Malia Obama College Watch II: Faculty Labor Practices!

Today on Slate I’ve got an absolute beast of an article about how Malia’s top college picks treat their faculty. It seemed like a good idea at the time, to pitch a piece like this on the tail end of a third-order trip with the babby (who is constipated; I’m sure you all wanted to know). This conversation happened between me and the constipated baby’s long-suffering dad:

“Won’t that take a LOT of research?”

“Nah, I’m sure there is an aggregate somewhere.”

There was no reliable aggregate anywhere (surprise), and many of the institutions I researched were quite a bit less than forthcoming (Harvard you arrogant motherfuckers, I’m looking at you). So this thing turned MONSTROUS.  

Meanwhile the babby is in pain and we’re on the other end of a six-hour car ride to Arizona, via San Diego, via Oregon. I am and remain immensely grateful for my husband’s family leave, but hoo boy does a babby not love to travel (I know, who’d a thunk it, but a kid deserves to meet her only great-grandparent, assholes!). 

Anyway, thanks for reading! I’m back at Slate for October, and then going back ok book leave to revise Schadenfreude in November (it’s “resting” at present, not in the Monty Python parrot way). 

5 thoughts on “Malia Obama College Watch II: Faculty Labor Practices!

  1. Excellent article that raises very important points about adjuncts and lecturers. But you should not assume that graduate students are *teaching* courses. I am Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science at Brown, we have 45 active doctoral students, and only one is teaching a course right now. There is a strong presumption against that and it happens only under very unusual circumstances. Grad student as discussion section leader? Sure. We are a university, after all. But not as classroom instructor. Almost never. (Three or four advanced grad students from Brown teach their own courses at Wheaton each year, which one might not expect since they are a college.) But we have a strong sense that tenured and tenure-track profs should teach our classes. There is also an expectation that profs should teach sections, even if grad students do, too. FYI. And feel free to pass that along to Malia.


  2. Great article. As a Brown PhD in philosophy, I can confirm that the experience in my department was much like the one described by Prof Cheit. While there is much to criticize about the Brown Graduate School (see, e.g., I don’t think I was ever exploited labor in my time there. Indeed, I was paid more (with benefits) for substantially less teaching work than what I’ve received as an adjunct since getting my PhD.

    Of course things may be different in other departments. I know the two-semester sequence in Ancient Greek I audited was taught by a classics grad student (who anyone would be lucky to have as a teacher – shout out to Mitchell Parks, now PhD). But even then the teaching load and class sizes were small.


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