Things as They Are: A Rejoinder

Mikhail touches on some good points in his post, “Things as they Are: Academic Paysage,” and I have a few points to add. Mikhail suggests that

A book contract will always beat 10 years of teaching experience, publications in known journals (even though not many read those, including the authors themselves) will always beat a good record of students evaluations – why?

Yes, a good point about hiring practices and no doubt true, but it may be much worse then this given the often unacknowledged laws that govern the system. Not only is it possible to do everything “right,” e.g. finish the doctorate in a reasonable amount of time or quickly (and beating the 45% attrition rate), have some teaching experience, publish an article and/or write some reviews, participate in conferences etc., and not get placed into a tenure track position, it’s possible that this is exactly how the system of labor is structured. In his recent (and quite excellent ) book, How the University Works, Marc Bousquet discusses how earning the doctorate degree (however counterintuitive) actually serves to flush the degree holder out of the system:

Many degree holders have served as adjunct lecturers at other campuses, sometimes teaching master’s degree students and advising their theses en route to their own degrees. Some will have taught thirty to forty sections, or the equivalent of five to seven years’ full time teaching work. During this time, they have received frequent mentoring and regular evaluation; most will have a large portfolio of enthusiastic observations and warm student commendations. A large faction will have published essays and book reviews and authored their department web pages. Yet, at precicely the juncture that this “preparation” should end and regular employment begin–the acquisition of the Ph.D.–the system embarrasses itself and discloses a systematic truth that every recent degree holder knows and few administrators wish to acknowledge: in many diciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career (23). Continue reading

The Current State of the University, Um, Not Great

darth.jpg NYU University Press recently published Marc Bousquet’s How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low Wage Nation. You can read his blog here and find his you tube page here.

Here’s the blurb from NYU UP:



As much as we think we know about the modern university, very little has been said about what it’s like to work there. Instead of the high-wage, high-profit world of knowledge work, most campus employees — including the vast majority of faculty — really work in the low-wage, low-profit sphere of the service economy. Tenure-track positions are at an all-time low, with adjuncts and graduate students teaching the majority of courses. This super-exploited corps of disposable workers commonly earn fewer than $16,000 annually, without benefits, teaching as many as eight classes per year. Even undergraduates are being exploited as a low-cost, disposable workforce. Continue reading