Eleven more days to go.
In about four and a half hours, it’ll be ten more days. Right this instant, at four in the morning, we have six more 102 class meetings and five more 101 meetings. So that’s two more weeks, both spent treading water while we try to shovel the horrible 2500-word Eng. 102 position paper off our respective desks. The 101s have an argument paper left to do.
That makes for 52,500 words of drivel to be read, commented upon, and assessed in the next two weeks. BARF!
And that doesn’t count the query, interview, and two articles coming in from the magazine-article writing students. Fortunately, only about a half-dozen of those students survive.
One of them turned in a copy-and-paste job for her how-two piece. Score: –10.
Ten points off for not bothering to even so much as type her own name, contact information, target publication, and word count into a heading. One hundred points off for copying an entire web page and pasting it into a Word document.
I can’t even tell you how tedious I find this kind of thing. As much as I hate grading students’ illiterate original efforts, to my mind turning in something that you’ve copied word-for-word is profoundly insulting. In addition to the little sh!t presuming to waste my time by expecting me to grade it, the implication that I am so stupid I’ll never notice is just infuriating.
Speaking of stupid… Frankly, I’m beginning to think that anyone who would persist at this job for more than a year or so is none too bright. When you read sites populated by adjuncts and even by full-time faculty, you see the woods are full of people complaining incessantly about the exploitive conditions under which some 80 percent of U.S. university and college faculty work. And yet, you know…those conditions exist because people put up with them.
Okay, I’m grateful that I had the skills to get something, no matter how underpaid and frustrating, to keep the wolf from the door when I was laid off my job.
But what I’ve earned really did not keep the wolf away. All it has done is delay the day when inevitably I would run out of money. I started with $28,000 of emergency savings in the bank. Fourteen grand was transferred to a brokerage account, some of it put into a Roth IRA and some into non-tax deferred investments. The remainder was used to keep me going when my adjunct income plus Social Security did not pay the bills, which was most of the time. Today about $5,500 of that remains.
It’s been three years since layoff day, and you have to allow that living on $14,000 for three years was not a bad little accomplishment. The lifestyle hasn’t been great, though. And needing to use five grand of that money to shore up the house’s defenses after the garage invasion episode, having spent two years living like an anchorite and holding down a miserable job I just loathe so as to stretch that money as long as possible, was, shall we say, discouraging.
So truly, it is a pointless effort. I would have done better to have applied for a federal job, as one woman at the Social Security Administration advised, or to have gone to work for Costco, as one of their employees suggested.
Costco employees are amazingly happy in their jobs. Adjuncts, by and large, are not. Administrators pretend to or, possibly in some cases actually do, agonize about working conditions and exploitation of adjuncts, but if anyone in college and university administration gave a damn, obviously these conditions would not prevail.
At Confessions of a Community College Dean, proprietor Dean Dad wonders rhetorically, “What would it take to give every adjunct who wants it a full-time permanent job?” This gives him an opportunity to say, in effect, it costs too much to treat employees fairly.
I said it there, and I’ll say it here: There’s a simple way to resolve this problem. Let me correct myself, though: actually, there are two ways.
• First, people who think they want to teach full-time and find themselves unable to land full-time work must quit doing this. Don’t teach on an adjunct basis under any circumstances. Work is not a vocation. We are not nuns and priests. We do not serve God — far from it, obviously. Work exists to put food on the table and a roof overhead. For the individual, that is all it is good for.
If people would not put up with ill treatment, it would not happen. So, fellow adjuncts: GET A JOB.
• Second, the whole issue would become moot if colleges and universities quit producing MAs and PhDs in disciplines whose teaching faculties are overrun with adjuncts. Most of these are in the humanities. If faculties in an academic discipline are largely staffed by adjuncts, that discipline obviously represents a dead end for young people who think they want academic careers.
Graduate programs in these disciplines should be shut down or cut way, way back. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that we need federal legislation to make this happen, since you can be sure universities will continue to churn out MAs and PhDs as long as they can find suckers to go into their programs. To cut their graduate programs would be to force full-time senior faculty to teach the gummy, frustrating, and endlessly annoying lower-division courses presently foisted on adjuncts and junior faculty. We need legislation to establish a nationwide limit on the number of PhDs and MAs that can be granted in, say, English literature or rhet-comp. And stick to it.
It will take time, but after about twenty years, many fewer people will be eligible to teach on the college or university level. Thus, eventually all faculty in the humanities will be full-time, because there will no longer be a surplus of qualified applicants.
Yeah, it’s nice that a job of sorts was out there to break my fall when the recession yanked a decent job out from under me. The only reason that was true, though, is that Social Security and a small savings account made it possible for me to scrabble together a living on what is nothing even remotely like a living wage. How much better off would I have been had I never gone into academia at all? The full-time job at the Great Desert University was nice while it lasted (15 years!), but it was underpaid compared to what I could have earned in public relations or, for godsake, at selling real estate.
You don’t need an academic job to be an intellectual. All you need is a library and a publishing house. I would have been better off had I gotten a real estate license or taken a job at a PR agency at the time I divorced.
Much, much better off.