Re: Summing up

1

Perfunctory. We still had to do them the year we were told well in advance nobody was getting a raise.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:31 AM
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I mentioned that we had a big meeting with a honcho from the new administration where we were told that there would pretty much never be raises ever again, that the overall budget was being cut 10%, that we needed to improve quality (not that we weren't stellar before, but we needed to kick it up a notch), and that there were going to be new, much more stringent evaluations. Then they brought out an adorable puppy and kicked it.

My immediate supervisor is v. cranky about being required to evaluate people harshly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:36 AM
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1: I'm pretty sure Moby and I don't work in the same office, but 1 exactly describes the situation where I work.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:39 AM
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They don't have any impact on anything, but my supervisor and I have always had sort of a mutual admiration society so they're very positive. (It is a disorienting, isolated instance in my life of answering to someone without having authority issues.)


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:43 AM
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For some reason, my department (alone among state agencies) took annual reviews to heart. So far, annual reviews have been an hour with one or more of my bosses earnestly asking me what they can do to chart out my career. Can they connect me with anyone they know or get me training of any sort? Basically, annual reviews are like Christmas. It isn't 'cause I'm a superstar. It is just department culture, for whatever reason.

The reason isn't that confusing; the department has about 3,000 people doing many different kinds of things, and lots of them are lifers. They are reasonably sure they'll keep their investments in people. So they train us and wish us well as we hop between departments.

Recently, they've been threatening me with promotions, which I can still refuse by not taking the advancement tests. That's not about me so much as it is the department working on their succession plan for when the boomers leave.

To my surprise, the thing that annual reviews don't seem to be about is the fact that I spend the whole fucking day on the internet. You'd think that'd come up. I always worry it will come up.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:49 AM
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Oh, they also spend some of the hour inquiring whether I like some aspects of my job better than others, and should we direct my work towards those parts. Annual reviews are great.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:51 AM
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Perfunctory. I've been appraised by the same manager two years running on precisely one occasion in the last 25 years and I've only worked for three companies.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:00 AM
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I remember one job I had (in peep's city, IIRC) where I never saw a job description until I was asked to write one after I'd given notice. I was never evaluated, at least not in any way where my involvement was required. This is also the only job I've had where I got real raises.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:05 AM
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It seems to be a thing where everybody has to fill out the same form that doesn't apply well to anyone, and then everyone gets the same treatment because the forms contain no information. I guess it would be possible for someone to get fired on the basis of this.l


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:08 AM
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One of the most unpleasant meals I've ever had was in a UK McDonalds, with the manager carrying out employee evaluations about 10 feet away.


Posted by: glowingquaddamage | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:12 AM
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Our yearly self-evaluations are independent of the tenure process. I use them as a place for me to keep track of all my accomplishments, so that I can easily find them when I need to trot them out for something else. The chair signs off, and it sits in a box and no one ever looks at it again.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:15 AM
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10: Cheer up. No matter what was going on ten feet away, it was still going to be an unpleasant meal.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:16 AM
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The chair signs off, and it sits in a box and no one ever looks at it again.

Not even if they need somewhere to sit?

Also, 12 is exactly right.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:21 AM
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I have no idea who would do my evaluation here, I'm paid off a grant so they couldn't give me a raise, and my status is going to change before that would happen anyhow.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:28 AM
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Hmmm. Perhaps the reason that our annual reviews can be so pleasant is that they aren't tied to raises. Raises are negotiated by our union, for the entire class. There's nothing personal about them, so they can't be an issue in our annual review.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:31 AM
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I don't think ours are tied to raises, either. I think our process for raises changes every single year, where some years there's a committee, some years the provost makes the decision but using a unique process for that year, and some years there's a budget freeze.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 9:35 AM
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During evaluation time, I tend to learn that my colleagues have some weird stereotype of adjuncts that they desperately want to twist to fit me. So if their stereotype is that adjuncts go too easy on their students, we'll have an hour-long conversation about how the fact that I ask difficult questions about concepts the observer clearly doesn't understand is proof that I baby them when they need to learn how to fail.

I have gotten a few useful observations that were crucial for my development as an instructor, and others that were either content-free and bland or genuinely complimentary but unhelpful. But the bulk of them just provided my observer with an opportunity to yell at an adjunct who makes $2500 per course, with no health insurance, while trying to finish a dissertation, that she isn't working hard enough goddamn it.

(I'm bitter because I have discovered another plagiarist at the college where official policy is immediate expulsion, but because they cannot bring themselves do that ever, they will spend the next three months trying to find a way to make it my fault that the student CTRL+C'd her paper from Ask.com, and then change her grade behind my back.)


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 10:39 AM
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You could, to get indirect revenge, go post a bunch of seemingly well reasoned but very wrong answers to Ask.com. E.g. "Crime and Punishment is the first of Dostoyevsky's criminal procedural novels and a precursor to his Sherlock Holmes stories.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 10:45 AM
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18: That's the first tip-off that a paper has been copied from some stupid website--it's full of bizarre statements like that. Maybe someone beat me to the punch.

But whatever. My real beef isn't with the student, who is a fuckup in the way all plagiarists are fuckups, but with the administration, who will sweep this under the rug, and with my colleagues, who will say that I'm not allowed to fail the student without calling her in for a face-to-face meeting in which I gently ask her why she would resort to such desperate measures; is her home life going OK, etc? Who, they asked me last time, could be so cruel as to just fail a student for plagiarism and only explain by email? Don't I know that she might kill herself in despair? Who, I want to ask, could have the balls to ask me to commute to a job I NO LONGER WORK AT to give psychological counseling I am not trained for to someone who cheated in my class?


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 10:53 AM
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She's going to ask you for a letter of reference. Just wait.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 10:57 AM
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14: My guess is they'd take a poll.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 11:09 AM
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14: I'll do it!

Beefo Meaty is the best!

Sincerely,

peep


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 11:13 AM
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If she asks for a reference, CTRL+C it off wikipedia: "This student (13 November 1850 - 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. Her best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A literary celebrity during her lifetime, she now ranks among the 30 most translated authors in the world, just below Charles Dickens.[3] She has been greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Marcel Schwob, Vladimir Nabokov,[4] J. M. Barrie,[5] and G. K. Chesterton, who said of her that she "seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins."[6]


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 11:30 AM
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ask me to commute to a job I NO LONGER WORK AT to give psychological counseling I am not trained for to someone who cheated in my class?

Ugggh.

As an outsider it surprises me, from time to time, how often I hear stories about academics existing in little bubble of unreality.

Given that there is an expanding use of adjuncts, you'd think somebody would have realized that there has to be some way to handle situations like that which doesn't depend on having the person who is no longer employed be physically present.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 11:35 AM
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23 is great.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 11:36 AM
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Given that there is an expanding use of adjuncts, you'd think somebody would have realized that there has to be some way to handle situations like that which doesn't depend on having the person who is no longer employed be physically present.

Isn't it the universal system, in which if there is an unpleasant task to be done, then the task will be passed down to the lowest person in the hierarchy, because that person has no one else to pass it down to?



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 11:50 AM
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Depends on the importance of the task. If anyone cares about the outcome of the unpleasant task, audit mechanisms exist.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 12:51 PM
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23: Brilliant!

We just finished evaluations and I found it to be extremely helpful. I gave the people I manage goals for next year and we talked about their strengths and weaknesses. They seemed pretty comfortable with the discussion. They all got raises so that probably helps.

My own evaluation was fair and it's helpful to be reminded of my faults. Although, it was one of the better evaluations so I'm sure it's easier for me to hear that I'm not forceful enough when talking to clients vs. another person hearing about how they make far too many mistakes during the completion of easy tasks.


Posted by: LizSpigot | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:23 PM
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Oh look, I accurately predicted the future in 19! Let's see if I can do it again. Here's another conversation I'm going to have this week:

AWB, we have three suicidal students in our office whose parents are literally going to murder them because they failed your course! What in the name of God and all that is holy did you do to them?

They didn't write the final paper. Two of them did not write any papers or attend the class for the past three months.

Did you contact them to ask them to please hand in the assignments at their leisure, no big whoop, whenever they get around to it, just please?

Well, I do have a strict policy of only grading work that students hand in, but yes, in this case, because I knew you'd ask, I did send an email reminding them that it appears they are not interested in passing the course and verifying the accuracy of this statement.

Well?

They never responded to my emails.

They say they were on vacation overseas! Couldn't you have waited? Family vacations are extremely important!

Was I supposed to give them an automatic Incomplete?

You can't give an Incomplete without submitting paperwork in which the student agrees to a contract of submitting the final paper! What kind of incompetent, insane adjunct instructor with no health insurance and two jobs are these poor little students dealing with?

And... scene.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:40 PM
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Given that there is an expanding use of adjuncts, you'd think somebody would have realized that there has to be some way to handle situations like that which doesn't depend on having the person who is no longer employed be physically present.

There is. It's called, "I dont' work here any more and am not coming in." Sucks for the person who has to deal with it (and I have been that person), but is pretty effective for the one on their way out.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:45 PM
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Wait. WAIT. If you no longer work there, what can they do, exactly, if you just say, "ummm, actually, fuck you, you fail"?

I mean, it's academia, so I'm sure there's something horrible that's standard in this situation. But I'm curious. Tell us the horror!


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:48 PM
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I'm the only person who can change a grade. So I have a student who has to have an incomplete because [complete bullshit that is fucking infuriating] and I have to be the one to change the grade from INC to a grade.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:50 PM
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In academia there's always the worry that you'll piss off someone upon whose letter of recommendation you have to rely, but if these people are that bad, it sounds like getting a letter from any of them would be a dicey prospect anyway.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:50 PM
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The gentleman's D- !


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:51 PM
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So I have a student who has to have an incomplete because [complete bullshit that is fucking infuriating] and I have to be the one to change the grade from INC to a grade.

How does that work if you're really not around? I mean, the sort of incomplete I'm familiar with is "I never got around to doing the final paper, I'll write it next semester and you'll grade it then." But if the school's not paying you at all next semester, is there really a norm that you'll continue to grade late work?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:55 PM
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I think the standard here is that everyone assumes adjuncts are lazy stupid easy teachers who let their students get away with murder. So we get yelled at on a daily basis about raising the bar--no, higher! you gave this paper a C-? I would have failed her! Look at these spelling errors!--and then when we do fail a student, they come crying to the department about how that meanie adjunct had it in for them.

Some departments know they are fucking us in the ass on a daily basis, and that we work like dogs while the bulk of the department is 90-year-old profs who refuse to retire while they get adjuncts to cover the actual teaching and advisement for them. They have our backs when students whine.

Other departments say, well, maybe if you finished your dissertation and got a real job, you wouldn't have to eat shit every day. Oh look, there's some tasty-looking shit right here with your name on it! Good luck writing that dissertation with your mouth stuffed full of shit!


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 1:58 PM
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35: She's doing it in the next month, before I move. Basically, I will have to spend two more hours of my life dealing with it, and I won't have to make a dramatic stand for my rights.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:00 PM
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while they get adjuncts to cover the actual teaching and advisement for them

The advising load pays extra, I hope? If not, how do they get you to do it?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:00 PM
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Think of what a joy the contrast next year will be.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:01 PM
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38: Pays extra? What means these words?

We do it because students beg us for recommendation letters and an hour of our time here and there, or they email us and say, "None of my professors either wants to or can answer my questions or help me and you are the only person in the department who seems to remember my name."


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:02 PM
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39: It's hard to think of anything else. I'm trying.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:02 PM
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So they don't pay you, but you do it anyhow? And the people who apparently treat you like dirt benefit?

I know young minds need to be fed and whatever, but I remain puzzled.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:07 PM
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I don't know what to say to a favorite student who has taken three classes with me who desperately needs advice about courses and career. Fuck off? Sorry, buddy, but I don't get paid to have conversations about your future?


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:08 PM
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"Unfortunately, I don't work here any more/they aren't willing to pay for instructors to do that for you. You'll have to speak to this professor, and I wish you luck."

Anyhow, that's how I would play it.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:12 PM
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Boi-oi-oi-iiiinnng!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:17 PM
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"Your future is important to us. Please hold for the next available adjunct."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:19 PM
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Evaluations here are remarkably elaborate. Long self-assessment, including reflections on meeting your written quarterly goals over the last year. You set up a list of people who do peer assessments of you (you are given a suggested starting list, and you or your manager can add and remove people who have to do peer assessments). Your peers see the assessments that you write, which seems awkward. Finally, you are asked to rank, in order, a half-dozen close co-workers; that part is only seen by managers. Also, this is the ordinary process; there's an entire additional layer if you're submitting yourself for promotion.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:19 PM
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47: and you just know that the rankings of highly ranked employees are weighted more heavily.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:26 PM
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43, 44: It's a real problem for anyone who feels professional responsibility toward their job, if they're not getting paid to do it properly. Colleges are supposed to be places where students can get that kind of informal advising from the people who instruct them, and I'm not surprised AWB feels responsible, as a professional, for doing her job the way it ought to be done. It's just incredibly sucky that the people who decide what she gets paid for don't include perfectly normal components of teaching as something they're willing to compensate adjuncts for.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:26 PM
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You should really figure out how to game that system, just on principle. GEREO.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:27 PM
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Finally, you are asked to rank, in order, a half-dozen close co-workers;

Wow. This would really annoy me. I'd be happy to evaluate them, but having to rank them would piss me off.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:30 PM
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Prepend "48 cont'd:" to 50.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:30 PM
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49: if they aren't paying her, I would argue it's not her job, all (perfectly reasonable) conceptions of the role of a college instructor aside.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:35 PM
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49: You can get a similar problem for anyone who does work where they're expected to feel professional responsibility to do it properly -- if you can leave them holding the baby, with a task that clearly should be done and no one else to do it, and there's a strong professional norm that you don't ignore necessary work, you can get a fair amount of unpaid work out of people.

My office is having a bit of that -- the deal used to be that we had quality standards equivalent to private practitioners, but much lower pay and a lower workload. Over the last couple of years, the workload's been creeping up, what with the budget cuts, but it's not as if we can leave our clients unrepresented just because we were hired as 9-5ers rather than 'work all day, night, and weekend' lawyers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:37 PM
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53: Yeah, it's a tension between viewing yourself as a professional and viewing yourself as an employee. It can be hard not to get screwed when you're trying not to violate professional norms.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:38 PM
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I mean, if they expect you to feel professional responsibility to do it properly and they have some kind of power over you, that's one thing. But if you don't need anything from them -- and they can't screw you in the future -- fuck them and their theories of professional responsibility.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:41 PM
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... viewing yourself as a professional ...

Cue Disciplined Minds reference.

Though, I agree with you, it's a real problem, because so many jobs function better if everybody views themselves as professionals.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:42 PM
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55: working for free is, in some ways, the antithesis of being a professional.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:42 PM
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Up until now, I've been doing a lot of unpaid work because my jobs have had the opportunity to fuck me every few months. What I have found is that, doing hours and hours of unpaid work has resulted in me not getting fired, like most of my colleagues, but still getting ever-shittier classes to teach. It's how they keep us living in fear. See somewhere in TFA about how I got dozens of emails one day about how I used to be a devoted member of a department but clearly not anymore, and when I finally figured out WTF was going on, it turned out someone had ratted me out for not responding to urgent emails, which she'd been sending to a misspelled address. The response when they see you not jumping like a good puppy is that you are a failure and a pathetic excuse for a person.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:45 PM
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and they can't screw you in the future

(A) In a small professional world, can you ever be sure about the no-power to screw you in the future? (B) But more than that, you internalize professional norms -- it's not so much 'fuck them and their theories of professional responsibility', to leave that sort of work undone requires saying 'fuck you' to your own sense of professional responsibility. Which is sometimes going to be necessary if you aren't going to get exploited, but is difficult.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:46 PM
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working for free is, in some ways, the antithesis of being a professional.

Huh. I'd call it diagnostic of being a 'professional' -- having the sort of job where it's possible that you may be required to do it unpaid. Doctors have, in theory, an obligation to provide care regardless of ability to pay, lawyers have a pro bono responsibility and may be responsible for continuing to represent a client who isn't paying them anymore, there must be other examples.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:50 PM
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I love listening to Ke$ha.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:51 PM
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But getting a set fee for teaching a class, with no further commitment from the institution, is not like either of those examples.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:53 PM
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47: and you just know that the rankings of highly ranked employees are weighted more heavily.
I do know that! In fact, I know that working that to your advantage is a standard and crucial part of the promotion riddle trail.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:54 PM
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60.A: you would want to use some kind of approximate heuristic. Sometimes one must make an enemy or two.

60.B: I realize that it is implausible to consider the idea that I would have any sense of pride or ownership over my work product, but I've definitely run across the concept here and there before, so you don't have to make it extra simple for me.

In any case, my own presumably limited sense of professional responsibility has never led me to believe that working for free for assholes who treat me like shit is a requirement, but maybe I'm the poorer for it.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:54 PM
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61: doctors are lawyers are fairly special cases. You can go ahead and throw, I dunno, public elementary school teachers in the mix. Also, I dunno, firefighters. Secret service agents? But no, most of the time preserving your status as a "professional" pretty explicitly means refraining from working without compensation.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:57 PM
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I'm equally comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt and in formalwear.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 2:59 PM
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63: Well, it's not practical to treat it that way, but it's close enough that I can understand the feeling.

65: In any case, my own presumably limited sense of professional responsibility has never led me to believe that working for free for assholes who treat me like shit is a requirement, but maybe I'm the poorer for it.

This sounds as if I've said something more aggressive than I meant to; I didn't mean to impugn your sense of pride in your work by saying that I didn't think AWB was only martyring herself irrationally. Partially what's going on is an issue more in the kind of work where the people you're serving aren't necessarily the assholes. If you're a doctor, and you keep on finding bleeding indigents on your front steps, you've got a certain responsibility to stitch them up even if they're being dumped there by someone who knows you feel that responsibility and is taking advantage of it. A student/teacher relationship isn't the same, of course, but it's not absolutely different.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:02 PM
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doctors are lawyers are fairly special cases.

I think we're using different senses of 'professional'. Professional can mean 'I get paid for doing this sort of thing', but it can also mean 'I'm a member of a profession with ethical and professional standards of its own that I have to abide by regardless of whether they're to my immediate financial advantage.'

Doctors and lawyers aren't a special case for the second definition, they're the core of that meaning of 'professional'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:05 PM
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69.last: well, but I think that definition only applies to certain, very limited fields, and the effort to make it apply to much larger categories of ill-paid, at-will employees is pernicious, hence the "fuck them" above.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:09 PM
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My voice is husky because I've got the sniffles.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:11 PM
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What's the lawyer equivalent of the doctor who has bleeding indigents dumped on their front steps? It seems like medicine has an urgency that makes this a great deal more acute than the law.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:12 PM
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but I think that definition only applies to certain, very limited fields, and the effort to make it apply to much larger categories of ill-paid, at-will employees is pernicious, hence the "fuck them" above.

"Certain, very limited fields" is right, "pernicious" is right, and 'fuck them' is right, but being an academic seems to me to be the sort of thing that's awfully close to being a 'profession' in the doctor/lawyer sense, even if maybe it isn't squarely dead center a profession in that sense. I guess, it seems that AWB's employers are horrible because they're exploiting her sense of professionalism to get unpaid work out of her, but I don't want to call her a chump for having that sense -- in a well-functioning academic environment, I think someone teaching a college class should behave as she does.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:14 PM
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I generally agree with Sifu here. It took me a summer of working 80 hours a week when I was getting paid for 40 to figure this out for myself; it was a real shift to consider the lack of people assigned to the job to be my employer's problem, not mine. But it's also true that it's easier, and more justified, to deliver that "Fuck you" to the employer rather than the client.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:15 PM
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Whoops, italics failure.

What's the lawyer equivalent of the doctor who has bleeding indigents dumped on their front steps?

It doesn't happen much, but it can happen. First, you're responsible for doing a certain amount of pro bono work for non-paying clients -- it's unenforced, but it's an obligation. Second, you can get in a position where you've accepted someone as your client and started representing them, and they've stopped paying you (presumably because they don't have the money). You need permission from the court to withdraw from that representation, and you don't always get it -- a judge can tell you to keep working for free.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:17 PM
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73: I don't mean to be calling AWB a chump; that's part of the perniciousness, and part of why I might seem to be taking a somewhat hyperbolically hard line.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:18 PM
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11 sums it up, i think. The little people fill out self-evaulations. The big people are asked to provide their assessments anonymously; some do, some don't. Some big person is supposed to sit down with the little person and have them sign the assessment and ostensibly discuss it with you. (The get a litle flustered when you say you want to take it with you so you can read it over and respond, if necessary, before signing.) Last year, none of the big people could decide who was responsible for sitting down with me so no one did.


Posted by: d.k. | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:19 PM
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74, 76: And I'd be right with you on taking the hard line for anything that wasn't arguably a profession in the doctor/lawyer sense. Academia, though, kind of is, which is what makes the treatment of adjuncts so incredibly lousy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:21 PM
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I sympathize with both sides, but I've learned to turn away students. It doesn't really matter if it's part of your job description, because they will use up all available time. (And these are wonderful students; I don't harbor ill-will.)

If I were running AWB's department, I'd tell her: "You're obligated to hold X many office hours. Don't meet with students beyond that unless you've got time to kill. Don't get bogged down answering emails; it's fine to send one-liners in response, or to ask an incoherent student to talk to you in person." It sounds like AWB's department was a screwed up mess, and she bore the brunt, but I don't think it automatically comes with the territory.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:22 PM
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I have to say that while adjuncts are generally exploited, either intentionally or unintentionally, because of the shape of the rest of the system, I've never had it so bad as at this one school. Part of it is that they have systematically de-professionalized their adjuncts. I was hired to teach electives of my choice in my field, and it was going great. I loved my job, I loved the school, and I felt I had incredibly supportive colleagues who were my new friends. Seriously, we'd go out for drinks and I'd get invited to birthday parties and stuff.

Then someone got the idea of treating us as if we were students in their program (they don't have graduate students) and only letting us teach freshman courses, and putting us under the pedagogical thumb of someone whose pedagogical training is... bizarre. They did this because this person wanted to get all the faculty to teach in her method, and they said, uh, no way, but you can have the adjuncts! Tell them what to do all you want!

This created a lot of strain, and my former friends don't talk to me anymore. Maybe I did something that made them all turn on me, but mostly they just walk by my office and give a pitying smile and hurry off. I don't have anyone I can talk to in that department anymore. If I try going to the chair with any difficulties, she forwards my email to this faculty member, who cc's everyone her advice to me, which is that I'm never ever doing enough. It's all about her perception that her colleagues aren't doing enough, I think, and she's being shitty to me not just because she hates me (she does, violently, to the point of screaming and hitting things whenever I talk), but because she's furious with her own colleagues for not listening to her.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:30 PM
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I don't think academia is nearly monolithic enough to make statements about. There are places where faculty, especially young ones, are actively discouraged by administrators from spending much time dealing with students outside class and office hours. On the other hand, there are places where faculty are expected to sacrifice huge amounts of time if students want to talk about academic things. (And where different places fall on this spectrum is a lot less predictable than I would have guessed.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:32 PM
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On the other hand, there are places where faculty are expected to sacrifice huge amounts of time if students want to talk about academic things.

Sure. But within this, you are interacting with your students, and you can cheerfully re-direct them towards your office hours and email a lot.

(In my environment, there are high expectations for this sort of thing, but a great deal of trust that faculty members are spending a lot of time with students. Working in an environment where people trust each other is huge, I know. When I decide that I'm drawing the line, my chair and administration will respect my judgement.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:39 PM
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Sounds like LB is arguing for Doctor Slavery.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:43 PM
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I am totally with AWB as far as advising her students. it may not be in your job description, and you're not getting paid for it, but you care about your kiddos and want to help.

I have a much harder time with grading late work from a student who got an "incomplete" by going over your head. I mean, if you agreed the incomplete was justified, then okay, sure, this is part of the semester you got paid for. But if it's BS? I'd want to say, "Hey, you decided s/he should get an incomplete. You grade it." Or just give it a random grade without ever reading it.

(This brings to mnd the clients who routinely challenge every bill -- or their paid auditors do -- such that you don't get paid for a substantial percentage of your work. My instinct would be to tell them to fuck off, I work for free only on behalf of indigent clients. but the, this attitude may be why i don't actually have clients of my own.)


Posted by: d.k. | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:44 PM
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it may not be in your job description, and you're not getting paid for it, but you care about your kiddos and want to help.

Office hours are usually in the job description, though. Advising can take place then. Academics has already quantified instructor's time in a standardized way.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:46 PM
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80 sounds a bit outside what your standard set of adjunct complaints might be. You should just have tried to get her to hit you in front of a witness.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:53 PM
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Good point, h.g.


Posted by: d.k. | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:54 PM
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Isn't part of it that academics (in the humanities, at any rate) get used to working for free in graduate school* and then have a hard time switching over to the idea that their time is valuable and they deserve to be paid for it? I feel like most of my fellow graduate students have almost no conception of the idea that we have actual skills that are worth something.

*By which I mean, unless you have a direct stipend, you spend thousands hours toiling on your dissertation - hours wherein you are working for free in exchange for your degree and not actual wages (which I understand isn't nothing, but still).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 3:55 PM
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Or just give it a random grade without ever reading it.

An F would seem to be a better answer here than a random grade. You failed the student, and they decided you need to grade the work anyway? Fine, it gets an F. If they don't like that grade they can find someone who disagrees with you to grade it instead.

This seems clear as day and different from the admittedly muddy issue of how much unpaid help to provide former students.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 4:00 PM
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88: Aren't the hours spent working on your dissertation school work, as it were? You do it for free (except for any stipend you may have) because it's roughly equivalent to doing homework, but if you do other work, work-work, by, say, TAing, you're paid for that.

I feel like most of my fellow graduate students have almost no conception of the idea that we have actual skills that are worth something.

Graduate students when I was in grad school tried to unionize, precisely because we had an idea that we had actual skills that were worth something. The effort was soundly defeated, on the argument from senior faculty that we were apprentices. I gather, though, that grad student unionization efforts have met with some success in some quarters since then.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:01 PM
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90.1: True, true, it is homework - only, you know, you're doing the exact same work that some day you'll be paid for, and you're expected to be doing it for the equivalent of a full time job.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:07 PM
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Let me be clear - I'm not saying that grad students should be paid for working on their dissertations. However, I think it might provide a bit of a cluse as to how that sort of culture produces people who will spend many hours on unpaid work because they view it as part of a professional duty. I mean, this is a culture that encourages us to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to go to conferences, etc., as part of our professional duty - before we're actually professionals and before we're paid a living wage. Same goes for being expected to attend weekend talks, etc.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:11 PM
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cluse = clue, of course.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:11 PM
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I think this stuff mostly goes to show how fucked-up academia is when you look at it as a profession.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:18 PM
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I gather, though, that grad student unionization efforts have met with some success in some quarters since then.

In public schools, yes. I'm unionized, for instance, as is everyone else in my state system.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:18 PM
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I'm really looking forward to totally blowing off the kind of bullshit generally expected from graduate students. No conferences unless I'm funded! No weekend work unless I really want to!

Oh wait, I kinda blew that last one this past weekend. Anyhow.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:19 PM
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94: It's even more fucked-up if you look at it as a form of dental hygiene.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:20 PM
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92: I mean, this is a culture that encourages us to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to go to conferences, etc., as part of our professional duty - before we're actually professionals and before we're paid a living wage. Same goes for being expected to attend weekend talks, etc.

Ah. Yes. I never did that, which was one sign that I was destined to quit the whole enterprise! (Weekend talks, on campus, okay.) The pressure to attend conferences isn't the same in every field, but it was really heating up, so yeah.

It's true that the grad student role may extend pretty easily (and wrongly) to adjuncting. After a year or two of the latter, I wasn't willing to do that any more, alas.

I do think think there's something to the notion that it's a battle of perspectives:

Grad student: Young professional!
Faculty: No, apprentice!
Grad student: Young professional, dammit!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:22 PM
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94 gets it right!

No conferences unless I'm funded!

My boyfriend's parents asked me if I was being paid to attend and give a talk at my last conference. I started laughing so hard before realizing that no, they're not joking, and that being paid to do such a thing would fit with their professional experience. They were a bit shocked that I was paying for the privilege. (Some of it was funded, but it was not the whole cost.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:22 PM
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94: Indeed. Or maybe it would make sense if you could be pretty sure of a job at the end of your apprenticeship, but that has not been the case for a long while.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:22 PM
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I wonder when the idea of a profession got associated with being paid to do something. I mean people in the professions have always gotten paid, but being paid isn't enough to be considered a professional in the doctor/lawyer/professor/teacher/accountant sense. Business has always paid (well, for certain categories of businessperson), but being a businessperson hasn't always been considered being a professional. The MBA is to an extent part of an effort to professionalize business.

My cursory knowledge of the literature(s) on professionals suggests that it's a big definitional mess, with professions, quasi-professions, paraprofessions, occupations, etc. Anyway, I think a big issue with adjuncting, is that you're expected to do it after being professionalized, or as part of the professionalization process, and so you're expected to act like a professional, but you're not actually treated as one.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:22 PM
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I mean, this is a culture that encourages us to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to go to conferences, etc., as part of our professional duty - before we're actually professionals and before we're paid a living wage.

Wow, this is not the case in math at all. Usually there was funding available for conferences, and if not, mostly students didn't go, or went at discounted rates, and everyone was super apologetic about the airfare.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:23 PM
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98.last: I get the impression that in my department faculty are pretty firmly "on our side." They just can't do anything about the larger structural issues.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:24 PM
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102: The last conference I went to offered 5 graduate student scholarships - for a national profession wide conference. My department and the university also offer travel funds, but at least at my budget-strapped public school they don't cover everything and you can't be assured of getting one every time.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:26 PM
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I should stop complaining and maybe do some work or something.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:26 PM
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103: those assholes?! Don't believe it for a minute.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:27 PM
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102: I get the sense at my (future) department that nobody goes to conferences unless they're funded, and that the department will fund you (for up to five a year, or something implausible like that) if you're presenting.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:28 PM
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Just to belie my last comment, I should say that of course the costs at the conference are discounted. They're still significant when you're being paid peanuts; I paid about $500 out of pocket for my last one, which isn't much but it's also more than 1/3rd my monthly-wage.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:29 PM
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I am planning to go to a conference in July that I won't have a travel budget or per diem for, but to be fair 1) I'm not presenting and 2) I'm going to ride my bike there, since it's right down the street.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:29 PM
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I picked the wrong discipline, clearly.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:29 PM
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Have you considered roofing?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:32 PM
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92 Let me be clear - I'm not saying that grad students should be paid for working on their dissertations.

Why not?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:33 PM
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Why not?

Because that wasn't the argument I wanted to have. I can say that I'd get way more work done were I paid for it, though.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:34 PM
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111: I need a job for the summer, still. I found myself flicking through care giver jobs on Craigslist, which depressed me beyond belief. Roofing might be more fun.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:35 PM
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Yeah, I'm hella gonna get paid to work on my dissertation. Hear that, [ future school ]?


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:36 PM
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Also, I intend to get paid over the summer.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:36 PM
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I have the impression that conference funding is an issue in more than just academic fields where there are conferences. Jobs in information professions, non-profits, and probably some other areas, don't necessarily come with conference funding (usually termed "professional development" funds). As always, it's the elite places or well-funded public sector areas that give funding.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:37 PM
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Also, I demand a new car.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:37 PM
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118: You clearly negotiated a better package than most. Free housing, too?


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:39 PM
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118: My uncle went to grad school with a stipend sufficient to make a payment on a new car in addition to living expenses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:39 PM
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119: there are some sweet couches in our lab.

Actually, we just had a postdoc leave because he finally ran out of money; only subsequently did we figure out that he'd been living in his office.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:40 PM
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113: Fair enough. I just feel like it shouldn't even be an argument. Writing a dissertation is work! Everyone who does it should get paid!

Now I feel really petty for being annoyed that my next employer doesn't want to cover any moving expenses.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:41 PM
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120: cars were different, then.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:41 PM
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110: You have to pick a discipline for which there's corporate or NSF funding or something like that. The money follows the perceived value.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:43 PM
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I met some science and engineering grad students years ago who were getting paid pretty well. They were just at a conference in Helsinki. I assume the pay covered their dissertation work, even if the pay wasn't specifically for the dissertation work. Could have been employed in industry, though - I wasn't in grads school then and didn't ask prying questions.

(This is probably one of the reasons the humanities don't actually cost academic institutions that much money, despite what administrators try to make people believe.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:43 PM
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122: Writing "Twilight" fan fiction is also work.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:44 PM
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Also, I know a guy who - years ago - had been working some high paying tech job and then went to grad school. The stipend came in a lump sum at the start of the year but, being accustomed to a high salary, he didn't realize it was supposed to last a year. He ended up dropping out after he'd spent it all in a few months and discovered there weren't going to be any other checks that year.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:45 PM
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118: Beefo Meaty is the Terrelle Pryor of his field. His thesis advisor will be forced to resign after Sifu's 3rd year.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:47 PM
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123: True. They used to last like four years before the transmission went to shit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:47 PM
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127 sounds a little bit like an awesome plan.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 6:48 PM
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121: If he knew how he could save all the money he was wasting on soap, he might have been able to get his own place.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:09 PM
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119: there are some sweet couches in our lab.

They removed the padded bench seats from grad students' offices because they didn't want to risk having grad students spend the night (read: start living) in their office.

I was pretty mad, because it's entirely reasonable to nap in your office, and if the homeless grad student is a recurring problem, is the solution really to remove the padded benches?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:19 PM
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Let them sleep on spikes.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:21 PM
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The bus shelters here have bars in the middle of the bench for that reason. To be fair, people who ride the bus shouldn't have to stare at some graduate student just to get to work in the morning.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:22 PM
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The padding will be discontinued until morale improves.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:28 PM
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For a while there was someone living in the physics building at Stanf/rd. If I remember the story correctly, she didn't actually work there, but successfully duped various people into thinking she did.

I also know a guy who used to sleep under his desk a lot. He had an apartment, but thought that going home was usually unnecessary.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:37 PM
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I guess it's surprising 136.1 doesn't happen more often. If you're an enterprising homeless person looking for a nice space to call home, where can you find one that you won't get kicked out of? Look for a place where people are awkward and conflict-averse, where being kind of spacey and vague will make people think you belong, and where scruffiness is tolerated. It was a pretty smart plan.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:43 PM
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137: the overnight scene at the MIT campus coffee shop was always pretty strange. I crashed there occasionally, for some reason, in high school. I think in order to look cool.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:45 PM
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An unusual strategy, but if it worked for you I'm not going to argue.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:49 PM
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137: Homeless doesn't mean without standards.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:50 PM
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Looking cool being relative?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:51 PM
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In the 80s I took a two-week computing course that was held in a bare room in the old D.C. Power Lab way up on a hill at Stanford. It was mostly abandoned (SAIL had moved on) and I think it was torn down in 1991, but at the time still housed a few systems and what I believe was the Computer Music Dept. There seemed to be a family or two living up there at the time (judging from clotheslines and kids on Big Wheels). It was February and our part of the building did not have heat--it all had a surreal post-apocalyptic feel to it, including one room where there was a detached robot arm and a blizzard of computer cards which were rumored to be Arthur Samuel's checkers program. At one point Bill Gospers demoed the Game of Life for a few of us a on green screen terminal connected to a DEC-20.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 7:57 PM
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And then we found five glider guns.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:02 PM
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By the way, Stormcrow, I finally got around to reading Hodges' biography of Turing, which I think I remember you recommended here at some point. It was fascinating.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:24 PM
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I suppose this thread is the thread to note that I have a friend who just finished a Ph.D. in Chemistry (dissertation and all) and is moving right along to start Med School. Which baffles me a bit.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:27 PM
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144: Yeah, I think I might have. Glad you liked it, I forget when I read it (I think mid-80s), but I really only had a very sketchy idea about who Turing was before I read it (I think I did know about the chess/running game).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:46 PM
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145: He either wants to be a mad scientist or try to see how if he can set the record for coolest K1 application.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:52 PM
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If he doesn't obsess about grant deadlines, don't drink anything at his place.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:53 PM
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and is moving right along to start Med School. Which baffles me a bit.

Pharm companies been laying off tens of thousands for years, which includes a lot of chemists. OTOH, U.S. population has been steadily increasing and the number of med schools hasn't kept up.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 8:56 PM
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I know a couple people who did PhD chemistry to med school. Presumably they can charge a lot to tutor others in organic chemistry.
Ironically I started reading this thread to procrastinate on my already overdue evaluations. I have too many direct reports. I do get to allocate merit increases but those numbers were due well before the evaluations were so now I need to make sure the evaluations match what the raises were.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 10:21 PM
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William T. Vollmann wrote most of You Bright and Risen Angels while living under his desk at a software company. And this was before software companies all had cereal bars and petting zoos.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 10:56 PM
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Man, this thread makes me glad I was too lazy/dumb/unmotivated to actually do a proper job of staying in college.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 05-31-11 11:54 PM
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I lived in the campus darkroom for a while, but that was undergrad.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 1-11 9:22 AM
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I seem to have missed this thread, but I just wanted to reiterate:

Friends don't let friends go to unfunded Ph.D. programs.

Yes you should be paid to write your dissertation. If you can't find someone who will pay you a terrible salary now (as a graduate student), what are the odds that you're going to be able to get someone to pay you 4-6 times that in 10 years?

If getting funded in some academic field is unrealistic, that just means that (anyone) going to graduate school in that field is unrealistic.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-11 10:41 AM
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Friends don't let friends go to unfunded Ph.D. programs.

That's what every undergraduate prof I had told me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 1-11 10:42 AM
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One possibility that might be worth considering for the advising dilemma of an adjunct is making the students travel to one of your office hours. If you used to work at school A and now you work at school B and a student at school A wants to talk to you about something, I think it would be completely reasonable to tell that student that they have to travel (I'm assuming a reasonable distance, say up to an hour and a half each way) to go to your office hours at the other school.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 1-11 10:44 AM
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