Friday, July 9, 2010

Dusting off the Crown

A few days ago, an esteemed College Misery blogger lamented that the site has been miserable so far. I read that post and immediately knew what the appropriate response should be: I, Dr. Nicolas Nothaughty, should make my inimitable presence known on this site so as to steer things in the right direction--because, unlike someone we all know, I can achieve victory all on my own.

Don't remember me from Rate Your Students, you say.

I don't believe you, I say.

Eventually, though, the old moderators of that site will sober up enough to establish the archive that will allow you to peruse my brilliant posts from the fall of '08. In the meantime, I call everyone's attention to this recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, which, I do not believe, has been discussed up here. And even it has been discussed, I, of course, will do it better than everyone else.

As some of the commenters have already noted, the article is a mess, rife with contradictions and illogical silliness. Nevertheless, the bit about people not wanting to be on the tenure/publication fast track seemed to be at least close to the mark. Whuddya y'all think?

Many of my colleagues have expressed increasing frustration with the research demands of TT jobs because 1) the labor involved in that work really doesn't pay any kind of meaningful dividends, even if tenure comes along eventually; and 2) the kind of research that is getting published, largely in the humanities, is increasingly meaningless. See what they mean? (And this "research" is happening at a time when funding is being cut to "irrelevant" humanities departments all over. Could this "research" be the last desperate gasps of intellectuals to demonstrate their worth to a world that cares more about Lady Gaga than them? Hmmm . . .)

So again, what's the pulse of the people up here? Is this article at all meaningful, or is it not worth of our time--not even worthy of Dr. Nothaughty's inaugural post?


  1. I thought you got dusted off years ago.

  2. Are these the magical posts of which you speak?

    Thank goodness you've arrived to save us!

  3. I wanted to mock you but nothing was funnier than seeing "0 Comments" for 12 hours after you posted a discussion topic.

    Glad you could join us, Mr. Nothaughty.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Beaker Ben's mean. Meaner even than The Meanest Professor Ever!

    To point: The article was hot weeks ago. *yawn*

    But, seriously, my honest reply is sort of this:

    There already is a non-research track, and it's filled with Freeway Fliers earning about 50% a year of what the research/tenure-trackers make.

    Why change things now?

    The standing system has already exploited a few generations of potential scholar-teachers, so do we really believe valuing teaching over research will change that?

    I mean, Universities thrive on the very lucrative unearned dough raked in via grants from profs doing research ...that also just happens to pay their own salary-cum-course buyouts.

    Why pay people a living wage to teach? Just hire an adjunct!

    Or enroll more grad students as underpaid TAs. No, wait! They get paid more than adjuncts! Strike that!

    I know... just hire external firms to supply "educational" content via online media and then hire "professional" graders in the third world to grade the assignments. Yeah, that's the ticket!

    It can only get worse.

  6. I was appalled to find out what adjuncts make! And (at least at my uni) profs don't get paid for taking on independent studies with students. The adjunct who is helping me with my (already completed and graded) senior honors project...well, she's not getting paid for coming in evenings and weekends to try and beat some Roman history into my mind. She's there...because she wants to be? I...I just don't get it... I truly <3 my professors.

  7. @ALG: Maybe she's there because *you* want to be. For many adjuncts, having a student who's actually engaged is -- well, let's not go overboard and say "more valuable than money," but -- very rare and fulfilling.

  8. I guess that's why we didn't receive any applications for our last advertised tenure track job in my highly ranked department in a research I university. Nobody wanted to face all those research "demands" and produce all that "meaningless" research.

    Well, actually, it was more than 200 applicants, some of them already teaching at places where the "demands" were much lower. Most of them, in fact, saw research as the reward, not the punishment.

    People who talk about research being meaningless or trivial are usually talking about other peoples' research, not their own.

  9. @Dude, awww, you're making me blush!

  10. RKO: Or your adjunct has no other options for employment.

    While there is a sizable number of people who adjunct on the side for pin money, the majority do so simply ...

    1- because they wanted to be part of the profession,

    2- because in the past (like as little as 5-10 years ago for some disciplines) adjuncting was a way to gain the teaching experience required to get hired full-time,

    3- because their departments cut off their funding before they got a full-time job (which are all being disappeared--if you get my meaning)

    For many adjuncts, they are still under the misbelief (often fostered by their own full-time, tenured, head-in-sand and sometimes lying asshole mentors) that adjuncting is the ticket to a real job as a professor.

    Some cannot think of doing anything else. Some haven't been trained to do much of anything else. Some seem truly happy teaching 2-3 times the number of courses as their full-time colleagues for less money, no job security, and the lack of an office.

    It's really a big muddle because so many people are at cross-purposes and are unwilling to concede that exploitation is going on at all.

    Quite simply, your adjunct *SHOULD NOT* be helping you with anything she's not paid to do. She (probably) doesn't get paid for "service" like normal faculty theoretically are and which Independent Studies could be seen as providing,

    This probably means she's helping you:

    1/ to suck up to the department in hopes of getting that elusive FT gig and/or

    2/ because she likes you and wants you to excel (as Dude said above).

  11. I'm an adjunct. Here is why:

    1. I like teaching and research and using my degree.

    2. With just a Master's, I can't really hope for a TT position, anyway. Some schools around here will accept assistant (or is it associate?) profs with a Master's, but the appointment lasts for just a year.

    3. I can't get another job at the moment. Literally. The economy sucks. I rarely get letters or emails back saying "thanks but no thanks" -- for education jobs, for data entry, for admin assistant.

    It's a huge mess, but I have bills to pay and I like to eat sometimes, so since I'm employed somewhere, even though it sucks and the pay sucks .... and everything sucks.

  12. Strangely enough, she's a full doctorate and is extremely valuable to the department chair, who has told me that they'd LOVE to hire her full time if they could.

    We're a state school and just went through a NASTY round of budget cuts. Blessedly, her husband has a tenure position at a larger (private) university quite close to us, and so her position and our school allows her to be flexible and to care for their children.

    I've had nothing but support from all of my departments, and as I'm a second-time-around full time student, I appreciate what they do for me so very much. (Also, love the RKO abbreviation, very RHPS.)

  13. Oh, RKO...she's a trailing spouse!

    The trailing spouse is an odd feature of the modern college: A spouse (usually but not always a wife) who cannot acquire (or doesn't want ...or resigns herself to not wanting) a tenured position.

    I'd also point out that "...extremely valuable to the department chair, who has told me that they'd LOVE to hire her full time if they could" is code for that sucking up thing I mentioned above.

    Not always, but often.

    It's sad, really, that more stable faculty are NEEDED in most departments/programs (which seems to apply in your department's case too), but administration is unwilling to not build that stadium or not pay that coach millions or stop adding unnecessary VP positions in order to hire them.

    P.S. Glad you like the shortened nickname.

    P.P.S. A *LARGE* portion of adjuncts who want full-time positions actually have doctorates, which is the truly sad part.

  14. Yes, it is sad. That's one of the reasons I'm going so completely interdisciplinary. (Well, that and an all consuming lust for knowledge about EVERYTHING! *ahem*)

    My anthro prof gave us a run down, during the first week of the field school I just completed, on how many people begin archaeology PhDs and how many actually become tenured professors. *shiver* I don't think I want to look at numbers like that ever again.

  15. Ok, reality check:

    As someone else interdisciplinary, it can/will work against you.

    Make sure that while you're being interdisciplinary that you also have a VERY strong grounding in an established (sub-)discipline that will hire you.

    The desire for people who are interdisciplinary is pretty much a lie. Hiring committees mostly just want people from their own discipline who can fake it.

    Just a little, helpful FYI.

  16. I know. I'm trying to do this the intelligent way, and actually, I'd value the opinion of someone w/experience but not from my university. So, tell me how this will work for me:

    I nearly flunked out the first time around. I came back, declared an entirely different major than I started with (history instead of psych). Found out my minor (philosophy) was trending more toward a major, added that. I'm now a double major, history and philosophy.

    After my first year, I got academic renewal which (for internal use) wiped my grades from my previous incarnation as a not prepared student.

    If you double major, you don't need to have a minor, but the trends in my classes were undeniable, and I wanted to go overseas, so I declared an European Studies minor. I was going to triple major, by adding an associates in Women's Studies, but they cut the associates degrees for anyone getting another degree at the same time, so that became my second minor. Then, after taking the field school this summer, I realized I was only two classes away from the anthropology minor, and the two extra classes wouldn't keep me from graduating on time. That became my third minor. I'm now a triple minor in European studies, Women's studies and anthropology.

    My history major is at 4.0. My philosophy major is at 3.95. My Women's studies and anthropology minors are at 4.0. My European studies minor is at 3.95. And I will have the honors diploma and may graduate (some type of) cum laude.

    I'm looking into an interdisciplinary Women's studies PhD program at Rutgers for my next move. They have a concentration in anthropology.

  17. Ok, RKO, steel yourself...

    Because I am going for the brutal* honesty your own profs aren't going to give you...

    There are so few jobs in Anthropology and/or Women's Studies, you may not find a decent academic job after you get out of grad school.

    My MA is in a subfield of Anthro, and almost no one in my Ivy grad school cohort actually has a job in that sub-field in academia. Several fell back on their other degrees to find work, some left academia altogether, some went into administration, and others are in adjunct hell.

    Now, if you can foresee that the WS & Anthro combo will prepare you for a non-academic job, then go for it. Just realize that the rock star you are now will mean nothing once you're in grad school with people who have earned the same or similar (or better!) honors.

    Now, if you pick a sub-field of Anthro where there are actual jobs (things still look bright in Physical/Forensic Anthro or Public Archeology?), then go that route, take courses in other subfields you might publish in, and take a certificate (or just a defacto sub-specialty) in Women's Studies.

    The study of gender (generally) is still looked down upon in many corners of academia, so getting a PhD in it isn't wise. There's a LOT of pushback from conservative wonks out there against the "studies" programs, and I don't think their future looks bright. Preserve its study by doing it alongside something more generic and more common (just beware English & History because they are both over-crowded too...*sigh*).

    Also, drop the "I flunked out my first time" from your personal narrative! By now you have proven you're not a flunkie. ;-)

    Heck, I wish we all could use your story as an excuse to flunk out more students...esp. if we could get admin to believe we're not killing the wee bairn by forcing them to turn things around!

    Again, good luck! Anyone enrolling in a grad program nowadays in the humanities and social sciences is gonna need it.

  18. Thank you. And I'm fine with non-academic. I'd love to work at a university, but I'm fine with non-profit, museum, etc, etc, etc. And the field school I just finished was...urban archaeology! I'm trying to think of 'interdisciplinary' as 'realistically keeping my options open.'

  19. Archaeo-lab-girl, you're a gem. But no Ph.D. in Women's Studies, please. Programs are being folded and consolidated right and left, and there are unlikely to be jobs in that field. You're better off with a Ph.D. in a traditional discipline and a specialization in gender. Not much better off, but better off. Maybe the reverse is true if you want a non-academic job? That I'm not sure about.


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