Re: Opposite Day in the land of profiling

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Didn't she kill other people, too?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:34 PM
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Oh, then I misinterpreted the first sentence.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:35 PM
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Cecily only beat you to this in the comments by five minutes or so.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:35 PM
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No wait, I think the non-faculty people were injured but not killed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:35 PM
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Three faculty members and wounded three other (unidentified) people is the last story I read. You just don't see that many female, Harvard-educated, spree shooters.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:36 PM
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Um, yeah, Cecily e-mailed it to me. But I'd already heard it on the radio! But I hadn't realized all the twists and turns.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:36 PM
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From the article, she learned that she was being denied tenure at the meeting, and had come armed just in case? Like, if she'd gotten tenure, they would have lived? That's some high-grade crazy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:38 PM
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Cecily also linked it by exactly the same words: Holy shit. So I feel like we're all on the same page, here.

This makes me nervous about my impending academic future. I wonder if there's still time to move to a shack in Montana and paint terrible Western kitsch art for tequila money, instead.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:39 PM
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I don't really know why I called myself by the third person there. I blame the stress of the academic lifestyle.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:40 PM
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She doesn't really look the part, either.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:40 PM
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Christ, that is horrible.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:40 PM
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I keep telling you, darlin'. Shack, Montana, kitsch, tequila is the way to do.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:40 PM
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I blame the stress of the academic lifestyle.

Please step through the metal detectors before commenting in this thread....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:41 PM
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I was really ready to do it, for a month or so there when I thought I would get health insurance. Now I'm back to being depressed about needing employer-based coverage.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:41 PM
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8: As long as you're carrying a loaded weapon at all times, you're good. What are the odds that two professors in any meeting would be packing?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:42 PM
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Like, if she'd gotten tenure, they would have lived?

Is it really living if you're stuck with a colleague like this for the rest of your life?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:42 PM
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but how would you know? you could already be stuck with a colleague like this! YOU PROBABLY ARE!


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:44 PM
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Oh, there's a photo with the article, I see. I'm surprised they took her alive. That doesn't usually happen.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:45 PM
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Do they really conventionally tell people about tenure decisions in department meetings? A shooting spree is over the top, but I'd expect some extravagantly bad reactions.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:46 PM
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This never would have happened if those faculty members had been carrying concealed firearms.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:46 PM
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19: This was exactly my reaction. I've never heard of such a practice. It just makes no sense at all.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:48 PM
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21: The article's probably wrong -- I bet she was told earlier, and then shot up the department meeting after stewing over it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:49 PM
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MSNBC: "According to media reports, Bishop had been denied tenure Friday morning. She apparently returned to a campus faculty meeting in the afternoon and opened fire, university officials and witnesses told NBC station WAFF-TV."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:51 PM
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22: I'm sure that's right. And hey! Look! On preview it turns out that it is right.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:53 PM
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You just don't see that many female, Harvard-educated, spree shooters

I prefer "berserkers" from Stand on Zanzibar, for these events.

Charles Starkweather or Gary Gilmore would be spree killers. Slightly more predictable.

17 is of course correct. It could be any one of you, at any time anywhere.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:53 PM
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I prefer "berserkers" from Stand on Zanzibar,

"Muckers", wasn't the word? From "amok"?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:54 PM
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This does make me slightly more inclined to be nice to the people whose academic careers failed but who still hang out creepily in various institutes and occasionally try to corner random physicists and explain their theories.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:58 PM
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For the non-academics among us, does the denial of tenure mean the loss of a job and the loss of, or loss of the opportunity for, healthcare benefits? IOW, do adjuncts or whatever get benefits and have any security?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 7:59 PM
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I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean you're fired immediately, and you're not an adjunct. You remain an non-tenured professor and have a year or two at least to find another job.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:01 PM
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Not getting tenure means the loss of a job. (Though plenty of people who are denied tenure manage to get it at another institution.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:02 PM
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26:Maybe so.

I prefer berserkers anyway, word has a history and is easily understood. "Amok" is rarely used.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:02 PM
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It could be any one of you, at any time anywhere.

Thirty day waiting period before I could get a gun in this county.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:02 PM
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LB is right, it's not an immediate firing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:03 PM
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Though plenty of people who are denied tenure manage to get it at another institution.

Immediately accepting tenure in jail is a novel approach, I have to admit.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:04 PM
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Her animations from that anatomy program always crash the laptop(last year). This year her she bought her own laptop.

I'm pretty sure this is foreshadowing of some sort.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:07 PM
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26, 31: LB is right again. Good one, I had false-memoried it as "berserker" as well.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:09 PM
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35: "She is hot but she tries to hide it.And she is a socalist but she only talks about it after class."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:13 PM
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35: A really large fraction of the students comment on the fact that she's "from Harvard", which must reveal something.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:14 PM
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Dr. Amy Bishop, a neurobiologist from Harvard University, has joined our faculty as an assistant professor. Her research deals with various aspects of neuron responses to stress and neural development. She adds a new dimension to our department's research and teaching potential.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:15 PM
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#30. Yeah, no one loses their job immediately if they're denied tenure. Academics who are denied tenure are often eager to go somewhere else and try again, but I know people who've stayed at the same institution, non-tenured, for years after.

She doesn't really look the part, either.

No, you know, if I had to pick the mucker, it would be that guy second from the left.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:20 PM
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35: The earliest comments look sockpuppety, especially compared to the later ones. And she looks a little old to be pre-tenure, but I understand biologists do long post-docs.

tenure: most schools are required to fire you if they don't give you tenure, but usually with one year's grace period. If this were not the case, they would have a strong incentive not to give you tenure, but keep you on the faculty anyway.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:21 PM
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that guy second from the left

he's in custody. But not under arrest!


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:21 PM
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42: That's weird. What's he in custody for?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:23 PM
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or, I mean, he's being detained but is not a suspect.

He's definitely involved in some way, but not in another similar way. According to the very helpful people who write articles.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:23 PM
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No, you know, if I had to pick the mucker, it would be that guy second from the left.

Her husband and business partner.

Personally I find it extraordinary that this perpetrator was one of the very few biological scientists who created a new product, sold it to a company, marketed it, etc. I wonder if she felt especially unfairly treated because she might have generated some patent revenues for the department.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:23 PM
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Typical practice, bob, is that people denied tenure get an additional year in which they keep their job and during which they can, if they wish, appeal the decision (or sue). As for adjuncts, they typically do not receive healthcare, as they're doing piece work; they're paid by the course, in other words. But at some places, including the UC, if you teach more than X hours per quarter, you're given healthcare because you're considered a full-time, though not tenure-track, member of the faculty. All of that said, tenure denials are hideous and horrible things and leave, in every case that I know of, pretty serious scars.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:24 PM
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people who've stayed at the same institution, non-tenured, for years after.

That's pretty bizarre. Isn't the institution eager to move on and try to hire someone tenurable for the position?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:26 PM
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It might be best if you lot come to our next meeting packing heat, because I'm pretty irritated at having been pwned.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:26 PM
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Her publication record seems very good for a school in that tier.

The ratemyprofessor comments are uniformly bad enough, that this might be one of those very rare cases where bad teaching affected the tenure decision. Then again, that usually happens at the College level, not the departmental level.

Or she pissed off the wrong people.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:30 PM
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Or, you know, she might be the kind of crazy person who guns down her colleagues and people didn't want to keep her around.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:32 PM
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I wouldn't be surprised to be taken into custody if my wife had just killed three of her, and my, professional rivals.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:33 PM
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The ratemyprofessor comments are uniformly bad enough

Beyond one streak, they aren't even that bad. Ratemyprofessor tends towards the vitriol; I've read the comment sections on professors I know to be excellent teachers and they still get shit.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:34 PM
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49.last: Well there is this ...

Faculty Senate to eye vote of censure against university president
The University of Alabama in Huntsville will require all freshmen and sophomores to live on campus beginning next fall, and that big move away from UAH's traditional commuter-college identity is roiling the campus.
The UAH Faculty Senate will consider a vote of censure against President Dr. David Williams next month because of issues surrounding the policy, which senators say makes UAH less affordable and less competitive.
"It will generate a different economic strata and diversity," assistant professor of biology Dr. Amy Bishop said during last week's faculty senate meeting.
(article 11/17/09)
Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:35 PM
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A STRATA? GOOD RIDDANCE


Posted by: OPINIONATED PEDANT | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:36 PM
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Isn't the institution eager to move on and try to hire someone tenurable for the position?

In the one case that I know of, the individual continued to teach as a non-tenure track instructor, presumably for less money or hassle or whatever. In another case I know of, the individual sued the institution, dragged it out for three or four years and whiled away the time in a non-tenured (non-teaching) position writing sexy vampire porn.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:38 PM
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writing sexy vampire porn

In a cabin in Montana? With tequila? Because really, that sounds a lot better than teaching a full load next year. (I don't mean it, googleveillance people. I live to teach the youth of California's middle and upper-middle class. And also the occasional kids of the working-class. Them too.)


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:42 PM
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47: Well, it seems at least as common for the person to quit rather than serve out that grace-year. (In one case I know of the person quit prior to the start even of the next (spring) semester.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:46 PM
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In a cabin in Montana? With tequila?

Sadly, no. No cabin, no tequila. Just a desk, a lawsuit, sexy vampires, and the cold, cruel world.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:55 PM
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I'm writing a novel about balding, paunchy vampires who pass stunning amounts of intestinal gas when exposed to sunlight.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:59 PM
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A couple of potentially relevant comments from a local blog (most of them are on gun control).

I had Dr. Bishop for Anatomy and Physiology, 2 consecutive semesters. She seemed unstable to me. Maybe not in a dangerous way, but certainly seemed like she could benefit from medication, or an extended vacation. I definitely remember her rants about the research she was doing and how important it was and how the university was screwing her over. When I heard the shooter was faculty from the Bio dept. I immediately thought it was her.
and
Wow I had Bishop for Anatomy I & II!!!! Can't believe this!!! She was such a brilliant person, but an terrible tacher!!!!

And a commentary on fairness ending with a broad moral principle.

Harvard Professors are not supposed to go nutty. They get all of the top jobs even though better qualified people are skipped over. A mean faculty meeting does not justify ignorant and educated murder.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 8:59 PM
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58: That doesn't sound as good.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 9:01 PM
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I'll show you the life of the mind.


Posted by: John Goodman | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 9:01 PM
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I wish Emerson were here to make a snide comment about how he's glad we're moving toward gender equity in crazy spree killings. And also to point out that these killings are more common in the maths and sciences (didn't he have some story about a maths grad student who killed his advisor?).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 9:07 PM
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Irrelevant tidbit: The shootings took place in a building named for asshat Senator Richard Shelby (he of the blanket hold).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 9:07 PM
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But, talk about lowering the bar for the rest of us as far as meeting-behavior goes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 9:08 PM
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Senator Richard Shelby (he of the blanket hold).

I thought that was Linus.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 9:09 PM
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he's glad we're moving toward gender equity in crazy spree killings.

I had actually had that thought, psycho as it is.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 9:10 PM
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There should be a crime against naming public buildings after living politicians.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:04 PM
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68: That would be a very good idea. Also, roads. (Robert Byrd has treated West Virginia the way a tagger treats an overpass.)


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:07 PM
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When masturbating to Robert C. Byrd is no more, I fully expect them to rename the state.

And I would like to thank Prof. Bishop for the impending flurry of "is this crazy person dangerous?" meetings.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:11 PM
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Bear in mind that she followed the statistically normal trajectory: down. She received her PhD from Harvard, taught at Harvard Medical in a nontenure track position, and then received a tenure track position at a third tier university, where she was denied tenure. If you are denied tenure at a top school, you can outcompete people fresh out of grad school for crap jobs. If you are denied tenure at a crap job, you're done, your career is over--you're tainted. She was never going to work again, and she knew it. Beyond that, it's pretty hard not to receive tenure at a crap job unless you have a profoundly unpleasant personality. Finally, I think her husband was a spousal hire, which means that she knew that both of them were depending on her for survival.


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:11 PM
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She was never going to work again, and she knew it.

There's always government and industry jobs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:15 PM
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71: And yet the statistically normal thing to do in that situation is not to commit murder.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:17 PM
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I think the Helen Bentley Port of Baltimore offends me the most.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:22 PM
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didn't he have some story about a maths grad student who killed his advisor?

With a motherfucking hammer. (If it was that physics guy from Stanford.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:25 PM
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If this had happened at WVU, we'd have "The Robert C. Byrd Spree Killer."


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:25 PM
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76 was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:26 PM
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To combine threads, the "Robert C. Byrd Distended Anus."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:30 PM
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70.2: I was going to attempt a joke regarding the effect of this on my partnership potential. But iit seemed too tacky.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:35 PM
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(didn't he have some story about a maths grad student who killed his advisor?)

Theodore Streleski, and student-adviser tensions more generally, have come up multiple times here.

I believe I've also previously noted in the comments that an acquaintance in a different department at Stanford told me that every year a ball peen hammer is awarded to the most disaffected student in her program.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:50 PM
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Ah, Emerson and his hobby horses. This place just isn't the same without him.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 10:54 PM
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This place just isn't the same without him.

Exactly. I mean, just lately, just how many self-deprecating (where "self" stands in for something like a "collective" or "national" psyche) jokes have I wanted to make about Canada's newfound winner-takes-all "Own the Podium" (o, the cheesiness...) attitude towards the Canadian-sponsored Winter Olympics? but, you know, what's the point, really, without Emerson here to laugh at me and my compatriots?

I'd like to propose a "Bring Back Emerson" campaign. With cash and prizes, if need be, for the most innovative suggestions.

71 is very good. Though let's not forget, of course, that she went absolutely nutters and shot some people dead.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 11:13 PM
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I miss Emerson.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 11:14 PM
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I wonder if there's still time to move to a shack in Montana and paint terrible Western kitsch art for tequila money attack university faculty via the postal service, instead.

Emerson (pbuh) wouldn't have missed that one.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 11:46 PM
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This sort of thing is the inevitable consequence of biology departments' insistence on secular Darwinist dogma. You never hear of this sort of thing happening at Bob Jones or Liberty University. I think installing a massive granite tablet inscribed with the 10 Commandments on the campus would be a helpful first step.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-12-10 11:55 PM
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38, 85: Perhaps she just coded as from Harvard.

75, 80: Maxwell Edison. A great name for physics !


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:12 AM
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I'm sure people would be a lot more understanding if she'd taken out some of central administration.

The US tenure system is pretty brutal. It reminds of law firms in the up-or-out mentality, and similarly there are plenty o' assholes to be found at the top. Being fruity-loops certainly helps an academic career; if you are able to convince yourself that your tiny patch is Teh Most Important Thing Evar!1!!! the opportunity cost of those late nights doesn't seem so high.

Changing tack completely, I'd like to remind all the fellas that Sunday is Valentines Day, so get your laydee something nice. Except for neb, of course, who ain't got no laydee.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:57 AM
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Sooooo, no one else finds it a bit, um, I don't know, wrong that this thread includes so many comments about the ramifications of being denied tenure? Perhaps one can rationalize a justification for a disenfranchised killer, like John Muhammad (wait, maybe not). But to do so here is pretty dumb, and even more so given this woman was a Harvard-educated biologist and thus was in no danger of being unemployable, even if she was denied tenure from a "third-tier university."

To say that She was never going to work again, and she knew it. says more about the bitterness of the speaker than it does this narcissistic psychopath.


Posted by: Corky | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:02 AM
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There's also Gang Lu, to pile on science and maths peoples.


Posted by: Corky | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:18 AM
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88-89: Speculative reconstruction of the killer's mental state does not constitute rationalization, much less exculpation.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:28 AM
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She was such a brilliant person, but an terrible tacher!!!!

Clearly UAH places too much emphasis on taching skills in its tenure decisions. If you want Emerson back I suggest you offer him a stipend (with tenure, to ensure everybody's safety).


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:29 AM
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Robert Byrd has treated West Virginia the way a tagger treats an overpass.

I'll preface this by saying that I prefer the system that prevails in Germany, where you can't name any street or public building after a person until that person has been dead for (I think) 25 years. That would put a quick end to all the Congressman Bob E. Forehead Ocelot Research Center nonsense.

That said, the causal mechanism behind West Virginia being blanketed with Robert C. Byrd this-n-that is slightly misstated above. I know from direct experience that in recent years the Byrd name has been attached by the promoters of the projects in question, on the theory that Sen. Byrd would be more likely to divert some of his earmarky goodness if the project bore his name. In many cases, the project might have been funded anyway, but why leave it to chance?

There are at least as many "Robert C. Byrd" projects that never off the drawing boards as were actually built.

I also have a more general theoretical defense of Sen. Byrd's long-term project of relocating the federal bureaucracy just beyond the Alleghenies, but that is a comment for another thread.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:42 AM
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79: On first reading, I misinterpreted the word "partnership" in that comment and was briefly disquieted.

Converging the threads, Di should re-activate google buzz on the account that her boss follows, then begin bookmarking and commenting frequently on guns 'n' ammo type sites.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:48 AM
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Sooooo, no one else finds it a bit, um, I don't know, wrong that this thread includes so many comments about the ramifications of being denied tenure?

No. Piss off.


Posted by: JH | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:53 AM
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o, the cheesiness...)

Sometimes the Vancouver buses run messages on their headsigns instead of constantly showing the route number/destination. For a while there was just the occasional "Go Canucks" on home game days, but lately there's been a lot of "Welcome World" and "Go Canada". Just tell me if you're the 84 or the 44, eh?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:34 AM
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he's glad we're moving toward gender equity in crazy spree killings.

Many years ago Re/Search interviewed Johanna Went, a performance artist. She opined that the 1979 San Diego sniper Brenda Spencer, who killed elementary students, addressed that gender inequity. "I really had hopes; I thought, 'This is a good sign. . a young smart girl. . . ' why there weren't more sex-mutilation murders done by women?" There's a lot more to the interview. It's true: women rarely kill strangers as this woman has.


Posted by: goofyfoot | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:51 AM
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93: I think I'm disquieted that you find my tasteless joke less disquieting depending on what sort of partnership I was referring to. As for the boss, I could just as effectively include searches related to a few damaging secrets to which I am privvy.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:41 AM
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I'm sure there are guys who would find a well-armed 'up or out' dating system stimulating.

I've litigated denial of tenure suits, from the defense side. Not a pretty sight.

Montana needs more tequila drinking sexy vampire fiction writers. Especially tequila drinking sexy vampire fiction writers who want to sue someone.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:48 AM
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Montana needs more tequila drinking sexy vampire fiction writers. Especially tequila drinking sexy vampire fiction writers who want to sue someone.

If I can get Will to negotiate the necessary modifications to my parenting agreement, I'm there. I don't know much about vampires, but I can learn.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:53 AM
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98.2 -- Practice tip: don't claim emotional harm in your denial of tenure suit if your diary shows that you've been having an affair with someone on the staff. If you must do so, moreover, do not ask your wife to attend your deposition.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:15 AM
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More on 98.2: Newsletters are not considered the equivalent of peer reviewed journals.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:20 AM
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100: Almost makes me wish I did trial work -- that sounds like a great dep!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:48 AM
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Sooooo, no one else finds it a bit, um, I don't know, wrong that this thread includes so many comments about the ramifications of being denied tenure?

I don't know about wrong, but I certainly find it disquieting.

Like most of us, I do tend to interpret news events through the lens of my own experience, and the most recent murder victim I had any tangential link to was very far from academia indeed.

*******

Things that are awful: Murder.

Things that compound awfulness: Disproportionate murder response.

New York.

Baltimore.

Los Angeles.

Minnesota.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:00 AM
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100: I'd like, if it isn't a problem for anonymity and the like, to hear how you get your diary discussed at deposition. Was it listed on the CV as a publication? Did the plaintiff introduce it to prove emotional damages and forget the whole affair-writing-thing?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:33 AM
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I don't know much about vampires, but I can learn.

You're not more than about 18 months away from the point where you can buy the Twilight books and plausibly pretend they are for Rory. I'm not saying they're authoritative on the subject or anything, but they do seem to be illustrative of the commercial success factors for contemporary vampire fiction.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:21 AM
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From 71: f you are denied tenure at a top school, you can outcompete people fresh out of grad school for crap jobs. If you are denied tenure at a crap job, you're done, your career is over--you're tainted. She was never going to work again, and she knew it. Beyond that, it's pretty hard not to receive tenure at a crap job unless you have a profoundly unpleasant personality.

This may be her thought process, but seriously: University of Alabama Huntsville is not a crap job.

Second, we somewhat regularly deny tenure at our school, way, way down the crap chute from U Alabama. And not on the basis of a profoundly unpleasant personality.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:39 AM
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Sooooo, no one else finds it a bit, um, I don't know, wrong that this thread includes so many comments about the ramifications of being denied tenure?

I don't. It's a tangent. No one's claiming that anything mitigates the murder itself, or that this murder is more heinous than the rest of murders. This is just an unusual killing spree, and so it's interesting.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:41 AM
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And not on the basis of a profoundly unpleasant personality.

On the basis of a crap shoot?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:46 AM
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I wouldn't call three dead and three wounded "crap".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:47 AM
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107: Right. No one here is saying, "Well, gosh, the denial of tenure has these ramifications so it's only natural that people would go on shooting sprees." It seems more along the lines of picturing what was going through her head that might cause her to snap like that.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:53 AM
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105: We actually own them based on a babysitter's recommendation years ago. But could never manage to get into them.


Posted by: DK | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:58 AM
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107: This is just an unusual killing spree

Yeah, and there may be more elements:
- Only going to bring one charge one count of murder, police say they will explain why at a news conference.
- From a local TV report (take it with a small amount of sodium chloride): "her neighbors observed she and her husband leaving their home around 3:00pm yesterday carrying duffle bags. "
- She apparently has a daughter at the school(?)
- Caption at picture 4 of this CNN Slide Show: "Police take another possible shooting suspect into custody", picture of a blonde woman in jeans and heels (clearly not Bishop) being led away in 'cuffs (I assume just a mistake).

Don't know why I am morbidly following this ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:59 AM
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Meanwhile, where's Streleski now? He got out in '85. I pinned a clipping about him and his hammer on the departmental bulletin board just before my thesis defense in '78. No lock down, no psychiatric exam, no trauma. All it got were a few giggles.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:06 AM
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Follow-up:
First, I regret characterizing UAH as a "crap job" (I too have what one might describe as a "crap job" but I'm pleased with it and don't disdain my institution at all--I just know that that kind of attitude is less common than it should be) but the reality is that as a third tier institution, she was screwed if she was denied tenure: if she had been productive, the presumption would be that she was personally unpleasant and shouldn't be hired (apparently she was productive) and if not that she was lazy and shouldn't be hired. Academia is a weird and self-contained world, and while I don't have first-hand experience in the sciences, I know there are significant barriers to retooling for any kind of employment at all (the standard response being "oh, you're way overqualified for this position. You'd be happier in academia"--after tenure denial I went to law school and getting work was essentially impossible for this reason) though perhaps it is easier to cross over into industry from the sciences. The role that tenure decisions play is difficult to understand by non-academics because they view it from the standpoint of *having* it and think "must be nice to not be immune to firing." But the fact that the main performance evaluation you will ever receive is a career/no-career decision that happens once totally warps the experience of being an academic until the decision is made. And even if there are more options really, the way that you are socialized leads you to think that there aren't really. If you've seen "Up In The Air" the best analogy I can offer is, it's like being the person who's invested their whole working life into a particular company and is too old to do anything else being fired, in terms of the experience and effects, except that it happens in your 30s or 40s and you have whole decades of non-life ahead of you. I've experienced tenure denial both taking it and dishing it out, as well as divorce with children, and the death of a child, so I know what real suffering is, and tenure denial is pretty awful. (I've also experienced hard times before I was an academic, and no, tenure denial was worse).

It goes without saying that I don't condone or excuse what she did. Most people denied tenure do not kill themselves or others (or at least as to the latter, I don't think we have the stats-maybe they do?). All I'm saying is that as an academic, who knows lots of academics, not one has responded with "wow, she must've been nuts" but rather "oh, yeah, that could've happened to me (giving or receiving the fire)." We're all thinking this, and it's chilling. This is, I think, another huge argument in favor of the abolition of tenure--not the public safety issue, but the fact that a social arrangement makes it seem unsurprising that an otherwise ordinary person would kill because of the stresses that social arrangement creates seems like a good reason to reform it, especially since the rest of society isn't keen on the arrangement anyway.

There are other dimensions to this story worth commenting on (the current exploitation of graduate students leading to oversupply of the job market, which has the effect of creating a lot of "fish out of water" experiences--a Harvard PhD in Huntsville--probably contributed both to her own unhappiness and a likely chilly reception by older colleagues with less stellar pedigrees) but I'll leave it there.

Last point: I was apparently mistaken in saying her husband was a spousal hire.


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:09 AM
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I would like to go back and amend my earlier comments to state that murder is wrong. Sorry Corky.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:09 AM
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fake accent:
They weren't strangers. They were people she worked with every day for six years, and who were party to the decision to end her career. This was revenge, pure and simple.


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:14 AM
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No, I actually am saying it's only natural that people would go on shooting sprees. I'm surprised that it doesn't happen more often. That's not the same thing as condoning it.


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:16 AM
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Bishop, 42, was taken Friday night in handcuffs from a police precinct to the county jail and could be heard saying, "It didn't happen. There's no way .... they are still alive."

I'm going to go not very far out on a limb and predict multiple contributing causes--one of them being (possibly undiagnosed) mental illness. I've also picked up a few hints that their "revolutionary" petri dish system and company (InQ, funded mostly by locals) was not working out that well.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:21 AM
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118.1 is invisibly italicized--from MSNBC.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:22 AM
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I'm not saying that tenure denial is always due to personality problems; I'm saying that many hiring departments make that inference when deciding whether to cash in on a very experienced tenure denial as a new hire. This can be very dangerous for the tenure denial person.

And I want to repeat the apology/clarification re "crap jobs". I don't make these norms, I meant only to report them. My own job is a "crap job" by these lights and I love it and am proud of it (and feel hugely lucky to have it).


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:26 AM
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Perhaps it's rare, but just poking through the Wikipedia category American Spree Killers (such fun!):

Brenda Spencer, 2, 1979
Sylvia Seegrist, 3, 1985
Laurie Dann, 1, 1988
Jennifer San Marco, 7, 2006


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:39 AM
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And some bait for the Sifu Tweety bot:

My laboratory's goal will be to continue in our effort to develop a neural computer, the Neuristor, using living neurons. This computer will exploit all of the advantages of neurons.

I am not qualified to judge, but there are a lot of warning signs of poorly thought out pseudoscience in the full write-up.



Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:43 AM
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I see from the links in 121 that I have apparently gone to the Brenda Spencer wiki page before. Huh.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:11 AM
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Oh, nevermind. That link just goes to the comments here. I was baffled as to why I'd be looking at that.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:13 AM
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All I'm saying is that as an academic, who knows lots of academics, not one has responded with "wow, she must've been nuts" but rather "oh, yeah, that could've happened to me (giving or receiving the fire)." We're all thinking this, and it's chilling.

As an academic who knows lots of academics, including lots of academics who have been denied tenure (including some academics who are still REALLY angry about it), not one has ever mentioned, with any degree of seriousness, violence. I'm sure several of my friends have had the passing thought -- "Oh, wouldn't it be great to hit/waterboard/shoot/lock in a cave for all eternity the head of the tenure and promotion committee who screwed me over." -- but that's a very different thing. So, really, are you serious? You actually can imagine yourself bringing a gun to a meeting and "giving fire"? Because if so, I'd strongly advise you to consider finding a therapist. And I say that without a hint of malice or judgment.


Posted by: joe strummer | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:31 AM
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To clarify my comment above: the system of tenure and promotion at American universities is often cruel and sometimes utterly capricious. But the idea that it makes otherwise stable people seriously contemplate and engage in violent acts on anything like a regular basis strikes me as incorrect.


Posted by: mick jones | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:38 AM
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122: that sounds pretty daffy, especially since the term "neuristor" is already in wide-ish use with a different meaning.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:45 AM
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115: Thanks Ned. I was living in fear for a while there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:48 AM
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Whatever. If people don't want to get murdered, they shouldn't hold faculty meetings.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:11 AM
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Mother of four children.

Ok, I have actual stuff to do now, so I'll shutdown the tabloid.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:12 AM
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114: Reasons like that are why I'm not so unhappy that I didn't finish my Ph.D. I work in much higher tier universities as staff than I could have hope for as faculty. I'm able to shift between fields and institutions with greater ease. The salary, if you figure on an hourly basis*, is probably not much below middle-ranking faculty in the social sciences. Plus, I get to work mostly with tenured faculty, so less vicarious stress.

The downside is that I can't go very far up either.

*I will work overtime in a crunch, but I want the time back when the crunch is over.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:15 AM
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Mother of four, daughter of none.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:16 AM
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129: C'mon. Faculty meetings don't kill people, loss of blood and vital organ functions resulting from activities at faculty meetings kills people.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:16 AM
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I'm sure this is way pwned, but I'm just reading through this thread and this made me laugh a whole lot:

IOW, do adjuncts or whatever get benefits and have any security?

Ha ha ha ha ha!!! I'm dying over here. Seriously.

I am fired by default every semester. Every semester, if I am offered classes, I get a letter that I have to sign, acknowledging that I've been re-hired. If I teach a "full load" (whatever that is, as it's different at every school), I get benefits, a living wage, etc. But because poor widdle colleges and universities have a lot of courses to fill and no "extra" money for things like that, they offer one less class than the "full load."

So if I teach an almost-full load of courses at two different schools, theoretically the equivalent of almost two full-time jobs, I end up with no health insurance and, if I'm lucky, about 2/3 the pay check I'd get if I had a full-time appointment.

It's really hilarious. Also, if anyone here needs anything done for money in the next year, let me know. I have some ideas, but they all involve stealing jewelry or dealing drugs.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:18 AM
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124 - Big BobGeldof fan?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:18 AM
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131: The downside is that I can't go very far up either.

Surely there is some possibility of an end-around into administration where you can be on the real value-adding side of Big Academia.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:19 AM
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134.last: My idea was smuggling cigarettes*. You need to move more volume, but the last I checked, the prison sentences were lighter than drugs.

*No warranty, guarantee, or anything implied about this being good advice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:21 AM
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136: I doubt it. The only way you get big in administration without a Ph.D. is with an MBA, J.D. or brilliant fund-raising skills.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:22 AM
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137 -> 138.last


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:23 AM
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I found out yesterday that starting salary at our local CC for someone with a PhD and teaching experience - ie me - is 58K. That is way more than I make.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:23 AM
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Someone who has been there 36 years makes 107K.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:23 AM
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104 -- Evidence of your emotional state, and various factors that might influence it, is relevant to a claim for emotional harm from some particular event. In the same way, if you claim to have been injured by a malfunctioning stove, and your description of the flame is more consistent with freebasing cocaine than with a gas stove, your medical records showing cocaine use are going to come in.

Litigation is not beanbag.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:24 AM
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So if I teach an almost-full load of courses at two different schools, theoretically the equivalent of almost two full-time jobs, I end up with no health insurance and, if I'm lucky, about 2/3 the pay check I'd get if I had a full-time appointment.

The material support is way different, too. It's galling to be teaching more than twice as much as many of the people around you, and yet to share an office with two other students and to have no school-provided computer.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:26 AM
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142: Yes, but how does anybody but the plaintiff know the plaintiff has a diary? Wouldn't you* just burn the thing before suing?

*I'm not suggesting that you as a lawyer would disregard the rules like that. Just the plaintiffs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:27 AM
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Man, so I was trying to cook some ramen noodles on this here stove? And all of a sudden the sonofabitch up and shot me! I'd like to sue the manufacturer.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:27 AM
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Wouldn't you* just burn the thing before suing?

Can't. Broken stove.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:28 AM
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The posts are coming from your house. Get out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:28 AM
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s/b comments.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:29 AM
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144 -- And then lie under oath about it? And hope no one else knows about it?

I won't say that there's not plenty of dishonesty out there. IME, though, most of it is self-deception.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:29 AM
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Upthread someone thought she'd have had a grace year after being denied tenure. This was her grace year. She was denied tenure last year. She appealed. Yesterday morning she was told her appeal had failed. So her final paycheck would have been this coming May.

Yes, it was revenge pure and simple. The chair was one of the dead.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:31 AM
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149: Burn it before you sue. Then you don't have to lie about it. The plaintiff is the one person who shouldn't be surprised by discovery and the "don't destroy shit" letter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:32 AM
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143: You know what I really love? Listening to tenured professors complain about not getting paid extra to advise students and go to faculty meetings. That's one of my favorite things. (Looking at you, three-day all-day required unpaid seminar on how to teach a class I've taught 15 times before.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:33 AM
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It's a mistake to try to cook your ramen noodles in phenylpropanolamine broth.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:33 AM
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IOW, do adjuncts or whatever get benefits and have any security?

Ha ha ha ha ha!!! I'm dying over here. Seriously.

For better or worse, this is changing across the board. A lot of big institutions have plans or already are establishing "Lectureships with job security". I recently heard the patronizing acronym POES (I think) - Potential Opportunity for Employment Security or something. In other words, they want to hire PhDs for 5 year contracts to cover more of their teaching needs. Not as exploitative as a current adjunct, cheaper for the university than a tenure-track job and not much career trajectory.

Given the realities, I think it's a net positive development, probably.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:33 AM
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IOW, do adjuncts or whatever get benefits and have any security?

Actually, this depends. The adjuncts at NYU are unionized. Once you've taught 3 consecutive semesters, you get health insurance. Once you've taught six, they can't not hire you for the next semester without essentially paying you anyway.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:34 AM
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154: If they switch the name to Hopeful Opportunity for Employment Security, run out the door.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:35 AM
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143: You know what I really love? Listening to tenured professors complain about not getting paid extra to advise students and go to faculty meetings. That's one of my favorite things.

This is not the first time your comments have made me think this, but: you work with a bunch of jerks. How do you put up with them?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:35 AM
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155: But does everybody get fired after five semesters?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:36 AM
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154: I've seen some of those job listings, but what are they replacing in doing that? Are they replacing adjunct jobs or asst. prof. appointments? By the looks of the application requirements, it seems more like the latter. I just sent materials for a one-year lectureship that required about as much from me as a tenure-track application.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:36 AM
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I have some ideas, but they all involve stealing jewelry

Have you been reading PG Wodehouse as a how-to guide? Because I wouldn't really recommend that. Imposture must be so much more difficult in these days of google.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:37 AM
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Once you've taught 3 consecutive semesters, you get health insurance.

It's sad that this is progress.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:37 AM
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158: I've seen it happen!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:38 AM
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162: I guess I was wondering if it ever didn't happen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:41 AM
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The big issue for me is that I had the carrot of getting a full-time adjunct load where I currently work, followed by a likely T-T appointment, dangled in front of me for the first year I worked where I am. The administration seems to still want it, and the students want it. My department has their own plan and schedule for various people, and there are certainly other people who are more advanced than I am in the hopper for anything that comes up. Whatever, it was already a mess and then the economic downturn hit us especially hard. They had to fire all the full-time lecturers.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:42 AM
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CA's brother is Canadian (everyone in their family has a different primary passport -- it's complicated) and has had a series of one-year appointments at his current institution. As I understand it, if they want to hire him again next year (for a 4th or 5th year), the job automagically becomes tenure-track. Again, I think the usual routine is for the school just not to hire again, but it looks like they are going to in this case.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:42 AM
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The thread has moved on but . .

I'm writing a novel about balding, paunchy vampires who pass stunning amounts of intestinal gas when exposed to sunlight.

Reminded me that The Reformed Vampire Support Group was pretty good.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:43 AM
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151 -- See, that's exactly the kind of self-deception I'm talking about.

Do you have a diary? Did you keep a diary at the time of [the events]? Oh, I don't think it's been produced in discovery -- did you give a copy to your lawyer? When did you destroy it? After [the incident], then, right?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:44 AM
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166: Fuck, competition.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:44 AM
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163: Yes. There are also a handful of permanent adjuncts (who have their own offices and make decent money, etc.).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:45 AM
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(everyone in their family has a different primary passport -- it's complicated)

That does seem to follow, yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:45 AM
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167: I was so distraught about losing tenure, that I fell asleep while smoking.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:46 AM
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Not my fault; stove told me to.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:47 AM
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172 to 167.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:48 AM
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In case anybody hasn't figure it out, you probably shouldn't take legal advice from me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:48 AM
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170: Try driving over a border with all of them in the car. US agents love that.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:48 AM
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174 should have been written more broadly and is applicable well beyond the 'legal' realm.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:50 AM
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Congressman Bob E. Forehead

I miss Washingtoon.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:50 AM
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Wait, what? Did we know this? The professor-shooter "accidentally" killer her brother 24 years ago in MA?

Article.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:57 AM
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Yes, it was revenge pure and simple.

I'm not sure what this means. This seems like it could be more of a psychotic manic episode than the result of an academic Inigo Montoya.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 11:58 AM
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178: No, that is new info. I had checked Boston.com a few hours ago. Wow.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:00 PM
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178: It's new to me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:01 PM
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181: Sure, MH. So you were keeping a diary in 1986? And it's destroyed now .... after the incident?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:03 PM
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the previous story linked at the Boston Globe is... something.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:04 PM
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182: I lost it by accident when I was trying to save money by acid-washing my own jeans.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:05 PM
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154: One of the things that makes talking about academia so weird from an outsiders' point of view is that academic jobs are split between much better from a normal professional job from a security/autonomy/benefits point of view, and much worse than a normal job from that point of view. The sort of thing you're talking about -- college teacher jobs that are as good as a regular job rather than adjunct hell -- seem like a very good thing, but I'm not sure how an insider would weigh the damage to the institution of tenure from them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:07 PM
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154, 185: My school has a highly developed system that's something like this, with three kinds of Professorial faculty: Regular Tenure Line, untenured "Professors of the Practice", and untenured "Research Professors". Each of the latter two categories is internally differentiated in the same was as the Tenure Line, with Assistant, Associate, and Full versions. (The system is not some kind of paradise, incidentally. It's just much more elaborated than anything I've seen elsewhere in the U.S.)


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:14 PM
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185: Yes, that's exactly the problem, I think. Many of us whose lives hang in the balance from semester to semester are not trying to demand lifetime job security, six-figure salaries, extra money for travel and research, etc. We just want something a little bit more livable as compensation for doing basically exactly the same job as the people who have all those things.

Adjunct wages, per class, can range from $1K at the low end to over $10K at the high end. Doing basically exactly the same amount of work, I've earned anywhere from $10K/year to $35K/year, and it can slip back down or up depending on where I'm hired, with benefits appearing and disappearing. So it's impossible to be able to determine accurately what kind of apartment I can afford, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:14 PM
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Kevin, is this the first you've commented here? Generally, guests are welcomed with a fruit basket.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:17 PM
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untenured "Professors of the Practice", and untenured "Research Professors"

What's the difference between these two categories? Do they both teach classes?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:18 PM
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"Research Faculty" are common in the US. They don't teach, so they actually don't get paid at all by the University. They get paid from grants.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:24 PM
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Also, Kevin, we overlapped at Northwestern. Drop me a line if you come back here.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:28 PM
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190: Yes, there are faculty with tenure who are guaranteed a job but not a salary.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:31 PM
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What's the difference between these two categories? Do they both teach classes?

POPs (the practice ones) are not expected to have a research profile. They teach classes. Research professors generally don't teach ordinary classes, and are generally on soft money of one kind or another, although they are not always external grants, and the money is not always that soft, either. (In this respect at my school they may differ from the standard Research Professor title seen elsewhere and mentioned in 190). For instance some people I work with are Research Profs and are in stable, non-grant positions that were endowed by a donor but are not regular Chairs (because they're not attached to a department, but rather to a large Center of some kind or other). It's complicated.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:32 PM
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college teacher jobs that are as good as a regular job rather than adjunct hell -- seem like a very good thing, but I'm not sure how an insider would weigh the damage to the institution of tenure from them.

Its pretty simple really. 90% of people with tenure would adamantly appose the creation of mid level security jobs, because it gives the shadow of the appearance of a threat to the existence of the privileged class they have built their whole identity around. .


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:33 PM
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Sammie Lee Davis, whose wife was killed in the shooting, gave a phone interview to the Associated Press in which he said he was told his wife was at a meeting to discuss the tenure of another faculty member who got angry and started shooting. He said his wife had mentioned the suspect before, describing the woman as "not being able to deal with reality" and "not as good as she thought she was".
Hm. I sort of see.
Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:34 PM
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187: But the flip side is that once colleges start doing what Gonerill's school is doing, the whole concept of tenure gets very weird. You (adjuncts generally) get terribly abused by your employers because you don't really work there -- it's not about you, just that you don't have an actual job with them. If you've got a non-tenured and not going to be tenured professor, with a normal full-time job, doing exactly the same stuff as the tenured professor in the office next to her... that really doesn't seem like a stable system at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:34 PM
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196 kind of pwned by 194, except that I think someone with tenure is right (in the 'correct' rather than 'morally justified' sense) to be threatened by the idea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:35 PM
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AWB: "You know what I really love? Listening to tenured professors complain about not getting paid extra to advise students and go to faculty meetings."

Essear: "This is not the first time your comments have made me think this, but: you work with a bunch of jerks."

I've heard a lot of tenured professors complain like that, too. I've also heard them complain that they don't get free food any more at faculty meetings, and hence won't come. Another good one is that there isn't enough difference in pay between them and their lessers.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:37 PM
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179: "her 18-year-old brother, Seth M. Bishop, an accomplished violinist who had won a number of science awards.

Looks like she has a problem with people higher up the ladder.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:37 PM
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I'm not commenting on this blog anymore unless sandwiches will be served.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:39 PM
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194 gets it exactly right. There are many ways in which those who have "made it" undermine any attempt to make the professional ascent of those lower on the ladder more difficult, usually citing their own hardships when climbing. But those hardships have gotten a lot harder over time, the rungs further apart, etc.

There is the related phenomenon of older women profs making life miserable for young women entering the profession on the basis of how hard it was to make it as women in academia in their day. A sociologist of my acquaintance believes that most of these profs have mythologized the sexist hardships of the past, and that it was never as insane as they make it out to be.

One has to wonder how such a ridiculously privileged class of people can stand themselves when they treat their colleagues' attempts at survival with such contempt.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:41 PM
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Are there detailed statistics about adjuncts anywhere? Poking around the web, I find kind of surprising claims that as many as half of all faculty are adjuncts. Adjuncts don't exist in my field, so it's all a little foreign to me. Looking at the English department webpage at the university I work at, I count two faculty listed as "lecturer" among thirty-odd total faculty. I thought English departments were the sort of places where adjuncts were supposed to dominate. (Maybe 1/5 of the grad students are also listed in some sort of lecturer or teaching assistant role, but I assume we don't count those as adjunct faculty.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:42 PM
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doing exactly the same stuff as the tenured professor in the office next to her...

It's not entirely clear that they do exactly the same things, though. These Professors of the Practice may not have the same advising and service duties as t-t people. I would hope they don't.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:42 PM
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undermine any attempt to make the professional ascent of those lower on the ladder more difficult, usually citing their own hardships when climbing. But those hardships have gotten a lot harder over time, the rungs further apart, etc.

That's not all there is to it, though. I think tenured and tenure track people are genuinely afraid of unraveling the tenure system out from under themselves. If you feel like you sacrificed a lot on the basis of getting tenure in exchange, is it any wonder that you wouldn't want to destroy the thing that supposedly made those sacrifices worth making?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:44 PM
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Looking at the English department webpage at the university I work at, I count two faculty listed as "lecturer" among thirty-odd total faculty.

It's also possible that classes are being taught by people who don't even rate a spot on the webpage. They're not members of the department, after all! (And are likely reminded of that every time they start to think they're entitled to something. Anything.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:45 PM
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Looking at the English department webpage at the university I work at, I count two faculty listed as "lecturer" among thirty-odd total faculty. I thought English departments were the sort of places where adjuncts were supposed to dominate.

Some English departments have few or no adjuncts, relying instead on lots of TAs. Others may simply not list the adjuncts on their department site.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:45 PM
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Are there detailed statistics about adjuncts anywhere?

The AAUP did a huge survey and published the results broken down by individual school. The SUNY and California systems both averaged 70 to 80%. The national average was around 60%. Stuffwhitepeople Like University was around 40%. My division at Last Chance Community College is 70%.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:45 PM
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204: Right. It's not that it's morally justified (or, rather, that I think it's justified -- I don't know the system well enough to have an opinion that's worth much), but that the fear of destroying the tenure system completely seems like a well-founded one to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:46 PM
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Steinford has a non-ordinary professorship category as well, though I don't know the details. There are both Research and Teaching professors. IMNSHO the one Teaching prof in the philosophy faculty should just be a regular prof, but it was judged for some reason or another not to be practicable. For that matter the one Research prof also teaches classes, so the system's a complete mystery.

Looking at the bulletin (since I couldn't remember the names of the categories) I see that J.O. Urmson is listed as an emeritus prof—I had no idea he was still alive or that he had ever been affiliated with my fine department.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:47 PM
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I would hope they don't.

No, they don't. (IME) They don't teach or supervise grad students, they are not expected to do any research, they don't have any university-related service responsibilities, and they typically don't sit on departmental committees.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:47 PM
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Hi!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:47 PM
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202: Adjuncts are rarely listed on websites. It's not worth counting them as faculty when you're trying to pretend they don't exist and you'd have to update it every time you deny them classes. The real place to look is the schedule of courses.

203: I would assume a research prof with no salary wouldn't do advisement. But I don't know a single adjunct who doesn't do unofficial career and educational counseling, attend meetings (if only to protect their own interests), recommendation letter-writing, unofficial thesis reading, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:47 PM
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You never hear of this sort of thing happening at Bob Jones or Liberty University.

Indeed. A spree shooting involving a professor who was a neuroscientist from Harvard would be unlikely in the extreme at either of those learned institutions.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:48 PM
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I'm not commenting on this blog anymore unless sandwiches will be served.

In a nod to this blog's fine traditions, baked goods are provided at our dept's faculty meetings.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:48 PM
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205, 206: Wow. It hadn't occurred to me that they would be considered such non-entities as to be left off the department webpage.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:48 PM
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And I'd also figure that even if not required to, non-tenured faculty in the humanities would be likely to actually do some research, just on the basis that you get into academia because you're interested in stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:50 PM
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Actually, the AAUP's numbers were for all contingent faculty, including visiting and grad students. I'd get the exact data, but I have to run.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:50 PM
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From Ratemyprof: This prof is absolutely the bomb! Knows her stuff cold, and quick witted too. Never met anyone who knows more random knowledge. Sci-fi to quantum mechanics with a little art history thrown in the mix. Who knew? Definitely take one of her courses!

And an excellent shot.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:50 PM
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205, 206: Wow. It hadn't occurred to me that they would be considered such non-entities as to be left off the department webpage.

A potentially amusing index of life in different fields/departments is checking to see whether the departmental homepage has a menu item or page labeled "People" and a separate one labeled "Graduate Students".


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:51 PM
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201: Whatever reasons senior faculty have for feeling less badly about their treatment of adjuncts, the reason they do it is because they can. As long as someone will take the spot of everyone who quits in frustration, they'll keep on with the low pay/lack of benefits.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:51 PM
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I wrote this:
undermine any attempt to make the professional ascent of those lower on the ladder more difficult

It is the opposite of what I meant. I'm glad that was clear. It worries me that I'm going to be working on the diss today.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:53 PM
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One has to wonder how such a ridiculously privileged class of people can stand themselves when they treat their colleagues' attempts at survival with such contempt.

No one doesn't. You for one have far to good an understanding of human history to wonder any such thing. Which is not to disagree with you that it's pernicious and hateful.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:55 PM
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A sociologist of my acquaintance believes that most of these profs have mythologized the sexist hardships of the past, and that it was never as insane as they make it out to be.

I hear if you say this in front of a mirror at midnight, Emmy Noether and Rosalind Franklin appear and beat your ass.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:57 PM
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222: How am I supposed to know about human history. My history class was taught by an adjunct teaching 7 sections and three schools.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:57 PM
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220: There's an interesting issue of psychological feelings of responsibility and actual capacity to control working conditions. I don't know anything specific about it, and I have the impression that it's hugely variable from one school to the next, but lines of authority in terms of academic employment seem really confused. It seems very plausible to me that tenured faculty don't feel responsible at all for the plight of adjuncts, because they don't see themselves as controlling the terms of adjunct employment.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:57 PM
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And I'd also figure that even if not required to, non-tenured faculty in the humanities would be likely to actually do some research, just on the basis that you get into academia because you're interested in stuff.

I knew a Lecturer at my grad program who taught six classes each semester (spread between two Universities) and used his "summers off" (two classes each summer session) to actually work on stuff that was published in good journals. I was in awe.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:58 PM
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223: Which is cheaper than the $200/hour that it would normally cost you if that was your thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 12:58 PM
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220 and 225 are correct.

Tenured faculty in individual departments see themselves as powerless in this regard. Simple economics and a long-standing but nearly broken system stand in the way of any meaningful changes and most individual faculty have absolutely no power to change this. (Some have no desire either, but not all).


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:00 PM
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224. You don't need to know much history. The continuing efforts of the haves to exclude the have-nots is one of the main themes.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:01 PM
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205, 206: Wow. It hadn't occurred to me that they would be considered such non-entities as to be left off the department webpage.

But this appears not to be the case. Just went through all the English courses being offered in the schedule; all are taught by tenure-track faculty, except for one by one of the two lecturers I mentioned earlier, two by some sort of visiting writers-in-residence or something along those lines, one by a postdoc, and one by someone I can find no record of anywhere on the web.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:02 PM
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226: Right, and imagine if someone like that had a teaching job with an office and bookshelves.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:02 PM
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I understand that people have a really incredible ability to wall off the compassionate part of their brains when it comes to professional contexts. What I don't understand is how someone who commutes to work from a suburban mansion where they're raising a kid who goes to private school on two six-figure incomes--how that person, every semester, sits down and tells another human being that this semester, congratulations, you'll make ten thousand dollars for a full-time job requiring years of post-graduate education and experience, and, sorry, no benefits this year. How do you do that with a straight face?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:03 PM
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Because they don't make the decision about what the terms of the job they have to offer are, and they know that you want the job. They can simultaneously know that it sucks and not feel responsible for the suckiness, and feel good about giving you what they could -- the sucky job they have to offer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:05 PM
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Sorry, I'm obviously feeling way too sorry for myself today and should buck up, accept the world for what it is, and send out some more applications for next year. I've just had a few too many meetings recently in which comparatively wealthy colleagues smile and tell me there's nothing they can do, sorry, them's the breaks.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:09 PM
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232- This is where I prefer that people don't pretend. I'd much rather hear, "We're giving you the shaft again, Megan. Care to suck it up this year, or will you be working in food service?" than "Congratulations! Adjuncting will be a fantastic opportunity for you!"

(This isn't an issue for me in this context.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:09 PM
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Rob, your 90% figure is made up, right? Because my sense is that, in my field at least, a solid majority of tenured or tenure-line faculty support radically overhauling (and considerably improving) how contingent faculty are treated. But the vast majority of that solid majority won't spend real time or energy on the issue because: a) they have other things to do; and b) they have concerns that their own positions are more vulnerable than in past years.

And AWB, I wonder if it's possible to find a middle ground: where we recognize that tenured faculty are, in the main, tremendously lucky and often should do more to fight for contingent faculty, but also that tenured faculty, in the humanities and social sciences at least, are getting squeezed in new ways every year, and that their jobs are actually often very different from the jobs being done by contingent faculty (I'm thinking of service obligations, especially, but also research requirements).

Of course this entire discussion is pretty muddy, given that there are different kinds of universities with vastly different research and teaching missions.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:10 PM
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How do you do that with a straight face?

The same way that Beau Brummell orders a suit from a tailor who might earn £150 a year and tells him that if he's lucky he'll be paid on quarter day. (Example chosen because Brummell was in reality staggeringly unimportant person with no aristocratic pretensions - this isn't an attitude that's unique to the rich and famous.)


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:11 PM
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I see that I'm entirely pwned. Well, then it's back to work!


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:12 PM
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236: ari you're just saying that because it's all your fault.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:12 PM
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239 to 238.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:12 PM
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232 - The most generous explanation I can give is that the rich suburban couple doesn't FEEL rich. After the house and tuition, they barely have enough to live middle class lifestyles, and nothing is ever secure anyway. They feel poor too, AWB! Just like you!

Maybe. I'm just guessing and I'd be perfectly happy to go back to thinking poorly of them if we want to.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:12 PM
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IT IS WHAT IT IS.


Posted by: TENURED FACULTY OF AMERICA | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:13 PM
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whether the departmental homepage has a menu item or page labeled "People" and a separate one labeled "Graduate Students"

Ha! I am currently redesigning my department's webpage, and this is in fact one of the things I am planning to change.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:13 PM
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It does occur to me, and I apologize if this has already been said, that this discussion illustrates how very successful a permanent class of administrators, a relatively new feature on college and university campuses by the way, has been in dividing faculty against other faculty in recent years.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:14 PM
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So wait, if somebody is extremely lucky, and they are able to offer a poorly paid job to somebody else who is much less lucky, but who is still quite a bit luckier than others who will not be offered that job, but they do not have the ability to make the job they are able to offer be less poorly paid, they should not do so, because fuck the system? Or they should offer the job, but laugh while doing so? I'm pretty lost.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:15 PM
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What other things do they have to do? The ones who already have tenure could easily ease up on their scholarly output and make time that way. The past isn't going anywhere.*

*offer not valid for fields in which artifacts are in danger of destruction/decay.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:16 PM
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244: where's my money, tenure boy?!?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:16 PM
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Hmm. It's fruit baskets all the way down.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:17 PM
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236: We have to do research, too. Several of the departments I've worked for have requested updated CVs every semester with proof of active scholarship and research, with followup appointments in which we're told that, sorry, that conference you spoke at doesn't "count" because it's not a prestigious enough association. I've been asked to sit (unofficially of course, nothing I can put on a CV) on thesis committees. They can demand whatever they want from adjuncts because they know we'll do it.

I should add that I can't complain about any of this with the other adjuncts in my department because I get the best and most classes of any of them. I'm very, very fortunate to make what I make there. I just need twice as much as that to survive next year.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:18 PM
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244: Skillfully turned. I see they don't hand out tenure for nothin'.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:18 PM
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245: I think the idea, Sifu, was for the tenured faculty member to take a 20% pay cut and double the adjunct's salary.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:18 PM
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232 -- As ugly as that scenario might seem in academia, in the law business it's all the uglier. The well fed fellow on the other side of the desk is actually getting the money you're not getting. In his pocket. You paid for the luxury car in his parking spot.

On the other hand, even in smaller markets, junior lawyers are paid more than a whole lot of academics. But then they don't have the prestige that comes with an academic career.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:20 PM
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Hmm. At My Grad School U., there is a host of "creative writing" courses taught by people who are mysteriously classified on the school's web page only as "writers", most of whom obtained an MFA there several years ago. Are these adjuncts? I can't tell.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:21 PM
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Are these adjuncts?

Yes.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:22 PM
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253 If they bother to put out employment stats, this would seem to be a convenient way to cook the books.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:24 PM
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||

Allow me to brighten the dourness of this discussion by noting that I have, after a long losing streak, won my second straight email chess game against my most long-standing and tenacious opponent.

|>


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:26 PM
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How is Ogged?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:27 PM
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249: I'm often stunned by the demands placed on you. Adjuncts here, and everywhere I've ever taught, aren't even allowed to serve on dissertation committees. And nobody here, or anywhere else I've taught, has ever paid the slightest bit of attention to whether an adjunct has an active research agenda -- obviously, this sucks in its own way. All we look at are the teaching evaluations. Like I said above, things get done differently at different places.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:28 PM
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I've never played chess with ogged. I don't even know if he does play chess (though given that he's Persian he probably does). Doubtless he'd destroy me if we ever played.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:28 PM
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228 and 233 get it right.

Faculty governance is a joke at most institutions. Nearly all the power regarding things like the conditions of adjuncts, the number of tenure track lines & etc. is concentrated in the hands of administrators, who are a very different group, in terms of their goals and outlook, than faculty.

An individual tenured professor might be a smug asshole who enjoys lording it over the proles or might genuinely empathize with the plight of adjuncts and non-tenure track folks and wish that their condition would improve. Either way, he/she has basically no power to change the system.

Some sort of mass organized movement might gain some ground, but that's as difficult and unlikely in academia as it is everywhere else.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:29 PM
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followup appointments in which we're told that, sorry, that conference you spoke at doesn't "count" because it's not a prestigious enough association

This is insane. Who does this?

I've been asked to sit (unofficially of course, nothing I can put on a CV) on thesis committees.

Maybe I'm missing something, but why can't you put this on your c.v.? For other jobs, at least. If it's understood at committee-sitting school that you're not 'really' on the committee, then don't put it on any c.v. you give them. But by all means, include it in materials you send other places.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:29 PM
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Back to the OP, I wonder if anything will come of this. When a student shoots up a school, there's all this talk about how to provide better counseling for depressed/isolated students, how to make the college environment less hostile, etc.

I'm guessing in the case of a disgruntled prof, it's going to be spun that she was just crazy and bitter, nothing wrong with putting an entire life's work up to a test that could, based on a single up-or-down decision, render it all meaningless. No idea why someone would find that unbearably stressful.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:30 PM
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I've been asked to sit (unofficially of course, nothing I can put on a CV) on thesis committees.

Wait, what sort of thesis committee? You don't have a PhD, right? Are you saying faculty have asked you to sit-in on the thesis committees of other graduate students? In your own department?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:31 PM
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why can't you put this on your c.v.?

Maybe there's some sort of official public list of committee members?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:32 PM
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We have to do research, too.

But you're a grad student, right? Isn't that just progress toward degree? Or are PhD holding adjuncts regularly expected to supply proof of new research?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:34 PM
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If it can't go on a CV, I would refuse to do it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:34 PM
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250: I didn't see this earlier. Ha! Really, though, if the point is that tenured faculty suck, I totally agree. It's just that I'm not sure they suck in precisely the way or for exactly the reasons that are being described here. But I also don't care that much. My manse is sufficiently massive, and the contingent faculty I have peeling grapes for me sufficiently pleased with their lot (They sing! And dance! While out in the fields!), that I'm doing just fine. Still, I have to get back to editing a chapter that's maybe finally coming together.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:34 PM
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I would be very cautious about turning this woman into a poster child for the evils of the tenure system. It's still not clear how unstable she was from the beginning.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:34 PM
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Sorry, undergrad thesis. I was once asked to sit on a PhD orals committee, and was pretty confused until I realized the professor thought I was my advisor, who shares my first name and works in the same field.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:35 PM
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268: Exactly. She shot her own damn brother.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:36 PM
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Full professors are in general quite cognizant of the fact that graduate students need to build up their CVs. If something is being asked of you that is real job experience, but that for whatever reason you think you wouldn't be able to put on a CV, I would ask the professor how s/he thinks you should categorize the work that you're doing on your CV.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:37 PM
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As ugly as that scenario might seem in academia, in the law business it's all the uglier. The well fed fellow on the other side of the desk is actually getting the money you're not getting. In his pocket. You paid for the luxury car in his parking spot.

"[Nice partner], the firm's actions have humiliated me into insomnia and grim nightmares when I do sleep. By the way, have you noticed that all my absences from the office lately have involved activities presenting material risks of death or dismemberment?"

"Well, Flippanter, when I feel work bearing me down, I like to visit one of my two vacation houses for a weekend with my beloved wife of several decades and some of our healthy, happy young grandchildren."

And scene.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:38 PM
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Or are PhD holding adjuncts regularly expected to supply proof of new research?

Yes. The competition for adjunct jobs is whatever the culture at that school has made it into. So if they make it clear they're looking for adjuncts with active research projects, they get adjuncts with active research projects.

It's still not clear how unstable she was from the beginning.

And all the student shooters were completely sane and stable? Obviously she's crazy. They were too. A lot of people are crazy. Putting them into unbearably stressful situations tends to exacerbate craziness.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:39 PM
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Some digging turned up this on jobs in the Ivy League [PDF file]. I'm surprised by the fraction of "non-ladder" faculty hires they say are made; I would have thought that when restricting to a relatively elite group of schools, the numbers would go way down.

(Some of the schools, at least in my field, have the problem that "tenure-track" jobs often aren't, because they just fire people at the end of an assistant professor term and hire with tenure whoever they think is best. But that's a different issue, and at least the assistant professors have good pay and benefits while they last.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:40 PM
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Sorry, undergrad thesis.

OK, I sort of see, except that (a) I'm quite surprised at the idea of an undergraduate thesis having any kind of committee structure behind it at all, and (b) I do not understand why you're "not allowed" to put this kind of advising on your CV except insofar as it would be a public record of something that departmental or university rules actually disallow, such as adjuncts supervising undergrad theses that tenure-line faculty are supposed to be advising. Is this the case?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:40 PM
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I had a very funny conversation with a partner once, where he was trying to illustrate the difference between the kind of luxury you could buy offhandedly, and the sort of thing you could possibly afford, but would really have to think seriously about (we were making some economic argument). And he tried to come up with something he wanted that he couldn't buy offhandedly, and got stuck. He finally came up with "A Bentley!", but it was an entertaining pause. It was hard not saying "Sounds like profits are good this year!"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:41 PM
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270: A prof like that
Who shot her brother
Forget that prof and find another


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:42 PM
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There's a research grant involved, too.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:43 PM
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Some of the schools, at least in my field, have the problem that "tenure-track" jobs often aren't

This isn't always even unofficial. Until quite recently (as in, less than a decade) Yale did not have a tenure-track system.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:44 PM
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How did that work? I assume you don't mean just that no one got tenure at Yale.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:45 PM
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276: One of the more entertaining parts of Bonfire of the Vanities was when Sherman McCoy is enviously describing the different levels of income it took to *really* live the good life in Manhattan. Everyone should read/reread that book.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:46 PM
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275: Eh, I could probably find a way to fit it in somewhere.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:48 PM
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OK, I sort of see, except that (a) I'm quite surprised at the idea of an undergraduate thesis having any kind of committee structure behind it at all,

The structure at my undergrad college was an advisor plus two readers/commenters. They then made the recommendation for the honors on your degree (assuming you were eligible by the other criteria--i.e., GPA, etc.).


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:49 PM
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276: Have been reading some articles recently on the increase in roles like non-equity partner and "of counsel" etc. Not sure the old up-or-out works quite as simply these days. (And is there a class of sub-associate lawyers who would be the analog of adjuncts?)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:50 PM
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Everyone should read/reread that book.

...remembering to mentall adjust the aforementioned income levels upward by a factor of 3X.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:50 PM
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285: Yes, they are semi-laughable now, but Wolfe had most of the attitude down pretty well.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:51 PM
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284: Yes, there are a lot more of counsel and very senior associates than there were even ten years ago when I graduated, and yes, there are sub-associates. Sometimes they're literally temps, sometimes they're called contract attorneys (longer term temps) and some firms have non-associate low status attorneys on staff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:54 PM
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Not sure the old up-or-out works quite as simply these days.

The principle remains simple: you want to be the one lighting the fuse, not the one in the cannon.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:56 PM
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280: Lots of places (very prestigious places) hire assistant-level folks to 3-year nevergonnabetenure gigs and all tenured jobs are filled by national searches.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:56 PM
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289: "Lots" is presumably the wrong word.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:58 PM
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Presumably is probably the wrong word.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:58 PM
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A lot of the abuses that AWB describes confirm my suspicions that things vary wildly from discipline to discipline. All this stuff which is not nurturing of an ABD trying to build her CV is completely insane and appalling. But also utterly unrecognizable from my own experiences in math.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 1:59 PM
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How did that work? I assume you don't mean just that no one got tenure at Yale.

I would guess they had to explicitly apply for their own job. That sort of unofficially happens at other places too. I remember a colloquium last year by a local who was up for tenure; when I commented on what a nice talk it was, a professor answered "yes, it had to be; you know that was his job talk, right?"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:00 PM
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IME, the creation of new status that could be called not-up and not-out is a replacement of, and not a supplement to, genuine promotion. That is, a class that might have produced 15 partners in 1995 produces 5 non-equity partners, and 7 senior or of counsel in 2007. And 2 non equity partners and 4 counsel in 2009.

(My old firm has never had non equity partnership as an ordinary category. But it's a real exception in that.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:01 PM
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Living with an academic, one thing that regularly shocks me is the degree of exploitation of the postgrads and postdocs working as teaching assistants in the UK. The pay's appalling, there is bugger all pension provision and essentially no security. Frankly, working in a wing-and-a-prayer tech startup feels like making a career in the Revenue by comparison.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:04 PM
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294: From below, that looks right to me too.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:04 PM
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292: Part of it just has to do with needs and specialization, and with the fact that I'm easily flattered. Feeling needed by my department is a good feeling. But even more so, when it has a direct impact on a student's life, it's really hard to say "No, I don't get paid to do that."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:06 PM
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Further to 292: Another thing which varies wildly is the degree of idea protection and theft and FIRST!!! to publish there is in different disciplines. Math is unusually cordial. When I was in grad school, there was a scandal - really - because independently, a grad student and a professor at different institutions came up with a semi-big result, and the professor published it instead of letting the grad student have the result.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:10 PM
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I also wonder how much of promotion stress and employment problems is the product of non-retiring faculty members. I'd like to see the numbers on the average ages of people continuing to work full-time well into old age in various professions. Academic teaching is something people tend to do as long as they can still breathe and talk.

On one hand, that's one of the great things about our work; we really do respect the knowledge and experience of our elders. But it might be partially responsible for some of the difficulties on the lower rungs.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:11 PM
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Frankly, working in a wing-and-a-prayer tech startup feels like making a career in the Revenue by comparison.

F'real.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:11 PM
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297: Sure. But there should really be someone tenured who is aware of your entire situation, in all its institutions, who is in your corner and coaching you to say "No, that's bullshit!" when you're being exploited.

In math it is obvious that your advisor should be doing this. But that may not translate.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:13 PM
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It should be your advisor. Who else would it be? I mean, ideally, everyone would recognize that your position makes some requests reasonable and others not, but really, if anyone's going to be the particular person looking out for your interests, it's gotta be your advisor, innit?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:14 PM
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From the link in 278, she was the equivalent of an adjunct (Instructor) at Harvard for 5 years before starting at UAH. She does not appear to have done a post-doc, which automatically disqualified her from Research 1 University jobs.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:15 PM
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Ah, but I don't teach at the same institution where I am a student. I don't have an advisor. There are lovely people where I teach who care deeply about my career and development, but no one whose job is to make sure I'm not exploited.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:16 PM
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I think part of what makes AWB's stories weird is that, if I understand correctly, she's working at a couple of different schools where she's not a grad student -- NY's dense enough that that's practical. So her advisor isn't involved in what happens to her as an employee, if you see what I mean.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:18 PM
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Allow me to question the depth of their caring.

I was in a bike accident recently—doored. (Not my fault, I swear.) The door-opener apologized very profusely and insisted that he was very, very sorry. I pointed at my slightly damaged handlebars and suggested that he might want to make funds available to defray the cost of repair. Suddenly, he was no longer so apologetic.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:19 PM
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And I am pwned.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:19 PM
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From the Chronicle, this is an interesting fact:

The tradition of mandatory retirement for tenured professors at age 70 was abolished in 1994, under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

I didn't realize how recent this was.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:19 PM
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304: It still is your advisor's job! They are teaching you to navigate your career. They are your mentor. It is bigger than just supervisising your research.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:19 PM
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Especially since your situation must be extremely typical in your advisor's institution, no?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:21 PM
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So, what's up with the administrator class? Are there any faculty-run universities/colleges/institutions, and if not, why?

OT, but I wonder if there is a monastery for atheists. Presumably one could be some sort of atheist Buddhist...


Posted by: currence | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:21 PM
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feels like making a career in the Revenue by comparison.

May I suggest making a career in the Revenue itself? There are real perks to a sedate agency job. Some people do applied research that goes straight to the legislature.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:21 PM
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308: Couldn't that be reworked by making tenure a, say, forty- or thirty-five-year thing, rather than indefinite?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:22 PM
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309: But still, from another school an advisor can give advice, but doesn't know the relevant people to lean on them for you or to give directed and specific advice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:23 PM
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I've been trying to really understand why exactly higher ed costs have exploded since the 80s. Many of the answers I get when I ask different people smell like bullshit, or not the whole story, or just straight up don't make any sense. ("Grad students cost more because they take longer than they used to, to get their degree" for example.)

As best I can tell, it's
1. Nicer facilities for students
2. More student support, ie tutoring centers, etc.
3. Bloated administration, partially to deal with all this assessment paperwork coming down the pipeline, and partly because they add administration at a much faster rate than they add resources to any other sector.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:25 PM
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Oh, and state funding cuts, of course.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:25 PM
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314: I bet that's wrong. I bet it's a suprisingly small world and they all do more-or-less know each other, at least within one degree. If nothing else, sheer geographic proximity.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:26 PM
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309 is completely right. Unless you literally don't have an advisor, AWB, it's your advisor's job to help you navigate these waters. If you're being exploited in the ways that you say, your advisor, as wonderful as he or she may be in other ways, is completely letting you down.

As for Yale, they don't hire tenure-track faculty, at least not in my field. They hire people for a long assistant professorship, usually ten years, I think, at the end of which they do a national search for the position, in which the person already in the job is a candidate. The winner of the sweepstakes is then made a full professor (no associate rank, or at least there didn't used to be one).


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:27 PM
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higher ed costs have exploded since the 80s

What do you mean by this? Depending on what level and what accounting you use, it's a total myth.

The instructional budget per full-time student at most public schools hasn't changed at all. Tuition has had to rise more than inflation to compensate for a steady decline in state funding.

The total budget of research universities has risen a lot, but this largely due to the research budget, most of which comes from grants and contracts (especially the dreaded indirect costs).

Also, many universities with medical centers count clinical revenue in their budget, but this largely irrelevant to the total budget situation because they usually break even.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:29 PM
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In our department, grad students cost more because their stipends, benefits, and tuition have all risen at higher than inflationary rates. Thanks to tuition increases, post-docs will soon be cheaper than grad students.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:32 PM
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Tuition has had to rise more than inflation to compensate for a steady decline in state funding.

What about at private schools, then? My understanding is that tuition has risen at about 3x inflation across the board.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:35 PM
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Here's a chart which shows the cost side ("student-oriented resources per student") tracked over 40 years. Hesitate to show it, as the big story it shows (increasing differentiation of very select colleges in this regard) is somewhat orthogonal to the discussion.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:48 PM
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Good question. I don't know. I do know tuition at a top private school is nearly twice (tuition+state appropriation)/student at a Research 1 public school.

I do wonder how much supply and demand enters the equation. Demand for a University education remains ridiculously high, and if these were for-profit institutions they could charge a lot for the right to get a degree there.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:49 PM
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321 - People figured out that (barring a few examples) college tuition at private, selective schols was a Veblen good? (I have handwavey arguments involving financial aid, but no numbers to back them up; I'm not sure I'd even want to defend the thrust of the argument without doing a little bit of actual research.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:54 PM
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@322

Thanks for that graph. It's fascinating, but I'm curious about the methodology. For instance, if the highest tuition is only $40000 and the resources per student is over $90000, where does the other $50000 come from. Is it all endowment?

The graph also kind of supports the supply and demand argument, though it could just be the rich getting richer.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:56 PM
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321 Tuition in the top private schools has gone up faster than inflation because of costs. Primarily we're talking about financial aid (the switch from loans to grants is the big part here and the extension of full coverage of tuition from just the poor to the bottom end of the upper middle class, you basically get a full ride with below six figure income, and have a good chance of a full tuition grant with under 150K) and salaries - both admin and faculty salaries have gone up faster than inflation in these schools over the past two decades. So what you have is less paying customers for a more expensive product.
Ok, awkward paragraph, but I can't be bothered to fix it.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:57 PM
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Actually you have fewer more-paying customers.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:58 PM
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I will let TKM do my handwaving for me.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 2:58 PM
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I will let TKM do my handwaving for me.

Yeah, then you'll probably publish it with yourself as first author.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:00 PM
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you basically get a full ride with below six figure income,

Eh, I think the number of schools at which this is true is countable on one hand.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:01 PM
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Tuition in the top private schools has gone up faster than inflation because of costs.

But I'm not actually talking about the top schools whatsoever.

I know a lot of the specifics at our school - we give out much more financial aid than we used toand rely on a few terrible students to keep us afloat, and our administration has bloated - but I keep wondering if there's something in the shadows and fuzzy that I'm missing.

My chair told me that in the 80s, he'd frequently just sit around and read in the afternoon. I can't fathom having that kind of time. Why is there so much more to do???


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:03 PM
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I was in a bike accident recently--doored.

Out here at least, it's illegal to open your car door into traffic like that. If you're riding your bike on the roadway, it's a traffic accident just like two cars. You're entitled to his contact information and insurance information so you can make a claim.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:08 PM
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The professor-shooter "accidentally" killer her brother 24 years ago in MA?

Wow. That's a bizarre twist. She should've stayed in MA. Obviously, she and this guy were meant for each other.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:14 PM
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272: It's as if you've been following my conversations on Buzz.

294: It's a smart move from the perspective of the equity partners. They retain a bigger piece of the pie by not promoting. Although non-equity partners and senior counsel make more than new associates, they bill out at a much higher rate and are already broken in, resulting in a bigger pie for the equity partners to have a piece of. And the only real alternative for non-equity partners/senior counsel is to go out on their own if they have enough clients of their own or hope to find a public sector slot at a significant pay cut.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:15 PM
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330 Two hands, but your point stands, it's only a small number.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:16 PM
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325: Here is a link to the full paper it came from. It is by Caroline Hoxby who is really looking at a different subject (she did a revealed preference study of admissions to select schoools while she was at Harvard (now she is apparently a Hoover at Stanford). The top line going to $90K is for just a very, very few schools.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:17 PM
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Obviously, she and this guy were meant for each other.

More like this guy.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:17 PM
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322 WHat's interesting about that chart is the ratios seem to have stayed roughly the same


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:20 PM
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It still is your advisor's job! They are teaching you to navigate your career. They are your mentor. It is bigger than just supervisising your research.

That must be the difference between academia and the law. In the legal profession, unless I've misunderstood, the mentor is the person who gets first dibs on exploiting you.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:20 PM
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How did that work? I assume you don't mean just that no one got tenure at Yale.

No. As you know a TT system is one where there's a job track -- the tenure line -- that in principle runs all the way through from Assistant to Associate to Full. You meet the standard and you get promoted on the line. At Yale juniors used to have two consecutive five year contracts, with the second being an untenured Associate Prof title, but at the end there was no automatic review of your work. Instead the department might choose (or be allowed) to initiate a national search in your area, and the university required that it only hire people to senior positions who came back as being in the Top 10 (or somesuch number) in that area, regardless of career stage. So the standard and the rules were quite different.

The principal leverage even a strong chair had over the process was the narrowness of the defined subject area that letter writers were asked to supply the top names for. So Yale was often constitutionally incapable of tenuring really good people even when a department wanted to (often they never wanted to, of course). Harvard was more like this in the past, too.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:22 PM
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334 -- My old outfit resisted doing this for a long time. Beginning partners get a low enough draw that they're still plenty profitable (even without considering their capital contribution), and having too many of these super-annuated non-partners (especially people everyone understands will never be partners) interferes with the development of promising associates. I'm as negative about the value of anyone 3 years or less out of school as you'll find, but IME I'd take a 7th year looking to impress me and everyone else -- and who has been impressing everyone for several years -- over a twelfth year who's primary goal is don't get fired.

Our billing curve was always fairly flat, though, so the difference in profitability was small. In NYC or Boston, everything would be different.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:28 PM
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337: Thank you. I am enjoying.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:31 PM
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but IME I'd take a 7th year looking to impress me and everyone else -- and who has been impressing everyone for several years -- over a twelfth year who's primary goal is don't get fired.

As I move closer to the latter and further from the former, I'd have to say your instincts are probably smart. *If* you are looking primarily at work quality, anyway.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:36 PM
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340: The possibly apocryphal anecdotal evidence I've heard is that Harvard required (maybe still does) top 4, not top 10. Although I can't really imagine [remainder of this comment self-censored].


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:42 PM
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337 - It is great, but is it for real or a parody? Wait, I just got to the end of the first one...


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:43 PM
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345: Written and performed by Jim Broadbent.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:47 PM
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304: It still is your advisor's job! They are teaching you to navigate your career. They are your mentor. It is bigger than just supervisising your research.

I would just like to chime in to say ditto. Ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto. Ditto.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:48 PM
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When a postdoc from my lab was job hunting, he was rather uninterested in the Assistant Professorship offer he had from Yale precisely because of their famed stinginess with tenure.

Such a system seems designed to collect up the dregs rather than the crème for your Assistant Professorships. A lot of postdocs in my field are 35-40 by the time they are on the market and in the mood to settle down; I don't think the idea of most likely having to pack up all your shit and leave town when you're 45 years old is all that appealing to people who, like this postdoc, have a bonafide tenure track offer on the table. So why would the best candidates, who are all likely to have "real" TT offers, choose Yale?

I wonder if this problem may be more acute in the sciences, where you have a lot more heavy shit to pack up, you're dead in the water if you can't recruit grad students, techs, and postdocs, and you have to try to convince that research staff to move with you if you do need to change institutions. Why would anyone join a lab that, best case scenario, will be relocated to God Knows Where before you can finish your degree?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:51 PM
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The possibly apocryphal anecdotal evidence I've heard is that Harvard required (maybe still does) top 4, not top 10.

During the Summers administration the standard was relaxed, as Harvard was having increasing difficulty filling senior positions.


Posted by: bizzah | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:52 PM
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This is from way back, but:

I also wonder how much of promotion stress and employment problems is the product of non-retiring faculty members. I'd like to see the numbers on the average ages of people continuing to work full-time well into old age in various professions. Academic teaching is something people tend to do as long as they can still breathe and talk.

Isn't this partly a version of the job market myth that's been around for, oh, decades now? "There will be a wave of retirements when all the _______ generation gets to that age, and then all those jobs will open up!" That never-materializing wave is now complicated by the fact (in the humanities, anyway) that tenure lines are drying up. A tenured faculty member retires and is replaced by an adjunct. If they're replaced at all.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:53 PM
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333: It's gotten weirder now that the story has been updated:
Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier confirmed today at a news conference that Amy Bishop had shot her brother in 1986. But Frazier offered a different account of the shooting, saying Bishop had shot her brother during an argument and was being booked by police when the chief at the time ordered the booking process stopped and Bishop released to her mother.

Frazier said he was basing his statements on the memories of one of his officers who was on the department at the time and had arrested Bishop. He said the records from the case have been missing since at least 1988.

"I don't want to use the word 'coverup' ... but this does not look good," he said.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:54 PM
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complicated by the fact (in the humanities, anyway) that tenure lines are drying up

Not just in the humanities. My advisor tells me that two tenure lines disappeared in his department as a result of the financial crisis. People retired, and the university told the department not to replace them. This was unheard of in that department's history, if I understand correctly.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 3:59 PM
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I am slow to catch on, but I did eventually suspect.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:02 PM
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350 is true. I was told the timing would be perfect for me looking for jobs in my field because so many of the big names would be retiring. Why would they retire? At 70 years old or so, they're just starting to enjoy their fame.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:03 PM
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My advisor was supposed to retire this year, opening up a position that my classmate was supposed to get. Unoffically of course, but she wanted it and is extremely qualified. But then the economy went sour and he decided to stay to wait for the market to recover. But that means that he's up for sabbatical next year, and he'd feel bad retiring right after that, so now it's going to be at least 4 years more before that position opens.

Meanwhile, another professor in the department is a terrible teacher (she is not allowed, by departmental policy, to teach graduate classes because of documented problems following policies and standards. She mainly teaches continuing ed things now as far as I can tell) and doesn't publish, but has recently announced that she won't be retiring any time soon because she's the only deaf woman.

Two other professors in the department just don't do their non-classroom jobs- they don't return paper drafts, they don't respond to emails, they don't meet with advisees, they don't serve on committees. They get lots of money though.

Meanwhile the people (ahem) who teach all the undergraduate classes share an office with no windows and no computers, and get paid ridiculously small sums and don't get benefits. It doesn't make me want to shoot anyone, but it sure doesn't make me like them very much.


Posted by: Exceptionally Untidily | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:14 PM
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Again, at the Revenue, the seniors retire as soon as they can, and half of them are retiring within the next very few years. My supervisors have been eyeballing me. At my last annual review, my boss said "Sure, we'll pay for your big test, because we're going to want you to promote." I said, in these very words, "No. I do not want to promote, because you guys deal with contracting and budgeting all the time and it looks awful." My boss said, "It isn't so bad. You'll get used to it."


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:15 PM
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351: Jesus covering-up-murder? Christ. This is turning into a novel by P.D. James or Ruth Rendell.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:30 PM
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Thanks for the fruitbasket (from the nice one) and the suggestion of therapy (from the other one, always an effective moral high ground debater's trick). My point was not that I seriously entertained killing anyone (sheesh!) but that there are stories that surprise you and stories that don't. Imagine your surprise if you woke up tomorrow and read "Michele Obama murders President in his bed. 'I had had enough.'" "Elderly grandmother shoots all toddlers in day care center." OK, those would be huge surprises. And there are "but they were so nice! It couldn't be the same person!" stories. But my impression has been that other academics at a distance from this, at least down here at the lower levels, are reacting not with the kind of dumbfounded amazement that reports of confirmed levitation would elicit, but a kind of sense of troubled recognition. I suspect that this is what you (nonfruitbasket person) meant by "REALLY angry." I myself wasn't angry when I was denied tenure (and a big reason why was that I honestly thought I hadn't done enough, and so was able to take responsibility for it). But I wasn't happy about it. And my point was, it is a disturbing fact about academia that we have this structure set up that is such that, when you hear a story like this, you (or anyone who has been actively involved in the denial of a colleague or who has been denied) think... well, extreme, but unsurprising. The point is not that it seems natural for everyone to react to extraordinary setbacks with violence but that we all know what an extraordinary setback it is. I was merely trying to convey that to the non-academics who might be reading. One way to put the point is: if you are a tenured faculty member who has been active in tenure decisions, do you feel 100% *safe* from the people you've denied? Is being on the receiving end of this unthinkable? I'd be surprised if anyone said yes (unless to prove some point).

Of course, we could *psychologize* and *individualize* all stories that might lead us to a smidge of social criticism, thus reassuring ourselves that all our social arrangements are hunky-dory. That, for example, would be the appropriate response to making sense of battered women who kill, impoverished African-Americans who kill, Palestinians who kill. Why examine the design of the collapsed bridge when you can point to the stress fracture and say: oh if only someone had poured some glue in there. Right?

I think the reason why this case strikes me as unusual is that the standard grace year also serves as a kind of decompression period, a mourning period if you will, and by the time that it's really really over, you've had lots of time to process it. And appeals almost always fail unless there's something that could be litigated, and the appellant usually knows that, if only implicitly. So it's strange to see someone that far out from the original decision still thinking they'll make it (if that was what it was) or not at all adjusting to the knowledge that they weren't going to make it even after many many months of time to let it sink in). So yeah, there probably were other psychological issues going on compounding it.


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:30 PM
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337 has a wonderful, almost Kinbotean charm.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:31 PM
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Rather, the content linked therein.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:31 PM
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RKH, I'm in agreement with basically everything you've said here. Having watched friends go through the tenure process, with results both good and bad, I've been amazed at the fortitude it takes not to completely lose one's mind in the face of an up-or-down decision about the value of your life's work. Add to that an anxiety problem over here, a tendency toward violence over there, maybe a personality disorder--whatever--and it's a powderkeg. I think tenure denials should go hand-in-hand with some university-sponsored psychological and career counseling.

Hell, I think about it every time I have to fail a student. I sit down with them and counsel them about next steps in their coursework, what can and can't be done, where the student services office is, etc. And that's just a grade, one of maybe 40 the student will get as an undergraduate.

With a career as an academic, it feels like the hurdles are always getting further apart and higher, with less guidance, less support, less caring, as you move along. There's got to be a reason so many of the people who have "made it" are such incredible assholes. [I here refrain from quoting a listserv email I just received from a famous person responding to this very story with something so offensive I am fucking fuming.]


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:43 PM
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There's got to be a reason so many of the people who have "made it" are such incredible assholes.

Because in general, lots of people are assholes?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:45 PM
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Whistling and walking away silently.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:49 PM
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358: I am sympathetic to those denied tenure but comparisons to battered women, etc., seem an oppressed-class-argument too far.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:50 PM
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Because in general, lots of people are assholes?

But surely that's not the whole story for why these people are assholes and for the ipseity of their asshole natures.

Candidate alternate response/just-so story: it's a reaction formation based on their once-upon-a-time awareness that given the structure of academe their making it can't simply be chalked up to their own talents but also depends on the failure to make it, for no particular reason, of many others. Assholishness emerges from horribile spectatu condition as the conviction that no, they must really be better than others and set apart. That this differs from mere confidence is shown in the continued need to produce visible testaments to their betterness by keeping others down.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:55 PM
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One has always to account not just for someone's being an asshole, but for the being of their being an asshole.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:56 PM
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With asses, there are many ways to the same hole. Some of it is almost certainly congenital.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:57 PM
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What of the becoming of their being assholes?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:58 PM
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Candidate alternate response the second: it's because they've spent decades in positions with great authority but no responsibility, allowing the more florid, eccentric, and anti-social aspects of their personality fertile soil.

Candidate alternate response the third: it's because people who commit themselves so thoroughly to the humanities are, to a first approximation, weirdos.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 4:58 PM
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368: If the people in question are so arrogant, they probably think their assholes *are* becoming.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:04 PM
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369.2 "the humanities" should be "the academy"


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:05 PM
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365, 369: I suggest this against my own inclinations, but it might be worth asking whether one's treatment of one's junior colleagues is a major, or the only, component of being, or becoming, an asshole. Surely there have been saints who treated graduate students like government cheese and monsters who provided exemplary career advice.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:06 PM
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I am sympathetic to those denied tenure but comparisons to battered women, etc., seem an oppressed-class-argument too far.

Yeah, teaching at a community college makes it difficult for me to maintain my normal level of anger with the injustices of academe. Every semester I see students who have faced much more adversity than I. Class discussions often turn to abusive x-husbands, overcoming alcoholism, violence, drug dealing, etc.

On the other hand, the worst thing about the reliance on adjuncts in academe is not the unfairness to teachers, but the damage to students. Adjuncts simply do not have the resources or the incentive to provide a good education. The incentive thing is huge. i have worked places like what AWB describes, where adjuncts are hired or fired based on the quality of their research, even though their job is to teach a 4/4 load.

Basically, the only way to get out of adjunct hell is to shaft the students--the people who are even lower on the totem pole than you.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:09 PM
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Surely there have been saints who treated graduate students like government cheese

They distributed them to poor people?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:16 PM
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374: And school lunchrooms. I remember when we started to get chunks of semi-edible orange cheese.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:17 PM
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You guys got no poetry in your souls, you know that?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:18 PM
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I think that I shall never see,
government cheese of type brie.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:19 PM
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377: Somebody hasn't read the stimulus bill through Republican-colored glasses!


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:27 PM
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I suggest this against my own inclinations, but it might be worth asking whether one's treatment of one's junior colleagues is a major, or the only, component of being, or becoming, an asshole

I believe in the unity of the asshole.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:34 PM
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I suggest this against my own inclinations, but it might be worth asking whether one's treatment of one's junior colleagues is a major, or the only, component of being, or becoming, an asshole

I really do strongly believe that how on treats one's underlings is one of the clearest indicators of character there is.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:41 PM
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351: Also this.

University spokesman Ray Garner said Saturday that the professor had been informed months ago that she would not be granted tenure.

He said the faculty meeting where she is accused of gunning down colleagues was not called to discuss tenure.

Yep, looking more and more like crazy was the dominant cause here.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:47 PM
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So we are now all agreed that many, if not most, tenured faculty are assholes? Because junior colleagues, especially adjuncts, are taken advantage of?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:50 PM
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Why qualify? Let's go with all tenured faculty are assholes. Saves time.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:52 PM
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University spokesman Ray Garner said Saturday that the professor had been informed months ago that she would not be granted tenure.

Hadn't she just been informed that she'd lost her appeal of the tenure decision?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:52 PM
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AWB--I don't read enough here to know who everyone is, but I am confused. Given what I do know of your situation, the graduate program that admitted you (and I'm not fishing for info) seems seriously culpable. How can they justify your having a full-time adjunct career while being ABD? How can they be so flagrantly unable to provide you with some form of support?

(I should say I'm an English lit academic with a fairly recent tenure denial on my record--I know how things work in general)


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:53 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:54 PM
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383: Right. I can work with this. Okay: and graduate level academics aspire to be assholes.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 5:55 PM
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387: I prefer to call them assholes-in-training (AITs for short). Why else do you think faculty abuse them, other than to traumatize them into maximum assholishness?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:03 PM
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I wish we would stop using the euphemism "denied tenure" and use the plain term: "fired."


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:04 PM
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384: Sorry, the second paragraphs should also have been italicized. The one that says the meeting wasn't actually about tenure at all.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:04 PM
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389:

Because "being fired" is a piece of cake compared to "denied tenure". "Denied tenure" is all the bad parts of "being fired", plus implied commentary on your fundamental ability to do what you have just spent 5-10 years of your life doing, plus a death sentence for occupying any similar job ever. It's like taking a torch to your ego and career in a way that just "being fired" doesn't really accurately describe.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:08 PM
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391--Well, let's not go quite that far; and it's not necessarily a death sentence: I know of one person who survived it well enough to be denied tenure again at another institution a decade later.....


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:12 PM
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385: That's a very sweet thought. I've had a full-time adjunct career since my first year as a PhD student. There was a funny blip that happened with our department funding structure. When I started the program, you had to be a second year or above to receive a specific funding package, so we first-years had it really rough, but figured, hey, next year will be better. The next year, they changed it so that only first-years could receive exactly the same funding package. Later, they developed a whole system wherein new students receive a stipend, with a little teaching in a few scheduled years. My class just missed out on everything. I used to yell and scream and complain about it, but then I realized it was just making me old very fast.

This year, I should say, I'm on a "fellowship," but it involves a job that is both incredibly demanding and irritating, and if it weren't for the slightly-better-than-adjunct pay, which I still have to supplement with teaching at another school, I would far rather just teach 4-4.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:13 PM
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388: Ah! Then, if and when tenured, they will harbor a sense of aggrieved self-righteousness over the horrible nature of the path traveled to achievement of said tenure, which will lead them to care little about the travails of a subsequent generation of Ph.D. candidates.

But seriously. All I mean by this is that I can't manage to put all this on the shoulders of faculty: it was rightly noted upthread that the increasing use of adjuncts comes from administrators who wish to save money by skimping (to an extreme degree, I know) on salary and for the most part denying benefits altogether. One answer to it is for adjuncts to unionize -- as Oudemia describes in 155.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:14 PM
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385: That's a very sweet thought. I've had a full-time adjunct career since my first year as a PhD student. There was a funny blip that happened with our department funding structure. When I started the program, you had to be a second year or above to receive a specific funding package, so we first-years had it really rough, but figured, hey, next year will be better. The next year, they changed it so that only first-years could receive exactly the same funding package. Later, they developed a whole system wherein new students receive a stipend, with a little teaching in a few scheduled years. My class just missed out on everything. I used to yell and scream and complain about it, but then I realized it was just making me old very fast.

This year, I should say, I'm on a "fellowship," but it involves a job that is both incredibly demanding and irritating, and if it weren't for the slightly-better-than-adjunct pay, which I still have to supplement with teaching at another school, I would far rather just teach 4-4.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:19 PM
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392: IME, you can move down the pyramid but not across, so, yes, you can get another academic job, but only at the next tier down. I can only imagine how much it sucks to be denied tenure twice.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:21 PM
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385: That's a very sweet thought. I've had a full-time adjunct career since my first year as a PhD student. There was a funny blip that happened with our department funding structure. When I started the program, you had to be a second year or above to receive a specific funding package, so we first-years had it really rough, but figured, hey, next year will be better. The next year, they changed it so that only first-years could receive exactly the same funding package. Later, they developed a whole system wherein new students receive a stipend, with a little teaching in a few scheduled years. My class just missed out on everything. I used to yell and scream and complain about it, but then I realized it was just making me old very fast.

This year, I should say, I'm on a "fellowship," but it involves a job that is both incredibly demanding and irritating, and if it weren't for the slightly-better-than-adjunct pay, which I still have to supplement with teaching at another school, I would far rather just teach 4-4.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:21 PM
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Sorry about repost. Site is sticky right now, a sign I should be writing my way out of this mess tonight.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:23 PM
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396: this person actually moved up, but.....I certainly wouldn't generalize from that fact--I think you're basically right, F.

My sense is that one tenure denial means you're in need of divine intervention; two tenure denials? God is dead.


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:26 PM
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393/395: That seriously sucks, AWB. Your department's funding schizophrenia sucks, or at least did for your class.

I realize you're not really present at your own department much any more (I assume, being ABD), but there should be a grad student representative in on the relevant committee meetings, at the very least. About all the grad students can do in a situation like that is to have a departmental organization of their own, and lobby for a representative to have a voice in meetings related to such major policy changes. It may well happen that the department says that these decisions are out of their hands, of course.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:27 PM
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You can "fall up" but it's pretty rare, isn't it?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:30 PM
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401: I'm aware of no examples in my field.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:33 PM
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DON'T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET.


Posted by: OPINIONATED WISDOM | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:33 PM
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I'm aware of one in mine, and it could also be an example of falling across, rather than up or down.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:35 PM
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400: I do sit on those relevant committees, and have for years. The student organization keeps electing me because I'm pretty relentless in bringing up these holes whenever they pull this stuff. But there's only so much we can do. I have people looking out for me, and have gotten a lot of great opportunities through that, but I worry about my cohort in general.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:38 PM
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I'm aware of one in mine, and it could also be an example of falling across, rather than up or down.

A question of distance from the action, I guess. To those in close, it was unquestionably up. To saner people a little ways off, across. But yeah, the stigmatizing effect of a denial means upward mobility immediately after one is extremely rare.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:48 PM
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393: That is really shitty of them not to have fixed the hole. I got a fellowship my first year, meaning I had no job. Then I was made an RA for somebody who didn't have much need for an RA. Then I got a made an RA where I started learning the skills that I've basically used since then. Then I never finished anyway. Probably too much free time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:49 PM
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To the original post: I didn't seen any links to this police report. Very sad situation. It supports the 'accidental' version of the shooting of the brother, except it seems she accidentally shot the same gun in the house the same day and nobody else noticed.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 6:52 PM
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but I worry about my cohort in general

Yeah, well, I know. I was there once. And Opinionated person upthread is right: if one's life becomes about nothing but professional academic work, to the extent that one feels oneself incapable of anything else, one tends to put up with just about anything. God knows the academic track is anxiety-provoking in the extreme, because *you've never really quite proven yourself* -- you have to keep proving yourself over and over again ... until you reach tenure, if that happens.

Anyway, economic considerations affect the structure of the academy just as they affect everything else. I sometimes think that members of the academy serve themselves ill in ever thinking that that's not the case.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:00 PM
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Falling up or sideways is rare as far as I know. I fell up from grad school by a fair amount, which was something of a fluke, and may have contributed in some small way to the denial (not networked in properly). After that, after a hiatus for law school, I fell down a lot, to roughly where I think most people from my graduate program were falling to. I was very lucky in that my "tenure book" came out shortly after my denial, and that took care of the perception problem. I know one guy who was, amazingly, denied twice, and, even more amazingly, had a third bite at the apple, with success. But I can't think of a second case.

I certainly don't compare the travails of academics to domestic violence victims, etc. as to degree, and the population at my current institution is roughly the same as at most community colleges. It wasn't the issue of degree, it was just a general claim about being alert to structural problems and wary of overpsychologizing the unusual cases when they may be the canaries in the coal mine, or hairline crack on the girder or whatever metaphor you prefer that implicates larger circumstances and structure. Talking about what makes the extreme case different from us may make us feel better (and is certainly true as far as it goes) but talking about the ways in which they were the same is more useful if we wish to make things better for everyone. Making academia work better is surely not the highest priority in a world of problems. But if anyone wants to make it better, here's a good starting point: abolish tenure. Unfortunately that larger discussion won't happen, in part because the woman probably was nuts (if the reports that she also killed her brother in anger but was never prosecuted for it are true).


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:11 PM
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408

I think she should have been prosecuted since even granting her account her actions appear to have been criminally negligent.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:14 PM
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Regarding being denied tenure, the main reason this is traumatic is that tenured professor is one of the cushiest jobs around. As shown by the amount of abuse people are willing to put up with just for a chance at becoming a tenured professor. So my sympathy is limited.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:19 PM
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411: Based on the police report*, I have no opinion as to whether or not she should have been prosecuted. But it seem fairly certain that she would have been prosecuted if she was from a different socio-economic class.

*The info at the link in 178 is far more disturbing, but doesn't seem as official, so I'm setting that aside.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:19 PM
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412: The faculty meeting pastries aren't that good. Plus, at most schools, you get tenure before you make full professor and there really isn't a let-up in the pressure there. Plus, if you aren't producing enough to convincingly threaten that you'll get hired away, you'll never make any money even by academic standards. Anyway, my sympathy is also limited, but it is a very difficult job for many years after tenure.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:24 PM
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I think abolishing tenure is an understandable proposal and might work in an ideal world, but for academics to advocate it strikes me as politically naive in the extreme; it's the same sort of logic as meeting Republicans halfway. It's not like we get to control the effects of that abolition (average off the employment conditions of the tenured elite and the exploited adjuncts and give everybody a decent deal and a pony....)


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:25 PM
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There are "cushy" things about tenured professorhood, no question.

OTOH, If I were tenured now, I'd be making around $65K. That's after 7 yrs in grad school, with a degree from a prestigious institution, and ten years in an objectively pretty desirable job. Somebody in the sort of position I sketch here will be at least 40, probably more like 45.

IME people outside the field have NO IDEA how little tenured academics make compared to other professionals. I've had people flatly refuse to believe me on this point.


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:32 PM
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What make you of the proposition that society at large just really isn't that into you (the tenured academic) any more? It feels, say, that your functions can be just as well filled by pieceworkers? aka adjuncts.

I'm thinking -- analogy alert -- of the way in which book dealers are finding that society's just not that interested any more. That's a centuries-old trade that has in the past thought very highly of itself. And yet! It finds increasingly now that there's little interest in or place for it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:33 PM
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415: That is true. However, I have been steering young people away from graduate school in the humanities and social sciences for quite some time. Of course, I have very little contact with undergrads. However, I really do wonder what undergrad professors are telling their top students who come into ask for letters of recommendation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:35 PM
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416: AWB, I think, said upthread that they make 6 figures and live in mansions.

It's possible that we need some data. Everybody knows, anyway, that you can make a boatload of money in certain other professional fields, just in virtue of having chosen that money-making path.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:41 PM
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AWB, I think, said upthread that they make 6 figures and live in mansions.

Not what I said. I was referring in that instance to an administrator I work with who def. makes 6 figures, has a husband who also makes 6 figures, and they live in a house in the suburbs. No one said mansions.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:47 PM
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419: The only faculty houses I've been in that seemed nicer than what a semi-successful public sector worker could afford were in law or medicine.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:47 PM
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OTOH, If I were tenured now, I'd be making around $65K.

Wow, that's ridiculous. This is in a place with a very low cost of living, I hope?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:48 PM
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This has interesting information.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:50 PM
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420: You said "mansion" in 232, but really: I was teasing in the first place. The point was really that there are a lot of generalizations going on in this thread, and if we're going to get into that, some data would be good.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:53 PM
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Whoops. I've been griping a lot. I need to get to work.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:55 PM
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Once you introduce data into a conversation, you have to muck around with PROC GLM for a couple of days before everything is again confused enough that you can have an interesting conversation about it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:56 PM
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423: the top-paid employees are almost all profs of medicine, with a few administrators and coaches tossed in for good measure. Not that surprising.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:56 PM
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(Not that you said it was full of surprises!)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:56 PM
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427: But this isn't just top-paid employees, it's everyone with incomes over $100k. Which is a pretty large fraction of all the tenured faculty at UC schools, I think. (At least, all the tenured UC people I know seems to be on the list. There are some kind of shockingly well-paid outliers among them, too...)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:57 PM
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seem


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:58 PM
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429: this is also true—I didn't mean to misrepresent the nature of the total information available.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 7:59 PM
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417--In 1970, basically all English undergrad courses were taught by people with PhDs; now the majority of all undergraduate classes are delivered by people without that degree. And this goes hand-in-hand with the increase in casual academic labor. We lost a political battle. Is "society" "not into" auto workers any more?

419--Sure, if you're a full professor at a private school, you'll get to $100 K, and maybe get to the $160 K where BigLaw folks start....by the time you're 60. What's shocking about academic salaries is how low they are at the middle and, especially, at the bottom--every profession has some flashy figures at the top.


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:07 PM
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Then there's data on many more institutions, albeit at a much coarser level. So, uh, have at the PROC GLM, Moby.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:07 PM
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433: Depressing. My plan to show I'm underpaid and ask for a raise will almost certainly not work. Maybe somebody at Google will fuck-up and hire me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:10 PM
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I gotta get out of this thread--I'm a lurker, for Christ's sake!

Re. the calls for info, try

http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/174

Site of Marc Bousquet, academic labor guy; he links to the 2008 MLA report on the academic workforce in English.....


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:11 PM
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Yes, I think it is the MLA guys pulling down the averages.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:13 PM
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432.1: We lost a political battle.

In what sense a political battle? Do you mean a political battle within the academy? Or a nationwide battle, liberal vs. conservative, or Dem vs. Republican or what you have?

I'm not contesting what you say; just asking what you mean. I put forth in 417 a thought for exploration. The only response I'd be immediately unsatisfied with would gesture merely toward increasing anti-intellectualism. That wouldn't be quite enough to explain what we're seeing now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:16 PM
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OK, some goodies from the abovementioned doc:

"In 1996-97, tenured and tenure-track faculty members made up only 40% of the instructional staff in four-year English departments....In 1996-97, 61% of undergraduate course sections in English were taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty members; in departments with graduate student TAs, the number dropped to 41%."
--and how have things been going, you ask?
"Over the ten-year period [since 96], the proportion of the faculty made up of tenure-line faculty members fell 10.1 percentage points, or 23.9%, from 42.3% to 32.2%."
--and one more tasty nugget:
"Perhaps the most surprising finding is the relatively high percentage of the upper-division undergraduate courses taught by non-tenure-track faculty members across all three institutional types. English departments do sometimes hire journalists, artists, actors, technical writers, and members of the legal profession for upper-division undergraduate courses.... But the numbers here suggest that there are not enough tenured or tenure-track faculty members to cover upper-division under- graduate courses..."


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:18 PM
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I gotta get out of this thread--I'm a lurker, for Christ's sake!

Are you sure?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:18 PM
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I'm a strict lurker.


Posted by: OPINIONATED LOGICAL PARADOX | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:19 PM
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Yes, I think it is the MLA guys pulling down the averages.

So I would have guessed, but the discrepancies aren't all that big. I guess summer salaries from grants aren't included in these numbers, though.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:22 PM
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437--Universities were for a long time relatively autonomous institutions; over the last 30 years "leadership" has imposed the corporate model. The administration has grown and prospered; the tenure-track faculty has not grown; the part-tiem faculty has not prospered. I say "political" because labor has been fucked in America in general over the past 30 yrs; anti-intellectualism is a enduring feature of American discourse and any increase of late seems to me an effect rather than a cause....


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:25 PM
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I don't know anyone who went into academia for the money. I myself have been pretty lucky in terms of being paid adequately and having health insurance. So I'm not complaining, although it would be nice to stop moving to a new place every few years.

Psychologically, though, it's sort of a mess. Some people have these unresolved horror stories about having their ideas stolen or mis-attributed, or getting unfairly rejected by anonymous referees who turn out to be their supposed friends. Other people, especially more senior colleagues, have a very positive view of our community -- they believe the tenure system works, the journals do a good job of selecting the most promising research, etc. etc. It seems like people either love the academy, or hate it, but never in between.


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:32 PM
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442: Okay. Agreed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:34 PM
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445

Three cheers for comity.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:39 PM
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445: two at the most.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:53 PM
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446: I want three cheers and I want them now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:56 PM
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Look it's two cheers or nothing


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 8:59 PM
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It's three cheers or your teeth on the floor. Comity is very fucking important to me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:00 PM
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Unless you know how to fight, in which case, no shots above the neck or below the belt.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:01 PM
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Did somebody say shots?

I'll do shots!

WoooOOoOooOoo comity!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:05 PM
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Comity!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:05 PM
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Faculty!


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:07 PM
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This thread has weirded me out. Almost none of this accords with my experiences in academia, up to a point.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:09 PM
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Academia sucks.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:10 PM
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Academia sucks.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:10 PM
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Actually, I rather like academia.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:35 PM
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There was a funny blip that happened with our department funding structure.

AWB, I really feel like I'm piling on you here, so please excuse me.

When there is a systemic blip that screws over a small chunk of students out of funding that everyone else is recieving, goddamn right their advisors should be yelling and screaming on your behalf.

What's happening to you is totally unacceptable and is not happening to most people in your program, save those in your year. Your advisor is your advocate, and they are majorly dropping the ball.

It occurs to me that all that you can do is cope, because you're so close to finishing that there's nothing really to settle with your advisor. So it's not very helpful of me to re-stoke old anger that you've let go of. But I'm angry on your behalf.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:39 PM
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Almost none of this accords with my experiences in academia, up to a point.

Depend on what "this" means, probably most of it doesn't accord with my experiences either. But I figure if I were explicit enough about just how well all of my experiences in academia have gone, all the people with real complaints would hate me or think that I'm dismissing their concerns.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:39 PM
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Depend on what "this" means

The alcohol is affect my grammar, it seems.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:40 PM
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Also 442 is dead on.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:43 PM
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||

If I haven't said this before here, thanks to whoever (ari? LB? both?) wrote something recommending the UK version of Life on Mars. I'm enjoying it.

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:44 PM
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462: Originally it was me, and then LB did as well, I think. But you wouldn't have known I wrote anything about it, I'm guessing, because I didn't do the writing here. So probably you should thank LB.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:48 PM
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I love being thanked, if you wanted to thank me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:49 PM
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But you wouldn't have known I wrote anything about it, I'm guessing, because I didn't do the writing here.

Oh, right. I do read your blog.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:50 PM
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464: Thanks, heebie! For, um, being consistently entertaining? That'll work.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:51 PM
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464: Thanks, heebie.

465: I'm sorry, essear.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:51 PM
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Oh, you both are so welcome! I do so try.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:52 PM
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I feel exactly as does 458....


Posted by: (damn it Jim, I'm a) lurker | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:52 PM
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Hey, I know! Let's all go rough up AWB's employers.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:53 PM
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465: I'm sorry, essear.

Oh, come on, ari. Your blog isn't that painful to read.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:54 PM
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If you say so. It's pretty painful for me. But that's a story for another day.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:55 PM
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Hey, I know! Let's all go rough up AWB's employers.

We could sneak into their offices and turn on Google Buzz.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:56 PM
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I feel exactly as does 458....

Why, then you'll love 461.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:56 PM
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ari has a blog?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:57 PM
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It's called Targhandology. Maybe you've heard of it?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:57 PM
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Nope, doesn't ring a bell.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 9:58 PM
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459: Oh, your experience is plenty weird to me as well. And I don't really mean what has personally happened to me, since I'm not even done, but rather just to the people in my network (for lack of a better word). (I'm really tired - I shouldn't be attempting to comment.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:04 PM
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people in my network (for lack of a better word)

granfalloon


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:08 PM
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Gesundheit.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:09 PM
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Abierto; cerrado.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:10 PM
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Abierto; cerrado.

This makes me think of a Sesame Street bit featuring a box that sang ABIERTO ABIERTO ABIERTO AB-IERRRR-TOOOOOHHHHHH.... cerrado.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:19 PM
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Good story!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:19 PM
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Παρακαλω


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:20 PM
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This makes me think of a Sesame Street bit

Me too.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:20 PM
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Hooray.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:22 PM
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487

Did I hallucinate the four-armed snuggie?


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:23 PM
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Oh, my. Just found out that an old co-worker is now on Tool Academy. I think I'm going to have to find a way to watch.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:30 PM
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Did I hallucinate the four-armed snuggie? Did I greet the trash-can grouch?
I have wrapped me in a blanket, and sat upon the couch.
I have seen the kleine Beuteltiere, pouch in pouch.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:32 PM
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I do not think nosflow comments to me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:33 PM
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Tool Academy is …

A show in which the technically deficient are taught to use wrenches and planes?

A show in which people who like pretty, melodic music are forced to listen to Maynard?

A show in which douchebags are reconstructed?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:34 PM
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The last, but I think you knew that.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:35 PM
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I didn't!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:36 PM
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489, 490: Bravo.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:38 PM
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The NYTimes waxes poetic:

His personality is heavy metal, his career heavy with medals.

That sounds the kind of line one wants to sleep on before deciding to use.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-13-10 10:58 PM
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Roses are red
Violets are blue
Ten thousand rat orgasms
Don't add up to you


Posted by: The Ghost of John Emerson's Valentines Lament | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 12:21 AM
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131, 136 Surely there is some possibility of an end-around into administration where you can be on the real value-adding side of Big Academia.:

Do you raise a lot of income from private donations?

We don't do it in the office of the president. The focus is campus by campus: Santa Cruz or U.C.L.A. or Berkeley or San Diego, Davis. They have their own development offices, and I'm there to -- some of the things I do very well.
I smile, I shake hands, I tell jokes.


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27fob-q4-t.html?_r=2



Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 1:53 AM
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Go Academics!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 7:34 AM
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Oh, fuck a bunch of that guy. That's just... ugh. Bastard.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 8:22 AM
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Who will dare claim comment five hundred? Will it be … me?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 8:42 AM
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No.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 8:48 AM
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"Much Anticipated Comment Five Hundred Fails to Deliver"

Film at 11.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 8:55 AM
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It's not like we get to control the effects of that abolition (average off the employment conditions of the tenured elite and the exploited adjuncts and give everybody a decent deal and a pony....)

I'm not sure what you are getting at here, but it sounds something like one of Edmund Burke's arguments against abolishing the monarchy: you won't actually improve the lives of the poor very mcuh, but you will destroy the happiness of the select few rich, and isn't a world where there are a few rich people and a lot of suffering better than a world were everyone is suffering?

"At least I'm happy" has always struck me as a pathetic and self serving argument.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 9:10 AM
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504

My advisor left my University and moved into a position that had been made vacant by a shooting. Among the reasons for leaving was a colleague who had been hired when his subfield was flush with money, made full professor thanks to raking in grants that were being thrown around like beads at Mardi Gras, and proceeded to shit all over everyone who was climbing the tenure ladder based on merit. As the grant money started to dry up the field was flush with newly minted postdocs who had started when money was easy to get - the upshot is that new positions had huge numbers of applicant, which increased the overall quality of the ones who did get hired - I suspect that Full Professor Douchebag was acutely aware that in comparison to the young bucks coming up the ladder he was sorely lacking.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 9:35 AM
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503: I have a big problem with the premise that altering an existing system without inequality-reduction as a primary goal will nevertheless somehow result in the reduction of inequality.

IOW, tell me that you have a scheme for making academia more fair/equitable and/or less exploitative, and I'm willing to listen, even if it involves elimination of tenure. But if you tell me that tenure must be eliminated because it's inequitable, and that its elimination will inevitably make things better, and I think that you haven't paid much attention to history and the ability of the entrenched to perpetuate their privilege.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:04 AM
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505: Fair enough. I'm not advocating going before the administration and offering to give up tenure and not expecting anything in return.

I have difficulty, though, picturing a system that creates a significant amount of equality that doesn't involve eliminating or radically changing the idea of tenure.

You cannot, for instance, simply ask the administration to replace adjunct labor with tenure-track labor in the existing system. A tenure track job simply costs too much. Its like asking Nike to pay their Vietnamese factory workers the same amount they the CEO.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:13 AM
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In the legal profession, unless I've misunderstood, the mentor is the person who gets first dibs on exploiting you.

When I worked in France, the HR bureaucrats in my company introduced a mentorship program (they used the English terminology). The standing joke around the office was that "mentor" was etymologically derived from the French menteur.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:27 AM
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I don't think that's true, though, Knecht.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:33 AM
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I have difficulty, though, picturing a system that creates a significant amount of equality that doesn't involve eliminating or radically changing the idea of tenure.

Since I still haven't seen statistics broken down by department, it's possible that I'm very wrong about this, but: I still think it's true that in many fields (and even some entire universities), there is essentially no use of adjunct labor. So anything that involves eliminating or radically changing the idea of tenure is probably going to be unacceptable to the many departments in the university that don't hire adjuncts and thus see this as not their problem. Presumably a system where scientists get tenure and professors in the humanities don't would also be unacceptable.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:34 AM
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Maybe that's what made it a joke.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:37 AM
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Maybe Jackmormon doesn't believe it was the standing joke around the office. Or maybe she didn't hear Knecht correctly and is at this moment crawling onto his lap.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:38 AM
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and even some entire universities

I have no stats, but no way. Every institution of higher learning (not-for-profit) I know of within a 100-mile radius of me uses adjuncts.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:41 AM
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With the possible exception of UCSF, which is weird anyway because it doesn't have undergraduates.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:41 AM
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508: It might as well have been.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:43 AM
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512 should simply be indicative of the fact that I know my career trajectory in advance.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:44 AM
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I have no stats, but no way.

Fair enough. All I know is, as I said somewhere above, that there are at most two classes listed on the schedule in the English dept at my current institution that may be taught by adjuncts. I also did some, less thorough, checking of the writing seminars and history classes on the schedule and didn't find anything not being taught by a tenure-track professor.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:50 AM
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And you work at an institution that is typical of, oh, what, maybe 20 universities? (This sounds snotty but isn't meant to be.) But regardless, I did a brief search of your university's HR page and found a number of lecturer positions open.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:55 AM
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Anyway, that was sort of beside the point I was trying to make in 509, which is that any attempts to change the tenure system to deal with the adjunct problem are likely to create a lot of inter-department hostility. I don't know, maybe the answer is to have different hiring, promotion, and tenure practices in different departments.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:55 AM
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518: Quite true. Sorry to seize on a small detail. Unfogged has clearly gotten to me.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:57 AM
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Sorry to seize on a small detail. Unfogged James B. Shearer has clearly gotten to me.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 10:59 AM
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Unfogged has clearly gotten to me.

I was trying to explain this place a while ago to my father and his wife. When they asked me what the unifying theme was, the best answer I could come up with was "the narcissism of small differences".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:01 AM
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And you work at an institution that is typical of, oh, what, maybe 20 universities? (This sounds snotty but isn't meant to be.)

The institution I work at is snotty, so...

But regardless, I did a brief search of your university's HR page and found a number of lecturer positions open.

That hadn't occurred to me. Interesting. Looks like they're almost all in the arts.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:02 AM
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There are interesting inter-departmental factors, too, to do with who actually makes money for the university. Universities tend to think of science departments as lucrative and humanities as costly. In fact, though, because science research is so expensive, and grant money often comes with a fair number of obligations for the university or college (depending on how your institution is organized) in terms of space, teaching release, etc., while humanities research is cheap and those departments are often "service" departments that bring in lots of per-seat tuition money, the equation is more complicated. (Grants are still prestigious, so even when they are net money-losers, which sometimes happens, universities generally like 'em.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:08 AM
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524

If you're still around R. Kevin, my point above about therapy wasn't a debater's trick at all. You arrived here, for the first time if I'm not mistaken, the day that someone denied tenure decided to kill a bunch of her colleagues. You said, in effect, well, we all can understand such a thing, right? After all, who hasn't thought about either shooting up that kind of meeting or being shot in such a meeting? My reaction was, no, not everyone thinks that way. In fact, almost nobody that I've ever known, including some people very angry about having been denied tenure, thinks that way. And if you think that way, you really might want to consider getting some help.

As it happened, your comment scared me. And your decision to comment using what appeared to be your own name made me seriously consider looking you up on the web, contacting the authorities in your area, and suggesting that they might want to have a chat with you. No, I'm not kidding in the slightest. Because who writes that kind of comment? I mean, you came here the day a woman killed a bunch of her colleagues and suggested that tenure was the problem. You also suggested that you understood her reaction to being denied tenure and had had similar thoughts yourself.

You later replied, in a comment very nearly as creepy as your first, that you were just kidding the first go round. Well, okay, I guess. But seriously, the rest of your follow-up comment was still pretty worrisome, in my view. And I have to tell you, I don't really know what to make of your visit here. Actually, I'm very curious what other people think. Because, having figured out that R. Kevin appears to be a real person, I'm still considering getting in touch with the administration at his university. I know that would have huge repercussions for his life. So I'd like not to. But I'm curious what other people.


Posted by: paul simonon | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:14 AM
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525

So I'd like not to. But I'm curious what other people [think].

I think that this: You said, in effect, well, we all can understand such a thing, right? After all, who hasn't thought about either shooting up that kind of meeting or being shot in such a meeting? is not at all a fair characterization of what he said here.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:17 AM
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I'm still considering getting in touch with the administration at his university

I find this creepier than anything you mention in your comment. Just sayin'.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:18 AM
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To be clear, I'm not looking to hurt this R. Kevin person. I'd like nothing more than to forget that he every commented here. But I do wonder if there's some obligation, when someone writes a comment like that in the context in which it was written, to mention such a thing to those people (a dept. chair?) who might be able to help/or protect the innocent.


Posted by: topper headon | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:19 AM
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Fine, then. I thought I might have misread the situation and appreciate the feedback. Consider it dropped.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:20 AM
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You arrived here, for the first time if I'm not mistaken

Yeah, but on the other hand, who are you?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:23 AM
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I thought RKH was saying that this is a sign that the academy needs to think a bit more about the emotional and mental health of its people, and that the current system of denial is pretty brutal even for someone who isn't crazy. But maybe I read it that way because that's what I think.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:26 AM
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The bassist for the Clash, Neb. Keep up.

This is exactly like after Columbine, when suddenly any adolescent revenge fantasy was indicative of murderous intent. Especially given that R. Kevin said that he could also imagine being one of the victims. I hope this doesn't freak R.K.H. out and cause him to stop commenting here, as I thought what his contribution to the discussion was valuable.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:27 AM
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509: So anything that involves eliminating or radically changing the idea of tenure is probably going to be unacceptable to the many departments in the university that don't hire adjuncts and thus see this as not their problem.

Yeah. I sadly know, and knew, virtually no one in the sciences, so I'm completely uninformed, but: who pays the salaries of tenured and/or tenure-track professors in the sciences? The University itself, or the outside grant-providing agencies? (Or are the monies intermingled in such a way that it's difficult to say?)

My general sense is that the budgets of most humanities departments are quite a bit smaller than those of sciences departments. (Grad student stipends are significantly higher in science than in humanities.) But I actually don't know where the money is coming from.

Humanities departments use adjuncts because they feel they have to, budget-wise, no?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:29 AM
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I can imagine being one of the victims of an Unfogged comment thread.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:30 AM
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As I said, I'm happy to be told I misread the original comment and the follow-up. My mistake. And if you'd like me to comment using my own name, nosflow, I'll do that. But obviously, I'd prefer not to, as the situation freaked me out from the get-go.


Posted by: john lydon | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:30 AM
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You know what makes me crazy? People who change their goddamned pseudonym every goddamned comment.


Posted by: Sifu Tweetyon | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:32 AM
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I've never heard of a math department that doesn't rely heavily on adjuncts.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:32 AM
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Yeah, but on the other hand, who are you?

If we knew, we could call up his employer and tell them he was ranting vaguely threateningly about a "truncheon thing" and a "nuclear error".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:32 AM
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Humanities departments use adjuncts because they feel they have to, budget-wise, no?

My not-terribly-well-informed guess is that it's departments that have to teach large numbers of classes to non-majors, like writing classes from English departments or calculus classes in math departments. Departments where no one takes classes except majors are able to manage the teaching load on their own.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:33 AM
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who pays the salaries of tenured and/or tenure-track professors in the sciences? The University itself, or the outside grant-providing agencies?

The university pays 9-month salaries. Grants provide only summer salaries (and postdoc salaries, and grad student stipends).


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:34 AM
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This is exactly like after Columbine, when suddenly any adolescent revenge fantasy was indicative of murderous intent.

This is obviously right. I suspected that I might have overreacted to the original comment and to the follow-up. That's why I asked others what they thought. Anyway, I apologize for the drama. Stupid me.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:39 AM
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Aside from your chameleonic handle, I think your withdrawals in 528 (and 540) are reasonable and the drama is resolved.

Now, the handle drama is still ongoing. Is there a link to LB's post on the matter?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:41 AM
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My understanding is that essear is correct in 539, although there are some weird exceptions. E.g., everyone on faculty in the UC system has been made to take furlough days to curtail their wages by 8%. If you have outside grants with adequate personnel funds, you can use those funds to replace the 8%. I haven't seen any reports of how many people have chosen to do that rather than keep the funds available for postdoc/grad student support.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:45 AM
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523, 538: Yeah, I'd overlooked the question of heavier departmental teaching loads and the "per-seat tuition money" brought in, in turn, by a given department.

You'd think that a humanities department servicing a larger number of undergrads would receive a departmental budget sufficient to provide teaching salaries beyond the paltry $3000 or $4000/course (or whatever) an adjunct gets.

Who's subsidizing whom here? Humanities subsidizing the sciences, or the reverse? I'm sure that's too simple, but still.

It would be terrific to get an undercover, super seekrit university administrator in here to explain it all in rough outlines.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:55 AM
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I don't know from the sciences, but in my experience various humanities and social science disciplines handle staffing issues very differently. essear's 538 seems right: use of adjuncts correlates mostly with number of classes that need to be taught, mainly to non-majors. So history, for example, uses tons of adjuncts. Linguistics, on the other hand, with fewer and smaller classes, uses very few adjuncts, but relies heavily on visiting assistant professors (1-year non-TT fixed-term positions, sort of like post-docs, I guess), which seem to be used mainly as stepping stools to TT jobs for new PhDs and involve some balance of teaching and research. In planning, at least here, there are plenty of TT faculty to cover the small number of courses offered, and then a bunch more who mostly work in the research centers and rarely teach. The research projects are mostly grant-funded, but I don't know how the centers handle administrative funding.

Another twist is that professionally oriented applied social science departments make considerable use of what are called "adjuncts" but are actually mid-career practitioners who teach occasional classes on the side, quite different from the "adjuncts" used in humanities disciplines to teach their huge numbers of undergrad classes. This likely leads to some terminological confusion in an academia-wide context.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:56 AM
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My understanding is that the answer to the "Where does the money come from?" question for the sciences varies widely across schools and even across investigators within the same school. Some discussion of salary recovery, from Science Careers:

At the extreme, if 100% of one's salary is paid by extramural research grants, then the faculty member should have no university responsibilities. Thus, salary recovery is the amount of one's effort that is recouped from extramural funding sources. ... At the other extreme, some universities may not allow faculty to buy release time for research during the academic year. This may be the case if faculty are supported on 9-month contracts. Often, these universities allow faculty to focus on their research over the summer months and receive salary support from their extramural funding sources during this time.
The issue of how much of your salary a university will require you to recover on grants is critical to the overall support that your department/institution will give you during your career, and therefore should be near the top of the list of factors when deciding on taking a position. Although there is no official upper limit aside from 100%, most principal investigators request 20% to 40% salary recovery on their grant applications. (An NIH survey of noncompeting applications found a median of 30%.) Thus, if you are required by your department to recover 60% of your effort, you will need to have at least one large grant (with 60% effort) or several smaller grants, each covering a portion of your salary.
In addition to extramural research grants, faculty salaries are derived from a multitude of university sources. Your department budget has funds allocated to cover all or part of your salary. The greater the portion of your salary that the university can recover from extramural grants, the more funds the department has available for other activities, such as service contracts, secretarial support, seminar programs, or computer support. Additional funds recovered from salary support at the department level reduce the amount of funds that the university needs to commit to that department as well.

I've heard of faculty having to effectively borrow money from the department due to failures to meet salary recovery requirements.

When this came up over at EotAW a few months ago, I tried, and failed, to track down some big picture data on how much money university money is getting spent on science vs. humanities departments, and to what extent "indirect costs" (money from the grant that is handed over to the university) cover the higher costs of running science buildings.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 12:06 PM
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Another twist is that professionally oriented applied social science departments make considerable use of what are called "adjuncts" but are actually mid-career practitioners who teach occasional classes on the side, quite different from the "adjuncts" used in humanities disciplines to teach their huge numbers of undergrad classes. This likely leads to some terminological confusion in an academia-wide context.

Yeah, I was going to mention Hastings, another undergrad-less UC that doubtless uses many adjuncts, but the adjuncts they doubtless use are likely to be of this sort, so I'm not sure that it's relevant.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 12:07 PM
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The lack of transparency in funding at universities often looks like it is covering up a number of sins. (Sports programs are another example.)

The president of my humble institution has pledged to go to a more "open bookkeeping" model, based on some talks he's seen by people in the business world. If this works out, it may well be the best decision he's made since I arrived, and I really admire him for even pushing in this direction. Of course, we don't have either a sports program or significant outside science funding.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 12:15 PM
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"adjunct" covers an awful lot of positions. Technically, Jill Biden is an adjunct at the Northern Virginia college she's teaching at while her husband is VPing. But I doubt she's being paid $2K a course.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 12:23 PM
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I believe at Northwestern, the phd fellowships provided by the university run for 1 year in engineering (after the first year, supporting the student is the dept's responsibility) and 5 years in arts and sciences.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 2:28 PM
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Here's a relevant blog post from a faculty member at San Jose State University:
http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/2010/02/good_riddance_to_a_pair_of_aca.php#more

So, let's just call it like it is: On account of an excess of qualified folks on the market, universities have been able to hire a good proportion of those qualified folks on the cheap, and to do it in a way that affords them relatively little job security. To teach the number of students universities have wanted to teach, universities have opted to swell the ranks of less expensive labor. They've counted on the fact that people who work for a terminal degree, who are passionate about their fields, and who are passionate about reaching, will often prefer a crappy academic job over a job in a completely unrelated field.

I'm a PhD student (and lurker - hi!) in science and everything I hear about academia just depresses me further. Only two more years for better or worse. I guess I'm one of those suckers who would rather work in my field than say work as a waitress.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 2:41 PM
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Open bookkeeping could be a good idea, if you're at a university with a friendly culture that isn't divided into lots of competing fiefdoms. I don't really know, but I'd guess that most of the secrets of the university's finances aren't actually sins, but simply decisions about what kind of institution it wants to be. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with using a more profitable activity to subsidize a less profitable one, in order to be a more diverse institution. Even within the sciences, it makes sense to take some of the overhead from grants supporting applied research, and use it to support more theoretical, long-term and basic research.


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 3:09 PM
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I'd guess that most of the secrets of the university's finances aren't actually sins, but simply decisions about what kind of institution it wants to be.

But isn't that exactly the sort of decision that should be made openly and with input from all the stakeholders?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 3:14 PM
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Yeah, it is. But I am kind of cynical. Unless the university has exceptionally good leadership, the stakeholder with the most funding usually gets the final say.


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 3:26 PM
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544 When I was in grad school my history department used almost no adjunct type instructors. There was the occasional visiting prof who was a tenured person in a nearby third tier school, and once in a rare while grad students were allowed to apply to teach a course of their own designing. But well over ninety percent of the courses were taught by tt or tenured faculty. I can't remember a single course taught by adjuncts in the normal sense of the word - i.e. Ph.D holders without a TT or tenured position. If the grad students wanted to get a teaching thing on their CV they had to apply for adjunt positions in other institutions.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 3:47 PM
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Apparently, she was a suspect in a bomb plot against a professor at Harvard as well.

Sylvia Fluckiger, who worked at a lab technician at Children's Hospital when Dr. Bishop and Dr. Rosenberg. said she had talked to Dr. Bishop about the Rosenberg investigation, saying she "had a smirk on her face" when asked about the incident. "I don't' know why she was smirking, it was a funny expression on her face," she said.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 4:27 PM
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The same article says that the review board had granted her tenure appeal but the provost overruled the department.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 4:42 PM
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Re. the relative costs and value of humanities and science research, Christopher Newfield is worth reading.....essentially, he argues that the rhetoric of wasteful humanities/profitable sciences is a culture wars artifact that obscures what actually happens, which is that humanities teaching profits subsidize the fixed costs of some science research (costs that grant money can't cover)--google "Ending the Budget Wars" for a pdf link.....


Posted by: (damn it Jim, I'm a) lurker | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 4:45 PM
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Sylvia Fluckiger sure comes off well there, huh?

"We did know that there was a dispute between Paul Rosenberg and her," Ms. Fluckiger said, adding that she couldn't remember what it was about.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 4:48 PM
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The Times copy-editing staff sure doesn't come off well. What is up with the punctuation in that paragraph?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 4:55 PM
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Sylvia Fluckiger sure comes off well there, huh?

I'm inclined to cut her some slack. I often don't care, know, or remember why other people are fighting. And she's got a cool name. And she didn't kill anybody.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 4:58 PM
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I'm inclined to cut her some slack. I often don't care, know, or remember why other people are fighting.

How eager are you to tell the press about it?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 5:00 PM
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561: Yes, it's very Nelly Olson's mom.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 5:01 PM
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How eager are you to tell the press about it?

Very. The newspapers have stopped returning my calls, though, since I'm not a very good source.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 5:03 PM
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How eager are you to tell the press about it?

I could imagine that she's just very naive about talking to the press, and thinks that's she saying "there was some sort of dispute, but I don't remember what it is" in a "you might want to look into this" sort of way, not expecting to be quoted.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 5:06 PM
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Here's a pretty good post from someone supporting the "seriously, people need more help than this" line of argument.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-14-10 11:25 PM
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556: The same article says that the review board had granted her tenure appeal but the provost overruled the department.

And in one article I saw that the head of the department (one of those killed) supported her bid. If the provost did overrule, it will probably lead to some questions as to the motive given that she was a vocal critic of the administration and supported a move to censure the president over a controversial new policy (see comment 53).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 5:15 AM
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566 from JP Tabloidcrow


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 5:16 AM
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This thread is long over, but I had the impression that certain universities, which may overlap with universities that don't use or appear not to use many adjuncts, have a position known as the 4 to 7 year postdoc. This position is usually advertised as "assistant professor." Certain of these universities have tenured only 1 or 2 professors in certain fields in the last two decades or so. Every other tenured person in such departments was tenured elsewhere, proved themselves quite capable elsewhere, then poached.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 5:17 AM
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Though I agree the drama is resolved, I wanted to thank [classicpunkrockname] for the apology, and offer one of my own, first for saying anything that might've lent itself to the misunderstanding, and second, for my own defensive remark about moral high-grounds, which couldn't have helped matters. I have a lot of concern for what grad students, job applicants and tenure candidates have to go through, and like any other hazing phenomenon, it's hard to change things because the people who have the power to do so are the one's who got through it, and not everyone is affected by that experience in the right sort of way. Though my own case was an awfully long time ago, and I'm now happily tenured elsewhere, I don't want to forget my experiences so that I can try to make these things easier for others to the small extent possible.

When this story broke, my wife and I both had the same reaction, which was a feeling of not being safe. Episodes like this challenge our trust, upon which so much is built. I'm guessing [classicpunkrockname] was being weirded out by the episode in much the same way I was, but if I wasn't clear enough about how, the fault was mine.


Posted by: R. Kevin Hill | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 11:05 AM
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Your reply to my overreaction is vastly more decent than I had any right to expect, R. Kevin. Again, I apologize for misreading both of your comments.


Posted by: paul cook | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 7:13 PM
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