An N of One

Posted on January 16, 2008

If you're a member of a non-dominant group, the demands of representation affect scholarly productivity, explains Darrell P. Wheeler (bio).

 

One of the tensions I’m finding now is being an N of one in many spheres. I’m on several committees. I’m on several functions where I am the only black face in the room, and that gets to be a bit draining.

I’ve had higher ups acknowledge that, “We really work you too hard.” Because first of all, I like to think I’m good at what I do, but when there is a need for diversity in the room, they often default to the one or two persons on campus, and so again that impacts your scholarly productivity.

The seven meetings I have today really mean that I can’t focus time on writing an article, or writing a proposal, and that means it has to spill over into my other hours, which often means weekend and family time. And that has another impact.

So the career path, I think - and it’s probably not totally unusual from dominant group scholars, but the N makes a big difference. If there are 15 white faculty in the space, then you can find somebody, and you can differentiate based on your discipline-specific efforts. But if you’re looking to bring cultural and racial diversity to the room, and there’s only one or two, then you become the person to sit on several committees, gain several administrative hats. And you have to split that time across many tasks.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.

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