This guide is the result of the collective work of Knox faculty, new and seasoned, young and old, first undertaken in 1997. The guide provides practical suggestions for life in the academy generally and Knox specifically. Having ourselves been helped by the advice of colleagues here and elsewhere but also being aware of how difficult it can sometimes be to find the right colleague to ask--or even to know the question to ask--we have compiled this collection of peer advice on matters we found to be common to many people's experience. This is not in any way an official guide to Knox regulations. It is just us talking to you, and hoping that you will find something of use in the conversation.
There are a few themes that ran through our many discussions as we worked on this manual. These may seem obvious and simple, but there are pressures that often make them hard to put into effect. Nonetheless, they are key:
Ask for help - If you don't know who to ask, ask someone that. Just finding out how one or two people have done something is a huge help in figuring out your own path. What keeps us from asking for help? Maybe not wanting to show how lost we are? That not everything is under control? Not to worry. Everyone else has been there too. Give others the pleasure of sharing whatever wisdom they might have, and then they'll also feel free to turn to you in time.
Say no - Not all the time, of course. The college can't function, much less thrive, without each of us contributing in a variety of ways to its sustenance and to the ongoing innovation that makes this an interesting and satisfying place in which to work. But you will be asked to do many more things than you can do. When asked, get in the habit of saying that you need a day to think about it--even if you're pretty sure you want to say yes. And then take that time to figure out if this is something that: a) you have the talent or skill for, b) you have a strong interest in or commitment to, and/or c) will help you connect up with other people in the college you're interested in working with.See also the section "How to say 'No.'"
What keeps us from saying no? The pressures are somewhat different for untenured and tenured. Untenured faculty may be concerned that one has to please tenured faculty, the college administration, and students at every turn. Tenured faculty sometimes think the college's welfare demands that we do everything we possibly can. Yes, the health and welfare of the college depend on each one of us contributing beyond our teaching and research to the service of the institution. But the institution will be best served by having faculty who contribute out of commitment and interest in the ways best suited to each. It's not well served by having faculty worked to a frazzle doing tasks beyond us, or whose value we're not sure of. (A less common problem at Knox, but still existent, is people who don't say "yes" enough, which makes life even harder for people who have trouble saying "no.")
Be flexible in the face of change - Just when you've got it all figured out, something changes--a new department chair or dean, changing priorities in your discipline, a research program concluded (or at a dead end), a shift in student interest away from (or towards) your field, a new baby at home, the debilitating illness of a parent, a sharp enrollment drop (or increase), the loss of a friend, etc. And while we like to claim that the type of education we provide is the best kind for living a life adaptable to the inevitable changes in society (including job environment), somehow, ensconced in our niche, we ourselves sometimes find it hard to change. Some things shouldn't, but which? We challenge ourselves to be as open to new ideas, methods, and strategies as we ask our students to be, at the same time that we work hard to preserve those aspects of our lives central to our mission as teachers, scholars, and community members.