A Radical Defense of the Status Quo

In the immortal (and oft-quoted) words of Iago the Parrot, I think I’m going to have a heart attack and die from the “surprise” that Claire Potter, the “Tenured Radical” (arguably the least radical voice in all of higher ed today), devoted her entire column today to tone-shaming me, and anyone else who dares to call the job market out for being horrible–and she did it all whilst misspelling my name, despite the fact that I write for the same publication she does (and in a higher profile spot a lot of the time–maybe she’s jealous).

She has ISSUES with my TONE and my RAGE, people. I mean, is it a good idea to speculate about a search committee’s reasons for giving its candidates less than a week’s notice for MLA interviews? Especially since I dared not call them for comment to get a “fair and balanced” story on my personal blog, which is not and has never pretended to be journalism?

And of course my little ragey-wage is fine for a few close friends and family, but what about WHEN THE WORLD SEES IT (I’ve certainly never had that happen before, because many of my columns for Slate don’t go viral)?!?!? Shouldn’t I be ashamed of my tone? I mean, this is the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA here, this is a TIER 1 RESEARCH DEPARTMENT. DO I know who I’m dealing with?

I mean, there are any number of important reasons a pleb such as myself would not understand, that would make a department all but forced to give its candidates (all of whom “should” be at the conference on $1200 of their own money anyway, if they’re “serious” about being scholars!) 5 days’ notice for interviews, while the committee members have had their all-expenses-paid trip to MLA bought and paid for for months! Obviously they could not ever even think of canceling their own travel plans, and just doing the whole thing on Skype like they should–because then how would they get to preen around the Sheraton lobby, scoping out name tags and conversing loudly about how “hard” it is to be doing a search OMG it’s SO HARD HAAAYLP US WE’RE SO IMPORTANT!

The Tenured Radical apparently failed to see this gem of an “apology” from the Chair of the department in IHE, where she admits that indeed they simply could not get their shit together, but instead of pulling several all-nighters like people at a normal job would have to if they fuck up, they’re making the candidates suffer, because they can.

Nope, Claire Potter assumes that the stupid one here is me: ragey, no-job-havey, failurey, needs-tone-policingy me.

You know what, Your Tenuredness? You’re being a fucking lifeboater. Do you think you’d be hired into your own job today? You absolutely wouldn’t. That insecurity must be killing you, and everyone else in academia who thinks they’re God and that they don’t owe basic human decency to the people they are attempting to make their colleagues for the next 40 years.

I cannot believe  Potter dares call herself a “radical” anything–a radical defender of the academic status quo, I suppose, though (adopts Potter style concern-trolly tone): is that really something to be proud of?

24 thoughts on “A Radical Defense of the Status Quo

  1. She also blithely ignores that it’s only because of your original post (wait, did the radical feminist really accuse you of a “hissy fit”?) that UC Riverside has made it clear they’re open to interviewing people over Skype. Something they made clear only *after* you blogged about it, but certainly wasn’t in their original email.


  2. Screw them. All of them. Y’know, Nicholas II failed to acknowledge and address the rumblings of the masses at his feet. And look at what happened to his monarchy. Gosh. Darn. Apparently, the Ivory Tower is in too padded a tower to hear the rumbles. Historians (as all Humanities scholars are to one degree or another) can be a pretty obtuse lot when it comes to seeing how the patterns of the past might affect their present and future. The Ivory Tower is leaning and it WILL bring itself down.


  3. Perhaps Claire Potter is bitter over your piece for making her feel guilty for present or past conduct. Perhaps she’s been part of a search committee that behaved like UC-Riverside’s English department, and saw herself being indirectly excoriated by your article. Notice that she’s not getting much support in the comments section of her own piece. One comment in particular seems particularly witty, and bitingly accurate: “More tenured than radical.”


  4. There is a comparison to be made with Ms. Mentor, also of the CHE. I am of course friends with both of them IRL, which does not mean I have to agree with all of their attitudes.


  5. And also remember, TR want abolition of tenure. This is *not* a radical move, despite how many unemployed and contingent people deludedly imagine that it is.


  6. Anyone who thinks that “Suck it up, it’s only like $600” is a legitimate rebuttal to your original post is clearly profoundly disconnected from the realities of poverty. Even my sheltered ass knows that, and a self-described “radical” professor has no excuse.


    • And also conference travel. There was a commenter ranting at IHE that conference travel could cost less than $500 if graduate students would just stop wanting materialistic things like a bed and would just drive (from wherever they are) and sleep on somebody else’s floor for 2 days. Neglecting the fact that, oh, gas costs money (in fact, the round trip cost of gas from NYC to Chicago would be nearly $200) and that when you share a hotel room with someone you typically foot some of the costs.


      • In addition, that assumes that there are no other problems to leaving home for a couple of days, on five days’ notice. The minute one has child/elder care, a job, that becomes difficult.


  7. you rock, mrs schumann. you have made me smile for sketching the generic character of these worms with SUCH ACCURACY. i wish all o you, dear colleagues out here, the best of alternative careers.


  8. Darlin’, let me tell you something: You’re dealing with folks who have no idea about “audience,” and I wouldn’t even waste my time on them … Sure, they can trudge their way through writing a scholarly article a week or so before it’s due, dragging the disciplines’ grad students through sheer hell trying to find a point when there is none. They know how to talk the talk of their peers — beat everyone in the audience into submission by reciting something which isn’t even READABLE, much less intended for recitation. But they are RARELY very talented writers/readers when it comes to switching and/or recognizing appropriate registers across the various genres. This is a blog. It’s a BLOG. This blog is basically the way grad students talk to each other when it comes to job search woes. It’s candid, frank, dramatic, deliberately undiplomatic, and it stirs this egotistical academic shitpot with a 5-speed Kitchenaid blender.

    Mme. Tenured Radical is simply ill-equipped to deal with the harbingers of what I think could become a new era of academic employment. “Tenured Radical” … It just reeks of privilege. “I’m tenured and therefore I can be radical, but if anyone points out my privilege I will shut them down!” “Tenured Radical” … it’s almost an oxymoron. It says “I played the game just like they told me to, I kept quiet and did my work, and then they gave me a job for life. I’m such a radical.” And you know what? Good for her! Far be it from me to condemn someone for winning the lottery. But what she writes? Not radical. Her style? Dial tone. Pay her no mind.


  9. Don’t want to ruin the party, but regardless of the content, I would tend to take CP’s article more seriously than yours. The language you use is appalling, and rather than address the issue you attack the person – a move even grad students know is unacceptable in academic, public forums.


  10. Nice work. High time the tenured professors got off their fat asses and did something to change the horrors in their closed-off worlds. Unconscionable their behavior and lack of action. Shame on them. I think they should pool their money, take up a fund if you will, to help out the adjuncts who live in poverty. That’d be a start.


  11. You rule! Those of us at community college level have the same uphill battle and I find it much easier to leave the U.S. and teach full-time for less money and aggravation. Even my apt. is paid for, so I’m doing OK. It’s the dept. chairs at CCs who are even less qualified than TR and twice as arrogant who really piss me off.


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