Our 18th most-read article of 2019
(Originally published October 1, 2019)
To the Chair and Members of the Tenure Committee:
I, Professor Minerva McGonagall of House Gryffindor, respectfully submit to you my application for tenure. For the past 20 years, I have taught a 12/12 teaching load with seven preps every semester since I am, like many of my colleagues, the only member of my department. What sets me apart, however, is that I have excelled in my considerable teaching responsibilities while simultaneously serving as the Vice-President, Associate Provost, Associate Dean, Chief of Campus Safety, New Student Orientation Coordinator, Registrar, Director of Admissions, Work-Study Coordinator, Head of New Faculty Training, Director of Student Conduct, and Advisor of the Student Rebellion Army, as well as live-in R.A. and academic advisor to one-quarter of the student body.
When I first applied for this position, did I know that my expected job duties would include dueling genocidal dark lords or battling Death Eaters in the Astronomy Tower? No. Did I do them anyway, even after being denied a cost of living adjustment to my salary for ten years in a row while also dealing with insidiously small-but-steady cuts to my annual conference travel budget? Yes. Do these accomplishments count as service to the student body, to the institution, or to humanity itself? Hard to say.
Not even saving the institution from an apocalyptic calamity orchestrated by a noseless neo-Nazi, however, can compare to the daily, ongoing, and, frankly, deeply disheartening struggle to protect our students from themselves. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find preteens lurking around haunted hallways in invisibility cloaks? Or how frustrating it is, year after year, to attempt to prevent them — always unsuccessfully — from entering the cursed vaults and unleashing unspeakable ancient plagues upon the campus? When they’re not hexing each other or provoking vicious trolls in the bathrooms, they’re getting themselves cursed by evil necklaces or crashing flying cars into violent sentient trees.
Incomprehensibly, given their creative propensities for self-destruction, I still manage to spend more time with students in the classroom than I do in disciplinary proceedings. Evidence of my teaching effectiveness lies in my students’ success turning beetles into buttons, teapots into tortoises, guinea fowl into guinea pigs, and a number of other alliterative or pun-based assignments. My pedagogy is rooted in principles of active learning, and I find that the results of this methodology are well-worth the occasional student accidentally turning their friend into a badger. The fact that I even lesson plan at all is a true testament to my time management capabilities because in addition to offering independent studies in the Revelio Charm, inspecting student mail, recruiting Quidditch athletes, writing letters to parents, emceeing Dumbledore’s funeral, and decorating the Great Hall for Christmas, in my upper-level courses, I teach teenagers — and I can’t stress this enough — how to fucking vanish.
Just last night, after grading 45 feet of essays on the Inanimatus Conjurus Spell, transfiguring my corporeal form to spy for the Order of the Phoenix, and disciplining several students and a poltergeist roaming the forbidden corridors (they never wander down the regular corridors—only the forbidden ones), I managed to navigate the constantly shifting stairs back to Gryffindor Tower (where, again, I live with dozens of teenagers) only to find that the Fat Lady inside the painting guarding the entrance was too annoyed with my late return to allow me in. These working conditions are — to put it lightly — unreasonable. The institutional politics are equally absurd, yet somehow I have maintained a sense of collegiality with co-workers who initiate high inquisitions to purge the non-pure-blooded faculty (including me) and who open the first day of the semester by telling their classes that they have psychically predicted the impending death of a very well-liked student sitting in the room. I hope that the Committee will recognize my tenaciously silent suffering in this regard and in many others.
In the end, I fully admit that if there is any area in which my record fails to measure up to the high standards of the Committee, then it is likely my academic scholarship — or lack thereof. Despite spending decades successfully teaching myself how to transfigure into a cat, I have yet to publish a single scholarly article about this subject or any other.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Professor Minerva McGonagall
Read an interview with Alyse Knorr about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.