Comments on: Stop admitting Ph.D. students? History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:56:07 +0000 hourly 1 By: Multanemo Fri, 27 Aug 2010 01:05:28 +0000 I think the point that I am trying to make is that there is no place in our training for such courses. And there is no emphasis on them whatsoever in our core areas. So even if I chose to go to CSU or UCD to take those PH courses, I would be hard pressed to fit them into any of my areas of study, i.e. the things I need to graduate.

And even at UC Denver, they are mainly focused on historic preservation. I am not sure what CSU has to offer, but I do know it is substantial. Anyway, thank you for this forum and I am proud to know a few of your former students!

By: Historiann Thu, 26 Aug 2010 15:52:05 +0000 Multanemo–I hear you, but because there are other PH programs in the state, Buffaloville U. isn’t going to develop them. (And as you note, they have a Denver campus that does that.) I don’t particularly want BU to develop PH courses either, because that’s Baa Ram U.’s niche. Anytime we contemplate revisions to our grad program, we’re lectured that there’s a comprehensive Ph.D. program at the Flagship University in Boulder, so anything we do can’t compete with your uni.

So I would prefer that BU send students down to Baa Ram U. or to Buffalo-Denver to get some training in PH. In fact, some of you grad students should insist on it! I’m sure you’re probably all more aware of the programs at Baa Ram U. and Buffalo-Denver than most of your faculty are.

By: Multanemo Thu, 26 Aug 2010 15:37:19 +0000 I would also like to thank you for mentioning public history. I graduated from Buffalo school Denver, which emphasizes that and is under no illusion that there are zero jobs available at research one institutions.

So when I got up to buffalo school Boulder, I found ZERO courses in public history – courses that could get you a job at an archive or other historical institution. I know you have blogged about this before, Historiann, but they seem to still be missing the point that the jobs that are out there are in public history institutions, not universities.

And the funny thing is, I mention this to the profs and they take no initiative to change things. In professional development courses, it is about publishing, publishing, publishing. Now, I have that covered with some good peer reviewed articles in my field. But even with that, I doubt I will be able to get a job. First, I am not coming from a brand name school, and we all know that most senior faculty come from the League of Extraordinary Schools. Would it kill them to hire people who they train?

I know I am ranting and sound angry, but things have to change.

By: Historiann Thu, 26 Aug 2010 13:20:26 +0000 Wow–that stinks. I agree that it’s a strategic and moral wrong to continue to admit grad students while cutting funding. Why shouldn’t the undergrads and the administration know that there are consequences to “excellence without money?” You can’t get blood from a turnip. Squeeze something else, whydon’tcha.

I hear you on the six-figure faculty members, but there are none of those in my department. *None.* Also, I don’t know what they’re doing up in Buffaloville, but we haven’t had raises for 2 years, so I don’t know if anyone in my department will ever crack $100,000.

By: Multanemo Thu, 26 Aug 2010 12:53:37 +0000 I am a doctoral candidate in history at a school with a buffalo as its mascot. This academic year they cut our measly stipend by twenty five percent. So we are making roughly what a part-time worker at the BK Lounge would be making. Maybe less.

Talking with someone on the “money” committee, he said that it was either everyone taking the pain or some people getting completely chopped. Then we asked why they continue to let in candidates when they could not afford it. He replied that it would make it appear as though the program was not healthy. And then I thought, um, well, it isn’t if you have to cut the poorest people the most!

He then told us he didn’t know what was going to happen the next fiscal year, meaning no money or you get a letter saying your welcome to continue on your own dime. Maybe they will give us lollipops!

So my question is: How about tenured faculty who make six figures take a twenty percent reduction in pay and put that money toward existing grad students? I reckon you could fund all the cohorts at my school with that cash!

I just hear a lot about economic justice from these people. Well, how about a little redistribution of wealth for the graduate students- the wage slaves of the Ivory Tower. Then break it to us later that we will indeed be working at the BK Lounge with our PhD!

I am just so utterly frustrated and hate living in fear about my funding and my life.

By: Historiann Tue, 24 Aug 2010 14:57:52 +0000 I wish this job were more like pro ball or rock stardom! (Or even 1/10 as well compensated–I’d settle for that.)

I see what you’re saying about a “weeding out” process, but there’s weeding out the weak shoots, and then there’s throwing perfectly good plants under a brush hog.

That said, anyone embarking on a Ph.D. program is an adult, and so long as they’re well advised beforehand about the state of the job market, then dog bless ‘em. They should plan for the best, but expect the worst, and if the worst happens and they don’t get a tenure-track job, then it’s up to them to have a plan “B.” I am sympathetic to my junior colleagues looking for tt work, but as we have discussed here many times over the past few years, the crap job market has been a fact for 40 years, and it’s highly unlikely to change in our lifetimes.

A Ph.D. program can offer vocational training, but it’s more than that. It’s a research degree, and it’s designed primarily to produce successful researchers. I wonder if a lot of people who enroll in humanities Ph.D. programs would really be much more satisfied with intensive training in a M.A. program like the one in my department, which will offer them much of the same kind of coursework plus training in a field (public history) for which the M.A. is still the terminal degree. They get the intellectual experience of grad school plus a degree that qualifies them for more jobs than a Ph.D. does, which seems like a pretty good deal to me.

By: Comrade PhysioProf Mon, 23 Aug 2010 21:44:40 +0000 I don’t agree with this whole “don’t admit any more grad students than there are tenure-track jobs available for them once they graduate” rigamarole. Academia is like many other pyramid-shaped winner-take-all pursuits: professional sports, literature, fine arts, performance arts, etc.

There are substantive reasons why you take in many many more people at the lowest levels of the pyramid than can make it to the top. First, because working one’s way up the pyramid provides training, seasoning, and toughening. Second, because it weeds out those who can’t cut it at each higher level of the pyramid. These training and selection processes actually work extremely well in winner-takes-all pyramid structures.

If you don’t like the odds, don’t pick this kind of profession. Every single minor league baseball player to have ever played the game started as a minor leaguer because they have hopes of making it to the majors. They are all training and striving to achieve that goal. They get paid like shit, live in horrific conditions, and a vanishingly small percentage make it to the majors.

Being a tenured professor is an extremely desirable job, as is being a professional baseball player, symphony orchestra musician, and rock star. For this reason, there will always be a fuckton of people willing to take a shot at achieving these unlikely goals. What this faculty member is doing refusing to take grad students makes about as much fucken sense as the New York Yankees shutting down all its farm teams.

By: FrauTech Mon, 23 Aug 2010 15:55:21 +0000 I commend the author of the IHE article. I really shudder when people say “well look at all these other things you can do with a humanities PhD.” People who are realistically okay with doing “any job” in exchange for the “learning experience” of the PhD are probably 2% of the PhD population.

I had a humanities BA in 2005. A time when the job market was supposed to be pretty good, better than the ’01 recession and certainly way better than now. I would have been happy continuing to do clerical work for a non-profit, or any job for the county, city or state, or teaching, or any kind of writing or editing. I was willing to scale back my $10/hour student job to a $7/hour (the minimum wage then i think) if it was at all part of what I saw as a “good cause.” I couldn’t find ANYTHING. Nobody would employ me. I found plenty of non-profits and political organizations who wanted me to work full time FOR FREE for them for about a year, and then MAYBE I’d be eligible for a paycheck the year after. I ended up getting in somewhere (at a good company) doing data entry. Later on that led to higher level admin work. And now of course I’m a few months away from a career shift to engineering.

My problem was I had worked all through college. And needed A JOB, ANY JOB afterwards. I suspect a lot of people going through PhD training will be in the same boat. Yes it’s nice to say “there are a lot of options” out there, but truth is anybody but academia values experience over education. I don’t think students have their hearts set on tenure-track, but I do think they assume they can make a living post-PhD. And many, especially in the humanities, might find they can’t even get wages to match that of their grad student pay. They would probably be happy having a job at anything remotely related to their discipline and like me in ’05 are going to struggle with just that.

All the people who say “I wouldn’t trade my PhD…” are biased. If you invest a lot of time and or money in something, you start to justify to yourself why you did that. You convince yourself you made the right decision because it’s mentally easier that way. I think humanities education is wonderful, and maybe there’s some way we can broaden it to the masses without making it such a time consuming career-training option only. I think it would be fantastic if we could all learn to be better scholars and voracious readers and “do research on the side”. Supporting that kind of pro-education attitude is completely different from believing the current indentured-slave model of graduate students is the right thing to keep perpetuating.

I do think if grad students are cream of the crop, and those that go after PhDs even more elite, they are definitely the type who when they hear “there are no jobs in tenure, there are no jobs in adjuncting, it’s hard to get a job in industry related to this” still think “not me”. They still think they will be the exception. And many academic professors perpetuate tis by saying “there are other options.” Does Google hire linguistics PhDs? Sure. But industry does not hire enough PhDs to account for the current overpopulation.

I rant at this from a point of sympathy because having a BA I couldn’t use, and being unable to find a job remotely related, or that even aknowledged my degree was not possible for me. And that was after a mere three years, and it’s still obviously a soft point for me. I can’t imagine the pain of investing more time, and seeing no one appreciate it.

By: Matt L Mon, 23 Aug 2010 12:15:37 +0000 Indanna,

I hear what you are saying about the history of this problem. I also agree that none of the degree granting programs are likely to see each other as reliable negotiating partners. Thats totally a break on collective action.

but don’t professional cartels (oops I mean guilds), like Medicine & Law, put a cap on admissions? They also put other bottlenecks into the process of professionalization (internships, residencies, etc.). In light of these practices, I don’t see anything wrong with a national cap on PhD admissions. Run all the applications through a central clearing house, like the law schools do (you know like the AHA, they could finally do something useful). That would simplify the application process for students, the AHA could adjudicate who gets what. The problem is getting Harvard/Yale to play nice with Michigan/UCLA.

Sure its price fixing /tampering with the market. but hey, thats the main idea of capitalism: capture the state and run the regulatory system for your own benefit. If it works for pharmaceutical companies whats the harm of applying it to academia? (oh, wait, never mind)

I think history programs should make their relationship to the prospective PhD student as clear as possible. There needs to be a disclaimer on the program’s application materials that says something like this: “You are labor. Your first function in this program is to TA discussion sections, grade exams and help out as research assistants for $10 an hour. Your cheap labor frees up people who already have PhDs from doing the scut work so that they can get on with the business of research. Your graduate training always comes second. If you finish the PhD after ten years great, we’ll give you a big hug, a letter of recommendation, and listen to your pissing and moaning about the job market. If you don’t finish, thats fine too, your funding runs out after four years so just be ready to move over to adjuncting in comp to make room for the fresh meat.”

I think a clear explanation of their roles as productive members of the university workforce should help prospective PhD students make better decisions for themselves.

By: “Morality” guru guilty of research misconduct : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 21 Aug 2010 11:04:07 +0000 [...] of right and wrong doesn’t include research misconduct?  Whatever, a$$hole.  Hey–here’s another reason to close your lab to graduate students besides the craptastic job market: There is a wide spectrum of scientific sins, ranging from wrist-slap offenses like bad data [...]