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New SLAC Fears

24 July, 2006

New SLAC Fears

So I’m starting the new job in less than a month. Things I hadn’t considered #1 — my wardrobe. There are events. I don’t have clothes to wear to country clubs. I have nice teaching clothes (and not nearly as many of those as I probably should have) and interview clothes and jeans. And lots of skirts and cheap t-shirts and sleveless t-shirt-y shells from Target that, when paired with skirts, made me look far more dressed up than most of my colleagues at old CC. And there are times when one wears regalia. AAARGH!

Things I hadn’t considered #2. This post at New Kid’s reminds me that, while I don’t normally swear in class, my classroom speech has become frighteningly colloquial. I think part of that was the part of the country I was living in, and part of it was that many of my colleagues tended to do the same. Part of it was perhaps the student population, and I think part of it was that there was a kind of relaxed attitude where students expected to call faculty by their first names. I think that kind of familiarity tends to blur behavioral lines. I really missed the formality of a SLAC … but now I’m afraid I won’t remember how to behave. Hell and damnation.

By the by, this is not a criticism of either of my old CCs. Campus culture is what it is. Anecdotally, I would say that my colleagues at most recent CC who remained engaged in the wider academic community tended to have more defined academic personae. Hmmm. A question for Dean Dad?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 July, 2006 3:28 pm

    I’m surprised that you associate SLACs with formality, because that hasn’t been my (invariable) experience; like anything else, it depends on a lot of factors. In any case, while my SLAC is fairly formal/hierarchical (students rarely call profs by their first name, etc.), I think I’m quite colloquial in class, and I don’t think it’s a problem. For me, it’s something especially helpful for talking about the Middle Ages – it’s so far away from students’ experiences, that if I can talk about it in “ordinary,” everyday language, it makes it a little easier to connect with. I suspect if I were teaching 20th c. US I might go in the opposite direction… but serious, it doesn’t seem to me to be something worth worrying about, unless you have specific evidence that your specific SLAC has particular views on the issue.(The clothes…well, now, that’s another issue!)

  2. 24 July, 2006 5:04 pm

    Part of it’s observation so far, part is based on my experiences at Grad U, which was similar, but far more high-powered, with a lot of faculty from the NE. Fortunately, I tend to match my language to my dress … a bit.

  3. 24 July, 2006 5:07 pm

    Oh — I’ve just realized I have the same problem at conferences, in that, if I have a personal relationship with a colleague (like the Beachy U crowd or you and Cel, or Cranky or SC or DV), I tend not to make the behavioral shift in “mixed company” that I probably ought to, unless the people around are intimidating to me.

  4. 24 July, 2006 8:44 pm

    When I taught at an SLAC, I wore jackets and ties, and was — with the exception of the President and two older faculty members — the most formally dressed male on campus. I dropped the tie as a concession to prevailing culture (though I started wearing it again after they terminated me, just because I prefer to be actually professional looking at work; for the record, I now wear Aloha shirts, because that’s what professionals wear in this town), but I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the “dress down and talk dumb” (that’s not what you’re doing, but it was suggested to me) method of achieving some kind of mystical sympatico…. it doesn’t work, and it’s artificial.Clothing is a signifier of identity: decide how you want to look, not how they want you to look.

  5. 24 July, 2006 11:23 pm

    it’s only artificial if you’re ordinarily a dress up, talk over their heads (not that you would..) kind of person. it isn’t if you’re natural idiom is informal and your normal speech colloquial.of course, matching campus culture is important in all cases.

  6. 24 July, 2006 11:24 pm

    (Ditto to Jonathan’s well-put last point.) Is it the not-fitting-in that worries you, or the not yet knowing what the norms are? I’m guessing the latter is more likely, in which case it won’t take you long to get a feel for the range of possibilities and how you can blend that with your own style. Like everything else in a new situation, it will be a little uncomfortable at first, but soon enough it will all be familiar and smooth.

  7. 25 July, 2006 12:06 am

    I’m also struggling with this question to some degree, since I bought a bunch of clothes in Spain this summer, and norms for appropriate academic dress are very different there than they are here. I still haven’t gotten my U.S.-eyes entirely back, & am unsure whether some rather form-fitting shirts, which were entirely appropriate there, are at all wearable here…

  8. 25 July, 2006 12:57 am

    I would say that form-fitting is appropriate, as long as the fabric and coverage are business-like. And it’s both worries about not fitting in and not knowing the norms. And slipping up. Just another layer to the imposter syndrome. It’s bad enough being sure you lucked into a job and they’re going to find out you’re a fraud, but add to that the working-class worries of not fitting in (despite the fact that one of the reasons the students liked me was apparently that I “get it” in terms of many of their non-traditional backgrounds) … I’m screwed.

  9. 25 July, 2006 6:04 am

    Well, since I’ve never been in your classsroom, ADM, I suppose that you and your imposter syndrome could argue with me — but from what I know of your demeanor, you’re going to be absolutely fine.

  10. 25 July, 2006 2:31 pm

    Coming from the bomb-proof packet of professionalism that you seem to be, I’ll take that as a serious compliment!

  11. 25 July, 2006 5:20 pm

    I dress up and talk dumb. I think that achieves a balance. :)ADM, if you just moved to the east coast, you might check around for a store called B. Moss–kinda along the lines of Casual Corner, Ann Taylor/LOFT, provided a lot of my teaching clothes when I was east (at least NH and VA), has good sales.I’ve never done country club events but I think there are few places a twinset and skirt can’t carry you, especially if you’ve got an emergency scarf to dress it up and a tanktop shell to dress it down, and both at once for parties.Will the dept or school will contribute to the cost of buying regalia? since by definition you are only wearing it for their events. I know of at least one place where that’s done, no idea how common it is.Many rich people have no manners–if you are a working-class academic, you must have years of chameleon practice under your belt that will carry you through any situation.

  12. 25 July, 2006 10:50 pm

    Thanks, Dee — There are a Talbots and an Ann Taylor Loft nearby — I can hope for a sale. ATL clothes don’t usually fit me very well, unfortunately, as I am a person with a pear-shaped figure. I will check local trendy suburb and see if I can find a B. Moss. I think I can use my somewhat meagre development allowance for regalia, but I’m going to check with an accountant, because I think it might be deductible if it’s required for work.

  13. 1 August, 2006 2:39 pm

    Almost certainly tax deductable: I’d suggest depreciating it. Alternately, stick it as a non-reimbursed employee expense (where it is subject to the 2% rule). jordan hall is not a lawyer nor an accountant

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