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Ms. Mentor's New and Ever More Impeccable Advice for Women and Men in Academia

Ms. Mentor's New and Ever More Impeccable Advice for Women and Men in Academia

Emily Toth
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Ms. Mentor's New and Ever More Impeccable Advice for Women and Men in Academia
    Book Description:

    Ms. Mentor, that uniquely brilliant and irascible intellectual, is your all-knowing guide through the jungle that is academia today. In the last decade Ms. Mentor's mailbox has been filled to overflowing with thousands of plaintive epistles, rants, and gossipy screeds. A mere fraction has appeared in her celebrated monthly online and print Q&A columns for the Chronicle of Higher Education; her readers' colorful and rebellious ripostes have gone unpublished-until now. Hearing the call for a follow-up to the wildly successful Ms. Mentor's Impeccable Advice for Women in Academia, Ms. Mentor now broadens her counsel to include academics of the male variety. Ms. Mentor knows all about foraging for jobs, about graduate school stars and serfs, and about mentors and underminers, backbiters and whiners. She answers burning questions: Am I too old, too working class, too perfect, too blonde? When should I reproduce? When do I speak up, laugh, and spill the secrets I've gathered? Do I really have to erase my own blackboard? Does academic sex have to be reptilian? From the ivory tower that affords her an unparalleled view of the academic landscape, Ms. Mentor dispenses her perfect wisdom to the huddled masses of professorial newbies, hardbitten oldies, and anxious midcareerists. She gives etiquette lessons to academic couples and the tough-talking low-down on adjunct positions. She tells you what to wear, how to make yourself popular, and how to decode academic language. She introduces you to characters you must know: Professor Pelvic, Dr. Iron Fist, Mr. Upstart Whelp, Dean Titan, Professor McShameless. In this volume Ms. Mentor once again shares her wide-ranging unexpurgated wisdom, giving tips on bizarre writing rituals, tenure diaries, and time management (Exploding Head Syndrome). She decodes department meetings and teaches you the tricks for getting stellar teaching evaluations. Raw, shocking, precise, clever, absurd-Ms. Mentor has it all.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0812-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. The Petty and the Profound: What They Write to Ms. Mentor
    (pp. 1-8)

    Q (from “Lee”): I have another item of ridiculous pettiness to lay at your feet.

    I teach at a small liberal-arts college where most people are collegial and friendly—except for a psychology professor I’ll call “Dr. Territorial Marking,” because that’s what he does.

    Dr. Marking precedes me in one classroom. From the very first day of class, I have come in to the room to find the blackboard covered with his psychoanalytical squiggles. Erasing the board for him is a small thing, but it annoyed me.

    I didn’t think it would be a problem, so I left a note...

  5. Stewing in Graduate School
    (pp. 9-42)

    Many are the woes and afflictions piled upon graduate students while they learn their trade—and so it can be extremely satisfying to moan, obsess, and whimper about the quirks of faculty members and bureaucracies. Maybe the professors used to be just like you, but they are so much older now. The bureaucracies, Ms. Mentor can guarantee, will outlive all of us.

    Q: Whenever we pass in the hall, one of the old profs on my committee frowns, looks sickly, and squints. I think he hates me. But my roommate says that I shouldn’t “personalize,” and that “Dr. Sour’s” behavior...

  6. Foraging for an Academic Job
    (pp. 43-67)

    “You wouldn’t by any chance have a system by which every seventh person who e-mails you gets a tenure-track job, would you?” one reader wrote.

    Ms. Mentor wishes she did, although she does not know how she would hide it from the other six who did not get the job. The job market for new professors is capricious and cruel, and other writers to Ms. Mentor thinks she holds the magic key.

    She doesn’t.

    If you have an advanced degree in nursing or accounting, you can get a professorial job almost anywhere. If you’re in literature or American history, your...

  7. Love and Sex in Academia
    (pp. 68-93)

    In medieval times, we are told, the life of the mind was disconnected from that of the body. Monks, celibate, could contemplate. Nuns, celibate, could serve others. But of course men often loved men then, and nuns in the convents often loved one another deeply, and only recently have scholars uncovered the rich, varied, passionate, ennobling, and beautiful stories of same-sex love.

    Gossip mongers, meanwhile, know all too well the grisly story of Peter Abelard, the tutor to the brilliant linguist Heloise in twelfth-century Paris. After she gave birth to their child, her angry relatives castrated Abelard. The lovers were...

  8. You’re Hired! Early Years in a Strange New World
    (pp. 94-122)

    Q (from “Hotspur”): Because I wanted to get a jump on my new life, I moved to “Midsize University” in July. I’m a brand new assistant professor.

    But in my very first week, I had a huge fight over a twenty-dollar purchase with my department chair, who informed me very rudely that I was “off to a bad start.” Since then, “Dr. Chair” has tried to keep me in the dark about how the university operates, so he can maintain power over me. He micromanages endlessly and refuses to believe we need a secretary for our department (seven faculty members),...

  9. The Fine and Quirky Art of Teaching
    (pp. 123-145)

    Victor is shy.

    On his first day of teaching, before his very first class, he lost his breakfast. On the way to the classroom, he broke into a sweat that left him bathed in ice-cold clothes by the end of the period. He had to lean against the wall as he struggled to walk, and colleagues kept stopping to ask, “Are you OK?”

    Once he got into the room, with twenty-five young students in their first college composition class, he sat down at the teacher’s desk, barricaded himself with books, and did not move for an hour. He said, “Hello,...

  10. Working and Playing Well with Others
    (pp. 146-174)

    You’ve all been taught how to behave, Ms. Mentor knows. You are supposed to be generous, brave, and serene. You clean up your own messes, listen to other people without interrupting, and treat everyone with kindness and compassion until they really piss you off.

    And then you write a nasty memo. And maybe you send it to the department e-mail list, but that was by accident. Really, it was.

    Many academic incivilities appear to happen by accident—even if they aren’t really accidental, such as treating female colleagues differently from male ones. Deirdre McCloskey, formerly the economist Donald McCloskey, noticed...

  11. Questions Great and Small
    (pp. 175-193)

    Q: I’m a teaching assistant at Rich Private Party U., where the decadent, spoiled undergrads make me want to puke. I worked two jobs to put myself through community college, and now I feel more empathy for the janitors than for the pouty young people I’m supposed to teach. And, yes, I feel jealous of their privilege and the ease of their lives. Will I have to stifle those feelings to be a professor eventually?

    A: How vexed it is, the subject of social class in the United States. There are Ph.D. adjuncts who earn below the poverty level, and...

  12. Adjuncts
    (pp. 194-206)

    The situation crept up in academe. Two decades ago, some English departments already had a cadre without a name. Some called it a “shadow department.”

    By the late 1980s, half of the teachers in English departments belonged to this shadow cadre, and they’d gained a name. They were “adjuncts,” also known as “contingent faculty”—people who might be teaching a full-time load, but who were paid by the course, hired or let go at the last minute according to enrollments, and had no official permanent status. Some had health benefits and desks and file cabinets in department offices; some had...

  13. The Tenure Trek
    (pp. 207-229)

    Tenure, or lifetime job security, is the crown jewel for professors. Ms. Mentor will tell nonacademics that tenure does not make you rich or beautiful, but it makes you secure—and academics as a group are not great risk takers. The Harvard philosophy department does not field a bungee-jumping team.

    What academics want—besides a paycheck, classes, and colleagues—is the assurance that they’ll be able to devote the rest of their lives to cultivating their minds.

    That is a rare and wondrous opportunity, earned through five or six grueling years of stellar teaching, research, and service.

    It is also...

  14. What Is Life After Tenure?
    (pp. 230-237)

    Ms. Mentor has a very large cabinet filled with the musings, threats, fantasies, and prankish questions devised by academics before they came up for tenure. Some have spent decades imagining what they’ll do.

    Here are their comments, along with a homework assignment from Ms. Mentor.

    “I plan to wave a two-bird salute to the self-promoting, self-important, truth-bending director of our program.”

    “I’ve always done my homework, and gotten A’s through twenty-five years of school, spent every second at my desk, taught herds of students, attended every meeting ever called, and published half a hundred articles. Now I want to eat...

  15. Are You the Retiring Type?
    (pp. 238-241)

    Q: When I started out in this profession, during the Vietnam War, I was young and brash and knew you couldn’t trust anyone over thirty. I was the same age as Janis Joplin, and I somehow thought I’d die before I grew old. Instead I’m nearly sixty-five, just like Mick Jagger. My contemporaries are retiring, and I’m wondering if I should also be heading toward the glue factory. How do I know when it’s time?

    A: Ms. Mentor’s readers may think she gets many letters like this from mature academics wanting to know when to hold and when to fold....

  16. Daring to Create Your Own Life
    (pp. 242-246)

    Q (from “Lawrence”): During my four years as a part-time adjunct teaching composition, I’ve struck out every year on the job market. How much longer should I keep trying for a full-time, tenure-track job?

    Q (from “Yvette”): I’m tenured at a college that I’ve hated since the first day. My colleagues do nothing but teach: no research, nothing truly intellectual. I have some friends, but our book club flopped after a few months. I’ve applied fruitlessly for other jobs (I’m in English), but with my heavy teaching load, my first book’s still not done. I’m drowning in a sea of...

  17. Ms. Mentor’s Exemplary Bibliography
    (pp. 247-256)
  18. Index
    (pp. 257-265)
  19. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 266-269)