(hat tip to the many excellent [without money!] posts at Historiann and Roxie's World)
Today, only a few short hours before I found out that I screwed up a vital piece of travel arrangements for my first! real! vacation! in years, and that it would not be happening after all, word came down from on high: due to continuing budget cuts, next year my campus will have no money for faculty research/conference travel.** None. Zero. Zilch.
I should explain something here: My university has traditionally been a teaching-focused school. But for the last decade and a half or more, we've been pushing towards the "teacher/scholar" model, and supporting that with money for a couple conferences a year (presenters only) and occasionally "topping off" research grants that fall short of our full salary. The idea -- a sound one, IMO -- is that scholarly engagement and good teaching go hand in hand. My own experience of the model is this: being engaged in my own scholarship, and in the broader scholarly community, does more than keep me up to date. It reminds me of why I got excited about my area of study in the first place, and I take that excitement back to the classroom with me: "Look at how truly cool this is, you guys!"
Also, I'm really proud of my own work. I like getting in and digging and writing and all that, even when it's hard, because dammit, I made something, something new that wasn't there before.
Over the years, I've gotten used to footing the bill for my own research travel, and scrabbling together whatever outside money I could. I even got used to paying for any conferences above the one (or sometimes one plus a bit) that were funded. It was doable, though I could always wish for more.
But now? I'm frustrated. The language of the announcement -- that we would be "allowed" to take "self-financed travel" -- was even more galling, as it sends the message that the university is being super-nice by letting us do the job we were hired to do, so long as we pay for it out of our own pockets. It is the very definition of adding insult to injury, and it's another blow to morale.
At this point, I would be fully justified, I think, in going up for promotion with a craptastic post-tenure publication record, and saying, "Look, this isn't my fault. You want a teacher/scholar, you need to support that model." But the fact is that I want to do the research. Being a contributing member of that larger community is important to me personally.
So, I know that some of you readers must be in a similar situation. Maybe my "new normal" is something you've been living with for a while. What do you do? How do you make it work? How do you take care of your own needs as a researcher when the deck is stacked against you?
Please help -- any words of advice, or stories from people who have managed this, are so very welcome. Because the fact is that I have grown to hate the sound of my own complaining. I've been actively embracing the many good things about my job and working on not letting the bad get under my skin. But today... it just got too hard to do that. And I need help before a doom-spiral begins and demolishes all that good work I've been doing on being a more positive person.
**Among other things: Here I should note that others in my department have it worse: advising -- a difficult and time-consuming job in a large department like ours -- is no longer going to be supported with any course releases. And that's truly heinous.