Campus Culture. Misogyny
The vignettes of campus life below seem to be only on the fringe of my experiences. There was so much more! This chapter hops from one skirmish to another, like battles in a war. Terrorists hurled bombs in my way. I never knew when they were coming!
Until I entered college, I was unaware that females were hated. Neither did I understand what it would be like working in an educational environment where most people claimed they were celibate or chaste (vow of chastity)!
Only recently have we as a nation, become aware of how political parties attempt to suppress the votes of minorities, the poor, immigrants, and seniors. We saw it in North Dakota, Florida, Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Missouri has also attempted to suppress votes.
And while the topics of voter suppression and misogyny don’t seem to go together, they do. Throughout ALL of my career, there was a politic of suppression that aimed to stop women from achieving, working, learning, and creating a healthy life. They might hire you, but you were supposed to absolve yourself of ambition and creativity!
Can this be Real?
Many private academic institutions in the twentieth century had rigid rulebooks for their students. Sexes were separated and students lived under the penetrating eye of deans who held the rules close to their hearts. There were always challenges in fitting into the campus culture of a new school. Sometimes the rules harmed you and at other times they had “your back.” When I think about all the hurdles I encountered, I wonder why I continued with my education? I suppose it was my love of learning. Every class, even if poorly taught or organized, was an adventure into something about which I knew nothing. I could not leave this landscape, in spite of everything.
While in high school I was dating a boy who was invited to take an aptitude test in the Psychology Department at a state university. If he did well, he would win a scholarship. I rode along with him to the university and decided to take the test with him. He did not do well on the test, but I topped it out. They offered me the scholarship and amenities. Later in my career, I would interview at that same institution for a teaching position. That story will come soon.
Some of my friends were traveling south to explore a small college in Indiana. They invited me. I had never considered going to a small private college. When we arrived, they treated us like kings and queens. (They used a false marketing scheme and suspended all of their social rules for the day. What?) It was a beautiful campus and parks nearby were gorgeous. It was much more welcoming than the block and steel state university. So, I applied and was accepted. The only problem was that I did not have any money to pay for college. I also applied to a couple of private colleges out East after this experience and was accepted, but back then there was virtually no financial support from private colleges.
A New Car is Behind Door #3!
My father and mother wanted me to go to State. It was a matter of money. They could not help me with any expenses in college. My father had told me when I was ten years old that he was going to stop paying for my clothing and the things I needed at school. And he kept his promise.
Now, when I was about to leave home, he told me that he would buy an automobile for me if I would go to State. He wouldn’t buy a car for me when I was in high school. That was my responsibility. Even though this was a generous offer, it angered me. Like a rebellious 17-year-old headstrong girl, I decided not to go to State. I think my father was afraid of any college that was religious in nature, and to an extent, I should have been afraid too. He had experienced rabid fundamentalism in Tennessee before World War II and stayed away from religious people.
My Dad’s Point of View was the Correct View
The college I attended was religious and very strict. I had no idea that there were rules about dating, how long your skirts could be, and when you had to be in your dorm at night. (They suspended the rules on recruitment days as mentioned above.) You could not even hold hands with a boy and there was something called the six-inch rule. You could not even sit together. None of those things were discussed with us when I visited the college with my friends. It was a shock when I arrived on campus.
Skinny Knees were Showing
During my tumultuous first semester, the dean of students reprimanded me because my skirt was too short. I wonder who reported me? (Can you imagine taking a ruler and measuring someone’s skirt? It had to be below your knees.)
The dean told me that they were giving me three days off to fix my clothing. I told her that I did not have other clothing and all the hems on my skirts had been lengthened. (No britches allowed!) They decided to give me only one day of suspension.
Little did I know that if a student was suspended that all grades would be lowered 10% for each day of suspension. My excellent grades went down the drain. If they had kept their promise of three days, I would have failed the semester. They also suspended two women who lived next to me in my dorm because they were lesbians. They left in the middle of the semester. One day they were there and the next they were being dragged down the hall crying! No wonder the college went out of business!
I thought it was time for me to leave also, but I had made so many friends that I stayed. It is safe to say that probably my dad was correct; I should have enrolled at State. My life would have been a lot easier. But, on the other hand, the classes in which I was enrolled at this college were very small. You could not escape the eye of your professor and I soon learned how to discipline myself to achieve even better grades. On the other hand, if I had gone to State, I would be a psychologist today!!
At this time there were virtually no loan programs for students except a government-sponsored teacher program. So, I had to pay for everything myself and this was a private college that cost three times as much as a public institution. Rarely could anyone borrow money to go to college back in the 1960’s. You either had to win a grant or scholarship, come from a well-to-do family, or work your way through school. This meant that I had to work (sometimes) three part-time jobs. But this was not enough money to pay for my education. And it was hardly enough money to pay for rent and buy food. I often had to go to a food pantry to survive.
Every semester the college would send me notices that they were going to drop me (kick me out of the college) if I did not pay my tuition. I was always on the edge. When summer came I worked two full-time jobs and saved as much of the money as I could for college. My parents had no cash to help me; they were dealing with issues surrounding a younger brother. One semester an anonymous donor paid for all of my tuition. Another semester the church back home sent some money. Both of these helped to soften the load. I was grateful!
My grades were very good in college but they would have been better if I had worked only one job at a time. I was so strapped for funds that I began working full time during my last year of college. I finished the degree through correspondence courses.
The Greatest Hoax
Immediately I started applying for admission to graduate schools after winning an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies. Little did I know that my college was unaccredited? (I guess that is how Trump students felt!) I did not even know what that meant. Of course, no one around me ever told me that it was not accredited with the North Central Accrediting Association. Because of that fact, the graduate schools that would accept my credits were few. It was disheartening. But I am sure that many students have faced the same issues. Neither my family, nor anyone in my neighborhood, nor anyone I knew personally in Michigan had gone to college. (I did date a boy who went to State when I was fifteen but we didn’t talk about accreditation.) I did not even know how to ask the questions about college. There was a nurse, a part-time teacher, and a social worker living on our street but no one offered advice.
I found a couple of colleges that would accept my credits if I passed their qualifying tests. Fortunately I passed the tests but was put on probation for a year at a prestigious graduate school. It was a thrill to be able to go on to graduate work and not one person measured my skirts! I earned all “A’s” my first semester. This was a good time in my life. The professors supported my work and honored me with the graduate award for my thesis, Luke. The Feminist. The M.A. in New Testament and Greek was only my first step toward becoming a professor.
A Graduate School of Celibates for Celibates
If I had known how difficult the path would be to obtain a Ph.D., I am sure that I would have run the other way. Stepping into a program with professors who literally hated or were afraid of females was probably not a smart thing to do. But I did not know the path and the people and the difficult days that were ahead of me. I never dreamed that the cards would be stacked against me. I was so naive!
During the years prior to entering a Ph.D. program, I taught at a small private college in the south and then became a Personnel Director (Human Resources) for a large retail company. The small college was Wesleyan but upon arrival I discovered that it was also charismatic. This meant that at faculty meetings people would scream, dance, and speak in tongues. I had never experienced this very athletic and vocal type of religious activity. They actually fell down on the floor. I became so sick during the first faculty meeting that I had to leave. In spite of all the issues I encountered at this school, like short skirts again, students voted to give me the Professor of the Year award. This college was not for me, so I left. I did miss the free breakfasts!
Human Resources, here I Come! Underpaid!
In a single day, after resigning from the teaching job, I received several offers of employment. I took the job as assistant director of personnel responsible for three retail stores. Within months my boss was fired.
He had given me a day off when time sheets were due. All of these sheets went into the home office in another state. Detail work was not his forte’ and he failed to include the salary sheets of all the managers. This meant that the local office professionals had to cut their checks, so they learned how much their superiors were being paid. The owners of the company were furious!
Without hesitation the managers offered the job of director to me. Of course, it was one third less pay than my boss was making, without an assistant. (They made me work two jobs.) They decided to take advantage of me. When I took the job they were surprised, “We thought you would argue for higher salary.” I did not argue about anything because I was planning to leave as soon as I was accepted into a Ph.D. program.
Treading Water until My Ship Arrived!
Very few graduate schools would accept females into a Religious Studies program in the 1970’s. The Civil Rights Actvhad been passed in 1964 and Title IX in 1972 but it had little real effect on admissions. I began applying for entrance into graduate schools around 1974. The world was just beginning to get used to women being educated at traditionally all-male colleges and universities. I remember reading The Women’s Room(1977) that captured how females were treated at Harvard. There were no restrooms for women and a single restroom had to be created. I faced all of the same problems that the major character in this book faced when I began attending graduate school.
A Midwestern university in the United States accepted me into a Ph.D. program to study Biblical Languages and Literature. Acceptance required a personal interview. I told them that I had a job and I could not afford to fly out to the university. So they interviewed me on the phone and they agreed to admit me. At that time there were no graduate assistantships so I had to pay my own way. I explained to the interviewers that I would have to wait a year so that I could save up money for tuition. And in 1976 I began my graduate studies.
Translation Work and a Sexist Boss!
Since I did not have a job when I arrived to begin my Ph.D. work, I applied for every job I could find. A nearby library at another college offered the job of proofing German and other language texts to me. The advertisement required the ability to read five languages. Fortunately I had studied German, French, Spanish, Greek, and Egyptian Hieroglyphics. I spent the next year pouring over texts for them.
When I started applying for jobs as a professor, I went back to my supervisor at the library and asked for a letter of recommendation. He said that he could not give me a letter because he believed it was a “sin” for women to teach religious studies. He believed that only males should be allowed to teach. My credentials were the best for the job at the library and he hired me. Yet I was a female and could not possibly take a career position that should belong to a male in the field of Religious Studies? Physiology disqualified me from the jobs!!
The Big Decision
In the second year of my Ph.D. work, I was offered an academic advising assistantship. The job was in the dean’s office of the undergraduate school. Soon they promoted me to Director. I spent a year in that office and loved it. In about two years funds became available for a graduate teaching assistantship in the Religious Studies Department. To my surprise, the priests and brothers voted to offer it to me. It paid less than my job with the undergraduate college, but it meant that I would have the opportunity to teach. So I accepted the offer.
My graduate advisor, the Father, came to see me after I had moved into the office where Religious Studies was housed and said to me, “I did not want to vote for you. But my conscience made me do it. You are the best student in the program.” I started to thank him but he interrupted me. “Do you understand that you will be taking away money from a man and his children? Do you want babies to starve? You should not be in graduate school. You are taking the place of a more-deserving male.” Clutching his Greek Bible to his heart, he pivoted, and briskly walked down the hall and away from me. It was that very day that I bought a poster of Princess Leia from Star Wars and placed it on my office door.
I have to teach ……… What?”
Something historic had happened in the same Religious Studies department, the new chair was not a priest. He was a layperson with a Ph.D. Things were going to change. One of the first things the new chair did was assign a class on “Marriage and Family” to me. I protested, “I have never studied this topic.” And he assured me that I was capable and would do fine.
I studied tons about the history of marriage while teaching this class. Some of the priests heard that I was assigned to teach the class and they protested also. They argued that a priest must teach this class so that students would be given specific Catholic teaching on the topic. The chair agreed and told me that some time during the semester a priest would take over teaching my class for a couple of weeks.
Two class days before finals, the chair came to me and said that he had forgotten about the arrangement for a priest to teach my class and that I would have to allow a priest to teach the last two days. I could not allow him to do that. This was the end of the semester and the students needed a review and summary of what would be on the final.
He called me into his office and said that if I didn’t allow the priest to come into my class that he would lodge a complaint against me with the graduate dean. I stood strong. This was a show down! He picked up the phone and started to dial but then put it back down. He said he was not going to lodge a complaint against me and that I had every right to want the best for my students. I never taught that class again nor was it offered to me.
Abusive Males and Gauntlets
While researching ancient texts for my dissertation, I was in a special collection area in the library and translating very old Greek manuscripts when one of my fellow students came over to my table. He asked me what I was doing. I was having a great time looking at the scripts and markings left by monks hundreds of years ago on the manuscripts. Later, while scouring the stacks for reference works, this same student was on the other side of a huge bookshelf. He looked through the bookshelf at me and yelled, “Bitch!” What? He never spoke to me again. This was one of those bombs!
And this is the response that I got from many males during my entire career. If they concluded that I was a better candidate at what was important to them, they did not want to be friends with me. They did not want to compete and possibly lose! They verbally assaulted me.
Toward the end of my career, an old friend with whom I had worked on special projects earlier at another college contacted me. We had the same mentor who recently passed and he had read a remembrance that I published. He wanted to talk and so invited me to dinner at the next national meeting. We emailed back and forth and I sent him the website address for my Center for Religious Studies. After seeing my web pages, he wrote back and said, “You work too hard!” And that was the end of that! No dinner and no conversation ever again!
The Gauntlets I Ran
This is an account of Agrippa Wells and his capture near Lake George, New York by Native Americans 1738-1809.6
“On approaching the fort, through large numbers of naked, painted savages who were formed into two long ranks, I was obliged to run the gauntlet. I was told that if I ran quick it would be so much the better, as they would quit when I got to the end of the ranks. I started in the race with all the vigor and resolution I was capable of exerting. When I had got near the end of the lines I was struck to the ground with a stick or the handle of a tomahawk.
On recovering my senses I endeavored to renew the race, but as I rose someone threw sand in my eyes, which blinded me so that I could not see where to run. They continued beating me until I was insensible; but before I lostconsciousness I remember wishing they would strike the final blow, for I thought they intended killing me, and that they were too long about it. I was sent to the hospital, and carefully tended by a French doctor, and recovered quicker than I expected.
I asked a Delaware Indian who could speak some English, if I had done anything to offend them which caused them to beat me so unmercifully? ‘No,’ he replied, ‘it was only an old custom the Indians had, and was like “how do you do?” After this,’ said he, ‘you will be well used.”
Other Native American tribes also used this ritual of “Running the Gauntlet” for prisoners or to punish someone, but they used knives during the run. Throughout my graduate days and career, I ran many gauntlets.
Prolonging the Gauntlet and Setting a Trap for Me
Let’s begin with my language classes. I majored in Koine Greek (Common Greek spoken by the masses.) and Classical Hebrew. I had no experience in reading or writing Hebrew when I entered a Ph.D. program, but I was very interested in it. Placed in a class of three male Jesuit novices, the Father would assign pages in our grammar and then review them during class. I had a very difficult time vocalizing the Hebrew letters after I had memorized them. My classmates seemed to excel in reading and vocalizing the Hebrew. I was lagging behind. Languages had always been my forte’ so I did not know what was happening.
A friend told me that my professor, the Father, was tutoring the males outside of class. So when they came to class they were performing in an excellent manner. I realized that I had been set up to fail. And while I had paid an enormous amount of money for this graduate class, I dropped it. I searched for an acceptable introductory class in Hebrew at other institutions and found a kind Orthodox Jew at a community college who agreed to tutor me in Hebrew. I had no trouble learning how to read, to write, and to vocalize Classical and Modern Hebrew.
There is one caveat. My Jewish teacher taught me how to vocalize Hebrew with an Ashkenazic accent but my teachers in the Ph.D. program vocalized with a Sephardic accent. Ashkenazic was steeped in German tradition and Sephardic had Spanish roots. So this created a little tension when I read Hebrew in class. They were always correcting me!
The Orthodox Jew was a wonderful person. He even invited me to a Jewish service on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath). And while I sat side by side with him in class, I was told that if I visited the local Jewish synagogue, I would have to sit in the back with the women. The men ran the service at the front of the temple. I declined the invitation! But at other synagogues during my career, I was asked to read the Scriptures in Hebrew for Jewish congregations. What an honor that was!
I was also taught classes in Judaism by an adjunct (part time) Reform Rabbi for two semesters. The Rabbi was so creative. He used multiple forms of teaching strategies in the classroom, which included games, music, fun facts, singing, funny quizzes, and more. As I look back at my graduate days, I think he was the one person who taught me how to strive to be an excellent teacher in the classroom!
Bombs Away! Passing a German and Greek Exam
A couple of years before entering the Ph.D. program, I had enrolled in German classes at a college in North Carolina and passed them. But my advisor discounted those classes. I was told that I would have to pass an oral exam to fulfill the German requirement. My advisor gave me a twenty-page technical German article to translate. I spent an entire week hovered over the article. The exam was to be oral and had to be taken in his office, “with the door open” (as he told me).
It was my first oral exam and very odd indeed. The Father would point to a sentence and ask me to translate it. He did this many times. In the middle of the test, he asked me if I had memorized the article? What? The last sentence he asked me to translate had one word in it that I could not find anywhere. Remember, we did not have computers at this time. So I did my best with the sentence except for this one word. He said, “You fail!” I asked why? And he said that I did not know the one word. So I asked him, “What does the word mean?” He answered,“I don’t know. You pass.”
This happened to me many times. I suppose it taught me to stand up for myself. During one final oral exam in Greek, the Father was doing the same thing. We had read at least 100 pages of Greek in the class and I had to sight read from anywhere he pointed. (I had to translate the Greek without any notes.) The same thing happened again. I missed two or three phrases or sentences or I translated in a way of which he did not approve. He failed me! I argued that I was the best student in the class. I handed in all of my work with excellent grades and never missed a class. “How could you fail me?” He simply said, “Okay, you pass with an A.”
Tests that are not Tests but SOMETHING ELSE!
Studying the Dead Sea Scrolls was one of the highlights of my graduate education. I enrolled in a class on the Gospel of John and created a research paper comparing the “Teacher of Righteousness” in the Scrolls with stories of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. What a great adventure this was because I was translating both Hebrew and Greek!
Every day in the “John” class our professor would give us a Greek language test over the current assigned reading. My first quizzes were all “D’s.” I could not understand it because I had been studying Greek for several years. (As above, I had a M.A. in Greek.) And The Gospel of John is a very easy text to translate. So I asked the fellow next to me if I could look at his quizzes. He had substantial errors but achieved all “A’s” on the quizzes. How could that be?
I took several quizzes to the Professor and pointed out that the deductions on my quizzes were wrong. I also took my classmate’s quizzes and showed him that he had many errors but was given a top grade. The professor never gave a quiz over the Greek again and he never explained the reasons for discontinuing them.
My first guess was that my professor did not know Greek as well as I did. (Later, I discovered that he had majored in Hebrew. And, his Greek was minimal.) My second guess was that an assistant was grading the quizzes and marked them incorrectly. Could the downgrading of my quizzes been intentional? I never discovered the truth.
Artemis is Here!
During a history class, one of the Fathers decided that he was going to describe the ancient Goddess of Artemis. Artemis stood at the gateway to Ephesus in the first century C.E. She had “a thousand” breasts and represented fertility on the grandest sense.
The Father began describing this many-breasted goddess as she stood in ancient times. Then he continued by explaining that she had long brown hair, hazel eyes, etc., with a description of the clothing I was wearing and my body. Everyone in the class began to look at me and laugh because he was describing me, but I did not “get” it. It was really an embarrassing moment. I suppose that it would be called “harassment” today. I wonder where the Father’s mind was? Yes, I am sure it was there.
Archaeology More or Less and an Apology?
I loved studying archaeology, enrolled in several classes on the undergraduate and graduate level. Perhaps I would work as an archaeologist some day? While working on my Master’s Degree, I studied ancient languages like Akkadian, Ancient Sumerian, Egyptian Hieroglyphics and read extensively in Middle Eastern Archaeology.
So I enrolled in an archaeology class during my Ph.D. program. The same thing happened to me, as in other classes, with the grades. I knew how to begin to evaluate an archaeological site (I had had plenty of experience in other classes.) and presented papers on different sites in Israel. All were marked with low grades. I talked with the professor and he would not change a grade nor help me in any way. (I was the only woman in the class as I was in many other classes.) I was given a “B” in the class.
A decade after graduating I met my archaeology professor at an academic conference and we began to talk about archaeology. He told me that he still “felt” bad about the grade he gave me. (How could this be?) He knew it was not reflective of my work, but most of the professors did not want women in their classes, and giving us poor grades was a way of deterring us. This professor was not a priest. I should mention that there was only one other woman in the Ph.D. program at the time.
What Happened to My Research Paper?
In those days, the 20th century, we would hand in our papers at the end of the semester and retrieve them when we returned from semester break. I was given a “B” in a class where I had received “A’s” on everything except the research paper. I went to talk with my professor about the paper. Could I have it? “No.” “What do you mean, No?” “It has been thrown away?” “Why?” In all my years of college, I had never made copies of a paper before I submitted it to a professor.
I inquired about my grade. “Oh, it was a failing paper.” “Do you know why?” “No, I don’t remember. ” I was caught without evidence of my work. After that experience I always kept a copy of the papers I submitted for grades. To make this story even worse, this professor (a priest) published my research (the very paper that he said had a failing grade) as his own. I was horrified to see my paper published in a journal with his name attached. But what could I do? (I decided to contact my professor after all these years and confront him while I was writing this book. Unfortunately or fortunately, he had passed away.)
The Sisters and Me
As a young graduate student, I did not have enough money to pay for an airline ticket plus a hotel room to attend a national conference. The first meeting of the American Academy of Religion I attended was in New York City and I shared a room with a Roman Catholic Sister. Eventually I took over teaching her classes. One of the classes was, “Woman in Theological Perspective,” which I changed to “Gender and Religions.” I really appreciated this Sister. She was on the cutting edge of redefining gender over 40 years ago.
I shared a room with her again when we attended another national convention in Texas. We had different schedules and I was giving papers and meeting with publishers, so I did not see her during the first day of the conference. When I arrived back at our hotel room late at night there was another woman in bed with the Sister. What was I to do?
This Sister was senior professor in my graduate program and I did not know what was going on and she was not about to tell me. That woman, whom I did not know (and the Sister did not introduce me), stayed in the room during the entire conference without introducing herself or paying anything. That was the last time I shared a room with the Sister.
The Dissertation Mentor. A Bright Star in My Life
Ages have passed through your mind. Your questions penetrate and my inquiries seem so mundane. Forty years of research. Forty years of publishing. Forty years of inestimable meetings with minds who are changing the world. Your reprimands could be brutal, my experience so lacks. Your inquires could be edged with venom, my soul is so vulnerable. Yet, gently you encourage me. Quietly urging me to complete my dissertation. Then, one day, without the slightest hesitation, you staunchly stand when I arrive and claim me as, “Colleague,” “Comrade,” and “Doktor!” April 1, 1980 Marla J. Selvidge
As I traveled through my classes, I came across a very intelligent professor who was not a priest. I will call him “mentor.” He allowed me to design my own assignments in the classes I enrolled with him. How creative he was! I wrote and wrote and wrote! He became my friend for many years!
The time came for me to research and write a dissertation. For years I had produced papers on a variety of topics on women in the New Testament. I decided to study the topic of “women” in the Gospel of Mark. My Father professors made fun of me. They said, “There are no tulips in Mark.” This sexual metaphor was a way of attempting to intimidate me.
I began my research. I would write thirty pages and my advisor, the Father, would write 30 pages of criticism. This went on for months. I finally realized that the Father was never going to allow me to graduate. I appealed to the graduate dean. I told him my story and he suggested that I choose a dissertation director from outside the university. He recognized the bias that I was facing. (This Father was eventually asked to leave the university because of his verbal abuse of undergraduate female students. Parents complained!)
Mentor came to mind to serve as a dissertation director, so I asked him, and he agreed to help me. For the next year we worked on the dissertation. There were two Jesuits who were on the committee. One of the Fathers decided not to review my dissertation during the time I was writing it. In those days, we did not have computers. And I did not even own a typewriter (I could not afford to buy one.). I had to rent an IBM Selectric typewriter so that I could make corrections as I was typing. Over the course of a year, I typed the 250-page dissertation at least six times. It was a very high mountain to climb.
Finally it came down to a couple of months before graduation and the Father who had never read any of my dissertation, rejected it. He wrote that it was blasphemy and I would harm the public image of the university. He ordered me to rewrite and cut out sixty pages of it. Well, that would have meant that it would take me months to complete and, even then, there was no assurance that the father would pass me. So, I gave up!
I waived a White Flag!
I had spent four years battling the priests and other professors and I did not have any energy left to continue the battle. So I informed the chair of the department and the dean of the graduate school that I was dropping out of the program. Within days the graduate dean called me and told me that I was going to graduate and that I should not worry about anything. The Father who rejected my dissertation called me and cursed me out and told me that I would be a “laughing stock” as a professor. What a fight! I lost twenty pounds going through this ordeal.
This experience taught me that sometimes when you give up, you may win. I never expected the call from the graduate dean and I thought my career in Religious Studies was over. But it wasn’t.
Publishing and Finding a Job. The Perilous Advisor!
Well, the Father was wrong about me and in a few months my dissertation, Woman, Cult, and Miracle Recital, was published. In those early days, I had to submit my work with only my initials so that the editors would not know that I was a woman because females and their abilities were discounted. It really helped me to find publishing outlets. After they accepted my work and I had a signed contract, then I used my real name.
My advisor, the Father, when asked to write a letter of recommendation for me, told schools that I would make a good “secretary.” This was a code word to others that I was an incompetent scholar. So, the Father ruined my chances of landing good jobs at several colleges before I found out what he was writing. After that, I would not allow anyone to send a letter of recommendation without my knowledge of its contents.
It was during those times that colleges and universities were made aware that women were humans too, and that they should be interviewed for jobs. I don’t know how many interviews I went on one semester, maybe a dozen, but the people at the colleges and universities did not want to hire a female. They wanted to demonstrate that they had considered a female for a job so that they would not be charged with discrimination. I was just fulfilling a quota. Somehow I was offered jobs but it was a miracle that it happened.
Jealousy and Abuse
A dean at one of the institutions where I worked asked me how many colleges or universities wanted to interview me. I told him that I had a dozen or so interviews but none of them was the job I wanted. In an angry voice I will never forget, he said to me, “Little girl, you better take one of those jobs. I had one interview for a dean’s position and I convinced the people here at this university to hire me.” He told me that I was being selfish and how he had to humble himself and almost beg for a job. He was angry that a woman would have more opportunities than he did. But did I really have more opportunities?
The Bureaucrats Win!
Earlier I mentioned a State university. One of the first institutions where I interviewed for a job immediately after receiving my Ph.D. was at State. I thought “wow” life has come full circle. This was the same university that my parents wanted me to attend! What a wonderful time we had at the interview and they told me that I would be receiving a contract offer in a couple of days. I waited and waited. Finally I called and they told me that there would be no contract. They would not give me a reason.
At least four years later, a woman came up to me at one of the national conferences and told me that their department had been watching my career. Huh? Years ago they had voted to give me the job at State but their dean had his own candidate. If they did not hire his candidate they would lose the position. They had no choice. She told me that the man who they hired was coming up for promotion and tenure and he would not get it. The job would be open again and would I apply? Wrong! The position was never advertised. The dean gave his candidate promotion and tenure. He over-ruled the wishes of the department again. Such is the power that a bureaucrat uses for his friends!
Planning a Defence and Fighting Back
As I reflect upon some of these nightmarish experiences, I believe they taught me to stand up and argue for myself in the face of the powerful. It also taught me never to completely trust males. I protected myself when males tried to sexually assault me, but I also saved myself hundreds of times from personal, political, and hate-filled attacks in the academy. In spite of everything, I was a survivor! Yahoo! And I am not really sure “why” and “how” I survived!
The next chapter will highlight the underside of faculty in higher education!
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge