Sunday, September 23, 2012

What's Yours is Mine, What's Mine is ---- wait, what?

Hmm. I haven't told you anything about the new postdocs as characters around here yet, though I plan to as soon as I have enough spare time and energy to make it entertaining, but I got a kind of odd request I wanted to bounce off people.

See, we hired a Stripey scholar as one of the postdocs --- remember me saying I had been teaching this random course (I color-code the different classes; this one has stripes) that I had no background or preparation in and the only saving grace is that at least they've been throwing this same random course at me every semester instead of rotating me through all the possible surveys I haven't taken? Well, that's the situation. At this point I am together enough that I can run the class, though you aren't going to hear me name-dropping any scholars in that field or taking particularly sophisticated approaches to the stuff. Anyway.

The Stripey scholar emailed and sent me a syllabus for a polka-dot class,* and said, ooh hey could I see the Stripey syllabus cause one of the jobs I'm going to apply for wants syllabi and I haven't had the chance to teach my field yet kthanksbai. I haven't looked at the attachments zie has sent yet, but I'm kinda confused. Why would this person need my syllabus --- surely, as a Scholar of Stripiness, this person has a way better idea how to put together a syllabus in that field than I do! And really, how much work is it to craft a syllabus? (the kind you slap together for job apps, that is.) And would the search committee even want to see a syllabus from a class you haven't taught yet? Besides, I should think a syllabus is pretty personal and individualized --- I mean, if it's not, then there's no point in a search committee requesting to see them, right? I am just confused.

 Another wrinkle added to this situation is that my syllabus is, like, totally plagiarized. Not having any idea what should be emphasized in a Stripey course (the Battle of Barege? The Earl of Corduroy? The epistemological debates over horizontality and verticality? The question, god forbid, of plaid?) I did what any desperate, overworked young scholar might do: I googled "Stripey course syllabus." And I looked back and forth between several that seemed promising and stole a bit from this and stole a bit from that, decided that since everybody assigned this author, I might as well too, and looked to a bunch of samples for how much reading I could slather on to each class period. One person who has the course and syllabus and writing assignments up on the web had an entire FAQ page of all sorts of stuff you should and should not expect from this course. Since all of the warnings were about things I hate about Stripeyness, I plonked that whole damn thing down on my first page, with minor tweakings and a bit more emphasis on my voice.

So I am not at all sure that I would give this syllabus to a search committee, given that the FAQ and several other of the more interesting parts of it would clearly show up in a google search. On a web site with a name that's not my own, I mean. On the other hand, last job season was so long ago I have no clue if I remembered to not send it or not. Ah well.

Any wise readers want to weigh in?

* Why yes! They are allowing me** to teach the survey that actually corresponds to my dissertation and my field next semester! Clearly if stripes are against everything I stand for, then my specialty must be polka dots. Nose picking and the polka dots of literature. Makes total sense, right?  

**I could complain, but one of the other postdocs has been run through the roster of all the surveys, including the Classical literature in translation survey, I kid you not. So he's taught his specialty ... and had to prep a fuckload of other random stuff that probably was way more work than any possible payoff for his job search. Compared to that, my life's not all bad.


Bardiac said...

That's a bit awkward. :(

Are you likely to apply for the same jobs? If so, I might hesitate.

My better instinct would be to share, with a note about how it's not your field, really, and you put it together in desperation, and it's worked in this way, but not that way, and if s/he has suggestions to help, you'd be interested.

Feminist Avatar said...

When I've made up syllabi in my own field, I've still done the google search to see what others are doing. This is not so much so I can plaigerise than a sense of anxiety (that never really leaves you) that I might be 'doing it wrong', or that I've missed 'most important book ever and will look like a fool'. Plus, especially in the beginning, it was just useful to think about how people structured courses to help me work through how to build my own (just like when I wrote my PhD, I read other PhDs to see what they did, and when I wrote my book, I read other monographs in the field to think about structure etc, as much as content).

I guess I find it helpful to explicitly think about structure when creating things and so that's why I need exemplars - maybe this dude thinks similarly.

As such, you might want to give it to him, but also point to where you googled it from and point out that plaigerising might not be a good idea for this reason.

Sapience said...

I just want to comment quickly on the job market side: I was told, by my placement committee as well as all of those different books about being on the job market (Greg Semenza's and Kathryn Hume's) that you have lots of syllabi when you show up for job interviews, including for classes you haven't taught yet. The person we hired at my R1 this year specifically mentioned classes she had designed but not taught yet IN HER JOB LETTER. She showed up with copies of the syllabus (and other syllabi for classes she had taught) at her on campus interview, and when she got asked about whether she could teach X, she pulled it out and passed it around. It worked. Obviously, it's not sufficient to get hired, but it was a crucial distinction between her and one of the candidates who did not get hired because she had not planned a similar course.

Belle said...

What Bardiac said. I've also noticed that many new faculty don't have a clue how to set up a good syllabus, even in their own field. Perhaps it's a case of knowing too much of the speciality but not enough of the students? Colleague once showed me hir syllabus, and I was horrified/amused at the amount of reading zie expected intro level students to prep for each class. Sadder still to see that hir chair allowed it to go into the class, slaughter the student enrollment and only then gently advise Colleague to knock back the heavy stuff in an intro class.

Sisyphus said...

I dunno, Bardiac, that sounds awfully grovel-ly in tone. it's him who's asking the favor, not me. I have my syllabus to the point where *I'm* happy with it, even if it is not cutting-edge or particularly sophisticated (and it is so far out of my field I would not be applying to the same jobs or using it as a sample unless it was a generalist position). To be so self-deprecating isn't my style.

The real problem, as I see it, is that it would look like plagiarism off a web site if he used it. That and I don't know if it would be much help. I'll probably send him the web site link instead of my syllabus, since that person is a prof already and whatnot.

Susan said...

I do think -- especially at the point of an interview -- having some syllabi for courses you haven't taught is a good thing. But it's never been decisive for us. And it's tricky because -- as Belle suggests -- institutional contexts vary so that what would work at an elite SLAC won't work at many public R-1s, etc -- especially for the lower division courses.

I think the approach you suggest is fine. I would say that as a non-specialist, I consulted Professor Google in putting it together.

Tenured Radical said... don't have to give your syllabus to anyone. And let me just say, I know more than one person who has seen their own syllabus being trotted into a search by a candidate.

So I understand why you did this. But if it is plagiarized, in part or in whole, it isn't "yours" to give away, and I think it's a dangerous move to do it.