Hear Ye, Minions: Thank Me For Thine Scraps

[Yes, I am aware that is not correct Early Modern English. It’s OK, really, it is.]

SchumEditor’s Note: Today we are all fortunate enough to have a guest contribution from a REAL, LIVE TENURED PROFESSOR! GENUFLECT!!!!!!! He is here to tell us all about the number-one scourge facing higher education today: Contingent faculty sticking up for themselves! Do you know how “bitter” your “rhetoric” is, plebs? Well, just in case you don’t, he’s here to tell you. You’re all welcome!

THE ‘REAL SCOOP’ ON YOUR ALLEGED ‘EXPLOITATION’
by Marv Blerkins, Associate Professor (<–that means I’m better than you!)

Oh, adjuncts. Adjuncts, adjuncts, adjuncts. I realize it might not be “fun” to make the rough equivalent of negative twelve dollars an hour doing exactly the same job I do, minus the preening and self-satisfaction (and getting paid for research). I realize what certain Commie Pinko “colleagues” of mine call the mass “retrenchment” of college instruction is technically but another sign of the continuing exploitation and abuse of the American worker in the face of ever-soaring corporate profits, and college administrations top-heavier than your average Real Housewife.

But listen here, lesser-thans. You might think that you are “sticking up for yourselves” or “engaging your right to peaceable demonstration and negotiation” in pursuit of extremely modest benefits such as a living wage, full faculty privileges (i.e. office space you do not share with black mold or the entire appliance graveyard of 1993), and your institutions deigning not to exploit the Affordable Care Act’s loopholes.

But I see what you’re doing — and I’m a tenured professor, so that means I see things 100% correctly and you do not (yet another reason I am “tenure material,” unlike you, see below). What you’re doing is demanding, unequivocally, that all adjuncts everywhere be converted to the tenure track immediately, whether they want to be or not.

Yes, that is obviously what you are doing, even though you have never so much as insinuated that you are doing anything of the sort. And, further, you are doing it in a way that is not very nice to me, because it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable about my relative privilege, and the fact that I do jack-squat to help you (and, indeed, enjoy foisting all the shitty first-year comp classes I don’t want to teach upon you, so that I may better focus my energy on my four-person senior seminars full of hand-picked, nubile co-eds with “extraordinary” minds).

To put it in the most intellectual terms possible, you serfs are harshing my mellow big-time, and I really wish you’d stop. So, because I have complete power over you, I’m going to force you to, with the following unequivocal edicts that are 100% factually correct and will end this needless “discussion” forever (see again: me=tenure, you=loser).

  1. You keep talking about “adjunctification” like it’s a bad thing. You know, it might behoove you to “think positive” for once!!!!! All this needless harping on Debbie-Downer stuff like “getting paid $1700 a course” or “having to hold office hours in the janitorial closet” or “spending 3 hours a day and untold amounts on gasoline commuting between the six institutions between which you are sort of able to cobble together a subsistence that still qualifies you for SNAP” is really not helping anyone. In fact, it might just hurt you if you keep it up — know what I’m saying? Because listen. An adjunct job might be a very low-paying, often-thankless, dead-end job, but it’s a job, bitches. Don’t like it? Get another job!!!!!!!!!!! HELLO.  I say exactly the same thing to those whiners outside my local Chipotle every day (and I only charge them the wholesale price for the copies of Atlas Shrugged I sell them). Also, hello, part-time teaching is pretty much the perfect “entry-level” position for full-time teaching at a lot of community colleges, where three years’ full-time teaching is a prerequisite for hire! I mean, sure, nine years of part-time teaching is zero years of full-time teaching, and thus I am speaking nonsense-talk, but would you please stop complaining for once?!?!?!? It makes you sound annoying to my ears.
  2. Most of you are adjuncts because you’re just not good enough for the tenure track. Unlike me. I am. Just in case you were wondering. Ever know that chick who’s, like, hot enough to pick up at the bar at 4 am and blow you in the alley outside before you hit Jack in the Box for some Midnite Munchies and then crash? And honestly you’re kind of doing her a favor by letting her blow you? Are you telling me that I should marry that chick?!?!?!?!?!? That is an exact 100% correlation to adjuncts and those good enough for the tenure-track, and the analogy is so perfect that it deserves no deconstruction viz. preconceived societal bullshit whatsoever, because I am tenured and know everything about analogy. Also, the fact that most departments have like one tenure line every four years and seventeen adjunct spots a semester has fuck-all to do with it, and would you please get back to work? This bad boy isn’t going to suck itself, and the Munchie Menu stops serving in 15 minutes.
  3. OBAMA!!!!! It’s all his fault. Because Obamacare went into effect exactly how he wanted it to, with no unfortunate concessions or awful loopholes whatsoever, and it will continue to be instated hiccup-free by a delighted and cooperative Congress. If you want a better “employment landscape,” then get smart and vote for Jeb Bush.

All right, bitches! Consider yourselves schooled. Now get back to work — if you even have jobs, idiots.

[PS: This is a satire of this. For an excellent and prescient pre-rebuttal, read THIS (from Gordon Haber) and this (from Marc Bousquet).]

We’re leaning toward Hotsauce-Batshit Karl-Heinz actually, thanks for asking (& more MLA Cost Project)

For the past few weeks I’ve grown from pregnant to HUGELY pregnant. It is now 100% obvious that I am not merely fat, but rather gestating what sources keep telling me is a very small human being, but which I have a hard time believing given how not-small everything about me is. (Or, rather, I am fat and gestating a human being.)

Disembodied belly aaaaaaaaaaaaaaugh! It's aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.
Disembodied belly aaaaaaaaaaaaaaugh! It’s aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.

This is the time of pregnancy when strangers start saying things — and apparently when the unsolicited belly-touching occurs, though that has never happened to me. Given my general misanthropy, you would think that the near-constant barrage of pregnancy-and-babby related small talk would annoy me, or at least I would find it invasive, but I’ve instead found it pretty fascinating, at least on an amateur anthropological level (apologies to all the real anthropologists reading this; I have no idea what the fuck you do all day but I hold it in the highest regard; you seem very smart, especially Ted).

There is something about the obvious visible percolation of a miniature human that interests many other humans who are not related to that human, and it is almost like people can’t help themselves but to ask more or less the same set of questions. It’s almost like there is some sort of primal instinct driving them to inquire: When am I due? Do I know what I’m having? Yep, a girl! Oh, a girl! How wonderful! But if I’d said a boy I’m sure I would also get, Oh, a boy! How wonderful! Because what kind of asshole is like, “Ooh, I don’t like that gender, you should return it for a refund”? (Actually I would think that was pretty funny if it happened).

My absolute favorite (by which I mean most perplexing) thing to get asked, though, is: Do you have a name picked out? That is by far the weirdest question I get because it is from strangers who don’t know my name. Why do you want to know the name of a strange fetus when you don’t know its parents’ names and don’t seem interested in learning them? We may or may not have a “short list” of names picked out, but we’re keeping ‘em locked up tight, so I generally say, “There are some contenders but nothing concrete yet; we want to meet her before we name her,” which people tend to think is adorable, before launching into the story behind what they named all of their kids (or would name their kids if they had them), which is clearly what they wanted to talk about all along, and I’m happy to let them — and this, again, is all while I don’t know their names and they don’t know mine, and nobody asks.

Another thing I hear happens a lot at this stage is unsolicited grisly horror-story birth stories, which thankfully I have also not gotten (and don’t want! Do not leave them in the comments!). I am the only person in my Childbirth Education class at the hospital who is opting for a drug-free birth (provided it’s uncomplicated); everyone else is basically like HOW LONG DOES THE EPIDURAL TAKE TO KICK IN? CAN I HAVE ONE NOW? and I’m the lone hippie in there, getting strange looks and wondering if it’s going to be a Thing in the delivery room and all the staff is going to roll their eyes at me and not be supportive and OK YOU KNOW WHAT? SERENITY NOW. Never mind.

So, that’s about it. Right now my days are mostly filled with purging all of the pink clothing from the voluminous (and wonderful) gifts we’ve received (right now it’s going into the “backup” pile, but if she doesn’t puke and shit through all her less-gender-norming duds in the time it takes me to do laundry, it will be surreptitiously moved to the “whoops they grow so fast!” pile), and working on my book manuscript (just finishing up a chapter today; should be on schedule to squeeze out about half the book before I squeeze out the babby).

I got my contract yesterday, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so delighted to see 35 pages of legalese. Today I am going to sign my name on the proverbial dotted line (it’s actually a solid line — who knew?), in quintuplicate, and then I’ll mail all five copies to 175 Fifth Avenue, the address I used to write, type and narrate about 500 times a day because I used to work in that building (in publishing, no less!) in my very first job out of college ever. I’ve seen about 200 contracts the likes of which I’m about to sign; I’ve been on the receiving end of the phone when the authors and their agents called up furious about the distribution of some subsidiary right or other, or demanding that their “check be cut” right that instant (as if I, 22-year-old Editorial Assistant, had that power, and as if such a thing could be done with an unsigned contract). It has been both surreal and delightful to be on the other side of this paradigm, and having the whole thing take place in the Flatiron Building just brings my entire life full circle.

Today — as the baby continues to do her Hulk Calisthenics against my ribs and I get ready to sign this contract — is one of those days when I realize that failing to become a college German professor was categorically the best thing that has ever happened to me.

HOWEVER (ahem), that doesn’t mean I am not still dealing with residual trauma from four years of trips to MLA I couldn’t afford, so amidst all this I humbly remind you all to, if you haven’t already (and even if you don’t know your full and concrete costs yet because it’s before the fact), please fill out my MLA Cost Project Survey. As the conference approaches I am hoping to tighten the screws on any department that dares try to pull some shit where they withdraw an interview because a candidate requests videoconference. That, indeed, is the reason I am doing this before the conference and not after, when people have receipts and shit — I want to help, if I can, with this year’s hiring cycle.

Remember, it’ll take you 2 minutes, and it’s ANONYMOUS (I know you academics love anonymity, except when you’re on the tenure track and writing suck-uppy hagiographies to why academia is so great, which might as well all be called PLEEZ ME WANT TENURE; you’re not fooling anyone).

I showed you a picture of my massive naked belly, so really it’s the least you can do.

OK I will promptly stop ruining lives now

So. Apparently my critique of a “non-stipendiary residency” is going to bring about the end of feminism and ruin the dreams of a bunch of self-funded Sri Lankan geniuses if I don’t clarify a few things.

I’ve gotten several angry slash plaintive messages and comments from folks either affiliated with that five college feminist research center or sympathetic to it, basically saying that if I keep pressing this conversation they’re going to get shut down, and then that’s a huge loss for the feminists (such as myself), etc etc etc. Listen. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s dreams, and if your dream is to fund yourself into a courtesy appointment at a consortium of dripping-wealthy little colleges then please, for the love of the Goddess, follow that dream.

All I ask is that in the future, this “research associateship” be advertised closer to what it is. The people who’ve yelled at me have said, “This is obviously for international scholars! This is for people on sabbatical!” as if I should have known that magically from the following paragraphs:

Located in an area with one of the largest concentration of scholars dedicated to feminist scholarship and teaching in the world, the Center encourages engaged, critical feminist scholarship from diverse perspectives. During the period of appointment, all Associates are expected to be in residence in the Five College area, to attend weekly seminars, lead one public colloquium, and to collaborate with colleagues based at one or more of the Five College institutions. While at the Center, Associates are provided with an office at the Center and have access to Five College archival and other library resources. This is a non-stipendiary residency. Travel, housing and living expenses are the responsibility of the Associate.

Number of times “international scholars who just need a visa” or “people on sabbatical” are mentioned; zero.

We welcome applications from colleagues worldwide for 2015-2016 Associateships in one of three categories:

International scholars vaguely alluded to here; I’d consider making that more explicit. Also here I’d make more explicit you are looking exclusively for people who already have money.

Research Associateship: Colleagues with faculty status at institutions of higher learning are invited to apply.

This does not say anything about wealthy international scholars from Sri Lanka who just need a visa, oh God do they neeed a visa!!!! It just says any faculty. This leads me to believe the “associateship” is also aimed at unemployed people in the area who are terribly desperate, or people on sabbatical (who could get a courtesy appointment for library privileges with a two-line email, but that’s neither here nor there).

Graduate Associateship in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies: Graduate students at the dissertation stage of their PhD are invited to apply.

Says nothing about international students, and indeed, seems to aim at US-based PhD students who somehow have enough money to relocate for a year. Which, fine, you want to do that and have the means, you do you.

Alumnae Associateship: In the spirit of long-term collaboration between Research Associates and Five College Faculty, this Associateship is awarded to alumnae of the FCWSRC who propose 1) a joint research or teaching project with one or more colleagues located in the Five Colleges to be initiated in 2015-2016 or 2) the continuation of an established research or teaching project in 2015-2016 with one or more colleagues located in the Five Colleges.

Just in case you are missing this — THIS INVOLVES TEACHING FOR FREE. THIS. INVOLVES. TEACHING. FOR. FREE. I repeat: Teaching. For. Free. (if this does pay, it is not specified anywhere in the listing.)

Applicants should complete our online application at http://apply.interfolio.com/27517 which will also require a project proposal (up to three pages in length), curriculum vitae, and contact information for two professional references. Project proposals should include 1) statement about the contribution to and significance of the project or dissertation for research and teaching in women and gender studies, 2) a detailed description of the project or dissertation and timeline, 3) a statement about the contribution and significance of your project or dissertation for research and teaching in women and gender studies and 4) how a stay in the Five Colleges will advance the project or dissertation. Alumnae Associates will be asked to provide the name(s) of their faculty partner(s) in the Five Colleges.
This is an application process similar in rigor to those for paid fellowships, including the one I had in 2008 at the IFK in Austria, which had exactly the same requirements (weekly seminars, a talk, my own research) but paid me 1200 EUR a month plus travel.
***
So, do I want this entire program, which has run itself unperturbed for the last two decades, shut down? Eh, I’m leaning toward no? If I, Rebecca Schuman, random person with no scholarly credentials, have the power to do something like that, I’d like to know, though, so I can exercise that power for any productive reason whatsoever. But I really don’t think one post-academic blogger making fun of an unpaid non-job is going to have any lasting effect on anything, so everyone calm your hormones.
***
What I and a lot of the readers who have commented here would like to see, I think (in case anyone is interested), is the following, for this and for all “non-stipendiary” positions:
  • More direct honesty in the call for applications about the fact that this is, in effect, a glorified courtesy appointment.
  • Something that both abides by HR rules and yet signals to readers that this is primarily intended to grant visas to people who would ordinarily not be able to get one, if indeed that is what it’s for.
  • The removal of the teaching one because that’s unacceptable.
  • Changing the application process to a one-page direct email where the potential “associate” lays out her bona fides and the bare bones of her project, maybe with a CV attached if they want to get fancy. Leave Interfolio and the $12 it will end up taking out of it.

Any other ideas for how the center can best move forward? I welcome them in the comments! Hooray!

Now back to ruining lives.

OH ALSO, speaking of “ruining lives,” by which I mean “jeopardizing the all-expense-paid trips to MLA of a bunch of shitbags who are too irrelevant to give papers and thus need to be running an active search to qualify for travel funds and that’s why they insist on interviewing at MLA even though the MLA itself wishes they wouldn’t,” please please please continue to fill out my MLA Cost Project Survey. It takes 2 minutes and it’s ANONYMOUS!!!

The MLA Cost Project

I just received a dismaying message on Twitter from a reader who reports of a department withdrawing an MLA interview offer because the candidate cannot afford to fly to Vancouver, Canada, stay in an expensive hotel, buy an expensive suit, renew his/her passport, all for a 30-minute initial screening interview. The candidate requested switching to Skype and apparently the interview offer was pulled.

So…instead of (or perhaps in addition to) my usual “hissyfit,” I also thought I would completely bite the idea (from last year) of my friend Karen Kelsky (the PhD Debt Project) and launch The MLA Cost Project. I want to know how much it is really costing you, out of pocket, to attend the 2015 MLA.

So please do me a favor and click on this link to a public and publicly editable (I think? I HOPE?) Google Doc, or this link to a survey-style Google FORM, where you can fill in all the pertinent deets in TOTAL ANONYMITY (both formats go to the same place, and I’m not a scientist and if the IHE troll brigade wants to fuck with my data collection abilities it can give me a social science PhD which I don’t have).

The first line in the Doc is a sample by me, and it’s the hypothetical cost I would be incurring if I hypothetically went this year. My passport is expired, flights from STL are in the $700 range, and obviously I’d have to get a new suit to fit my, erm, ample figure.

Please don’t be afraid to do this — I am (if you can believe it) quite cordial with the MLA leadership and they actively want to know what they can do to make the convention less of a burden to contingent faculty and grad students. I think actually knowing how much it costs is a good first step.

This doc may also help interviewing departments like the one above see the error of their ways, and be willing to swap for Skype.

It may ALSO also — fingers crossed — encourage the MLA to make a new guideline or bylaw that any department interviewing at the convention MUST offer a videoconference or telephone option in the event an interviewee can’t make it to the convention. (A great idea if I do say so myself, and I do).

Obviously I’m not going to be there because a) I am nearing full-term pregnant, and b) I would rather die than ever set foot at that godforsaken gathering of name-tag snobs and flop-sweat covered interviewees ever again. I mean, if you like conferences, then you go, and you do you, and see old friends, and have fun and get drunk, and be great. Just not my thing, and every year around this time I thank my lucky stars that I never have to go again. (This year I am doubly thankful because instead of spending Christmas break miserably prepping for my one interview, I am spending it joyously prepping for the arrival of our baby AND joyously pounding out my book manuscript.)

This Hannukah, Scare the Bejeezus out of Children

Wondering what to get your niece, nephew, or friend’s offspring this holiday season? Today on Slate I humbly join the “holiday picks” brigade and suggest The Gobblings, the latest collaboration by Matthue Roth and Rohan Daniel Eason (of My First Kafka, aka My Standard Baby-Shower Gift). On a scale of one to Babadook it ranks about a 2, but you still might end up in trouble with your sibling/friend when the book gets put on the “high shelf” if the kid has a delicate sensibility — but get it anyway! That kid needs to toughen up, amirite?