Yesterday I received a very special delivery. His name is Alan, and he’s my Tenure Giraffe.
A few questions have probably sprung to mind. What is a Tenure Giraffe? Why am I receiving a Tenure Giraffe now? Why is this Tenure Giraffe named Alan? And where do Tenure Giraffes come from? All great questions.
According to the text that comes with the Tenure Giraffe:
The Tenure Giraffe is sent to people from equity seeking communities who have earned tenure. It is sent to honour those who have previously been denied tenure because of their identity and despite their accomplishments. Specifically, the giraffe is to honour Dr. Anne Innis Dagg, a giraffe biologist who was denied tenure in the 1970s.
Of course, I was awarded tenure in 2017 so you might be wondering why Alan only arrived today. I don’t know the full story of his adventures, but I imagine that he was likely trying to find me as I travelled around the world.
As for the name? Well, in this case my Tenure Giraffe’s name honours Dr. Alan Turing, a gay mathematician and computer scientist who helped shorten the length of WWII with the work he did deciphering Nazi messages at the Government Code and Cypher School. Despite the work he did and the lives he likely saved by cracking Nazi messages, Dr. Turing was persecuted, convicted, and chemically castrated for being a homosexual.
If you are wondering where Tenure Giraffe’s come from, you might want to check out the hashtag #TenureGiraffe on Twitter. While I know the person behind this amazing trend to celebrate the success of faculty – particularly those in equity seeking communities – I don’t want to reveal their name. It’s not exactly a secret, but it’s also not not a secret.
What I can say is that the individual behind this movement is truly incredible. In a day and age where tenure is elusive and marginalized communities are still struggling to have their voices heard and their work accepted, this person is choosing to recognize the success of strangers, and choosing to celebrate the power of diversity in one of the most smile-making ways I can possibly imagine.
Academia needs more people like this.
To my secret but not so secret hero – thank you for being an academic warrior, a relentless champion, and an all around amazing human.