Things I Learned (TIL) Part One

I tend to not have New Year’s Resolutions, since I live my life by the academic calendar and have thought of the new year starting in September. But, 2019 is about change and I don’t have any big resolutions beyond continuing to be more mindful of my health. This post will speak to things I learned in my five years as an Academic Administrator and this is part one of likely a few posts.

At the university where I have worked, Academic Administrators (AA) are faculty and protected under the collective agreement; however, I learned that many of faculty colleagues did not know this and assumed that an AA was one of them. You know, the big, bad administration. I don’t like the us vs them discussion, but I realize why this tension exists. There are tensions on university campuses and in some departments the tensions are thick in the air. That said, for brevity I will number the TIL.

1. Human Resources (HR) staff are indispensable. I found the consultants, workshops, and array of resources critical. If you are managing people, you need to confer with the HR professionals for assistance. Faculty normally do not get trained on people management and this needs correction. Managing teams is hard work and you need to be thoughtful and strategic.

2. Collaboration is key. If you are serving a department, parts of campus or the entire campus in your AA role, you are going to collaborate with lots of people and you will need to get out of your former silo and be prepared for this new environment. Embrace it!

3. Listening. In my faculty role, I was used to being the guide on the side or sage on the stage. As an AA my role was completely different. I was part of the team and had to learn to hone my listening skills. During my tenure as an AA, I got a tattoo on my arm that reads: Listen Learn Lead. It was my mantra as a middle management leader on campus.

4. Leadership. I tried to be the kind of leader that I wanted to work for and that took work. Again, listening is key as well as the humility to learn. For instance, I learned that it is critical to support your staff. I have had to make tough decisions around staff that included firing, hiring, and writing staff up for their performance or lack thereof. I had to participate in an investigation of a staff member’s terrible mistakes and also guide and support other staff upon their return to work. Empathy is an important part of leadership as well as good communication.

5. Managing up. I have worked for two provosts and a few vice presidents and learned that there is a revolving door with upper administration. Managing up is hard work. There are strong leaders, weak leaders, and terrible leaders and I have had the pleasure in departments and as an AA working for all of the types. The worst ones are the poor communicators, who lack people skills. Trust me–they exist and managing up is exhausting with those type of leaders. Here is where HR is again helpful.

6. Save your emails and/or get things in writing. Unfortunately, this is a reality of the job. You do need to protect yourself and at times will need the proof regarding a statement. It could be great news or a colleague’s angry email. If you don’t have emails, then write things down after an interesting meeting.

7. If you’re unionized–seek counsel from your union. I learned the hard way that I should have had my first contract reviewed by our nascent union. But, now I know my union representative and President quite well and they have helped me lots during the last two years. I learned that at times new leaders will not refer to the collective agreement and make mistakes. It’s key to protect yourself and not feel like you’re a problem when you point out that they are in contradiction to the collective agreement. You are protecting your rights as an employee!

8. I also learned that the upper leadership is homogenous. As a feminist, woman of color, in middle management and upper management there are few people who look like me or come from a working class background. This is a problem. We can do better in terms of equity, diversity and representation. I am not saying that the upper management needs more Latinas; however we need more than words on paper or holding events. And, sure, we could use more wise Latinas! Mentoring is important, but that is for another post.

I am no longer an AA, as this particular category was disestablished and all of us have been transferred or re-classified as Faculty Exempt, Management Exempt or Regular Faculty. I will miss my former department–of which I was the founding director–however, going back to teaching full-time is no hardship! There is more to come and my story continues.

I finished Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, last week and then my best friend sent me this shirt. It fits. Go high!

UVIC Next? Salary Study

I don’t normally share my emails, but this one is worth doing so.

Dear Colleagues: After the UBC Gender Salary Correction went live on January 21st, I heard from many of you. Then the Globe and Mail covered the issue and noted how women faculty were being “given” a raise. I have some good news to share. On January 25th, I was told that the Administration and Faculty Association had signed a Letter of Agreement (LOA). The LOA notes that the Administration and Faculty Association will investigate gender salary issues at UVIC. This LOA was signed on June 29, 2012. Since I am not part of the Faculty Association’s Negotiating Team, I was not privy to this LOA.

At first you can imagine my frustration finding out six months after the fact. After I had invited a UBC colleague to share their story, and then after spending an all day meeting in Vancouver strategizing with our sister Chairs. However, I realize that this was privileged information and that by having presentations, meetings, and discussion this was a good thing. It kept our membership thinking about what we need to do and our Administration was paying attention to this work. Now, we know that the Administration is going to work with our Faculty Association. The UBC Report through correction took four years. I hope that it doesn’t take as long at UVIC.

There will be a committee including Administration reps, Faculty Association reps, and an AWC rep. The AWC Steering Committee will meet later this month to discuss this issue as well as other ongoing events. This is a sign of good faith from the Administration. I urge us to celebrate this move forward, but to be cautiously optimistic.

Please take a look at our colleague, Richard Pickard’s, blog post about this matter at:

Richard notes that he is not speaking for the Faculty Association’s Negotiating Team. Also, generally speaking it’s worth taking a look around his other posts.

Hope to see you at next week’s Faculty Association meeting–for the special Valentine’s Meeting! Thursday, February 14 at 3:00pm in Social Sciences and Mathematics Room 102.


Within minutes of sending the above email I have had numerous positive emails. Thank you! This is not going to be an easy process. But, let’s move forward in good faith.

Are you serious? When Social Media Loudly Triggers

The interesting thing about social media is not just the immediate means of communicating with people locally and internationally, but you also learn more abou behavior. There are moments when things are rather serious in terms of discussion about education, politics, violence, and other hot button sorts of issues. There are also those moments, when things can get light-hearted and interesting. It isn’t all doom and gloom, and erudition. But there are times when you have to shake your head and wonder about the bravery, and cowardice demonstrated on social media platforms.

All of the above banter, though, doesn’t begin to explain my sheer frustration and anger over the continual dismissal of rape and rape victims on Reddit by some Reddit users. Here, I might as well place big red target on my chest. But, Googling Reddit and rape is illuminating, as there is a pattern of conversations about rape that second-guess survivors of both sexes. The pages of comments responding to posts is mind-numbing. I’m going to just say it–most of these posts drip with misogyny, and this saddens me. Perhaps I am painfully naive to expect more from people, but this is a serious issue.

The above image is from a screen shot of a Google search Reddit and Rape from July 30, 2012. Notice that there are hits from April related to rape discussions on Reddit.

The thing that really pisses me off about the out of control comments is that some of those commenting seem to not care that the survivors are speaking their truth. And, it’s cowardly to attack the survivors, and second guess the veracity of their statements. Rape statistics are notoriously under-reported. Whatever the exact statistics are for the country, state or province that you reside in–the number is actually higher. Why? There is a still a stigma with rape and violence. And, we know that in many instances the assailant is an acquaintance, which can complicate reporting.

So, Reddit I usually don’t weigh in on my problems with some of the posts, but today I’m calling out all the malcontents and cowards who used their strength behind their monitors, tablets, smart phones to attack survivors. Daniel Tosh (will not link to him) learned that joking about rape caused a reaction–but the fact that he joked about the gang rape of a heckler also speaks volumes. Please don’t shirk that we don’t live in rape culture. We do. We see it rear its ugly head more online, though. Remember this.

Jezebel has also weighed in again and again about misogyny on Reddit. Here is a screen shot from one post last week. As you might have noticed, I have not connected to the exact Reddit or Jezebel articles. I feel like I should, but then I don’t want to send people to the site for more hits. You are free to Google the articles!

I really hope that the next time there is a discussion about violence on Reddit or other social media platforms people will think before they second-guess the survivor and say even worse. The reality is that all of us knows a survivor of violence–she or he might not have shared it with you, yet.

Fri Fun Facts: Take Aways from #APSA2011

Today’s post is dedicated to my thoughts about the latest American Political Science Association conference meeting or #APSA2011.

I attended a pre-conference workshop about Gender and Politics in the Field. It really was a workshop dedicated to teaching the various major sub-fields in Political Science. This workshop was one of the best that I have attended in my 15 years in Political Science. The other great APSA pre-conference was in Boston circa 2002 at the Women of Color conference.
Back to 2011, though, teaching often gets short shrift in academia, as the thought is that anyone can teach. Sadly this is not the case, when we add the word well. Not everyone can teach well. It was refreshing to spend a day chatting about teaching. Hearing what everyone is doing differently in the classroom.

Here are my thoughts:
1. Innovation can mean different things to different scholars.
2. There really is a technological divide among some faculty.
3. Senior scholars at the conference wanted the junior scholars to be good teachers and were quite generous with their ideas.
4. All feminists do not agree. And, there are feminisms and not one monolithic feminist monster!
5. There is some amazing work in the field related to teaching.
6. Many of my colleagues at the workshop need to get with the program in terms of social media use or technology in the classroom.(This is said respectfully).
7. The mentoring I witnessed warmed my heart.
8. I was glad to see so many grad students or recently hires in the mix. It’s good to hear what is happening on the ground for the new instructor.
9. Related to this, it’s interesting to hear what more senior people are doing in the classroom. Especially, when you hear that virtually all of us face some of the same situations.
10. Again, related to the above post…students and their evaluation of the material or the instructor was a common topic of conversation. When you are presenting controversial information about gender, race, class, sexuality, colonialism, nationalism (the list goes on), difficult conversations can take place in the classroom.
11. The last point about the workshop–once again it’s a useful exercise to be reminded that I am part of this great community of women scholars in the field. Yes, only women attended the stream that I attended. At the last panel, I spotted a man at one of the sessions. This is another conversation, since men teach gender and politics, too. But, then, again there were so many choices at the pre-conference workshops. I needed a clone for the Social Media workshop, Activism workshop, and Latino Politics workshop! So say we all! #BSG
In closing, a great workshop.

Women and Politics: Reflections on “Poised to Run”

Why don’t more women run for office? This question has perplexed activists, party elite, academics and others. In “Poised to Run: Women’s Pathways to the State Legislatures” by three scholars affiliated with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), Kira Sanbonmatsu, Susan Carroll and Debbie Walsh, offer some answers.  Frankly, their Executive Summary is worthy of a poster. I encourage you to read the full report at .  But, I am going to review the Executive Summary.

  1. Women need to be recruited
  2. Political Parties Matter
  3. Organizations Help Women Run
  4. More Women Can Run
  5. Resources are Important

The truth is that two major points holding women back are institutional sexism that permeates most of the points noted above, as well as women themselves. Women are less apt to think of themselves as experts in a field (see Informed Opinions for more information). Likewise, party gatekeepers are also less likely to think of women as a successful candidate. Thus, recruiting women is important. Gatekeepers need to take special care to not only recruit and vet women, but to also nurture them through the pipeline.

Related to this is how important both parties and organizations are to women candidates. This is the official parties, but also partisan organization and multi-partisan organizations like the National Women’s Political Caucus, Chamber of Commerce, and other civic groups. We see more women running at the local or municipal levels, so there are women who can run. They just need encouragement. This encouragement needs to include financial support. The authors of the “Poised to Run” study note that it is easier for male candidates to raise money due to their connections and assumptions about the viability of their candidacy. Clearly, our elected officials are more educated and more wealthy than the average populace—especially when we look at federal elected officials in both Canada and the United States.

I am hopeful that during the upcoming election in British Columbia and 2012 election in the United States, that more women candidates will throw their hat into the race. And, I also hope that as you review this blog post that you see the full report and also think about supporting a woman candidate in your riding or district.

While this article was focused on the issue of gender, I surmise that the authors would also offer that race is important issue to examine as well. Looking at the federal levels of representation in Canada and the United States there is not parity based on gender or race among the sitting members of Parliament or Congress. However, the focus of this study was gender. I do encourage you to look at other reports published by CAWP If you want more Canadian focused research about women in politics, I suggest Equal Voice

Managing the Classroom: Teaching Race and Gender

It is a constant struggle to teach diversity in the classroom. I am finding that as soon as I think that the rules of engagement are understood, I get reminded that they are not. In a perfect situation the classroom environment will include trust, respect, and an understanding that knee jerk opinions are not part of intellectual discussion. However, I find that occasionally I get “schooled” by some comments that give me pause.

This term I am teaching a Youth Politics seminar with less than two dozen third through fifth years and Gender and International Relations with less than sixty students. I am also managing and co-teaching a course with 225 students and will speak to situations that I have encountered. To protect my students and myself, these scenarios will be reflective of the last year and not necessarily this particular term.

When I am teaching touchy subjects like gender and race, I find that I have to be ready for different types of reactions. There are the students who feel validated by the reading and other students who feel challenged, sceptical or even angry. I lead my classes in a lecture and discussion format, so I engage with the students and their comments lots. I am a strong believer that they are part of the learning team in the classroom: texts, lectures, current events, and student discussion. There are costs to not lecturing and leaving the classroom. I engage the students more and because of this—they have more opportunity to participate. I will not change this, as I find that this is how I teach.

Lately, I have been most challenged with the responses to students’ reaction and use of language. I strongly adhere to the idea that language is powerful and certain words are “loaded” in the same way that certain topics are value-laden. This is not a shared sentiment by all students. I need to check myself and remember that I am also there to facilitate discussion, engage student interest, and, oh yes, teach materials. There is usually a student or two has an “anything” goes sort of attitude and I have to balance all the students’ needs and my own politics. This presents a challenge.

I find that the one thing that I have no patience for is overt racism. Even typing up this sentence reminds me that I have issues with covert racism, too. Oh, choosing our battles in the classroom is tricky. I can easily engage with discussions of gender, but race. I find that the overt racism can make my heart skip a beat. I cannot explain if this is because of the fact that I am a Latina teaching a mostly homogenous student population or if it’s more. Whatever it is, it is compounded by the fact that so many of the Canadian students seem to think that racism is a thing of the past or something that only Americans are guilty of—and in the South, for that matter. And, my friends, these are statements and beliefs that I have heard in my classroom.

Some days it is quite easy, I am at the front of the class walking back and forth juggling ideas, course material, student comments, and student reaction. My love of teaching  keeps me in check and I enjoy seeing the ways in which some students are really excited about the materials. Then, there are other days when one student is out of line or that presents me with a teachable moment. It might be that I need to remind the student about decorum, collegiality, or boundaries. Occasionally I have been known to call a student out and just say, “What you just said was offensive.” Of course, the next thing I do is contextualize the statement and then move on to the next point in the lesson plan or lecture.

It’s these occasional moments, though, that I reply over and over in my mind for the next few hours. I am thinking aloud here and being ever so careful—since this is the blogosphere and any one of my students could google me and find this post. I welcome other educators to give advice about those thorny moments in the classroom.

This post was originally posted on Equality 101, which is now defunct.