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Wednesday, 30 December

754. Over Ten Million Served: Gendered Service in Language and Literature Workplaces

1:45–3:00 p.m., 303, Philadelphia Marriott

Program arranged by the Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages

Presiding: Michelle A. Massé, Louisiana State Univ, Baton Rouge

Speakers: Mary Alice Burgan, Washington, DC; Kirsten M. Christensen, Pacific Lutheran Univ.; Katie J. Hogan, Carlow Univ.; Michelle A. Massé

Katie J. Hogan's Annotation:
Katie Hogan
A goal of this panel—and of our book, Over Ten Million Served (SUNY, 2010)-- is to encourage academic feminists to figure out ways to “use” service so it doesn’t “use” us.
With that in mind, I offer 6 tips on service for academic women:
1. Don’t idealize service. Service can be an exciting way to pursue social transformation on campus and beyond, and it’s an gateway for moving beyond narrow (and boring) self-interest; but at the end of the day, service is work for which one should be paid and acknowledged.
2. Don’t denigrate service. Service projects are not inferior to writing books, publishing articles in refereed journals, or speaking on a panel at a national or international conference. Service labor can often lead to deep and complex connections, friendships, as well as result in stunning creative and political contributions.
3. Approach service as a complex category and activity. For all its supposed one-dimensional transparency, what service is and who’s doing it are very hard to pin down. Some academic workers see performing service as an honorable endeavor that creates goodwill and community; for others, service labor is a c.v.-building necessity; for others, it’s a form of activist rebellion or workplace transformation; for still others, service work is exploitative and rooted in entrenched structural hierarchies. For most of us, service is all of these things.
4. Don’t confuse service with scholarship. A popular approach to grappling with the formidable challenges of the current academic workplace has been to evoke the Boyer model of scholarship as a way to redefine faculty work. One effect is to call almost any service project that academic workers engage in “scholarship.” While we need broader definitions of what counts as scholarship, particularly at Research I institutions, where rigid and uninspired ideas of scholarship are mandated, not all service projects are scholarship. Redefinitions of service-- and of scholarship--can inadvertently belittle the value of writing books, publishing articles, and producing creative work, endeavors that require time, solitude, respect, and, most important, institutional support.
5. Avoid a knee-jerk “yes” or “no” to a service request. Saying “yes” to every service request is unwise. Being mindful of your time and how you spend it indicates respect for yourself and your work. The Catholic theologian, Thomas Merton, said that the madness of our times is the tendency of earnest people to take on too many projects. This trait is particularly true of women, who are socialized to put others first, even at the expense of their own physical and mental health. If possible, seek out service projects that either dovetail with your own professional, political, or personal interests or that intrigue you. On the other hand, don’t automatically say “no” to service requests either. One of the most persistent stereotypes of university and college professors is that of the self-absorbed, privileged professor (usually male) who, holding service in contempt, believes that this work is beneath him. Not only does such a belief fuel the stereotype, it obscures how service is part of a project of intellectual dialogue, community, human rights, and freedom of thought and expression. Service can be a way to open one’s world.
6. Keep a service log. Recording day-to-day service labor is particularly important for untenured faculty. More important, a log will quickly undercut the notion of service as morally superior good works carried out by the virtuous. Logs and records make visible the staggering amount of work the majority of academics are doing.
These tips reflect the need to take seriously the idea of "service," not as silent and unregulated labor, or as an index to one’s unselfishness, moral goodness, and dedication, but as a nexus of fundamental issues involving gender, class, labor, activism, and the politics of the profession. We need to change the way we conceive of and reward service.
Michelle A. Massé's Annotation:
Katie Hogan offers six tips on service. Here are eight questions to think about in conjunction with those tips as you ask yourself about your department's and your own understanding of what service means. These questions are from the introduction to Over Ten Million Served: Gendered Service in Language and Literature Workplaces (forthcoming, SUNY Feminist Theory and Criticism series).

o What is your own "work"? Have you ever answered the question of "How's your work coming?" in terms of a committee or ? a course?

o Can you say "no" to service at your school without feeling pressured or marked? Can your colleagues, particularly junior and minority members?

o Service is traditionally not "counted" at many schools, not only in terms of merit, tenure, and promotion, but in terms of our time. What is your work week? What does your contract say about "service"? Does it divide work between teaching and research? Can you imagine "working to contract"? Working a 40forty-hour week? Why not?

o Have you advertised for, or encouraged, untenured assistant professors to direct your Women's Studies program? Head your Writing Center? Develop your Cultural Studies concentration? If so, have you supported those colleagues for promotion or tenure on the basis of outstanding service?

o Have you, or your department, developed a rationale for the distribution of service?

o How do you evaluate service in your department? Is there any way to distinguish on annual reports-and in annual raises-between the sometimes-present member of the cookie committee and the chair of your curriculum revision, for example?

o Teaching is increasingly an intensive part of graduate student and junior faculty preparation. Is service also a part of your mentoring and training for graduate students and junior faculty?

o Have you suggested that faculty on your campus address service as part of exploring collective bargaining, Faculty Senate or school task forces, or AAUP initiatives ?

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