Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Uh Oh. Moderator's Daughter Has Ditched Old Boyfriend We Liked. So It's More Archival Material. 4 Years Ago From RYS.


Poor Bunnies Come Up Against the Will-Shredding Second Year.

I know y'all are enamored of your big sisters over there at the Cramp-icle of Higher Education, but a very recent "First Person" article has just proven to me again what whiners there are coming into the profession.

Three second year proffies have found that the honeymoon is over and that there's WORK to be done. Poor bunnies. Here are some relevant and revealing quotes:

  • In my second year on the tenure track, I am finding that I am less and less excited about it's not easy to just sit back and bask in the glow of being a professor anymore.

  • What I once fondly viewed as a beautiful lifestyle and culture has become a long list of tasks, failures, and accomplishments.

  • I spend my time sitting in committee meetings, grading endless papers, and navigating the political and social terrain of the university. Is the glow gone?

  • Through the chaos of learning a new job, moving across the country, and finding a new home, I realize now, I lost part of my self, the part of me that loves education.

  • As we move through our second year, we are finding that the rigors of the professoriate are beginning to weigh heavily.

Oh dear, and it's only year 2. If this is indicative of second year proffies around the country, I have a feeling the job market is going to open a lot wider when these puffs start to fall by the wayside.

Seriously, are we preparing grad students so poorly that THIS is what we get? "Ohhh, it's so hard."


  1. I just love "bunnies." They're so tasty.

  2. "Through the chaos of learning a new job, moving across the country, and finding a new home, I realize now, I lost part of my self, the part of me that loves education."

    No, you didn't lose that part.

    It was hunted down and hog-tied, and currently is being tortured at an undisclosed location in your psyche by the reality of the hard work that goes along with the responsibility, not of receiving an education, but of now providing an education to others.

  3. Beautiful lifestyle and culture? That bunny went through grad school on some really nice hallucinagens.

  4. Hmmmm. I don't want to burst anyone's illusions, but ALL jobs, especially ones that have been built up over years of what we imagined them to be, will eventually have to meet up with the reality check of the day-to-day world: the difference between a job and a career. I experienced a bit of this when I got my commission from the Navy and I imagined, quite incorrectly, what the life of a Navy Officer would be like. The answer is that it is up for each person to discover that part of the job that will sustain them and make them eager to do all aspects of the job.
    For anyone to really expect that a place of employment will meet these needs is unrealistic. Ex wife #1 is employed (now) as a professor: less than 4 months after entering the workforce as a speech pathologist she announced she would be quitting her job since she hated the field (never mind the 3 years of grad school she had just completed!) and she would rather work in a bank than stay in the schools. If she had been required to stay in the job for another several years, she may very well have "found the love". Instead, she quit and pursued a PhD and she discovered, upon starting as an assistant professor, that this job sucked too! Except this time she stuck it out and she now loves her field!
    It takes time. Don't rush it! Also, explore some of the other aspects of your job. Mentoring undergrads and grad students can be its' own joy and reward. Renewal of the love of the game can happen in some unusual and wonderful ways, but no job can match off the charts expectations.

  5. I think it's more fundamental than ChemRocks puts it.

    As a student, you are effectively a recipient: although you may be working hard, teachers are giving you knowledge and skills. As a professor, you're effectively a giver, receiving virtually nothing back. This relationship is hard to see; I had to have it pointed out to me when I was a student. Grad school and postdoc-ery (for those of us in relevant fields) are on a sliding scale between these two extremes (you produce but do not give) but they don't fully buffer us from the full switcheroo that comes about when you go to the other end of this transaction.

    Other jobs may move from being a reciever to being a producer, but that's different from going from receiver to giver.

    I suspect it's rather like the emotional blow that teenage parents go through: suddenly going from being the child to the parent.

  6. Another reason to hire adjunct faculty members from within our own departments. They already know what the job entails, and they've been doing a good, solid job semester after semester after semester.

    1. +1

      I often wonder if the people who complain about the daily grind of academia were insulated from teaching while in grad school. I'm often surprised to see how little teaching experience Ivy grads have--maybe one or two courses. Then they get hired on at a big state school (the kind of school they were lucky enough to avoid while pursuing their own education), and whoopee, culture shock and massive amounts of entitlement.

    2. Brief defense of Ivy grads (from an Ivy grad who spent 5 years as an adjunct, and coped -- well, about as well as anyone else does with adjuncting at up to 3 places at once; in other words, I survived, and delivered something resembling instruction to my students): some have very little teaching experience; some (especially those who teach freshman comp or the equivalent) have more (though perhaps not the same amount of experience with heavy teaching loads). Some suffer from senses of entitlement (yep, I can think of a few classmates who fit that category); others have strong senses of responsibility, and a strong commitment to teaching well, in whatever situation they find themselves (and here I'm thinking not only of myself, but of grad school friends now teaching everywhere from community colleges to SLACs to small and large state schools to private universities; interestingly, none of my grad school friends ended up at an Ivy). And a reasonable number come from big state unis, and are happy (even, in some cases, eager) to return to a similar environment.

      However, exactly the assumptions reflected above can hurt Ivy grads' chances on the job market. I've been on more than one interview where it became clear that I was regarded more as a curiosity than as a potential hire. Especially in this market, I'd actually advise a student mulling multiple grad school offers to strongly consider choosing a large state school with a strong department in hir discipline over an Ivy, since such a degree probably leaves the largest number of postgrad job options open.

    3. My apologies for knocking Ivy grads. I do realize that many are actually dedicated and talented teachers. But I am often boggled (and jealous) that many of them teach so little during their graduate careers--though this is probably because my own experience is so different. My school is notoriously stingy with fellowship money, so I've spent every spare moment and then some teaching (and teaching some very huge and undesirable classes) while still being expected to finish everything within four years. It really puzzles me that schools are so different when it comes to workload ... a few slots in the rankings seem to make all the difference when it comes to fellowship years, summer funding, and number of courses assigned per semester. And though my advisers tell me that my teaching experience will benefit me on the job market, I have to raise an eyebrow there, as my department's actions seem to send a different message. We hire based on prestige and research alone without a second glance at teaching portfolios. But the party line for grad students is "teach as much as possible and get sky-high evaluations doing it--or else." I know that this is Just the Way It Is in the profession, though ... so yeah, I have no real excuse for the bitterness.

  7. I agree with the comments above, and especially with Philip: there are people out there who, though not currently on the TT, will not be surprised by the work the job entails (admittedly some contingent faculty may underestimate the work, and the stress, that service and publishing pressure involve, but most of us have been paying attention, and don't have any illusions that our TT colleagues have it easy, just the desire to do have a job that more closely resembles what we trained for, in terms of pay, responsibilities, and job security).

    This strikes me as something of a period piece -- a reminder that, although the academic job market has been bad for many years, it got noticeably worse soon after this piece was published. While there are probably a few new TT faculty out there who don't realize just how much of a role luck (as well as, of course, skill/merit) played in their getting a TT job, and so aren't profoundly grateful, and humbled, and unlikely to complain, I'd guess that they're very much in the minority. It would be hard to have gone through grad school (or held a post-doc) in the last few years, and not realize just how many very good people have not gotten TT jobs.

  8. Or these could be some of the "snowflakes" that attended our classes.