Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Big Thirsty. What Has Changed?

This forum was already rocking 9 years ago. Who were you then, what? Where have you gone? What is different about your role in the academy? Mistakes? Missed opportunities? Regrets, for God's sake tell us you have regrets. We are no the misery for nothing.


32 comments:

  1. Regrets:

    Never pissed on Franco's grave.

    Never pissed on James Franco from a great height.

    Still haven't perfected my lead-weighted pool cue technique.

    Not committing a series of coups, the final goal of which would be to rebuild the USSR.

    Never got to suckerpunch Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California.







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  2. I didn't have tenure. Now I do. I had a love life. Now I don't. It wasn't a fair trade. As David Byrne said, "Never for money, always for love."

    Goddamn right.

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  3. I was still an undergrad. *shudder* I regret not paying more attention to how student loans worked, but otherwise I wouldn't change much. I'd study more, especially for comps/quals. Get better advice about both tests and orals.

    Ask me again in 9 years. :P

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    1. We may be closed in 9 days. Make a note to ask yourself!!

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    2. The last time a mod joked about that, it really happened.

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    3. That was my thought too, Ben. Is everything okay, Terry/Gordon/RGM/whoever you are? Did the ferry trip end somewhere less than pleasant? Do we need to arrange daily (hourly?) deliveries of your favorite libation? Send Strelnikov after a key troll (or three?). Encourage people to stop telling you how to do a job they're unwilling to do themselves better? In any case, hope all is well.

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    4. The page is always dying. It's literally in the DNA of the whole enterprise.

      Ferry trip was fun. I don't like being away from home because the page is hard to operate from my phone.

      I slipped up last week and did more than an hour a day, and that annoyed me. I truly thought I had the work under control, but I let it get away from me.

      Not to worry. Have some splendid stuff going on personally so will just do my 9-10 am maintenance and the page will have to be what it will be. Thanks for asking!

      Terry P.

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  4. Nine years ago I’d just gotten tenure, after 14 years of chronic anxiety of being unable to see more than a year into the future, of being a grad student/postdoc/Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor/Bullied tenure-track Assistant Professor. Now, as Charlie Brown noted, “Things could be better, but then they could be worse. For me, that’s pretty good.”

    My fellow faculty do listen to me now. But then, they did nine years ago too, since I’m still one of the ever-diminishing number of research-active faculty in my department. Things are better now in that the most grossly incompetent deadwood have retired, although there’s now no shortage of merely lazy deadwood to take their place. The students are worse than ever, predictably, but then they were shockingly ill-prepared and ill-motivated for college and for real life nine years ago too. Every year, they seem to get more, and more, and MORE immature, and we faculty are expected to do more, and more, and MORE about it, but then this was already too-familiar when I first heard a fellow faculty member enunciate it in 2003. The administration have gotten more adversarial and autocratic, but then the harm they did was limited by their own disorganization and ineffectiveness nine years ago too. The funding situation has definitely gotten worse, but then it wasn’t peachy nine years ago.

    My own education was marred by deadwood professors who abused their tenure. They were inactive in research, and wouldn’t you know what they did show us was decades out of date. I resolved never to be like that. Life loves its ironies, of course: now that I'm a professor, I have no shortage of students who squander the opportunities I knock myself out to make for them.

    My main regret over the past nine years is having wasted so much time and effort on snowflakes with that dead look in their eyes, so well described by Peter Sacks in “Generation X Goes to College.” As Len from Las Cruces put it in RYS in 2009:

    “What good comes of it? What good comes for the 18 out of 20 students who sorrowfully spend 16 weeks with me each term? Those 18 kill my spirit, make me want to set myself (or them) on fire. And they fight me from day one to day last. They don't want to be in college, and have 999 reasons for it that I can't even begin to defeat or answer.”

    For my general-ed science course, though, it used to be 90 out of 100 students. Since word has gotten around that I still have college-level standards, it’s now more like 45 out of 50. Suits me fine.

    I also continue to waste lots of time and effort on upper-level/gradflakes. Just today I got yet another who expressed an interest in astronomy, and then immediately turned around and said, “Wait a minute, I didn’t know you had to stay up past midnight to do that!” What exactly goes through these peoples’ minds, or does anything whatsoever? The emptiness of Outer Space has nothing on this!

    I’m starting to wonder whether too much hand-holding can be harmful to education. I am often ashamed by how much I get wheedled into doing, particularly since so little of it appears to do any good. The "sink or swim" approach often used at R1 universities looks better all the time, particularly for cultivating student initiative. Why is it that universities are constantly criticized for being unlike "the real world," but then when one makes them that way, by holding students responsible for their education, the students so often resent it?

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  5. In grad school then. So sure of myself. So smart. I had the system wired. I knew I'd be huge. I knew I was smarter than my mentors. I knew I'd surpass them all.

    Now I'm at a podunk school teaching undergrads and hating the 6 hours a day I'm on campus. I have a much richer personal life, family, and so on. It provides a lot of pleasure and relief, but my career has been a bust and I hate that I ended up in it.

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  6. I see young adults pass through the apartment complex I live in. I agree with an earlier comment that they are even more immature and empty-headed than they were several years ago.

    Each time I see one of them, I'm glad I never became a father and even happier that I don't teach any more. I was dumb and cocky when I was their age, but I outgrew that. It doesn't appear to me that I can say the same about them.

    People have wondered why I, at my age, don't volunteer to be a mentor to some of them. Why should I? I spent several years trying to do just that, only to be thwarted nearly every time either by my students or the institution's administrators. Besides, I'd be wasting my time if I did--since they think they're so much smarter than me, they clearly don't need my advice.

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  7. Nine years ago I suspect I was contemplating quitting my PhD program. I was regretting my choice in labs, just hating my professional life. I stuck it out since I was ABD.

    Sitting here, now as an adjunct, I regret the decision I made 13 years ago to get a PhD. It is likely I would have gotten a nice job with my Masters, but I just wanted to teach college kids. What was I thinking!

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  8. Nine years ago, I was starting on the tenure track, The Little Engine That Could after spending almost a decade as an adjunct.

    Now, I sit here in my office wondering how I can keep this up for another 25 years, given that I will never be able to retire on my piddly-ass salary (currently less than $50k for a 4/4 load). I was burnt out before I got tenure. Two weeks after I got tenure, the state's new rightwing governor and legislature passed Act 10, which meant that more of my piddly-ass salary goes to pension and benefits. I'm struggling to support my family, and more bad news from the midterm elections means that more shit is likely coming down the pipeline that will make it even harder to stay afloat.

    Most days I feel like the lump of concentrated evil at the end of Time Bandits--charred and likely to explode on contact.

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  9. I'm right where I was, doing the same thing.

    Thanks for reminding me. That's my regret. I got stuck and didn't realize it.

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    1. Me too :-( Both stuck AND "charred and likely to explode on contact"

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  10. I had just earned tenure for the second time, but this time at the right school. I'm still there, with far less anxiety about always appearing to be doing the right thing to my students, my deans, my colleagues, and my family. Menopause helped with that!

    Wait. Appearing to my students to be doing the right thing; appearing to my family to be doing the right thing, etc.

    Doing the right thing to my students? Um, that would be flunking many of them. Oh, okay, still doing that.

    Regrets? I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention.

    (Sorry. That line just busts me up every time. So WHY THE HELL ARE YOU MENTIONING THEM, FRANK?)

    I regret not having relaxed sooner.

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  11. I wish I had known back then how carefully one should choose their professional company. Just because someone can relate to you on a personal/background level and has compatible research interests should not automatically qualify them for your inner circle. It is of course ideal to have a fruitful collaboration with someone who “gets you” on multiple levels, but as a young person you are better off doing 4-star work with someone who doesn’t quite get you (or even alone!) rather than 3-star work with a BFF.

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    1. Hi. Please choose and use a pseudonym when posting. It helps build community. Thanks.

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  12. My kids were little.
    I was younger too.
    Steve Jobs was still alive.
    I still believed I might do something cool.
    There seemed to be more magic in the world.

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  13. Nine years ago I was just beginning to pull myself together after a major family-of-origin meltdown, which (especially when combined with the ongoing breakdown of the higher ed job market) had very immediate logistical/financial consequences for me, and which followed hot on the heels of finishing and defending my dissertation (which provided plenty of angst, both from the process and the circumstances surrounding the process, in itself). I wasn't reading RYS (I discovered the place just as it was closing), but I would have felt better if I had been. I actually cope reasonably well with acknowledged difficult circumstances (though I was very close to my limit in 2004-2005); I cope much less well when everyone around me is insisting that things are just fine, while I'm sure I see cracks and fissures large enough to swallow a mack truck spreading in all directions. In fact, the cognitive dissonance of being told that all would be well if I just finished my dissertation while observing that plenty of people in classes ahead of me had finished their dissertations and were still mysteriously hanging around grad school town played a part in delaying completion (though there were plenty of other causes as well, many but not all of them more completely my responsibility, and of course I'm also responsible for how I respond to cognitive dissonance. I think I've gotten a little better at that, but perhaps only a little.)

    Like a lot of others, I'm feeling older, but perhaps just a bit wiser, and a bit stuck (though also aware that, in the specific higher ed and general economic climate of the last decade, managing to swim hard enough against the current to stay in place may be something of an achievement in itself). Still hoping I have enough time (and energy, and adequate health) to get unstuck and accomplish a thing or two, but I'm not quite sure what. Just under a week ago, I was sitting at a post-funeral lunch, talking to a 90-year-old relative who had just lost his wife of 60+ years, and who is in the process of clearing out his house and moving to assisted living if things go well, or the nursing home where he currently resides if they go less well. He, too, was trying to figure out what to do next (apparently I come from a family of people who like to keep doing). So I guess the process never ends, at least this side of the grave.

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  14. 9 years ago I was just a few year into my tenure track job (now have tenure). I regret speding too much time/being on too many committees/working too hard to try and impress who? Lazy people get tenure, profs without an ounce of rigor get tenure. What the hell was I worried about? This past year I was diagnosed wtih breast cancer and I have spent much more time taking care of myself and my family. To be fair, my college has been very accomodating and supportive. But it is difficult to stare out at the classroom and only have a few light bulbs lit. I regret any guilt I felt fo not doing enough or taking a day off. I'm feeling good now, but the statistics related to the prognosis for my type of cancer are, iffy at best. At 40 I've had to come to the realization I won't likely see fifty (but I predict this place will die at least three times before I do!). So 9 years ago I was blissfully ignorant of a lot of stuff, both professional and personal. 9 years ago I swear the students were better.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. {{{Academic Charlotte Anne}}}

      I am sending you best wishes.

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    3. Thirded. We make decisions, large and small, based on the information available at the time, and when the information changes, all we can do is adjust our decisions to fit the new circumstances. You probably made the decisions you did for a variety of reasons, from not being sure what it really would take to get tenure to wanting to be responsible. Now you have different (and unexpected) information, and you're making different decisions. May it turn out well.

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    4. As ever, Cassandra has put it better that I ever could.
      All the best to you, ACA!

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  15. Another hug for Academic Charlotte Ann.

    (My phone won't let me add to your thread.)

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    1. May you still be posting here 40 years from now! And may we all be here to read it, and "here" be here too, in some form.

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  16. Nine years ago, I was the youngest faculty member in my department. Now, I am the oldest. How times have changed!

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  17. Hmm, 9 years ago I was returning for the 10 year renewal of hope via academia ... Bachelors in the 80s, Master's in the 90s, doctorate in the 00s.

    After, 20 years of career stops and starts, I thought a PhD in a health field would provide me a final pathway to success and stability, with adjuncting begun during grad school a nice sideline.

    Well, providing care and feeding to wombats was derailed so what began has a sideline became a lifeline. I have spent the past nine years on that adjunct precipice, one class away from financial ruin.

    Things got close this summer. Early in the year, a temp job - providing wombat care - was "definitely" going to become permanent, except it didn't. I cut back on classes to make room, which meant a low income beginning to the year, followed by a particularly low enrollment summer. One of my regular gigs pays by the student, but also (thankfully!) provides health insurance. However, with the low enrollment and insurance premiums, I actually got a paycheck for $1.68 this past summer.

    As this year ends, I'm almost back to my 1.5 FTE courseload providing .75 FTE income so I guess that's something.

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