Moving on…

Much of my writing in this blog has been a way of processing my feelings of grief from losing people close to me. However, there are many forms of grief, as I was discussing in a twitter chat today (#SaturdaySchool).  In this instance I am leaving a university and city that I have loved and been deeply involved in, but this grief is combined with the excitement and joy of moving to the new position of Provost at Menlo College. This new position means a return to the San Francisco Bay area where we have many friends and family, and I will be very close to my alma mater, Stanford.

Austin and the University of Texas have been my home for the last twelve years, and they have been some of the most important and formative years of my career. My second son, Brandon, was born shortly after we arrived, and is proud to call himself the only real Texan in our household. We were warmly welcomed into an amazing community, Aldridge Place, where we have all made so many friends. But life goes on, and many of those friends have moved away over the years. My boys will be entering 6th and 9th grade next year, so they will be changing schools in any case. This doesn’t lessen the grief I know that they will feel at leaving their friends, but I know the move will also open new opportunities and horizons for them.

We are lucky that we have a few months to adjust to the prospect of change. There will be time for going away parties, in between house hunting trips. In the era of social media, staying in touch with friends in Austin will be easier than when we left Seattle 12 years ago. A new adventure is ahead of us, but I’m grateful for the times we have had and the friends we have made in this life’s journey.

From Ferguson to Austin – Many Questions, Fewer Answers

“What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”  Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan

     I feel like whatever I write tonight will be unsatisfying, but maybe these words will touch someone, somewhere. I happened to go running this morning in a different direction than my normal route, along Shoal creek and under 35th St. It only occurred to me on the way back that I was running past yet another location where an unarmed black man had been killed, Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr.  It was a beautiful morning, but I couldn’t escape the reality that is America today. In this case, the detective involved was indicted.
     It has been an interesting week, to say the least. I feel exhausted from the range of emotions that have come from the barrage of news from immigration, to sexual assault, to Ferguson. With the news that there would be no indictment in the case of Michael Brown Monday evening, I saw similar responses from most of my African American friends — we are all tired. We are tired because yet again we have to come to grips with an institutional structure that devalues the lives of black and brown people. We are tired because we have to explain to our children why people are so frustrated. We are tired of being angry. And yet we soldier on, we try to understand, we create communities online and in real life to try to learn, teach and share so that we can somehow chip away at the underlying issues that lead to these incomprehensible outcomes.
     I believe and hope that we are at a turning point because of the fact that so many African Americans, along with their allies, are in a position to be heard on these issues. We are professors at universities, speaking on radio and television. We are trying to find answers from our research and sharing it on social media. We are marching, taking care of our families, taking care of our careers.
     Today I have been reading the news, blog posts by friends, social media. I see calls for coming together as a community, maintaining hope for the future. I can’t help but be hopeful, it’s my nature. I have to believe that we can find answers to these vexing questions that make me fear for the future of minority communities, and even my own children. For at least the last year or so I have thought long and hard about the issue of social justice, what it means, and what I can do to promote it. I’m disappointed that I’m still trying to find the answer to that question, but I know that there are many of us out there in the same situation.
     So I proudly wore my shirt today, declaring myself “unapologetically black” and that is how I will continue to carry myself. I am cheered by the conversation I had with a friend last week, who will benefit from the President’s executive action on immigration. She is very excited by the fact that for the first time in over 20 years she may be able to go and visit her parents in Mexico with her son who was born here. We all have our struggles, and change is slow. The future is murky, and there are no guarantees that things will improve, but I often describe myself as a change agent and I will rest, rejuvenate and take that next step, hoping that those of us who believe in justice, despite being bloodied and bruised, will go on to fight another day.
things-to-be

One crisis passes at UT – what lies ahead?

If you have been following the news about the University of Texas, where I am a professor in the Department of Government, you will understand my previous post about stress.  I was very concerned about the developments with our President Bill Powers, and the impact it could have on the university. In the end, cooler heads prevailed, and Bill will step down at the end of this academic year rather than be fired immediately.  I had been asked by the Faculty Council to speak on Bill’s behalf at the emergency faculty meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday.  The surprise announcement that the Chancellor had backed down led to a quick end to the meeting, but I will share the thoughts I had prepared here:

When I became vice provost in 2006 it was an amazing time at the university. Bill Powers reached out and sought my advice on a variety of issues, something that I will always remember, even though I was newly-tenured and new to the Provost’s office. One of the things that I admire most about Bill is his willingness to listen and the respect that he shows to people, regardless of whether they are a student, a newly-tenured faculty member or a high school student considering coming to UT. I had the opportunity to travel with Bill to several high schools around the state for a diversity program called Longhorn Scholars. Bill took the time out of his busy schedule to meet with students from low-income neighborhoods to encourage them to go to UT. Bill’s commitment to diversity is unparalleled, from his support of affirmative action to his push for gender equality within the university. We didn’t always agree, but I always knew that Bill respected me, and he deserves the respect that the faculty is here to show today. I hope that Chancellor Cigarroa and the Regents will show their respect for Bill, this faculty and this university and allow Bill to stay on through this academic year.

Many articles have been written about the situation at UT, and on a personal level I hope that all parties will take a step back and focus on what is best for our students, faculty and staff as we try to move forward and choose new leaders.

It’s NOT just about women…

 

It really drives me crazy that issues like a flexible work day and dealing with children are considered “women’s issues” — my husband is just as involved with our children as I am.  I haven’t been traveling as much as I usually do, so I have taken on more of the “shuttle” duties, getting the kids to their activities, etc…but when I have events to attend, or when I go out of town for a conference  next week, the fact the Mike has a flexible work day is just as critical as it is for me.  We both end up working in the evening, after the kids go to bed, so we can keep up with our various projects.  As a professor, I usually end up editing my lectures the night before class and posting my notes.  Mike often has conference calls with colleagues in Asia.  I actually do the cooking in our house, but only because I don’t like to do the dishes, so Mike takes care of that.  But dinner wasn’t the issue when I had a 9-5 job and the kids were in preschool, it was picking the kids up on time. Now that they are in school they have multiple activities that I take them to — I tell folks that I can’t schedule anything between 4 and 7 — that’s when I become the “mommy shuttle” and sit down with my kids, and usually my husband, for a family meal and review of the day.

I can’t help but think that if more men would speak up about their need for a flexible work day, this wouldn’t be an issue for women.  In academia, parental leave became more important as the model of the male professor with the spouse who took care of the household came to an end.  My male colleagues with children are all glad that they have flexible schedules, and some have even put their career on the back burner for their more successful wives in academia or the private sector.

Issue like birth control and healthcare shouldn’t just be women’s issues, either.  Men who care about their mothers, sisters, daughters or wives all have a stake in these issues. It’s crazy that more men aren’t speaking up and supporting women in their fight to maintain funding for critical healthcare for women — we will all suffer in the end.  It’s time for men to speak up and show that women aren’t the only ones who care about these issues.