In [Academia] the only homage they pay to virtue is hypocrisy.
–– Lord Byron
Full Professor Seymour Wilkes had planned to vote against the tenure of assistant professor Bixby in any case. While he admitted to himself that she was amply qualified for the distinction based on her excellent record of publications and teaching evaluations, he simply didn’t like her––mainly he disapproved of her appearance. To him, her short skirts and modestly tattooed forearm were the deal breakers. She just doesn’t look respectable. Looks too much like some of our students, and she acts like she prefers their company to ours.
Department Chair Daniel Mayer also pushed for a negative outcome for Bixby. He believed there were already too many women in the department, which he felt had resulted a preponderance of courses with a feminist bias. Sure she deserves a favorable vote, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let women determine the direction of this program. She’s just proposed a new course with an obvious gender studies bent––Male Domination in Architectural Design: Ascending the Phallus to Penetrate the Glass Ceiling. What utter bullshit!
As was the case with her senior counterparts, Full Professor Constance Oberlin had her own reasons for voting nay on the tenure decision. Her view overlapped with Wilkes’. Like him, she felt the aspirant’s casual, if not provocative, wardrobe and carefree bearing were inappropriate for a member of the professoriate. At bottom, however, Oberlin was envious of the tenure candidate’s attractiveness and popularity with her students. She’s a little too familiar with the boys. They love her, but I don’t understand why the girls do, too. Anyway, she’s a distraction that we just don’t need here. Let her take her pretty face somewhere else.
Associate Professor Cynthia Carson had her own self-serving rationale for blocking Bixby’s tenure. The fact that the candidate had top-tier journal articles and a book about to be published by a major university press fueled Carson’s own formidable insecurities. She’d gotten tenure two decades earlier with only a few minor publications, which would surely keep her from gaining tenure in the current academic environment. Carson had done little since being tenured, and that failure kept her from promotion to full professor. Bixby will end up outranking me, and she’ll even become chair, too. We’ve never been very friendly, so I’ll probably get the lousy committees and crummy teaching schedules. And who knows how she’ll treat me in my annual faculty evaluations. No, she can’t remain here.
At first, Full Professor Jennifer Hanson was somewhat conflicted as to how she should vote on Bixby. Part of her knew the young faculty member deserved tenure and the “job for life” that came with it, because she had actually exceeded the university’s stated tenure expectations. However, the less magnanimous part of her personality felt that Bixby cozied up to the administration, especially the institutions’ influential vice president. He acts really taken by her, and its obvious that she flirts with him. A clever little one . . . that one. Knows what buttons to push to get what she wants. I don’t think I’m imagining that she has big ambitions. So in good conscience I can’t vote for her.
In the end, the department was unanimous in recommending denial of tenure for Roselle Bixby. When the university’s final decision came down a few months later, Bixby was upset but ultimately relieved by it. Appeal was the last thing on her mind.
I can’t imagine working with these assholes for the rest of my career anyway.
By the following academic year, Bixby had joined the faculty of the more prestigious Duke University. When she bumped into her old colleagues at a conference a few months into the semester, she told them in no uncertain terms what she thought of them.
“Well, we obviously made the right decision about her!” blustered Full Professor Wilkes.
“Yes, she clearly would have been trouble with a capital T . . . and that stands for tenure,” snickered Chairman Mayer.
“Did you see what she was wearing? Apparently, they don’t care how she struts around at Duke,” observed Full Professor Oberlin.
“She would have caused me, ur . . . us problems if we’d voted her tenure,” offered Associate Professor Carson.
“In my opinion, Bixby had an agenda that went far beyond the department,” added Full Professor Hanson.
After a brief pause, the senior faculty congratulated themselves on the wisdom of their decision.
Header photograph: By G.zengin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons