Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Big Thirsty From Hiram. What Are You Going to Do?

I love this blog. I love bitching. I love hearing other people bitch.

But I wonder if we all could do more.

This semester I'm going to start to rabble rouse a bit about our adjunct situation: 1) the pay they get, 2) their resources, and 3) the conversion of some of them to full time (guaranteed) positions at my little regional college.

I want to see what people will say to me, my chair, the Dean, even the President.

I'm going to do it politely and professionally, without malice or agenda or threat.

But I want to DO something.

Q: What are you going to do for the profession this year?

26 comments:

  1. I'm going to get Stella to attend more campus events. One of the events will be a bake sale to raise money to buy us more bourbon for the compound.

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    1. If the bake sale will get us some oxycodone to go with that bourbon, you got a deal.

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  2. Hiram, as someone once said to Fab: "Dude, have you met our colleagues?" I tried this over a period of several years here at Tuk U.

    I spoke up in meetings.
    I responded when the adminflakes sent round those questionnaires they're so fond of (because you know, they're just so gosh-darned eager to know what we think)
    I wrote letters to planning committees, search committees, curriculum committees and committees possitatus
    I even, on occasion, tried yelling.

    Here's what people did --> _________________

    Zip, zilch, nada, goose egg, Not. One. Fucking. Thing.

    Oh sure, they made sympathetic noises of agreement now and then. (Except when I yelled. When I yelled, they told me not to yell.) They expressed support, and told me that they were glad someone spoke up, and that it needed to be said, and... [crickets]

    So it's scotch, College Misery, and a brooding sense of existential failure for me.

    Your Mileage May Vary.

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    1. I dealt with much the same thing while I was teaching. I made all sorts of contributions and had lots of ideas on how to improve things but, eventually, I didn't bother. Usually, by the time I was asked for my input, the decision about what to do had already been made.

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    2. RoaG, I hear ya. After being asked to attend faculty-level meetings on things I normally wasn't associated with, I asked the department head why she was asking me to attend them. Her answer: "because you're likely to say what needs to be said, but no one else is willing to say." I would have felt pleased to be the departmental bulldog if I knew it did any good, but it doesn't, because some things are immovable objects, university admin at Tuk U being one of them.

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  3. I will remain a professor for another year, thereby keeping the overall level of intelligence, wisdom and goodlookingness above the levels they would be if I left. What more can you ask of me?

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  4. Hiram, go for it. Yeah, we often piss into the wind. But, damn, didn't the wind need watering?

    Seriously: The lack of a response cannot frame our sense of *purpose*. Had Jeff Smith not kept his filibuster up for 23 hours and 17 minutes, Senator Payne would never have reached his come-to-Jesus moment.

    We don't know *when* they're gonna break, but break they must in the face of what is good and right.

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    1. OKay! OKay! I can piss in the wind with the best of them. We need not hope to persevere and all that.

      But still - pass that damn Scotch wouldya!

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  5. I'm going to try to find something useful from the nice folk over in Student Services.

    For years, we had a dude who was on total, useless autopilot. Apparently, even our other admin types couldn't take it any longer, and he has resigned to "return to the classroom." We've hired a new dude who looks like he, too, has drunk a gallon of the Student Services Kool-Aid, but he's all we've got.

    I'm going to treat him as if he will actually do something useful for students until he proves overwise.

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  6. I'm going to assign more reading and tolerate less whining.

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  7. I'm an online adjunct. I am going to keep my head down and my mouth shut and try to make sure I keep getting classes. Then I'm going to do my best to help my students become better thinkers and writers within the boundaries allowed to me. What else can I do?

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    1. This times 1000.

      My personal opinion is that I could improve the profession by joining the full time ranks. But I seem to be alone in that.

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  8. I am going to not hit my students and colleagues in the head with a big mace.

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    1. A rubber hose won't leave any marks, you know.

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    2. Placing a telephone book on the side of the face, and then punching it hard, also works for not leaving any marks or bruises. I read about it in an ex-con's autobiography about his experiences in police station interrogation rooms. There are other things too, but involve a bit more work and require the other person to be tied up and immobile.

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  9. Last year, our (relatively new) provost tried to break up our College of Science and Mathematics and our College of Arts and Humanities. He then reneged, being genuinely surprised by the outcry. Since then, I have been much more interested in participating in faculty governance of my university.

    I should also give the new dean a fair chance, despite all the talk about "student success," which so far looks to me like watering down standards. I am going to keep standards as high as I am allowed to keep them. I have tenure, and I'm going to use it.

    I will also continue my research program, particularly since I'm now among the minority of research-active faculty in my department, and to continue to involve students in research. I have a peach of a dataset of a black hole that erupted last year: despite having a so-so student, we need to turn it into a Masters thesis this semester. I suppose I'm going to have to write most of it, but I will have him write for a week, make revisions, write for another week, make revisions, until we get something publishable.

    Again, I should give the new dean a fair chance, despite how research appears to be no longer the top priority. But frankly, are there any circumstances in which the administration will admit it?

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  10. I am opinionated but I don't foist my opinion on others. I am outspoken, but do not hijack or even dominate meetings or conversations. However, because I don't smile and say how wonderful things are, what I say is usually disregarded. I'm tired of putting time and energy into making things better when even my effort is not recognized.

    I plan to do my job and do it well. But do it under the radar, and try to have a life outside of this place.

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    1. "However, because I don't smile and say how wonderful things are, what I say is usually disregarded"

      Oh my god, I have the same experience at my full-time (high school) job. We have quite a few phoney-baloney ass-kissers on the faculty, but also a solid number of (usually older) straight-shooters. I am sort of a middle-aged straight-shooter.

      I teach at Fancy Pants Private Academy and like it or not, fair or not, many of my students are going to be in charge of shit when they grow up. My job is to help train them to be critical thinkers, to broaden their worldviews, and hopefully to encourage in them some compassion for others. I take that work VERY seriously. I am just not constitutionally capable of smiling through the shit-storm of administrative obstruction that keeps me from being as effective as possible.

      Like Academianiac, I've settled on trying to stay off my boss' radar. It's a constant struggle, though. It's hard to keep quiet when you care about what you do and how it gets done. One of these days my "attitude" is going to land me out on the street.

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  11. I am seriously thinking of quitting the profession this fall as my contribution to higher education since clearly the Powers That Be don't give a damn about my fine work ethic, passion to keep learning and disseminate knowledge, and the fact that I am about to go apply for food stamps for the first time ever in my life......

    Bubba, please pass the bourbon. Oh, and RGM,can I flop on the floor of the compound since I will probably be homeless this year due to lack of work and fact my significant other is out of work?

    Hiram, I wish you all the luck in the world in getting the scales of injustice tipped in your adjuncts' favor!

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  12. Our adjuncts get benefits, paid office hours, and some job security after a few semesters of decent work, thanks to our very strong faculty union and a past administration that valued teaching and had compassion. They still get paid in shiny pebbles and leaves, but it's a better gig than at most CCs.

    I'm going to continue using my tenure to defend students and staff from a continuing lack of regard from our Highest Chief Muckety-Muck and his slick assho -- wait, assISTANT in Facilities. Usually I pick my battles, and I picked too many last semester. So I'm dropping back to support our student veterans and our disabled students (which trickles up to disabled faculty and staff).

    When I came back from sabbatical a few years ago, I had renewed energy to make a difference in the college. I joined a high-level committee that sounded as if it was really focused on identifying problems and working to improve them. Instead it focused on gathering and summarizing mind-numbing reports from all the departments. The last straw for me was a big meeting about budget cuts at which His Royal Slickness in Facilities ignored my suggestion twice until a man brought it up, when it suddenly became an interesting point worth responding to. A woman Vice President caught my eye and held it. But I checked out anyway. Maybe I'll check back in to high-level BS after I have an empty nest.

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  13. Ah, Hiram. First, three cheers for (and many thanks to) you. There's a part of me that absolutely agrees with Mrs. C: we have to keep pressing these issues, and, one of these days, somebody *will* listen (if only because parents and students will eventually rebel against paying ever-increasing amounts to be taught by the overwhelmed and underpaid. I'm capable of being idealistic, but I'm also aware that there's strength in market forces, and on this particular issue, we probably need to make common cause with the "customers," even if we really hate recognizing their status as such on any level).

    The other part of me is thinking more along the lines of Surly and Bison, with a dash of R and/or G thrown in: I know I'm low on the totem pole, and I've tried speaking up on various issues without much discernible effect, but there's change/reorganization in the wind at my institution, and right now I'm feeling oddly vulnerable for someone who was recently promoted (and received some nice written affirmation, if no money, in the process). I know perfectly well they'll keep saying that they value teaching in general, and my contribution to the university in particular, right up until the moment they decide the class I teach, and hence my position, is too expensive/no longer necessary. So there's a part of me that thinks it's time to hunker down and think about my career (or lack thereof), and maybe speak up about my own salary, and adjuncts' salaries, the next time someone says that TT salaries need to be brought in line with local cost of living, but mostly try to figure out what I'll do if and when my contract isn't renewed (or, preferably, sometime before that). There's also a part that thinks that now is the time, that we really do need to speak up about adjunctification and casualization and all that, that things really can't get much worse (well, unless we're all replaced by, or employed at a fraction of our current salaries to tend, MOOCs), and so maybe they'll begin to get better.

    So, for the moment, I'm torn, and a bit stuck. So I think I might just channel Ursula, and renew efforts to be tough/demanding but fair. Or maybe I'll just resolve to provide feedback in a more timely fashion this semester. That didn't happen last semester (a pattern that repeats every time I try to add a new, or even substantially revised, prep to my 4/4 load), and it always makes me feel awful, even when the students are nice about it. Maybe if I stay on top of things better this semester, I'll have more energy, and feel more right, to speak to the larger picture.

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  14. Stop making me feel bad for jumping all over the dude from "Napa" a few weeks ago. :)

    I'm going to hide in my office to deprive people of my company. I think they're all tired of hearing me point out the flaws on campus. I'm going to regroup and come up with a new strategy to fix more of the 'wrongs' in my setting.

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