I (don’t) love that some key terms among academics share an entirely different meaning beyond the ivory tower. To academics, “R&R” has nothing to do with sleeping in or enjoying a cool glass of lemonade in a hammock. Actually, the much sought after “revise and resubmit” is quite the opposite of the everyone else’s “rest and relaxation.” The best (i.e., worst) one is “impact factor.” Before graduate school, I would surmise that impact had something to do with having influence or creating change in the world. Now, I realize it is a quantified measure (that is declining in accuracy) of your “impact” in your subfield; really, it is how many of your fellow researchers cite your work. A researcher could land several articles in journals with high impact scores, but their work could have little impact beyond the walls of academe.
I am not sure that many outside of academia use the term “conditional acceptance.” But, I did to describe my sense that others, particularly my family, accepted* me as a queer person — the asterisk there implies that some conditions may apply. Today, I feel my immediate family has arrived at a place of acceptance. Initially, I was relieved to find that my parents tolerated my sexual orientation, rather than disowning me or throwing me out. They did little to change me, but, if it were up to them, I would be heterosexual. With time, they saw that changing me was not an option, so it was them who had to adjust. As I excelled in college, after taking a leap of faith in leaving a full scholarship in math with the hopes of one for any major (which I got), my parents found peace that I would be okay in this world after all. In their words, since I had everything else in my life together, they learned to fully accept me as a queer man.
So, the question that lingered in my mind was whether they would still be struggling to accept me if conditions were different. Would they still support me if certain fears came true — that I became HIV-positive, that I was the victim of a homophobic attack, that I completely transgressed gender norms? I would like to say, by now, yes; but, at the time, their ability to fully accept me was conditional on being normal on all other counts. Conditional acceptance.
Conditional Acceptance In Academia
As an academic, the only thing sweeter to one’s ears than “conditionally accepted” is “accepted” and then “in print”. We try to answer every one of our anonymous peer reviewers’ questions, concerns, and critiques to get that conditional accept. So, academics know the term well, which is why I chose it as a title for this blog. We understand that acceptance is just a few changes away. Sure, we will soften our language, nix references to “oppression” in the manuscript if it is the only thing in the way of our work going to print.
But, success and achievement in academia extend beyond tweaking our written work. It goes beyond integrating our students’ feedback to improve our courses. Academia, in some ways, is a total institution. It makes demands on us for how we present ourselves (should we blog?), how we interact with others (should I downplay my feminist politics?), and how we spend our time outside of the 40 hours for which we are paid (wait until after tenure to have kids?).
These demands, however, are not experienced equally nor are they randomly distributed. Though academia has made many great strides to become more diverse and inclusive, this is less reflected among senior faculty and university administration. So, women, people of color, and first-generation students may be disproportionately reflected among the constrained: graduate students and tenure-track faculty. We are more likely to be at these early stages in academic careers, not yet liberated by tenure.
But, that is just numbers. After a long history of outright discrimination and exclusion, the academy is much better about hiring diverse faculty (especially in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender). But, it lags in other regards. Though scholars of color and women scholars are “especially encouraged to apply,” anti-racist and feminist scholarship and activism are not. Research on race, ethnicity, and/or gender remains underrepresented in the mainstream of my field (sociology) and likely other fields. And, given what seems to be the practice of deradicalizing scholars through professional socialization, you can certainly forget proactively seeking explicitly anti-racist and feminist initiatives. Our job, as academia, does not appear to include changing the academy — well, at least not beyond moving academic fields through the traditional academic practice of peer-reviewed research.
You can get the job, so long as you pursue work of interest to the mainstream of your field. And stay silent about oppression “out there” (and especially that within the ivory tower). We will accept you as a colleague so long as you do not challenge us or ask us to change.