I had a really interesting talk on Twitter yesterday/today with the ass-kickers behind How to Leave Academia, which I love. The site (which I love) is currently soliciting guest bloggers, which is great! And I am always interested in sharing my story for the wider postacademic sphere–but I am also torn, morally, about writing for free. Like, ever again. (Not that they need my wack-ass stories over there to be great! They are doing great work over there, make no mistake!)
A short digression that returns eventually to my point: It’s this ingrained (or, dare I say…indoctrinated?) part of academia that research is supposed to be a labor of love for all but the most privileged tenured faculty at the most elite institutions (if you don’t believe me, check out this wrenching link from Katherine Harris–no, not the Bush v. Gore one!–a tenured professor at a good regional university. Katherine teaches 4/4, she can’t buy a home, she “luckily” doesn’t have kids…it’s heartbreaking. She also blogs under her real name. YOU GO, GLEN COCO).
I once had a friend say to me, in the midst of yet another job-market fiaco, “I know I should want to do my research for free, but–” and I cut her off. “No you should not,” I said. “It is challenging, highly-skilled work, and it deserves fair remuneration.” This is one of the smartest women I’ve ever known, and she looked at me and her eyes got big. “All right, if you’ve given me permission not to believe I should research for free, at least I will know it’s bullshit when I’m doing it.” This was three years ago, so I guess I’ve been a rabble-rouser all along after all. HashtagWHOOPS.
My point is: it’s true that NTT faculty usually research their butts off–but more often than not, it’s on their own time, on their own dime. The tippy-toppest echelon of academe gets research funding (and still not very much! I got a shit-ton as an ACLS NFF, more than every Full Professor and Endowed Chair I know!), and everyone else is left to fund research, conference travel and professional development with “love.” IT IS BULLSHIT.
This year I’m slated to be on a panel at the German Studies Association conference, and I’m of two minds about going. On the one hand, the last thing I want to do is make anyone in The Field suspect that I’m too scared to show my face amongst the Worthy. Fuck. That. I’d love nothing more than to meet some of the screechiest anti-Schuman screechers Angesicht zu Angesicht and let them tell me how much I deserve my failure to my face, while I enjoy my damn life. I also just want to be on the panel and see a few friends. But, as I’m no longer In the Club, even provisionally as I was last year, I’d be going 100% self-funded, stuck footing the bill for a plane ticket to Denver, and a hotel room that would be at a “discounted” rate of about $150 a night (not to mention the GSA’s dues and the conference fees, which are reasonable, but add up to about $80, which is not chump change). If you bail on a panel, the GSA bans you from attending for two years (ooooooooooh…). If I do end up bailing, I wil do so by writing an open letter to the GSA’s director, either on this blog or on the Chronicle, if they’ll have me.
The reason I’ll submit it to the Chronicle first–and here, I return to my point!–even though it will be subject to the rigorous pens of their editors (and possible rejection!) is because they pay. You know that paywall around “My Academic Metamorphosis”? I loved that paywall–not only because it protected me from the worst of the crazies, but also because the subscribers’ and advertisers’ money translates into ca$h money for me. I really enjoy doing this blog as a therapeutic hobby–and I get to write whatever I want on it–but the price I pay for getting to write whatever I want is to earn jack squat doing it.
BUT. When guest bloggers write for me, I pay them. Little more than a symbolic, nominal pittance–but still, it’s something. I want to be able to say: I will pay you for your contribution. Because what you are doing to create it is work, and it is worthy. You are worthy. I do this specifically to chip away at the vestiges of the academic socialization machine that tells us that it is perfectly acceptable to spend six months torturing an article out of yourself, for which you usually receive a PDF of the article when it comes out. When I was adjuncting, I spent an entire year to placate a single ornery reader that–I know now from distance–simply just did not know a damn thing about Wittgenstein, and felt like taking that out on me instead of admitting that. For real, this mofo just straight-up skipped the Wittgenstein parts of the article on every read, and then complained that the piece “didn’t say anything new.” But I sucked it up, and largely due to the tenacity of the editor that believed in me, that article ended up coming out (bonus points to anyone who can identify the parts I had to put in just to placate that reader; to me they stick out like sore, obvious, often-French thumbs). And boy was it worth it, because having an article in the top journal in Austrian studies resulted in…oh, wait, bupkis. If that article had paid even $100, it would have worked out to about $.01 an hour, but at least I could look at the underwear and socks I bought with that $100, and say, “Well, at least I got something out of that article (besides, of course, LOVE).”
But there’s this ludicrous notion in academia that legitimate scholarship should be completely disconnected from the banal sphere of the monetary. I mean, how gauche–say comfortably-ensconced academics who command $5000 honoraria to give condescendingly un-listenable guest lectures (there was a guy I won’t name at one of the institutions where I have spent time, who was paid handsomely to deliver the most pompously disjointed, blatantly audience-feindlich lecture I have ever heard, during which he also informed us he was both a world-renowned Germanist and an under-appreciated closet physicist, because he had a BA in physics from 1970).
One of the best things about being done with academe is that I am also largely done with writing for free. I say “largely” because when I have something I just have to get out and I don’t care how it gets out–like this–I’ll write the shit out of it. But because I pay my guest bloggers, I think that other blogs should also pay theirs–even if it’s $5.
I shared this idea with @MamaNervosa and @ProjectReinvention (two of the fab ladeez behind How to Leave Academia), and they were both understandably annoyed with my apparent troll. “I pay OOP [out of pocket] for How to Leave Academia,” MamaNervosa pointed out–correctly. It’s “by #postacs, for #postacs”–also correct.
During this convo, I had an old-fashioned lightbulb moment. In addition to paying FoPKK (Friends of Pan Kisses Kafka) my nominal pittance, I can also help HtLA pay nominal pittances for their Friends! How, do you ask?!? By ADVERTISING ON THAT SITE. A-duh. I am trying to make a go of it as a Postac Ass-Kicker, Enemy of Cowardice, Teller of Hard Truths…but that shit doesn’t pay much. What I could use, can always use, is a li’l exposure. For my Brand. Synergy. Cross-platform disruptive innovation. I’M A FUCKUP-PRENEUR, Y’ALL.
So instead of just talking about how few of us get paid for writing that warrants it (and let me repeat–this disjointed-ass, stream-of-consciousness randosity that you are currently reading DOES NOT WARRANT IT), I want to make a nominal but grand gesture that nudges this culture in a different direction. I want to by a $50 advertisement on How to Leave Academia, and I want my postac homies to use that $50 to pay two guest bloggers the nominal, but meaningful, pittance of $25 each. Then I want those two bloggers to use a portion of that $25 to “buy ad space” on another postacademic blog. And so on. I want my $50 to go around in a circle für immer und ewig, like the Olympic Torch of Take Your ‘Love It’ and Shove It.
I’d make a Braveheart reference right now, but Mel Gibson is revolting, so, no.
If you are interested in this project, and think it could have a larger impact than my $50, please email me or let me know in the comments, and I will see what kind of Kickstarter/crowdfunding/PayPal/whatever charity thing we can set up.