August
13th 2010
I didn’t wake up angry about my six-hour per week job.

Posted under: book reviews, Gender, jobs, unhappy endings, women's history

Over Ten Million Served:  Gendered Service in Lanugage and Literature Workplaces is a new book edited by Michelle A. Massé and Katie J. Hogan that raises two old questions:  1) Why don’t academic workplaces value service and honor it in career advancement to the degree it should be, and 2) How is this undervaluing of service implicated in the gendering of service as feminized (and therefore volunteer/underpaid/unrewarded) carework?  A brief interview with the editors is at Inside Higher Ed today.

These conversations about service are like conversations about the weather, in that everyone talks about it all of the time but no one does anything about it.  In our current state of crisis on university faculties–with the adjunctification of the profession in the past twenty years plus our soon-to-be double-dip recession–are we likely to finally do anything about it now?  Or are we even less likely, because of the state of overall economic crisis?  My sense is that few of us feel motivated to go that “extra mile” in the face of rescissions, cutbacks, salary freezes, and even furloughs.

For those of you interested in thinking about our state of crisis in American universities more generally should see the reviews by Tenured Radical and Jesse Lemisch at New Politics of Higher Education: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids – And What We Can Do About It by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus.  Apparently, liberal arts professors who make $100,000 and spend only 6 hours a week in the classroom, take sabbaticals, and conduct research (the nerve!!!) are as much of the problem as running farm clubs for the NBA and the NFL and CEO-sized salaries for university presidents and other administrators.  (Does anyone ever say that football coaches only work three hours on Saturdays in the fall, because that’s when their teams play?  I never hear that for some reason, yet here we have the familiar accusation that if professors aren’t leading a class every single minute of the day, then they’re not working.) 

Let’s talk about that liberal arts professor who makes $100,000 a year.  Here I am reminded of that scene from Chasing Amy in which Banky gives his speech about the $100 bill at a four-way intersection.  To wit:

Here we have a liberal arts professor who makes $100,00 for six hours of work a week, we have a football coach who is the highest paid state employee, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny:  who gets to the $100 bill first?    The answer, of course, is the football coach, although he clearly doesn’t need the money, because (as Banky says) “the other three are figments of your f^&ing imagination!” 

I wish I could make $100,000 a year!  As it is, we have former M.A. students just one or two years after graduation who are making nearly as much as starting Assistant Professors in my department.  (And the ones who work for the federal government have much better and cheaper benefits than we do!  That’s Big Government for you, friends.)  Speaking as someone who’s at about -$40,000 from $100,000 after thirteen years in the profession and two years of no raises, I don’t think I’m getting up to six figures any time soon.

So, how many of you are going to volunteer for some extra committee work this year?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

19 Comments »

19 Responses to “I didn’t wake up angry about my six-hour per week job.”

  1. wini on 13 Aug 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    I love that video and the post, but I’m not sure what you mean by this passage:

    “These conversations about service are like conversations about the weather, in that everyone talks about it all of the time but no one does anything about it.”

    What are we supposed to do about the weather?

  2. Historiann on 13 Aug 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    It’s an old expression: “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.” The point is that no one can do anything about it, so why talk about it? It strikes me that conversations about rewarding service adequately similarly never go anywhere, so I wonder if they’re similarly futile.

  3. Feminist Avatar on 13 Aug 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    But talking (by which I mean moaning) about the weather is so enjoyable!

  4. Dr. Crazy on 13 Aug 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Well, I actually threatened to drop Very Important Service in the spring if my schedule got screwed over. So no. I will not be volunteering to go that extra mile, and I’m about ready to drop what I already do. They can suck it. (I found my inner rage today. Can you tell?)

  5. Historiann on 13 Aug 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    You and me both, sister. Well–my rage is directed more at the cluelessness of the conversations about higher ed and its many problems, not at my job in particular.

    My job in particular I actually really like, and am looking forward to teaching again in a few weeks. (How crazy is that?)

  6. Matt L on 13 Aug 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Volunteer for extra university committee work? …not bloody likely. I’m already on two committees with no apparent purpose but make work.

    Help with the Department program review this fall? Sure. I’ll do my bit.

    Advise students? …absolutely, my door is open almost any time. In fact, I talked with one on the phone this week about changing their fall semester schedule and postponing graduation so they can do an internship.

    Duty days don’t start until next week. But I’ll bend over backwards to help students. And apparently I’m a bargain at $50k

  7. Indyanna on 13 Aug 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    That’s *totally* crazy, Historiann. But, as the cliched old workplace sign says: “Youse don’t gots to be crazy to work here, but it helps…” Actually, it’s you folks on the 2-2 who have the six hour work weeks. I teach my twelve, lunch at the faculty club, drop by the gym for maybe 3-4 hours most afternoons, then grab my laptop and head over to our new all-night special collections room, where the actual work (and actual fun) begins toward midnight. Our football coach was asking how you could get a job like that. (As I imagine it, anyway).

  8. shaz on 13 Aug 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    I just felt guilty about telling my institution sorry, I can’t do an international conference call on the Saturday morning like you suggested, you’ll have to find another time. And no, I won’t do it on the 3 days of vacation to attend a family wedding I told you about months in advance. And then I had to stop myself, after being so difficult, from offering to do the call at 6am to make things easier for everyone else.

    It is possible to say No. You just have to say it again and again and again (including to yourself!) if you are marked as a Good Citizen/Good Girl. Maybe I can turn my powers to global warming next.

  9. heu mihi on 13 Aug 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    I just wrote a bitchy comment about how much I work vs. how much I’m paid, but I’m not going to post it. (I’m trying to practice mindful commenting, or something.)

    But I will say this: People who write books and articles like the one above–and yes, Stanley Fish, I include you in that category–can SUCK IT. Many, many, many of us train for years then work our asses off for peanuts (and I don’t think I’ll ever hit $60k at this institution)–and you know, at least at my college, we do plenty of service. All of us. I like my job and all, but that doesn’t mean it’s not work.

    I’m tired of feeling angry about this issue. Why is everyone attacking everyone else? (Yes, I’m attacking, too–but totally ineffectual defensive blog comments are different from sensationalistic and inflammatory books, right?)

  10. koshem Bos on 13 Aug 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    Service is only partially useful. My experience is that service, in many cases, is instigated and run people that have nothing better to do. It involves talking forever with very little action. Furthermore, university level service is usually in a form of an advisory committee that is eventually ignored by the big dogs. Naturally, I wouldn’t give credit for service or the faculty politicians that are typically involved with it.

  11. Historiann on 13 Aug 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    I see what you’re saying, although I don’t agree with you, koshem Bos. Even if service is invented by those who have nothing else to do, service on the committees and initiatives they invent is required of other faculty members, so what to do about them? (Or rather, us?)

    Service is the responsibility of self-government. The question for all self-governing bodies is, how much government do we really need?

  12. Lance on 13 Aug 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Look, I direct a program and get worked like a dog, but I’m reasonably well compensated. My job is to eat as much service as I can, and to equitably distribute the rest, protecting research for others (and myself), time away, teaching preferences, family schedules, making sure that students graduate on time (i.e., that the necessary classes are taught often enough), and that faculty have a chance to finish books and articles. This isn’t trivial labor. It is important.

    But the same is just not true for everyone, not even at my own institution. I know a half dozen other administrators – all of them women, most of them women of color – stuck, for different reasons, at a lower rank and a lesser wage. Their service is just as important – and perhaps moreso, since they administer programs that disproportionately enroll students of color.

    I’m having a very hard time here, because I know exactly how important service (sometimes) is – and I know that compensation isn’t fairly distributed. I see the justice of Historiann’s rant. Maybe this is a big fucking problem precisely *because* it can’t be so easily resolved.

    Do we want these people – my underpaid colleagues – to say no to service? I don’t know. Isn’t it better that they serve, and better that we lobby for their appropriate compensation, than that they give up the job?

  13. Jonathan Rees on 13 Aug 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    Welcome to Colorado.

    There’s a reason I resemble that post, at least everything except the MA students as our MA students are all teachers, perhaps the only degreed profession paid worse than humanities professors.

  14. Tom on 14 Aug 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Lance’s comment says it all: “I know that compensation isn’t fairly distributed.” As fair-minded and progressive as many faculty members no doubt think they are, the reality is that most of us are all too willing to not rock the boat in favor of a fair distribution of compensation.

    Worrying about whether the lack of fair compensation is based in service, teaching, or research is not nearly as important.

  15. Brenda Bethman » Doing Too Much on 15 Aug 2010 at 7:19 am #

    [...] you” game, but because the academic blogs have been full of conversations lately about (in Historiann’s words) the “gendering of service as feminized (and therefore volunteer/underpaid/unrewarded)” [...]

  16. Perpetua on 16 Aug 2010 at 6:38 am #

    Ahh, now I understand. At a Thanksgiving dinner not long ago, a relative launched into a tirade against professors who make $100 K (in front of me and my partner – together we make that – and OF COURSE said relative makes over $200) and I was so stupefied I didn’t know how to respond. Since I work at a public institution, I know exactly how much all my colleagues make (this is a matter of public record at state schools), and the only folks who make 100k or over have been in the business over 30 years and are *very* distinguished scholars. It’s funny how conservative types love these arguments against universities – aren’t they the guys who believe in the free market? Shouldn’t we then let the *market* decide what the value of a professor’s labor is?

    But as to the question of service – it’s interesting because on one hand we have the fact that service is totally unrewarded and uncompensated, feminized as Historiann rightly says. Try getting a promotion to associate professor on the strength of your SERVICE RECORD! Ha ha ha ha. Even the provost would deny your case. I say “even” here because the university administration itself devalues service, while simultaneously expecting faculty to engage in more and more of it. My theory is because all university administrators seem to subscribe to the same views put forward by the authors of that atrocious book – ie that faculty don’t really WORK, we aren’t *doing* anything unless every second of our time is accounted for. And while research is the #1 road to success at the majority of our universities, these same universities don’t seem to believe that research is real work. Or rather they seem to think that this chunk of our job is something we should do *on our own time*, whereas the 50 hr work week should be full of teaching and service responsibilities. They seem to think that they don’t *benefit* from our research. And it’s true there isn’t the more obvious correlation between effort and reward as one finds in teaching (each seat filled = $$) or service (running the university for administrators for free). I don’t mind service work generally, but I am more and more troubled by the trend I see among administrators that research *doesn’t count* somehow – unless of course we’re talking about denying someone tenure or a full professorship, then everyone’s shrieking about publications. It’s a weird tangle.

  17. Rebecca on 16 Aug 2010 at 7:43 am #

    Thanks for this post (and others like it).

  18. “Dead wood,” mandatory retirement, and advancement (oh my!) Plus the Isley Brothers. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 16 Aug 2010 at 9:54 am #

    [...] been mulling our current conundrum lately since my last (not entirely articulate) post about the academic life and the three-legged stool of research, teaching, and service that’s [...]

  19. Anonymoose on 16 Aug 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Is it just me, or did the rhetoric/bitching about professor’s salaries being ridiculous and the job a cakewalk start about the same time women began being hired for tenure-track positions? if it was still a boys’ club, would the professoriate have retained its mystique, and its justification of salary?

    I think we see nonsense like this precisely because more and more women are tenured, and hired onto the tenure track. When the doors open to women, it seems that the profession then invites scrutiny and criticism missing when its men only. When women enter professions that were previously a male domain, salaries drop, privileges dry up, and the profession”s esteem drops.

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