MY TENURE STORY: A PRETTY ACCURATE VERSION
When I was teaching in Texas, I didn't get tenure the first time I "CAME UP" for it....
As a result, I thought about my incredible students, my incredible salary, my incredible little home in Austin, my incredible health plan, my incredible grant to go to India and future grants, my incredible proximity to my teachers- the Mehtas, who I visited in Houston every weekend and I knew I needed to be proactive with my angry-disappointment. Was it sexism, ageism? Feminist colleagues and the most incredible and smart and intelligent professor of law on the teaching staff at UT Austin,t thought I had a "case" so I got lots of help, a tall, NY City telephone book pile of letters of support from around the world and my students protested ...all of this to rescind and change the minds of UT bosses so that I could get tenure. It was a media circus.
The frosting on the cake was a letter of "support" from then Governor George Bush, the painter, who was friends with an artist co-friend who asked "George" to write a letter to University of Texas Austin in my favor so that I could get tenure. George W did and it didn't seem to make a difference except that my case went up for approval the second time. It was not an instant GET OUT OF JAIL ticket but a second chance.
A month before a yes or no from up the hill which was looking like a YES, I was coming to the end of the semester and at one of the final classes, my students' assignment was to re-act/explain/re-perform a past performance from the History of Performance and a wonderful and bright and beautiful young man in my class turned out the lights and projected a slide or maybe it was a video of Vito Acconci performing SEEDBED, an event where Acconci masturbated under a made-for-him gallery sub-floor while the footsteps of the gallery goers overhead gave the signal for Acconci's pleasure-action. (Note that Marina Abromovic re-performed that one for her 7 PERFORMANCES OF OTHER PERFORMANCE ARTISTS PERFORMANCES show. (My title, not hers.) Here is where the plot thickens.
BACKSTORY:The woman from theatre who came to me after her first class in my class, in the spring , in bawling/tears, saying, in loose quote, "You have just undone my entire theatre training with your teachings in this class," might be, if I remember correctly, the one who told her parents that there was masturbation happening in my performance class, never interviewing me or my performance student who "approximated" masturbation and who was "approximating" in total darkness with his back or was it his side to us and his hand on his "lap." That was the straw that broke George Bush's letter-of-support-back and completely dislodged his good intentions and position of weight. That mother-to-the-president of UT Austin complaint undid a year of my trying to get tenure and completely irrelevanted all of my friends' hard work! So I went home to upstate NY and for two years, wrote, cried, screamed and slid into a haze and blur, wondering why I lost my fabulous job.
More back story: For a year before that event, I was feeling/hearing/knowing this message, "GO BE WITH YOUR FATHER!" And I didn't listen. It was very loud and still I didn't listen. The University of Texas listened to my voice for me and kicked me out so that I could go and be with my father and experience one of the most important/transformative events of my life; getting to know him and take care of him for the last 7 years of his life. I now thank Texas for not wanting me!!!!!! Karma listens and acts when hearts don't.