Monday, October 31, 2011

71. The tenure track is brutal.

The more time that you sink into graduate school, the more invested you become in an academic career (see Reason 29), and the holy grail for job seekers on the highly competitive academic job market is a tenure-track appointment as an assistant professor. Unfortunately, an assistant professorship is only a temporary, probationary position that lasts a maximum of 5-7 years. Toward the end of that period, an assistant professor applies for tenure, which is (more or less) a guarantee of permanent employment. The requirements for tenure vary, but you are generally expected to have published at least one book (sometimes two)—a feat made ever more difficult by the realities of the academic publishing business (see Reason 34)—as well as a number of journal articles. Of course, you will also have had to have taught a full load of courses every year, performed your faculty service obligations, and done it all to the satisfaction of your students, colleagues, and administrative superiors.

What happens if you are denied tenure? You’re fired. That’s it. You may have a second chance to apply for tenure, but if you do not have tenure by the end of your probationary employment period, you will be cleaning out your desk and saying goodbye to your colleagues (who voted to fire you). By now you may be in your 40s, but you will find yourself back on the vicious job market, and with the stigma of having been denied tenure. At this point, you will likely have spent a decade in graduate school, perhaps a few years as an adjunct, and six more years as an assistant professor. And yet you will have been found unfit for the one job for which all of those years were spent in preparation.



168 comments:

  1. You may have a future in technical writing, marketing, or sales.

    I'm not kidding.

    If you have made it through the half decade of being an assistant professor and have been denied tenure, you should look on the bright side. You probably have all of these skills:

    1) The ability to speak in front of a group of people and engage their attention.

    2) The ability to write.

    3) The ability to multitask.

    4) The ability to sense the political/social context of your activities. (Perhaps keenly honed by observations of back-stabbing in your own department)

    All of the above are invaluable skills in sales and marketing positions in the private sector.

    If you can land a decent sales and marketing position, the only penalty you will suffer as a result of failing to get tenure is that your salary will double and you will get your weekends back.

    [SIDE NOTE: Use your time in graduate school and on the tenure track wisely to develop a plan "B" in case you don't get tenure. Invest some time in side projects like developing your network of NON-ACADEMIC contacts, learning a second language, developing a consulting business, etc.]

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    1. This assumes employers are fine with taking someone from an environment where backstabbing is common.

      “No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that ‘a gentleman does not cheat’, than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.” - C.S. Lewis

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    2. Last I heard, "transferable skills" were out of favor (no matter how much more valid they might be in relation to the preferred experience).

      The only way to land a sales or marketing position is to have... sales or marketing experience, current. "You must have the job in order to get the job."

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  2. @STEM Doctor, your side note is a good one ... however, people also need to realize that if they spend too much time working/learning/networking outside of academia (or sometimes just outside their discipline), they may very well be labeled a "less serious academic."

    This was definitely the case in my social science program. Any time spent on activities not related to our discipline or to academic work was openly discussed and labeled as a sign that the person in question was not serious about an academic career. One of my recommendation letter writers actually initially balked at the idea of writing me a letter because I had taken a part-time job during my last year in the program. Apparently that negated all of the previous good work I had done in the program, and served as some signal that I was "not serious" about an academic job.

    (Of course, now that I've left, I'm sure he thinks he was right all along. Oh well...)

    So if you're someone who hopes to land a tenure-track job or to get tenure once you're an assistant prof? Working openly on a Plan B will probably signal to at least some people that you're "not serious." And that, in turn, can work against you when you're trying to get people to recommend you for fellowships or a job, or to vote for you to get tenure.

    The system as it stands is sort of a double-edged sword. Sure, it's a great idea to work on a Plan B (I've argued the same at my own blog). But at the same time, if you are viewed as working *too much* (however much that might be) on your Plan B, your reputation in your Plan A career suffers.

    I'm not suggesting that people not work on a Plan B. I'd just advise people to be quiet about it if they have any hope of remaining in academia long-term.

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  3. 6:44: This is true of any profession. Moonlighting is never encouraged, unless you're a secretary or something else that's 9-5 without any substantial investment in human capital.

    What happens to professors who don't get tenure?

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    1. They drive Cabs or work at Walmart

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    2. Or they sue the University that denied them tenure.

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  4. @6:59: It would only be considered "moonlighting" if you had a primary career with some security or possibility of advancement. That is not the case in graduate school today, with few tenure track jobs to be had. You're expected to devote your entire life to obtaining an obscure set of skills that will likely not land you a job. Any deviation from that path is heavily sanctioned.

    For what feels like about the 100,000th time on this blog ... no one here is suggesting that the outside world is perfect. But, once again: this blog is aimed at people who think they might like to go to grad school in the humanities or social sciences. Some of those people might think that they'd like to work on their Ph.D. in an interesting subject (keep in mind: grad school is still school, not a profession in itself), and then find a career outside of academia.

    What those people (who, again, this blog is focused at) may not realize is that once they start down the grad school path, they may very well be sucked into the "total culture" of academia (http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/tburke1/gradschool.html), where any pursuit of nonacademic interests or contacts (even if it's related to their discipline) will be heavily sanctioned.

    It's not a matter of outside experience "not being encouraged." It's a matter of being labeled as unserious by all of your social contacts and all of the people evaluating your work. Blowing it off by saying that "moonlighting is never encouraged in any profession" is seriously missing the point of what this singular focus can do to your mind and self-esteem.

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  5. The elite universities routinely deny faculty members tenure. It's ugly, but at least you can go on the job market saying that you taught at Harvard or Princeton for a while. If you're denied tenure by a college of lesser standing (you know, the other 95%), then things get really brutal.

    You have to fight like crazy to get a teaching job in the first place, only to spend the next few years with tenure-review hanging over your head. What a life.

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  6. I do think that the comments here should be taken with a grain of salt. Academia is a meritocracy in the sense that if you do good work, you will likely get tenure. If you love your job, and you want to make your department a wonderful place, then you should naturally attract votes in your favor.

    A lot of the comments here depend on one thing: are you good? And, to a lesser extent, are you lucky?

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    1. Surely you jest by saying "Academia is a meritocracy in the sense that if you do good work, you will likely get tenure." Not so in my experience at a R1 university, which was full of jealous, two-faced backstabbers. One of my enemies, who disliked my field, deliberately got herself on my tenure committee and poisoned the committee against me. The committee in turn saw to it that some of their pals were appointed to the college committee, which then voted against me. The college dean was also working as the provost, so he got to vote against me twice. The original witch in my department hasn't published a book since 2001, whereas I've done 7. Get real. Academe is a place ruled by the TM: The Tenured Mediocrity.

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    2. Thanks for letting me know about your experience. I have been an assitant professor and a lot of it is based on personal feelings, not merit. I published a decent amount but the Chair did not like me and he went against me, and I did not get tenure.

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    3. @(Anonymous Feb 2, 2012)
      You are delirious for sure. You think that your dean, an 'enemy' from another field, your tenure committee, and the college committee (T&P, I'd imagine) were all somehow 'poisoned' against you, in a massive inter-departmental conspiracy? They are all so easily influenced by one person? If so, couldn't they have just as easily been influenced by your portfolio and your charm? Sounds like you are, to put it plainly, a narcissistic dickhead who thinks everything is about him, and his colleagues (who are all his intellectual inferiors, apparently) are set on foiling his special little plans. Who would want to work with someone like that long term? (Apparently, no one at one unnamed institution!)

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  7. "This was definitely the case in my social science program. Any time spent on activities not related to our discipline or to academic work was openly discussed and labeled as a sign that the person in question was not serious about an academic career."

    JC, this reminds me of a brief conversation with a mentor in an interdisciplinary field (his/her background is humanities, mine is social science). S/he graduated from the same department as former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. I've been writing and publishing a lot of poems, and one of the literary journals I'd been reading had a call for book reviewers. Knowing this prof was working with humanities students, I told him/her about the call. The look on her/his face told me everything: publishing in a literary (rather than academic) venue was out of the question, and it was bizarre/inappropriate to even bring such a thing up. Thank goodness Billy Collins didn't feel that way. He teaches at a less prestigious university, but he writes rings around this prof, or just about any academic I've read.

    I agree--in my department the B plan should be concealed--and so should hobbies, vacations, anything other than academic work.

    As for tenure--I can't imagine living like that--overworked and in limbo for years. And from all accounts it doesn't get better after tenure, because then the pressure is on to achieve "full" professor. It just goes on and on and on.

    I've met academics who feel like if they got a terminal medical diagnosis, they'd want to spend their last days doing exactly what they're doing now. This racket is for those True Believers. For the rest of us, who'd rather cultivate meaningful relationships and work-life balance, the job market and tenure track game and all the rest of it is probably just a waste of our time and vital energies. We're there as fodder to do the shitwork and make the stars look good.

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  8. "I do think that the comments here should be taken with a grain of salt. Academia is a meritocracy in the sense that if you do good work, you will likely get tenure. If you love your job, and you want to make your department a wonderful place, then you should naturally attract votes in your favor."

    I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. This unfounded belief in an academic meritocracy is part of what drove most of us towards this disastrous lifestyle. A total hack just got tenure in my department (known as having given the worst job talk in our department's history, but hired anyway for political reasons). On the other hand, I know a highly productive Yale PhD who appears to have been denied tenure because in addition to the books, articles, and awards, she also has a vagina. Another truly fantastic scholar told me in private that s/he anticipated a "no" tenure vote fromt his/her top department because his/her research threatened the medical establishment on campus, and that there had been pressure to squelch it and him/her.

    Please spare us the meritocracy talk. It implies complete ignorance of and callousness towards the political and other realities of this system.

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    1. Thanks for your comments on the ridiculous posting that academe is based on merit. What at load of B.S. Tenure breeds mediocrity and academe is ruled by The Tenured Mediocrity. Anyone who doesn't fit into their P.C. paradigm would be wise to leave academe A.S.A.P.

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    2. Totally agree. Meritocracy? Which planet are you on? My "advisor" sneered when I talked about this in my first year. Backstabbing, hypocrisy, "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" is what gets people to "succeed" in getting tenureship. Grad students become faculty pawns in the game and the bullying & viciousness that goes on is horrendous.

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    3. Completely agree. I did not get tenure at an institution, a 4 year college, becuase I did not play this game. I published a good amount, dedicated a lot of time to teaching but some of my colleagues did not like me. I remained aloof thinking it was better not to rock the boat, but in the end the Chair sided with these colleagues and I was denied tenure. My intention was not to stay at this university but it is true, in my case, waht is being said in this blog.

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  9. 8:04: Politics are a major part of any job, but I still believe that academia is (largely) a meritocracy. Derrida and Foucault didn't get where they are now -- not dead, but seminal figures in their fields -- by politicking. I admit that, on the fringes, some scholars are probably on the wrong end of the political game, but for most of those who work hard and are passionate, I think academia is relatively fair.

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    1. Whew! Finally, someone who really understands the academic profession, after all the disgruntled misled folks I see on this forum - a happily (& very recently) tenured Social Science professor.

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    2. You are tragically mistaken. I'm not in the mood to get into it, because other people lay it out better. Suffice to say that I know a guy who's career was sank because he was an Italian guy who was interested in Postmodernism. They called him a meatball after they denied him tenure.

      Never found a place with more vociferous racism and callousness than the university. And as far as Derrida and Foucault, consider how many theorists are ignored to continue riding the dicks of dead old western white men. The success of Derrida and Foucault is, in a grander sense, the continued celebration of that, not some great meritocratic triumph.

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    3. This discussion is a bit silly. It is like a guy dating a beautiful girl trying to convince her x-boyfriend how great she is. Never going to see eye to eye on this issue, and it is only because each has had a different experience in the same system.

      One note: the guy who has 'gotten the girl', in this instance, does get to serve ON the tenure boards thereafter, and hence has a much better understanding of how much of this is politics, and how much is just fair-minded humans deciding whether or not they want to work with someone long term (which is personal, for sure, but an argument against them must be based on objective evidence, in my experience).

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  10. Not sure if the picture is that fitting. After all, when you reach the end of the tightrope, you've succeeded! But when you reach the end of your PhD, you're still not sure if you will succeed at all.

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  11. I provided 3 examples, from personal knowledge of unfair withholding or conferral of tenure at R1 universities. Dismissed summarily--there's politics everywhere apparently, so academia's still a meritocracy, because right now at least, people really like Derrida and Foucault? That's your argument?

    8:13, how do you rebut the content of the link, provided above, by the blogger? Or did you even bother to read it? I'm guessing, like most who believe in meritocracy in academia and elsewhere, you believe that folks get what they deserve, and this guy really just wasn't good enough, despite the findings of the grievance committees and a leading scholar in his field?

    http://chronicle.com/article/What-Its-Like-to-Be-Denied/45378/

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  12. You really have to think about any field where 6-10 years of hard studying, several years of low-paid contract work and multi-tasking on several projects (some of which have serious impacts on entire departments and programs) isn't always enough to be considered "serious".

    Becoming a pro athlete is also massively competitive and political, but at least you'll figure out by around age 20 if you've made it or not. In academia, you can be into your late 30s/early 40s before you're told you're not "cut out for the job".

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  13. 8:41: I feel terrible for what happened; I really do. But politics happen in every field, and if the guy was truly a ballbreaking academic of the highest order, he could have gotten tenure somewhere.

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    1. Bullshit. Get a life, or just crawl back into your academic hole.

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  14. Some alternate titles for this blog, to appease those who believe that despite any amount of evidence to the contrary, academic is a meritocracy:

    --100 Reasons Why People Get What They Deserve

    --100 Reasons Why People Deserve What They Get

    --100 Reasons Why Your Decade of Study and Hard Work Still Means You're Lazy, Dumb, or a Loser

    --100 Reasons Why I Like Gloating About My (Relative) Success

    --100 Reasons Why Your Evidence is Merely Anecdotal But My Faulty Logic is Rock Solid

    --100 Reasons Why My Success Certainly Cannot Be Attributed to Luck or Connections

    --100 Reasons Why You're Too Dumb, Dummy!

    --100 Reasons Why No Amount of Counter-evidence Will Shake Me Out of My Dreamy-eyed Belief in a Just, Fair Universe

    Feel free to add your own!

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  15. --100 Reasons Why I Should Have Proofread!
    "academiA is a meritocracy"--I know. And stop smirking. That isn't why I haven't gotten tenure yet--I haven't even gone on the job market!

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  16. The thing is, tenure may be going away.

    I live in Texas, where almost half the community college systems already don't have it, and more are looking to phase it out. I believe it's only a matter of time before the politicians begin to really attack it in the age of budget cuts. Again, here in TX they've been at it for a few years and I feel the sympathy for tenured professors is less than that for teachers unions, etc...

    At the CC where I adjunct, the system is preparing to do away with tenure. The faculty association is doing an all out media blitz and holding townhalls trying to save it, but I don't think that many people sympathize. Plus the district board sent out a memo saying basically "we hear your arguments, but we're going to make the final decision based on a holistic review (which probably won't be in your favor)."

    It's only a matter of time before 4 year colleges and universities follow suit.

    Frankly, I think the tenure system is the reason there are so many adjuncts/contingents, and it needs to go. I see no reason why college faculty shouldn't be hired with 1 or multi-year contracts like every other white collar worker.

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    1. The tenure system is the reason why so much scholarship is mediocre and why so little innovative thinking goes on the academy. I know one person who got tenure on two articles (in history several articles and a book or two are the norm). She has never published anything since then but she has a job for life.

      Universities need to abolish tenure, issue long-term contracts for professors, and get rid of all of the deadwood. Any social science or humanities professor who does not publish a book every five years should be fired.

      Once the dead wood is burned, universities can bring in new blood in the form of active scholars just out of university, or better yet, people with real-world experience.

      The system is broken. Let's scrap it and start over again.

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  17. The whole system is a really unsavory one.

    I may have missed this in the article (was skimming fast at work), but I didn't see any references to glowing reviews of Dr. Jasper's teaching abilities (which would have been apparent in student evaluations) or of his published work. That he says he did "everything I was supposed to" seems a bit whiny to me: that isn't enough in ANY industry to get something as cushy as a tenure track job. Then again, something as cushy as a tenure track job doesn't exist in most other areas, so maybe the BS you have to endure and the huge risk of total failure are proportional to the success/comfort you have if you succeed.

    Also, not every area of every subject is going to be considered relevant or pioneering by every department. Could it be possible that smart, hard-working people are not getting tenure because they specialized in areas that just aren't considered as valuable? I'm sure it's hard to predict ten years in advance what is going to be a hot/valued specialty, but that's the kind of risk that should be extremely obvious to anyone entering academia. And if you're not studying something that is of value to a greater number of people than you alone, why would you expect outside support (in form of funding, a job, etc.)? Most people who are accepted into grad programs have probably figured this out and wouldn't be accepted if they weren't in touch with what was going on in their field, but with departments/funding shrinking, I wonder if it isn't a factor to some degree.

    On the other hand, I can't think of any other fields that have a built-in stigmatization of this kind. I am a very deep believer in getting to keep the benefits of the risks you take, and of accepting the consequences if you fail, but this system does seem way too rigged. I work for an academic publisher and have seen several truly extraordinary scholars (with very, very good teaching records) fail to get tenure for totally unexplained reasons. There are some major accountability/transparency issues.

    What someone pointed out in an earlier post is true: you could have amazing teachers at the college level who only ever obtained a master's, and at one time, I believe, that was how it worked. If only we could go back to that...

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  18. If I were an administrator I would abolish tenure and keep contingents less than 25% or 30%. That would put downward pressure on professor salaries, but I think we have to come to grips with budgetary reality - which means in the future professors will be on a pay scale similar to public school teachers.

    This caste system between 30% tenure (dream job) and 70% contingent (exploitation) in which one makes it possible for other to exist cannot stand. The system is beginning to break - the strain is clearly visible at my college with the tenure fight.

    They are now on a full on hiring freeze and replacing retiring full-time with 2 or 3 adjuncts - how long can that go on? They can't go too far. Accreditation will become an issue or the system itself could just collapse. Most companies that operate with those types of labor practices start to become less viable over time.

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    1. I make less, as an Asst. Prof, than a local public school teacher. Wouldn't it be lovely if professor salaries were as good as public school teachers...

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    2. Agreed. I think there is a myth that professors are well-paid. It's just not true.

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  19. (10:20am again)

    I also want to say that in my idea of a true meritocracy, you don't get guaranteed employment/salary/benefits if you stop doing your job, which for a tenured professor includes publishing and devoting time to your undergraduate and graduate students. Yet this does happen.

    I agree with the posters before and after me: tenure seems to cause problems. In fact, I think it only replaces external political pressure with internal political pressure.

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  20. A house divided against itself cannot stand! Let the revolution begin!

    The best argument against going to grad school is that, no matter how much you want to live there, you're buying a house whose foundation is slipping. And it's located in an area with active volcanoes, floods, wild animals, cannibals, and Richard Simmons.

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  21. "The best argument against going to grad school is that, no matter how much you want to live there, you're buying a house whose foundation is slipping. And it's located in an area with active volcanoes, floods, wild animals, cannibals, and Richard Simmons."

    TITCR.

    Un besote.

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  22. Oddly enough, when I learned what tenure was, I wasn't attracted to it, even when I believed I wanted to be a professor--and long before I realized what the politics of tenure were like.

    Throughout my life, I wanted to be kindof like Robert Heinlein's Lazarus Long, even before I knew who he was. (He's a long-lived time-traveler, who has pretty much lived every career.) I wanted to have two or three part-time jobs at a time--substantially different ones--and I expected to change things around every few years.

    Admittedly, I'm a long way from that ideal, and I have no idea how to get to it! But tenure seems, in part, an attempt to tie my to a given university. That idea has always gone against the grain of my soul, I suppose.

    And this is another example of how Academia is so rigid, that it cannot accommodate those who are somewhat different. How does someone who doesn't want tenure fit into a world structured around it?

    As a side note: it can be said that tenure at least protects freedom--although I remember, just before finishing my PhD, reading an article in the Chronicle for Higher Education, that describes how the tenure system actually stifles academic freedom, rather than protects it. Basically, until you get to the highest rank of "Full Professor", you sort-of feel you need to keep your mouth shut about controversial topics--which is ironic, since it's the younger professors who are more likely to challenge the "established" knowledge paradigm.

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    1. The tenure system stifles academic freedom rather than encouraging it. Based on my experience at an R1 university, I can testify that scholar-teachers who work in non-P.C. areas such as business history or economic history are dead ducks when it comes to hiring, tenure review, and promotion.

      You might say, how strange? What better way to train an informed and enlightened citizenry than by teaching students about the economic foundations of our country and the global economy? What better way to learn to critique capitalism (if you are on the left and so inclined to offer a critique) than by doing so from an informed perspective based on the study of history?

      None of this logic flies in the academy, where professors who specialize in P.C. topics like race, class, ethnicity, and so forth have hijacked the system and have virtually eradicated pertinent topics such as economic history. I was dragged through the tenure mill at an R1 university because some of my colleagues claimed that I "talked too much about business" in my courses. Apparently, I was supposed to lecture on the history of nuns in early modern Europe (one of the subject-area specialties of one of my critics) or the experience of immigrants in the Cape Cod cranberry fields (a favorite topic of another critic, best nicknamed Professor Mediocrity).

      It's time to cut bate with this B.S. by abolishing tenure, eliminating endowed chairs funded by the tax payers (one such elitist I know at the satellite campus of my local XYZ State U made $178,000 in 2009--it's a matter of public record--while 50 percent of the faculty at this university are adjuncts making under $4000 per course), and replacing the deadwood like Professor Mediocrity with innovative scholars who think outside the box and who have real-world experience.


      Dear Twenty-Something: Don't go to graduate school to get a Ph.D. Set up your own business and invent something useful. Do something that will help the U.S. regain its competitive edge in the global economy.

      College Presidents and Deans: Kick the butts of scholars working on 18th century nuns, get rid of those $178,000 endowed chairs, and re-establish the classic topics that can help the U.S. get back on its feet.

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    2. "Dear Twenty-Something: Don't go to graduate school to get a Ph.D. Set up your own business and invent something useful. Do something that will help the U.S. regain its competitive edge in the global economy."

      The Dream - You're absolutely right. I took my massive tax-free inheritance and incredible wealth of industry connections and used my shockingly great accumulation of knowledge to create The Thing which, when it went into production, employed millions of unemployed people and generated so much moolah that even the Democrats couldn't spend it all and I was able to hire Chelsea to wash my car windows.

      The reality - I am as broke as f*ck, I'm underemployed, and I owe tens of thousands in student loans because I was told I had to go to college to have any employment options beyond menial labor, which, with my hard-won, four-year travail into "practical" "skill-based" subjects is exactly what I do now. Nobody wants to know me, nobody wants a damn thing to do with me. The odds that I will be able to put enough together to open even a small business for more than two months are nil - and besides, who wants the additional hassle of coping with the IRS, who just love to take their reflexive hatred of capitalism out on small business? No, what I earn is going to the roof, some food and maybe the occasional emergency room trip. Besides, SpaceFace has already been "invented" and people are happy enough wasting their lives on that.

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  23. "it can be said that tenure at least protects freedom--"

    I see no reason this can't be protected in a contract. Just put in there you can't get fired for saying something controversial in class or in writing. End of story.

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    1. And what stops them from not renewing your contract because they don't like what you said?

      You're out the door.

      Oh wait, all of a sudden contract law is totally insufficient....this is one reason why tenure exists.

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    2. Tenure exists to protect the Tenured Mediocrity, who in turn function as gatekeepers to ensure that no one with original ideas is admitted into the club.

      Put on your thinking cap.

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    3. That is so true, though on occasion they'll let you into the club so they can take credit for your ideas.

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  24. My favorite thing about this comment thread is that so few in this ostensible meritocracy feel okay signing their names to anything.

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  25. A very well-written post. Brutal, but true.
    My own opinion is that we just need to create more professorships, so that people who have gone through this long process can actually have a reasonable chance of getting the job they wanted.

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  26. Being denied tenure sounds like a horrid experience. In the real (non-academia) world where I work now, I've had the heart-wrenching experience of watching the promotion I was sooooo qualified for going to someone who was far less qualified but buddies with the hiring manager. That sucks.

    I can't even fathom what working 15-20 years for not even a promotion, but to keep doing what you love to do, is like. It boggles the mind. It happened to a professor I really liked and respected in grad school - she was denied because of departmental politics and had to leave. I felt so terrible for her.

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    1. I still get fan mail from students that I taught 10 or 15 years ago who were horrified that that Tenured Mediocrity put me through the mill.

      Your professor's story is not atypical.

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  27. Here is a look at what promotion meant to me at Small Regional Liberal Arts College in terms of the rough numbers:

    1) Upon promotion, I was awarded a salary of "X" dollars, the fancy new title of "Associate Professor", and the frightening realization that I would be teaching the same thing over and over again with the same people for the next 40 years of my life.

    2) That same year, the graduating seniors in my STEM field going into industry were offered starting salaries that were ~80% of X. They could expect to be earning salaries greater than X after only a few years of experience in the real world. Yes, those ungrateful, snotty-nosed little kids would be outearning me within 24 months even without bothering to get a PhD.

    3) That same year, the humanities professors at my institution were awarded salaries that were ~60% of X on average, and they had to teach more courses than me. Why they bothered to get out of bed in the morning and come to work still remains a mystery to me.

    4) That same year, the highest paid academic position on my campus (the Dean) had a salary that was merely 180% of X. That meant that no matter how stellar a performance I provided to the institution over the course of the next 40 years, I could never hope to even double my salary.

    Taking a long, cold, hard look at the above numbers (especially #2 and #4), it wasn't difficult to kiss the academy goodbye in favor of a private sector career, and, not too many years later, to be earning a salary larger than the Dean will ever see in his lifetime.

    To be fair, the transition did cost me my long summer and winter breaks. But, I got my weekends and evenings back, and I got the ability to take off-season vacations during the academic year. (Yep...that beach house is sure a lot less expensive the week after Labor Day, and the beaches are not nearly as crowded. And in the early springtime, those ski lift lines are very short if you are able to go skiing MWF at 10:30 AM instead of teaching a bunch of disinterested freshman.)

    So, if you are an undergraduate humanities major considering graduate school followed by the brutal trek to an increasingly difficult to attain tenure-track position, consider point #3 (above) very carefully. You will eventually have student loans, a spouse, two car payments, a home mortgage, dental expenses and medical bills to pay. When that day comes, you will want the number "X" to be as large as possible. The largest values of "X" are found in the private sector, not academia.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Amen, STEM Doctor.

    I will add that as a political science graduate, with a master's degree, at the age of 32 I am probably far outpacing the salaries of the tenured professors at my graduate institution. Sure, money isn't everything, but it's awfully nice to have a bit to spare!

    ReplyDelete
  29. 4:15:

    I am 24, and I earn only $42,500 a year. It goes as follows, monthly:

    $100 -- auto insurance
    no car payment because I drive around in a beat-up 99 Camry
    $1,500 -- student loans (trying to pay them all back within 2 or 3 years)
    $55 -- cell phone
    $450 -- apartment

    I can't even imagine what it would be like to live as an adjunct. Yes, it would be nice to live a life of the mind, but it would also be nice to live at all!

    ReplyDelete
  30. As usual, what really drives me nuts about academia is the sheer hypocrisy. In the program I knew, lots of the women went from "I'm interested in representations of oppressed women in modern Chican(a) writing" to "OMG, I met the cutest guy last night . . . and he's an investment banker!". We love to talk about double standards and here's one: a failed academic woman can just get married and make babies, while a failed academic man can't do that at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really sexist. What makes you think an ambitious woman who endured the grad school slog would find contentment being a housewife?

      Delete
    2. That's really sexist. What's so disgraceful about being a housewife that an ambitious woman couldn't find contentment in it?

      Also, 7:26's point was that the woman has an option. The man does not. Whether all women LIKE the option is another matter. I'd rather have an option available first, THEN decide if it was something I might be content with.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, but our principles don't always let us. I'm looking to transition to the private sector.

      Delete
    4. I know "housewives" who do freelance writing for 'Nature' and 'New Scientist' when they are not tending kids.

      There's a book "Mama PhD" on related topics.

      Also, if a "failed" male academic wants to be a house-husband/freelancer he can if he marries "up" (someone in a real-world, real earning profession).

      Delete
    5. Actually, it *is* an option for men. I do personally know of a post-doc (male) married to an engineer (female), where the engineer functions as the breadwinner, practically speaking. And yes, he does tend to do most of the housework - when's in the house, that is.

      The solution appears to be: seek non-traditional women.

      Delete
    6. I know a guy who is married to a woman so fabulously wealthy he literally only works for fun and they do things like randomly take international trips for months at a time with various live-in interpreters for each country they stop in. Don't be a sexist shithead.

      Delete
    7. Expecting feminists to adhere to theory out of an intrinsic intellectual reverence even when presented with societal advantages will nearly always result in disappointment. The bright side, I guess, is that it's entertaining as well.

      Delete
  31. Outsider here.

    A pretty close friend just got denied tenure at a run-of-the-mill school. So now this person is 40 with debt and doubtful job prospects even after dedicating nearly twenty years to grad school and university teaching and research. A lawyer can take clients if all else fails but what does a liberal arts Ph.D. do?

    Start a new career, of course, but in middle age this isn't so easy.

    ReplyDelete
  32. 7:54: go into teaching at the community college or high school level

    ReplyDelete
  33. I don't like to concern myself too much with a lot of money. As an adjunct I survive and have most of what I want - late model car, my own place, money to go out from time to time. I buy my own health & dental insurance.

    But I do have to budget carefully. I also have a surplus from my years in the military, where I literally spent nothing of my own salary, which has sustained me for years.

    I love teaching, but the 50 to 1 odds of getting a TT job is simply not good enough for me to invest another 20-30K into 4-6 years of PhD study, for the exact same job prospects as a I have now, which are grim. I'm going to be 30 soon, I need to get a real job, and I think I can do just as much good teaching at public or charter schools.

    However, no one going into education should do it for the money. Of course if you want to someday make 6 figures, education is not the way to go. There are different kinds of rewards.

    What annoys me about academia is they are tone-deaf and oblivious. The public wants the focus to be undergraduate education, but for everyone in academia, the focus is researching about very narrow subjects for publications no one reads.

    In any case, I think it will all change - the politicians control the funding, and they are starting to look more closely at the systems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The sad part is that the university who employs you as an adjunct will never, ever consider you for a TT job, no matter how much you have published or how much the students love your teaching.

      The Tenured Mediocrity have no frame of reference other than "I went to grad school, then to my tenure track job, and now I am King of the World because I have an endowed chair which means I am smarter than everyone else."

      The TM are not qualified to evaluate the work of dedicated adjuncts. They look at adjuncts and don't see themselves. Anybody that doesn't look exactly like them must be a "looser."

      The rising tide of opposition to tenure is testimony to how out of touch these people are.

      Fire them all and hire the adjuncts.

      Delete
    2. Um, faculty members at my grad institution make 6 figures pretty regularly, and I have full expectation of making that at some point in my career, whether in my current department or elsewhere. Maybe the tier of the institution matters for this, but the idea that 6 figures is unattainable for professors makes no sense when the figures are publicly available and it is clear that quite a few people in R1 departments earn that much.

      Delete
  34. Tenured professor here. I've also worked in the private sector (everything from Wendy's to IBM) and in government. Each sector has their immense stupidities (see: Office Space and Dilbert). Grass always looks greener in the distance. Usually, people get trapped in each of these sectors because careers aren't very fungible. Yes, bad things happen to good people (and I've seen F-buddies and besties get hired in to jobs they didn't deserve in each sector, and good people fired and crushed in each sector), but generally the academy is still a good place to work, ESPECIALLY on the TT. My next job will be to start a small business. Life is short. If you don't like uncertainty, immigrate to Sweden.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Grass always looks greener in the distance."

    I agree to some extent. My experience in the military and then private sector was no picnic, and in some ways not that much better than academia. The entire economy is bad and the assault on the working and middle classes continues aggressively. Academic workers included. At least as an adjunct my hours are pretty light. I "work" maybe 30 hours a week? Probably less than that during weeks I don't have to grade.

    "I've seen F-buddies and besties get hired in to jobs they didn't deserve in each sector, and good people fired and crushed in each sector)"

    I think we all also our stories about unfairness in any system. Certainly the military had its back-slapping and quid-pro-quo, and more than its fair share of people who deserved awards & recognition and got none.

    Still, the increasing scarcity of TT jobs makes academia a bad bet. It wouldn't be so bad maybe if you only had to invest up to the master's level. But a PhD? It's overkill and way too much to ask. What other job requires one to invest tens of thousands and 10 years of school for a low-to-middling chance at a FT job doing what you were trained for? And then you can't even choose where you live and will have serious difficulty holding a relationship together.

    Like I said, after completion of a PhD, I'd put the chances of landing a full-time job at ANY institution of higher education at about 50 to 1. Most people I know teaching ft at comm. colleges were adjuncts for 2-5 years before they landed their job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those odds don't apply to everybody, which is what some people seem to miss. We are here complaining about the fact that a PhD guarantees its owner nothing, but no degree guarantees its possessor a desirable job. For exceptional candidates, there have been 5 or 6 interviews and multiple job offers in several disciplines this year; for those whose CVs aren't as shiny or who come from departments that aren't well-regarded, life has been notably tougher.

      Delete
    2. Ah, I hear the old lie: "Everyone ends up where they deserve". Be wary of absolute statements--some people may end up where they deserve, others not (on both accounts, either getting what they don't deserve, or more likely, not getting what they do deserve.)

      Delete
  36. 9:05:

    1. You shouldn't have spent a single dollar on your education. It should all be funded. Otherwise, don't go.

    2. The military has its issues, but for many of the people there, it's a good resume-builder and some much needed $.

    3. TT jobs are scarce, but if you love what you do, you might get a decent job teaching high school or anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Teaching at a top academically selective high school is working out for my friend for a PhD in Physics from a R1 university and she is earning well, respected and enjoys living in a major metropolitan city. However, high school classroom management requires really good interpersonal skills--some adjuncts may have these, some post docs may not.

      Delete
  37. "1. You shouldn't have spent a single dollar on your education. It should all be funded. Otherwise, don't go."

    Even if you get a free ride on tuition, or a free ride plus a stipend for teaching/TAing, many folks still have to take out loans to live.

    The above advice simply isn't feasible for most folks in academic programs, and obviously not possible for folks in professional programs, which are actually more likely to yield a career/salary payoff...

    Plus, things change. When I started in my UC social science program, I could envision paying out of pocket for a few years once my funding ran out--tuition was roughly $7500 for the year. Now it's up to $13,000/year, and likely to go up again. So, yes, at this point it's too costly a vanity project to continue.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Private sector jobs are scarce these days too.

    I would say, time to max out your student loans, and use the extra proceed to start your day-trading stock portfolio, or if you are a hardcore person, go for options or futures trading.

    It could be the best experience of your lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
  39. "I would say, time to max out your student loans, and use the extra proceed to start your day-trading stock portfolio, or if you are a hardcore person, go for options or futures trading."

    Oh god, are these really the sane options?

    ReplyDelete
  40. Private sector jobs are scarce these days too.

    Not as scarce as full-time and tenure-track positions at colleges and universities. And even if private sector jobs (or corporate jobs, or however you want to look at it) are difficult to get, you don't need graduate education, dedicating several years of your life to volunteer or almost volunteer work, or thousands of dollars in loans to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  41. "Not as scarce as full-time and tenure-track positions at colleges and universities. And even if private sector jobs (or corporate jobs, or however you want to look at it) are difficult to get, you don't need graduate education, dedicating several years of your life to volunteer or almost volunteer work, or thousands of dollars in loans to do so."

    totally agree, except for "dedicating several years of your life"--try TEN.

    FYI, I called a masters level shrink yesterday (no PhD or PsyD) and he's got a full practice charging $220/hour. It's very rare for a masters level clinician to command that much, but still: a) it's more than most academics will every make b) for much less training and c) it's possible, at least in a major metro area

    ReplyDelete
  42. Yeah, the whole "the private sector isn't gravy" argument is kind of like saying:

    Well, it's hard to live in New York City, so I'll move to the slums of Liberia!

    ReplyDelete
  43. "When I became a man, I put away childish things."

    Such things include the liberal arts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No! Liberal arts is not childish, but neither is it vocational. A mature approach might recommend combining liberal arts study with a vocational/professional qualification--e.g.
      *Bachelor of History PLUS teaching qualification= employable History Teacher.
      *Bachelor of Philosophy PLUS Psychology MA= employable therapist.

      Delete
  44. One of the few advantages (if you can call it that) of being an adjunct instructor instead of a tenure-track instructor is the fact that you can work more than five or six years at the same college without your job being automatically terminated.

    I've known people who have taught at the same college for more than ten years on one-year contracts (one of them for fifteen years). They could not have lasted that long if they were on the tenure track. (Both love teaching, but neither was much of a researcher.) On the other hand, they were faced with a certain amount of uncertainty from year to year.

    ReplyDelete
  45. @10:08:
    Yeah, but what was their salary for said teaching? If you broke it down hourly, including grading, prep time, OH, email, all of it--what would their hourly wage be? Would it pay as much as teaching high school or the lower grades?

    ReplyDelete
  46. If you love teaching, just teach adult education courses or tutor underprivileged children. FFS. Or even get an MA and teach at nights in community colleges. I also love the following: the NFL, writing short stories, eating chicken strips. Do I try to do them as a career? Heck, no.

    ReplyDelete
  47. "If you love teaching, just teach adult education courses or tutor underprivileged children. FFS. Or even get an MA and teach at nights in community colleges. I also love the following: the NFL, writing short stories, eating chicken strips. Do I try to do them as a career? Heck, no."

    Why do I feel like this is lawyer-guy making a comeback? If I recall correctly, he was working on a short story collection while his physics grad student girlfriend toiled night and day (recall that he would leave her, but the sex is great).

    Thanks again for condescension redux, "FFS." I'm not sure who you think should be teaching, if not people with the dedication to do it for a career.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Those are indeed sane options.

    Taking out your student loans excess and put into your IRA (traditional IRA, not Roth) + health savings account allows you to deduct $8000 per year from your income on your tax return. That could mean $1000+ in tax savings, state and federal combined.

    And using your IRA you can invest in almost anything, tax deferred until you pull the money out.

    Speaking of options, go look up the term "option straddle", it is the best way to make money on options.

    I have a friend whose fellowship was revoked because he switched from a PhD program to a MA. She now luckily have her income doing options trading, supporting her research and living expenses.

    So yes, betting your student loan money is a way to go in this economy, you might have a shot and paying off everything and graduate debt-free if you are careful.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  49. 4:06: you know what *I'm* sick of? The frequent holier-than-thou attitude demonstrated by teachers in this country. We get it. You don't earn enough. Teaching is hard. Kids are hard to deal with.

    Well, you know what I think of that! I think your job is no harder or more important than anyone else's. And if you don't like teaching, then quit. Obviously, lots of people love teaching and there's a surplus of educators. That is why your pay sucks. And yet teachers still go on and on about the difficulty of their lives.

    What? You think it's easy being a lawyer? You think these appeals write themselves? You think our economy could function without good lawyers? Suck my bleep, you bleep.

    ReplyDelete
  50. "This blog is an attempt to offer those considering graduate school some good reasons to do something else. Its focus is on the humanities and social sciences."

    ReplyDelete
  51. Wait, the economy is functioning?

    Yaaaaay!

    ReplyDelete
  52. "You think our economy could function without good lawyers?"

    It would probably improve remarkably with far fewer lawyers.

    "The frequent holier-than-thou attitude demonstrated by teachers in this country."

    I didn't sense that at all from the comment at 4:06. It's not "holier-than-thou" to desire a living wage. Rather, it's you who seem to be holier-than-thou, talking about how much harder you work.

    There are good and bad aspects to every job, and the grass is always, always greener.

    "Obviously, lots of people love teaching and there's a surplus of educators."

    There is a surplus of *people* in the world. That's why plagues and wars tended to have positive effects on the wages for those who remained.

    The value of helping people accomplish something can't be quantified. Yes, teaching is a desirable profession because it's immensely more rewarding than a job like say, Wal-Mart asst. manager - who gets paid approx. the same salary, but your job involves deciding how to place shampoo bottles on the shelf in such a way that increases sales. Not very rewarding.

    But it's not easy either and teaching is a craft - not everyone is good at it or would be good at it if they tried.

    What you've said about teaching I could say about basically any profession. What's the point? Is it really important? There are other people who could do it. Fill in the blank.

    What I would note is that someone had to teach you to read and write, and a lot of teachers got you where you are now as a lawyer.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Ages ago "teaching" stopped being the focus of life in academia. It isn't valued. Students just want their credits to graduate. Departments expect their profs to publish, publish, publish. Grad students get left with all the dirty work, so they learn to hate it.

    If you're "teaching," you're not supposed to rock the boat. Get decent evaluations. Don't give out low grades and upset the customers. Then go home and do your real job, which is to make a name for yourself and your department.

    If teaching was so important, they wouldn't make the grad students do so much of it. Think of all the people who win teaching awards but don't get tenure.

    ReplyDelete
  54. 10:08: exactly. And anyone going into academia for the teaching is like saying you want to be an NFL player for the "media relations."

    It's dumb and a total post-hoc attempt to justify your pitiful existence as an adjunct.

    Why are people on the adjunct track? Because their publication record is just not good enough. If they were the next Frederic Jameson, some university would snap them up in a heartbeat.

    ReplyDelete
  55. @9:18
    What a beautifully written response. Unfortunately, no amount of reasoning or explanation is going to reach our lawyer friend. For whatever reason, perhaps anger at his academic girlfriend or job frustration of his own, he's set his sites on academics and is here to spout invective until he grows tired of it and finds a new target. Period.

    As folks on the last thread suggested, LET'S AGREE NOT TO FEED THE TROLL. That means moving forward without responding to him. His arguments are those of an uninformed outsider, and clearly designed to upset us. This is how trolls operate and what they want is to hijack this thread. Let's not give him that satisfaction, but rather simply exclude him from the conversation.

    With regards to others' good comments about teaching:

    I had a superstar Harvard PhD prof when I was an undergrad. He was also white, male, young, energetic, didn't tackle any political subjects, and he wasn't completely physically repulsive, so naturally he got great student evals, and eventually a teaching award. I was haunting his office hours (along with other profs', because I was considering grad school), and do you know what he told me? "Teaching awards are the kiss of death for tenure, because they convey that you're not a serious scholar."

    ReplyDelete
  56. Hate to shatter anyone's (our troll's or anyone else's) illusions that academia is a meritocracy, but publishing doesn't get you $hit these days.

    Once upon a time, an ABD job candidate with one full-length, peer-reviewed article stood a pretty good chance at a tenure-track job against the herd. Now, PhDs with multiple peer-reviewed articles and even book contracts don't even get interviews. And there are increasing instances of people on the tenure track who meet all the benchmarks, including a strong publication record, and should get tenure but are denied. Their jobs then go to adjuncts. Go figure.

    What's the problem? As teaching has lost value, so has research. (And, BTW, stop name dropping, troll. No one gives a $hit that you saw Frederic Jameson's name on Wikipedia somewhere, certainly not the administrators keeping humanities and social science departments on shoestring budgets so that they HAVE to rely on adjuncts.)

    Increasingly driven by a for-profit business model, even supposedly non-profit colleges and universities need warm bodies to teach classes for as little money as possible.

    Many adjuncts stick around post PhD hoping that, by building up their publication records, they will eventually get onto the tenure track. But that is a false hope. Adjuncts' value to the academy -- and here's the dirty little secret -- is AS ADJUNCTS, not as researchers (no matter how good their work nor how much of it). Nor is the value of expensive, tenure-track professors in the quailty of their research; it's in their role as bait. Academia preserves this comparatively small number of highly coveted, "elite" positions not because the people who occupy them are such hotshot rockstars but because, without the hope of one day getting one of these "real" jobs, the adjunct pool would dry up, this crackpot business model would collapse, and we'd have to reckon with the true cost of education in this country.

    And NOBODY wants to do that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brilliant comment, especially love the part about tenured profs' role as "bait".

      Delete
  57. Totally agree, 1:27. My friend co-edited not one, but two BOOKS in addition to her/his many journal articles, book chapters, etc. Still not enough to land a job in this market. Lost a job to a guy with one of the "hotshot rockstars" as adviser, despite having only a single, as-yet-still-unpublished encyclopedia entry.

    I think the only people INSIDE academia who truly still believe it's a meritocracy are the newbie grad student hopefuls and the tenured profs who are invested in believing that their status derives from worthiness and not luck or their utility as "bait," as you so elegantly suggest.

    ReplyDelete
  58. http://english.uchicago.edu/people

    Okay, geniuses, then where are the adjuncts? I see only two, maybe three. And ditto on another website I looked.

    Heck, even a guy from Indiana landed a good assistant prof gig. And he's not exactly what I would call a minority except maybe in that sense.

    ReplyDelete
  59. NO RESPONSE TO TROLLS!
    NO RESPONSE TO TROLLS!
    NO RESPONSE TO TROLLS!

    ReplyDelete
  60. Agreed, however, it is worthwhile to point out to prospective graduate students that a lot of schools DON'T list sdjuncts on their websites because that would tell prospective students (both grad and undergrad) WAY more than they needed to know. You have to look at the semester course schedule to see who's actually teaching. There will be quite a few names not listed on the faculty pages.

    But also, U. Chicago is a fancy private school. Such places tend to use FEWER adjuncts than, say, U. Illinois at Urbana. If you go there ...

    http://www.english.illinois.edu/people/

    ... you'll find a great many people listed as "lecturer" and "instructor" of one sort or another. These are adjuncts (but I guess you'd have to be in academia to know that!), and the list does not even include graduate students, who are listed separately, many of whom are teaching their own classes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree that adjunct labourers/ teachers are often invisible. When I adjuncted at a R1 Uni I tried requesting some "virtual shelf space" for adjuncts to describe what they do. It would be so easy to give them some website space, as they already do for grad students. Did they do it? Of course not. People don't want to know who is teaching their courses.

      Delete
  61. What is trolling about this? There's a guy who graduated from Indiana and has a tenure track gig at UChicago. That means he's teaching alongside Bevington (the Shakespeare guy), Brown (thing theory), and other such luminaries.

    Stop assuming I am a troll just because I'm not exactly saying what you want. Respond intelligently to my points, as 3:03 did.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Also, explain why some universities seem proud of their adjuncts:

    http://www.english.uiowa.edu/faculty/profiles/dowling.shtml

    This guy has written 3 excellent books yet still languishes as an adjunct (although I assume he has good career security because they list him in big letters?).

    ReplyDelete
  63. 3:03:

    http://data.illinimedia.com/salaries/index

    instructors make ~ 30k
    rent in urbana is ~ 0

    first person on that list --
    in 2010, she made $28,169 to work some slack ass job and write in her spare time

    ReplyDelete
  64. The first person on that made 60% as much as median income, only teaches a few classes, gets 4 months/year off, lives in a cheap place*, and has a ton more free time to write or smoke or do whatever she wants. That doesn't sound that bad, honestly.

    All of the instructors made ~ 28k, except for two who made more and 3 who made less. I assume the less was part-time or whatever and the more, those people have other jobs, too, that pay.

    http://chambana.craigslist.org/apa/2683964753.html

    $500/month rents a 3 bedroom detached home

    CHECK YOUR FACTS

    ReplyDelete
  65. @1:27 That has to be one of the most cynical takes on academia that I've ever read. It just makes me even more cynical than I already was. OK, so if you're not hired for your teaching ability or for your publication record, then what are you hired for? To fill a quota? Because you get along with everybody? What's the secret to getting to be 'bait'? That's what we're reduced to: desperately wanting to be bait. This is insane.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Yes, the system is insane. That is what SOME of us are trying to explain to prospective graduate students who may not, for variety of reasons, know how things really work inside academia.

    ReplyDelete
  67. My very best professor in my STEM field (undergraduate level) failed to get tenure. The guy was an awesome teacher. Learned tons from him.

    About six years later, one of my better professors in my STEM field (graduate level) failed to get tenure. Again, an awesome teacher. Learned tons from him.

    Finally, after another 7 years or so, one of my graduate school colleagues failed to get tenure despite doing some cutting edge research in my STEM field. He later found out that the previous 4+ applicants for tenure in "his slot" in the department had been denied tenure. This was back during the period where departments were still giving lip service to the concept that all professors were on the tenure track. His institution was actually using "serial tenure denial" as a tool to effectively create what today would be called an adjunct professorship slot.

    Watching all of this nonsense through the years really turned me against academia. I now really think that tenure should be abolished entirely.

    I think the "tenure concept" will erode away slowly in the same manner that the "partner concept" is slowly disappearing from the legal profession.

    In the end, all professors will be adjuncts (paid like high school teachers), all students will be taught remotely (in little pods like young Mr. Spock growing up on Vulcan), and the massive glut of excess lawyers being produced in our country will end up doing paralegal work (desperately hoping to one day pay off their massive student loans).

    ReplyDelete
  68. This is a great site! I don't know if this has already been elaborated as a reason, but postdoc programs (or the expectations thereof) should be included as a reason at some point. If I ever finish my PhD and actually become a professor, I will include the address of this website on every syllabus I prepare for my classes.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Anon @ 6:27 PM said: "If I ever finish my PhD and actually become a professor, I will include the address of this website on every syllabus I prepare for my classes."

    Under the present regime in control of academia, you might wish to carefully rephrase your statement as follows:

    "If I ever finish my PhD and actually become a TENURED professor, I will include the address of this website on every syllabus I prepare for my classes."

    Remember that only as a TENURED professor can you get away with any criticism of the problems with the system, because at that time, you will securely and safely be an unassailable part of that very problem.

    And lest anybody object that my argument in this post negates my feelings about tenure expressed in my prior post, remember that I don't believe in tenure and the premise that an employee of an institution has the right to say anything at all without repercussions. We must all be accountable. If our ideas don't sell in the marketplace, we remain free to express those ideas for as long as we wish, but we shouldn't expect to get paid for those ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  70. 5:11: luck and timing. Be at the right place at the right time.

    ReplyDelete
  71. If you have free time try to take MBA courses at night (while on a RAship/TAship/fellowship) and try to get the degree before transitioning to the corporate world.

    That way you won't be abused like those entry-level folks, and you make up a large amount of opportunity cost that were lost as a result of the mistake of going to grad school.

    ReplyDelete
  72. "If you have free time try to take MBA courses at night (while on a RAship/TAship/fellowship) and try to get the degree before transitioning to the corporate world."

    Good reason not to go to Dingus State U. No MBA, law, med, MFA, other applied degrees offered here.

    ReplyDelete
  73. 11:12: are you sure? An MBA without any relevant work experience is like a basketball coach who's never played the game at any level.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Unless you come from a SLAC, TA'ing a 300+ kids class is micro-management, qualifies as relevant experience.

    ReplyDelete
  75. I also know someone who get a MS/MBA in economics en route to getting a PhD in economics. No prior experience needed.

    ReplyDelete
  76. 7:16:

    Whether it is relevant experience depends more on the perspective of the employer. Will a department of, say, Sara Lee "buy" that argument? Or an insurance company? I don't know.

    7:18:

    You need to work on your reading comprehension.

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  77. How many people want to bet that the undergraduate author of the following article from the Duke University Chronicle is destined to end up as somebody who posts to this blog, wondering why s/he picked a humanities major?

    http://tinyurl.com/6oc6g7p

    S/he doesn't have a clue about what awaits him/her in the near future.

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  78. @Stem Doctor: Kudos for the concern, but Monday Monday is the Chronicle's weekly satire column. Been running for several years now. Clearly someone out there has been reading this blog. :)

    - Former Blue Devil

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  79. LMFAO. Thing is, this satire is just slightly too "on"...for a minute I didn't catch on either (maybe it's the cold meds) and felt acutely nauseated.

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  80. Can anyone here explain how the process of getting tenure works? Do people actually vote on who gets it? Seriously? Don't you just have to meet a set of criteria or benchmarks or something?

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  81. @6:23

    Oh my. I hope you are a prospective grad student, and not current one.

    Yes, there is voting, and no it's not strictly fair or objective. Read some of the links provided above for some horror stories.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Getting tenure, like many things in academia, is an arcane procession through the university's byzantine bureaucracy. There are votes by committee within the department, and the evaluations of readers outside the department who are specialists in your field but who are not your friends, and there's the dean who also gets a say and a lot more between. It is not easy to get tenure anywhere, and no matter where you are at you will need a book.

    A friend of mine is a professor at a commuter college at a small school in Indiana (3/3 load) and says they give tenure only to about 50% of tenure track professors. You can choose to be evaluated for tenure there by your teaching or research. He's told me that a colleague of his who went for research kept going back to her chair when she met what he'd previously told her were the criteria for tenure. Every time she's gone back, he told her to do more and more. He actually has only enough power to throw a wrench in the process, not enough to work positively toward her getting tenure so who knows if he's giving the right advice, or just trying to squeeze more out of her, or if she'll get tenure. He told me of another colleague in a different department who went for teaching, got the biggest statewide teaching award, and even published a few things and had secured a book contract. He was denied tenure.

    So if you think people here are just whining or that academics and academics in training are insane and the system is not, you either don't know about or can't comprehend the systemic dysfunction of academia. Point by point, you might be able to find a counterpoint to make an argument that it's not so bad. But that's just myopia talking: look at the big picture and you'll see how seriously damaged not just academia but American higher education really is.

    And also, why does this site attract so many lawyers with so little time that they can troll these comments and spray their bile here like a cat pissed off to have been thrown off the cozy chair? Seriously, you need to worry about yourselves (or yourself if, even sadder, you are a lone person). Or go troll a political blog or Gawker or something to soothe yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's not a problem of only American higher education but any education worldwide. People with original and fresh ideas are not welcomed by institutions.

      Delete
  83. 7:26: When I went to undergrad, I knew a prof who completed his PhD. at 3 years at an Ivy League school, had published seven books, and was a star so high that he pulled over six figures. Don't a lot of these arguments depend on whether the person is good? Someone who publishes very widely cited articles surely can't be denied tenure, right? Laura Mulvey would get picked up in a heartbeat.

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  84. @7:26 You don't get it. For every Laura Mulvey (are you cribbing this off an old crit theory syllabus, because I haven't heard that name invoked for years...) there are 100 Laura Mulvey's who don't get to be "Laura Mulvey." No, it's not true that if you're good you'll get snapped up immediately. I've seen the smartest of my friends get passed up, and some of the weakest elevated. There are adjuncts with books, not contracts, but published books from Oxford UP that are still adjuncts. You are wrong, and you're buying into one of the most tenacious elements of the ideological stranglehold that is academia, that just because some people made it everyone can make it. That may speak to our belief in competition and the idea that merit will pay off, but it's just not true. For the zillionth time, academia is not a meritocracy.

    Perhaps you can't conceive of a system being unjust. Or perhaps you refuse to believe that a system could be unjust. There must be some reason you keep adducing little, local bits of evidence when the fact is that this problem is systemic. So Laura Mulvey exists, and so do programs like Duke's English department which has more professors than students and is cash rich. But does that mean that the remaining 95% of a broken system is not broken and is not unjust?

    So let's not trade in anecdotes, because for every one you have there is a heap of bad anecdotes that run counter to your very simplistic view of a very complex, systemic problem fraught with ideological mirages at every turn.

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  85. 10:09: but then how is this any different from any competitive field? You really think Ryan Gosling is one of the most attractive, best male actors out there? Maybe, but for every Gosling, there are literally thousands of not-Goslings who can do his job as well, if not better.

    You're right. I just can't conceive of a system that seems on the face of it to be fine to make basically no sense whatsoever for those in it. There are always reasons for people to be promoted. Whether they are good or bad reasons can be debated endlessly, but success in academia is a result of hard work and a lot of luck, much as success is in virtually every other field.

    If you have passion and you get lucky, then you'll make it. This is no different than business, law, music, acting, anything.

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  86. 10:09: explain to me why a person with a published book from Oxford Press isn't being snapped up.

    There could be dozens of reasons: poor interviewing, departmental politics, budget freezes, or even a subject that's slightly out of date (say, New Historicism). But they're all reasons that fit into a larger "meritocracy" of luck and being at the right place at the right time.

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  87. Ok you may choose to believe that the system "seems on the face of it to be fine." But you aren't looking very deeply into it then, are you? This is a system in which 3 out of 4 teachers are contingent labor, about whom to quote the MLA at length:

    "The conditions under which most adjunct teachers are employed define them as nonprofessionals. Often they are hired quickly, as last-minute replacements. They receive little recognition or respect for their contributions to their departments; almost always they are paid inequitably and receive no fringe benefits.

    Excessive reliance on an adjunct faculty can damage individual faculty members, students, institutions, and the profession. For the sake of an institution's economic welfare, adjunct faculty members are often denied the security that adequate salary, health insurance, and professional status can provide. The institution, in turn, suffers through the creation of a two-tiered system in which faculty members have different responsibilities and expectations." (source: http://www.mla.org/statement_faculty).

    Looks good on its face, does it? I don't think you're looking very hard, my friend. And you know what, if you want to think that academia is just like every thing else, go right ahead. But, sorry to sting you here, but you sound uninformed or just too clueless enough to put it all together. And also, comparisons to the NBA and NFL for professors tells us how wrong this system is. Professors are not entertainers whose amazing skills have made them rich and famous. They are people who study minutia and teach classes.

    A friend of mine works as contingent economic labor at a tier 1 school. He makes in the mid-$30000 and is lucky to be in a program that pays him that well for the work he does (working in a writing center and teaching). It's not a great gig for a newly minted phd, because the pay is quite low for someone with that amount of debt and of course its only a temporary job. It's a good stage for moving, hopefully, on to a more permanent job. Their last application cycle they received 600 applications for this job. Does that really seem normal to you? A non-permanent job, with relatively meager pay, should not have 600 applicants many of whom are from top programs. I'm sorry but if you can't see what's wrong with this, and that it is in fact not in line with business, law, or even music or acting (as if all four of those things are even the same; they're not), I don't know what to tell you. This comes off as willful ignorance, or do you really only know what you read here and what you were able to stretch yourself to see peeking out of the fishbowl of your undergraduate experience (where, by the way, universities have a vested interest in not exposing you to this kind of ugliness).

    And also, if you are a lawyer, you might want to hone some of your skills. Your arguments are like swiss cheese.

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  88. 10:59: but what blows me away, as an academic outsider, is that this exploitation is of doctoral candidates and earners, not migrant workers in the Valley. You would think that if the local pipefitters and millwrights can band together in a union to demand decent working conditions and fringe benefits, then some of the smartest people in the country should be able to do the same.

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  89. @12:59 I couldn't agree more, and I'm similarly blown away. The faculty at my university is not unionized, but there has been a steady but small effort to start one that has never bore fruit. At other universities, I've heard that even mention of it is anathema, whereas my university is in a town whose politics are very much left of center.

    Whether or not they need to unionize, I don't know or really care. But it illustrates something about how what I think is a large contingent of academics do not conceive of themselves as workers, in an economic sense. I've seen academics declare vehemently that even as adjuncts they are not workers, with quite a measure of disdain for the idea it seemed. This, I think, is also a part of the ideology: The real reward of tenure is that it will release you from the cycle of birth and death that is being a part of the workforce. The reward is freedom from that economy, and if you are working toward the reward you are working toward believing that you are outside of the sphere of "workers" and in some other, special configuration. This is one subtle way that going to graduate school for many years and chasing tenure can make you re-conceive yourself and I really think this is one of the dreams that power the machine of academe.

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  90. "I'm sorry but if you can't see what's wrong with this, and that it is in fact not in line with business, law, or even music or acting (as if all four of those things are even the same; they're not), I don't know what to tell you. This comes off as willful ignorance, or do you really only know what you read here and what you were able to stretch yourself to see peeking out of the fishbowl of your undergraduate experience (where, by the way, universities have a vested interest in not exposing you to this kind of ugliness)."

    HE DOES SEE PRECISELY WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM. HE'S JUST SAYING CRAZY SHIT TO WIND US UP.

    JML, YOUR ARGUMENTS ARE SOUND, BUT YOUR EFFORTS ARE WASTED. CAN WE PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP FEEDING THE TROLL NOW?? HE DOESN'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT ACADEMIA, HE'S JUST SAYING PROVOCATIVE THINGS AND LAUGHING HIS ASS OFF WHEN WE RESPOND IN EARNEST. THAT'S WHAT TROLLS DO. I THINK I CAN HEAR HIM INVITING HIS OBNOXIOUS LAWYER BUDDIES OVER TO HIS CUBICLE FOR ANOTHER ROUND OF GUFFAWS NOW.

    AND IF YOU'RE WONDERING WHAT HIS NEXT POST IS GOING TO BE, IT'LL BE SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF "I HAVE A RIGHT TO POST, MY OUTSIDER POV IS VALUABLE, I'M NOT A TROLL, I'M DEAD SERIOUS, I DON'T SEE WHY BLAH BLAH ETC."

    LET'S SHOW SOME INTELLIGENCE FOLKS, AND RECLAIM THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS BLOG. "100 REASONS" HAS TURNED INTO "EVERYBODY VS. LAWYER-DOUCHE" AND IT'S A DRAG. READ THE COMMENTS AT SOME OF THE OTHER POSTACADEMIC BLOGS--NO, NOT YOU, DOUCHE--THEY ARE ACTUALLY INSIGHTFUL, HELPFUL, SUPPORTIVE. THAT COULD BE US.

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  91. "...it illustrates something about how what I think is a large contingent of academics do not conceive of themselves as workers, in an economic sense. I've seen academics declare vehemently that even as adjuncts they are not workers, with quite a measure of disdain for the idea it seemed. This, I think, is also a part of the ideology: The real reward of tenure is that it will release you from the cycle of birth and death that is being a part of the workforce. The reward is freedom from that economy, and if you are working toward the reward you are working toward believing that you are outside of the sphere of "workers" and in some other, special configuration. This is one subtle way that going to graduate school for many years and chasing tenure can make you re-conceive yourself and I really think this is one of the dreams that power the machine of academe."

    Fantastic point, JML. I wish someone would engrave this in bronze and hang it in every humanities/social sciences department in the United States.

    ReplyDelete
  92. "Fantastic point, JML. I wish someone would engrave this in bronze and hang it in every humanities/social sciences department in the United States."

    I agree and I find this very strange. Two anecdotes:

    Ran into a humanities grad student recently--hadn't seen her in a while and asked about her progress. Finally graduated--after 16 years. Said she never once thought about quitting, not ever. When I inquired about the academic job market in her area she said, almost disdainfully, "Well I knew that I'd never get a job--I didn't do it for that."

    ?
    ?
    ?

    Contrast this with Exhibit B:
    I spend a lot of time haunting Student Doctor Network because I'm thinking about bailing ship on my social science doctorate and becoming a shrink. I know, not a super-lucrative career, but certainly more satisfying. Psychology PhD students on those forums are regularly quite indignant about having to accept starting salaries in the $50-60,000 range, after fewer years of schooling than we endure. Sure their work is hard, but some are starting at well over twice the starting salary of the "lucky" T-T folks in my discipline and yours. Some of them are lovely, others are entitled and snotty, but all of them understand their education as training for a profession and understand themselves as workers. It's startling how different they are than folks in my department, who think they're going to put food on table by blowing Foucault for the next 4 decades.

    I'm thinking about bailing on my

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  93. There have been efforts at union formation in many places. Adjuncts/grad students are trying:

    http://www.mtrumd.org/

    http://www.uaw2865.org/

    http://www.umgeo.org/

    But it's not easy given the turnover rate of contingent faculty, state laws on collective bargaining for "students," and other factors.

    Tenure track is a different story altogether. Everyone is out for themselves

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  94. I posted a question earlier about the procedures for getting tenure, and I'm still hoping that someone will enlighten me about this voting business. Who has a vote? Is it the people you're working with? That seems crazy. Wouldn't they just vote to keep the people that they like rather than the best teachers or scholars?

    ReplyDelete
  95. "I posted a question earlier about the procedures for getting tenure, and I'm still hoping that someone will enlighten me"

    If you'd actually bother to read the links as I suggested, you'd already know.

    Also see JML @ 7:26.

    Bother to read. Don't act petulant and expect to be spoonfed.

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  96. "Don't act petulant and expect to be spoonfed." The comments on this blog are so revealing. They shed light on all the ugly realities, including the bitter attitudes of the academic crowd. Hope all of you out there thinking about joining this circus are reading carefully!

    To add to JML's answer to the tenure question: the way that tenure votes are handled depends on the department/university. In my department, all tenured faculty have a vote on tenure decisions. That means that if you are up for tenure, not *all* of your colleagues will have a vote, only those who already have tenure. The results of the departmental vote are then sent up to the dean, provost, etc. If a vote for tenure is unanimous, then it is most likely to be approved by the dean. If there is any disagreement in the department, it makes it much easier for the administration to deny tenure even if a faculty majority voted in favour.

    Before it gets to a department vote, a tenure committee reviews a candidate's tenure application and then makes its recommendation to the department. Tenure cases are taken very seriously, which is meant to ensure fairness but puts tons of pressure on candidates. The tenure file for a candidate can amount to thousands of pages.

    It works somewhat differently in other places. Yes, personal feelings are part of the process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes thousands of pages of bureaucratic bs to make a decision on tenure? That's the kind of bureaucratic bs that's destroying higher education and the only way to kill it is to stop contributing to it. Don't be part of the problem, folks.

      Delete
  97. ""Don't act petulant and expect to be spoonfed." The comments on this blog are so revealing. They shed light on all the ugly realities, including the bitter attitudes of the academic crowd. Hope all of you out there thinking about joining this circus are reading carefully!"

    Really? 7:43 was given two answers to her/his question: one explicit, and one of the "here's where to get more info" variety (which s/he would have already known if s/he'd followed the thread and it's links). Instead of actually reading the response and looking up the information, s/he opened up his/her baby bird beak and said "feed me! feed me!":

    "I posted a question earlier about the procedures for getting tenure, and I'm still hoping that someone will enlighten me about this voting business."

    Why, when someone leads with "I posted a question and am still waiting for the answer" (sounds petulant and entitled to me) is it inappropriate to note that the answer was already given, twice? Lazybones undergrad could have looked it up on wikipedia for chrissakes!

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  98. 10:39: "don't act petulant and expect to be spoonfed" is just totally unnecessary. Instead of smugly implying that he's lazy/an idiot, it's much easier to write:

    "I wrote the links up above. Please look again."

    But, of course, academics who have barely worked a day in their lives in a place that's not as bad as academia don't understand that.

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  99. "But, of course, academics who have barely worked a day in their lives in a place that's not as bad as academia don't understand that."

    Now that was not only unnecessary, but inaccurate. Have worked plenty outside the stinkin' ivory tower. It's precisely because I've worked elsewhere that I know that diapering someone else's millennial teenagers is a waste of time. Great reasoning skills. The diehards who loooove academia usually like to play The (Pompous) Voice of Wisdom.

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  100. Just to somewhat play devil's advocate... Which among all the "anonymous" posts am I supposed to know you wrote? Are the links you are talking about the ones which seem to be headed under a debate about unionization? That is misleading because the poster is asking about tenure process, not how that relates to unionization.

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  101. arithmetic.

    now what?

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  102. "Kay said...

    Just to somewhat play devil's advocate... Which among all the "anonymous" posts am I supposed to know you wrote? Are the links you are talking about the ones which seem to be headed under a debate about unionization? That is misleading because the poster is asking about tenure process, not how that relates to unionization."

    I was suggesting that the commenter actually read the link in the blogger's original post. For everyone's convenience:

    http://chronicle.com/article/What-Its-Like-to-Be-Denied/45378/

    ReplyDelete
  103. Here's the thing about tenure. It is a process that is a bit different from institution to institution, but one thing that seems to be constant is that it is a process shrouded in secrecy to some extent. And it is a highly stressful process, even moreso than the job market for some, and that goes even for the superstars I've seen go through it who were sure to get tenure.

    Academia has a lot of bureaucracy built up around it and you have to think at least of how your tenure committee will evaluate you, what your outside readers will say, what the department thinks of you, and finally what your college thinks of you and how they evaluate you. There's no simple way of explaining this and really, it's different for everybody. There's a whole lot that's under the microscope including your teaching, your research, your service and also, the cut of your jib (i.e. whether people like you, and what they think of you). As with applying to grad school, and the job market, tenure is about what you've done as much as it is about the ineffable and subjective thing often called "fit." You are great, but do you "fit" in the department? That's the question they ask before they hire you, and they ask it again before they let you in the club once and for all too in addition to the books and articles you've written and the high evaluation numbers you have and how well you performed on the graduate admissions committee, etc.

    Departments and colleges scrutinize tenure cases so strictly and seriously because they are hiring somebody for life. Again, it's an dizzyingly complicated process that varies from place to place and for person to person. There's really no way to answer the question, "what's the tenure process?" succinctly.

    That's the best I can do.

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  104. I see. At first it was "the links as I suggested" and then it's "the link in the blogger's original post" [emphasis mine].

    So, either you are the blogger, or you never actually suggested anything and just want to make people feel bad for making a mistake or missing a detail, which can happen for any number of reasons (youth, inexperience, time constraints, bad vision, yeah sure even laziness OK).

    If that is how the majority of university professors act, no wonder students become so apathetic. It's just so obvious that their professors don't care at all about teaching and fostering a spark for learning, which requires having patience with a certain amount of ignorance.

    This attitude that others should somehow be infallible is so endemic to the academic population, and I think everyone here who is part of that machine would agree, we all feel the pressure to be perfect, to not overlook any detail, to not look stupid. Because if you aren't perfect, someone will definitely take the opportunity to point that out to you and make you feel lazy and dumb. That may be the only guarantee in this profession.

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  105. "So, either you are the blogger, or you never actually suggested anything and just want to make people feel bad for making a mistake or missing a detail, which can happen for any number of reasons (youth, inexperience, time constraints, bad vision, yeah sure even laziness OK)."

    oh for god's sake. okay "link," i should have written "link" singular instead of "links." a "mistake or missing a detail," as you say. i just scrolled up (took 3 minutes, tops) and checked and all the of links provided have clear and obvious contexts. the link about tenure is in the blogger's original post AND provided in one of the comments early in the thread as well (so technically "links" is correct).

    here's what i originally wrote (which you seem to have missed as well)

    "@6:23

    Oh my. I hope you are a prospective grad student, and not current one.

    Yes, there is voting, and no it's not strictly fair or objective. Read some of the links provided above for some horror stories."

    i didn't hold the person's hand and point to the exact thing with laser-like precision. i stupidly assumed someone interested in tenure (and presumably higher education) would take the time to bother looking and reading the comments for answers, then scan for the link. the commenter's subsequent post nonetheless denoted impatience, when 2 answers had already been given (including mine), and s/he obviously didn't bother to read the very informative link in the blogger's original post.

    perhaps i should have included an explicit link for anyone too lazy to look up tenure in wikipedia as well? well, here it is:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenure_(academic)

    and here's the dictionary:
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenure

    does that about cover everything?

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  106. Yeah, that's cool I guess. But that wasn't really my point. It was more about your attitude and need to belittle people, which remains unchanged.

    ReplyDelete
  107. Ya'll really need to get a life. Or at least chill out...

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  108. "But that wasn't really my point. It was more about your attitude and need to belittle people, which remains unchanged."

    And you, like the poster you're defending, still evince a cluelessness about the context on which you're bothering to comment. What's the point of commenting on a blog is you aren't even going to READ the post and the comments?

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  109. I don't see how pointing out that the people getting PhD's and getting positions to teach the young and inexperienced are inevitably snide and mean.

    I am not taking the questioner's "side," as I actually agree that person should have easily done a little research on their own.

    If you are going to bother answering such an "obvious" question, then saying something like the above would have been sufficient. What does insulting the poster accomplish other than boosting your own ego?

    Since cultivating this elitist, judgmental, and demeaning attitude towards others is part of what you learn in graduate school, I think it's relevant to point out to those interested in knowing about it.

    ReplyDelete
  110. Oops, sorry that first sentence should read

    "I don't see how pointing out that the people getting PhD's and getting positions to teach the young and inexperienced are inevitably snide and mean is clueless

    ReplyDelete
  111. "I don't see how pointing out that the people getting PhD's and getting positions to teach the young and inexperienced are inevitably snide and mean is clueless":

    "Are the links you are talking about the ones which seem to be headed under a debate about unionization?" + not having read yourself, in which case you would already know (link re tenure in blogger's post and context of subsequent links) + insistence on commenting = clueless. As I noted before, I was able to skim up the entire thread, looking for links and contextualizing them in about 3 minutes. If someone writes, "this is about X" and you are looking for Y, you don't need to click to know that ain't what you're lookin' for. If you scroll down, rather than up, it takes only about 20 seconds to find the link in the blogger's post and its reiteration at 8:41.

    ReplyDelete
  112. Outsider here:

    One impression I am forming about the grad school experience is that it's what used to be called a "tar baby". Once you touch it, you're stuck and the harder you struggle, the more stuck you become.

    I understand this; new law students might begin with the idea of "doing something else" with their anticipated law degree but the more time they spend in law school, the more they identify practicing (or teaching) law as "success" while doing anything else, including dropping out, means accepting miserable failure.

    Is there some way to de-stigmatize leaving the profession?

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  113. In short: the game of tenure is a game demanding nothing less than total conformity. And of course we can agree on the fact that once you give up on the lie that "people who get tenure at any Ivy league school are smarter," you have to give up on the lie that "books published by Ivy league presses are good." The whole system is profoundly broken. And the figures in the game reflect it in their perpetual neurosis and anxiety. Whew! I'm in the game right now, to be honest, and...I just don't know...meanwhile, even as a young professor i have to agree with one of the other posts that, for me, "adulthood waits"...

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    Replies
    1. "The whole system is profoundly broken. And the figures in the game reflect it in their perpetual neurosis and anxiety. Whew! I'm in the game right now...."

      I really don't understand why people opt to play the game in a system they believe is proufoundly broken. Doesn't that make you part of the problem?

      Delete
  114. Its not worth it. When denied tenure, you will spend years and years of your life second-guessing yourself and others. I was denied tenure on June 26, 1997 and I still have flashbacks.

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  115. Academia is NOT a meritocracy. That's such bullshit. Look at all the talented, prolific professors who were denied tenure. The Ivory Tower is the most corrupt, un-American institution there is. It's a dirty secret. The Provost does not even have to explain the reasons for his/her decision. "It's confidential." So lawyers won't support you, because you cannot "prove" you were discriminated against. You have no personal life (especially women). You amass loads of superior publications, and that actually works AGAINST you, because your mediocre colleagues who have published much less are quite simply jealous. (I once went on a campus interview and asked the interviewers: "What are you looking for in a colleague?" One of the guys said "Someone who doesn't make us look bad" [meaning: don't out-produce us]). And if you have BOTH teaching evaluations consistently above the departmental mean, and numerous publications, forget it. They'll get you on that murky "collegiality" crap. Take our advice: don't waste your life! You never really get over the emotional scars and lowered self-esteem. You will be old, poor, unemployable, and single. Nothing to show for your years of selfless, unpaid research.

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  116. I think this is a little inaccurate or at least too broad a generalization. For instance, I'll only be 35 by the time I find out if I've received tenure or not, my institution then keeps you on faculty for another year to allow you to find another appointment. As an assistant professor in the arts, I'm actually making about double what I did as a freelancer or staff administrator before I got this appointment and the 6 years of job security seems like forever when compared with my other professional options.

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  117. Very enlightening thread. I'm in a "term" position right now at a university -- contracts are offered on a 1-year basis, we have a heavier teaching load than the TT faculty and our salaries are around 30K less than theirs. I'm weighing my options between an academic administrator position at another university and holding out for a potential TT opening that may come about in the next few months. This thread is nudging me toward considering the admin position more strongly...

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  118. I received a Ph. D. from an Ivy League school and spent three years as a roving adjunct for a consortium of colleges before any full time jobs opened in my field. I was 34 when I started my first full time job, but I left after two years, since it was a limited contract, and started on the tenure track at a different college at age 36.

    I didn't particular like the college or the town, but I decided to go for tenure and then move from a position of strength if there were openings.

    One factor that people haven't mentioned is that the composition of the tenure committee has a huge influence on one's fate. If I had gone up for tenure a year earlier than I did, most of the members would have been either friends or people who were otherwise favorably disposed. They kept assuring me that I was a shoe-in.

    The year I actually went up, the committee was chaired by someone I had exchanged harsh words with and otherwise made up of people who didn't know me at all. I was shocked when I was denied, because I had jumped through all the hoops, and most of the people I told were shocked as well, because frankly, some real idiots had been tenured in the past.

    With one year left to job hunt, I first looked at the available jobs in my field and found that as a reject from a job at a third-tier college, my only realistic options were one-year and two-year appointments at fourth-tier colleges in small towns in culturally barren areas.

    Since I had no more reason to publish or do committee work, I began moonlighting as a textbook editor. I didn't need the money from the editing jobs to live on that year, so it became seed money for starting my own business in a field tangentially related to my graduate school specialization. I was 43 and starting over.

    That was 20 years ago, and there are a few things I miss: having a regular paycheck and benefits, having colleagues with the same interests as I, and even, at times, teaching, although that became less rewarding as time went by. Still, the greatest advantage is not having to deal with college administrators, who think of students as customers who are always right, or attend faculty meetings, or follow my department chair's demands to adopt the latest fads.

    By the way, I'm in touch with several former colleagues and other current academics, and every last one of them is depressed and just marking time till retirement, if not already retired.

    Graduate school was actually quite stimulating, since I ignored my department as much as possible and took advantage of the extracurricular activities available on campus, but I wish I had gone straight into training for my current job instead.

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  119. I always thought that getting denied tenure meant that your career was over, but ultimately everyone I've known in that boat has landed in another academic job. One of lesser caliber, but still one that is considered HIGHLY desirable in this market. In fact, in each case, given when the faculty member entered the profession and that the market has worsened in those 5-7 years, the new "lesser" job is no worse than what their original credentials would have landed them if they were on the market today. So basically the tenure denial didn't set them back, and the fact they were at a better institution beforehand was just a bonus.

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