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Uncovering Hidden Work

I’ve been working about 5 hours a day for the last two days on a draft of a letter. In late May I participated in a Digital Storytelling workshop with 7 other faculty members. We were selected to participate in the workshop for three days, 8 hours a day, and given the guideline that we were to produce a grant out of the workshop related to “digital storytelling and/or digital humanities.” We were to turn the grant proposal in to the administration by mid-August. We were to be paid $4000 in summer salary. The administration has subsequently discovered that summer salary cannot be used to pay faculty for grant-writing and have now completely changed the rules of the agreement we all made and contract we all signed (including our departmental chairs). Now we are being asked to develop a literature review looking at the incorporation of digital storytelling into our respective fields, pilot a course that integrates digital storytelling into the curriculum for the fall, and the assess that course in the spring by writing a paper for a peer reviewed journal to be submitted during the summer of 2014. The payment of $4000 will be distributed over the course of the year in thousand dollar chunks instead of only as summer salary. The’ve easily quadrupled the work that everyone agreed to initially, extended the working time period, and have not increased payment at all. It’s patently unfair. The faculty members are crafting a response letter and that’s what I’ve been working on for the past two days.

Writing and collaborating with 8 different faculty members from different fields and producing a document that sits right with everyone while speaking to the concerns we have is an incredibly fraught process. All the work being put into this letter, into raising these concerns, and offering a counter-solution to the administration is additional labor that doesn’t pay, that doesn’t go into our files, that doesn’t count for anything other than working toward getting us already agreed upon pay for already agreed upon work. When I write about process and open-access academics on this blog and elsewhere I’m usually referring to the act of research, the act of writing and thinking, and trying to open that process up to the public. Opening access up to this kind of work is risky and, as an untenured junior professor, could be used against me as I go up for promotion and tenure in a few years. That being said, this work is precisely the kind of work that needs to be more public in order to demonstrate to as many people as possible that the work we do is not easily quantifiable or limited to three days a week, two semesters a year. The work we do, particularly the work of junior scholars who have much at stake in being as productive as possible, manifests in multiple professional and personal contexts but often rendered invisible in power flows. This work is important and needs to be made as visible as the research process.

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