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!

Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True · Tenure

Best Strategies for Earning Tenure (by Hogwarts House)

We’ve mentioned that we are untenured women (who are also bitches), which means we spend a good deal of time ruminating on the best strategies for making sure we get tenure when the time comes.  We’ve seen too many of our colleagues (many women, but of course, men too!) be denied tenure. Sometimes the reasons seem relatively clear-cut:  at the R1 university, three publications in six years won’t cut it. At the SLAC, failure to demonstrate enough service via committee participation or undergraduate research.  All the usual suspects.

We’ve also seen some sort of arbitrary reasons for tenure denial.  Crazy deans on power trips.  “Too many publications” (I didn’t know that was real).  Departments that don’t consider certain subfields to be worthwhile (I don’t even mean just gender stuff, either. Try being a Ukrainian elections person, or in some places, a political theorist).  Then the truly whacko reasons, like “took time off to have a baby” or “didn’t like his wife, who teaches in the German department.”

But we must all play to our strengths, and the tenure process is long and difficult.  And, because we’re not just Bitches but also Extremely Nerdy Bitches, we’ve provided some strategies for your success*, based on your Hogwarts House.


There are people who might say that Ravenclaws are most well suited to academia, and those people might actually be onto something.  If you’re a Ravenclaw, you’ve got a brilliant take on your topic, and your work is novel and insightful.  Even if you’ve chosen an obscure subfield, your groundbreaking methods and theory transcend the substantive choice.  Publish a lot. Publish really good stuff.  Publish in great journals, but publish in mediocre ones too, because even your mediocre work is more well written and better political science than everyone else’s best.  Get a bunch of grants, give a TON of invited lectures, maybe start a web series about your little corner of political science.  Then, just watch the votes roll in.


So, your work isn’t always brilliant. You won’t be willing any Nobel prizes any time soon.  But you’re competent, and best of all, you’ve got a knack for strategy.  Pick the field not that interests you the most, but that is the most up-and-coming and sexiest.  Write about experiments or social media or something.  Make friends with the Dean and with the people in your department who “matter.”  Your Slytherin skills should help you identify which those are.  Have a backup plan ready to go: maybe a cushy administrative job in reserve.  Spend your time claiming just the right amount of credit (not TOO much) for being on just the right university committees (but not ALL of them).  Then, if all else fails, Imperius the committee into voting for you.


Never forget that Cedric Diggory was a Hufflepuff, and he… well, he died at the end of the TriWizard Tournament, but let’s not talk about that right now.  If you’re a Hufflepuff, do what you do best. Be nice. Teach well. Get amazing evaluations, advise grad students and make sure they put out their best work. Keep your colleagues happy by asking a few thoughtful questions at faculty meetings and always voting with the majority. Never rock the boat, and publish in some lower end peer reviewed journals where you’re likely to get accepted, even though they don’t have the impact scores. At the end of the day, maybe people will feel too guilty to vote no.


There are the Slytherins, who play the game, and there are the Gryffindors, who fight the system. Go ahead. Take on Gender and Politics as your primary area of research.  And when the department questions your research agenda, call them on their bull shit.  In valiant and eloquent terms, tell them why your research matters, and why equity in political science is so important.  Make friends, but stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone walk all over you at faculty meetings. You probably see the Slytherins as betraying your discipline. Maybe they are (isn’t that a Slytherin quality?) so make up for it by pushing for what’s right!  Now, you’d better have some publications and service on your record (Faculty Senate seems right for you), because all this fighting for what’s right might leave you a bit unpopular on the collegiality scale, but the discipline is counting on your courage and tenacity. Pave the way for future scholars!  For Godric Gryffindor!!

*Remember, we don’t even have tenure. We have no idea how to actually succeed at this.

Being a Woman · Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True

If You Give a Man a Meeting…

If you give a man a meeting, he’s going to want to change the location. His office. Always his office. NEVER yours.

When you change the location, he’ll probably make you change the time, too.  So, you’ll have to work it out with the Assistant Dean’s secretary so that everyone can be there.

When the meeting is finished, he’ll ask you for an executive summary of everything you talked about. In Power Point form.

Then, he’ll want to look through the Power Point on his computer to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

When he looks at his computer, he might notice the Excel spreadsheet you sent him last week. The one he was supposed to review and suggest changes but never did and is just now remembering it.

So he’ll probably email it back to you with some proposed additions (one of which is actually already on there but he didn’t see it) so he can send it to the Provost’s office.

When he’s finished sending the spreadsheet to the Provost’s office, he’ll want to be sure the new catalog copy reflects the changes in the spreadsheet.

He might get carried away and want to check the catalog copy for every course and program your department offers.

He may even end up checking the website as well!

When he’s done, he’ll probably want to go to happy hour with the visiting scholar while you make all of the corrections.

You’ll have to call and make the reservation for him.

He’ll start to head out to happy hour, but he won’t have the visiting scholar’s CV, so he’ll probably ask you to remind him what she’s presenting about.

So you’ll take a look, and you’ll tell him what she studies, and he’ll get so excited, he’ll want to work on a whole new research project. He’ll ask you to help him get some data.

He’ll write an abstract.  When the abstract is finished, he’ll want to submit it to MPSA.

Then, he’ll want to create a new selected topics course around this research agenda, which means he’ll need a course approval form.

You’ll finish the course approval form for him, and he’ll sit at his desk and look at it.

Looking at the course approval form will remind him that he needs to get the Assistant Dean’s approval to teach this course as an overload.


He’ll ask you to send the paperwork to the Assistant Dean’s office.

And chances are, if he asks you to send the paperwork to the Assistant Dean’s office…

He’s going to want a meeting to go with it.



Being a Woman · Departmental Politics · Nature of Academia

Do Women Support Women?

CAR: In the famous words of Taylor Swift, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  What do we think about her statement?

MT: I do think there is a general problem of women not supporting each other, even when it’s not costly to do so.

CAR: Do you feel like you’ve generally been supported by other women during your career as a political scientist?

MT: There have been women who supported me, and women who actively did not. What about you?

CAR: I absolutely feel that I’ve been supported by other women. When I was pregnant during graduate school, a female faculty member took me out for coffee (half-caf for me!) and helped me navigate how to stay on target to finish while still taking time for myself and my baby. I’ve also had so many positive experiences with women at conferences:  whether it’s going to each other’s panels, nominating each other for awards, or even just having drinks (no boys allowed!).

MT: I’ve had some of those experiences, but I’ve also had a woman tell me, “You won’t succeed as a serious academic if you have children.” I’ve had another woman tell me to “Back off her research agenda.” My favorite, though, was at a conference. I was the only woman on the panel, and afterward, a female journal editor approached every man on the panel to talk to them about submitting something to her journal. But she skipped over me, telling me my outfit was cute.

CAR: Ugh. I did once watch two women in one department argue over which one of them was the one who studied Eastern Europe. They both studied Eastern Europe!

MT:  It’s artificial competition.  I think women perceive a finite number of jobs/achievements/awards available to us, so we feel the need to be competitive rather than supportive.  I see women all the time who get jealous when their friend gets a promotion, even if they’re in completely different fields or places in their careers.

CAR: I definitely think there is a perception that there isn’t enough room for more than a couple of women. Think back to our post about the 7 people in every political science department. Even WE wrote that there is “The Woman,” as though there’s only room for one.  I know we WANT there to be plenty of room for women, but maybe there simply isn’t yet, so we’re defensive about our little corner of political science.  So I think that’s one reason woman fail to support each other. What are others?

MT: I know this sounds petty and shallow, but I think women are hard on very pretty women. Beauty standards in our society have been discussed other places, so for our purposes, let’s acknowledge that they exist.

CAR: I think there’s something to that.  I mean, how many times have you heard something like, “She only got the job because she’s pretty/skinny/has big boobs/etc.?”  If women are even unintentionally buying into that perception, then we’re going to get even more defensive about our corner of political science.

MT: It’s hard just to know you’re not as pretty as someone else, or not perceived as being pretty. Because then you feel like you’re failing at what (society says) a woman is supposed to be there for. You’re right, it plays into defensiveness.  If people already say you got your job because you’re a woman, and then a prettier one comes along, it’s no leap to worry you’re going to be replaced.  That can’t feel good.

CAR: Conversely, knowing someone might be dismissing your hard work and contributions to the discipline because, “You only got the job based on your looks,” can’t feel good either!

MT: Of course not. So, all kinds of women end up feeling defensive and, thus, less supportive.

CAR: Exactly. So maybe we aren’t as supportive of each other as we should be. Maybe we all need to recalibrate our thinking. How can we change our behavior to be more supportive? How can we make Taylor Swift happy?

MT: I think we can focus on “make sure you’re doing your stuff right,” versus, “make sure that other woman isn’t doing better than you.”

CAR: I like that. It’s not a competition.  I have a couple of things I try to do personally to keep myself in a pro-women mindset. First, I consciously try to make sure that some of my professional role models are women. I think it helps me keep away from the mindset that successful people are men/masculine, and helps me try to emulate successful women and feminine behaviors.  Second, I try to build individual relationships with women in my discipline/department/university. I think the defensive instinct is easy to overcome if you just get to know that women who’s way prettier than you are. She’s probably struggling just as much as you. 😉

MT: I love the idea of consciously seeking out female role models and building supportive relationships. My number one reminder to myself is that this is not a zero-sum game. Parts of it are, sure (only one person can get a job) but most of this career isn’t.  We can all succeed at the same time!

CAR: Agreed! And we haven’t even started talking about the differences in experience between women of different backgrounds (ethnicity, socioeconomic, etc).

MT: That’s an important conversation, too.  Women, tell us your experiences! Have you been supported by other women? Undermined by other women? What are your strategies for being supportive?  What do you do when faced with an unsupportive female colleague?

CAR: As Taylor Swift says, “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”  Keep up the great work, women in Political Science (and every other field)! You rock!


Departmental Politics · Nature of Academia · Tenure

On Tenure

MT: Today we’re talking about getting tenure as political science bitches.  So, Candy Ann, how does one achieve tenure at your R1ish institution?

CAR: Publish. Publish, publish, and publish more. Publish only in good journals, nothing interdisciplinary, nothing fluffy.

MT: What’s a good journal?

CAR: The department sits down and assigns scores to journals.  They use impact scores and sort of “their own judgment,” which sometimes results in certain areas being more highly ranked than others, because the people who are deciding which journals “count” tend to pick the journals THEY publish in. What about you? How important is publication, and how important is where you publish?

MT: At our institution, a LAC, any peer reviewed publication counts for tenure. Obviously, publishing in the main journals counts more, but any publication still counts.  And I like having the ability to publish many things in many places. I can prepare my submission to JOP, then work on a paper with the sociologists, then write a popular press article.

CAR: Yea, I don’t think anyone would take that too seriously for tenure here. Only “good journals” count.

MT: Do you think being bitchy is important to your success at work?

CAR: I don’t know. I think I have enough bitch in me to make sure no one walks all over me, but I also appreciate the value of playing a non-bitchy role to get what I want.

MT: I agree. At my institution, outright bitches don’t get anywhere. You have to hide the bitch. So I do: outwardly I’m super nice and friendly. In my head, I’m reciting Machiavelli.

CAR: Nice.

MT: Sometimes I have to be bitchy at home, to get proper research time.  Which I think Erica Chenoweth et al. talked about in the “How to Get Tenure If You’re a Woman” article.

CAR: Yes. What do we think about that article? I want to talk about their #4:  the idea that you should set boundaries, like “don’t talk about your kids.” The authors say, set your own boundaries and talk about your life, but sell your research, too.

MT: I think those boundaries are more important at your institution than mine.  At mine, if we didn’t talk about our kids, we’d be weird.  I specifically brought up my child during my interview, to seem older and fit in better. Plenty of people say that’s a deal killer.

CAR: Yes, it’s probably different here. When I was pregnant with my second child, I mentioned out loud often that this would be my last. I wanted to be sure no one was wondering if I’d get pregnant again and my productivity would drop.

MT: When I was on maternity leave, my department was so nice. They made sure I got food, they bought us a gift card for diapers. When I came back to work, they told me to take it easy. It’s like anything I did seemed impressive while having a baby at home. Would your place do that?

CAR: Absolutely not. I was receiving emails about work while nursing my 2 week old.  And no one was impressed. I don’t think the guy who sent that Emergency Email even remembered I’d had a baby; I just needed to address his issue right then.

MT: So here’s where my being at a LAC could be better:  maybe some gender bias is less pronounced. What I give up in salary or prestige, I get back in quality of life.

CAR: That’s probably true. Would you move to an R1ish institution if you were offered a job?

MT: No.

CAR: I wouldn’t move to a LAC either.

MT: I purposefully sought out this kind of institution because I knew I wanted a life.

CAR: I wanted to kick ass and take names at work. Good luck to my children.

Being a Woman · Departmental Politics · Sexual Harassment

Is Fashion a Women’s Issue in Academia?

CAR: So, today, we’re going to be discussing fashion and clothing choices in the workplace.  So, what do you think about the phrase, “dress for the job you want?”

MT: I think that can’t apply in higher education. We all dress up when we have to see the President, or we’re going on an interview, but day-to-day classroom work is actually hindered by fancy clothes. I dress nicer than 90% of my colleagues, but only because I look young and want to be taken seriously.

CAR: Yes, I’d say that’s part of the reason I dress nice at work, too. I look young-ish and want to be sure I don’t get confused with the TA.  But I also spend a lot of time in pop-up meetings with the chair or the dean, and I dress nicely because they do. If the dean shows up in my office, I want to be in a blazer.

MT: It’s mostly business casual here. Any nicer than that and the students and faculty start mentioning the fancy clothes. My dean and chair don’t dress nice.

CAR: How do the men and women dress in your department?

MT: Men wear jeans. Women, business casual or sometimes jeans.  I wear business casual. I’m the only one who ever wears a dress.  The Media Whore is always in a suit, in case he gets called for a quote on camera.  It sounds like your faculty dress nicer than my faculty.

CAR: I would say there’s a lot of variation in our department.  The men tend to wear business casual:  khakis and a polo, or maybe a sport coat over jeans. Women, too, really. But in our administration offices, it’s a lot more formal. Suits, dress, etc.  So, I dress for the job I want, I guess.  I wear blazers and dresses to look like I belong in administration.

MT: Our administration is still pretty casual, unless there’s an event going on. They’re still nicer than the faculty, but I wouldn’t say they dress nice.

CAR: We do have That One Guy who wear cargo shorts and sandals to teach. Do you have That Guy?

MT: We do not have That Guy, at least not in my building.

CAR: Do you think That Guy can get away with it because he’s a guy?

MT: Oh, of course. Once I wore yoga pants to work (students weren’t on campus) because there was a faculty/staff yoga session. And I got comments from my dean: “aren’t you a little casual today?”  I was like, “Yea, because I’m about to go to yoga, dumbass.”

CAR: Oh wow!  My chair once commented that he always knows when it’s me coming down the hall to his office, because my heels click and I’m the only one who wears heels.

MT: Is it good to be known for wearing heels?

CAR: Hmmm… yes and no, I guess. When I look at the women in higher administration, the women I want to emulate, they wear heels. Maybe it’s a 1980s power woman, “shatter the glass ceiling with this stiletto” thing that I have going.  I also feel like heels convey more professionalism than flats: “I’m going to an important meeting in these heels.”  Also, keep in mind that I came from a background in [very corporate thing].

MT: See, anytime I’ve worn heels, I’ve gotten compliments, but in a sexualized way.  So, I stopped wearing heels at work because it made me MORE a woman, and I don’t think I want that, necessarily.

CAR: Yes, I can see that. I do think my fashion sense falls squarely into, “Sexy Yet Professional.”

MT: So what is the role of fashion at work?

CAR: I am particularly fond of fashion:  I like to shop, I have favorite designers. Fashion is important to me, maybe moreso than some women. I watched a LOT of What Not to Wear when I was on maternity leave, and I absolutely believe that what you wear says something about you and your work. While That Guy in the cargo shorts gets away with it, he’s not taken as seriously as someone better dressed.

MT: I’m always wary of being TOO fashionable at work. Maybe one piece that’s on trend, but the rest squarely business bland. I want people to hear what I’m saying, not questioning my fashion choices.

CAR: I understand that, but I really think that my fashion choices can support (or undermine) what I’m saying, so choosing intentionally is important.  If I’m trying to network at a conference, I’m going to wear heels and a nice designer dress, because it conveys professionalism, interest, and potentially even something of a gravitational pull.  When people see Sharp Dressed Woman, they think she’s important, and want to come get to know her.

MT: I can see that too. But networking at a conference, you want to catch someone’s eye. In class, I want them to listen and LEARN something.

CAR: True. Have you ever had a student comment on your clothing? Either in person or via student evaluations?

MT: In person they have. Female students.

CAR: Me too. Often in the same way a female friend or coworker might ask about a new blouse.

MT: Girls dress for other girls.

CAR: I did get a very sexist comment on my outfit choices on my student evaluations once. So, I recognize that my Sexy Yet Professional fashion style has an effect on my students I might not like. I still see it as, “that’s their problem.”  So, I guess, are fashion choices something we totally own and control? Are we the masters of our fashion choices, or are we beholden to students, administration, and colleagues? And do men face the same questions?

MT: I would say, no. We don’t get to be the masters of our fashion choices. And also no, men don’t face the same question. It probably doesn’t even occur to them. Maybe That Guy doesn’t do as well as a man in a suit, but he’s free not to care.

CAR: So is fashion in the workplace a women’s issue?

MT: I think the issue is that women have a lot more choices in fashion, so women have a lot more shades of what’s acceptable versus not. Men have: too casual, or not. It’s much easier for them. Woman have to think about: should I wear a skirt, what length of skirt, how flowy a skirt? Should I wear a button up blouse, how many buttons should I button? How low cut is too cut? How form fitting can my pants be? No guy has to think, “Does this shirt make me look easy?”

CAR:  Agreed. Women have to think more about how they dress than men do.  And from now on, I believe I’m going to start coming to work dressed as a Radio City Rockette.  That’s the job I want. I think I’d be good at it.

Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True · Nature of Academia

The 7 People in a Political Science Department

#1 The stud

Of course this one goes first. He’s the one most likely to have graduated from a CHYMPS school and he publishes more than anyone else in the department. Problem is, he knows he’s a stud and is always looking to “move up.” Has a small but rabid following of students planning on throwing their lives away to academia, too. You’re suspicious of how much he actually contributes to pieces coauthored with students, but since he’s always flying off to England you can’t ever corner him and ask.

#2 The theorist

Weird loner. Probably smells like patchouli and/or failed dreams. Has been working on “the next Theory of Justice” for 10 years, minimum. Insists using technology in the classroom ruins the learning environment, so students hate his guts.

#3 The deadwood you wish would hurry up and die

He probably graduated from Yale or Michigan. He published a book in 1973, it did well, and ever since he’s coasted on that minor fame. Has the harshest standards for tenure of anyone in the department even though he wouldn’t recognize Stata or R if it bit him on the ass. Can be helpful if you appeal to his vanity, but only if he doesn’t have to leave his house.

#4 The woman

Be honest, you hired her for 1 of 2 reasons:
-To do the committee and advising work you don’t want to do
-So your department doesn’t look sexist
She’s probably entirely capable of excellent teaching and groundbreaking research, but you’ll never know because you have her meeting with new grad students and then heading up the program review.

#5 The media whore

Really, really wishes he was Rachel Maddow. Always bragging about the quote he just gave, but it was probably only to the local cable news station or Christian Science Monitor. You keep him around solely because the administration likes the Google hits he gets for the school (and because you secretly agree with his rants about Nate Silver).

#6 The one who knows the governor

Most likely to have worked on a campaign once, 15 years ago, so he’s always telling everyone about that one time he knocked doors before the Iowa caucus in the snow going uphill both ways with Susan Sarandon. He teaches all the practical politics courses, and students rarely understand his references, but they like the field trips to the state legislature so he’s decently popular. He doesn’t really publish enough to get tenure but no one else wants to run the internship program, so he’ll squeak by.

#7 The good teacher

He comes from a middling program, but consistently gets the highest evaluations in the department. If he’s under 50, also has a chili pepper on Rate My Professor. Barely got tenure because he’s only published 5 halfway decent articles, but he doesn’t care because he got to go to APSA for free after winning the campus teaching award. If someone in your department actually likes to do assessment, it’s this guy.

-Margarita Thatcher