On July 28, I reintroduced this blog, Conditionally Accepted. This was the project that I briefly, anonymously started while I was on the 2012-2013 academic job market, but deleted because I felt blogging about academia was too self-serving and “navel-gazey.” Toward the end of graduate school, and particularly after I finished, I felt the itch to start a new blogging project — and, my mind kept returning to Conditionally Accepted. So, “what the hell,” I thought; I figured I could return to my personal blog or pursue one of the other new blog ideas if it did not work out.
One motivating force for me to maintain the blog was to promote more transparency around what academics, particularly those who are marginalized, experience in academia. As I pushed back against my grad program’s expectation to pursue a career at a research-intensive university, even at the expense of living in a desirable place, I knew others must have experienced the same pressure. But, I could not readily find these stories written or in my memory of alumni from my own program. In connecting with a friend who was on the job market at the same time, we realized we were facing the same pressure from our departments. Yet, at least in our paranoid minds, it felt that once we were no longer willing to entertain pleas to give up job offers at liberal art schools (that we actually wanted!), we were asked to quietly exit so that we would not inspire others to follow a similar path. I suppose it comes as no surprise that I decide to make public my story so I could do just that.
Launch And Take-Off
With only four posts by the end of July, the blog received over 1,200 hits. (For comparison, my personal blog reached that mark by its fifth month.) In August, Conditionally Accepted really took off and continued to grow. Dr. Sonya Ann officially came on as an assistant editor, though we had been talking about co-editing the site off-and-on as early as April. Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza agreed to reblog several of her posts on writing tips from Get A Life, Ph.D., which we featured as a weekly guest blog series. That month, we received over 14,000 hits, with an average of 450 hits per day! (Again, for comparison, I received just over 13,000 hits in the year 2012 on my personal blog.) As the year comes to a close, Conditionally Accepted has exceeded my personal blog in traffic: (at the time of writing this) 62,415 hits in 5 months compared to 56,059 in 3.3 years, respectively.
I keep referencing my personal blog, eGrollman.com, as a comparison to highlight the quick growth of Conditionally Accepted. One could interpret the differences as less frequent personal blogging, or the less easily accessible structure of my personal site, or greater appeal of the content on this blog. Those factors aside, I think two major factors in the success and appeal of Conditionally Accepted are 1) the multi-blogger structure, and 2) diversity of voices and perspectives thanks to our wonderful guest bloggers: Dr. Manya Whitaker, Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza, “Jan in the Pan,” Jeff Kosbie, Dr. Rashawn Ray, Dr. Michaela A. Nowell, Dr. Nyasha Junior, Natasha Yurk, Dr. Dawne Mouzon, Haigen Huang, Dr. Mark Williams, Dr. Rachel Leventhal-Weiner, Dr. Shawn Trivette, Casey Buss, Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Dr. Jeana Jorgensen. That is 17 guest bloggers! (Please consider becoming number 18!)
And, to my pleasant surprise, our insistence on speaking out and speaking up seems to resonate with other scholars who would like to make academia a more humane and just place. But, on the same day that we received the nice shout out from Dr. Claire Potter at Tenured Radical (a Chronicle of Higher Education blog), I learned that speaking out pisses some people off — sometimes, enough to threaten legal action. But, I will take the occasional negative response along the many other informal positive responses we have received for starting the blog.
Based on traffic, here are our top 10 blog posts for 2013 (in order):
- “Advice For New Assistant Professors” (by me, Aug. 27)
- “What If Graduate Programs Empowered Their Students?” (by me, Nov. 27)
- “The 7-Year Experiment: Tenure-Track Without Losing My Soul” (by me, Aug. 14)
- “Shit Academics Say” (by me, Sept. 16)
- “Advice for Attending Academic Conferences (For Scholars On The Margins)” (by me, Aug. 2)
- “Managing Academic Survivor Guilt Without Losing Yourself” (by Dr. Manya Whitaker, Nov. 8)
- “Sociology Of Fatness — Critical Perspectives For Teaching Sociology (And Anthropology)” (by Dr. Michaela A. Nowell, Sept. 27)
- “Cultivating Allies As A Woman Of Color In Academia” (by Dr. Manya Whitaker, Dec. 5)
- “PhDs Are Taken, Not Given” (by me, Aug. 16)
- “On Teaching (Trans) Gender” (by Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello, July 30)
I feel pretty good about the first five months of Conditionally Accepted. Yeah, I will say it: I am proud of what we have created. I no longer feel our efforts are self-serving or even a form of “navel-gazing.” Academia and higher education are important institutions, after all; and, like other social institutions, they warrant analysis, critique, and improvement. Advocating for greater transparency around what marginalized scholars actually experience is addressing one part of larger forms of inequality. And, at least for me, supporting marginalized scholars to do their work is helping people outside of academia, albeit indirectly. There seems to be an entire army of marginalized scholars who are doing similar work, so I think we are on to something!
But, we are celebrating our small victory amidst what feels like growing chaos. The new majority in academia represent non-tenure-track scholars. Adjunct instructors are struggling to get by, or even struggling to survive. Graduate students continue to push ahead with either limited support or even in the face of hostility and discrimination, with little recognition of the pervasive mental health problems they face — all toward what seems like declining options for a career in academia. And, tenure? Who knows whether that really provides job security, free speech, and academic freedom anymore. But, one must be careful about acknowledging the actual state of academia, for there are lot of people invested in the fairytale of the academia that once was (if it ever was…).
So, it feels we are just beginning to crack the seal. Good — because we are just getting started. And, since we do this in our free time and on our own dime, we are fortunate to be one voice in a chorus calling for change, justice, equality, transparency, and support.
Looking ahead, I hope that we can start to reflect experiences at each point in academia: future graduate students; current graduate students; those who left grad school to pursue another career; adjunct instructors; tenure-track faculty; tenured faculty; those in alternative careers (alt-ac); those in second careers (post-ac); and, administration. I hope we can continue to represent diverse perspectives, offering a space to be heard, to see one is not alone, and to engage with other marginalized scholars. And, I hope the site continues to grow as a resource for marginalized scholars — sometimes just in making available and transparent what any scholar should know to succeed that is often denied or unavailable to marginalized scholars in particular. (Hint hint: guest blog posts welcome!)
C’mon, 2014! We are ready.