On our last episode of Post Academic in NYC, we heard the sad tale of how I was contacted by the College Where I Used to Adjunct to, well, adjunct. See, I already resigned last spring, and I even presented myself like a good little post academic at my exit interview where someone filled out a form documenting my despair and sent me on my way. I guess they invited me back because they think I might miss them now.
One this episode of PAINYC (aren’t acronyms fun!) we will learn about the other thing that happened to me last week that STILL has me shaking with rage.
Recently, I resigned from an academic committee that I had been serving on since I was a graduate student. The co-head of the committee, a tenured faculty member in my field, emailed to ask why I was resigning. I explained, in the nicest way, that I decided to leave academia because it’s time for me to make a living, etc, etc.
Honestly I didn’t expect to hear from him again because, why?
Of course, I underestimated the investment that some tenured/tenure-track faculty seem to have in convincing their underlings to Keep Livin’ the Dream. He immediately replied: “Of course the market is not friendly, but you have so much to offer the field. I hope you don’t give up!”
I suppose being told that I have “so much to offer the field” by an established member of the academic club should delight me. Instead, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.
It took me a few days to figure out why.
Basically, I am sick to death of being encouraged. I am sick of being told, by privileged people who have full-time jobs and who (in many cases) earned tenure decades ago, not to give up. Telling someone with a PhD in the Humanities not to give up is just stupid. I know these folks mean well, but they are clueless about the daily indignities of life on the academic margins. I can’t tell you the number of people who have informed me that “things will work out” if I just, I don’t know, suffer a little bit longer.
I wrote back to thank him for his comments. But I confirmed that I have no plans to go on the job market this year.
I was sure I wouldn’t hear from him again. But I was wrong. He wrote back! Obviously, he can’t imagine that I really do know my own mind. Who wouldn’t want to be an academic? It’s the Life of the Mind!
“Many colleges have stopped offering tenure-track positions,” he wrote. “But there are Lectureships. So it’s not all bleak.”
So let me get this straight. A prof with a full-time salary, job security, and institutional research support would like me to know that “it’s not all bleak.” And why is it not bleak, from his point of view? Because tenure-track positions are being replaced by Lectureships. And what really is the difference between a tt job and a Lectureship, anyway?
This guy does not seem to know or care what the differences might actually be. What’s worse is the implication that I am being too bleak. In fact, if I don’t get a job (which I won’t because I am not applying), I’m sure he will chalk it all up to the fact that I am really just too bleak about everything.
Got that, postacademics?
Not only must you continue to sacrifice yourself on the academic cross, you must have a good attitude about it too! You must continue to serve pro bono on academic committees. You must realize that the proliferation of 4-4, renewable Lectureships with no job security, no research support, and no promise of a tenure-track appointment are not a sign of the demise of intellectual culture. And they most certainly do not signify a national disinvestment in quality teaching at the college level. Nor is this trend part of a larger disintegration of the middle class in America. Rather, these Lectureships are a sign that things are “not all that bleak.”
Don’t give up! You have so much to offer, sucker.