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VirtualMessage

The Graduate School Ponzi Scheme

339 posts in this topic

Yeah, as soon as I posted that, I knew that someone would come around and nitpick. What I meant to say was that SLACs are *less reliant* on adjuncts and graduate student labor. And they are, on the whole. That doesn't mean they never hire an adjunct.

I'm still not willing to concede the point without evidence.

 

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I'm still not willing to concede the point without evidence.

I work at one where there are very few adjuncts that aren't in full-time positions with benefits. I don't count those FT positions as adjunct because they come with at least a one year contract (and also come in multi-year form). We, for example, hire one-year visiting people as a sabbatical replacement, rather than using adjuncts/part-time faculty. The few adjuncts we do have are primarily the spouses of TT faculty on campus. But, I can't give you the specific numbers because we don't get them until October.

I did a quick google search for exactly one school (Swarthmore) and found this: http://www.collegefactual.com/colleges/swarthmore-college/academic-life/faculty-composition/# . 85% of their faculty are full-time, with the remaining 15% as part-time. I assume the latter are adjuncts. 

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I'm still not willing to concede the point without evidence.

 

But it wasn't really my point anyway. I was merely using the scenario to drive home that people are motivated to act in what they perceive to be their best financial interests. It's near-impossible to convince people not to go to or support X college when 1) they don't perceive adjunct labor as having a negative effect on their education, and 2) they perceive that their only option for avoiding adjunctification is to go somewhere much more expensive.  

But since you're really stuck on this question of SLACS vs. other types of institutions, you can easily find the evidence by looking in the back of any USNWR. 

Edited by my_muse

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I work at one where there are very few adjuncts that aren't in full-time positions with benefits. I don't count those FT positions as adjunct because they come with at least a one year contract (and also come in multi-year form). We, for example, hire one-year visiting people as a sabbatical replacement, rather than using adjuncts/part-time faculty. The few adjuncts we do have are primarily the spouses of TT faculty on campus. But, I can't give you the specific numbers because we don't get them until October.

I did a quick google search for exactly one school (Swarthmore) and found this: http://www.collegefactual.com/colleges/swarthmore-college/academic-life/faculty-composition/# . 85% of their faculty are full-time, with the remaining 15% as part-time. I assume the latter are adjuncts. 

Thanks!

But it wasn't really my point anyway. I was merely using the scenario to drive home that people are motivated to act in what they perceive to be their best financial interests. It's near-impossible to convince people not to go to or support X college when 1) they don't perceive adjunct labor as having a negative effect on their education, and 2) they perceive that their only option for avoiding adjunctification is to go somewhere much more expensive.  

But since you're really stuck on this question of SLACS vs. other types of institutions, you can easily find the evidence by looking in the back of any USNWR. 

No, I got your point. I agree with it. Thanks to R_S, I also have the information on the tangential question I asked. 

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That article highlights some truly unfortunate thinking going on by some people in power.

That’s the view of Karen P. DePauw, dean of the Virginia Tech graduate school, who advocates for accepting more graduate students. Virginia Tech increased its total Ph.D. population by 36 percent from 2005 to 2014, to about 3,000, Ms. DePauw said, with no intention of slowing down.

"I don’t want to lose the vision of where we should be going," Ms. DePauw said, referring to her desire to see large and vibrant Ph.D. programs so that the arts and humanities aren’t diminished in American society.

Enter all that "life of the mind" claptrap. I mean, the next paragraph states that DePauw says that universities should prepare students for non-academic jobs but doesn't state how. I was told one graduate director at my school (in an affiliated program to English) straight up told the incoming cohort at the open house that it's fine if you're not interested in a job in academia but to just let him know so that the program can be best shaped to suit the student's needs. I think that's definitely a step in the right direction. That creates awareness in an incoming cohort that jobs outside of academia for Ph.D. holders even exist. The more and earlier students know about these possibilities, the easier it'll be to create the pressure to either get them into alt-ac jobs or to convince bureaucrats that these alternative foci need to become structurally inherent to doctoral training itself.

From my perspective, dependence on adjunct labor is the problem at the root of what is undermining the profession. If you address that problem, you solve many of the others. My outrage is that Universities do not have to employ adjunct labor at these unforgivable rates (the national average is now close to 75% NTT), even if they try to excuse the practice as a matter of financial necessity. A generation of administrators & faculty (many occupying both roles) has let this happen because it benefits them. Unfortunately, I do not think efforts to placate Provosts and Deanlets by creating "labs" within humanities departments will address the enrollment problems or the labor problems. Nor do I think that halving the number of entering classes to elite doctoral programs will make a dent. Universities have already demonstrated that they don't really care much about credentials or CVs when it comes to hiring contingent labor, or if they do care, it's not for the reasons we would hope. They'll simply continue to expand intrusive curricular programs that "manage" the adjunct labor under the supervision of the few tenured faculty that remain.  Unless we find some way to restore tenured positions that have a legitimate stake in University governance and the necessary protections to maintain that position, the profession will continue to create precarious contingent positions where job security, fair & equal pay, academic freedom, and the opportunity for real and meaningful advancement are an afterthought, at best. 

Well, gee, no one's ever brought up those points before...

What exactly is your proposed solution to any of this, other than to petulantly point out mammoth structural problems and hope that your personal outrage convinces management to magically change course? If you don't have a proposed solution, perhaps your energies would be better focused working with fellow academics to come up with one rather than haranguing them to the point of exhaustion.

Edited by 1Q84

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That article highlights some truly unfortunate thinking going on by some people in power.

That seems to be the purpose of the CHE at this point, to highlight how those in charge of the academy have lost all grasp on reality.

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That article highlights some truly unfortunate thinking going on by some people in power.

Enter all that "life of the mind" claptrap. I mean, the next paragraph states that DePauw says that universities should prepare students for non-academic jobs but doesn't state how. I was told one graduate director at my school (in an affiliated program to English) straight up told the incoming cohort at the open house that it's fine if you're not interested in a job in academia but to just let him know so that the program can be best shaped to suit the student's needs. I think that's definitely a step in the right direction. That creates awareness in an incoming cohort that jobs outside of academia for Ph.D. holders even exist. The more and earlier students know about these possibilities, the easier it'll be to create the pressure to either get them into alt-ac jobs or to convince bureaucrats that these alternative foci need to become structurally inherent to doctoral training itself.

 

Well, gee, no one's ever brought up those points before...

What exactly is your proposed solution to any of this, other than to petulantly point out mammoth structural problems and hope that your personal outrage convinces management to magically change course? If you don't have a proposed solution, perhaps your energies would be better focused working with fellow academics to come up with one rather than haranguing them to the point of exhaustion.

Untitled.thumb.jpg.e7570d8b4800f002cb74b 

I want kidprint font! And when will that meanie shut up about all these massive structural problems? My parents take care of my health insurance and that Petulant Adjunct can just get Obamacare! She doesn't know nothing about anything and is just a big meanie troll set to ruin our first year in graduate school! Why couldn't she just leave it at that stupid Kafka story?!! But no! She had to come report the MLA job list numbers and use those snide hashtags. I'm not old enough to say it, but she is a B*&^% for brining all this negativity into our precious community. Besides, I'm going to spearhead a joint English PhD/MBA program at my school. Alt-ac is a good option! I'm already thinking about a literary cupcake venture. 

 

Edited by VirtualMessage

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Untitled.thumb.jpg.e7570d8b4800f002cb74b 

I want kidprint font! And when will that meanie shut up about all these massive structural problems? My parents take care of my health insurance and that Petulant Adjunct can just get Obamacare! She doesn't know nothing about anything and is just a big meanie troll set to ruin our first year in graduate school! Why couldn't she just leave it at that stupid Kafka story?!! But no! She had to come report the MLA job list numbers and use those snide hashtags. I'm not old enough to say it, but she is a B*&^% for brining all this negativity into our precious community. Besides, I'm going to spearhead a joint English PhD/MBA program at my school. Alt-ac is a good option! I'm already thinking about a literary cupcake venture. 

 

So.... you're just going to ignore my entire post and petulantly post yet another strawman argument? Cool. Thank heavens the mods are sticking up for you and the valuable contributions you're making to this forum.

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So.... you're just going to ignore my entire post and petulantly post yet another strawman argument? Cool. Thank heavens the mods are sticking up for you and the valuable contributions you're making to this forum.

My theory is that my ravings have elicited such aggressive responses because I am both a big meanie and forcing a nasty confrontation with reality. I know that these confrontations are rarely pleasant, and I know they're especially hard for academics who will do almost anything to avoid them. Passive aggressive behavior is the usual manner in which anger, frustration, torment, agitation, and all of the other emotions tend to find expression in this profession. For the young lambs who see their betters model "professional" behavior, it must be outrageous that someone should directly vocalize her own. But it's still odd that for all of the talk in certain areas of criticism and theory about paying attention to affect and marginalization, we cannot tolerate finding it in what is supposed to be an OPEN dialogue about graduate school, the profession, etc. I know, you think I've crapped all over your hopes, dreams, aspirations, and fantasies with sneers, condescension, petulance, and all other things meanie. To some extent, I guess that might be true, but it hasn't been personal. Really, truly, honestly-- none of this is personal. I don't know you, and you don't know me. However, I don't think you've been reading very carefully. I have proposed "solutions," and I have provided detailed descriptions of the specific problems. But I think you want me to propose some sort of productive, optimistic collaboration or action plan? My point has been the impossibility of collective action and organization in the current climate. We are at an impasse, and it is my gut feeling that the only way to transform this fundamentally exploitative institution will be to change its culture. In order to effect that change, we must alter the mentality and foster an honest, impolite conversation about the impact of this unfair system on the majority of faculty. For me, that means finding a way to express the anger, outrage, and desperation that these economic conditions have engendered in so many, including myself. What has astonished me about the Gradcafe is how threatening this message seems to be for a group of people who will likely find themselves in a very similar position. Then again, I suppose that's the outrage of looking at the monster in the mirror and finding yourself staring back. But who knows, maybe you're just a better person than me, and you'll embrace her with affection, charity, and the promise of a better future together?

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I mean, why are you complaining that you cannot dissuade people who have chosen to walk off a cliff in full knowledge of how many feet they will be falling and how many pieces they will splatter into? It is immoral to deny a person the freedom of their choice, and in that you are less right than they are.

 

I'm not sure that anybody here is threatened by you as much as they don't give a shit about your experience.

Edited by ExponentialDecay

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I agree, most people here seem not to give TWO shits. So, with your kindness in mind, a kindness that I've shown none of you, I'll return to the dirty hole that made me so horrible. I wish everyone here much luck and success. I repent! Forgive me! I came to a party filled with care and support and crapped all over the dessert. Celebrate! Toast! Live! Laugh! Love! Enjoy!

Edited by VirtualMessage

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On 3/25/2015 at 11:14 AM, lazaria said:

I appreciate the OP's, and other's, words of caution. Yet, I do find myself unsure of what exactly to do with this information as during my undergrad and my MA I was frequently reminded of the harsh realities of the academic market. Does VirtualMessage and others have any suggestions for preparing for an alt-ac position or something to fall back on if our dreams of academic employment do not manifest? Maybe an MA in TESOL?

In my particular case, I'm already committed. I've bought in. Even still, I have no expectations of a TT right out of my Ph.D.; however, I do expect something a little more than adjuncting, which I currently do now for a living. (e.g. a VAP, a job at a research/teaching/writing center, a postdoc.)

I've read frequently that Ph.D.s end up so specialized and professionalized that they find it quite difficult to articulate how their skills transfer toward a different profession. VirtualMessage, is this your experience as well? 

I'm graduating soon with an MA TESOL. The field is very rewarding, but if you don't want to move around or work abroad, working in TESOL is NOT a secure job.  It's pretty much the same adjuncting situation or teaching 4 preps for around 30k. 

Edited by palabracrush

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When you cruise the English board and get hit with the most depressing rant ever. Yup, English...

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On 3/26/2015 at 10:05 PM, mollifiedmolloy said:

 I plan on doing summer internships so I can gain skills for work in the non-profit and education sectors.  While participating in a dynamic scholarly environment and working with some of the most amazing people in my field.  None of us are in this for the money, but we're not stupid.  I'd like to think I have as few illusions about this as one can have, given that I've already made a thoroughly irresponsible decision.  ... I'd still be interested in hearing about peoples' experiences preserving their resumes while in Ph.D. programs.  I'm 100% enthused and happy about starting my Ph.D., but I also have a resume that I don't want to allow to get completely out of date and untouched, so I'd be interested in hearing about whether people have faced particular struggles with that.

 

On 3/26/2015 at 10:41 PM, mollifiedmolloy said:

Has anyone else been trying to keep things like this in mind?

MollifedMolloy, Yes!  You might look into AHA's new programs, one of which provides money/aid to help schools make grad student jobs in non-teaching areas (admin, tech, etc.) I believe Jim Grossman pioneered it. This enables grads to progress in their PhDs while also building a resume in non-academic/non-teaching fields.  Here's a link to some similar ideas:

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/november-2013/in-admin-four-history-phds-discuss-their-alt-ac-careers

I've tried to take on research, admin, and volunteer roles throughout my PhD. It hasn't always worked, but oftentimes I find that I can earn some extra $$ or gain a few new skills, ease some job-related anxiety, and actually get more done on my PhD because my academic time is structured (and precious).  Even work related to your PhD can help, if only because its puts you in touch with people outside your immediate circle/industry. Oftentimes, advisers' professional networks are deeply embedded in academia, where there are lots of people looking for work. But, if you take a part-time position in an archive, at a publishing house, or even tutoring, you will meet people in other industries while also adding lines to your academic CV.  Depending on your field, you could: take a proofreading/copyediting exam and do freelance work in your field at your institution's academic press (yes, you could get doubly paid to read books), tutor in your field, volunteer ESL with migrant aid centers and adult learners in the area, volunteer/work to translate documents or statements for non-profits, hospitals, and law firms, volunteer for research positions in campus research centers, do part-time work in your campus's student services (if you're interested in admin) PR unit (if you're interested in media/communications) or development office (if you're interested in finance).

I think these opportunities are win-wins: you get more money, more skills, more friends/contacts, with minimal injury to your progress. It has eroded my social time a bit, but I have also made new friends in these volunteer and work positions, so I think it's worth it.  Best of luck!

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How's the academic thing working out for everyone? I hear the job market has never been worse and recently read something on the *CHI* about the shame of our profession, but it's nice to see the eager sheep here hungry for the slaughter. I'd say servitude, but that'd mix up the metaphor. Good luck blessed community! It's your sacrifice that keeps the kids' parents writing checks--thank god! I'd say I'm bitter, but I just topped off my conference expense account with a cherry. For shame!

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It wouldn't be that time of year again if VirtualMessage wasn't posting some bitter post about the job market, trying to scare all the kids away.

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Nice to see the FAILING alternative academics of yesteryear. These English departments are running like a finely tuned machine. FAKE job numbers! Sad!

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4 hours ago, VirtualMessage said:

it's nice to see the eager sheep here hungry for the slaughter

Ew go away.

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3 hours ago, VirtualMessage said:

Nice to see the FAILING alternative academics of yesteryear. These English departments are running like a finely tuned machine. FAKE job numbers! Sad!

Not familiar with this thread so I don't know whether to laugh at a brilliant parody of Trump or worry at an all-too-lifelike embodiment.

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7 hours ago, claritus said:

I'm just going to grad school to wait out the apocalypse 

Literally same. Like no one will have any jobs at all within the next decade because either global economic collapse, climate disaster, or all-out nuclear war, so I'm just like. Gather ye doctorates while ye may.

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