Ahoy there post-academics!
August is the cruelest month because it’s still summer (the weather feels like it), but alas one has to start thinking about work, even though lowly adjuncts are not paid for thinking.
This late-summer I have been thinking a lot about shit.
To explain, let me tell you a story. In the spring, I received a phone call from an old friend who teaches at what I will call Pine Tree Valley College. PTVC was hiring some lecturers. Would I like to apply? My friend tells me she will make sure my cv gets reviewed. What the hell? I thought. I’ll be doing the same job I’m doing now except getting paid more.
I dusted off my old job letter and sent it in. A week later I got a call for an interview. I’m like a robot in interviews because I’ve done so many of them over the last 4 years. I turn on autopilot and talk about my research blah blah and my teaching philosophy blah blah.
I did not get the job. I shrugged and went back to my life.
A week later I get another call from PTVC. Could I come back in and talk to the Chair again. She has a proposal for me. What now, I wondered with exasperation. In the meeting, the Chair said that the committee really liked my interview but thought I was overqualified for the job I had applied for. Would I be interested in a different position if they could create one for me?
Sounds exciting, right? I was not that excited. I have learned not to be excited about anything I hear from department Chairs. But I said, sure whatever.
It took the department several weeks to get back to me. But eventually I was called back for another interview. Fine, OK.
At the interview, I was asked the usual questions. What is my vision of cheesemaking? If I could make cheese any way that I wanted, how would I make it? What kind of support would I need to make cheese well and what could the college do with a lot of really good cheese?
Dutifully, I answered their questions and smiled politely. At the end of the interview, I was informed that PTVC would like to hire me. Here’s the rub: they would like to offer me a part-time job. In this position, I would do the work that was done by two full-time people in the cheesemaking factory that I had worked in before.
I believe they thought I would see this as good news. But I could also tell they were nervous that I might say no. If I said no, who would make the cheese? They all expressed a great fondness for cheese.
What should I do? I died inside just a little bit.
As I left the meeting, all I could think about was Marc Bousquet and his theory of excrement. “Nearly all of the administrative responses to the degree holder,” Bousquet wrote,
can already be understood as responses to waste: ﬂush it, ship it to the provinces, recycle it through another industry, keep it away from the fresh meat. Unorganized graduate employees and contingent faculty have a tendency to grasp their circumstance incompletely—that is, they feel “treated like shit”—without grasping the systemic reality that they are waste.
So it’s not that I’m just in rut. I won’t climb out of this hole. I live in that hole now. I am shit. This is the kind of sewer job people get offered when they’ve already been flushed.