Category: Academia (page 2 of 9)

Welcome to New Guest Ducks!

We are pleased to welcome some new guest Ducks, including an exciting new partnership.  We also are pleased that guest bloggers, Lisa Gaufman,  Jeff Stacey, Jeremy Youde, and Will Winecoff will continue to blog for the Duck. We wanted to thank all the guest bloggers who contributed last year including Maryam Deloffre, Alexis Henshaw, Charles Martel, Raul Pacheco-Vega, and Mira Sucharov.

Our first guest is a little different than the others. We are excited to partner with Bridging the Gap to leverage their network of policy-relevant scholars to write for the Duck periodically. So, under the mantle and icon of Bridging the Gap, you will see posts from a variety of authors this fall. Naazneen Barma and Brent Durbin will take the lead on the column on behalf of the Bridging the Gap directorship, which also includes Jim Goldgeier, Bruce Jentleson, Jordan Tama, and Steve Weber.  Jim by the way wrote a fabulous post for us last week with guidance for junior scholars on tenure track.

For those unfamiliar with their training workshops for faculty and graduate students, Bridging the Gap promotes scholarly contributions to public debate and decision making on global challenges and U.S. foreign policy. BtG equips professors and doctoral students with the skills they need to produce influential policy-relevant research and theoretically grounded policy work. They also spearhead cutting-edge research on problems of concrete importance to governments, think tanks, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, and global firms. Within the academy, BtG is driving changes in university culture and processes designed to incentivize public and policy engagement.

We also have  a fantastic line of individual guest contributors to announce. These include:

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Should APSA and ISA have a “No Manels” Rule?

The Financial Times just announced guidance that there will no longer be all male panels — manels — at any FT or partner events. It made me think whether APSA or ISA should adopt a similar policy.

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Preparing Files for Reappointment and Tenure: Some Sharp Guidance

This is a guest post by James Goldgeier,  Professor of International Relations and former Dean at the School of International Service at American University, building on a twitter thread that addressed tenure and reappointment and the narratives people write that go into their packages.

At many universities, the end of summer marks the beginning of the internal review process for faculty on the tenure track. (Most departments and schools sent condensed faculty files out for external review earlier.)  Some scholars have two reappointment reviews before coming up for tenure, usually in their second and fourth years; others have just one, coming at some point during the third year. Typically, faculty members in their sixth year are reviewed for tenure.

Having served as dean of an international affairs school for six years and as a tenured faculty member in a political science department at another university for many years before that, I have seen a lot of reappointment and tenure files.  And I can tell you, a strong and clear narrative from the candidate makes an enormous difference in the review, particularly as the file works its way up the university process to people less and less familiar with the candidate’s field.

While a file typically contains sections on scholarship, teaching and service, I focus this post on the first.  This section is where candidates define their research for their senior colleagues, the dean, the university committee and the provost (and in the case of tenure files, the external reviewers).  The narrative explains who the main audiences for the work are, the nature of the work (including theory, methods, and empirics) and the contribution of the work to the candidate’s field(s).  If your work is co-authored (and expectations of colleagues regarding single author or co-authored work will vary by field), explain clearly your contribution.

For those candidates up for reappointment on the tenure track, despite the high likelihood of a successful review, do not treat this process as a pro forma exercise.  This is the first time you will be introducing your work to many of your departmental or school colleagues and especially to the higher-ups.  Particularly at places that do a second-year review, much of your work may be in progress rather than already published, and this is especially true for books. What matters most at the time of reappointment is your trajectory: how are you revising the work you did for your dissertation (whether articles or a book and/or articles) and do you have a sense of what your next project(s) will be?  If you’ve had a major journal publication or a book in galleys or published already, great.

In your reappointment review(s), do not be cavalier about your future work.  You want to demonstrate your ambition, but be realistic. Good faculty, dean, and provost reappointment review memos will lay out clear expectations regarding what you should have accomplished by the time of your tenure review; read these carefully!  These memos will likely be put in the tenure file for those reviewers to reread at that later time.  They will look to see what they said they expected, and those expectations will stem in part from what you said you would do.  If you said in your reappointment narrative you expected a contract for your second book by the time of tenure review, and they repeat that expectation in their memos, they will expect to see that contract in your tenure file. (More on typical expectations for tenure below.)

A major piece of the tenure file, if not THE major piece, is the external reviews. Most places want senior scholars from peer or aspirational schools, and since most internal readers of the file, especially at the dean, university committee and provost levels, will not be experts in your field, they will take strong cues from those external reviewers.  (And it has to be said: many faculty colleagues will substitute reading the external reviews for reading the actual work.)

Start thinking early in the tenure track about the leading figures in your field who can serve this external review role.  Most universities will only exclude reviewers who have obvious conflicts of interest: family members, co-authors, members of your dissertation committee, departmental colleagues.  Your goal early in the tenure track is to get out to conferences and get your work known. Being on a panel with a senior scholar (and writing a good conference paper and presenting it well!) can pay off later.  I’ve had junior faculty from other universities seek me out for coffee at conferences; I see it as win-win: I learn what interesting young scholars are doing, and they’ve got me primed to do a letter later.

If reviewers know of your work, they will already have some idea of its impact.  Reviewers are also more likely to accept the task if they know of your work because they won’t be starting from scratch. Remember, they are getting multiple requests each summer, so they have lots of incentive to say no.  And an external reviewer who is in your field and has never heard of you but accepts the task out of a sense of duty is a wild card.  Whenever I read an external letter that begins with, “I had never heard of candidate X or read her work until now,” I am usually holding my breath for what follows.

The list of external reviewers is usually drawn both from the list you provide and a list that senior colleagues in your department/school put forward.  Many colleagues will offer informal advice to you as you put together your list.  And most universities will allow you to name senior scholars in the field whom you believe are unable to be objective; use this opportunity sparingly and be able to provide a serious reason.  Don’t provide a long list of people you are scared of; you really want to make sure your department takes seriously your belief that scholar X would for ideological or methodological reasons be a poor choice.

For both reappointment and tenure narratives, you will need to provide measures for scholarly impact. Typically, citations are the most helpful, but make sure you list any awards, grants (these are increasingly important at many places), reviews of your work, journal impact factors, and, for book writers, standing of the publisher.  In fields with low journal impact factors, add other metrics to show the quality of the venue. If your work appears on the syllabi of scholars at leading institutions, provide that too if you have space.

While faculty colleagues may talk in terms of “meeting the bar,” many internal reviewers, including your dean and provost, will likely view tenure not as a bar to hurdle, but a point at which to judge both past performance and future trajectory.  No dean or provost wants to tenure someone whose best work is behind them.  At most top research universities, expectations are based on the quality and impact of the completed first project (usually the dissertation manuscript or papers) and what the reviewers can see of the second. You want enough progress on the second for colleagues and higher-ups to have great confidence in future impact. Are there peer-reviewed articles out yet for the second project or at least book chapters and maybe an advance contract (not necessary but can be a helpful signal) if the second project is a book? (And if something lands or you win an award during the review process, add it in!)  The university is making a bet on your future contributions to the field and thus to the quality of the university faculty, so help them see how excited they should be about granting you tenure.

If your work has policy relevance or broader public impact, include it.  Public engagement cannot substitute for the lack of academic impact, but the dean and provost in particular will see this type of work as a positive addition. Through our Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded Bridging the Gap project and work done by fellow grantees in this area, I hope we will be able to develop better metrics for policy relevance and public engagement that candidates will be able to include down the road.  We’re working on it!

Always keep in mind throughout the process: you are your best advocate.  Through your narrative, you are defining who you are as a scholar and why your department or school is lucky to have you.  Your goal is not just to have a successful review but to make them start worrying about how they will retain you.

Calling New Ducks

As the fall semester approaches, we’re looking for a few good Ducks. We’d like to bring on a new slate of guest Duck bloggers to continue to bring IR-related insights to bear on important real world problems, to explore important debates in the academy, and to do some professional introspection.

We’re especially keen on having gender balance and increasing representation of voices from beyond North America and other important perspectives.

Here is the general policy for guests and our wider set of policies (such as they are).

Guest Bloggers: Guest Bloggers get posting privileges for a period and a temporary place on the masthead. We invite IR specialists with a PhD, some active policy or area studies interests, and a penchant for online writing to apply for regular guest blogging stints at the Duck. Guest bloggers should be prepared to post at least 200-500 words, at least once a week, in their area of expertise. Stints generally rotate after a semester or so, but are renewable if we like your work! If you are past graduate school and would like to join us for awhile, send any of the permanent contributors a letter of interest and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Some folks might post a little less frequently but write a bit more per post. Please email me or any of the other permanent members with a note of interest. If you have some creative ideas for new content or multi-media/podcasts, we’re open to new ventures to build in to the blog as well.

Two legs or One. It has nothing to do with planets- just pants.

Sometimes when we look for a rallying call to join us as humans around a common cause or to show us our equal vulnerability, we say  these trite sayings like “ Common-sense says that all men put their pants on one leg at a time.” This is supposed to reassure us that we are all equal in the most “animalistic” of ways (because you know, animals wear pants).

Here is the problem and the reality though: I cannot buy jeans that are not skinny jeans… shocking. What does that mean for the one-leg mantra? Well… as a woman- and a woman living in a world that tells most women that they have to be attractive… I can’t actually help but buy skinny jeans. SO! How do I—as feminist, as subject, as object—put my pants on? Truth be told… I put them on TWO LEGS at a time.

Where does this pseudo rant come from? From watching the decline of subtle thinking about gender, sex, and equality.  After witnessing the tweet storm from President Trump about the ban on transgender military service, I think it is equally high time that we encourage reflection on all of the ways in which we as a society privilege a particular way of thinking about what is “normal.”  For as Foucault teaches us, what is “normal” is merely the norm of behavior that coerces us into acting according to someone else’s standards.  We self-censure because we want to be acceptable to the rest of society.  We coerce ourselves into being something that we are not, merely for the approval or the acceptance by the rest.

It is not merely women that face this same fate, but men as well.   Sex and gender become ropes in which we bind ourselves.   Thus when we start to insist that all men ought to X, and all women ought to Y, we force a particular world view on those whose lives sit at intersections.  Intersectionality, heterogeneity, and diversity are actually what produces progress.   Beyond the brute fact that this sort of diversity allows for physical evolution of a species, we should also acknowledge that it produces beauty.  As Plato reminds us that democracy is the “most beautiful” of all constitutions, like a “many colored cloak” because it has the most diverse population of people, so too does diversity of roles, tastes, pursuits, and genders in our society.  Gender is not binary, though we see it most clearly when we put them in opposition.  Gender is a practice, a performance, and a social construct.  To prohibit or to “ban” a gender from a job is not only a violation of one’s basic rights to freedom of expression and speech, but to undercut the basic values upon which this country was founded.

So the next time someone wants to say “men are from mars, women are from venus,” or that “we all put our pants on one leg at a time,” I hope that you reflect on the fact that these seemingly innocuous tropes shackle us.  For it is not true that sex determines how one thinks or acts.  It is not true that all humans put their pants on one leg at a time.  Nope, I, as a woman who identifies with femininity, try to buy jeans that fit me in a feminine way.  But due to some interesting choices by society, that is by men and women in the majority, some pants force us to sit down, and put our pants on two legs at a time.

 

In Memorium: Peter Berger (1929-2017)

In a 2014 interview, Nick Onuf argued that IR has lost coherence as a field and should instead be considered “as a species of social relations and [to] abandon IR theory for social theory.” Were that to be the case, the work of Peter Berger would certainly contend for space at the top of the list of required reading.

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Gauging Public Opinion in the Age of Trump

This a guest post from Robert M. Eisinger, a political science professor at Roger Williams University. He is the author of The Evolution of Presidential Polling (Cambridge University Press).

Many of us recall reading the website 538 just prior to election day, and noted that there was a 71.4% probability that Hillary Clinton would garner more than 270 Electoral College votes than Donald Trump. Despite Secretary Clinton’s amassing 2.9 million more popular votes, Mr. Trump won the Electoral College and the presidency.

The liberals and progressives’ zeitgeist had been disrupted and dislocated. The world as they knew it was no longer. Perhaps it never was.

The AAPOR [American Association of Public Opinion Research] and WAPOR [World Association of Public Opinion Research] members do not question public opinion can be measured, observed and explained to a larger polity. We are, after all, in the business of survey research, so no one should be surprised at our belief that poll data bring with it a certain degree of precision and value. Just last month, AAPOR held its annual meeting in New Orleans. Many of the papers, posters and panels concerned polling methods – especially how to improve and increase their accuracy.

But something is amiss, and what is askew significantly will affect U.S. foreign policy in the next few years and beyond. Fewer people own telephone land lines, or respond to poll queries, making it harder and arguably more expensive to conduct polls, and more uncertain if those sampled who do respond are indeed representative of larger populations (see, e.g. Pew Research Center). That the AAPOR and WAPOR cognoscenti recognize these foreboding trends is a tribute to their professional and intellectual integrity.

But different questions linking public opinion to foreign affairs also deserve interrogation. Namely, are some opinions irrationally conceived, amorphous or un-crystallized, and therefore unworthy of advancing, or even polling? What role should both elite and mass opinion, play in shaping U.S. foreign policies? How susceptible are we to elite cues, and if different citizens perceive elites differently, how will those differences affect how we govern? Continue reading

Writing Women Back In

This is a guest post from Anjali K. Dayal (Assistant Professor, Fordham University), Madison V. Schramm (PhD Candidate, Georgetown University), Alexandra M. Stark (PhD Candidate, Georgetown University)

The gender citation gap in international relations is an important part of today’s disciplinary conversations about diversity: research indicates that scholarship by women is less cited in academic articles; less likely to be cited by men; less likely to appear on graduate course syllabi, especially in courses with male instructors; and less likely to appear in media reports about politics. And in today’s Monkey Cage, Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen draw on their research to demonstrate that top journals publish women at disproportionately lower rates. As scholars have made the problem more visible, editors have worked to actively correct citation bias, professors have striven to gender-balance their syllabi, and Women Also Know Stuff has built a remarkable roster of female experts for those seeking to consult a diverse group of experts.

Our focus here is on the instructional dimensions of the gender imbalance, where awareness of the problem alone cannot mitigate structural biases that leave scholarship by women and people of color less likely to be cited. This is particularly the case with introductory courses, which focus on “canonical” texts.  As Robert Vitalis’ work demonstrates, what constitutes the scholarly canon itself is established by processes of contestation and marginalization endogenous to larger structures of power and representation.

Accordingly, the work of women IR scholars and practitioners, from Merze Tate and Emily Greene Balch to Susan Strange, Annette Baker Fox, Elise Boulding, and many, many others, have been systematically written out of how we teach IR and its intellectual history to young scholars—much of these scholars’ work is considered marginal to “core” contemporary international relations theory, but we ought to understand it as systematically marginalized within the canon that’s reified for generations of students, both graduate and undergraduate. Today, even the most well-intentioned instructor may be concerned that adding too many women to their syllabi will lead their students to learn less about core IR theory than a syllabus with more traditionally “canonical” texts.

This problem is amplified by the tendency of young scholars to teach as their mentors taught—reproducing theoretical narratives and ways of teaching that neglect women’s scholarly contributions in the service of teaching students what young scholars themselves know, what they have been taught to value as central and important to the discipline, and what is easy for them to teach given the nearly profession-wide imperative to privilege research over innovative course design in the early years of one’s career. Add to this the prevalence of course readers, which excerpt and reproduce canonical texts in easily-usable formats, and the tendency of some professors to make only small adjustments to syllabi over decades of teaching, and it is possible that many students’ introductions to international relations will include little to no scholarship by women and people of color at all.

As such, scholars who want to reconfigure their syllabi to be more gender representative might need additional resources to begin this process, and they may even need alternative, model visions of what constitutes a gender-equal version of introductory international relations theory.

We have created a bibliography composed entirely of articles, chapters, and books written or co-authored by women. The bibliography is organized around topics frequently taught in introduction to international relations. We are also working on a curated syllabus drawn from the bibliography in conjunction with a paper that explores how the canonical in IR became and continues to become gendered. Continue reading

Emancipation through Song: What Can We Learn from Rock Music?

This is a guest post from Sean Kay, Robson Professor of Politics and Government, and Director of International Studies, at Ohio Wesleyan University. The interview quotes appear in his new book Rockin’ the Free World! How the Rock & Roll Revolution Changed America and the World (2017).

There is power in rock and roll – an art form that has modernized American values and helped them to ripple around the world – advancing freedom, equality, human rights, and peace. Over the last several years I was fortunate to interview about sixty major rock and roll artists, songwriters, producers, managers, non-profit heads and activists as part of a new book project. The interviews led me to the central case – that rock and roll advances progress in America and the world.

The Ethos of Rock & Roll

More than a music form – rock and roll is also an attitude and an ethic. As Joan Jett said in her 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

I come from a place where rock and roll means something. It means more than music, more than fashion, more than a good pose. It’s a language of a subculture that’s made eternal teenagers of all who follow it. It’s a subculture of integrity, rebellion, frustration, alienation, and the glue that set several generations free from unnatural societal and self-suppression. Rock and roll is political. It is a meaningful way to express dissent, upset the status quo, stir up revolution, and fight for human rights. Think I’m making it sound more important and serious than it is? ‘It’s only rock and roll,’ right? Rock and roll is an idea, and an ideal. Sometimes, because we love the music and we make the music, we forget the political impact it has on people around the world. There are Pussy Riots wherever there is political agitation.

The modern world has been shaped by rockers – even if not being overtly “political.” According to Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, rock and roll can be a shared expression of freedom, Wenner says: “Like Chuck Berry, just writing about how boring school was, ‘ring ring goes the bell’ – can’t wait to get out of there!” Billy Bragg, who was inspired to his career at a Rock Against Racism concert put on by the Clash, says: “You challenge your audience. Sometimes you are confirming the things that they support. I don’t like the phrase ‘preaching to the choir’ – but you are ‘recharging their batteries’ – by reminding them; they’re standing in the room and everybody in the room sees there’s power in union together.” George Clinton, of Parliament-Funkadelic tells me it was the kind of freedom you: “…could get at church, or any kind of ritual, but especially to do it on your own terms – not to get psyched into it, because you’re still opening yourself up.” Continue reading

Further Thoughts on Autism in Academia

This is a guest post from Brendan Szendro, a PhD Student in Political Science, Binghamton University and follows a previous post on the topic of autism 

On April 19, William H. Moore, a Political Science professor with what he termed “borderline Autism,” committed suicide after writing a lengthy note on his blog. In it, he detailed his frustrations with his perennial outsider status, his inability to communicate his talents professionally, accusations of arrogance by those around him and the fact that he had a strong desire to produce more than he consumed, but no longer found joy in producing. In other words, he exhausted himself through years of failed attempts at communication, until his abilities became obligations and his work a prison.

Outside of meeting him on one occasion, and reading much of his work, I did not know Moore well. As a Political Science graduate student with Autism Spectrum Disorder, however, the incident resonated with me. In his note, Moore perfectly articulated a litany of emotions that I’ve struggled to explain since childhood. The fact is, if he had not put them in a suicide note, I probably would have shared it as an explanation to others. Friends on the Spectrum have agreed with me that Moore’s writing described us well.

I haven’t in the slightest ever conceived of doing anything like what he did. But, in his note, Moore outlined so many of the pressures, that have weighed on me, as I struggle to gain professional recognition for my talents which seem to me to be incredible – perhaps better than professional – but just not quite what people want. These are Autistic traits, for sure, but they’re also the traits of a certain personality type that feels it has something to say, but doesn’t know how to say it. Academia draws this type of personality because it provides an avenue for communication. The pressure to succeed, however, can exacerbate the negative aspects of this kind of personality.

It reflects a feeling academics face, when confronting the pressures of their field. It seems natural for me, and people in my position, to deal with these things. Most of us don’t have any professional success, yet. We feel a need to communicate because we’re afraid of bouncing our ideas off themselves in perpetuity. We also feel a need prove our self-worth because our social environments are all competitive. Academia provides an opportunity for the former attribute, while inflaming the latter.

It’s worth noting, however, that Moore didn’t have any reason to feel that way. Moore had a family, a respected position at Arizona State University, a litany of publications to his name and a high-paying job doing something he loved. His production was recognized as valuable. It still couldn’t convince him that he was missing something integral. When his children grew up, and he felt they no longer needed him, he left his wife. He imposed his own sense of detachment on himself, as a security blanket, because it was more familiar to him than the alternative. He wrote his note in a casual, humorous tone as though describing quitting a job, trying to frame his life in a way that it didn’t matter. Conditioned to see himself as solitary, from childhood, he decided to actually become solitary. He portrayed it as a natural process, and it wasn’t.

Security is not happiness; Moore’s note shows that he found solace in self-imposed misery.

Academia draws the type of personality that values its skills but struggles to share them, because it promises a means of utilizing and communicating your abilities; often times, however, it exacerbates the negative symptoms. And so, in the wake of pressure to prove your creative and intellectual abilities, the environment can lend itself to isolation, to suspicion of acquaintances as competitors and to a whole slew of negative feelings that can lead people to ignore their victories and focus on their failures. Often times, it feels impossible to get a foothold into a seemingly ironclad world of professional success; new ideas can be hard to introduce, and the path to gaining recognition can require a great deal of exhaustion and self-questioning.

In the nineteenth century, sociologist Emile Durkheim posited four kinds of suicide. The first, “egoistic suicide,” refers to people who find themselves alienated from social groups. They take their lives due to a sense of detachment. Durkheim came to this conclusion based on the notion that a person could adequately tell whether or not they were detached. It’s clear, however, that this isn’t always the case. People like Moore, who on the surface had no logical reason to feel this way, do so perhaps because they grapple with a general sense of melancholy. It seems more common, however, that Moore and people like him – neurodiverse people – feel detached because we are conditioned to feel that way from childhood. It feels safer to us, because it’s familiar, and even when we have social successes, when we have relationships, when we have the things we want, we fight the urge to get away from them because they seem unnatural.

It can seem, then, like real connection and real success are impossible. It’s not true, of course, and it’s important that in an environment as cutthroat and intensive as academia, people are reminded of their worth from time to time. Academics need to be careful not to delve so deeply into their work that it becomes inseparable from identity, something that political theorist Hannah Arendt outlined as one of the primary causes of isolation. The need to produce, and to succeed, can ultimately strip activities of their joy and interest if taken too far, which in turn can damage people’s sense of self. This becomes an especially potent danger when faced with constant criticism, as academics often are.

There’s a few steps academics can take to mitigate these negative feelings, for both themselves and for others:

1) To recognize that you are not your work, and make sure to retain an independent identity.

2) Not to dehumanize people who don’t meet your expectations; critiques should be of work, not of people, and should be aimed at facilitating dialogue, not shutting it down.

3) To be honest about your experiences, emotions and struggles with your peers, so as to foster a communicative environment, rather than a competitive one.

4) To recognize that it will never be possible to communicate all of your ideas, and that having goals you haven’t achieved gives you something to strive for rather than agonize over.

Will’s death took its toll on the Political Science community, and academia writ large. His note resonated with a number of people due to the pressures of the field and the personalities it can draw. Many throughout academia deal with neurodiversity, not just in terms of Autism but a whole host of mental conditions that may struggle to deal with the professional world. And, in such a small world, the event managed to touch a large amount of disparate people. The interconnected nature of the discipline allows for major shockwaves such as this to reverberate over a long distance. Nevertheless, it has also opened a major dialogue on issues that effect a wide array of academics.

Hopefully, the dialogue remains open.

Academia, Mental Health, and the Cult of Productivity

E’Lisa Campbell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is a guest post by Amelia Hoover Green, Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Politics at Drexel University

Will Moore’s death was a tragedy. To state the hopefully obvious: Will’s ferocious productivity makes his death no more or less tragic. Public tributes to Will focus, rightly, on his forthrightness, his heart for justice, his mentorship, his kindness. But productivity—as a value, as a compulsion, or both—shows up too.

In his final post, Will wrote that he enjoyed his avocations, but “[t]o feel good about myself—to be able to look myself in the mirror—I needed to produce.”

Joseph Young’s tribute to his mentor recognized that Will “had a chip on his shoulder” but “remained ridiculously productive throughout his career. He passed on this chip to his students, who are in turn productive across the board.”

Erica Chenoweth, Barbara Walter, and Young list Will’s many contributions to Political Violence at a Glance, noting that Will “did it because he loved the study of political violence, he loved to educate, he loved to produce, and because he was an unbelievably generous soul.” (Emphasis mine.)

Another of the political scientists touched by Will’s life, Emily Ritter, calls for academic environments to be more receptive to those with mental illness, writing: “I… tend to be a ‘high-functioning depressive’, in that I can still be productive, meet deadlines, give lectures, and be outgoing in social environments while being depressed, confused, lonely, and panicky internally. …There’s no gap in my CV. No one would have ever been the wiser about my dark clouds–except that I told them.” (Thank you for telling us!)

Stories about mental illness in the academy often come from people who recover, produce, and/or prevail. In an important 2014 piece on depression in the academy, Amanda Murdie wrote: “A healthy you means that you will produce more…Taking time out to care for yourself will make your work better.” Murdie is a prodigious producer of research whose post began with some context: an invited talk at her graduate school department, a secure job.

Outside political science, my Drexel colleague Lisa Tucker wrote a searing and beautiful essay about her experiences with anxiety in academia — an essay which opened (had to open, I might argue) with the news that she had received tenure. Another law professor, Elyn Saks, has written movingly about working in academia while experiencing psychosis. The blurbs, of course, lead with her work: “Elyn Saks is a success by any measure: she’s an endowed professor at the prestigious University of Southern California Gould School of Law…”

It stands to reason that personal reflections on mental illness and the academy should focus on the positive and productive, and/or should come from those who have an impregnable fortress of a CV to speak from. As Saks has written, “I did not make my illness public until relatively late in my life. And that’s because the stigma against mental illness is so powerful that I didn’t feel safe with people knowing.” Saks is now, finally, safe to discuss her schizophrenia publicly — because it’s clear that schizophrenia hasn’t affected the all-important productivity. Continue reading

The Real Problem with Diversity in Political Science

This is a guest post by Lee Ann Fujii, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, and currently a Member Scholar of the Institute for Advanced Study. This post is based on the keynote address she gave at ISA-NE in November 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.

These days most political science department are discussing the need for greater diversity in their ranks. These conversations tend to follow a well-worn path. They never start at Step 1—as in “what do I need to learn to understand this problem?”—but with Step Minus 5, that is, the rash of myths that people assert as fact or common sense. This is whitesplaining academic-style.

A typical move, for example, is to claim that we should be careful not to sacrifice quality for diversity. Another is to invoke a single bad experience as “evidence” that pursuing diversity does not necessarily lead to good outcomes. Never is there any acknowledgement of the myriad ways that race already imbues and shapes hiring and promotion practices from start to finish. Rarely is there mention of the power of white privilege to obstruct meaningful conversation and action. Rarer still is there any effort to understand why this topic is deeply personal to many of us, precisely because it is borne out of a lifetime of being raced (and gendered).

These interactions never feel like “micro-aggressions;” they feel like highly entrenched macro-aggressions. The concrete pillars of white privilege loom large. Many colleagues would deny that such privilege exists or that they benefit from it. Instead, they couch their reservations about meaningful action in tropes of “merit” and “experience.” Our discipline is not unique in its hostility to the radical notion that nearly all-white faculties are, by definition, expressions of white supremacy. We are the norm.

Until last fall, I never talked publicly about this issue. When I received an invitation to give the luncheon keynote address at ISA-NE, I said yes, thinking it would be a good opportunity to give air time to an issue that affects all of us. In the edited version below, I argue that the abhorrent lack of diversity in our discipline keeps us collectively deaf, dumb, and blind to the larger world around us, the very world we purport to analyze and explain.

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A Friendly Amendment to a Useful Conversation: Lets Make the World a Better Place

Will Moore

This is a guest post by Christian Davenport, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Will Moore was a close friend of, and  collaborator with, Professor Davenport.

There have several themes emerging out of the loss of our dear colleague that have emerged: how wonderful Will H. Moore (hereafter Will) was as a colleague, teacher and friend as well as a detailed and long-overdue discussion about mental health/care in the profession as well as individual cases. I do not want to detract from that conversation but I do wish to suggest two things.

First, just because we might—and should—provide some venue/place/service for people to share and be heard regarding what is going on in their lives does not mean that all of those in need will avail themselves of such a service. As an African American (after generations of experiments, neglect and poor treatment), I am hesitant to go to anyone’s office; many friends, relatives, and black folk I don’t know share this opinion according to existing research. There are other reasons for not going —pride, fear, a perception of inefficacy, shyness, poverty, etc.

I’m not against the community of scholars identifying and providing such a service. I’m just identifying that there are some limitations that need to be considered. If things were available does not mean that our dear friend would still be here.  It’s a little more complex than that and I wish to probe this a little.

With regards to my work on Rwandan political violence, I was essentially traumatized by my trips. I saw mass graves with bodies still in them, conversed with murderers, interviewed survivors, and surveyed both—as well as bystanders.  There was no one to speak to except the small group of other scholars who were interested/open (like Will) and practitioners who shared the experience (like the late Alison Des Forges), most of whom were dealing with their own stuff. When I later got in trouble for highlighting diverse forms of violence and got labeled a genocide denier/trivializer by the Rwandan government (incorrectly I might add), I was further isolated, unsure whom to talk to, and felt compelled to withdraw. Indeed, during this period I did not really speak to anyone about the experience. This persisted for several years, until I started writing about it—initially in story/blog form.  After I did this, I began to feel more comfortable about continuing my work there.  Upon seeing the scholarship that emerged (after I was criticized and banned), I became enraged—further propelling me into the research about Rwanda, which I am now completing.

Trips to India to study the horror that is untouchability (PDF), and to the Dominican Republic to study the slavery-like condition of Dominican-Haitians in Bateyes, further fueled my negative thoughts/feelings about the human condition. Much less sensationalistic, this says nothing about my constant attention to the plight of African Americans regarding the myriad of ways that they are killed and treated in a discriminatory fashion—the number of ways which only multiplies as I look further (higher rates of diagnosed schizophrenia being the last). I tend not to discuss this last one with any of colleagues and numerous friends because most “don’t want to go there”—including, to be honest, myself. Will would go there. He was always ready to let me vent and I would let him do the same when he so desired. Part of the reason that most would not, however, is that there is no simple resolution to the problem. This leads me to the second point.

Second, I wish to suggest that we not only focus on the scholars who are addressing difficult topics and the support systems around them, but also the system that produced the privilege that so elevated and disturbed our dear friend Will.  I wish to suggest that we focus on the system that produced the misogyny that upset our friend and compelled him to take action—repeatedly. I wish to focus on the racism that compelled him to take action and the repression that provoked him to work so hard. I want to focus on the discipline, departments and society that thrives on ignoring peoples work and creating cultures where folks are intolerant of people who are different, awkward, or even odd.  I do not want to suggest that we turn away from such topics because they are difficult, but rather that we all turn to such topics in order to alleviate the overall cost spent by any single person who studies them.

I say all this because I think that some of our conversation following Will’s departing has been hijacked by a belief that if we just had the right apparatus in place, then we would not currently be where we are. I think that many people are in pain because of the world being the way that it is. We are only going to improve this situation by improving the world around us. We don’t just need a venue for communicating our pain and resolving some massive internal issues that these involve. We need to also address the sources for some of the things that prompt anxiety and depression, as well as that shape the openness of individuals to discuss uncomfortable topics. For example, many do not even acknowledge the high rates of suicide within the African American male population (PDF). To deal with this problem effectively however we not only need to provide venues and strategies for helping this population deal with their mental health, but we also need to stop sticking guns in their faces, patting them down, under-employing them, underestimating them, and subjecting them to microaggressive behavior. These two efforts need to work hand in hand in order to produce a change.

A Perspective on Engaging Scholars with Autism

The following is a guest post by Rachel Harmon, a PhD student in Political Science at Emory University.

Recent events have prompted necessary discussions about mental health in academia, but a topic that remains underdiscussed are the challenges faced by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As an adult diagnosed with ASD and current PhD student, I have personally experienced how ASD can be a strength or a struggle, conditional on the surrounding environment. ASD is a spectrum and effects each person differently, but for me, being autistic shapes every moment of every day of my life. I’m thankful that ASD has given me the ability to intensely focus on my research interests, making me a dedicated and creative researcher. At the same time, I have struggled to learn and communicate in the same ways that neurotypical students do. It takes enormous energy and mental space to navigate a world designed for the neurotypical, and most faculty are simply not trained on how to respond to or recognize the difficulties.

I have had significant ASD-related challenges in graduate school, but several people and resources have been crucial to my overall success. First, a TA during my first-year methods training took it upon herself to give me hours of additional assistance beyond what was required by her job when she saw how I struggled in the classroom setting. Second, I have developed two close friendships with people in my cohort; they have helped me navigate and interpret social interactions, monitor tone, and have stepped up for me when sensory processing is difficult. Finally, I have access to regular treatment through the Emory Autism Center and worked with a private tutor my first year. These resources are expensive and not covered by insurance. I hope that institutions find ways in the future to offer these types of assistance to all students with special needs.
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Building Safe Space for Depression in Academia

The following is a guest post by Emily Hencken Ritter, Assistant Professor at the University of California, Merced.

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Like so many, my heart and mind aches for the loss Will Moore’s death represents to humanity. He was as much a mentor to me in grad school and my career as if he had been on my dissertation committee. He supported me, critiqued my work, told me to be bold, and showed me I could be myself. Perhaps the most special thing he gave me was an example for generating bigger conversations. I attended conference after conference that he hosted not to present papers in panels but to get people to think outside of boxes and talk to one another. Will taught me about the community of science. His absence is so much greater than my loss.

One way that Will continues to help all the people he touched is by stimulating conversations about mental illness. I want to assist in this effort and be honest, as Will was, so that his scientific community can innovate in mental health as much as peace research.

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For Will: Some Reflections on Sorrow

The following is a guest post by Jana von Stein, Senior Lecturer of Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington.  

Will Moore’s suicide carries with it a special sorrow that I can’t yet even wrap my head (or heart) around. I met Will when I was on the job market in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2008 that we became close. My comradery with him did not revolve chiefly around academics, although he was a tremendous mentor to me. Instead, it revolved around tragedy.

“Somewhere, my son’s brain is in a jar in a medical researcher’s office,” Will bellowed to a group of us at the 2008 Peace Science conference.

What a strange thing to announce in public, I thought. I needed to know more. I shared with him that I was 5 months pregnant, and that the baby had been diagnosed with very complex heart defects. The neonatologists were optimistic, and I wanted to believe them, but I knew it was possible that my firstborn, like his, would die far too young.

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Researcher Trauma and Our Discipline

The following is a guest post by Cyanne Loyle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University. 

With the devastating passing of Will Moore, many of us in Conflict Studies have begun to discuss the impact of our work on our mental health. Talking is important. So is seeking help when needed. But there is more that we can be and should be doing.

In January, I wrote a piece on research-related trauma and conflict studies.  Will helped with this article.  He thought it was high time that the field and the discipline had a serious discussion of mental illness. In this article, Alicia Simoni and I talk about the risks of research, how to identity trauma in our friends and ourselves, and best practices for our field.

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Will Moore: A Student’s Perspective

This is a guest post by Joseph K. Young, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs and School of International Service, American University.

The one piece of advice that my dad, an academic, gave me when I was applying to PhD programs was simple: choose based on who you will work with. With this in mind, I screened potential advisors like I was a TSA agent. I interviewed them. I asked them about their future plans, how old their kids were (thinking anyone with teenagers wouldn’t move while I was still working on my PhD), how they trained their students, and most importantly where their students got jobs. I read an article of Will’s when I was an undergrad, Repression and Dissent: Substitution, Context and Timing. This was the kind of work I wanted to do. These were the questions I wanted to ask: Why does repression work in some cases but not others? Why does repression sometimes lead to dissent and sometimes quiescence. And these were the tools I wanted to employ: rigorous empirical strategies using fine-grained data. I emailed to set up a time to meet with him. He replied within a few minutes. We then had several phone conversations, followed by a trip to Tallahassee to meet in person. Will passed all of my screening. Continue reading

Will Moore: A Fierce Friend

Will Moore decided to punch out, as he put it.  He left behind devastated friends, co-authors and students as well as family. I have been trying to put into words how I feel today.

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Let’s talk about mental health

There have been some high profile deaths in the profession among younger scholars, not just in IR but also comparative/American politics. Two notable examples of late include Will Moore and Mark Sawyer. I did not know either of them personally but through friends and social media, I was aware of them in life and death.

Moore’s death struck many in the IR community especially hard, as he was known to be a dedicated mentor to others, particularly junior scholars, in ways that go above and beyond just befriending and reading someone’s work. His loss has shaken many of them profoundly, and I think many of us on social media feel the loss in ways that are deeper than we care to realize. Continue reading

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