Monday, October 27, 2014

94. It warps your expectations.

Graduate students develop unreasonable expectations, but over the course of a long spell in graduate school those expectations swing from one unreasonable extreme to another. They go from expecting far too much to expecting (and accepting) far too little. Not everyone enters graduate school with the intention of becoming a professor, but after a while it becomes clear that an academic career is virtually the only career for which graduate school prepares anyone (see Reason 29). Once that realization sets in, graduate students begin to imagine a future in which they have jobs like those of their advisers and the other professors who surround them every day. They can hold on to this expectation for years. It seems perfectly reasonable, perhaps even modest, but it is actually quite unrealistic. You could argue that it is wildly unrealistic. As Professor Emily Toth (aka Ms. Mentor) patiently explains to a confident graduate student looking for affirmation: "No matter how talented and accomplished you are, you probably will not get a tenure-track academic job. Ever."

Eventually, reality dawns on even the most optimistic graduate students. They see what happens to others on the academic job market, and then they start to experience it themselves (see Reason 55). This is the point at which their hopefulness turns to desperation, and their expectations sink to such depths that they––by the tens of thousands––accept college teaching jobs for which they receive ridiculously little compensation. Graduate school has funneled them into adjuncthood (see Reason 14), and they quickly learn to expect extremely low wages in return for their labor. Adjuncts are routinely paid less to teach a class than their students pay to take it. In fact, the income of a part-time adjunct will often be less than half of a teaching assistant's stipend (see Reason 53). You can see just how meager adjunct earnings are by exploring the Chronicle Data website. Needless to say, this kind of academic employment comes without job security, insurance, or retirement benefits. Why are people, including thousands of people with doctorates, willing to subject themselves to this? Because they don't know what else to do. After years of living in a dream, they are desperate to stay in the academic game (see Reason 83).


  1. And where do those expectations come from? They come from cheesy Hollywood movies and TV shows that show how glorious an academic life is. (Yeah, right)

    They come from government policies, advertisement, and pronouncements that claim that people with advanced degrees are "vital" to the future of the country, of society, and of humanity. (Yeah, right.)

    They come from media hype that portrays how glorious and well-paying careers one will have when one has an advanced degree. (Yeah, right.)

    They come from the universities themselves that not only echo that same bilge, but portray grad student life as being as much fun as it was being an undergrad. (Yeah, right.)

    Unfortunately, this is nothing new. My head was filled with these ideas when I began grad studies in the late 1970s. I enjoyed being a student. I enjoyed studying. I wanted to go someplace, do something extraordinary, and be someone special--who doesn't? Maybe it was that way back then, but it certainly isn't nowadays.

    1. You can blame the culture for pushing so many people into grad school (I sure do), but at the same time I think we have to look within ourselves and admit that we were kind of stupid for getting ourselves into this mess.

    2. Anon @ 2014-10-27 7:42 AM here

      I also had expectations that I would, some day, work in a research facility such as Bell Labs. After all, look at what was discovered or invented in such places, such as the transistor, the first commercial telecommunications satellite, and the (accidental) discovery of the cosmic background radiation.

      But what happened? It was politics and greed. The Reagan era robber barons set out to destroy monopolies, provided they belonged to someone else--one's own monopolies were seen to be good. They did it in order to eliminate competition and make a profit from the remnants of those companies that got wiped out.

      The following are examples of what was done in the old days and what happened since:

      Unfortunately, I was born at the wrong time. I was born too late to take part in the early days of the space program and I'm now too old to be hired by companies such as SpaceX.

    3. We put ourselves (or our kids) in good schools and colleges as a way of maximizing our (or their) chance of being in the right place at the right time (and prepared for it) when opportunity knocks. We have the big picture in mind. Sometimes our big picture is wrong, though, and we miscalculate. We end up paying too much for a college education that wasn't worth the sticker price OR we choose a bad school or bad major without knowing it until it's too late.

      We miscalculate with grad school, too, and MOST of us do because we have a really distorted view of the big picture. Everything from Hollywood and politicians to parents and wishful thinking play a part in that. So we sequester ourselves in grad school and miss opportunities. It's probably even worse to watch your kid rot in grad school while the world passes him by, especially if you encouraged him to go (with all the best intentions, of course).

    4. "And where do those expectations come from? They come from cheesy Hollywood movies and TV shows that show how glorious an academic life is. (Yeah, right)"

      Mostly I thought this post was on target, but this paragraph bothers me. What cheesy Hollywood movies and TV shows are these? Hollywood has many things to answer for, but I'm not sure this is one of them.

      When I think of movies portraying either college or graduate school, I think of the following:
      The Paper Chase
      Educating Rita
      Animal House
      The Sure Thing
      The Graduate (and although not a film, Charles Webb's follow-up novel "Home School" has a pretty damning chapter on the vocational capabilities of the liberal arts graduate)
      ... and of more recent vintage:
      A Brilliant Mind
      Good Will Hunting
      Dark Matter
      ...and on television:
      The Simpsons (occasional pot shots at higher ed)
      The Big Bang Theory

      I'd argue none of these paints graduate school (or college, for that matter) in a particularly flattering light.

    5. I wrote that earlier posting.

      I grew up in an earlier era and was greatly influenced by movies from the 1950s and '60s. Scientists and engineers were often portrayed as innovators or the saviours of mankind in the face of great adversity. Those who were highly educated were not only respected by society but, often, what they said was heeded by whoever listened to it.

      Some movies that portrayed this were:

      "Destination Moon",
      "The Thing From Another World", and
      "The Day The Earth Stood Still".

      A bit later, there were "2001: a space odyssey" (many of the people on the space station and at the lunar base had doctorates) and "The Andromeda Strain".

      Those were movies that were in the theatres or on TV before I finished high school or just around the time I started university. Most of the ones you mentioned were after I finished my B. Sc. (I was too young to be allowed to see "The Paper Chase" because the film rating system at that time was "Restricted Adult" in my country, meaning that I had to be at least 18 or 19 in order to watch it.)

    6. Well, at least now I know where you're coming from on this. My first clue re: the 'realism' of portrayals of scientists and engineers would have been that these are science-fiction movies - but not everyone sees these things the same way.

      BTW - the reason so "many people at the space station in 2001 had doctorates" (loose quote - actually I don't recall that having come up in the movie, but admittedly it's been some time since I've seen it) was you needed an advanced science or engineering degree to navigate that zero-gravity toilet with the lengthy instructions. ;)

      Actually, '2001' ('1968') and 'The Andromeda Strain' (1971) - the two 'later' movies that you reference as being from a time when you were too young to see 'The Paper Chase' - are roughly contemporaneous with 'The Graduate' (1967), 'The Paper Chase' (1973) and 'Butley' (1974). Hence, if the film industry was promoting 'false expectations' about higher ed, it was certainly also producing a counter-narrative about the false promises of higher ed by the late 1960s.

      As a final thought, it occurs to me that one (semi-academic) profession that the US entertainment industry is guilty of over-romanticizing is the legal profession. I've known many, many lawyers in my life, and not one of them had an existence remotely like those of lawyers depicted in television or the movies.

    7. "The Graduate" was more like what might be called a "coming of age" movie. Dustin Hoffman's education had little to do with the main body of the plot.

      During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hollywood was more rebellious and irreverent, leaning towards the counter-culture, taking on nearly anything that was held sacred. Movies like "M*A*S*H" and "The Paper Chase" were among them. (The former didn't offer a positive image of the medical profession, did it?)

      As for lawyers, they've been portrayed as goodies and baddies, though it's the heroic image that people tend to remember. Perhaps the best known are Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird", for which he won an Oscar, and Leo McKern's portrayal of Horace Rumpole in "Rumpole of the Bailey".

    8. ' "The Graduate" was more like what might be called a "coming of age" movie. Dustin Hoffman's education had little to do with the main body of the plot.'

      This was perhaps the point of the indictment - just like Mrs. Robinson's college career in art history had nothing to do with what she was doing. And much later (in Webb's 'Home School,' Benjamin Braddock would note that his college career (during which he won the 'Helpingham Award') had more or less prepared him for a career assisting with shelving books.

      You can call it a 'coming-of-age' movie but it is nonetheless a pretty scathing indictment of higher education... and was meant to be.

      Not at all sure by comparison that "M*A*S*H*" was meant to offer a negative image of the medical profession. Mostly Altman's movie focuses on the hijinks that the various characters in the unit get up to. In that respect it's a lot like Richard Hooker's original novel - it's comedic rather than critical.

      The discussion is about 'warped expectations about graduate school' from 'cheesy Hollywood movies and TV shows.' The question I am raising is, is this a fair assessment? By way of comparison I consider that the treatment of lawyers in film and TV seems far more culpable in leading people to over-romanticize the legal profession.

  2. Reading this post, I was reminded of an article I came across recently on a similar theme – “Get a PhD, but leave academia as soon as you graduate.” It may have already been referenced on this blog, but it’s worth a read nonetheless:

    The author argues that students should embrace doctoral study as an intellectually enriching experience in its own right, but that they should refuse to remain in a system which will subsequently exploit them. This is of course easier said than done, for the reasons that our blogger has outlined here.

    A little anecdote to highlight the cultural differences between academia and the wider world: When I was doing my coursework, we were required to take what they called a professionalization seminar, which was designed to socialize us into the academic lifestyle. One of the first assignments was to prepare an academic CV. The professor, who was quite an accomplished scholar, informed us that an academic CV was entirely different from a (non-academic) résumé because in academia it is expected that you will include an exhaustive, pain-staking list of all your accomplishments, whereas a résumé should be tailored to the job in question.

    I think a lot of the malaise that graduate students experience is the result of a culture that prevents them from doing any “tailoring” while they are in their programs. They become so used to the exhaustive “CV” approach to self-presentation that they don’t take time to think about specific, targeted skills that might make them more attractive to (non-academic) employers. How about picking up some computer code, or the basics of a foreign language? I think relatively modest investments like these could do a lot to bridge the gap between academia and the “wider world”, which, let’s face it, is where the majority of today’s grad students will end up.

    1. I think that's actually pretty bad advice. Doctoral study, for me, did not turn out to be very intellectually enriching. That was probably the most disorienting part of the whole experience.

    2. "They become so used to the exhaustive “CV” approach to self-presentation that they don’t take time to think about specific, targeted skills that might make them more attractive to (non-academic) employers. How about picking up some computer code, or the basics of a foreign language?"

      I suppose in this paragraph "might" is the operative word. After over a decade of painstakingly developing skills supposed to be attractive to the "wider world" - including computer, quantitative, business and language skills - I sat on the shelf, unable to find employment beyond unpaid, temporary and consulting "gigs." Directly applicable skills and even experience were usually dismissed as irrelevant.

      My experiences were paralleled by people of my acquaintance, some of whom had superior credentials in a variety of fields (e.g. engineering, sciences, and business) and ample manifestation of practical applications of their skills.

      What I took away from these experiences is that American hiring is not about "skills" at all. Hiring seems to be more closely aligned with the employer's political sympathies, closeness-of-fit to commonly accepted stereotypes - particularly racial, and unspoken age parameters. None of these fall within the realm of "best employment practices" and at least some of these are illegally discriminatory.

      What, then DO employers want? This question was addressed in a Wall Street Journal article, "Bosses Seek Critical Thinking, but What Is It?" (Oct. 22, 2014). The sub-header reads, "Employers Stumble When Asked to Describe the Skills They Seek, Leaving Job Hunters Wondering What Employers Want," which sums up one aspect of this issue. Namely, employers don't actually know what they want - they may be able to put a label on what they claim to wish to hire for, but they are incapable of defining it - and consequently incapable of recognizing it when it is presented to them with a bow on top.

    3. I agree with the sentiment that "tailored" skills (i.e. somewhat unrelated to what one is actually "supposed" to be doing) should be developed to increase one's odds in the private sector, but with the incessant burdens of teaching, research, and coursework, this is easier said than done.

      The first paid job I landed after getting my Master's in 2013 (eight unpaid months later, in early 2014) was given to me only partially because of my academic experience. In addition to having exactly the right educational and research background, the position required programming experience, a requisite which is becoming increasingly more common in the life sciences.

      The thing is, I had never written a single line of code in my life until AFTER I finished my Master's thesis. While I had wanted to learn to program since I was an undergraduate, I never found the time, and in graduate school I REALLY never found it. However, in the eight months after graduating, I taught myself some common scripting/markup languages and gained experience by helping a small organization develop a website (unpaid, of course).

      The point I want to make is that yes, it is important to develop supplementary skills if you want to stand out after graduate school, but it's amazing how much easier it is to do that when you aren't also shouldering the burden of educating a sad lump of reluctant undergraduates AND trying to publish your work in a field where one is considered wildly popular for garnering a readership of about fifteen people.

      Additionally, at the risk of creating a false equivalence, I think the job market in general has the effect of warping one's financial expectations at present. I KNOW the position I have could pay quite a bit more than it does, but there isn't much that can be done about it on my end and, all things considered, I feel extremely fortunate to have a paying job at all (having experienced the alternative), let alone one that I actually like.

      Still, if anyone reading this is in graduate school, you should definitely be on the lookout for opportunities to broaden your skill set in case you find yourself entertaining the notion of leaving the traditional academic career trajectory one day.

    4. Unfortunately it is a case of Your Mileage May Vary.

      After months of unemployment following my masters I went back to community college and took two programming courses. Largely through the help of the department I landed (after multiple interviews and several months) a part-time "internship" where I was the company's software architect - but without the education, experience or training needed for someone in such a position.

      Later I would add several graduate computing courses - which tended to be of the "teach yourself, it's all out there" persuasion. One surprisingly covered the same material as I'd studied at the community college courses. I haven't worked with computers since except for my own amusement.

      So sure, chase those added competencies, but there are no guarantees there either - no matter how successful you might be at picking them up.

    5. @anon5:10

      You are definitely right; nothing is *guaranteed* to help, and luck is always an uncomfortably prominent player in the acquisition of stable employment, it seems.

      My employment situation (as stated above, several months after obtaining my M.S.) resulted from somewhat of a networking fluke and, since I am working for a university in a research capacity, will in all likelihood spiral into another stint in grad school if I remain much longer.

      Even though I probably make less money per hour than a decent proportion of house-sitters, I'd honestly continue working here indefinitely. I do well enough to get by, I actually enjoy the work immensely and I am young enough not to care so much about larger expenses for the forseeable future. But funding in research labs is continually an issue, and I am steadily realizing what an unnatural role it is that I currently fill (NOT a grad student but paid better than virtually all of them and wearing far fewer hats). Maybe that kind of thing flies for postdoctoral fellows, but a gut feeling tells me this can't possibly last for someone lacking a PhD....

      So I'll either have the great fortune of receiving a job offer with comparable or better pay before my contract runs out, or I'll likely be frequenting this blog even more than I do now.

    6. " academia it is expected that you will include an exhaustive, pain-staking list of all your accomplishments, whereas a résumé should be tailored to the job in question."

      I've notice that the federal government is expecting applicants to have really long resumes that list every skill and accomplishment in explicit detail, much like an academic CV. Government and academia are looking more and more alike in terms of bureaucracy, efficiency... even customer service. The private colleges can avoid some of the nonsense, but they're required to follow the same regulations as the public colleges, so they tangled up in the nonsense, too.

      It shouldn't take a week to complete a job application.

    7. "Government and academia are looking more and more alike in terms of bureaucracy, efficiency... even customer service." Yes! They are increasingly tied together. Bodes ill for those who don't want their society to be (mis)managed into oblivion.

  3. One thing I've learned is that academe is a closed shop. It is more concerned about who to keep out and who to allow onto the gravy train than it is in rendering good and proper service.

    Having the educational qualifications and, possibly, relevant professional experience are not enough. One is expected to constantly court and curry favour from one's supervisor; the final decision as to whether one is invited to join the gods upon Mount Olympus rests with that person.

    So much for academic impartiality and neutrality.

    1. ...and exactly how does this differ from any other employment?

    2. It was disappointing to learn that a system that I thought was above it all--and an intellectual, moral, and professional elite--turned out to be as vile and corrupt as everything else.

      Academics are, on the whole, like other people. The only difference is that they happen have a bit more schooling. They are just as mean, vicious, and nasty and equally as incapable of kindness, generosity, and mercy.

      It isn't a recent thing, either. I noticed that when I started grad studies many years ago.

    3. "One thing I've learned is that academe is a closed shop. It is more concerned about who to keep out and who to allow onto the gravy train than it is in rendering good and proper service."

      Bingo. I couldn't have said it better.

      In retrospect, I feel foolish for not understanding this much earlier in life. I wasn't cynical enough when I as young. People claw their way into academic jobs and build their little kingdoms. They put walls around themselves... the "fortress mentality" is probably a consequence of how hard it is to get an academic job in the first place.

      Once you're inside, you want to protect your job, protect your status, and probably feed your ego a little. When you're on hiring committees you have almost divine power over other people's fates.

      Inside the university, people get so absorbed in their own little worlds and in the protection of their own well-being that the purpose of the institution (almost out of necessity) becomes secondary to everyone's collective individual interests... except for the students, of course. We almost forget they're there.

  4. I couldn't agree more. Being one of the "lucky" few who obtained a tenure track position, I have spent the last 7 years fighting the lies that my department head used to try to prevent me from obtaining tenure. I had stupidly refused to act in an unethical manner and he made certain that I would be punished for that. Despite his efforts I won tenure through an arbitration case, but not without great personal sacrifice and suffering. Now he's not only retired, but dead (this has been my only consolation) and still, despite a legal record demonstrating his claims were outright lies, his lies are being used by his cronies to prevent me from obtaining promotion. They even denigrate one of my well-cited articles that has been used as required reading in a number of graduate programs and spent a few years on the journal's 50 most read articles list (covering a 30 year period no less). No, even that isn't sufficient to qualify me for promotion. And to think I rejected a career in business because I had expectations that life in the academy would be more rational, humane and ethical (...right). Now all I want to do is find a way out, but it appears I'm fit for nothing but academia (sigh).

    1. That sounds familiar.

      At the tech college I used to teach at, I found out that just because a dispute is settled, it doesn't mean it's over.

      For years, I was the target of a bullying campaign that started almost from the beginning of my time there.

      Eventually, word of it got to the dean's office and someone stepped in to resolve it. However, after an institutional restructuring a few years later, we ended up with a new dean.

      Guess what started again, and what was used as evidence against me? It didn't help that the dean wasn't interested in hearing my side of the matter, always defended my opponents, and clearly hated me. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money to go elsewhere because I was planning on finishing my Ph. D. and needed funds for that.

      No wonder I was quite friendly with a bottle of booze.

    2. I recommend the novel Stoner, by John Williams. Without giving much away, it is in part about the danger of being ethical in academia.

  5. Very true. Nearly ten years after quitting academia for good (after about six years, including completion of an M.A. with thesis and the first full year of Ph.D. work, during which time I was the sole student in my cohort who passed both required foreign-language exams), I still feel like a quitter, at least at times, and I still occasionally pine for the storied life I would now have--or, rather, the one fancied I would have. All this, even though I generally detested academia, and hence myself, for fruitlessly staying with it so long.

    1. I'm in a similar situation.

      I worked in industry and taught at a post-secondary institution before eventually getting my Ph. D. Yet, I can't find a proper job, no matter where I tried.

      I'm on my own now and work largely for myself. Yet, I frequenty feel like I'm a loser because I didn't get a glorious R & D position with some high-tech firm or was never a university professor.

      Unfortunately, perceptions matter in this regard. It's not enough that I often get the sense that I'm a loser--other people (particularly potential employers) seem to think so, too.

    2. "I still occasionally pine for the storied life I would now have"

      You needn't pine. There is nothing to pine for. The "storied life" of your imagination at the end of the yellow-brick road through grad school doesn't exist. The only thing at the end of that road is perpetual grumpiness.

  6. From an interview with Peter Unger about his new book about the emptiness of analytic philosophy:

    "Even though Wittgenstein is perhaps the most widely admired philosopher of the twentieth century, at least amongst mainstream philosophy, nobody really pays attention to his main conclusion: you can’t really do anything when you do this stuff, you should stop it. He basically said you should try to be a therapist for young people who are starting out in philosophy, to get them away from the field and turn them into something more useful. No more of of this fruitless, self-deluding endeavor."

    That applies to more than philosophy! I think "fruitless, self-deluding endeavor" describes most scholarly and administrative toil. There's delusion everywhere in academia. Grad school conditions you to be in a delusional state.

    1. Thanks for the link to the interview with Unger. I enjoyed it very much. Not just in philosophy, the same sh*t is going on in most Humanities disciplines. At least this guy is honest. Probably because he's so close to the end of his academic career?

    2. Playing devil's advocate here, I knew two philosophy majors in college. One became tenured faculty at the same college, in philosophy. Another became a dot-com millionaire, started multiple charities, and now directs graduate research at two highly regarded graduate schools.

      I studied and worked in ostensibly more practical areas, all of which have been described as critically necessary or characterized as having acute labor shortages. I have very little to show for any of it - and have never had so much as a related job offer. It is amazing how much this nation misdirects its own citizens into poverty while claiming that as the 3rd most populous country on the planet it somehow can't get the people that it needs.

      So don't pooh-pooh that philosophy degree! Students might actually fare better with a philosophy degree than degrees in business or engineering.

    3. The philosophy major tends to attract bright, intense students. Even if they're just playing meaningless mental games in their undergraduate philosophy classes (they have other classes, too), philosophy majors have only "wasted" a limited amount of time. They can take their bachelor degrees and do things in the world. If they're bright, they'll probably do well.

      BUT grad school in philosophy is another story... not much different from any other grad school story, except maybe more tragic if you see things the way that Unger apparently does.

  7. Thank you so much for this blog.

  8. Thanks for this post. I think this happened and is happening to me. I started a masters in 2004, never thinking I'd do a PhD. I started a PhD in 2005, never thinking I'd actually try for academic jobs. By the time I finished in 2011, I had developed envy of a couple of people I knew who got good academic jobs.

    So I applied for some postdocs. I am at the only place that accepted me. Been a postdoc for 3 years, got 1 more year left. I quite like many things about the lifestyle - foreign country, learning the language, good food, some travel options, interesting people. But then I see that other people in my age cohort are married, have a lot of savings, make a lot of money, etc. One friend from high school worked in a hedge fund and literally made millions (he confessed when drunk). Another is a senior guy in an investment bank, probably +300k salary. My brothers are well-off. Meanwhile I make wages that, while comfortable here, would make me a welfare case back in the USA.

    I like a lot of things about my life and work now. This actually worries me. Have my expectations become too warped? I accept the low pay thinking I'm paying my dues for a better tenure track future. I accept it because I get compensated in other ways, such as the prestige of publishing in a top journal, solving a problem that has been unsolved for a long time. That feels great.

    My applications are out there. I resolved to apply to no more postdocs. I will hear back this cycle and that will be it, I think. If there is no offer for me, then I am done. Its the end of the academic career for me. Here lies an academic career cut short in its prime (2004-2014). RIP. However, if I get some sort of offer I am ready to slog on forward into the great unknown.

    1. You might end up like my ex-sweetie's husband: Ph. D., lots of papers, serial post-doc and visiting scholar. He got desperate, studied computing, and is now working at a related job in the same city where she's a prof.

      He, however, had an extra incentive to finish that last degree. The two of them moved in together and they became parents over a year later. Fatherhood and hanging have one thing in common: they both tend to sharpen one's focus when they're about to happen to you.

    2. Actually fatherhood and hanging have at least one other thing in common. The lynch mobs common to both can barely wait to get on with the business at hand.

    3. "Have my expectations become too warped?"

      If I were you, I'd think about time, because it slips by fast. It's fine to get low pay when you're young, especially if you're having fun. If you're not young anymore, then you may need to assess your situation and adjust it. The end of your academic "career" is nothing to worry about if you can jump into something else.

  9. I agree completely. I put a stop to this unpromising path and mentality that a master's degree will equal more success in life. It wont. I offer alternatives how to find or create work that you love and living the life you actually want to live!

  10. I grew up during the 1960s, so I lived during the social changes brought about by the campaigns for civil rights.

    I actually believed what Martin Luther King meant when he said: "...they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Back then, laws banning discrimination based on race were enacted and one understood that one would be hired solely on the basis of merit. Among those institutions that supported that were universities.

    We had lofty ideals back then. However, the reality, as it turned out, was completely different.

    Nowadays, it is acceptable to discriminate against certain groups of people in the name of "equity". Don't have enough Coleslawvanians in your department? Make sure that the next people you hire come from there, regardless of there being candidates from elsewhere with equal or, perhaps, superior qualifications.

    Of course, one is not allowed by law to prohibit those other candidates from actually applying. Instead, the job ads are worded in such a way that, by reading between the lines, anyone isn't a Coleslawvanian won't even be considered. There is no way that anybody who doesn't come from that region could possibly get those jobs.

    Yes, it does happen. I know someone who got her tenure-track position because she was a member of a certain ethnic group, though I'm not sure if she was a citizen. The government here justified it by saying it "needed" to hire more women and "visible minorities". She, being both, was guaranteed to be hired. (The sad part is that she could have been hired without those conditions because she was certainly smart enough, had the necessary education, and related experience.)

    That's discrimination by any other name. Meanwhile, other people equally qualified can't even get their foot in the door by virtue of race or anatomy.

    In Canada, the Temporary Foreign Worker program has been very controversial. The federal government has, recently, been somewhat stricter about who could be hired from outside the country as a result of public pressure. However, guess who is among those who squawk that these foreign workers are *essential*? That's right: those bastions of equality and freedom--universities.

    Here's an article about how they claim to be "adversely" affected by such restrictions:

    So, the universities that train Ph. D.s couldn't be bothered to hire them. Nice system, isn't it?

    1. " America, at our best, we judge people by the content of their color." - ex-Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), at campaign fundraiser on Oct. 23, 2014. Udall probably flubbed a Martin Luther King quote, but the way in which Udall put it is far more widely practiced.

  11. I was almost-but-not-quite offered a job by my old R.A. boss this past weekend. I'd have to apply and might theoretically lose out to another person but "it's not what you know, it's who you know" would work in my favor in this case. However, I'd also have to sabotage the current assistant dean of the School by backing out of an internship I'd already accepted for next year.
    I know the only reason I was offered that position was because my old boss would like to have me around for unofficial (and unpaid) consultation on the boss's private company which is trying to market a product based on research I had assisted with. The job is full time with low pay and bad benefits, and contracted on a year-to-year basis. Note: my old boss is close to retiring from the college, at which point the new boss (appointed by the assistant dean I'd be crossing) can choose to hire someone else.
    Talk about "warped expectations"!
    That, to me, is what staying in academia would be like. Being valued not for what I can do academically but what I can do "off the books" in order to keep the boss's good will for as long as they are the boss, then losing that job when the next boss comes in.
    It's why I'm stopping at the M.A. and planning to get myself back into the corporate world.

    1. Unfortunately, the corporate world isn't any better. Again, it's who one knows and charms that matters.

      Working longer and harder often does nothing but guarantee that one will stay in his or her present position. Why should an employer promote that person when, by keeping him or her where they are, it gets good value for its money?

      I found out, more often than not, that no matter how long or how hard I worked or how much I accomplished, I was usually among the first to get punted out the door when it came to sacking people. I learned to do little more than what my job description required, yet my employers would whine that I tended to work to rule.

    2. The unpaid labor is the worst part about academia. When I worked outside of academia, I received overtime pay whenever I worked above my weekly hours. Right now, I'm a TA (even though I'm the instructor of record, they still call us TAs) and our contract says that we are supposed to spend 15 hours or less on teaching a week. However, that's very rarely the case, especially when I have to deal with problem students. Plus, my students this semester are completely unprepared for college and seriously write at a fourth grade level, which means that I have to spend even more time creating lesson plans and alternative assignments to help them grasp the material. I know that unpaid labor happens outside of academia, but it's become so normalized in academia that everyone does it without batting an eye.

      Speaking of warped expectations, I came into academia expecting decent working conditions but I was completely wrong! My department is notorious for exploiting grad students, which is something that I didn't know when I applied here. The students I talked to before I committed to this place painted a happy picture of the department, which is far from true. The department has actually stopped asking me to talk to prospective students because they know I'll tell them the truth about this dismal place.

      I'm leaving the academe at the end of this school year and I can't wait to get the hell out of here. Due to my financial situation, I can't leave sooner, or else, I definitely would!

    3. Anon @ 2014-11-16 8:23 PM here.

      I long knew about the exploitation of grad students. It began about 35 years ago when I started on my M. Sc. My supervisor saw us only as cheap labour for his projects. If one actually finished their degree under his supervision, it was by accident and he worked hard to make sure that it would never happen again.

      The department where I did my Ph. D. wasn't much better. I was a lab TA for a certain course during my residency and it turned out to require much more work that I anticipated. The prof, a department darling who apparently could do no wrong, couldn't have cared less as he was busy arranging for his dream gig at another university. The lab sessions were left in the hands of a grad student who was nearly finished his degree, so he didn't give a rat's patootie about how things were run.

      I expected that maybe we'd meet regularly to make sure we were all operating on the same frequency, but no such luck. The way that course was run was completely unprofessional and I found myself stumbling around, being completely clueless half the time.

      Of course, I could have worked on that course night and day but I wouldn't have had time for my thesis, time which I couldn't spare as my deadline was coming up.

      The department head fired me as a TA at the end of the term and I had to ask to find that out. The grad student advisor blamed me for it and told me I should have asked for a different assignment if the course turned out to be too much for me. Good heavens, I didn't even know I had that option!

      The whole thing was a complete train wreck. By the way, that grad student got his degree and that prof left for his dream job a year or so after I finished my Ph. D.

      I sat out the following term and had to scramble for funds. The following fall, my supervisor became one of the grad student supervisors and I was a TA again. One of the reasons was that he thought I got a bum deal and another was that he didn't like the department head.

      Fortunately, the next two terms as a TA went much more smoothly for me, aside from the usual whining from undergrads.

      On the whole, I wasn't impressed.

  12. There was a long-held notion that one would be paid more for having a graduate degree. It soon became apparent to me that it was nothing but a load of cobblers.

    While I was finishing my first master's degree, I worked for a so-called "high tech" outfit. There was one chap who worked in our group who received a generous raise. All he had was a B. Sc. but he was awfully chummy with the managers, regularly charming them with his blarney. This was the epitome of "it's not what you know, but who you know", particularly since much of what he knew could be written onto the back of a postage stamp with room for the entire Magna Carta.

    That was over 30 years ago. He's now VP of a local firm and, based on his biography on his employer's website, he hasn't changed.

    Then there was the institution where I taught for several years. When I started, we were paid according to a 2-axis grid. One axis represented education and the other was years of service. Because of that, a lot of people went to university, often part-time, to get their teaching degrees in order to increase their paycheques.

    About a year before I quit there, that was changed to a one-line grid. One's pay increased only on the basis of length of service. Those with extra qualifications, such as advanced degrees or professional registrations, were offered an additional incremental amount for each one up to a maximum of two (count 'em! TWO!). What those additional qualifications were didn't really matter. One could have, say, a certificate in hog-calling and still get a pay increment.

    That immediately removed any incentive for people to add to their credentials and it certainly killed my ambition. I had 3 graduate degrees (including a Ph. D.), 3 professional registrations, and memberships in several technical societies.

    So much for its teaching staff being its most "valuable" asset. (Yeah, right.) Meanwhile, there was always money for new carpeting in "executive country" every year or some new alumni (i. e., *rich* alumni) display.

  13. What I found is that if you make yourself geographically mobile - you CAN find some kind of academic job somewhere. It will not be anything remotely similar to that of your advisor or the profs that surrounded you in graduate school, though.

    I applied everywhere in the country - including places like Alaska, and I got multiple interviews and offers - the offers were all from community colleges (3 out of the 40 or so I applied to + the 25-30 or so universities I applied). I did get an interview at Boise State and a phone interview from some religiously affiliated college in Missouri, but I never got called back from either of them. I may have been helped by having veteran status - a good number of states require public employers to give veterans at least a phone interview - a crucial toe in the door.

    Most of my grad school friends that did not find academic jobs were not willing to go anywhere and that was a major handicap.

    Now that I'm on the other side and have been on hiring committees, I am shocked at how ill-prepared many PhD graduates are for community college faculty jobs, or ANY jobs for that matter. Their PhDs train them to become expert in their tiny area of their discipline, they have hardly any teaching experience and if they do cannot explain its utility. Often they do not even write competent cover letters appropriate for the job.

    I remember thinking when I first got assigned to a hiring committee that it would be so hard to eliminate all the well-qualified candidates. That is not the case. Out of the 45-120 applicants we get for any given faculty opening, 2/3 are either not qualified or submit haphazard applications. Usually the discussion comes down to 15 candidates at most. Then when you talk to them on the phone - a good 40% of those turn out to be.... strange, so the real competition is typically among 6 or 7.

    It makes me wonder what the hell goes on in PhD programs now.

    1. For many people, going to some podunk institution would be a step down and it's not necessarily because of personal snobbery.

      They likely went to university with the intention of bettering themselves and their social status--after all, a degree was long advertised as a way of advancing oneself. Maybe they came out of small towns in the middle of nowhere, places which likely weren't going anywhere and which may also have been intellectually and culturally root-bound.

      Imagine spending several years getting an education, perhaps including grad studies, believing the idea to, paraphrasing the old U. S. Army recruiting slogan, be all they could be. Imagine as well finding out that the best they would be offered would be positions in towns similar to what they came from, towns they wanted to escape when they went to university.

      Consider being in that situation. Why would someone get themselves a good formal education only to end up back where they came from? What would have been the point in going to university if they could have stayed where they were, taken some low-level job and been just as well off?

      Wouldn't that have made their time in university a complete waste of effort and money? Worse yet, many of those places have few prospects for advancement nor do they provide many opportunities for something better in the future.

      I know what I'm talking about. I grew up in one of those towns and, later, I worked in some more. I hated them all as I always felt that life was passing me by because I wasn't in a large city, where there were likely more--and better--opportunities. The only reason I was in any of them was because I couldn't find a job anywhere else.

      I'm sure that being in those towns didn't help my employment prospects. Companies likely thought I was a loser for taking those jobs.

    2. Further to my earlier comments, there are some other reasons for being careful in choosing one's employer.

      Suppose one chooses a lower-tier outfit because that's all that's available. That's a bad start right there. If one leaves that place, for whatever reason, prospective employers will often think that if that person was any good, they wouldn't have had to work for that firm to begin with. (Facts and reality don't seem to bother hiring managers.)

      If that company goes belly up or, simply, has to lay people off, and that person is among them, guess who's seen as having exercised poor judgement for working there? After all, if one has smart or any good, they would have chosen an employer that was solvent or, at least, stayed in business. (Tell that to former employees of Enron, Northern Telecom, or JDS Uniphase.)

      Private firms won't let applicants look at their financial books, so there's no way for someone from the outside to know whether it can stay in business. Many applicants don't know how to look at a financial report, so they're often out of luck when it comes to applying with a publicly-traded company. Even so, there's no way an applicant could know if a company's in trouble or crooked or if the financial results have to be re-stated.

      But, HR departments seldom take that into consideration. They expect prospective employees to not only be like purple unicorns that excrete rainbows and sunshine, they are expected to be expert in using crystal balls and ESP as well.

      Like I wrote earlier, they don't let facts and reality get in the way of making a hiring decision.

      If one happens to have worked for a string of such employers, that's also a black mark. After all, one is seen to be a job-hopper, regardless of why that happened. If one jumps ship before the company sinks, one is disloyal. If one goes down with it, one is seen as being a coward or fool for not leaving sooner, foolishly loyal and not having the good sense to leave while the going was good, as well as, as I mentioned earlier, having poor judgement.

      And don't think that offering to work at a lower level will result in a job. An applicant may propose that in order to get in the door and using that as an opportunity to find something better inside the company, plus it shows that one isn't too proud to work below their station.

      Employers won't like that. For one thing, they're afraid that a person will leave if something more suited to their qualifications becomes available. Also, if an applicant volunteers to work at a position for which one is over-qualified, there will be questions about that person.

      There's also the aspect of pay. One expected to be paid what one is worth, and, yes, employers will use that against an applicant. I'm not making that up as tt happened to me a long time ago. I was in a series of interviews with a certain company and one person asked me what I wanted for a salary. I mentioned a figure, which was the average, based on a survey for my profession. But the word "average" was held against me.

      "Are you average?"

      "I don't think so."

      "Then why don't you ask for more?"

      As it turned out, that arrogant attitude eventually did the company in and, just over 20 years later, it sank out of sight, taking a lot of good people with it.

      So, if Podunk College in Pig's Knuckle, a short drive from Dogpatch, should make one an offer, one should think carefully as accepting it might seriously affect one's future prospects.

    3. But then you can never win, according to your logic.

      Unless your real point is to go in business for yourself, right?

    4. Win? In academe? What's that?

    5. Strelnikov, most people aren't winning in this economy.

      Anon 7:59 AM is very right. A great deal of hiring managers pride themselves on having close-minded, black and white thinking when choosing applicants. Good luck out there.

    6. @CcHistProf

      "Then when you talk to them on the phone - a good 40% of those turn out to be.... strange"

      If you ever see this reply, we'd all genuinely benefit from knowing what you mean by "strange."

      "It makes me wonder what the hell goes on in PhD programs now."

      That leads to the chicken-or-egg question: Do strange people go for Ph.D.'s or does grad school make people strange? I suspect it's a little of both.

    7. "If you ever see this reply, we'd all genuinely benefit from knowing what you mean by 'strange.'"

      Absent-minded, unclear, rambling, bizarre.

      Like I said, most PhDs would benefit from reading basic job search help books like "What Color is Your Parachute" that has lots of good interview advice. I can't tell you how many cover letters I've seen that are not even tailored to the job in question.

      From my experience... yes, PhD programs contained some strange people and being in the program allowed them to indulge that.

  14. @AnonymousDecember 8, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    "they're afraid that a person will leave if something more suited to their qualifications becomes available. "

    Which is nothing but a stereotype, and does not reflect the real world. The jobs market is so bad, that when a good job is cut, it never comes back. Half the jobs that were created since the 2008 crash were minimum wage jobs. So what happened to all those people who held decent paying jobs before the crash? Those jobs are gone forever. They're working 2-3 part time minimum wage jobs just to put food on the table.

    "I was in a series of interviews with a certain company and one person asked me what I wanted for a salary."

    Next time ask for the position's budgeted range for salary. Then just put a number inside that range. Any other answer is asking to be rejected. If they don't know/won't tell what the range is, ask them "are you serious? I thought you were looking for someone to fill the role?"

    1. The comment I made about leaving if something better comes along actually happened to me. I met with someone at a firm and emphasized my industrial experience. He noticed my Ph. D. and that didn't sit well with him and flat out told me that he was reluctant to move any further with my inquiry because of it.

      Companies aren't interested in someone who wants a paycheque, though that's really why most people look for jobs. They take those positions because it's something they can do and get paid for, not necessarily because they get sweaty palms about what they're doing. Unfortunately, that's the attitude one has to portray to the interviewers.

      As for the matter about the salary, I had been out of work for close to a year when I had that interview and I was getting hungry. I wasn't about to deliberately say anything which might have antagonized anyone in the company. If I hadn't filled that position, it would have eventually found someone who could, which it eventually did and it wasn't me.

      But, the reaction I got was typical of that outfit's attitude. I had dealings with it on a number of occasions at several different locations. Each time, I encountered nothing but arrogance and snottiness. The company had built a public reputation that it felt it could do no wrong and its employees actually began believing that nonsense.

      However, it was that same arrogance and snotty attitude that eventually sank it. About 20 years after I had that meeting, the company had to restate its financial results several times. Many of its senior management were caught with their hands in the till. Eventually, the company went belly up and its competitors swooped in like vultures, picking off bits and pieces from it and carrying them away.

    2. "Next time ask for the position's budgeted range for salary."

      Depending on the interviewer, that kind of question may be unacceptable since they want to know what you actually want to be paid. And they're also hoping to undercut naive applicants who don't know how much the job is typically worth.

      "If they don't know/won't tell what the range is, ask them "are you serious? I thought you were looking for someone to fill the role?""

      And this is when they would smile and politely usher you out the door.

      Don't get me wrong, PhD Accounting. You sound very reasonable and informed, but the job market is so bad and there so many applicants right now that employers are looking for docile sheep to pay peanuts.

    3. Many interviews nowadays are conducted by committees, so anything that one does or says which may displease any of its members can sink one's chances of getting the job.

      In one interview nearly 10 years ago, one person finished writing all his comments about me while I was still there and making my closing statements. By doing that so visibly, he was clearly telling me, "You haven't got a hope in hell of working here, sonny." And, no, I didn't get hired.

  15. Bad MBA programs produces bad managers who don't know how to fully utilize the most educated, skilled generation since World War II. Our company just hired a PhD in Victorian-era literature over an Indian H1B for I.T. work, and gosh, she was a fast learner and hard worker.

    And she is a hottie.

    It takes good managers on how to train / re-purpose all these over-educated workforce.

    1. Anon 10:42, speaking as an MBA grad it has nothing to do with bad programs. It all has to do with profits. I remember only having one ethics course. Can you guess what almost every other course was about? How to reduce your expenses however possible.

      American graduates are too expensive. If a company can find a foreign worker who can do a job with less pay you can best bet they'll hire him. The question is if this practice is patriotic or not. Then again, this question is easily ignored since companies are rewarded for being profitable rather than being ethical.

    2. Ban H1B completely solve the problem.

    3. And the Temporary Foreign Worker program here in Canada.

    4. @ Anon 12/26/14 7:19

      " America, at our best, we judge people by the content of their color." - ex-Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), at campaign fundraiser on Oct. 23, 2014.

      Says it all. Indigenization has nothing to do with bottom line or profits, although it may be couched in those terms.
      And by the way, nothing is more expensive than purposefully idling 1/6 of your prime-age workforce, which is what the US has already done.

    5. "Indigenization has nothing to do with bottom line or profits, although it may be couched in those terms."

      It really does, otherwise America wouldn't be having an underemployment and unemployment problem right now while companies are making record profits.

      Some of my courses were specifically about offshoring and outsourcing to make a bigger profit. It's also common sense. If you have two people who are equally qualified but you can get away with paying one $10/hr less, which one would you pick? This is why I say American businesses need to focus on ethics more than anything. Or our country will be third-world before long.

    6. What do you expect when there are law firms that specialize in arranging outsourcing? I saw some video recordings of speeches given on how to do it.

      Nice, eh?

    7. MBA programs have courses in accounting, finance, management, marketing, IT, business ethics, and existing business analysis. Some programs may have coursework in economics and/or statistics.

      There are no classes in workforce training or education, employee cultivation, stewardship, developing/creating markets or creating actual products or real services.

      When Adam Smith discussed the optimal employment of capital, he was quite clear that investment and the resulting production had to be local to the investor. When they are not, there is no "invisible hand" at work promoting the interests of the investor's society or its people. These fall into disrepair and into harm, and ultimately the investor's own interests are damaged.

      Today's offshore outsourcing creates greater problems and costs down the road (sometimes, even on the same project) that eclipse projected cost savings.

      As for America's underemployment and unemployment problem(s), these can and should also be ascribed to short-sighted US government tax and tax enforcement policies, government expansion, poor health-care implementation, as well as poor government policy and intrusion into education (and resulting skyrocketing costs).
      As much as these should be addressed, it is even more paramount that unproductive and prejudicial American attitudes regarding hiring, training, and employee career management undergo immediate changes to improve and broaden the national economy.

  16. If you are fortunate to get a stable position in academia after graduate school, be ready to have your expectations warped further. You may love teaching and research, and feel called to pursue these things in the name of higher education, but once you get behind the curtain, you will see that it was all an illusion. Being a professor isn't about teaching. It is about keeping the university machine going. The students just want an easy class with minimal work to fulfill a requirement and get a good grade. Your department wants to keep enrollment up so that they can prove their worth to the administration. The administration just wants data to prove that the university is doing its job. And you must find ways to provide this impersonal data that has nothing to do with whether your students are actually learning something.

    1. And then add those administrators who're interested only in promotion and self-advancement. Anything which they think might reflect badly on them must be eliminated. Therefore, any hassles with students or troublesome staff must be eliminated at any cost.

      Been there, suffered for it.

    2. those impersonal data can be easily manipulated.

    3. "Assessment" seems to be the current fad in higher ed. It gives the administrators something to do, and by that I mean it gives the administrators something to give the faculty to do.

      It started in the public schools, and now it's trickling up into higher ed. It's part of the bureaucratization of academia. Last summer, someone who had just retired after decades of teaching public school told me that if she were starting out today she would never become a teacher in her district, because in the last few years of her career "assessment" had taken over her life.

  17. Although, strictly speaking this does not fall under the topic discussed by '100 Reasons,' it appears to be an excellent example of warped expectations in graduate school:

    "Harvard Faculty, Previously Pro-Obamacare, Up in Arms over Health Cost Hikes"

    I can hear it now, "We supported this because we thought it would only apply to other people!"

    1. That's typical of academics.

      They often seem to be clueless about how the real world (i. e., the one outside of the confines of academe) functions. Many behave as if the general public owes them funding simply because they are academics and because they have an education. They take offence when nobody seems to care about, say, the latest newly-discovered Jane Austen novel--the one about unicorn ranching in Gondwanaland and its influence on cosmic rays--and they become infuriated that there's no money to investigate it.

      They also don't seem to have any appreciation that in order for the government hog trough to be full, someone somewhere has to pay for it, namely the taxpayers. But, when one has the attitude of being accountable to nobody but one's peers, particularly with respect to funding and how to spend the money, such reactions should hardly be surprising.

      Of course, when circumstances finally come and bite them in the butt, they scream that they are unfairly persecuted for being academics and that they should be exempt from such measures.

      Oh, to be in the ivory tower.....

    2. Although I appreciate your support here, I'd have to disagree with some of the rationales offered if only because I don't think they're quite accurate. I'll try to be as mild as possible.

      I think the most dangerous academics are not the ones who have been relegated to irrelevance. Instead they are the ones who lay claim to social or scientific relevance in the service of one or more ideological goals. Examples would include Michael Mann (inventor of the hockey stick graph and the anthropogenic climate change alarmism industry) and Martha Stout (white people are sociopaths). These aren't people who are complaining about lack of funding - they receive quite a lot to enforce dubious scholarship in the service of some agenda or other. Frequently their arguments invoke 'scientific,' 'historical' or political consensus, rather than howling at the moon about the unfair marginalization of their studies. Support for their activities can be a giant financial (or other) penalty for their targets. These are the real drains on the public purse and the people who are most likely to screw things up for everyone else.

      Furthermore, I believe they're quite aware of the idea that someone will have to pay for their research. These people are, in their ways, quite astute marketers, and have tailored their research to align their findings with the goals of more obviously political entities (e.g. Michael Mann and the environmental lobby). In fact, through claims of relevance and import they have even found ways to draw funding from people who find their pronouncements counterproductive (if not unscientific or ahistorical). Obamacare's an example, which has been drawing a great deal of money from people who never supported it in the first place -and recently it's transpired that at least one of its most vocal adherents and architects (an academic) has made a great deal of money in what amounts to public purse payola for implementing the 'system' which he helped impose (again, in at least one case without the knowledge of the public actually footing the bills). The money might as well have been a protection payoff in a brown paper bag shoved under the door of a toilet cubicle.

      A minor quibble - Jane Austen generates quite a lot of money for a couple of different industries (publishing, academic, television and film). Somehow I suspect the discovery of a heretofore unknown Jane Austen novel would set off a flurry of economic activity on the scale of several tens of millions of dollars, what with the screenplay writing, the movie optioning, the product promotions, the actors' contracts, the merchandising, the post-theater run consumption (DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming), the residuals, the licensing, the inevitable knock-offs and parodies involving (most likely zombies, but possibly this is where unicorn ranching in Gondwanaland might more logically come in), their movie optioning... I can think of better ways to spend money, but I will admit that this process generates a lot of economic activity and distributed benefit, in a way that is relatively harmless compared with the activities of the 'relevant' academics described before.

      That said, I think you're bang on target when you describe (some) academics' reactions of being "unfairly persecuted" by, and needing exemption from, the results of their own actions. Again, however, I emphasize that they weren't necessarily unaware that the ACA would impose heavy costs on everyone else - they just flattered themselves that they would be part of the 'protected class' - like Congress - totally immune to the consequences. Less ignorance than arrogance. methinks.

    3. the Harvard faculty should shut up and pay up. Not that they are going broke anyway.

  18. Here's something else that warps one's expectations:

    So how come senior administrators can be paid a king's ransom while those who make the "product" get only crumbs?

    1. Because political connections and identity are far more important than ability, demonstrated accomplishment, or intelligence.

      Being able to hire it done > being able to do it.

      Being able to pass off responsibility > being responsible.

      Being "visionary" > bringing an innovation into being.

      Appearance > substance.

    2. I've long believed that if intelligence, ability, and hard work had anything to do with getting a Ph. D., most university departments would have to close as they won't be able to find enough qualified people to hire.

  19. This is a good reason. Yeah, I went because graduate school seemed like a route to a decent life. It hasn't turned out horribly, but I'm not where I thought I would be. One thing that tends to help you survive and sometimes prosper is being a bottom feeder. Do the things that nobody else will do. Go to the places they won't. If you do all this--and yes, it's almost impossible to have a romantic relationship if you do this--you might survive and prosper. But you have to be willing to swallow your pride and dignity.

    1. After all my education, that's what my career turned out to be, despite having 3 graduate degrees. I was either working at a lousy job or looking for one and I've been doing it since the early 1980s.

      I've rolled snake eyes since I quit my teaching position at a craphole institution. Employers were scared I might just up and leave them while they wouldn't have hesitated to can me whenever they wanted to.

    2. "But you have to be willing to swallow your pride and dignity."

      You just described the whole culture of the professoriate. You start in grad school doing thankless work for peanuts to prepare you for the next five decades of disappointment, depression, and self-deception, but you're never really prepared for how much you have to swallow later on.

  20. A few days ago I got my 2014 W2 from the college where I work. I know what I am paid, but actually seeing my wages on my W2 was like getting punched in the stomach.

    I made more money 20+ years ago at my first summer job than I made teaching last semester. I have a four-figure annual salary.

    If you're 22 and you're reading this, go look at reason #1 on this blog.

    1. I made more money teaching overseas without a college degree than I have ever made in this country with an M.S.

      Also, I got more job training overseas in teaching than I have ever received in this country for any of the jobs I have held since.

      I don't know about all of you, but this tells me something about this nation's economy and its priorities.

    2. "I made more money 20+ years ago at my first summer job than I made teaching last semester. I have a four-figure annual salary."

      Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, today took public issue with official unemployment rates and the quality of jobs in our wonderful economy.

  21. Wo wo wo people. Go down the backyard and top myself maybe? No joking of course. This blog is insightful but I think from the premise that it is SURPRISING that life is unpredictable and uncertain. My serious advice, become a Buddhist. Worrying about societies expectations is robbing you and I of real happiness now. Seriously, how much do you enjoy the intellectual experience of academia? I'm guessing a lot. So every day cultivate LETTING GO. Let go of getting A job/ the 'right' job. Let go of expectations. Don't expect. Let go of security. A percentage of you WILL get cancer and die a percentage won't. You can't stop that happening. Just as you can't stop a recession, control who you have and haven't met, what opportunities have come your way etc.. So why not quit all the pretense of trying to control and instead be utterly selfish and enjoy the moment doing what you love. You'll be a much happier person for it. Make THAT your life's GOAL.

    There is a rich tradition of intellectuals and not just the religiously ignorant who've adopted that mindset. Wittgenstein, Spinoza, Diogenes etc

    1. Having an attitude free of expectations helps with your reconciliation to 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.'

      However, adopting an attitude does not nullify the expectations that others have - some of which are enforceable. It does not pay the bills. It does not put food on the table. It does not provide shelter. It does not provide for those that are in your care.

      The cultures that were most successful at adopting these attitudes (and even they did not adopt them across the cultures in question - as anyone with even the slightest actual familiarity with them can attest) even today are playing catch-up with most aspects of the 'modern' world. Elements of the modern world basic to the maintenance of health and environment (e.g. sanitation and potable water) are still mostly beyond them. This is not an existence that most people want to adopt.

    2. @Pasquino

      Did you miss the bit earlier in the thread about how Wittgenstein wanted young people to get away from philosophy and do something useful instead?

  22. It seems to me that this reason is about disappointment, and that's been the theme of my academic life. I'm just stream-of-consciousness typing here, but some of the disappointing things that surprised me coming out of grad school were...

    I always thought that I could live anywhere, but moving around is tough. I'm actually living somewhere now that I expected to love, but I feel like a complete outsider here. I don't know if it's the place or just a result of being uprooted so many times.

    I didn't know that I'd have to wear a poker face all the time, and I never know what my colleagues are really thinking.

    The money is terrible. I sort of expected this, but not really. Rent eats up most of my income. My colleagues who bought houses had to buy foreclosed fixer-uppers. (I don't live in an expensive area.)

    So much time gets eaten up by pointless meetings and committees and general bureaucracy that there isn't much gas left in the tank for anything else.

    I am totally replaceable. Again, I sort of knew this, but actually getting replaced at the drop of a hat in another job brought that home. I didn't have to go to grad school to be this replaceable.

    I'll end by saying it's a massive shock to go from grad school at a tier 1 university to teaching at a "regional" university. I'll just leave it at that.

    1. Just some brief (and nonjudgmental) reactions -

      "...but moving around is tough." Moving is tougher when the real estate market ceases to be fluid - most people no longer have the wherewithal to move. It's tougher in a bad economy when fewer people are moving for work - or can afford to move for work. It's tougher in a bad economy where there are fewer housing starts. Fewer buyers and sellers in housing + added mortgage capital requirements = less flexibility in location. This is a problem that seems to affect a lot of people - not just those in academia.

      "I'm actually living somewhere now that I expected to love, but I feel like a complete outsider here." Sometimes change results from having grown. Sometimes too, people will idealize a place in ways that are not borne out by their experiences of that place. Let it grow on you.

      "I didn't know that I'd have to wear a poker face all the time, and I never know what my colleagues are really thinking." Isn't this perhaps a sign of our times, that people are less tolerant of others' opinions, in just about any context?

      "The money is terrible. I sort of expected this, but not really."
      I suspect, personally, that there is a disconnect between anticipating something in the abstract (e.g. "many or most academics struggle with low salaries") and confronting the reality ("hey, rent's eaten more than half of my paycheck!").
      That said, there are some profound disparities between regions in terms of average rents - I'd suggest that if rent is eating "most of (your) income" you're probably living in an area that's more expensive than many.

      "I am totally replaceable." This is one of the aspects of working in the third most-populated nation on earth, which also has largely unrestricted immigration. The "totally replaceable worker" meme affects most positions and industries, and has led to a massive decline in employment. This is not sustainable and is likely to lead to serious problems in the future (not least of which will be diminished economic competitiveness). Personally I believe the US needs to conduct serious overhauls of its immigration, educational and employment policies if it is to remain viable.

      As far as the final comment is concerned, I'd have to wonder what it was that the author expected. Most graduates of tier 1 universities that go into higher education wind up teaching at "lower-classed" institutions.

    2. Interesting comment, since a full-time faculty job at a regional university is a major "success."

      Since I needed a job and took one at a community college, I'll likely never work my way up to that. This is the level I'll always be.

  23. The warped expectation thing applies especially to people getting their Ph.D.s at big, glorious "suboptimal" schools, like, say, Big 10 or SEC schools.

    I'm referring to big universities with huge research programs and departments with long histories and traditions and top-notch faculty. The programs are probably set up basically like the ones at "optimal" Ivy schools except grad students do way more "service."

    What's my point? OK, so you get into grad school at a Big 10 (not easy), you get there and work in amazing facilities with maybe an advisor who came out of Yale or something, you go through all the grad school motions in an R1 environment, and the whole thing is set up to make you think you're working toward something serious.

    Everything is made to look like you're there to get a prestigious degree attesting to your able mind and your blood, sweat, and tears. Then you finish, you go on the market, and you are SHUT OUT of serious jobs. Those jobs are for Ivy people, silly. Joke's on you. There might be a part-time gig somewhere outside of Wichita next semester. Better get your application in.

    1. I've also noticed that many of academic posts go to people who come to this country as foreign students. Why? Aren't there any qualified citizens?

    2. "Aren't there any qualified citizens?"

      There are, but there is discrimination against them.
      It is illegal but our government does not enforce this law.

    3. A few days ago, I read an article about a list, presumably drawn up by the government, that showed which occupations could readily be farmed out either overseas or to imported temporary foreign workers.

      Guess whose profession was on it? That's right, folks. All those years in university, studying hard to earn all my degrees, working to become registered professionally--all for nothing.

      Of course, the government blames *me* for my circumstances.... I guess living with even a minimum of comfort is seen as audacious and far too expensive.

    4. That's because our government is controlled by politicians who serve their cronies, not the people.

    5. Meanwhile, the government believes it's more important to give any robber baron or carpetbagger, no matter where they're from, a haven to safely launder their money.

      I remember the last time I was in a certain city in my country. On the return trip home, I remarked to the person next to me that the skyline had changed dramatically since I had previously been there. Her comment was that it was all financed by foreign drug money.

      'Nuff said.....

  24. I left a English Literature doctoral program when I was 27 for a lot of different reasons. I'd passed my orals a year before but I got to the point that I knew the dissertation proposal just wasn't going to happen, so I left. But in a way I didn't. I have an interesting if not-well-paid job now and things are going about as well as the economy will allow. I am 41 and graduate school is in the semi-distant past, but I am often surprised by the persistence of the fantasies/expectations academic life fostered. Out here in the "real" world I still find myself time thinking time to time that somewhere or somehow it must be possible to earn a living as an intellectual. I know "intellectual" is a loaded word, but you know I am trying to describe a fantasy. And this intellectual life exists in some organized, benign community. Then I remind myself that this fantasy is completely insane. I really expected to find this kind of world and life when I was 22, and even if I should have known better I didn't, and there was a lot of people and institutions suggesting that this "academic" life was possible. Great expectations die hard. Part of that is evidence of the normal process of growing up, but I suspect the kinds of expectations we are all trying to articulate here--of a middle class existence or the respect of our colleagues for example--are disappointed in a way that is particularly hard and largely invisible to others that have not once dreamed the dream of being a professor. So while I have a good life and recommend to anyone getting the $&@" out of academica, all those unrealistic expectations remain somewhere buried within the mind, soul, subconscious, whatever you want to call it. I am curious to learn how others have experienced coming to terms (or not) with all those once massively gratifying fantasies.

    1. I had not got as far as you in the Ph.D. program, as I was slow to realize I was being had. I had a dozen or so units when I woke up to the ugly truth. Academia is closed-off world and it has no relationship to an intellectual life--as the blogger pointed out, virtually everything is pretense. I got fed up with it and left. I think about going back to finish a degree simply for my own satisfaction, but then I go online and read descriptions of doctoral programs and the feeling goes away fast. It isn't a case of the ugly reality of the real world versus the beautiful fantasy of academia, but of the ugly reality of the real world against the hideous reality of academia.

    2. I must admit I was taken in by the image of grad studies as being an academic Arcadia, having been influenced by numerous documentaries and movies. There was no source of information to the contrary in the late 1970s as there was no Internet back then and few people said anything against the system.

      That view was soon corrected. I found out very quickly that undergrads were seen to be of greater value than grad students.

      I also found out that the completion of a degree was strongly dependent upon the personal opinion of one's supervisor. Hard work, intelligence, and talent mattered very little.

      I thought that the academic culture was supposed to be better than what I found in industry. I was sadly mistaken.

  25. So, another looooooong period between posts.

    I suspect the guy running this site has run out of material.

    1. Or maybe took his own advice?

    2. I'm sure he took his own advice, but broke the implied promise of 100 reasons :)

    3. Nah... it's too rich a vein to mine. If anything the author is having to parse and whack down the remaining rationales to fit the promised 100 reasons. Look at it this way, if you only had six slots left, wouldn't you want to carefully consider the rationales and arguments that went into the last remaining slots?

    4. In any case I predict that the 100th reason, if and when it is posted, will be something along the lines of "See reasons 1-99." We have covered a lot of ground after all, and what better way to conclude than to invite everyone to peruse the blog in its entirety one last time?

    5. I think the mine is empty. Otherwise, the articles would come at a more regular time.

      Yes, in the beginning there were more articles to prime the pump. But that pump went dry and he's trying to figure out what to write which doesn't sound like a repeat of something he already wrote.

      Not like he's making a lot of money off this blog, so it is not about milking it by dragging things out.

    6. A lot of the reasons beyond #30 or so were already circular and repetitive, although I wonder if the whole thing is a pun on grad school. Circular and repetitive writing is a central feature of most humanities dissertations. Also, many, many, many PhD's get 80 to 90% of the way done and drop out ABD. That must have been the biggest waste I witnessed. I saw a lot of people simply fail to finish their dissertation even though they were bright people who got through everything else.

    7. "A lot of the reasons beyond #30 or so were already circular and repetitive, although I wonder if the whole thing is a pun on grad school."

      Possibly, but they didn't have to be (circular and repetitive). As I said before, it's a rich vein to mine.
      Also, it wouldn't be a pun, it would be a parody.

  26. I'd like to try completing the set just for fun, since we're all so eager. Here goes:

    95) Expectations are arbitrary: Your committee could place new or even contradictory demands on you at any time, almost on a whim. Since there are no firm standards, it's impossible to know how hard any given student has worked to get where they are.

    96) Relationships must be continually negociated: Advisors, committee members, administrators and even fellow students all must be placated if you intend to get through in one piece. That goes double for tenured profs, since there is little to no mobility for them, and nowhere to turn if things go sour.

    97) You become complicit in the system: In choosing to attend grad school, you tacitly accept - whether you intend to or not - the exploitation which is so much a part of the modern university.

    98) You will be fundamentally misunderstood: Grad student life is a paradox. Those outside the system seem to think that doctoral students are destined for greatness, but those on the inside are aware of the sobering realities, or at least they should be aware of them.

    99) There is a culture of denial: This one operates on so many levels - denial of exploitation, denial of the demoralizing job market, denial of the irrelevance of much academic scholarship, etc.

    100) See reasons 1-99: Read the blog in its entirety. Follow as many of the links as you can. Read as many of the comments as you can - no small endeavor, I know. If, after this, you are still convinced that you'd like to attend graduate school, more power to you. Certainly, nothing would have discouraged me at age 22. Nevertheless, this blog serves as a grave reminder that sometimes expectations and reality do not match up.

    1. I listed several reasons some time ago on another page of this site:

      Intellectual property that you have developed is not yours.
      University aims do not correlate with student needs.
      Government interference in university activities.
      Corporate interference in university activities.
      The university is less accountable to its supporting population (than it used to be).
      Increased politicization of university activities.
      Institutionalized differential treatment according to race and gender.
      Rampant age-based discrimination.
      and discipline balkanziation (this last is arguable - it's seen more in some areas than others).

    2. Could you explain some of these more thoroughly.

    3. #96 above!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No one outside of the humanities could ever understand how tedious, exhausting, and annoying it truly is to keep relationships functioning in this field. People become annoyed, resentful, and passive aggressive over the most minor of things. I connect this largely with spending far too much time in isolation, which all academics do. In solitude, people ruminate, and through rumination toxicity builds.

      This reason alone should make people want to run. There are stakes to EVERY interaction when you work in the humanities. People close read constantly. It will make you want to cry, drink, and scream at everyone around you.

    4. Oh, come on, that's true of most professions anymore. It is an element of modern life, not an exclusive feature of the ivory tower.

    5. @ amun duul 2 4/10/15 5:05 PM

      One example that falls under several of my reasons is the OPT (Optional Practical Training) program run by the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), under the Department of Homeland Security.
      With OPT, qualifying international student graduates of US colleges and universities may remain in the US for either 12 or 17 months (and apparently as long as 29) in "student" status, depending on degree subject, and pursue employment "to complement their educational training."

      The retention of student status has tax implications. The program is billed to US employers as representing a tax savings, as neither US employers nor the "students" are required to pay payroll taxes, representing a cost savings as much as $11,600 when an international student graduate on OPT is hired over an American college graduate.

      From 2009-2013, some 433,000 OPT visas were issued by USCIS, with an additional 64,000 extensions.

      This program exemplifies a number of my 'reasons not to go to graduate school,' most notably "government interference in university activities," as it changes the rationales and incentives for international students to pursue higher education in the US, and changes the incentives and populations served by the colleges and universities providing the education. To the extent that OPT and similar programs have been actively campaigned for and exploited by US companies, "corporate interference in university activities" is indicated as well, as is "less accountability to its supporting population."

    6. @ amun duul 2 4/10/15 5:05 PM

      Finding examples for "Institutionalized differential treatment according to race and gender" is relatively easy.
      Does the institution in question have "affirmative action" in admissions? Does the institution in question have "affirmative action" in hiring? Then the institution has institutionalized differential treatment according to race and gender.

    7. Related to #95. If a dissertation project fails, it is always the fault of the student never the faculty member. There are no repercussions for a tenured faculty who poorly "mentors" their doctoral students.

    8. Anon. @ 2015-04-21:

      Why should there be? That faculty member likely has tenure, and we know what that means.

      Besides, grad students are cheap labour. I once knew one who came from another country and started his Ph. D. in the department I was in. He was torpedoed in his thesis defence and was cut off at the master's level, leaving him with--get this--2 master's degrees in his discipline.

      He came from a society where maintaining face was important, so he likely didn't want to go back without his doctorate. The poor slob started again, but this time he succeeded--more than 10 years after coming over.

      Meanwhile, the supervisor likely milked him for data which that same supervisor published without giving that grad student credit.

    9. New reason - graduate schools now are adopting the American corporate template for dealing with job applicants.
      Increasingly if you're a rejected applicant - they don't notify you, you have to go to the application service website. Similarly, professors who have expressed interest in advising applicants apparently no longer feel obligated to continue discussions with the applicant once the decision is made.
      We need to ask ourselves, at what point do we cease to tolerate rudely unprofessional behavior masquerading as efficiency?

    10. Anon @ 2015-04-28 3:26 PM:

      Why should we be surprised at this development? Since the early 1990s, post-secondary institutions have adopted the doctrine of "student as customer".

      I spent several years in industry before I started my Ph. D. Increasingly, I saw how the university environment began resembling what I had left behind when I started grad studies. You name it, chances are I saw or experienced it.

      The best thing that could happen to the post-secondary educational system is to completely dismantle it, salvage what is good about it, and rebuild it from scratch.

    11. "Since the early 1990s, post-secondary institutions have adopted the doctrine of "student as customer." " Not sure that this is the real issue. Customers have rights and protections afforded them by law. Students have none.

    12. Well, yes, they do. They have FERPA rights that prevent the parents who are paying for their education from finding out anything about their academic progress without the student's written permission. Same with their health records. And depending on the procedures of a particular college, their "rights" as "paying customers" sometimes trump the responsibility of the instructor to run a civil classroom, maintain reasonable academic standards, and issue grades that actually reflect the quality of the students' work.

    13. Did you read the context for this discussion?

    14. Previously I would have thought that my "rights" as a graduate student would include, no post-admission changes to course requirements, no course schedule changes in mid-semester, and no administrative restrictions preventing me from testing in my major area in comprehensives. I also would have thought that my "rights" would have included freedom from racial and gender bias from employees of the university, and department/university maintenance of their own honor code.

      No, students have no rights that are worth anything.

  27. I know I've made several comments in the past few days probably because a part of me seeking to ease my mind about having an undergrad behavioral science degree emphasizing in psychology and not doing the "wise" thing of going for a graduate degree. but truth be told my sanity cannot take it. so I post this link to a little known study that i discovered in the documentary "the war on kids" which i recommend to all to watch

    essentially the theory is drugs are not addicting, but rather it is our lifestyle that attributes to our burned out lives. in essence the rats are more prone to bad behavior when tossed into a terrible environment(say school and ESPECIALLY grad school) whereas when placed in a good environment the rats avoided drugs.

  28. Can someone please clean up the tumbleweed? This blog's deadness is attracting them by the dozen.

  29. Unfortunately, this blog will have not a single effect on the minds of any of the naive freshmen and undergraduates out there. The system will always succeed in sucking these persons into its never ending labyrinth, as it was my case once, that it will take for some of them twenty years to realize their faults and then it will be too late.
    The academic system is part of a huge octopus that is nourished by fiat currency that will keep growing larger and larger. And everybody, who are the children of parents with jobs, will be sucked into it. While those who are the children of single mothers or of jobless parents will dwell either on the streets or in prisons.

    1. trueh enough Alexander, but its not just grad school, its the entire schooling system, which is modeled after the Prussian system from the 1850s which was designed to create mindless obedient drones to the state.

      the problems with grad school cut so much deeper than grad school, it starts at kindergarten and what has been an ever increasing push to get mom and dad out of the parenting business and handing their kids over to daycares, pre-school teachers, and get them into the system earlier and earlier.

  30. I was curious to see if the writer was going to ever finish this list. It looks doubtful. No entry for five months, and a lot of repetition in the entries.

    1. I wouldn't count our blogger out yet. Between entries s/he has been adding new links to the "Further Reading" column.

      That said...a new entry would be appreciated.

    2. Reason #95 - American culture regards higher education as unnecessary and perhaps even a kind of 'cheating.'

      In American (and several European cultures) higher education is viewed as extrinsic and unnecessary to economic activity. The maintenance of national cultures, sciences and other areas of endeavor is viewed as suspect both from conservative *and* liberal perspectives, in a way that it rarely has been before.

      Being a student is equated with avoiding work and avoiding "the real world" as opposed to what being a student should be - either participating in the maintenance of culture and/or progress, extending the intellectual wealth of culture and the sciences, or training for the assumption of vocational responsibility.

      The increase in vehemence in anti-educational perspectives seems concomitant with year-over-year tuition increases that for decades have outpaced inflation, yielding record levels for tuition. It also seems to be concomitant with the increased politicization of education, which has chucked out a large part of the essential mission of education - i.e. the maintenance of culture - while alienating a large percentage of the population who consequently views higher education as suspect (and rightly so), and growing the least essential part of the educational enterprise (administration).

    3. Sorry folks, I now realize this "#95" is merely an extension of #43.

  31. Blumenthal School Of Foreign Policy Muddle East Studies, MBA

    Who cares if he was educated as a sociologist and worked as a journalist, this is the most relevant hands-on program in US foreign policy in the Muddle East in our times! Coursework *at the Blumenthal School (B.S.)* to include confusing names ("they're all named Al, I swear"), including personal business contacts as important people in intel reports, how to use a domestic campaign advising career to leap into foreign policy positions and earning $10K/month as a regional intel advisor without any relevant area, intelligence, or language skills.

    As a student at the Sid Blumenthal school I will outearn those stupid schleps who think they have to spend years learning Arabic and who will wind up cleaning toilets at Taco Bell. What's the worst that could happen? Originally they were supposed to contact me by e-mail, but apparently it 'got lost in a server malfunction' and the message is now irretrievable.

    Now... THAT'S "warped expectations" for you.


    1. Don't get one in history either.


    Robert Jay Lifton's Eight Point Model of Thought Reform

    1. ENVIRONMENT CONTROL. Limitation of many/all forms of communication with those outside the group. Books, magazines,
    letters and visits with friends and family are taboo. "Come out and be separate!"

    2. MYSTICAL MANIPULATION. The potential convert to the group becomes convinced of the higher purpose and special calling of the group through a profound encounter/experience, for example, through an alleged miracle or prophetic word of those in the group.

    3. DEMAND FOR PURITY. An explicit goal of the group is to bring about some kind of change, whether it be on a global, social, or
    personal level. "Perfection is possible if one stays with the group and is committed."

    4. CULT OF CONFESSION. The unhealthy practice of self disclosure to members in the group. Often in the context of a public gathering in the group, admitting past sins and imperfections, even doubts about the group and critical thoughts about the integrity of the leaders.

    5. SACRED SCIENCE. The group's perspective is absolutely true and completely adequate to explain EVERYTHING. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. ABSOLUTE conformity to the doctrine is required.

    6. LOADED LANGUAGE. A new vocabulary emerges within the context of the group. Group members "think" within the very abstract and narrow parameters of the group's doctrine. The terminology sufficiently stops members from thinking critically by reinforcing a "black and white" mentality. Loaded terms and clichés prejudice thinking.

    7. DOCTRINE OVER PERSON. Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly and decisively interpreted through the
    absolute doctrine, even when experience contradicts the doctrine.

    8. DISPENSING OF EXISTENCE. Salvation is possible only in the group. Those who leave the group are doomed.

    1. This is a thought-provoking post, with applications reaching into politics and industry. Thank you.

    2. LOADED LANGUAGE is the one that jumps out at me here. One of the biggest reasons why I left grad school is because I had 2 profs in the same semester who would tell us what to think, what we meant, and what words to use. And in both cases, the profs habitually did not tell us why. It was like being back in elementary school with the teacher issuing commands and orders by pure authority alone. Dealing with it in class was one thing, but when I sat down to begin writing the required paper and realized that I had to refuse to write for these people, I knew I had to leave.

    3. This post is great. I think there could be a whole spin off project where people could post grad school anecdotes that fall into those 8 categories.

      #5 is particularly fascinating, especially given that the typical theoretical thrust of many grad disciplines opposes any kind of absolutism and wallows in the complexity socially constructed everything. What I witnessed was an extreme form of emotional rigidity that did lead to conformity. It didn't matter what the party line was and how on paper it seems much richer than the kind espoused by people who would be the punchline of social jokes- look at religious simpletons who are brainwashed.

      I think 12:51 is spot on at how many applications there are when looking at this model. What is interesting about academia is the intersection of a model like this and the kinds of personal sacrifices people make to stay in it- no money, little control, no health insurance, etc. It really does start to look like a holy mission.

  34. So, is the blog's title false advertising? I want my money back :)

    (for those who didn't catch it, this is tongue in cheek)

  35. A fellow under-employed freelance academic (AKA "adjunct") and I had a conversation about how we ended up the way we did. We're both about the same age, from lower-middle class backgrounds, and went to flagship public universities for PhD's.

    We realized that we both lack the "cultural capital" that more successful people in academia usually have. We didn't come from families or social networks with knowledge of academia, so we walked into it blindly and made some bad decisions.

    We chose public universities for grad school; we chose overpopulated disciplines; we chose advisors without understanding academic politics; we chose dissertation topics without considering the job market. We made a lot of dumb mistakes, but the mistakes look dumb to us in retrospect only because we have a much better understanding of how it all works than we did when we were starting out. People from families more plugged-in to academia don't make those kinds of choices and then expect to have a successful academic career. We weren't plugged in at all.

    1. There might be another reason for that. The institutions in question simply want a warm body to fill a slot and they don't care who they get, let alone if the qualifications match the job requirements.

      I went through that nonsense in industry.

      The first company I worked for after getting my B. Sc. essentially wanted me to throw away my degree and become "re-educated" with what it wanted me to know. However, its hiring spiel implied that it was interested in me because of the discipline I studied. We parted ways less than a year after I started.

      Another company salivated over my being a master's candidate. That implied that I was being hired because of my education and previous experience. What I ended up doing could have been done by someone with a 2-year technologist diploma. (So why didn't it hire someone with that qualification?)

      Academe, I'm afraid, isn't a whole lot different.

    2. This is what makes this blog so useful. You don't have to be born into an academic family to acquire the cultural capital now. The information is right here in this blog.

      Here's the advice I would give any first-generation PhD student (1) Only attend an elite (top 20) school for your doctorate. (2) Only attend if you are fully funded. Do not go into debt.

      Read the "If You Decide To Go Anyway" link on this blog.

  36. Children of families more plugged-in to academia mostly don't choose academic careers. They've grown up with too much first-hand knowledge of the instability, the financial pressures, the strange personalities, the infighting. *Any* other kind of professional pursuit looks positively sunlit by comparison.

  37. Higher ed is little more than a scam these days. Along with your crushing debt you have even less job security and lower wages than the graduates of yesteryear. Take it from me, you're much better off starting your life after completing your Bachelor's.

    Of course, I'm jaded that all the effort and sacrifice it took to get my Master's degree added up to little more than a hill of expensive beans.


  39. Almost a year since the last post. Clearly this author abandoned the blog.

    1. Yup. The author is (was?) clearly a PhD adjunct, VAP or late-stage grad-student. I just looked up the first and then the last few posts and #'s 1-87 came at a pretty brisk clip starting in 2010, but #'s 88-94 started in 2013 and now it's more than halfway through 2015.

      I wonder if he (I assume it was a he from the tone) got a real job. I'd find it deliciously ironic if it's a full-time academic job.

    2. I would not count the author out yet. The author continues to update the links for further reading. See the "Cult of the PhD" by Daniel Drezner for instance.

    3. I disagree. Stick a fork in this blog, its done.

    4. @PhD Accounting:
      I followed this blog for a number of years as I pursued my doctorate in a STEM subject. Although the focus here is on the humanities and social sciences, I found much of the material relevant to my own experience.

      While respectful disagreement and counter-argument is fundamental to academic progress, there is no space here for comments that do not add value.

    5. "there is no space here for comments that do not add value."

      I agree the blog has a lot of value and relevance to many people.

      I'd like to see the remaining 6 reasons.

      But we won't, because this blog has been abandoned.

      ABANDONING the blog does not add value. Saying that it is abandoned is adding value.

  40. This new book may be relevant to readers of this blog

    The Graduate School Mess
    What Caused It and How We Can Fix It
    by Leonard Cassuto

    It is no secret that American graduate education is in disarray. Graduate students take too long to complete their studies and face a dismal academic job market if they succeed. The Graduate School Mess gets to the root of these problems and offers concrete solutions for revitalizing graduate education

    Cassuto says that graduate education must recover its mission of public service. Professors should revamp the graduate curriculum and broaden its narrow definition of success to allow students to create more fulfilling lives for themselves both inside and outside the academy.

    1. I wonder if Mr. Cassuto discusses the adverse impacts of job-related immigration on academia, the job market for graduates (both graduate school and undergrad), and universities and colleges themselves. As this administration prepares to drop the people bomb on current and prospective employees yet again, it is increasingly critical to consider the resulting impacts.

      Also, I wonder if he contemplates the devastating impacts student loans and regulatory health-care costs have had on tuition rates.

  41. Chronicle Data is amazing. It's where people employed to teach at colleges can anonymously report on their total compensation and leave comments about their jobs. If you want to get depressed, read the adjunct reports.

    Adjunct - Foreign Language
    September 24, 2014
    University of California at Santa Cruz

    I have a doctorate in my field and have not been able to find a full-time position. I work at 4 different institutions. Last year I taught 9 courses. Last Spring I had a schedule where I drove 4 hours a day and taught for 6. This is definitely not what I expected coming out of graduate school.

    Adjunct - General Studies
    September 30, 2013
    Concordia University at St. Paul

    The salary has remained the same since I began in 2008. Although one year I was able to teach 10 courses, this year will only be 2 courses. Each course requires about 12 - 16 hours of time per week. Even if I could get 10 courses, the time commitment is exhausting and the total salary (with no benefits whatsoever) would be $22,000 for the year. Prior to this program I taught at a different local school that paid $1350 total for a 3-credit undergrad course (not per credit!), taught weekly in-person, taking about 16 hours a week to prepare, teach, and grade. That school still pays that wage. It is incredibly difficult to explain why it is simultaneously discouraging to not be able to get more classes, and not wise to try (given the effort and salary). For the record, I have a PhD from a Big Ten school, JD, have published 3 books, and have 20+ years corporate and law experience.

    Adjunct - Philosophy
    March 8, 2013
    City University of New York John Jay College of Criminal Justice

    Taught at John Jay for 6 years. I was generally treated well by the department, who understood we were being exploited. The adjuncts were generally of fairly low quality and sometimes taught up to 8 courses per semester at surrounding schools. All the college adjuncts share a hot, nasty room filled with cubes for offices, containing around 35 shared, gross desks. It was an embarrassing space to speak with students.

    Adjunct - Composition, Rhetoric, Writing
    February 19, 2013
    Central Michigan University

    No respect, voice, or job security--labor-intensive comp courses only, although I have a Lang and Lit degree. The guy with three teeth and a GED that picks up my garbage makes more money and has much more job security. Union worthless.