What Have you Done for me Lately?


If there is one thing activity that academia excels at, it’s making things more complex. Nothing can be done simply when it comes to universities. Additionally, things that are done simply are often changed to include more complications and complexity.

In this slant, I am undertaking one of the zillions of aggravating administrative tasks that have been bestowed upon me. It’s part of the re-accreditation process to prove the width and breadth of the genius of the faculty’s publication history. This means writing out a detailed bibliography of your most recent publications, including papers, essays, chapters, and books and sending it to our department head for his perusal. It’s essentially a lot of jumping through hoops in the academia version of what have you done for me lately?

In my case, the glaring problem is that the answer to that question is not much at all. I get published from time to time, but the publications are mostly “non-academic.” I have been co-writer on one paper in the field of phonetics. Otherwise, I have been the sole writer of an ESL-focused newspaper articles and a series of humor-based essays, the focus ranging from travel, dating and relationships, to memoir. In any case, none of these categories fall under what the university considers “academic.” I don’t think a memoir of how I was a twelve-year-old Peeping Tom is going to garner the institution any academic integrity.

In the interests of saving time and my sanity, I have attempted to circumvent the situation by telling this to my head of department, but he’s asked for a list of my publications anyway. Everything, he suggested. When re-accreditation is on the line, academics get rabid. I maintain that it will all be a waste of time, but nevertheless I tidy my list, attach it to an email in horrendous Czech, hit send, and make lunch. When I return to my computer I find that the head of department has answered my email. If he is impressed at all by my literary accomplishments, he hides it well. In the first place the format is all wrong, so I have to redo that. Secondly, for something to be considered an “academic” publication it has to fall into one of the subjects at the university.

I wonder if I can readjust the description of a memoir on being a Peeping Tom to fit into Psychology of Pedagogy. Or maybe I can propose that a humor essay on difficulty readjusting to my native country after being abroad into International Relations. I don’t think the university will go for it. And, at my joking suggestion that we try, this position is vociferously supported.

I am well aware of the practicalities here. I know that the head of department isn’t being snobby. Academia is academia. This doesn’t involve memoir or humor essays. Academic doesn’t include short stories or novels, either. And these exclusions essentially wipe away the last five years of my publication history. For the last five years my writing hasn’t been a blip on the radar of the university.

I understand, but it’s annoying. It’s like being partially allowed in a club, but not being allowed in the champagne room. After an afternoon of tweaking and discussing with him via email about the things that might be considered “academic” he sends an email which accepts two of my publications for the list. Essentially it proves my original point, but fortunately it has ended up eating half of my day. My productivity is screwed, every time I go to get work done I get another email and have to devote time to a useless venture. It was making something more complicated and backwards. There’s got to be a metaphor in there somewhere, maybe I’ll find it when I’m less annoyed.

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