On Saying "No" to Senior Colleagues
|Inkhorn's excellent tenure blogging has got me thinking about all the ways in which I may or may not be digging a grave for myself as I blithely traipse through my first years of assistant professorhood. Specifically, this exchange with humanist printer Aldo Manuzio (love your Xenophon, Aldo) in the comments section of the first Tenure post has got me a little nervous:|
Aldo: My method of getting this far was one that will be familiar, I think, to all of you--it's the same one that generally led to success throughout all my schooling: I did what I was asked to do.
Now it's not like I've been shirking my share of unpleasant departmental work. Far from it. I do a ton of committee work, show up at faculty meetings and talks, and generally try to stay involved with everyone and everything. But I have said "No" several times, albeit very politely and with a lot of "I mean if you really really need me to, ok, but I'd rather not"s. I was asked during my junior leave (!) to appear in a departmental faculty colloquium on pedagogy. I was living and writing and working a three hour drive away. I said, "No." I was asked within three weeks of arriving for my first semester on the job to serve on a double hire search committee in a field I know nothing about. Again, I dropped the N bomb. In both instances, I was reassured that my no-ing was acceptable and even expected. (I can't imagine that the folks who asked me to do these things didn't feel a bit guilty for having done so in the first place -- especially that search committee.) In fact, I was encouraged by several senior faculty members to say no occasionally, just to clear a little space for myself to get other kinds of work done (like that helped at all).
Now, I know this is likely going to be a person-by-person, department-by-department, ludicrous request by ludicrous request kind of decision, but aren't there times when it's ok to say no to the future masters of your tenure case?
Or should I start applying to law schools?