Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not all of us were here then

I have started and abandoned several posts over the last couple of weeks. I would like to talk about some of my new responsibilities as a second-year faculty member, by way of continuing to chronicle my journey from contingent to tenure-track faculty. These things feel difficult to talk about, though. Even pseudonymous, I have a hard time figuring out what conversations with advisees / committees / whatnot should be best kept private, and I have been erring on the side of "private."

There is a discourse on campus, though, that I find vexing as a new faculty member. Our campus is the midst of discussing some large-scale curricular changes. There is a lot of anxiety about whether the current proposed changes will pass, and what the consequences of that will be, both from supporters and critics of the proposal. Although the current proposal was put together just last year, the original movement for curricular change started several years ago, in the days of Legendary Committee. The thing I find vexing is that many faculty who have been here longer speak about the changes as if all of us are familiar with the work of Legendary Committee, and as if the discussion held at that time about the college's curricular goals is now set in stone. "Well, the goals of this proposal came out of the Legendary Committee report," they will explain. "At the time of Legendary Committee, we all agreed on X, so surely we must still agree on X now?" There are a lot of assumptions that everyone remembers the long process that has led up to this moment.

Not so. I was one of several new faculty last year. There were several the year before that, and several more the year before that, and so forth. There are quite a few new faculty this year. All together, that represents a sizable minority of the entire faculty who were not involved in the Legendary Committee discussions, and who may bring different ideas and expectations to the table. The faculty does not actually exist in a fixed, unchanging state, where a consensus established at one moment can be expected to endure forever.