Monday, February 15, 2010

Brianna in Bio Wants To Know Exactly What Sort of Profession She's Gotten Herself Into.

As a student and instructor in the Univeristy of Alabama system, I simply cannot properly express the huge range of emotions I've felt over the past 2 days concerning the shootings at UAH. First, I felt absolute shock - the kind of jaw-dropping, gasping-for-air empty numbness usually reserved for mass casualties. Then anger. And fear. And now a sadness I don't feel I can properly express. Perhaps it hit me so hard because I'm from Alabama and because I'm in the Biology Department and we're talking about academics killing other academics. I know we are *all* thinking, "My god. That could have been me, dying during a routine faculty meeting."

But it all just seems so....obscene. I may spend my limited free time ranting about my students' snowflakery (and sending those rants to RYS so I can confirm I'm not the only one going crazy by teaching), but I do so because I'm an idealist. Quite frankly, if I can bitch it out here - about my students, my colleagues, my advisors, my mentors, my own professors - then I can *leave* it here - and walk into class and give it my absolute all. And I don't have to depress my boyfriend or my girlfriends with my whining about teaching. I *love* teaching. It's the one thing I don't mind getting up at 5:30 am to do. And, until now, the worst thing I could imagine was a student shooting other students - which is horrific. But that still feels like it's someone "outside" the Ivory Towers of the Academie. I suppose I thought the worst thing I had to expect from colleagues was snarking behind my back - and perhaps the occassional overeager, Machiavellian type gunning for whatever job and/or status I might have. I know I have to watch what I say around students - and cover my ass when I grade, with reams of evidence - so I can diffuse any student anger issues before it becomes postal-level. But now I have to guard myself against those people whose work I revere and respect, for fear of offending someone so deeply that my life is made forfeit?

And all of this is over...tenure? 3 people are dead because someone was essentially fired and black-listed by not getting tenure. I would love to know why it was denied - was it a budgetary consideration? was it some chair or dean thinking they could milk a few more tenure-free years out of a respected researcher? or was it something she did, which we'll never truly know about? It doesn't matter - 3 people are dead. And I'm scared that the profession I've chosen is not just competitive - it's downright cutthroat.