Remember my previous story about wishing I could speak my mind to a tenured colleague, but not doing so (for obvious reasons, such as I'd like to get tenure)? Well, Tenured Colleague was at it again today.
Today, during our regular program meeting, he tried to hijack the agenda to discuss "how horrible the intro textbook is". Of course, T.C. was missing in action last summer during the two weeks when we were trying to pick the textbook, and took no part in the discussion at all, and the reason we were selecting the textbook over the summer in the first place was that he "didn't have time" to do so last spring. So the other professors for this course (all junior faculty) picked the book. And we think we picked a darn good one. And no one else seems to have a problem with this book. But there we were, listening to T.C. go on and on about this.
I so wanted to jump in, but decided to wait and see what the others did. And so one of the junior profs (who I could see was internally seething) spoke up first and brought up T.C.'s absence over the summer during the selection process. This did not derail T.C. Well, I figured, one junior person has piped in, and I can't leave him hanging, so what the hell.
I'll spare the details, because I honestly don't remember what I said exactly, but I was up on the soapbox for a bit. I tried to be as diplomatic as possible (although once I got on a roll, I don't think I was all that diplomatic anymore), but I was honest and frank, and I told T.C. that if he felt that strongly, then it was vital that he participate in future textbook discussions. I also pointed out that he was the reason we did the whole selection exercise in the summer last year. And so on.
It was a risky move, and I don't know if it was a good risk or a bad risk. At the time, I felt a bit scared but also relieved. I mean, everyone in the room was thinking it; I was just the dumb person who decided to vocalize it. Most of my colleagues thanked me privately afterwards, although one Esteemed Senior Colleague did say he was "not sure" how this would affect my tenure case (in terms of how T.C. will perceive me). Oops.
There are so many times when I bite my tongue and bide my time. I have so many ideas and so many opinions. But I'm still trying to feel out and navigate the culture here. And I've found out recently that the culture is much harder to read than I thought---things I thought I had figured out, it turns out, aren't that way all the time. Particularly people's attitudes towards "strong women", both inside and outside my department. Sometimes I feel like I have to wait until I get tenure before I can make any impact or work for any meaningful change, either within my school or within my department. I do get good advice from "more senior" junior colleagues, but they're just guessing too. So sometimes I guess. And sometimes I guess correctly, and other times....well, other times like today I'm not so sure.
But one thing's for sure: Yelling at your tenured colleagues is most likely not the best strategy for earning tenure.