Unbalanced

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In 2005 I sat with a fellow graduate student at an ASC meeting. We had finally found people of our kind—our tribe: The Division on Critical Criminology. We made a pact to have a lasting impact on our division. I hope that both of us have accomplished that. I can only speak for myself when I say that the division has had more of an impact on me than I have had on it. I have made life long friends, felt the heartbreak of losing a few, been inspired, let down, have fought, argued, and found resolutions to seemingly insurmountable issues. I have seen the power of socially conscious activists change the system and watched my colleagues influence thousands of people. Along the way I have learned more than a few lessons (some of them the hard way). As the New Year begins we are all busy. Busy prepping classes, wrapping up a publication, and planning for our next adventure. I am busy too. Busy trying to figure out this work/life balance thing that seems to be the hot topic right now. In the spirit of critical criminology—dedication to service, teaching, research, and activism—I am compelled to share a few of the lessons learned. No one has asked for this advice—take it for what it’s worth.

  1. History Matters: Learn it. Departmental politics, division politics—whatever. There is always a history. It helps to know the scars on the field. Listen well.
  2. Search Committees are CRAZY: This is a fact. There is no rhyme or reason and anything can happen in one of those meetings. Don’t look for logic here. Accept it and move on.
  3. Mentor: You will be disappointed in some. Your heart will burst with pride in others. You will be uplifted and slayed. Get over it. Mentor anyway.
  4. Develop networks outside of your department/university: Get out of the bubble and get on committees that force interaction. It will pay off for years to come. Volunteer for leadership in the division. Hell—take the show over. GET OUT OF THE DEPARTMENT—that medievalist English professor may teach you a few things about punishment! It will pay off for years to come.
  5. Know your tribe: Attend those socials at conferences. Stay in touch with the folks you meet. Some of your best ideas will come over a beer with a colleague from West Virginia—or the UK. STAY IN TOUCH.
  6. Those new kids: Pay attention to them. Go to their presentations, borrow a syllabus, offer to read a draft. They know stuff. Lots of stuff. They have a lot to teach you.
  7. “Your work is wicked cool.” Just tell them. Approach them. Send an email. Citations are good—a heartfelt appreciation is the life-blood.
  8. Find a way to open doors for others. Kick the door down if you have to. It is what we do.
  9. Practice random acts of deviance. Go native. Live, learn and love.
  10. When all else fails, find something that pisses you off. Make that your life’s work. There is a lot of balance in that!

P.S—If anyone is interested in planning a motorcycle trip this summer let me know. (It’s all about the balance!)

Donna Selman
Eastern Michigan University
Co-Chair Division on Critical Criminology

1 Comment

  1. I can’t like this post enough! Recently read a good chunk of “Who Killed The Berkeley School? Struggles Over Radical Criminology” by Herman and Julia Schwendinger…talk about some history (and scars!) Don’t know anything about 2 or 3 as of yet, but the rest of the list sure hits home! Great advice and a good list to keep in mind as we start another year of it. Thanks, Donna!

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