome to express their views in classroom discussions, and 5) making sure to emphasize that despite many of Trump’s illegitimate views and that he is this year’s standard-bearer of the Republican Party, the “mainstream” GOP is still well within the traditional boundaries of American politics and values?
The third post in our “professional development and reflections on the discipline” series, curated by the WPSA Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, discusses contingent faculty. Julie Novkov, current WPSA President, reflects on the realities of adjunct and contingent faculty, and suggests what we and our universities can do to transform thinking around, and acknowledge the crucial contribution of, contingent faculty. Other posts in this series include Failure and Success in the Academy, By Susan Sterett, Jennifer Diascro, and Judith Grant, and The Personal is Political, or At Least, Relevant, by H. N. Hirsch. If these topics are of interest to you, we would like to encourage you to register for the short course at the APSA conference in Philadelphia in September on Unlocking Success with Failure. This half-day short course will focus on unlocking our success – as individuals and institutions – by exploring the failures in our personal and institutional stories. We will do so in the context of the many interdisciplinary intellectual frameworks that illuminate failure as inevitable and necessary for achievement.
By Julie Novkov
Susan Sterett’s and Jennifer Diascro’s recent explorations into themes of failure and success have struck me particularly in the last several months as my university grapples with the silent growth in, and regularization of, contingent labor as a critical piece of fulfilling its educational and service missions. Our provost convened a panel in 2015 that brought together faculty and professional staff from across the university, including both “regular” workers with eligibility for permanent appointment and a variety of workers holding temporary appointments, both full-time and part-time. We studied the issues for half a year and produced a full report to the president. The university is now in the process of figuring out how to implement the panel’s recommendations, and I am fortunate enough to serve on one of the implementation committees. I’m provoked to ask myself an important question: what is to be done with the various frames of failure that shape our understandings of contingent faculty labor?
By Shira Tarrant
Gearing up for the 2016 convention in Cleveland this week, the GOP is prepared to address adult entertainment and declare that pornography is a “public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions.”
This sentiment is similar to that expressed in a Utah state resolution from April this year, which claims that pornography is a public health hazard. Yet, despite being proposed and backed by Republicans, a range of studies does not necessarily support the political declaration that pornography is a public menace.
By Heath Brown
It is Veepstakes time again and all eyes are on the choices Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are making. Much media attention has been drawn to the possibility that the vice presidential picks will help win a key swing state in November, serve as an “attack dog” on the campaign trail, or sparkle in a future debate. While this is all possible, and negative media coverage may deter some candidates, especially women, from seeking the post, there seems to be little evidence that it ultimately matters that much for the election. (See Kyle Kopko and Christopher Devine’s Politico piece from April on this, and also Boris Heersink and Brenton Peterson’s Monkey Cage blog piece that suggests small VP effects).
Probably of more importance, Dave Hopkins argues convincingly on his blog, is that VP choices matter because of “the window that they provide into the presidential candidates who select them.” Donald Trump’s much anticipated, but ultimately delayed VP announcement, probably says something about his style of deliberation over difficult decisions.
By Jacqueline S. Gehring
The rising support for the far-right in Europe, like the nativist and xenophobic support for Donald Trump’s candidacy in the United States, has many Europeans and American worried about the future of their democracies. In this moment of rising anti-Islamic and racist rhetoric across Europe, tomorrow’s semi-final game between France and Germany in the European Soccer Championship is not only a showdown between the European Union’s two most influential countries, it also provides an opportunity to understand how race, racism, and the far-right influence the politics of national identity in France and Germany.
The French and German soccer teams are very diverse, with players who are racialized as non-white—a fancy way of saying that they are often treated as racial minorities, just as black or Latino Americans face discrimination in the United States. Although many French and Germans claim that racism is not a significant problem in their countries, research demonstrates that racial discrimination is widespread in both countries. As symbols of the French and German nations, the diversity of the French and German national teams challenges those who believe that their nations should be for “ethnic French” or “ethnic Germans.” At the same time, these soccer teams become a rallying point for French and German politicians who seek to promote the benefits of a diverse society.
By Jason McDaniel and Sean McElwee
As American society has become more diverse and inclusive, there have been efforts to make language reflect that inclusivity. For decades, women, LGBTQIA people, disability advocates, and people of color have demanded a more inclusive language. In key respects, their effort has been successful. Powerful men (and women) increasingly face scrutiny for using racial slurs or discriminatory language, as Mel Gibson, Paula Deen and Donald Sterling have discovered. Moreover, the public tends not to sympathize with these powerful people who stray far beyond the realm of “political correctness.” While these efforts are widely accepted among some portions of society, especially young people, they have met a backlash among many other segments, namely older, white men and women.