Yesterday I was unabashedly pro-union. Today I'm going to play a bit of a skeptic. That's pretty much the way I've always dealt with unions. I like them in theory, but I sometimes wonder how much they actually do for their members. I think it's good to challenge the union occasionally to keep it working hard for the people. I have a little union experience myself actually. My first paycheck came from a union job. I bagged groceries at Kroger, and I paid union dues out of every paycheck. $4.23 a week. That was 1996 and I was sixteen years old. As far as I could tell the main thing we got in exchange for our membership was a due process system that basically made it impossible to be fired. Stealing was about the only justifiable cause for a supervisor to can one of us. Truth … Continue Reading ››
There's an excellent piece up today at The Chronicle of Higher Education on adjunct professor faculty unions. No sense trying to replicate the top notch reporting that Peter Schmidt has done regarding Adjunct Action and the SEIU. Just head over to The Chronicle's site and read the article. Peter Schmidt is a senior reporter at The Chronicle, and he is the newspaper's specialist on faculty unions. His stuff is always worth reading, but this in-depth piece of reporting on the work of Adjunct Action is especially strong. Ever since I saw the Adjunct Action Twitter account a year or so ago, I knew the group was on to something big. I've been an outspoken proponent of their work since day one. The first unionization victories in Washington, DC led to the "metro-organizing" strategy which seeks to unite adjuncts by region rather than by school.
Last week, I wrote about the way I have dramatically reduced my grading load this semester by skipping comments on student papers. As usual, my readers helped clarify my position. I could have more accurately written that I reduced my grading load by switching to a face-to-face commenting structure rather than attempting to write comments on every student paper. The main problem with trying to comment on every paper is I am inevitably wasting time writing out some comments that are never even read by the students they're intended for. No matter how hard we try as teachers (or how much we deny the truth), there are just some students who don't care about the feedback. These students flip to the bottom of the page, check the grade, and toss the paper in the trash along with all those painstakingly-crafted comments. Maybe I'm too much of a realist---or too cynical---but … Continue Reading ››
The featured job this week comes from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, NC. The job title is unassuming, but it actually sounds like a pretty cool position: Instructor of Humanities. Despite the simple name, this job is a tenure-track teaching position. And it only requires a master's degree. However, the school is looking for a specialized scholar in American Studies, Global History, African Studies, or Comparative Literature. That significantly narrows down the field, so those who qualify have a better chance of getting an interview.
- Must have three years experience teaching at a college or a college-prep school. University writing experience especially helpful.
- Full-time, ten-month appointment in the Department of Humanities, with full benefits … Continue Reading ››
I've never been quite satisfied with the labels #altac and #postac. It seems like they don't do justice to the people they describe. Sarah Kendzior once pointed out on Twitter that these terms define a person based on what he is not, rather than on what he is. In order to be an alternate academic or a post-academic, you have to not be a normal academic. The names suggest that the alternative categories are less important than the category from which they are derived.
The terms post-ac and alt-ac baffle me, beyond a marketing standpoint. Why define yourself in terms of what you do not do? @FromPhDtoLife — Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) March 4, 2014Ever since I saw Kendzior's tweet, that hierarchical naming structure has stuck with me. I've wished for a new way to describe academics who choose to pursue other career tracks beyond … Continue Reading ››
I ended up a teacher by accident. At some point during three years of graduate school, I got it into my head that I was going to teach college students. I never even liked teaching or public speaking or even being around people all that much. So, naturally, I decided to become a teacher. Actually here's what happened: Someone told me at some point that teaching was a thing people do after they get a master's degree in English. That's what caused it. Someone said I should do it, and for some damned reason that was all I needed to hear. I remember the day two women came to one of my graduate classes and talked about planning for the future after grad school. It was one of those pep talks or something like it. Come to think of it, though, they were mainly just recruiting future adjunct professors for the satellite … Continue Reading ››
Despite increased attention on the plight of adjunct professors, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is still showing its bias against this professorial underclass. The 2013-2014 AAUP Faculty Salary Survey data was released today and, just as in years past, it does not include a category for adjunct professor pay. This despite the fact that adjuncts and other non-tenure-track professors now make up the majority of the professoriate. As this report reveals, tenure-track faculty members are still prioritized in the AAUP's salary data. By the AAUP's own statistics, tenure-track faculty make up only about 30% of professors now. The AAUP's continued ignorance of the majority in their annual salary data is inexcusable. much more involved in the fair pay for … Continue Reading ››
I've always assumed students enjoy reading feedback on their papers about as much as I enjoy writing it. But that's never stopped me from continuing to give it on every paper. Each semester, I take my stacks of student papers and work through them one by one, adding comments in the margin and coming up with some kind of end note that lists a couple positive comments and a couple suggestions for improvement. And each semester, I hand them back, not knowing if anyone cares about my advice or even reads it. What if most students aren't even reading my notes? Frankly, it would be a terrible waste of my time. I could grade papers much faster if all I have to do is slap a grade at the end. Continue Reading ››
Today's featured job is perfect for someone who wants to escape to the wilderness for awhile and get away from it all. Bates College in Lewiston, Maine is hiring a Visiting Assistant Professor of History. Lewiston is the second-largest city in Maine, but that isn't saying much: the population is only 37,000. The city, located in south-central Maine, is only about 40 miles north of Portland, which is Maine's largest city. One hundred miles north of Lewiston, you'll find Henry David Thoreau's hometown of Concord. Because this job is a non-tenure-track, Visiting Assistant Professor position, it could be perfect for someone who just wants to explore the wilderness of Maine for a year or two and then move on. The White Mountains are only a few miles west in Vermont, as well. It would be a … Continue Reading ››
I dreamed last night that my house was burning and, as I rushed to escape the flames, the only item I grabbed was a set of kitchen knives. Out of everything in my house, the only thing my subconscious mind decided to save was a collection of Henkels. It's true I love a good set of knives. No secret among my close friends and family. Ask any of them. I've been known to joke that the only reason I want to get married is to add a great knife set to the gift registry. But this dream was more than just an homage to cutlery. As I grabbed the knives and headed for the inflamed exit, I knew the precious cargo under my arm meant something important---like taking those knives was crucial to my ability to rebuild post-fire.