I can only offer an apology for these three months of silence in these cyberpages. Despite my best intentions to write bi-monthly, I’m afraid that life intervened. Although I resent the loss of my writing time, I’m trying to persuade myself that this is a fact of life for a woman whose attention is often split among multiple fronts. My life as a professor/academic (the latter seems a dirtier word than the former, although they no doubt run neck-to-neck in some conservative vocabularies) requires quite a lot of time at the committee meetings that regulate a “faculty-governed” academic’s life. And teaching, too, takes a certain kind of ruminative and organizational energy, although I most often find that my time in the classroom inspires my critical faculties and facilitates my blogging.

Then there’s the ever-thwarted attempt to have a personal life that’s not about criticism or academic politics. The old feminist adage that the personal is political sometimes feels like a prison sentence instead of a wise theory about the imbrications of various aspects of our lives. Sometimes, I want to close a door on my public self. Instead, more often than not, I feel the public seeping into the private and vice versa in increasingly discomfiting ways.

My time in April and May (which required resting all of June) was consumed with a search committee process (for a new dean of the College of Fine Arts) that became personally and professionally bruising, testing my faith in higher education. I always, perhaps naively, assume that people are operating in good faith. In this particular case, I found too much ill-will, cantankerous complaint, rumor-mongering, and back-stabbing, which prevented a clear eye on the purpose of the hire, which was to find the best possible candidate to lead our college.

The irony of academic scuffles like these is that no matter how vociferously debated and no matter the outcome, no one dies; no one is critically injured; and no one loses their job. The stakes are absurdly low for the amount of devious double-dealing conducted in this business, which is partly what makes academics a laughingstock to the rest of the world. That said, I have to keep believing that institutions of higher learning can change, that UT won’t just atrophy under a network of leaders who care more about the status quo than they do about the future of the arts. Without that faith, I couldn’t do my job. And my real job is my teaching and my writing and my engagement with the arts and culture as theory and as practice.

Again, I apologize for my silence. Back to being a spectator.

The Feminist Spectator

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