I have become faculty advisor for the secular students’ alliance, an important organization because it creates a space in which secular students can be secular. It is not so easy here because they face ostracism from family and friends and some are not in a position to come out of the closet, so they need the group. I have decided supporting them is an important teaching activity.
I was chosen mostly because it was considered I was one of the few faculty members daring enough to be out to the university as a secularist. I was also informed that I have strong opinions and am able and also willing to defend them in an articulate manner; and that I see through manipulations and lies, and call people on these fearlessly.
I thought it was all quite interesting since on this weblog I present myself as one who does not stand up for themself and who fears speaking up. (The students do not know, of course, that after I make my brilliant public speeches I have private crises — but still.) All of this was very instructive, as was another research related love note I received today.
I do note, nonetheless, that in much of academia, what one must actually do is hide one’s views. Practicing this most of the time — despite the days on which I make my impassioned speeches — is detrimental to research and writing, I find. I have been told that one should channel all one’s actual views into what one publishes, and hide these otherwise, and I think many people are trained to compartmentalize things in this fashion, but I am not.