October 11, 2005

“If any senior faculty had ever expressed disapproval about my blog, I would have stopped blogging immediately, as wimpy as that might sound."

UW-Madison's own inimitable Jeremy Freese is quoted in this Inside Higher Ed article about blogging and tenure (which reports on the Daniel Drezner incident):
Jeremy Freese, who received tenure in sociology this year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said that he worried that his blog might hurt his chances, but that he doesn’t think it had an impact.

“If any senior faculty had ever expressed disapproval about my blog, I would have stopped blogging immediately, as wimpy as that might sound. I’m not addicted to my blog and the benefits I get from it are not as unique as the benefits of a wonderful job, which is what I have,” he said.

But Freese isn’t at all certain that senior faculty members even know about his blog. “I attended at least two dinner parties with senior colleagues in which the topic of blogs was raised and it was clear nobody else in attendance read blogs, and I certainly didn’t volunteer that I had one,” he said.

He said that his worry, pre-tenure, was that his department might think he was spending too much time on his blog, a concern he said would have been unfair. Freese noted that he doesn’t have children or a television and he’s sure he spends less time blogging than the average sociologist spends with children or watching TV. As for the content of what he writes, Freese said that he censored himself on some things before getting tenure and continues to do so now.

“It’s just the same kind of prudence that guides other kinds of interactions that could have professional consequences,” he said. “My rule is that I won’t say anything on my blog if there is anyone in the world that I would really regret if they saw it. But that hasn’t really been specifically motivated by tenure and hasn’t stopped with getting tenure."
A good rule. I note the word "really" in the phrase "really regret." A little regret is worth it, apparently. If you spend your whole life being careful, you'll never have any fun, and bad things will still happen.

I wonder which academic departments are most aware of blogging. I sounds as though the folks in Sociology just don't notice this ... social phenomenon.


XWL said...

I'm biased as a former English major, but I assume that there are more English/Critical Theory professors aware of and teaching about these phenomena than in other disciplines.

In courses I've taken there have been discussions about applying critical theory to video games, slash fiction, ethnic representations in gay pornography, representation of gender through IMing, EMail and discussion boards, and many other topics that were far more current than any courses I had in sociology, philosophy or economics (but I took far fewer upper division courses outside of English so my viewpoint is skewed).

English departments have a great deal of flexibility in modern academia and have become catch-alls for just about any area of interest given that all ideas are represented through language (I know, I know, some argue that there are thoughts that aren't expressable through language, but how do you discuss them?) and the various flavors of language/textual theory (and everything is considered text now, from visual arts to music to poetry and all inbetween) fall under the English department umbrella.

My perception of sociologist is that they like to view themselves as more hard science types so they tend to wait till they can manufacture some sort of data to justify their assumptions before voicing those assumptions whereas English professors are given freer rein to wax poetically on any subject as part of their area of interest since their isn't any expectation of concrete numbers or trends.

Sloanasaurus said...

If I were up for Tenure, there is no way I would have a blog - even a blog that said all the "right things." Academia is just to nasty to trust.

Henry said...

This strikes a chord for me. I've always commented using my real name and a real email address. I decided, before I made my first comment on any weblog, that I wouldn't write anything I wouldn't be comfortable with owning under my own name.

Part of this decisions comes out of my experience in art school "crits" where harsh criticism of one's peers is encouraged. I both got used to that environment and regretted the extent to which it's pointlessness was instutionalized.

Goesh said...

Some conservative academics noted early in their blogs that they feared some repercussions over their posting hence did not use their names.

erp said...

I hope sloanasaurus isn't an English major.

James d. said...

I think, in a minor defense of academic departments who seem way behind on this blogging thing, that many of these professors are still adjusting to the computer- and Internet-dominated academic landscape. But more important than that it was in my personal experience that college kids don't really get blogs, either. Facebook, MySpace and posting drunken pictures on Webshots are time-consuming enough for college kids.
And if college kids aren't bringing up blogs regularly, then it's tough to expect a lot of their professors (or chairs or admins) to be really in tune.

Slocum said...

I comment using a pseudonym (and blog, too, I guess, if I ever revive my dormant blog). I don't have to worry about being denied tenure, but I also don't have a job where the security of tenure is even possible.

I don't think I've ever written a comment or blog entry I seriously regret, but I recognize that opinions I've expressed might be considered offensive by those of different political persuations, and I'd hate to have some professional relationship screwed up by being Googled.

John(classic) said...

Boy, living and working in academia sounds a little like living in a much less brutal but equally omnipresent Stalinist state.

Do you all study pictures or maps of office locations to determine who is here in the group hierarchy?

Do you worry about whether your colleagues might be informers?

peter hoh said...

Freese said: “My rule is that I won’t say anything on my blog if there is anyone in the world that I would really regret if they saw it."

This is why I post (and keep a dormant blog) under my own name. I believe (perhaps incorrectly) that anonymous bloggers and posters are at risk to be exposed. Should that happen, they may find their words used against them in something like a child custody hearing.

The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices, make instruments to plague us. King Lear

aidan maconachy said...

This to some extent touches on the speech concerns that have been making headlines on campuses lately i.e. the Bucknell furor over "hunting terrorists".

I honestly think it is impossible to blog these hypersensitive days and express strong opinions without offending a lot of people. For example, try going into Crooked Timbers and dropping a neologism like "Eurabia" ... a term that is in the main used in a satirical vein (aside from people like Oriana Fallaci)... and you will be pounced upon and very likely labeled a nazi.

I sometimes laugh at the way bloggers painfully nuance every sentence, in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Of course the irony is that the most pedestrian blogs often turn out to be the most successful. I guess because they draw in members of the chattering classes who feel "safe" in that particular blogitat. Certainly Ann, is very skilled at creating an open-ended conversation without starting offence fires, while not being too tame in her comment.

I tend to be a lot more visceral in my comment, and I like to provoke. I couldn't care less what prejudices people might develop on a given post because my views aren't narrow and/or exclusive. I think more posters should have the courage of their convictions, and spit it out. If fellow faculty members are offended - tough. If climbing through the ranks and hanging onto to tenure are more important to an individual than having the courage of his/her convictions, then do the mealy mouthed thing when blogging/posting. I just find that kind of nuance and under-statement kind of boring and it doesn't really engender respect for the blogger. It's more like ... "mmmm another hedger of bets".

Give me blood over milk!

Anthony said...

Ann, John Hawks at your own university has a blog (http://johnhawks.net/weblog/) and posted on this very subject some months ago. I did a quick search but couldn't find it, but he could probably point you to it himself and/or give you some info on what it's like in the anthro department there.