Thursday, October 06, 2005

At the Women's Faculty Group

It was pretty much OK until the end when I started to get a migraine after which I meandered home and took a four hour nap that totally screwed up my sleep schedule, threatening to throw me into a tailspin for what's left of this week. After a middle-of-the-night insomniac internet browsing session tucked between two blocks of fitfull sleep, I'm not ready to face the day.

It was pretty much OK except for the part where I accidentally offended someone from History in a discussion of freshman-level courses and how many students fail them. She thought that I was dissing History for being "soft" and "standardsless" because I commented that her department has some leeway in defining what it means to know enough to pass the freshman-level survey course and that students who barely pass here might fail a comparable course at a more prestigious university. Didn't mean that at all -- heck, in math it takes us 12 credit hours worth of coursework to teach the same amount of calculus that other institutions do in nine (meaning that our calculus courses are slower paced, and, as a result, easier than those at more excellent schools). And my other course? The only way that I could make it easier would be to involve hand-puppets; it's been designed to be at this level so as to minimize the failure rate. So, no, I wasn't dissing History.

It was pretty much OK until people started discussing the whole tenure-track versus non-tenure-track job opportunities for women at this university. Some of the women were clearly bothered by the profusion of non-tenure-track jobs and the fact that women are over-represented in non-tenure-track (and under-represented in tenure-track) jobs. Other women viewed the non-tenure-track jobs on permanent budget lines (not adjuncts) as another option for women desiring an academic career without the research pressure of the tenure-track. Tensions simmered.

It was pretty much OK except I was the only woman from any of the science disciplines there. I didn't know what to say when asked about my research. How do you explain to a Political Scientist -- in just a few sentences -- the flavor of a problem that I didn't understand myself until the start of my 3rd year of graduate school?