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Blogging Without Tenure

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollFebruary 21, 2008 7:50 AM


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Alice Pawley at On Being a Scientist and a Woman writes about her decision to blog under her own name as an untenured professor.

In the end, I decided I couldn't just sit in fear. Blogging under a pseudonym wasn't going to save me from a particularly investigative P&T [promotion and tenure] committee anyway - googling two key words brings up my old blog. But, on the more positive side, I decided when I started my current job that my goal was to be the best professor I could be, the one I wanted to see when I was a graduate student, and that I would. not. be. threatened into submission by colleagues wielding the tenure stick. I am committed to student learning, to faculty learning, to developing useful and inclusive learning environments, to the sifting and winnowing of ideas, to making engineering education better both in how I engage in it and what I study. None of that is something I as a faculty member should be scared of saying, and if doing so results in me only getting to do my job for 3 years or 6 years, then there is something undeniably and seriously wrong with our academic system and what we want professors to be/do. Plus having job security for 3 years or 6 years is something that most people don't get anyway.

Blogging didn't have anything to do with my own case, but it's a perfectly legitimate concern for untenured faculty. Many assistant professors, especially women (and including Alice's coblogger, "ScienceWoman"), are completely justified in blogging under a pseudonym or not at all. We might not like the fact that there exist narrow-minded senior professors who look down on blogging or any sort of public outreach -- but our dislike doesn't will them out of existence. But what a shame. Of all the professions in the world, shouldn't academics be the most encouraged and rewarded for reaching out to a wider audience? Thus ends your Sermon to the Converted for the day.

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