"Lesser" In Law Schools: Post-Promotion Clarity

The Chronicle's Vitae blog has an interesting post on post-promotion clarity. The author describes the process of being a part of the law school pecking order.

From her article:
I thought about the 80-hour weeks I’d spent at a job I did not love — or even like. But I also remembered how much I used to like it. I used to be the very best at it. But gradually my days had become filled with managing the nonsense of thoughtless, even mean, tenured faculty who saw me, my position, and my “lesser” status as a way to get their bidding done. Some viewed me a handy target for their anger, someone to stomp on just to make themselves feel better.

I thought about how the work I did was, at best, 50 percent thankless. I thought about how even though I was ostensibly being “promoted” to “associate professor,” there was the important word “clinical” in front of that title — representing not only my lack of tenure but also my untenurable status. My 50 bosses were never going to let me in their club. I was tainted by my work as a writing teacher. 

I thought about a discussion on the law professor blog The Faculty Lounge on the “very important pecking order in the law school environment.” One commenter accurately noted: "Status seems to be a major preoccupation of law profs, with an obsessive and seemingly endless focus on ranking themselves and others.” The commenter nailed it with a satire of the titles bestowed in law schools, titles similar to mine: “Ever more precise labels are devised to distinguish the ‘lessers’ from the tenured faculty — e.g., 'Visiting Acting Asst. Clinical Adjunct Instructor from Practice Who Is Definitely Not One of Us Despite the Same Credentials But Expected to Do Everything We Do and Just As Well With Fewer Resources, Less Compensation and Zero Respect From Us.’” The discussion on the blog was about, in particular, legal writing professors, the very kind of professor that I was.

I understand what Rockquemore is talking about in her article — especially the part about how, after promotion, you might feel "a shift in how others see you, how you see yourself.” I realized that, after my “promotion,” my 50 bosses saw me in exactly the same way. But I saw myself differently. It took getting promoted, after 11 years in academia, to show me that the goals I’d thought were important weren’t so important — to me — after all. I had a reckoning to face, one I’d been able to ignore by focusing on earning that promotion. With the promotion out of the way, all that was left was the reckoning.

And the reckoning brought clarity.


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