In my campus mailbox I received this letter dated 2/13/2012
Dear Prof. Cahnmann-Taylor:
Acting upon the recommendation of the University Review Committee, I am truly pleased to notify you that you will be promoted to Professor effective with your 2012-2013 contract. Promotion is a significant achievement in academic life and a recognition of the valuable contribution that you make to the life of the University.
Please accept my hearty congratulations and my personal thanks for all that you do for the University.
Micheal F. Adams
Dear President Adams, Colleagues and Students at the University of Georgia:
I am filled with joy and gratitude on this day when I receive news of my promotion to full professor at this institution. From the first day of my interview to today when I receive this letter, I have felt welcomed and respected. On only one small occasion when I began at the University did one person in an administrative role of authority respond negatively to my research, referring to my request for funding as “boondoggling” to study American in-service teachers on a summer abroad program in Mexico. My department chair immediately came to my defense and support and I found other sources of funding for work in local schools. When some of the courses I teach such as “poetry for creative educators” and “theatre for reflective practice” were referred to as “boutique”courses, at first I took offense, believing that some colleagues in administrative positions felt these courses were unnecessary baubles, pretty and interesting but overpriced and excessive. Nonetheless, I was allowed to offer these courses, to see their enrollments grow, and share the joy and muscle of creative thinking and learning. I don’t think most institutions would allow me such flexibility in course development or generously support the guest speakers I have helped to bring to our campus: Ruth Behar, Joni/Omi/ Jones, Anne Waldman and Steven Krashen this spring. And when Joni/Omi/Jones performed “Sistah Docta” and removed her shirt to perform the vulnerability of the black, female body on campuses of higher education, some administrative faculty squirmed in the front row, snickered uncomfortably afterward, and may have missed the point. But no one stopped the show or pulled funding or refused my future applications (although my first application to bring another powerhouse African American artist was refused–I am sure it was because of budgetary constraints and I will try to bring poet Patricia Smith again!). You have written on paper that you will promote me to full professor despite the fact that I protest at our campus arches against HB 59 which would essentially ban highly qualified but undocumented youth from attending our beautiful institution. You give me license to be at the top of the University heap fully knowing that I was part of a gang of academic parents who protested the lack of daycare services at this institution until you finally opened a large daycare center this year to serve our community and both my children have spots in a campus daycare facility. No future pregnancies for me but I smile every time I see the two new parking spaces reserved for expectant mothers in the College of Education parking lot and the new stroller and wheelchair friendly ramp that leads from the busstop to our building. I have breastfed in many corners of our campus, posted a breastfeeding welcome sticker and rainbow queer-friendly flag in my office and have heard talk about building lactation rooms across campus. When, in other public corners of Athens, Georgia, nursing mothers and I have been asked not to breastfeed, this campus has been nothing but friendly to me as a nursing academic mother. Sure, it would have been swell if you’d had any kind of maternity leave policy that might have allowed me to navigate work and new motherhood with a bit less stress and strategy, but luckily I had a grant and flexible students and understanding colleagues and it all worked out. Would I like this to change? You bet–I want our campus to continue to grow as a place that is welcoming to all kinds of diversities and life changes. I would like never to hear another colleague snickering about a Jewish student who “tried to get out of a test” by complaining that it was Yom Kippur (the most holy and sacred day in the Jewish calendar). I wish there were more open and explicit talk about what to do when experiencing harrassment on this campus and that we’d have fewer incidents covered up for years and fewer to no incidents at all. I realize how tricky such policies must be and that it is my role now to participate in faculty governance to help create and sustain policies that favor people and ideas and shun intolerance, abuse, immorality, and narrow-mindedness. I feel truly lucky to be here and honored by this promotion because it says you value faculty who publish and teach wildly across traditional academic boundaries, who question authority, and voice the taboo. I have a published disclaimer that the thoughts and ideas on my blog are mine and mine alone and protect you–to the extent that I can–from our association. But now you have not only invited me to the table, but given me a long-term contract to remain in my white, cinder-block office which I have now painted athenian blue. Thank you President Adams, for protecting me from many of the bureaucratic decisions that come with running a public university and for allowing me the freedom and time to write, think, teach, and learn and feel the urgency of continued critical, intellectual work. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other better in the coming years as I participate more actively in how to create and sustain the best possible environment for higher learning. Upon receipt of this letter I feel honored and renewed, knowing my work at the University of Georgia has only just begun.