On Shit

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.

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10 Responses to On Shit

  1. Gordon Graham says:

    On Sh*@,

    If anyone of us “academics” did this for pay raises- we would be kidding our selves. If we too did this to add “knowledge” dare I say “wisdom” to those around us or near us or in front of us- again “jokes”!

    Look- if I may be frank- and know please this is Gordon NOT Frank, that we have chosen our directions because of that inner force (I’ve got nothing else to offer here then The Force- sorry).
    If anyone sees a benefit of what we may add to THEIR environment- DO CONSIDER IT an HONOR!

    Seeking knowledge these days from a qualified source- US! If I may- takes GUTS!
    Too many these days simply go to Google!

    So- if I could shake your hand my friend- I would! You have finally gotten a glimpse of what many of us might not ever see… Recognition from MORE of your peers….even from the faculty of PTVC. (If they see value of what you bring/ can bring to THEIR table- you should see it a tiny bit too!)

    Job done well & and Well done!

    All my best-

  2. Jojo says:

    Dear Gordon:

    I think she acknowledges that but she DESERVES so much better than that, so MUCH!

  3. unknownnarrator says:

    You are not shit. We all have similar stories as you. The problem is that employers know that people are desperate. They feel that if we do not take the scraps they offer us, there will be plenty of other people who will.

    Perhaps you could try negotiating a higher salary, telling them that you need a position that will ultimately pay the bills. Or maybe they will agree to let you eventually go full-time after a few months. The thing is, I think you could get a position working in higher ed administration which would be full-time and have a higher salary. That is what I have been doing since I moved to New York. Best of luck.

  4. recent Ph.D. says:

    Tell them to take their shit job and shove it. If it is not going to pay more than whatever else you are doing right now and will not advance your career, tell them thanks for wasting your time but your cheesemaking skills are worth more. I had an interview a while back that was a similar waste of time. I felt like shit afterwards but moved on. It sounds like your instincts told you not to expect much and maybe it would have been better not to have bothered with them. Sometimes it’s better just to say no to some would-be “opportunities.”

  5. I’m so sorry to hear this.
    Numero uno, you are obviously not shit (and I’m sure you know this) but it does really fucking sting to realize that’s how administrators see you. Fire two full-time people, replace em with one part-time wage slave. It’s fucking criminal. Is there any chance they are open to negotiation, and that this is just a horrible jumping off point?

    Even though I’m just an anonymous internet robot, I know that you are an empathetic, intelligent person and a wonderful writer. You are worth so much more than this. And I know it’s easier said than done (and something i am struggling with too), but you have to demand your worth. If that isn’t too new agey speak for you. If these clown holes won’t give you fair compensation, they can go fuck themselves because you are a fucking gem and if they don’t realize that, they don’t deserve to have you.

  6. RecessionsRWhack says:

    If I can, I am going to be New Age-y here too and go ahead and prophesize your rise to the top in this world, and I mean in a BIG WAY. NYTimes bestseller, music videos w/ 100 million + hits on YouTube, interviews with Oprah, changing the world, THAT kind of big. Your blog is awesome and you are brilliant. Keep writing and keep growing as an artist. Work with others on creative projects when you can. Keep expressing yourself and getting stuff out there. Think big. One day I’ll be saying “I read you when.”

  7. Avocado says:

    I have missed your posts so very much. This post made my day, as trite as it sounds. I’m living this too. Depressing. Depressing.

  8. FirstGaySatanist says:


    Before he got there, his manpussy was sold.

  9. As uncomforting as it is, I think we have to hit rock bottom (or, shit bottom, whatever) to realize that yes, academia really will never appreciate us or treat us the way other adults with qualifications are treated by potential employers. Sometimes we have to have that drilled into our heads a number of times. And schools need more people like us saying NO THANK YOU to their crappy job offers that they fantasize are a huge favor to us. You deserve better, you deserve a full time job with benefits, and you should turn this pitiful offer down.

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