Start Up Funds (the Faculty Club Secret)

When I accepted the tenure-track position that begins in a month, the Dean said I would have a certain amount of money available to me for “start up” funds.  I told her “thank you!” but quietly asked friends what I was to do with “start up funds.”  The reply:  “you receive funds to purchase things you need in order to do your job….you know, to ‘start up’ your research.”

“What,” I asked, “like staplers, pencils, a trash can?”

I realized (yet again) that I couldn’t know what I didn’t know.  No one prepared me for “start up” funds.  I had no idea what they were or what to do with them.  To be fair, maybe most folks don’t need preparation; they know about and expect to receive start up funds; their graduate programs prepared them well.  I didn’t, and I wasn’t.
But before you continue to read this post about startup funds for a tenure-track position, watch this video.  The context is important.  Go ahead. Watch.  I’ll wait (more text after the jump/video).


As a long-time university staff member, one who liked to engaged in lots of creative activities, I was accustomed to purchasing whatever I needed by myself.  If I wanted a FlipVideo or a camera for a class project, I purchased it when I had the extra money (or I wrote a grant to get the funding from elsewhere).  No one ever gave me a “certain amount of money” to buy things that would enhance my teaching and/or research.
Until now.

My situation is analogous, I think, to Mr. White (from the video) going to the bank and receiving a $50,000 “loan” even though he did not have a job, collateral, or even an ID.  He got the money because he is a “white man” working with a White banker.  In the Eddie Murphy video, it’s the “White Club” — rules and benefits that only the White people know about … the rules and benefits are obscured to anyone who is not white.
Start up funds?  Maybe it’s only something that faculty know about, a secret part of the faculty club.  I couldn’t know what I didn’t know.  Social networking came to my aide, however, and provided, along with lessons on the secret handshakes and other club idiosyncrasies, examples of tangible items I could use or might need to start my career.  George Williams, on Twitter and on his blog, provided many, many examples of how the money could be spent, and as I began to think about his suggestions, I realized what I could do with this type of additional funding.  George asked me to “blog my gear.”  So here it is, a sample:

  • Software (Adobe CS4 and Voice Recognition)
  • A netbook, additional memory, and a sleeve
  • Laser printer (and accessories)
  • Scanner
  • Ergonomic chair
  • A backpack that will easily contain a laptop, camera & audio/video equipment
  • Digital voice recorder (with additional microphone)
  • Many smaller items (USB cables, USB ports and adapters, flash drives, power strips, cables, etc.)

These items will supplement nicely the equipment I’ve already purchased for myself over the past few years (and in some cases these are upgrades to equipment I already have).  This gear supports my ethnographic research, New Media, and work with basic writing (OK, I’d have to explain that one, but trust me there is a connection).  And I’m grateful … so very very grateful…that I don’t have to purchase all this equipment myself.

I suppose this now means the school/department expects me to do something productive.  Like research.  Or enhanced teaching.  Or something.

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