[Msa-discuss] query re M/m editorships, and thoughts re vote on editorial length of tenure

Jessica Burstein jb2 at uw.edu
Tue Jan 30 17:43:04 EST 2018

This is in response to the vote on tenure of junior and senior editorial 
roles/ tenure of editorial time. I'm asking us all this, even as M/m 
editors will have things to say--if not time to say it.

I apologize for  1. a horribly long email and 2. not responding if there 
was a previous thread of conversation on this. I have zero at stake in 
this; I just truly care about the shape of editorial function and 
authors' experiences.

First, I'd like to clarify the vocabulary: what are the respective 
responsibilities of/distinctions (other who came in first) between  
"junior" vs. "senior" editorial roles? Too, if something is put to a 
vote at the journal, do editors have equal voting power; or is veto 
power accorded the senior editor; or is something else the case? Is some 
distinction being tacitly referred to beyond the training time? Is there 
a charter for the journal nowadays?

Second, I take it that the current allocation of time and position is 
currently : 2 years as junior/3 years as senior? and that what is being 
voted on  is the proposition of  2 years as junior/ 2 years as senior? ( 
I am capable of getting lots of things wrong, so please someone correct 
me if that is one of them--I'm confused by the language of the vote's 
rationale, and/or the underpinning reality.)

I think what follows is relevant even if what's at stake is simply the 
total editorial time of tenure. And bottom line: I don't think an editor 
gets up to speed in a year, however engaged, productive, and insomniac 
they happen to be. It will take 2 years.

Third, it is my sense that 2 years in a senior role is not enough time 
to have an impact on the shape of a journal: you come in (you're 
"junior") and spend the first year  or so working hard but also mostly 
figuring out what goes where--a minimum of 1-2 years getting clear on 
process (which means both learning about the mechanics of office 
protocol alongside the immense task and honor of becoming an editor, as 
in actually working with authors) all the while picking up the 
transferred obligations of the office/editor that/who preceded you. This 
can be the hardest part for a vigilant editor. You're also (hopefully) 
learning from your fellow M/m editors, and it takes time to learn 
languages.  Even with amazing and vigilant outgoing editors and offices, 
transferring offices is arduous; and hitches between the transfer of MSS 
that are at any number of points along the editing pipeline are 
inevitable. (And hitches can be very very bad for authors.)

OK. Those two years (or whatever the length of time is) are done, and 
now you are "senior": you know what you're doing, what's where, and--at 
long last my point--* can start really doing some of things that made 
you apply for the position to begin with.* You're reading those essays 
that come in over the transom, and going to conferences, and listening 
to papers that knock you out, and soliciting authors of 20 minute 
conference papers or what you will, fielding special issues, trying to 
make special issues happen. Etc. Now--if a 4 year editorial tenure is 
voted in-- you have 2 years to get those things in and published, and 
then the office transfers to someone else. Some authors pony up right 
away. Most don't. Some--bless us each and every--are overly optimistic 
(and worth the wait). Then there are the readers you're bugging to pony 
up reports, and who may have disappeared or have had unforeseen things 
occur, and you as an editor know this is a great MS but it really needs 
more work, and well, THAT was the wrong reader for this MS--and and and. 
Oh yes: you're also in happy communication with the other offices, and 
offering (calming) advice to a junior/incoming editor who is quite 
possibly wondering whether they were insane to have said yes to what all 
this really means, and you're showing them how it gets easier once they 
are senior. Or they're telling you how great it is and you're wondering 
how to do it that other way. Or etc.

Two years as senior is really a short time for shepherding a roster of 
authors through to publication--and of course you have to let go, but 
I'm talking about having time to have a serious crop of authors/projects 
guided through and happy, before beginning the transition to your 
successor, and not just throwing a bunch of stuff/authors at them and 
walking away, leaving the new junior/incoming to sort out everything on 
their own and deal with authors who may feel neglected.

I would think 2 years in junior role and 3 years in senior--or forget 
the jr/sr: learning what you want to & can do and then doing it in the 
course of 5 rather than 4 years-- would benefit the journal's profile 
and an editor's abilities and chance to have an impact. And it's better 
for authors, I would hope--they're the ones that this is really about. 
Jumping between different editors is very difficult for an author. So my 
sense is 5 year tenure is better than 4.

If an editor wants out early, that of course could happen. It's a tough 
job and not everyone should be expected to take to it--and there can 
(suddenly) be times when being an editor is not the thing one should be 

I natter on about this in 3 capacities: 1. someone who was managing 
editor of M/m back when the damn thing was born; I have seen and heard 
(sic) a lot of things go wonky as well as well 2. someone who is pleased 
and honored to be on the advisory board now--and who periodically 
bothers our M/m editors with suggestions and requests and 3. someone who 
has spent aprobably too much time in other editorial offices. I love 
editing and editors and authors, not necessarily in that order. So I 
defer to other voices--I'm genuinely curious what MSA folk think--and 
applaud the past and current M/m editors --thank you, Debra Rae, 
Christopher, Kritish--who have done good works, and labored to make 
process more transparent, efficient, and enjoyable for all concerned. 
(You folks may be the ones who are all for this new time of tenure.) And 
thank you, managing editors: Caitlyn, John, and Matthew. You probably 
are the ones who should be casting the final votes on all this. But 
then, I'm biased.

Thanks again for your patience.

Best, Jessica Burstein

Jessica Burstein
Associate Professor
Department of English
Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
University of Washington
A101 Padelford Hall
Seattle, WA 98195-4330
        Director, London Study Abroad Program. Amy Feldman-Bawarshi, Academic Counselor for the London Program, is in the Advising Office: Padelford A-2E, within A-2B.
Burstein Winter 2018 Office hours: Padelford A502, Tues/Thurs 11-12 and by appt.

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