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The Academic Hierarchy: Observations from #MPSA17

I always love Chicago and MPSA, and this year’s conference was fantastic. I loved seeing friends from grad school, friends from former jobs, coauthors, friends of friends. Oh, and the panels and learning, too (can’t forget that part).  The conference was fantastic this year, and MUCH gratitude to the program/section chairs, and to all of the staff that worked hard to make it so great!

One thing that was particularly noticeable to me this year was the academic hierarchy. In typical Poli Sci Bitches fashion, here is our list of 3 Examples of Academic Hierarchy, as observed at MPSA.

  1. At my panel. My panel was sort of a unique hodge-podge, as many of them are. I can’t even imagine the challenge of trying to find 3-5 papers that are thematically similar, especially in some of the more obscure sub-sub-subfields.  So, perhaps no surprise: my paper was almost in direct contradiction with another paper in the panel.  Being confident in my work, I presented my contradictory finding, and during the Q&A, the author of the other paper (who was significantly older and more tenured than I am) started talking about some research design suggestions that I know are simply inaccurate. But, being the less tenured one, I felt less confident speaking up, or throwing shade.  Strike One for Academic Underlings.
  2. At the bar.  Everyone knows the look. It’s the checking-out-of-the-name-tag. Someone approaches, and before you’ve even had a chance to say hello, they’re looking for your affiliation on your badge.  If it isn’t good enough, they’ll probably take less of their time talking to you.  But it was especially interesting this year, because half of these people follow The Bitches on Twitter! Little did you know, Mr. CHYMPS, that you just liked my post a few hours ago 🙂  Honestly, almost everyone at the conference was polite and friendly and did NOT Name Badge Shame me.  Even so, for those of us at smaller or less research intensive institutions, it’s Strike Two for Academic Underlings.
  3. With a vagina.  This year was a great year for women at MPSA, in my opinion. I was so pleased to see how active Women Also Know Stuff was on Twitter and at the conference in general.  I didn’t personally observe a single Manel.  But, we still have a long way to go.  “Women’s” subfields are still less valued. There are still plenty of panels with only ONE woman. And there’s still the inevitable possibility of getting hit on during a work event.  Strike Three for Academic Underlings. We have come a long way, but we can do better.