Academic Council or 1st Grader?

Quotes from my 1st Grader. And from people on Academic Council. Anybody’s guess which is which.

“I can’t even read that.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

“That’s for a totally different class.”

“She doesn’t count.”

“Guys, there’s a really big problem here.”

“Where is my folder?”

“It’s so long from now, do we really have to worry about this today?”

*General Whining and Crying*

“How do I make it show up on the screen?”

“I still can’t find my folder.”

“Thank you!”

“See you next time!”


Conferences · You Know You're a Political Scientist When...

You Know You’re a Political Scientist When… (#APSA2017 edition)

  1. You are praying there isn’t an earthquake/tornado/fire/hurricane/swarm of locusts in San Francisco next weekend, because everyone knows APSA is cursed.
  2. You are still frantically writing the second paper you’re presenting (why did you commit to 2 papers?!) and are still laughing at APSA for demanding you upload it last month.
  3. You bemoan, for the 57th time, why the f*#& we have a major conference on Labor Day weekend right after the semester has started. (Thank God we know how to petition to change that shit.)
  4. You are wondering if you can squeeze in a trip up to Napa while you’re there, and how you could word it that so your institution will pay for the rental car.
  5. You are looking forward to seeing your friends- the ones that could afford the million dollars it takes to conference in San Francisco, that is.

party time

Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True · Nature of Academia · You Know You're a Political Scientist When...

If Job Talks Were Honest…

During the Skype Interview…

Interviewer: So, tell us why you applied for this job.

Candidate: LOL, are you kidding? I applied for every single job on the market right now. Even ones I’m not remotely qualified for.  You’re my third Skype interview this month. I will literally take anything at this point.

On-Campus Introductions…

Faculty Member: Do you have any questions for me?

Candidate: I went online and found your name and one research project you’ve worked on. I don’t care about you at all, but please tell me about that project so I can act interested and seem prepared.

At Interview…

Search Committee Chair: How do you feel about moving to this crappy city?

Candidate: Well, I would never move here in a million years, but tenure track jobs are impossible to find, so I’m going to use this as a stepping stone.

*interviewers nod and take notes*

Candidate: Also, I got divorced and want to get as far away from my ex as possible.

*audible impressed sounds from room*

During Job Talk…

Faculty Member: Tell us more about this project.

Candidate: It’s actually a failed chapter of my dissertation. The topic sounds sexy, but I will never revisit it once I have a job.

At Dinner…

Search Committee Member: Would you like red or white?

Candidate: Anything that can get me absurdly drunk, so that I can complain about my current department and regret everything at 4am.

*wine glasses clinking*

During Last Meeting…

Search Committee Chair: What’s your perspective on diversity, and how will you contribute to our mission of inclusion?

Candidate: I am a woman/minority/LGBTQ/not-old-white-man.

Search Committee: You’re hired!

Candidate: Excellent. I’ve just used this to negotiate a retention offer at my current institution. Thanks for the help!

You Know You're a Political Scientist When...

You Know You’re a Political Scientist When… (end-of-summer edition)

  1. You are desperately trying to gather the final data, run the last model, and/or corral your co-authors for your APSA paper(s). You almost certainly have not started writing yet (that’s for the plane ride).
  2. You haven’t taken a vacation yet, and you never will, because look away for five seconds with this administration and someone is sucking his own cock or entire departments are eliminated.
  3. You are trying to come up with ways to justify your summer binge watching of Game of Thrones. “I’m doing preliminary research on what happens when women take power in unstable regions that are facing natural disasters…”
  4. You are thinking about going on the market again… or maybe not… but you’d like to move somewhere nicer… but these ads are asking for the literal moon… hmmm let’s check Political Science Rumors… never mind, abort, abort.
  5. You have no idea what the fuck you’re going to teach this fall because norms are dead and


Being a Woman · Nature of Academia · Teaching Political Science

Why Should I Care?

I got a student evaluation comment this term that really made me think. Not about my teaching or courses, but about my students and what my role is to them vs. what they perceive it should be. The eval was something to the effect of:

“She is passionate about the content and subject matter, but she doesn’t seem to really care about her students.”

At first, I kind of shrugged and thought, yes, that sounds accurate. I care about the content and what my students learn, but I’m not sure I care about my students. Well, let’s get specific here.  I care that they all receive the same equal opportunity to learn the content in my course. I care that they are provided with all the information they need to understand how to succeed.  I care that they are exposed to the material that I need them to learn.

But do I care about THEM?  I don’t know.  Is it my job to care about them?

We see that women in academia are penalized when they don’t exhibit nurturing behavior toward their students in a way that men aren’t.  Students are, perhaps, looking for their women professors to act more like mothers than professors/bosses/authority figures.

I have always held the firm and well-thought-out belief that there are other institutions both on campus and in their personal lives who exist to “care” about them.  Their families or friends. College counseling centers or Student Life offices.  And I do think part of my responsibility is to guide them to those resources if they need someone who can provide the “care” that I feel is beyond the scope of my profession.  The kind of “care” that could, perhaps, require someone more personally invested or professionally trained. The “care” that is absolutely never reflected back toward me (imagine me complaining to them that they don’t care enough about me!)

And also, the “care” that I am certainly never being rewarded for when I’m working toward tenure.

A recent Chronicle piece was slammed pretty heavily because the author seems so nonchalant and annoyed at what could potentially have been a real tragedy in a student’s life.  I understood that this was written in sarcasm/hyperbole.  I also understood the criticism:  that this woman was far too callous and “didn’t care about her students.”  But I also understood where she was coming from.

There are some students, those who have sought and created a mentoring relationship with me, about whom I care on a more personal level.  After many office hours visits or semesters in class, through voluntary independent study courses in which they write lengthy papers under my guidance, these students have shown that they really DO care about the course content, the information, and the discipline.  When those students have a work/life balance question or a personal crisis, I have certainly offered a listening ear or advice that would certainly fall under “caring.”

But there are students who would try to take advantage of the “caring,” like the student the author describes in her article.  So when a student that I have seen in class just a handful of times approaches me, asking for some sort of extension on an assignment, etc., either because of a personal crisis or just for no reason at all, my response is always the same:  I guide them to the university/community resources that can help them with whatever problem they’re experiencing, and I remind them of the very specific policies laid out in the syllabus for how extensions or late work will be handled. No judgement call on my part. No unfairness. No . . . caring.

Maybe it’s true.  Maybe I don’t care enough about them.  Our students are adults who are learning to navigate a world independently, where they must deal with adversity and learn how to find resources to overcome it.  My job is to teach them political science.  And while I certainly don’t mind providing information on resources available to my students, caring and nurturing students is a burden, sometimes a futile one or one that students will take advantage of.  It is a burden that is expected from women far moreso than men, and we aren’t rewarded for it.  So why should I care?

Nature of Academia · Teaching Political Science · This Week in Bad Journalism

Breaking News: Students with Higher Grades Give Higher Evaluation Scores

This article on the Chronicle defends student evaluations as “not worthless.”

We’ve talked about evaluations before, and the Poli Sci Bitches have strong beliefs that they are, in fact, worthless and biased against women.

But I just want to stop for a second and examine the claim that there is a 0.5 correlation between evaluations scores and student learning, because when I saw that, I was thinking, “I wonder how they measure student learning…”

It turns out, they measure student learning with grades.


Yes, I took a look at a few of those studies linked, and while they do acknowledge the problem of using something like final exam grades to measure student achievement, that’s pretty much what many of them do.

So, there’s a 0.5 correlation between student evaluations of you and how well they did in your class. And this means that evaluations are measuring that you’re a good teacher?  Actually, I think the causal arrow goes the wrong way. You’re getting good evaluations because the students got good grades. Maybe you’re an easy grader!

But wait, it gets better.  In the blog post linked by the author of the Chronicle piece, there is a lovely chart showing a 0.53 correlation between course averages and evaluations.  But it’s a HYPOTHETICAL chart.  It’s hypothetical data, based on “what we would expect based on previous studies.”  Check it out. Hypothetical data.

hypothetical data

I get the point that the blog was trying to make with this hypothetical data scatter plot – that professors with low evaluation scores aren’t necessarily worse, that they don’t necessarily give worse grades (pardon me, they don’t necessarily “fail to incite student learning”). I heartily agree with the notion that ordinal evaluations of professors cannot be compared or used to say whether one professor is better than the other.

But to me, this is exactly the reason why student evaluations are worthless.

Being a Woman · Nature of Academia · Tenure

What’s the Deal with Service?



I am not teaching this summer.  You’d think that would mean time for research and maybe even some well deserved R&R.  But no.  I said yes to one too many committees.  Committees that exist for a purpose in the university or department but still provide essentially zero personal benefit for me.

Research exists that shows that women do more service than men and get less credit, and from my experience, this is absolutely on the nose.  And I think it’s worth taking a moment to think about both parts of that statement (do more, and get less) and how they relate to our experiences in political science.

1.Women do more service than men.  

In my department, administrative and service requirements are disproportionately left to women.  There are, of course, men who hold administrative positions in the department and serve on committees, but those are the “sexy” committees that do things people care about:  research, graduate education, maybe faculty senate if they like being in the spotlight and/or want to run for real office one day.  The boring jobs, like assessment, undergraduate curriculum, or scholarship committees are left to the small number of women in the department.

Research has also shown this is true of student groups and graduate advising, so-called “care work.” When I look around at who advises Pi Sigma Alpha, or who advises the College Republicans, I see a lot of women in those roles. A lot of times they’re just handed to people- “oh, hey, so-and-so retired so now we need someone to advise PSA”- but also a lot of  times, students approach female faculty to advise their groups because they think female faculty are more likely to say yes. Additionally, graduate students tend to drop by female faculty’s office hours more often to discuss issues they’re running into, again because they believe the female faculty are more likely to take the time to talk to them.

Why is this the case?  Some of it is probably due to subtle sexism, where women are expected to do the “chores” at work just like they’re expected to do them at home.  Also, women need to be more available and nicer to students than men do, or they’ll get shitty student evaluations. But I’m not going to shirk all of the responsibility for this; I say “yes” far too often, when I should say “no.”  We are more likely to be asked to be on the university Beautification Committee, and we should say, “No, I am spending my summer on research, not on selecting art for the library.”  But we don’t.  Or at least, I don’t.  I say yes.  And why do I say yes?

Well, I don’t want to be a Problem.  The Unhelpful One.  That’s not a good reputation to have.  In addition, this work needs to get done. Somehow, we have to decide what art hangs in the library, and nothing at a university can be accomplished with a Working Group. Also, while we’re being honest, part of my type A personality enjoys being a part of big decisions affecting general education, or knowing that everyone is going to see a painting that I chose- I feel a sense of (small) power that is rare to feel in higher education. And, of course, I say yes because I want to get the credit for it.

But wait…

2.Women get less credit than men.

I put my service on my C.V.  Maybe not the Beautification Committee, but the university strategic planning committee? Sure! Of course!  I’m spending my summer in biweekly meetings for that committee, you better believe I’m putting it on my C.V.

But no one actually looks at my C.V., and I get the sneaking suspicion that no one in my department actually knows I’m on the committee at all.  I’m representing our department at the university level, making decisions that will absolutely affect our recruitment and advising internally, but no one even knows or cares that it’s happening. It’s that classic problem the hospitality industry has- if you do a good job, no one says anything. It’s when you mess up someone’s order (get known as the Woman Who Said No) that people leave scathing reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor (say you can’t be tenured because you aren’t “collegial”).

When you get a publication and tell your colleagues, you might get some recognition, a congratulations, a mention on the department’s social media page.  When you make a decision on the QEP Committee, you might tell your colleagues. And they’ll go, “Oh, there’s a QEP Committee? What does that stand for?”

3. If we count service, where should it count?

Like I said before, these decisions have to be made- someone has to serve on these committees, and someone has to make sure student groups don’t run amok.  This is a mandatory part of higher ed.  But these things aren’t valued.  I’m not arguing that it should be as much a part of a tenure decision at a major research university as research, obviously, but it should count for something. We’ve started a culture of “Cite Yoself!”  Can we work on a culture of “Brag On Your Committee Achievements?” (Maybe someone can make it more catchy, though…?)

Someone has to be on committees and do administrative work. Women do more service, and we aren’t getting credit for it.  I’m going to try to say NO more often.  And when I do pick the library art, I’m going to email it to every member of my department. YES, in fact, I DID select that lovely lighthouse print.

You’re welcome.