Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Killer Job Opportunity for Ambitious English Lit Scholars!

We've got it good. It's always hiring season down here at the adjunct trough...
Institution: Big Brick Univer$ity Corporation
Location: as if it matters
Field: English
Rank: full-time contingent pay-to-teach
The English Department at Big Brick University Corporation invites applications for a full-time, contingent, pay-to-teach position in English to begin August 2012. Area of specialty within the field is irrelevant, since all our courses are standardized anyway. Teaching responsibilities include four sections of introductory and/or remedial English and writing and two sections of an upper division survey of British, American or colonial English literature per term, depending on enrollment totals as of the morning of the first day of class, a standard 6/6/6 load.
Candidates must have at least one Ph.D. in hand at the time of application, a rating of at least 4.0 at and no fewer than five years of adjunct teaching experience demonstrating commitment to excellence, student retention and shareholder value. Similarly qualified candidates are encouraged to apply, but probably shouldn't bother. We've got 50 people right here already lined up at the door, most of whom are adjuncts at both of the other two universities here in town.

All our teaching opportunities are compensated by a generous program of reverse remuneration. Each faculty member pays a $3,150 dollar stipend per course to the university for the privilege of interacting with our customers in addition to paying $500 per course on a case-by-case basis for contributing to the collaborative writing of curriculum-generating computer code for the CD-ROM that will teach your classes with your PhD as accreditation bait starting in the fall of 2015. If an instructor is awarded overload course assignments, these will be taught at no additional cost to the instructor. Our contingent faculty qualify to pay into our employee health care plan but may only draw benefits if they are fatally injured while teaching or also work for Big Brick in an administrative capacity.
BBUC is a non-selective, retention-focused, federal-student-loan-skimming, CEO-with-an-online-PhD-in-education-administration-and-a-BA-in-business-and-a-fraternity-tie-clip-run liberal arts university with no pretensions to research beyond the sprinkling of "faculty accomplishments" that we post on our marketing web pages.
In order to be considered, applications must include a check for the $50 application fee, notarized photocopies of all your PhDs, a letter explaining why you are going to dedicate your life to our university, including specific examples of personal and creative contributions that you can make to shareholder value, bubbly-positive student evaluation forms from at least five classes already taught, and the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of three other failures from your grad school that we can include in our next contingent slavery recruitment drive. Review of applications will begin immediately and be over by Monday next. Big BUC is dedicated to the highest quality in undergraduate education and committed to diversity as a core institutional value. Preference will be given to the qualified candidate who can fill the most quotas at once. We already have two blacks, an Asian and a guy who is 1/64th Navajo on our staff, so we're looking for a handicapped lesbian Hispanic Jew if it can be arranged. The guy with tenure, the dean and all the board members are white, so we've got that covered.


  1. So funny, and yet so sad. And so plausible....

    As good satire should be.

  2. This is really the only kind of job I'm expecting to apply for if I finish. I'm already practicing saying with a straight face: "I have always wanted to live in Fiddlefuck, Idaho. I am happy to have such a privilege."

    1. Don't knock it. Fiddlefuck ID can be a great place, especially if you enjoy the bucolic outdoor life, if you don't mind having no friends (since you didn't grow up there) and the occasional rattlesnake in the basement.

  3. Oh my god, my college is hiring again?

  4. Brilliant! And, sadly, all too believable. Writers are already encouraged to write for nothing (or pay to have their work in collections -- which are, of course, scams) for the "exposure"; can teaching for the "experience" be far behind? When you figure in the price of gas and childcare, some adjuncts are probably already paying to teach, even if the money isn't going to the school.

  5. I actually think I saw some "job" ad that was a pay-to-teach type thing a while back. Or maybe it was a "teach for free" type thing. I remember it loudly trumpeting the fact that you would gain experience. But getting run over by a bus also gives you experience--the experience of getting run over by a bus.

    1. Uncompensated service is already a reality for many contingent faculty: it's not in their job descriptions, nor does their teaching load allow for it, but they do it for the sake of "collegiality" or brownie points, or hopes that they'll have a foot in the door when a TT spot comes open, or at least won't be the first laid off. I'm actually lucky in that my department carefully avoids such exploitation (with the side effect that contingent faculty have too little voice in decisions regarding the courses about which they often know more than the TT faculty), but I've certainly seen it happen.

      And of course most academics write and publish without hope or expectation of real remuneration. That didn't matter so much when journals and academic presses were basically break-even enterprises (and most people who published would get some sort of credit from their job and/or the job market), but there's increasing pressure for academic publishing to bring in revenue in one way or another, and for-profit companies are definitely making money off the ubiquitous databases sold to libraries, even as it's getting harder and harder for journal editors to get even a minimum of support from their institutions. The only good news there is that peer-reviewed open-access web-based journals may eventually make an end run around the overpriced databases (and force students to learn what processes of review actually make a source "credible" or "scholarly," rather than relying on the seal of approval represented by a source's packaging as part of a commercial product).

      Try explaining to anyone outside academia (or even your students) that academics have no expectation that writing a book, let alone an article, will bring any direct tangible rewards, and you'll get very puzzled looks.

    2. Wow. The publishing stuff I knew about, but being pressured into teaching courses (esp. as an adjunct) pro bono? That seems like something you would expect from an organized crime syndicate. That being said, I don't find it unsurprising. Guess I'd expect any kind of exploitation at this point.

      I'd like to see someone update The Adjunct Project with negative numbers, i.e. "-$500 for freshman composition," and the resulting pie chart.

    3. To be clear: I've never heard of anyone being pressured to teach for no compensation (unless you count the sort of tradeoff between extremely low adjunct wages and the costs of gas and childcare that I already mentioned -- which do, sometimes, effectively mean that the parents of young children or those with other family members who cannot be left alone may teach for no net gain, but instead for the experience, and/or for the sake of avoiding gaps on a c.v., and/or for the mental stimulation).

      However, I have heard of (and, in a prior adjunct job, experienced) cases of contingent faculty being expected or subtly (or not-so-subtly) pressured to participate in time-consuming curricular and/or assessment committees, or, to take one example which I experienced directly, a program-wide "self-study" project conceived by a TT faculty member under the gun to have something to show at his upcoming tenure review (he wasn't publishing, but it was a teaching-oriented place, so this big project would count, if he could rope in the faculty he was supervising, many of whom were contingent). When you add up the time commitment (and the need to travel to campus on "days off"), such activities can come close to being the equivalent of another class (which, of course, is why TT faculty have service commitments figured into their loads in most if not all places). Although adjuncts can put their feet down and say they don't have time (and/or are working at another school at that time), nothing prevents the department (at least not in my right-to-work state) from favoring those adjuncts who participate, at their own expense of time and sometimes money, when layoffs and/or opportunities to convert some people to full-time come around.

      Remember, in many schools, the huge looming time suck is not teaching (which at least has worthwhile results, at least when we're allowed to do it right) but assessment and related service. TT faculty are spending more and more time on assessment activities, and, even with the best will in the world, can't entirely avoid drawing on adjunct time as well (syllabi need to be revised, materials distributed and collected, etc., etc.). Where the will is less than good (and/or a self-serving TT faculty member thinks (s)he can butter up the Dean -- or become the Dean -- on the basis of an assessment project), the burdens on adjuncts can be very heavy.

  6. Once when I was contingent faculty a guy called me and asked me if he could teach classes in my field, at my institution, for free. I told him no, please go away, because then they'd stop paying me the pittance I was getting.

    1. I've gotten the advice to volunteer to teach courses in my specialty, entirely well-meaningly, from a man (I think gender may be relevant here)in a much more in-demand field than mine (that is definitely relevant). Fortunately my department is too decent (and too professional) to accept such an offer (and besides, they're having trouble filling seats in major classes taught by TT faculty). But I'm quite convinced that in my field (and probably any humanities one) this strategy wouldn't lead to a paid offer, at the institution where the faculty member volunteered or elsewhere.

  7. Grad student adjuncts are often already paying to teach. I paid several semesters for exam prep tuition credits just to remain viable for adjunct work at my school. When I finally quit my grad program, bye-bye adjunct jobs at the school.

    Meanwhile, a the know-nothing secretary who made everyone's life hell had her master's degree in Education paid for in full. And a professor's kid had his tuition paid for too.

    Who knew being an overworked, under-appreciated TA was actually a gravy train?

    Not that I'm bitter or anything. ;)

  8. Someone I know teaches for a large online school that requires all instructors, adjunct or otherwise, to submit lectures to the school for the use of the school in their standardized courses. There was no talk of compensation. I don't know how it works exactly, but based on what she told me, it sounds like you either submit lectures to the university for free or risk not being re-hired the following term. It is not pay-to-teach, but it is as close to demanding free work as you can get without explicitly announcing that it is free. You just demand it and don't talk about money and see if anyone says anything. Apparently, nobody does.

    1. And I'm sure the school will then claim some sort of ownership of the lecture (or, more likely, the "product" that juxtaposes all of the extorted lectures). This is very different from giving an in-person lecture in team-taught course, or one in which some instructors mostly lead discussion sections (as happens in grad school, and sometimes beyond), and it's *very* different from writing a textbook, from which the individual faculty author usually profits (if there is any profit to be made). At the very least, I'd ask for a contract that affirms *my* copyright in the lecture, and promises that it will not be used unless I am in some sense actively teaching the class that semester (or, if not, that I will be compensated for each use). But yes, I assume that that kind of perfectly-reasonable request for control over my intellectual product would not go over well.

      Mind you, if I were a decently-compensated employee of MIT or any of the other schools that are now putting materials online for public use (and without, as far as I can tell, much hope of profit), I'd have no problem with my lectures being available in perpetuity.

      Finally, I wonder whether they are, indeed, using the Ph.D.s of people who record such lectures as "accreditation bait"? As far as I'm concerned, if a student doesn't at least have the chance to interact at first or second remove with the Ph.D. in question (visit hir office hours; know that (s)he meets with the TAs occasionally, *something* like that), then the Ph.D. is not "teaching" the class, any more than would be the case if a school ordered a textbook written by a Ph.D., then gave students the chance to interact regularly with an instructor with an M.A. or below (which could be a perfectly find scenario, but accrediting bodies do make distinctions).

      They really, really need Ph.D.s who will work cheap, don't they? I wish I could say that that gives us some potential power, but I suspect it just provides an incentive for the same schools to start manufacturing cheap Ph.D.s (in all senses of the word). And all they need is a limited number of real Ph.D.s desperate enough to cooperate in producing the first generation of knockoffs. After that, the system perpetuates itself. And that, of course, is the argument for some sort of outside assessment. Aargh.

  9. But yes, I assume that that kind of perfectly-reasonable request for control over my intellectual product would not go over well.

    Some schools now have in the contract that anything the instructor prepares for class becomes the property of the school. I imagine a day when an online instructor who copy-pastes a lesson prepared for one university into the online classroom of another s/he is also teaching for will have to pay royalties to the first university.

    Finally, I wonder whether they are, indeed, using the Ph.D.s of people who record such lectures as "accreditation bait"?

    The whole regimentation of teaching, standardization, centralized testing, etc. is all meant to de-skill the job and make it cheaper. As long as accreditation requires a PhD label, however, they'll still need us to front for the class in some capacity. I think "bait" is a good term, but we could also call it packaging, labeling, fronting, or something similar.

    I suspect it just provides an incentive for the same schools to start manufacturing cheap Ph.D.s.

    This is already happening. There are people teaching at accredited diploma mills who got their MAs at those same diploma mills. They haven't ever been in a traditional scholarly context. They think cookie-cutter classes and simple algorithm-based (question-answer) online discussions are academic discourse. They don't do original research. When these institutions create PhDs, an entirely new student-loan-skimming-financed branch of education will coalesce. When these people then get into accreditation, actually sit in the bodies that make accreditation decisions, it will cut the last ties to traditional scholarship and the teacher-scholar will be back to the ivory-tower institutions only.

    A stratification in scholarship and quality is to be expected, regardless of how things are run. That is not a bad thing as such. But the intentional dumbing down so as pay those actually teaching less and so as to free up money for a bloated administration - that isn't what the GI bill or government support for student loans was intended to produce.

    Here's an article I stumbled upon which touches on some of these issues:


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