Comments on: National day of recognition of the majority of faculty History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:03:39 +0000 hourly 1 By: Digger Thu, 07 May 2009 01:57:47 +0000 Cassandra and Historiann, The reference was to the department (Anthro), not the school overall. And my impression was that they were referring to all classes in that department, undergrad and grad. There are no teaching opportunities for grad students, except for leading labs/grading.

By: Historiann Tue, 05 May 2009 01:03:09 +0000 I wonder if the department Digger referenced was boasting about who teaches their grad students–in that case, it’s believeable that all grad instructors/advisors would be TT Ph.D.s.

By: Cassandra Tue, 05 May 2009 00:54:27 +0000 Digger, start digging. That school that has all TT Ph.D.s sounds like a fantasyland.

Either they are lying, simply don’t know what other departments do, or they are the exception that proves the rule. It’d be nice if the 3rd was true, but I suspect it’s the second…and hope it’s not the first.

By: Digger Sat, 02 May 2009 21:12:53 +0000 Late to the party…

I teach as an adjunct, one night a week, with an MA. What I sorely regret is the lack of access I have for my students (it’s a night class; my office hour before class is often the only hour they’ll get that night with their families, or they’re coming, like me, right to class from work). The small private U. I teach at boasts of having about 35% of its teaching staff as adjuncts, with all the experience we bring from beyond the ivory tower. Horribly paid, I might add.

I was recently scoping out a medium-sized public U. for a PhD program, and *they* boasted that they didn’t rely at all on adjunct faculty, that all instructors were TT PhDs.

Talk about two sides of a coin.

By: quixote Sat, 02 May 2009 16:42:17 +0000 Buzz- If that’s how it works in physics, I’m jealous. I’m a biologist, and our situation is very much what Historiann describes. (Research postdocs are essentially a freebie for everyone except the subsidizers: taxpayers and the underpaid postdocs themselves, and don’t change the exploitation equation.)

Maybe it’s not a humanities – sciences dichotomy, but a more-service-courses vs. fewer-service courses thing. Biology students, at a conservative estimate, are 98% pre-med or pre-health-professions-of-some-kind at most universities.

Although physics does have that first year basic course that’s equally packed with pre-meds.

By: Historiann Sat, 02 May 2009 05:06:25 +0000 Interesting news about the Mets & Yankees on the road. You know, Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler has been screaming for years about the brain-dead boilerplate reporting on education in general–specifically, how the same fixes-on-the-cheap keep cycling around and getting promoted by newspapers as the latest, greatest thing to fix schools. Perhaps there’s a connection there with the reporting on higher ed?

By: Indyanna Sat, 02 May 2009 04:45:06 +0000 The _Times_ is now using Associated Press copy to cover some Mets and Yankee (road) games, and I think some home games, which is pretty scary from the standpoint of will there continue to be a New York Times. (Maybe they pay $2,400 per seat per night in the press box for home games?). They have always done strangely boilerplate pieces on education. Back when most schools had “fall” semester final exams in late January, they would send a reporter to the NY Public Library main building every year between Christmas and New Years to get essentially the same quotations from students working on term papers and cramming for finals. Whenever a major academic convention meets anywhere near New York, they can be counted on to send a reporter to the main hotel lobby to get crazed quotations about the perpetually desperate job market. There’s so much academic talent around in NYC–both of the adjunct and the celebrity Columbia prof type–that I guess eccentric anthropology coverage of academe is just a predictable byproduct.

Humanities postdocs can often provide opportunities to do “your own work,” albeit at the cost of continued contingency vis-a-vis permanent employment. A science post-doc more often means being in a liminal position on a research “team” between the Ph.D serfs and a harried, or imperious (or both) grant-driven principal investigator, trying to keep the fruit flies alive.

By: Historiann Fri, 01 May 2009 20:33:34 +0000 Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. Buzz’s point about the sciences is interesting–I hadn’t factored post-docs into this, but that’s what adjuncting, VAPs, and other non-tenure track positions have become in the liberal arts colleges. It would be so much better and more glamorous if we could call those positions “postdocs,” wouldn’t it? (As Buzz notes, this has a great deal to do with the freedom that big science grants get science departments. Money is as money does, to borrow an expression from Forrest Gump.)

kw, I think your analogy of cars (to return to Taylor’s NYT piece) is an apt one. Perversely, it’s not universities that have asked for federal bailouts or who have had to file for bankruptcy. (Well, we’ll see what happens with Brandeis thanks to Bernie Madoff, right?). But the thrust of many of these critiques of higher ed is that higher ed needs to become more market-based. Is this really the right moment in human history to argue that the Invisible Hand will serve us well? (kw suggests that the problem many of us see with universities is that they’ve too readily already adopted market-based approaches to dealing with labor, which is why adjunct labor exploded over the past 20 years.)

This is where I see envy at work: most journalists went into their line of work thinking that they were serving a noble role by working for an institution that is critical to democracy. But it turns out that they’re working for corporations whose eyes are on the bottom line after all, as they’ve seen their colleagues down-sized and right-sized right out of their jobs. But instead of turning their ire on the worship of the stock market andn of corporations that made it all possible, they’re turning their guns on two constituencies of workers who appear to have preserved some kind of job and economic security: unionized workers (especially auto workers, whose deferred compensation plans negotiated 30-40 years ago gave them fairly generous health benefits and pensions), and tenured faculty everywhere. No one ever wants to interrogate the price of becoming either a unionized auto worker (do you want to work on the line for 30 years?), or of becoming a tenured faculty member (5-10 years of postgraduate education, plus a likely period of 1-4 years in the temp wilderness before a tenure track job, then 6 years to tenure, maybe, for a total of 12-20 years!)

I guess what I’m saying is that journalists should see themselves as workers, rather than adopting the viewpoint of their corporate masters. How’s that working out for the former staff of the Rocky Mountain News these days? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

By: Buzz Fri, 01 May 2009 17:42:25 +0000 It’s interesting that in the sciences, we have developed a rather different, but far from ideal, way of dealing with similar issues. In most science departments, there are few adjuncts. In my physics department, we have only one full-time permanent instructor, who runs our observational astronomy lab. In principle, we also do have adjuncts teaching courses, but all they are all retired tenured professors. Junior scholars can’t get jobs as adjuncts; rather, they are hired as post-doctoral researchers. The pay, at least starting out, stinks. (When I went from a senior post-doc–equivalent to a research assistant professor–to junior tenure-track professor, my pay more than doubled. However, post-docs do get benefits.) But you simply cannot get hired for a permanent faculty position without 2-6 years of post-doctoral experience.

For the university, post-docs are essentially free; they are paid for out of research funds. And some people prefer taking several years to develop their research, without the interruption of any teaching duties. I think this is tied to the attitude that scientists need to be “in the lab,” where are humanities people can do their research in their spare time in their offices. But whichever side young scholars are shunted to, the disconnect between teaching and research remains problematic.

Mathematics is unlike most of the sciences in this regard. Since math departments have to teach large numbers of service courses, and the faculty’s research rarely involves an laboratory or field work, there are few post-docs. Instead, new PhDs with an interest in an academic career end up as temporary instructors.

By: quixote Fri, 01 May 2009 17:04:48 +0000 I’ve been on all sides of these fences, TA, wildly underpaid adjunct, research postdoc, tenured faculty, and this post is giving me combat flashbacks.

I keep waiting for a huge Aha! moment to sweep the nation, when everyone realizes, “My God! Teaching is creative work. It needs time. Concentration. You can’t be sick to your stomach with worry and do it well. It’s so obvious! How come I never saw that before?”

Don’t ask me why I keep waiting. I’m obviously not as smart as I think I am.

Anyway, what I actually jumped in to say is that at least in California, the proportion of tenure-track faculty may assist in marketing, but that’s not its primary purpose. An institution that falls below a given level gets fined by the state board of something or other. The school I’m associated with suddenly hired a couple of dozen new fulltimers in one year. A beancounter pointed out that it would be cheaper to do that than pay the humongous fine which would be brought on by the next couple of retirements.