Thursday, November 22, 2012

Maybelle gets her walking papers

I saw this coming. The talks with New Chair about how "we only have the budget for you to teach (X number) of classes," were the first clue.

Then there was a ray of sunshine. "Please do additional training that will make you eligible to teach Q and R." I poured hours and hours of time into this; I wanted to be a team player. I did the extra reading. I revamped and revised my class. I encouraged my students to request the next class in the sequence, and ask their advisers to make it known that there was an interest in the second class.

I get told by New Chair and Dean, "You're a great teacher. You're an asset to [this institution]. We hope we can keep you."

Apparently that's not enough to stay employed.

Happy Thanksgiving CM. Happy Hanukkah/Ramadan/Kwanza/Merry Christmas. Raise a glass for/to your adjunct friends who may also be getting their walking papers this holiday season.


  1. Oh, dear, Maybelle. That sucks. I'm really, really sorry. If you think you'll be looking for academic work (or anything vaguely related) again, you should probably extract a letter of recommendation from the chair while (s)he still remembers who you are (and perhaps is feeling guilty as well as positive about your work), but that's hardly compensation for all the work you did (and they invited you to do, which is especially shitty; even if they did it in good faith, their cluelessness has a disparately large impact on you).

    I know it's no consolation, but I had somewhat similar experiences early in my career: once finding myself with 1 section for the spring when I had been promised 3 (not quite as bad as your situation, but still a major blow to the budget), and once finding myself offered part-time work for the spring when I had been more or less promised that the full-time contract I had for the fall would be renewed.

    This isn't the time for advice, or slogans, I realize, but I really think Ph.D.s should begin to think of adjuncting *only* as a way to gain experience (which it sounds like you were doing), and/or keep their hands in. It's just not a way to support oneself, and, as others have pointed out, the "foot in the door" myth is just that: a myth (I'm not suggesting that you were thinking that way, just pointing out that that's a form of thinking that many adjuncts engage in, and many advisers and chairs encourage, at least implicitly. Taking an adjunct job in hopes of getting full-time work is probably not quite as bad a gamble as buying a lottery ticket, but the cost --in time and opportunity -- is considerably higher. When I finally got a full-time -- but not tenure track -- job, it was at a *different* school than the ones where I'd adjuncted. I do know people who've been hired adjunct-->full time at my institution, but not adjunct-->TT).

    Of course, successfully implementing an "adjunct only for experience/currency" guideline would require the cooperation of TT faculty, especially those in hiring positions, who would need to take with good grace an adjunct hire's insistence on teaching only one section, even if that meant canceling sections and/or getting a full-time faculty member to teach an overload. The short-term pain produced by a partial adjunct strike might eventually produce some gains (more full-time positions, or at least better salaries), but the pain would have to last long enough to affect up-the-line administrators.

    Sorry; I didn't mean to go off on a rant, but this brings up memories. I hope you have other short-term options for survival, and that you eventually find satisfying, stable, decently remunerative work, inside the academy or out.

  2. You can do everything right and still get fired. I hate this fucking industry. I've never met such a group of back-stabbing individuals as there are in academia; whether it be from colleagues, students, parents. At times, it would seem that one would be better off on an episode of "Evicted".

    Computer, arm the "Photonic Cannon".

  3. That completely sucks, Maybelle. I'm sorry to hear it.

  4. Aw, I'm so sorry, Maybelle. Not fair and not cool of them!

  5. Sorry Maybelle. That hurts. One place I worked at just gave me a note the day after my wife had a miscarriage.

  6. Oh no, Maybelle, I'm so sorry. I'm also thinking of other misery you shared about your relationship and hoping that is going better. You'll be in my thoughts, please check in and let us know how you're doing.

  7. Oh no, Maybelle, I'm so sorry. I'm also thinking of other misery you shared about your relationship and hoping that is going better. You'll be in my thoughts, please check in and let us know how you're doing.

  8. John, Paul, George and Ringo on a tandem bicycle. What a bunch of jerks.

    I'm so sorry for you, Maybelle. May another job appear under your Christmas tree!

  9. I'm sorry, too, Maybelle. How awful that they strung you along like that, and it's miserable timing.

    A charitable reading may be that they really did want to keep you, but really do lack the funding. There's a lot of that going around. Not that that's going to help you pay the grocer.

    CC is right about getting recommendations while you're still employed there. It's not unheard of to provide the recommenders (particularly "New Dean" and "New Chair") a list of your accomplishments and evidence that you've been a team player, submitted that revised course outline, whatever.

    You could do that by email and follow it up with a hard copy, and Dean Chair might even copy and paste from what you wrote about yourself, so be very thorough (without padding, of course). A bullet point list without the personal pronoun will make it harder for Dean Chair to screw up:

    - started teaching at Misleading U in xxxx; taught every semester through Fall 2012.
    - initially taught X (course number); on the basis of student and supervisor evaluations, was assigned more courses and/or more sections in subsequent semesters and/or years.
    - student evaluations were yada yada and improved on abc criteria through the years.
    - supervisor evaluations were even more yada yada, with "recommend to rehire" following every term of employment.
    - courses taught included X (course number), Y (course number) and Z (course number).
    - at department's request, expanded course repertoire to include sequence of V (course number) and W (course number).
    - participated in curriculum revision of V and W. Submitted revised course outlines to Curriculum Review Committee (or whatever your procedure was).

    1. I like this. Just make sure X, Y, Z, etc. are descriptive course titles, not just the name of the department/discipline. Course numbering systems vary greatly, and people who have worked for a long time at one place sometimes forget that fact.

  10. Hi Maybelle. This just sucks balls, as my son would say in an unguarded moment. I am so very sorry.