Welcoming new colleagues
Be a sponsor, not an sad sack
I hope everyone is just straight dominating March! Let’s get after it!
My March is, uh, marching on because I’m doing my normal Lentan “40 days of academic glory” – you can look at my goals here if you are really really interested. I’ve got some big exciting things going on right now, so if you could spare some positive vibes for me, I’d appreciate it.
Today, I want to talk about what you (yes, you!) can do to welcome a new colleague to your department or unit. Did you hire someone this year? Yes? Or you will sometime in the future? Here’s what I want you to do to help new people come into your department.
Actually welcome them:
Send an email to them when they are hired. Send another email a few weeks later to check-in. In March or April, send an email and ask if they are going to come to look at housing to see if you can take them to lunch or for coffee or a drink.
If you feel comfortable, share information with them about where you and other members of the department live. Give them your cell phone number. Once they move to town, send some recommendations of doctors, dry cleaners, and bartenders that might be useful.
That also means: make a horseshoe not a circle. Invite new faculty to things that you do with your friends in the department. Create social connections. Match them to other people that they might like.
Information should not be a private good.
Y’all know that this is kinda… my thing. But please don’t limit who gets access to the information that is essential for success at your workplace! Don’t be a hoarder!
What information do you wish you knew when you started? Provide that to them! Even better, write it down so that you can easily give it to everyone that comes to your department.
Here’s what the TOC of my new “Guide to winning at Tulane” looks like if you are wondering what to include. Note that this is tailored to what the assistant professor life is like at Tulane and you may need to provide very different information to your new colleagues! Check out the replies to this thread if you need some additional ideas.
I am not linking to the whole guide because I’m probably too honest and I know that some fucking rats read this shit, but if you want access to the whole thing, just email me.
Don’t be petty (but provide warnings)
Don’t drag new faculty into your old fights. That’s some bullshit. BUT also please warn faculty about harassers, racists, and bigots.
At no point should you take out any emotions you have about the hiring process on the individual that was hired.
Check in (early, often)
Put a reminder on your calendar to check in with them in August and after two weeks of classes and before the end of the semester. We all let stuff go because we are overwhelmed and if it isn’t in front of us, its gone. So – remind yourself to check in on your new buddies.
A long time ago (2.5 YEARS? What the fuck?), I wrote about the importance of sponsors. Here’s what I said (I used to really like bold LOL):
What the fuck is a sponsor and how does it differ from a mentor? Mentors advise you, providing feedback as you go. Sponsors advocate for you without (necessarily) providing feedback directly to you. Sponsors spend their resources on you, whether you are there or not. Indeed, sponsors are most important when you are not in the room. Women and people of color in the academy are often overmentored and undersponsored.
As I said before, In my view, one of the primary obstacles to the advance of women and people of color in the academy is that most old white dudes are unwilling to be our sponsors and there is nothing that we can do about it until more of us are in the room and more of us won’t be in the room because we don’t have sponsors to get us there.
This fucking sucks. Why do I think this? Women and scholars of color face sponsor-related obstacles from three factors: first, they are more likely to attract intense opposition from someone in their department who claims not be a sexist or a racist but somehow always does fucking sexist and racist things. Sponsors are very useful because they have the ability to counter these objects. But here we reach the second obstacle: you can’t make someone be a sponsor and homophily rules these relationships. As a result, because we have WAY more old white dudes than anyone else in the academy, they sponsor other white dudes. And, finally, when there are women and scholars of color in the room, they are less-effective sponsors because their voices may be discounted by the group.
So what is there to do about this? For the senior white dudes out there – new hires often an opportunity to change this shit. It is on you. Examine your sponsorship behavior and consider whether you have opportunities to act as a sponsor for a member of an underrepresented group and have not done so. How could you change your behavior? Why do you let yourself off the hook? Consider this new hire as an opportunity for you to stop being such a weak spined ninny.
Want to compensate Mirya for her MHAWS labor? Buy her a coffee here. Want to rock some MHAWS merch? Find it here!