Monday, September 5, 2011

67. There is a star system.

Academe is more like professional sports than most academics would like to admit, especially when it comes to money (yes, money). Just as there are premiere franchises like the New York Yankees that can afford to pay players higher salaries than poorer teams, Harvard can afford a much more expensive faculty than its lowly competitors. Furthermore, in any given sport, different people who play the same position (i.e. have the same job) can earn wildly different amounts of money; superstars earn far more than “regular” players. Just as there are superstars in the sports world, there are superstars in academe, and they earn more than their colleagues. Interestingly, salary differences tend to be based on more objective standards in the sports world than they are in the academic one. Home runs, batting averages, and stolen bases are easier to measure than intellectual contributions, particularly in the realm of mumbo-jumbo (see Reason 35).

The academic salary structure seems to be designed to maximize demoralization. On every campus, the faculty members in some disciplines earn more than their colleagues in other disciplines (see Reason 23). But worse are the differences within departments, where young academics considered to be up-and-coming stars can be hired at higher salaries than those earned by their senior colleagues. Universities compete with each other for academic superstars no differently than teams compete for the best players. Considerable resources are expended in the effort to recruit (or retain) these few stars, even as competition among the masses of “regular” academics has left them accepting positions that pay little and offer next to nothing in the way of security (see Reason 14). Of course, discriminating between stars and everyone else begins in graduate school, where funding packages vary from student to student (see Reason 26). If you happen to be one of the stars, academe can be quite rewarding. If you don’t happen to be one, you will likely have the pleasure of working with some.


65 comments:

  1. And all of that adds to the ego problems (ego-maniacs AND horribly insecure personalities) rampant in academia that make graduate school a living hell.

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  2. The fact the star system exists isn't really a problem: it's true for sports and acting and the like. It's not an unreasonable way of finding extremely talented individuals for creative roles.

    The problem is that nobody mentions this to you until you're looking for work after your PhD. Until then, it's all meritocracy and "life of the mind" and such. It's highly misleading.

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  3. "The problem is that nobody mentions this to you until you're looking for work after your PhD. Until then, it's all meritocracy and "life of the mind" and such. It's highly misleading."

    I agree that the pretense that academia is meritocratic is maddening, but it was pretty apparent to me from day one that we were unequal children in our parents' eyes.

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  4. Food for thought, thanks for sharing.

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  5. "Furthermore, in any given sport, different people who play the same position (i.e. have the same job) can earn wildly different amounts of money; superstars earn far more than “regular” players."

    Isn't this the case in every profession? Where is this magical place where people who work the same job get the same amount of pay? Where is it written and who told us that the academy was meritocracy? It seems like this list is devolving into sad rants about how life is not fair.

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  6. ^ You’re ranting about how the blogger is ranting about “how life’s not fair”.

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  7. "Isn't this the case in every profession? Where is this magical place where people who work the same job get the same amount of pay? Where is it written and who told us that the academy was meritocracy? It seems like this list is devolving into sad rants about how life is not fair."

    No, there most certainly IS a discourse within academe, perpetuated by professors, administrators, and smug grad students alike, that the academy is a meritocracy.

    Think about what people say when someone gets kicked out or leaves--"She couldn't cut it;" "I wonder how he fucked up and how I can avoid doing the same." I never hear folks say, "Boy this system sure is messed up if so-and-so elected to leave."

    Think too about the BS many of our advisers continue to hand us, even in this dire economy. "The cream will always rise." "There are always jobs for good people." What's the implication? If you don't get a job, it's not because you're department gears its admissions of grad students to the likelihood of future employment, it's your fault for not being good enough to "rise." In fact, admissions are based on the number of drones needed to staff the BS UG classes. Departments don't care if grad students scuttle a decade doing grunt work then can't get a real job. If you are one of the >50% who never gets a T-T job, your mentors will likely shrug and say "Academia isn't for everybody." Your former peers will laugh and gossip about how dumb you are.

    Further, the so-called "stars" who get the supreme funding packages are treated as though they are somehow exemplary for being able to move more quickly through the program, and the rest of us get held to their standard, even though, unlike those with better funding, we're drowning in UG emails and TA meetings and grading.

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  8. Oops--my EDITS IN CAPS:

    "Think too about the BS many of our advisers continue to hand us, even in this dire economy. "The cream will always rise." "There are always jobs for good people." What's the implication? If you don't get a job, it's not because YOUR department FAILS TO GEAR its admissions of grad students to the likelihood of future employment, it's your fault for not being good enough to "rise." In fact, admissions are based on the number of drones needed to staff the BS UG classes. Departments don't care if grad students scuttle a decade doing grunt work then can't get a real job. If you are one of the >50% who never gets a T-T job, your mentors will likely shrug and say "Academia isn't for everybody." Your former peers will laugh and gossip about how dumb you are.

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  9. @Anon 8:21/8:23 -

    You hit the nail on the head. When I left academia, despite being one of the top three students in my program, I was trash talked left and right by the professors and grad students, giggling about how I just couldn't hack it. It's true, I couldn't. I was clinically depressed, lonely, and scared of turning into one of the smug professors/grad students who I hated so much. So by those standards, yup, I couldn't hack it. Nevermind that I did much better than them in the toughest classes. To leave is to leave a cult, and you will be shunned for doing so.

    Now here in the real world, if a top performer leaves my office, there will be exit interviews high up the chain, and serious soul-searching about why they couldn't retain that talent. My boss found out I was interviewing elsewhere (I work in federal government so things are a little different) and asked what he could do to convince me to stay. I told him my issues there, and he actually fixed them.

    The real world tries to retain talent. Academia thinks talent should want to retain academia, and if you throw the BS flag on that, prepare to be shunned.

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  10. The infuriating thing about stardom in academia is how irrational it is. Anyone can understand that a great scientist making strides against cancer should get a big lab, a big budget, and a nice reward for his or her efforts.

    On the other hand, the rap specialist in the English department gets an endowed chair, while the writing instructor who has been teaching for 30 years (and really TEACHING people how to do something) is lucky to have an office. The school will fight to keep the former, but would replace the latter in a heartbeat.

    Then there is the question of how on earth people who write unreadable academese can get a job in the first place, let alone become famous names. (I'm avoiding the temptation to name names.)

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  11. In today's economy, even the "stars" aren't offered much, and the duds aren't offered anything.

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  12. I hate being a dud. Though the perks of no TAship is no shiteating undergrads pestering me night and day.

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  13. What's worse is that these "rockstars" of the academic world think both that they are rockstars (and that's a sad and quixotic way to view this work) and that because everything has worked out for them, they cannot see so many of the problems being talked about on this site. I was at a biennial international conference for my specialization this summer and was eating lunch with two full professors who were complaining that they did not like where they were. One of them (who is at NYU!) was weepily complaining about it and said (I am serious) that ultimately she believes every one will end up where they want to be in the end (this was how she consoled herself and the other professor). There is an astounding degree of delusion in academe. If this professor was your advisor, this is the advice she would be giving. Now if you are having problems with The Life or the structural problems of academe as a whole, being gifted these little pieces of unreality by your advisor would cause I think more than a little psychological stress, as you attempt to reconcile what you see with what you are being told by your mentor, who is supposed to be wiser than you. This happens all the time. If you think it is the same in academe as in an office, you are either drunk on the koolaid or you have never been a graduate student and think we are all sniveling whining fools who kick up our heels and read storybooks all day (couldn't be farther from the truth!).

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  14. Delusion among TT faculty is also prevalent at lower tier schools. I have a Ph.D. from lower tier public university in NYC (cough, CUNY, cough) and have a better publication record and far more teaching experience than many faculty. I ran into a TT professor in the hallway the other day and she asked what I was up to. I told her that I was relegated to adjuncthood (13 contact hours this semester) and that my feeling is that my that my c.v. gets put on the bottom of the pile because of where I went to school. I didn't event get called for interviews at community colleges within my university! She said that can't really be the case, I told her that my degree was essentially worthless in the job market and she asked me not to mention this to her or any other graduate students in the system as it might upset them. Who cares?! I'm going to mention this to every grad student I meet and refer them to this web site.

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  15. @ Anon 4:57AM

    The thing about "we can't upset them" is infuriating. I did poli sci and econ through my university's College of A&S. The Econ Dept was in the College of Bus but roughly half the students majoring in econ where in A&S while the other half were in Bus.

    After realizing, by the end of undergrad, that myself and every other A&S student were screwed, I begged the Econ Dept chair to tell A&S Econ students to switch to the College of Bus, because they wouldn't find jobs otherwise. The Chair said that he didn't want to "upset" anyone in the CAS.

    Unbelievable. So to strike a good relationship with people who they don't even work with, the Econ Department is willing to throw roughly 30-40 students at any given time to the abyss known as being an A&S graduate.

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  16. "There is an astounding degree of delusion in academe."

    I think that there are several kinds of delusional mentors. Consider this a partial list and feel free to add you own:

    1.The Dinosaur: I graduated so long ago I have no idea what's really going on today and have no intention of finding out. How different could the job market be than it was back in 1978 anyway?

    2. Marie Antoinette (before the blade fell): My life of privilege is marvelous! Everything's worked out for me--I'm sure it will work out just fine for you! Fa-la-la.

    3. Postcards From the Edge: I'm on meds or finally sober and if I stop lying to you about how great academe is I'm going to go over the edge myself. My sponsor/therapist/guru said to "stay positive."

    4. The True Believer: No, cream really does rise to the top (don't remind this person that turds float too). You didn't rise? Well, academe Isn't for everyone.

    5. The Scaredy Cat: I know the truth, but if I ever intone it out loud, the consequences will be dire (even though I have tenure).

    6. The Sociopath: No one made 'em go to grad school. I have to keep mentoring students for my next pay bump. What do I care if they never get jobs or pay off their loans. Fuck 'em. Sniveling bastards.

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  17. Oh man, I have met every type you list Anon 7:50am. Let me add another:

    7. The Prolific Writer: I spend my whole career writing grants and articles. I need cheap specialized labor to run experiments, I'm not doing it, LOL. So bring on the hoards of subordinates I don't remember the name of or ever see. When I run out of money, you're on your own, though.

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  18. 8. The Hermit. My name is on the schedule and syllabus but I will sit in my office doing Very Important Things while a grad student does all the actual teaching. I call this "mentoring."

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  19. I think 6. The Sociopath is very common among new TT faculty. They were very lucky to find a job and they need to keep it by any means. Who cares if the vast majority of grad students in their labs are really wasting their time?

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  20. Anon Sept 10 4:57 am--I am in a similar position to yours. I pull no punches in telling my students the truth about what their prospects would be if they were to get degrees in the humanities or non-quantitative sciences. I've been doing so ever since the encounter I described here: http://scholasticsnakeoil.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-time-i-said-please-think-about-it.html

    However much they might resent the workloads we mete out in our classes, or the fact that they're in college at all (usually to please parents or because they don't know what else to do), students still trust, or at least expect, us to tell the truth. I refuse to betray that trust.

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  21. @ Anon Sept 10 4:57 AM

    I am in my 3rd year there... is there any reason to finish?

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  22. "I am in my 3rd year there... is there any reason to finish?"
    September 12, 2011 10:17 AM

    IN THE NAME OF GOD, FLEE!! FLEE NOW!!

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  23. Anon Sept 10 4:57 AM here.

    If you are in your 3rd year toward getting a liberal arts undergrad degree, by all means switch. I have a friend who blew through 3 years studying political science and then switched to business and doesn't regret it. There are probably a year's worth of gen ed classes that you don't have to re-take.

    Of course, if you are at a private school the switch is even more difficult, because you've wasted much more money than if you had gone to a public school. But if you are at a public school, there is zero reason why you can't switch to a major that will actually get you a job after college.

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  24. Oops I'm the Anon after 4:57AM :-)

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  25. I'm not so sure you want to listen to a group of disaffected grad students/adjuncts. In my experience (and I am one of them), the process of disentangling oneself from work in academia often results in feelings of frustration, despair, and anger which can be directed only two places: oneself or the profession, or even the enterprise, of academia. I have seen countless reactionary responses to the sorry state of academia today where people not only question the value of the decision to get an advanced degree in the liberal arts, but begin to question the liberal arts in general. I myself have done this, so I know whereof I speak. Taking advice from people whose judgement may be clouded with their own unique experience (how many of you telling this person not to get a liberal arts degree in favor of a pre-professional degree actually suffered because of your decision to enter the jobpool with a liberal arts degree? Your decision to go to grad school was your own, and if you wanted to find a job, you could have, just as I did in the corporate world before going back to grad school.) Keep in mind, I'm not saying that I know everyone's motivation, but I'm saying this very well may be a factor in what is being said here and some caution is warranted.

    The turn our country is taking away from liberal arts in favor of a clearly results-oriented training program for the job pool is seriously problematic. Studies have shown that students from these pre-professional programs are on the whole deficient in reading and writing skills (see the book Academically Adrift). And universities, in my opinion, do not have any business training workers, because that is something that should happen on the job if you want to be in business, journalism, and social work to name a few: you don't need 4 years of school to learn to do these things, you need to figure it out with your boots on the ground. And any social worker will tell you, as an example, that people coming out of school know nothing and must learn every thing on the job. Nursing you can learn at a community college.

    So if you want to be in business and you spend 4 years learning platitudes about marketing so that you can sound like the next Joe Businessdegree out there, go for it. But maybe you can learn to speak and write well to the point that if someone gives you a shot for an interview, you can distinguish yourself. Just a thought.

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    1. If you never get the opportunity, you can't distinguish yourself.

      The whole hiring system is predicated on somewhere, someone "giving" you opportunity #1. What if it never happens?

      Delete
  26. Also, I'd like to add that if you're considering dropping out of a grad program in the humanities after 3 years, my advice is to get out as fast as you can. Use some of your time to look for a job and when you get one, leave. Graduate and undergraduate studies in the liberal arts are two different things altogether.

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  27. "But if you are at a public school, there is zero reason why you can't switch to a major that will actually get you a job after college."

    This may be true some places, but not my school. I'm a grad student in sociology, a classic undergraduate major for dummies, and it's routine for undergrads who are flopping in psych or some other more rigorous discipline to want to switch over when they realize they can't cut it.* Since the budget crisis, our department and university simply isn't letting undergrads make these types of switches late in their undergraduate career any more. You've got to pick (your major) and stick.


    *Okay, now I know some sociology lover is going to pipe up about how great soc is or how psych sucks. We can argue about which discipline is more rigorous (though if you picked soc you'd be wrong), but I can assure you, I am completely certain that psych is more rigorous than soc at my university.

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  28. I wish I were Babe Ruth...

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  29. Anon September 13, 2011 9:59 AM

    "I am completely certain that psych is more rigorous than soc at my university."

    Stop hitting yourself you're making yourself look stupid.

    Anyway, what makes psych so "rigorous"? - lol at that word, btw.

    Through all this ground breaking rigorous study, what is this psych dept finding out???? Tell us all...

    Really, if soc is a joke, psych is a joke and so are all the social sciences and humanities.

    What's next, are you going to tell us about the command and rigour of the econ dept and how they're doing wonderful things...?


    Drop out already.

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  30. Gimme a break--there's a reason you find more student athletes majoring in sociology than in neuroscience. Ask any undergrad and they'll tell you what the joke disciplines at their school are. At my school the minimum GPA to graduate for undergraduate soc majors is a FULL POINT LOWER than for psych majors (and many others--I know, I served on a committee where we studied this). Sorry, but at least in this particular setting, soc is a catch-all for dummies.

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  31. Have you noticed how obsessed those in higher education are with relative status? They're *obsessed* with how universities are ranked. They're obsessed with how departments are ranked. They love to categorize whole disciplines and compare them. And they get defensive about reputations.

    Is this just a projection of their personal status-consciousness? Does academia attract people who need institutions and/or credentials for a sense of validity? Or does this status obsession start after they've moved into the Ivory Tower and absorbed its values?

    When you have nothing to prove, you don't have to worry about this stuff. Your reputation speaks for itself. In higher education, people seem to worry about reputation (their own and everybody esle's) all day long.

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  32. @anon 8:22am sept 14, 2011

    You should try the new-fangled search engines they have on the net nowadays....

    Behavioral neuroscience (physiological psychology) is considered rigorous. By that I mean has advanced enough theories that actually predict and explain experimental outcomes as opposed to merely explaining those outcomes post-hoc. An analogy would be math. So using a good neuro model to predict a behavioral outcome (e.g. specific speech impediments caused via this damage)is like having clear math rules that state that 2+2 always equals 4 rather than sometimes 3 or 5 or -12 or 3406832929384234.6 depending on who is solving the equation.

    Various animal behavior subfields also qualify. Probably statistical specializations in both would also fit that conception.

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  33. I was Anon Sept 12 10:17 AM and was overly cryptic. I'm a 3rd year PhD student in the humanities at the university Anon Sept 10 4:57 AM mentioned.

    I tend to agree with Anon Sept 13 8:50 AM regarding the purpose of college vs. job training, but am wondering if this is too idealistic in today's society.

    I did do the real job thing and went to grad school by my own volition, but I think it may be a hopeless endeavor due to my institution affiliation.

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  34. "Is this just a projection of their personal status-consciousness? Does academia attract people who need institutions and/or credentials for a sense of validity? Or does this status obsession start after they've moved into the Ivory Tower and absorbed its values?"

    When there is no clear set of criteria for the value of the work, all manner of schemes must be invented. These schemes, in order to work, must be believed in by everyone for whom it matters (i.e. only people inside academia). This belief in these schema becomes associated with the value of the discipline or even the entire enterprise of the humanities. It then takes on the aspects of a faith (there are truths those in the humanities hold to be self-evident) and this faith can be ever more fanatically adhered to and promoted by each successive generation of acolytes produced within the system. It is classic ideology of the most tenacious and pernicious sort. Even after turning away from it over the course of several years, I still catch myself thinking things that are the products this institution and its ideology.

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  35. "I was Anon Sept 12 10:17 AM and was overly cryptic. I'm a 3rd year PhD student in the humanities at the university Anon Sept 10 4:57 AM mentioned...I did do the real job thing and went to grad school by my own volition, but I think it may be a hopeless endeavor due to my institution affiliation."

    Have you talked to recent alums and done research to see where folks from your program and related CUNY programs get jobs (if anywhere)? No one can tell you, "yeah, drop out now" (except rude jackasses), but if folks who've acquired the pedigree for which you're aiming are sinking, rather than swimming, that's something to think about. Another route is to start looking at job listings NOW, even though you're not yet on the market. Look for the jobs you'd want, then wait a year and see who gets 'em. Do they have great credentials? A superstar mentor?

    The only folks from my so-so ranked program who are getting decent jobs that don't require a thick winter wardrobe are the superstars and the Molly Milquetoasts. The former are getting the real jobs (but really, only a few), and a few desperate MMs are getting the BS state school career killer 3-3-3 teaching jobs (mostly only in horrible places too). Everyone else is sucking undergrad dick on the adjunct circuit.


    "I tend to agree with Anon Sept 13 8:50 AM regarding the purpose of college vs. job training, but am wondering if this is too idealistic in today's society."

    Well, it depends whether your collection of Foucault essays and Judith Butler books taste good with hot sauce on 'em. IF you wanna eat something else, however...

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  36. Anon, September 14, 2011 10:24 AM

    "Behavioral neuroscience (physiological psychology) is considered rigorous. By that I mean has advanced enough theories that actually predict and explain experimental outcomes as opposed to merely explaining those outcomes post-hoc."


    When you get those theories figured out, make them actually applicable, and then save the world, let me know…

    Scientists are so far away from even beginning to have an understanding of the human brain that its actually scary…

    I have a background in pharma and I’m familiar with drug discovery and therefore understand the crap shoot nature of research and the extent of knowledge that we have concerning the human body and brain…

    Industry research is financially incentivized… if the answers and understandings were there, they would be found and capitalized upon…

    There is a lot that we just don’t know… as far as I’m concerned, whatever type of researcher / scientist you are - social, natural- you’re probably wasting a lot of time on inconsequential endeavors…

    I still don’t understand why you even felt the need in the first place to compare soc and “physiological psychology” -which just sounds like a less rigorous bio-chem program for psych people who couldn’t hack it in the natural science depts.-Lol, I’m joking. Soc and “physiological psychology” are examining completely different subject matter… no shit Sherlock- their research methodologies are going to be different…

    Why did you enroll in the soc program anyway… Are you all angry and disillusioned now???

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  37. I mentioned CUNY on September 10. If Mayor Bloomberg spent as much time examining waste, fraud and incompetence at CUNY as he does in the NYC public schools, CUNY would be shut down immediately. I was a PhD student at the Graduate Center. On the one (some would say, the most important) hand, my research advisor was top-notch. We've published a boat-load of papers together and our work is well-respected among our peers. I enrolled at the Graduate Center to work with him and that was a good call. On the other hand, the program is plagued by rampant incompetence. They will accept anyone off the street as students, including MANY who have no business being in any graduate program. Students with no established research interest; students who don't understand basic concepts in their chosen field; students who don't have basic mastery of English. It's really quite disturbing. The program administrators have absolutely no idea what they are doing and there is selective enforcement of program guidelines and rules. Some student can't step out of line without receiving a warning letter. Others break the rules without batting an eyelash and the program doesn't respond. It all depends on who the student's advisor is and whether they bring substantial amounts of money to the university. The course work is an absolute joke. Very few courses are rigorous. Many of the courses in my Masters program (also at a CUNY school) were more demanding. Anyone who doesn't have a 4.0 GPA in a CUNY graduate program is a moron. CUNY views its students at all levels as cattle: get 'em in; get 'em out; collect tuition. Quality of education is at the bottom of the list of CUNY's priorities. My CUNY degrees are worthless in the job marketplace and perhaps with good reason. So are yours. I would put a c.v. from anyone ever associated with CUNY at the bottom of the pile. Hell, I wouldn't even hire myself.

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  38. "I still don’t understand why you even felt the need in the first place to compare soc and “physiological psychology” -which just sounds like a less rigorous bio-chem program for psych people who couldn’t hack it in the natural science depts.-Lol, I’m joking. Soc and “physiological psychology” are examining completely different subject matter… no shit Sherlock- their research methodologies are going to be different…"


    Anon 9/13 9:59 and 9/14 10:20 here.

    Anon, September 14, 2011 10:24 AM, whom you (9/14 5:14) quote, wasn't the person to compare psych and soc--I was. If you read my post you'll understand the context of the comparison. I was responding to an earlier assertion that one can always switch undergrad majors. Well, at my school you can't. The budget crisis has quashed that opportunity for undergrads. How do I know? I served on a committee where our department pushed back against the many folks who want to switch over late in their undergrad careers. Why do they want to do this? Because they're flopping in harder majors, yes, like psych. I then went on to defend this statement by noting that our department (soc) permits its undergrads to graduate with a GPA which is a full GPA point lower than some other majors, including psych. This is the reason why we are the largest major on campus. Our dept is trying to raise that minimum GPA to stem the tide of majors. Guess what? The university admin is pushing back because--where will all those students go if we raise our requirements? In other words:

    AT MY SCHOOL (calm down, Soc Defenders), sociologists are the only ones who DON'T seem to know that soc is a joke. The undergrads flock to the department because it's known to be easy. We are crammed full of functional illiterates and jocks. The administration knows that soc's function is to remain a joke so they can keep gobbling up dummies' tuition dollars--they have a place to plant 'em and push 'em through. Psych certainly isn't going to accommodate them with their objective testing and higher math and hard science requirements.

    Here's another anecdote I may have shared on another thread. I TAed Soc 1 and left something behind in the lecture hall. Came back to get it and had to sit through the rest of the Psych 1 lecture in order to retrieve it without being a disruptive ass. That day (3rd day of the quarter) in soc we covered: nothing. Prof ran around the room with a cordless mic like a talk show host pandering to undergrads, asking their opinions about various things about which they babbled incoherently. Same day in psych they are already well into neuroanatomy and physiology. If you don't think it requires more effort on students' part to learn neuroanatomy and physiology than to sit there and give an uneducated opinion about various things, then it's no wonder the concept of "rigor" means very little to you (and by "you" I mean whoever balked at the rigor concept).

    And with regards to the feigned joking slam against physiological psych--everyone knows that many STEM folks look down on psych along with the other social sciences. Go ahead and own it.

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  39. "AT MY SCHOOL (calm down, Soc Defenders), sociologists are the only ones who DON'T seem to know that soc is a joke. The undergrads flock to the department because it's known to be easy. We are crammed full of functional illiterates and jocks. The administration knows that soc's function is to remain a joke so they can keep gobbling up dummies' tuition dollars--they have a place to plant 'em and push 'em through. Psych certainly isn't going to accommodate them with their objective testing and higher math and hard science requirements."

    Same poster who wrote the above here. Why, besides the context of the original post (about UGs switching majors or not) do I care that our soc undergrads are mostly boobs? Well, for one, since my dept eschews objective tests, it means that when I TA, I can pretty much kiss my research agenda goodbye for the quarter because I'll have 75 UGs with no writing skills crawling all over me all quarter, trying to muddle through umpteen writing assignments, which I am then asked to grade without taking quality of writing into account, because that wouldn't be fair. Of course I'm bitter. It's fucking asinine. The psych grad students I know would NEVER put up with that shit--they don't make up elaborate stories about pedagogy and the value of student empowerment because they know that they are in grad school to train as researchers. They give their little darlings objective tests and then put 'em to bed (not like that, pervs).

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  40. ^ I see more of where you’re coming from…

    I’d like to know where you’re at school though… I went to a large state school (with 300+ different majors- or it seemed like it) and our soc major was fairly small so the only people who majored in it wanted to…

    Now that I’m outside of school, I rarely ever meet people who majored in soc., I always find pysch majors though… At lower levels we had “objective” tests and at upper levels we had profs, or assistant profs grading our writing. We even had to take advanced major related writing courses along with statistic courses and classes that focused on quantitative research methods.

    I never got the sense that soc was a dumping ground… The most negative reaction to the major was usually the classic “why are you studying that?” which is no different when applied to issues concerning cohort effects, enzyme reactions, mathematical theorems, or structuralism… If it’s not immediately business or money related its not important…

    Welcome to the corporatized univeristy. Take a number, have a seat, and have your check or money order ready and available… Our assistant regional student adjustment relations specialist will be available in a minute to address your concerns and accept your payment. Thank you. Have a nice day.

    I double majored in something completely different and took many business and science classes with myopic idiots who hurt my head with their stupidity.

    And for the STEM folks… they get (or are just as likely to get) eaten up in the “real world”. Most in a science based industry know that there’s an oversupply of scientists and the industries are just generally messy and fickle…

    Adding specialization issues and out sourcing only inflates the problems. Scientists (except for a few) who still practice (I know a lot who won’t have anything to do with science anymore) are basically (at all levels) just disposable techs… MBAs (with connections) run the game.

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  41. I once had an abnormal psychology professor who called sociology the science of the obvious.

    :)

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  42. @anon sept 14, 2011 4:39pm

    Oh, I understand; you fail at comprehending what science does and think it is those nifty drug protocol procedures you memorized. If you think research is supposed to be a ‘crap shoot’ instead of guided by theory; hey, you are part of the problem with many sciences today. Your style of science simply piles up disorganized, experimental facts that are useless outside their own experimental context. Go read some books from say the 1900’s.

    You also seem to think that if something is complicated and unknown, it should not be investigated until is…known. What a pile of fail you are; lucky for humanity that circular logic fails are well known.

    Besides, investigating blind alleys is valuable as it refines one’s understanding of what works and what does not work. This refines the theories that one constructs to predict/explain the subject matter.

    This applies to all the sciences, regardless of the field. It is simply that some have functional theories & some are still sorting through their own frameworks.

    Not that my points argue against the sloppy science done in many fields and the ridiculousness of the educational cost but your point that social sciences are inherently too complicated and thus not science is dumb.

    /Not a sociologist.
    //internet arguing; now there is a waste of time.

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  43. @ anon Sept 15 10:52.

    your post is a garbled mess that doesn't even relate to the previous post you're attempting to rebut.

    your claim that internet arguing is a waste of time would be more powerful if you hadn't devoted over 200 words to arguing over the internet (and doing a poor job of it as well).

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  44. If you are in a grad program, CUNY or whereever else, there should be info about their job placements freely available. You should not have to look: if you do, it's a bad sign. It may be that the program is just not organized enough to get their act together but you should be able to ask the chair of the program or the DGS and they should tell you. If not, run far away because they don't want to tell you what they know you don't want to hear.

    My program has the info on their website. But only up until 2009: is that oversight and negligence with the website, or is it that they don't want anyone to know how few people have been getting jobs since the bottom dropped out of the market. I'd say the latter...

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  45. Anonymous 9:03 AM (9/15/2011) wrote:

    "And for the STEM folks… they get (or are just as likely to get) eaten up in the “real world”. Most in a science based industry know that there’s an oversupply of scientists...MBAs (with connections) run the game."

    One of the ironies of STEM graduate studies is the pair of simultaneous and opposing "crises" with regard to the size of the population of STEM graduates:

    CRISIS (1): There aren't enough domestic students pursuing advanced STEM degrees, so we need to loosen immigration policy to allow more foreign STEM graduates to stay. See for example the following link:

    http://tinyurl.com/63m6jbo

    CRISIS (2): There aren't enough jobs for the glut of graduate STEM students produced each year by the PhD mills. See for example, the link below:

    http://tinyurl.com/3kn4yvp

    The truth is that not all STEM graduates stay in the lab. The reality is that the most successful STEM graduates leave the laboratory and academia behind and eventually end up in management along with the "well connected" MBAs who played frisbee and partied hard during their college years.

    But at mid-career, the STEM graduate has a distinct advantage over the MBA within the corporation. Namely, the STEM graduate enjoys a deep understanding of STEM concepts that the MBA can only dream of comprehending.

    Ultimately, this knowledge pays off because MBAs are a dime a dozen, while mid and upper level managers who actually understand a company's core technology holdings are hard to find.

    Remember, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both actually understood how a computer really works while they were at the helm of their companies. They hired MBAs to handle all the annoying "little" business related tasks while they retained overall visionary control of their firms.

    Neither Steve or Bill has written an actual line of computer code since the early years of their careers. But, in a pinch, they still could.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently Jobs never wrote code. His contribution was to the aesthetics of consumer tech.

      Delete
  46. One more thing...

    The further irony is that neither Steve or Bill graduated from college.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's helpful to have family connections, or failing that, friends that are willing to share credit for work they've done.

      Delete
  47. ^ you're dreaming about the possession of tech know-how. -you hold it tight like a toddler's hold a blanket.


    All the tech eventually become process(ed) (taylorized).

    Regardless of that, only a few make it to the lab in terms of autonomy anyway...

    A lab manager is as lucky as a CEO- both are individuals who have beaten major odds (or who know people) and have become rich off the backs of a few.

    - admit it... most who read this site hopped to get rich off the back of a few. -what makes you so special.-

    The matter of fact is that we are all tied together. You're not going to slip by the tracks... unburdened.

    Man up and stop trying to appeal to exceptionalism because odds are you're still milking your mom for rent money in you're twenties...


    Put the privileged away. We'll still be laughing at you and will still offer job to others... but maybe you have a following...

    ReplyDelete
  48. ^ you're right. people don't know about the taylorization / process bs until you have to deal with it first hand.


    deskilling is always occurring.

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  49. From another blog:
    "Despite the fact that we as PhDs are groomed to believe that we are somehow elite, there is nothing elite about being unable to provide for yourself."

    ReplyDelete
  50. Yeah there is a lot of noise in the process but academia (at least harder social sciences and STEM) is roughly meritocratic but also VERY unequal. So, yes there are stars and everyone else, but the stars are mostly good. Now it's likely that none of that is true in the humanities, I don't know. And this blog is more obsessed with status than almost any academic I know. Most of the reasons listed for not going to grad school are about what other people will think of you.

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  51. Perhaps the STEM fields are "roughly meritocratic" when it comes to being able to crunch numbers and do experiments (note that some on here and on other scamblogs have complained that the hard sciences, especially biology, are rife with fraudulent results). But from what I've seen, most of the STEM folks who deign to comment on this blog (geared towards humanities and social science folks) not only write poorly, but have trouble following a basic written argument.

    Case in point: "Most of the reasons listed for not going to grad school are about what other people will think of you."

    No, they're not.

    And I suspect that the women I know who've been chased out of their hard science labs by sexually harassing "team members" wouldn't consider the STEM fields meritocratic. They'd consider it the fucking dark ages.

    ReplyDelete
  52. @September 13th, 2011 8:50 AM
    "So if you want to be in business and you spend 4 years learning platitudes about marketing so that you can sound like the next Joe Businessdegree out there, go for it. But maybe you can learn to speak and write well to the point that if someone gives you a shot for an interview, you can distinguish yourself. Just a thought."

    I can see your point. I don't have a lot of experience with grad school in the humanities myself. However, seeing my cousins, who both have PhDs in Literature from Oxford and Princeton, struggle to find real work, convinces me that merely being able to write, speak well and have a degree doesn't guarantee successfully finding a job.

    This goes for the business degrees as well. I know plenty of people who have no degree and have done exceptionally well in business. But if this is the case, why do so many employers require applicants to have business degrees if they spend the same amount of time training a non-degree holder?

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  53. The reason is because if they can offset the cost of training someone by having someone else pay for it (i.e. the student themselves) they will do it to milk their bottom line profits.

    It's the way we actually approach a lot of things in this economy. Another example? We (in the US) don't want to pay for decent basic education for our children, especially in math and science. So we import them instead from a nation that has put up the costs and effort of education.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or - far more likely - we import them from a nation that has *very selectively* put up the costs and effort of education for those with the right connections, skin color, caste, or religion.

      Delete
  54. "4. The True Believer: No, cream really does rise to the top (don't remind this person that turds float too). You didn't rise? Well, academe Isn't for everyone."
    from Anonymous, September 11, 2011 7:50 AM

    I am a disillusioned professor, currently on sabbatical at another university. I have recently taken to privately using the term "true believer" to mentally describe my various colleagues, post-docs, and grad students who totally buy into this system. You nailed the description of a "true believer".

    The university research system is exploitative. This exploitation and lack of opportunities for post-graduates has been documented. And yet, these true believers soldier on towards the day when they can rise to the top.

    I have been in a tenure track position for 11 years, and I am ready to leave and do something else with my life. I might just not come back from sabbatical.

    LOVE this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  55. The picture is of Rogers Hornsby, a member of the Hall of Fame.

    Jimmy Dugan: Oh, you zip it, Doris! Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104694/quotes

    ReplyDelete
  56. "I am a disillusioned professor, currently on sabbatical at another university. I have recently taken to privately using the term "true believer" to mentally describe my various colleagues, post-docs, and grad students who totally buy into this system. You nailed the description of a "true believer".

    The university research system is exploitative. This exploitation and lack of opportunities for post-graduates has been documented. And yet, these true believers soldier on towards the day when they can rise to the top.

    I have been in a tenure track position for 11 years, and I am ready to leave and do something else with my life. I might just not come back from sabbatical."

    Dear September 26, 7:56 p.m.:

    I am the "author" of the typology of delusional mentors which you cite in your post above.

    You are my hero. I am dead serious. It's one thing for grad students (like me) to voice concerns about this whole system. For T-T professors to do so really drives home the degree to which this whole system is an exploitative, toxic shell game. I hope you find something more fulfilling and that you keep telling the truth about academia. It gives the rest of us courage and normalizes that feeling of revulsion we have when we step on campus.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Oh, and I have one more to add to our growing taxonomy of delusional mentors:

    9. Old Crusty:
    Grad students today--you have it easy! The dissertations I sign off on would have never flown back in my day. You really don't know how good you have it.

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  58. Old crusty also says that to us undergrad students lol. What's sad is he's probably right about the undergrads, but not necessarily the graduate students.

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  59. Love the posts about sociology. They're so true. At my university soc was considered a joke. Psych was considered more rigorous. However, my school offered a BA and a BS in psych. The BA might be more equivalent to soc, I dunno. The BS in psych certainly not. You had to tale calculus, several quarters of stats, and bio to get the BS. And woohoo what job has it gotten me? NOTHING. I'm becoming a nurse instead. fuck it all. At least I didn't listen to my honors thesis mentor and pursue grad school in psych, that would have been tragic.

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  60. "Love the posts about sociology. They're so true. At my university soc was considered a joke. Psych was considered more rigorous."

    I'd be surprised if this weren't true everywhere. I was in line for a food and wine festival, talking with a couple of real adults. Regrettably, they asked what I did, and instead of lying and saying, "I'm a plumber," or "I'm a holistic veterinarian" or anything else, I copped to being a sociology grad student at UWY (University of Wasted Years). Their googley-eyed college age daughter came back from wherever she was, joined the conversation, and made some comment to the effect of "Oh, sociology--that's the easy major!" Yeah, I know, the one for dummies. The one where you get asked your opinion constantly instead of having to actually learn things. The one where you can graduate with a full GPA point lower average than in psych or many other majors on campus. The major which allows the university to extract more money from clueless parents of kids who really are inappropriate for college level study. That one. Admin and the kiddies get it; the only ones who don't know that soc is a joke are the sociologists.

    ReplyDelete