I grew up reading books to escape the chaos of a dysfunctional family. Research and reading also carried me through four years of contingency and a period when I thought I was losing my hearing due to chronic illness. Many of my colleagues have similar stories. Whether faced with institutional racism and sexism or wondering if that small check for NTT teaching will cover next month’s rent, too many members of the MLA suffer from a university system that uses our source of solace—the life of the mind—to exploit us for more labor while chipping away at our agency and well-being. It’s no wonder that, as the Times Higher Education reported in June 2018, middle-aged academics are at a higher risk for suicide than their students.
The hierarchical model of university governance too often encourages quietism where there should be more expressions of solidarity and direct action. I am running for the Delegate Assembly because I believe that the MLA can be used to collectively demand a more just university—where working for issues like transferring NTT faculty members into tenurable positions, better child care for faculty mothers and fathers, and making diversity a hiring priority are seen as part to the same effort as decolonizing the curriculum, supporting Palestinians and refugees, and teaching antiracism. It’s time to stop defending the humanities and start demanding the changes we seek. That project starts at the grassroots, and the MLA is a good place to engage in such collective efforts.