Comments on: F.U. resignation op-eds and speeches: dy-no-MITE! History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:03:39 +0000 hourly 1 By: Historiann Sun, 25 Mar 2012 23:53:02 +0000 I hear you, Paul. I think you *are* a career academic, although you don’t enjoy the protections of tenure. And I think many people would be better off if they put boundaries around their work like you do.

By: Paul Sun, 25 Mar 2012 21:02:40 +0000 I’m afraid it’s a fait accompli for me. And I gave up looking for tenure track years ago. I did try at point to get out of academe, but two things got in my way: due to the fact that I’d been in grad. school all those years, my only non-academic “professional” experience was all those bar tending jobs I held; the other was that I had hung around as a VAP/adjunct for too long, and the HR folks at the various places I submitted resumes didn’t really believe my claims that I wanted to make a “career change.” Basically, to the extent I got any job offers, they were for entry level office clerk type things at $30k. I’m too old to go back to having roommates and making $30k. And ironically enough, as an experienced adjunct, I can make over $50k a year – and I still rarely ever work more than 30 hours a week. (the point about experience has to do with knowing how to compose and conduct courses efficiently, stagger assignments, in writing courses do lots of in-class peer editing, which minimizes grading time, being creative enough to avoid too much prep by fitting the same set of, say, 15 to 20 texts/readings into different course contexts, etc.)

As to the question of whether working in this environment is worth it, well, it’s worth $50k a year, which is pretty much how I look at it. That, and I do still get to teach. I have complete freedom, my typical load is 3 writing courses and 4 upper level classes, which makes things intellectually interesting, and all things being equal, the gig beats data entry. I also work weekends and some weeknights as a musician, which supplements the income streams.

Over the years, I’ve managed to weave a musicological thread into my traditional academic discipline. The result is that I’ve managed to create my own little niche area of specialization. And while there’s really no clear place for my little specialty within an academic department, my course proposals always get approved and the classes are popular enough with students. Plus, I stay under the muckily mucks’ radar.

Career academic types may be horrified (or offended) by this, but when all is said and done, I kind of treat academe simply as the day job – though as day jobs go, it’s pretty chill. It’s surely way better than being a cubicle jockey for 8 hours a day, and not even remotely as demanding.

By: Historiann Sat, 24 Mar 2012 17:33:55 +0000 I’m sorry that I lost track of this thread this week–it’s been a pretty crazy week for me.

Paul, I’m sorry that your VAP and adjuncting has been such a miserable experience. I can’t say that adjuncting is a great gig anywhere else, but I don’t *think* every environment is as petty and as retributive as the one you describe. You have to ask yourself if working in that kind of an environment is really worth it. And too, I wonder the toll your invisibility strategy (as necessary as it might be for you) will take on your longer-term employment prospects. My sense is that “invisibility” will probably not serve you well on the t-t job market.

The Alchemist has the most optimistic and productive response to problematic work environments–but it’s one that not everyone can emulate. I don’t think I found my bad department “invigorating,” but I believe it surely motivated me to get the hell out. That was only the ultimate outcome, though–it also made me in the meantime depressed, insomniac, and a teeth-grinder. NOT good.

frugalscholar’s response also seems productive, if also riskier in speaking about bullying in her department at conferences. It’s certainly a way to make allies and connections with people.

And Squadrato: I want to hear MORE!

By: The Alchemist Fri, 23 Mar 2012 00:04:39 +0000 Thanks, Historiann (and others). I’ve certainly heard from others that a lot of the unprofessional or abusive behavior is often rooted in the more senior person’s insecurity. As I tend to operate on a model of repression/sublimation, I’ve found that a less-than-ideal situation at the office can be invigorating for one’s own writing and research–which can pay dividends in all kinds of ways.

By: frugalscholar Thu, 22 Mar 2012 23:34:24 +0000 I suffered through 15 years of bullying by my dept head and her full professor husband. I am still teaching (as is my husband in same dept). The current dept head is wonderful. Had I spoken out, I would not have received tenure.

I spoke about the bullying in a number of conference presentations, but knew I would have to suck it up till the bullies retired.

By: Hotshot Harry Tue, 20 Mar 2012 02:40:38 +0000 My only version of this came courtesy of my last employer. My F.U. wasn’t any long diatribe (though that was certainly called for), but rather a one line rejection of a contract styled after the president’s one line rejection letter to tenure candidates. My version went something like “I write to inform you that I reject your contract offer for the upcoming academic year.” It felt good, but I don’t think they got the homage.

By: Squadratomagico Mon, 19 Mar 2012 17:29:51 +0000 This is so timely. I just spent weeks on a battle in my department against The Cabal. This is a group of senior colleagues who vote en bloc with one another as a form of professional courtesy. I won, thank Frig, but it took about 100 hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

Now, however, I am faced with a difficult decision. At one point, I considered filing an ethics grievance against one of The Cabal. I still believe that this person acted in truly shocking ways, with a complete lack of integrity and honesty. On the other had ultimately I won the battle, and blocked this person from attaining hir goal. So, the question is whether pursuing the ethics issue is still relevant.

But I must say, this was a truly eye-opening experience. Some people will truly stop at nothing.

By: Paul Mon, 19 Mar 2012 16:20:16 +0000 I’d reverse it and say that the decent academics are a small minority. The majority veer either toward quiet indifference to outright prickishness. But even the decent ones are rarely going to get bloody to protect against miscarriages of justice, bullying, and the like. They may be willing to take a hit or two, maybe even get a bruise, but never bloody.

My “trench” as it were is the adjunct trench, albeit periodically enlivened by an occasional VAP appointment. In either status, though, the one thing I’ve learned is that the tenured and tenure track folks are best avoided at all costs. Nothing good can come from making nice-nice with them. If one is an adjunct type who has their Ph.D., has published here and there, and generally comes across as knowledgeable and “up” on their field, (this would describe me) that person will not be welcomed by the tenured folk. Instead, they will be perceived as a threat – or perhaps a stark reminder that the hiring process is far from a meritocracy.

And in a way it all gets worse when, as an adjunct, one teaches at the higher rungs of the curriculum – again, this is my circumstance. Generally, the FT folks are none too pleased to see an adjunct teaching a 200- or a 300-level class. I suspect the reason is that it explicitly defies the location into which the institutional imaginary places “adjuncts.”

As contingent faculty, the one and only FT faculty member who is important to know and remain on their good side is the chair. And there are two essentially interconnected ways to do that: 1. get good evaluations; 2. never allow your name to come up in any capacity. I say essentially interconnected because one could get good evals but also become “popular” amongst the student population for teaching interesting classes. And that, as I learned the hard way, is the inevitable kiss of death. The chair may not be bothered, and in fact may continue to give you sections etc., but someone within the FT ranks is eventually going to take umbrage at your popularity and the fact that a “mere” adjunct/VAP is teaching “complex theoretical theme” effectively. And the chair will be powerless to halt that onslaught. In fact, in the end, if rank and file FT’ers make enough noise, the chair may be the one to throw you under the bus to protect their own position and clout amongst the rest of the faculty.

I regard invisibility as a key political as well as career strategy.

By: Historiann Mon, 19 Mar 2012 13:44:32 +0000 I wouldn’t say a majority, just a jerky minority are as you describe them. Please see the archives of this blog, Paul. It’s a perennial subject here.

What are your “trenches,” anyway?

By: Paul Mon, 19 Mar 2012 11:21:05 +0000 Wait, all of you are only just now realizing that the vast majority of academics are petty, small-minded, self-absorbed pricks? Down here in the trenches, we’ve been aware of this for a long time now.