I hadn’t planned to write another post for this series. After the last one, where I reflected on the loss of my academic library privileges, I thought that was it. I was done. There was nothing more for me to say. As it turns out, I was wrong. I’d forgotten about the Last Article.
I began this article when I was still in my position at the university. Shortly after I completed the research for it, however, I was laid off. On the upside, this meant I had ample time to continue working on the article with my co-author. In addition, because I had been laid off and not fired (nor had I quit), I retained full access to the university library (woo!).
Once I found full-time work, though, I had less and less “bandwidth” available for keeping up with my writing. Also, as many academics can attest, getting an article published can take a Really. Long. Time.¹ Eventually, our article was accepted to a journal last year.
My co-author and I are currently revising the article. As I’ve been working on it, I’ve found myself thinking about the times I’ve run into former university colleagues and the second question they invariably ask me (after “How are you?”) is whether I’m still researching / writing / publishing. I would always fumble for an answer to this question, because it was so absurd to me: didn’t they understand how difficult it is to keep up with your scholarship without access to the necessary resources, such as
- access to a wide range of academic and other scholarly resources;
- a work environment that supports writing (e.g. libraries, offices);
- generally flexible labour hours, which allows for the scheduling of writing time around classes, meetings, etc.; and, significantly,
- appropriate financial compensation for doing the work?
Now, as I try to carve out time to finish this article, I have come to realize just how absurd that question is. It puts me in mind of something Kelly J. Baker wrote; namely, that academia is a “total institution”, where the individuals within its walls “lead an enclosed, formally administered form of life” and where “other roles are lost to [them] because of the particularity of what the total institution wants [them] to be”.
This is why the article I’m currently working on will be the Last. Perhaps I was naive to think otherwise, but there is simply no room in a total institution for people who have taken on other roles, but who still wish to remain connected to it.
This is not to say that I will never do scholarly work ever again. My post-academy life has shown me that you never know what kinds of opportunities will come your way, or when. I just know that, for now, I’m done trying to create space in an institution that doesn’t want to – or, perhaps more accurately, doesn’t know how to – make room for me.
¹ We submitted the article to two different journals before finding the right fit with a third. With the exception of the editor of the first journal, it took several months (in one case, just over a year) for the journal editors to respond to our submission and let us know its status. My “favourite” response was from the editors of second journal, who basically said, “This article is fantastic, we really like the approach you’ve taken, it makes a great contribution, but it doesn’t fully align with the objectives of this special issue, but since we really want to include it because it’s so great, can you completely re-write it and submit again in two weeks?”
² It’s quite telling that, when bemoaning my loss of these privileges, it never once occurred to me that I could draw upon the resources of my local public library. One of my current colleagues had to point that out to me.