Difficult chairs and difficult faculty redeux

May 10 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

I've written about Molly before: see here and here and here. TL,DR: Molly is a junior faculty, older and struggling with her chair, in specific, and with being in academics/an asst. prof, in general.

We meet every couple of weeks, but regularly- it's on my calendar. The regular part is important, as is the on-my-calendar part.

Today, we went back to the first question: do you want to stay in academia and do you want tenure?  When I posted those original bits about Molly, it elicited a lot of responses, many of which are worth reading. I do think that knowing what you want in life is one of the hardest things there is. Knowing how to balance short-term frustrations vs. long term goals is tough. Letting your executive function/forebrain make the decisions (no, I don't want to eat that chocolate, no, I don't want to slug or curse the woman at the Department of Motor Vehicles who says "no, I have no record of your existence") is not always easy. Some of the more problematic responses to What Should Molly Do posts are people imposing their wants on Molly.

Molly has decided she wants to be here, and she wants to do what it will take. She then started talking about a problem that her chair wanted her to not write so many grants of a particular type. These grants required matching funds for money to be awarded. I am sure the chair wasn't great about conveying this  to Molly, who just saw any money coming as a good thing. "He's got scads of discretionary funds" Molly said. "The matching amounts aren't that much". Well, except that they are. And they have not been budgeted for by the chair, and they have to come out of some other project he's got in line. I said that she has to, in her head, as loathsome as it may seem, be the chair and understand his perspective.

Then she brought up the next problem, which was something about department meetings. And I said: Molly, we can go through each of these problems, and I'm happy to do that with you. But here's an idea that might save you the grief of identifying and living with this list of issues. I quoted my next-door-office neighbor, a former college-football player who decided he wanted to do Something Else, and who, btw, is pretty good and pretty impressive at knowing what he wants): "Is this the hill you want to die on?". Molly got it immediately (she is smart, and quick, and very very good). She laughed and laughed and said: "I'm going to print that one out".




4 responses so far

  • Microscientist says:

    I ask myself that exact same question at every faculty meeting. Someone says something ridiculous, I feel the urge to respond. The I ask myself about the hill. Keeps me quiet about 9 times out of ten.

  • Ola says:

    It's really a variation on "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". Rule #1 for junior faculty at meetings is STFU and you won't find yourself piled on with menial tasks.

    Regarding the type of grants thing, it's real simple - the coin of the realm is the R01. Anything less is play money.

  • potnia theron says:

    Actually, in her department, which is a public health/epidemiology/community group, Other Money is acceptable. What the chair is irritated with is the demands for matching. And, of course, any grant that pays salary, and has *some* overhead is acceptable. I suspect these don't carry much, if any, IDC.

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