Friday, August 1, 2014

Turn, turn, turn...

The calendar has turned many times since news broke for me that I haven't shared here on the blog (partly because I've never been quite sure what "here" is); but with a new school year around the corner, August 1 seems as good a time as any to admit that, for the first time in many years, I don't have a school! (It does somehow make those "back to school" commercials less painful - maybe I needed a break.) Although I'm still finishing up an official paid "leave of absence," I've been denied tenure and thus set adrift as a faculty member. Perhaps at some point I'll explore more the painful process which resulted in what seems to (biased) me to be the wrong outcome both for me and the school (the outcome was certainly met with much disappointment by students and most of my colleagues), but I'm not inclined to tell that tale today. I'm certainly not the first to be met with a disappointing tenure outcome.

Coincidentally, my soon-to-be former employer has become the subject of much controversy and derision in the past month to the degree that some of my former colleagues might almost envy me my early exit! I'm also not going to use this post to explore that painful process or pretend that my situation was in any significant way related. The many, many good things about Gordon College remain good and I will miss them terribly. Like any workplace, there are also imperfections and things I won't miss. Although the media attention has in inevitable ways seemed to exaggerate some negatives (and this has been most unfortunate because it's obscured so many good things), I think the negative attention might ultimately be a good thing in helping the college move forward. The controversy has given voice to many who wouldn't otherwise be fairly heard. Gordon has historically been at its best when it invites open inquiry (what used to be advertised as "freedom within a framework of faith"), and though it has factions that are more afraid of true dialogue,* there's real hope where there's actual communication. 

Anyway, it's on to the future. I'll admit that the tenure experience has been harder for me in terms of self-confidence and embarrassment than I would've hoped, and I'm saying that out loud as a way of being open and trying to avoid hiding, as I've more or less been doing. (It's also, quite frankly, hard to just disappear from a much-loved community.) I've never been quite sure about the "what will you do when you grow up?" question even well past the supposed age of growing up. I haven't been particularly interested in specializing, which is why the job that had evolved for me was so gratifying - I got to teach music history, collaborate regularly as a pianist, conduct operas, talk about art, theatre, and film, etc. - and why it's hard to face an uncertain world where no position like the one I had really exists, at least not until I make it exist. I'm both confident in my skill-set and mystified by what to do with it. Though it's hard to imagine working outside of music altogether, I do imagine that every now and then as well. This isn't the easiest age to experience a new beginning, but new beginnings can be exciting as well. At any rate, the academic year ahead will likely be one more of experimentation and discovery than settling in, but we'll see. Maybe I'll really learn to write code!

I am blessed with an embarrassingly wonderful family and am eternally grateful for that. I also still have my job at this old blog, where I get to do whatever I want, so I hope that having gotten this bit of news out of the way, I can at least get back to work here. In future posts, I might be so bold as to discuss the tenure thing more and to discuss the "Gordon" thing more - honestly, I'd love to say more about both today, but I feel it's a bit too opportunistic to spin such discussions out of my own frustrations. For today, I'm just coming out as a former professor who (probably) hopes to be something like a professor again some day.


* It is regrettable to me that Gordon faculty voices, which could (and should) speak quite eloquently for the wide range of deeply considered thought on these issues, have seemingly been mostly silent in the past month. Though they certainly wouldn't always agree with the administration, they would be helping to project a much more accurate and honest picture of the kind of place Gordon is in a way that might help to disarm some of the simplistic stereotyping that the school has been subjected to.