Critical Readability

My critical readings of the best and worst of online media

Meet your new professor: Transient, poorly paid – In Plain Sight


Meet your new professor: Transient, poorly paid – In Plain Sight.

This is a pretty good article, but it fails to address some really major points.

Most people probably don’t know what it means when I say I am contingent faculty, or that 3 out of 4 faculty in this country are contingent faculty. People think professors are paid well and guaranteed stability (tenure), and those that aren’t tenure-track (contingent) are on an annual renewable contract like the rest of the business world. This is a much better analogy: Walmart hires a wide variety of workers, from CEOs and other skill/knowledge-based jobs that pay well to temporary unskilled seasonal labor at Christmas or other holidays that pay a fraction of what permanent laborers make. Corporate jobs are the academic equivalent of tenure-track jobs, contingent faculty are the academic equivalent of temp labor hired at Christmas to stock shelves for half the salary of the permanent shelf stocking laborer (albeit we’re highly skilled and educated and drowning in student loan debt). Typically speaking, when Christmas passes, Walmart’s temp laborers are “not rehired” (they’re not fired, mind you, just not rehired).

Now imagine if Walmart decided to try to trick the system by dividing the calendar into 4 3-month holiday seasons so they could only hire temp labor for half the salary. Upside? Much cheaper pay, you don’t have to pay for benefits, and you don’t have to pay unemployment taxes. Downside? You have to re-train new employees every three months. But, what if you kept rehiring the same temp labor at the end of their contract? Now they work the same number of hours as permanent laborers, have the skills of permanent labor, but you spend half the money, don’t have to give them benefits, you never have to give them a raise (even for increased COL), you do not need a reason to “not rehire” them, and you don’t have to pay unemployment taxes. Now imagine Walmart starts only hiring permanent temporary labor – imagine that there are no jobs as a permanent (full or part time) shelf stocking laborer available, so 3 out of 4 are permanent temporary laborers. This is what it means to be contingent faculty – we’re permanent temporary labor.

Not only do most university contingent faculty get paid in the poverty range (literally), many are on food stamps and very few of us (myself included) would be eligible for unemployment. I had more work stability when I worked at K-Mart in college, and they actually gave me raises when I performed well. If Walmart actually did this, it would be labor exploitation. When academia does it, it’s running a university like a business. It’s white-collar labor exploitation, and the only reason it still exists is because they can get away with it because the public has no idea it’s happening.


The Least Stressful Jobs Of 2013 – Forbes

“University professors have a lot less stress than most of us. Update: Well maybe not, see ADDENDUM below.” via The Least Stressful Jobs Of 2013 – Forbes. Dear Ms. Adams, let me tell you why I (an adjunct professor) am stressed:

1. I have $75,000 worth of student debt

2. In a good year, I make $30,000.

3. Any one of my classes can be canceled at the last minute.

4. I get paid by the class.  That means I could make $10,000 next year, or maybe 0.

5. I am on a limited term contract which states I should have no expectation for continued employment.

6. No reason is needed to not rehire me.

7. If I give a student a C for cheating on an exam, or talk about some politically unpopular topic (say, evolution or women’s rights),  the student can complain and I can be “not rehired.” And the students know it.

8. I usually find out at the last possible minute if I will have a job next month

9. I am 30 years old and only recently acquired health, dental, and eye benefits. Most adjuncts are not so lucky

10. I am 30 years old and only recently acquired retirement benefits.  Most adjuncts are not so lucky

11. I have sent out dozens of applications for permanent jobs (tenure-track) and my biggest accomplishment to date was learning that I am on an active wait list for a job that had over 600 applicants

12. Did I mention that I teach 300-500 students a semester? That I work 60-80 hours a week? And that summers and breaks are for me to get caught up on everything I didn’t get done while teaching 500 students?  Did I mention my colleague teaches 1200 students?

13. Did I mention that somehow I have to find time to research and write articles and books merely so that someday I may not have such a financially precarious life?  That in order to get an entry level tenure-track job in my field today I have to have my first book published, a task that 10 years ago was reserved for determining tenure (i.e. “senior” status).

14. Ms. Adams, since you clearly spent no time researching your news article, let me tell you that writing an academic article is nothing like your poor journalism.

15. Stress is sending out dozens and dozens of grant applications, fellowship applications, articles, etc., waiting 5 months, and then learning that constant rejection is part of the game

16. And that the game means one more year of underemployment because the reviewers took too damn long to get back to you on that article and now you’ve missed the (literally) 5 months of the year in which it is possible to apply for a tenure-track job

17. Stress is acquiring $2000 worth of credit card debt to attend the academic conference that is really a job interview in disguise

Yes, I realize we’re not fire fighters or nurses and we don’t work in sweatshops or factories.  But we create the knowledge the rest of the world needs to function, even if the world fails to properly utilize the knowledge we create. Even if that student fails to pay attention in her liberal arts classes and then goes on to write one of the most poorly researched articles on

Responding to Malala – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education

“We in higher education, as incubators of ideas and educators of students, can play a central role in that process. But our mandate is even broader. Fortunately, so are the tools in front of us. We have the possibility of a truly global conversation on women’s empowerment that advances all our thinking.

The internationalization of higher education creates crosscurrents that are reshaping disciplines, bringing more voices to the table, and opening access to more students. We can—and must—use internationalization as a source of interconnectivity that empowers us all. The possibility of a global feminist movement is in front of us. The powerful reaction to Malala’s plight in Pakistan itself is instructive to us all, and a testimony to the importance of developing a women’s movement that acknowledges local differences and includes all voices.” via Responding to Malala – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

How the Hype Became Bigger Than the Presidential Election | Politics News | Rolling Stone

“Think about it: Banning poll numbers would force the media to actually cover the issues. As it stands now, the horse race is the entire story – I can think of a couple of cable networks that would have to go completely dark tomorrow, as in Dan-Rather-Dead-Fucking-Air dark, if they had to come up with even 10 seconds of news content that wasn’t centered on who was winning. That’s the dirtiest secret we in the media have kept from you over the years: Most of us suck so badly at our jobs, and are so uninterested in delving into any polysyllabic subject, that we would literally have to put down our shovels and go home if we didn’t have poll numbers we can use to terrify our audiences.”

via How the Hype Became Bigger Than the Presidential Election | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

Philip Glass and Beck Discuss Collaborating on ‘Rework’ –

“Anticipating his 75th birthday, Philip Glass approached Beck about finding artists interested in reinventing pieces from the Glass catalog. “Rework: Philip Glass Remixed” features tracks by Amon Tobin, Tyondai Braxton, Beck and others. Glass and Beck met up recently at the Los Angeles home of Elyse and Stanley Grinstein, art collectors and philanthropists who befriended Glass decades ago.”

via Philip Glass and Beck Discuss Collaborating on ‘Rework’ –

Inequality in the US: Interview with Economist Joseph Stiglitz – SPIEGEL ONLINE

I’ve been saying this for years. Not only do your privileged at birth influence your eventual success, even those coming from privileged families are no longer able to find work. The American dream has long been dead.

“Stiglitz: This belief is still powerful, but the American dream has become a myth. The life chances of a young US citizen are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any other advanced industrial country for which there is data. The belief in the American dream is reinforced by anecdotes, by dramatic examples of individuals who have made it from the bottom to the top — but what matters most are an individual’s life chances. The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data.”

via Inequality in the US: Interview with Economist Joseph Stiglitz – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

No, you’re not entitled to your opinion

Ever heard the phrase, “I’m titled to my opinion?” This philosophy professor confronts this phrase, suggesting that while, yes, you can have an opinion, no, that does not necessarily mean your opinion is automatically valuable or “right.” In other words, if your opinion does not hold up to the academic rigor used by experts when studying your opinion, it does not hold weight alongside expert knowledge.

“Every year, I try to do at least two things with my students at least once. First, I make a point of addressing them as “philosophers” – a bit cheesy, but hopefully it encourages active learning.

Secondly, I say something like this: “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

via No, you’re not entitled to your opinion.

Duke Graduate Student Unlocks ‘Mystery of the Lost Sonata’ – Percolator – The Chronicle of Higher Education

This is so cool!

“It was an unsolved mystery of classical music. An “Easter” sonata, sometimes attributed to the 19th-century composer Felix Mendelssohn, had largely disappeared from history. Scholars suspected the work was actually by the celebrated composer’s sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. But the manuscript seemed lost, so how could they prove it?”

via Duke Graduate Student Unlocks ‘Mystery of the Lost Sonata’ – Percolator – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

‘Cover Your Eyes,’ Iranian Woman Tells Chastising Cleric Before Beating Him Up : The Two-Way : NPR

“Of course, when the same type of incident is reversed — a ‘badly veiled’ women beaten in public by police — it’s simply a necessary enforcement of the dress code.”

via ‘Cover Your Eyes,’ Iranian Woman Tells Chastising Cleric Before Beating Him Up : The Two-Way : NPR.

Media don’t get #MuslimRage –

“In Indonesia, a nation of over 200 million, several hundred people took part in protests. Just a few months ago, 50,000 Indonesians bought tickets to see a Lady Gaga concert before it was canceled. So, what does this say about Muslims in Indonesia?

In Egypt, a nation of over 80 million, about 2,000 people protested on Friday. Of those protesters, a few hundred were arrested by the police.

In Lebanon, no protests occurred until Monday. Why? Because the pope had been visiting the country, and the leader of Hezbollah, which the U.S. has labeled as a terrorist group, didn’t want to do anything to interfere with the pope’s historic three-day visit.

A small number of protesters should not define the entire Muslim population of over a billion. The media should know this and report the truth accordingly.”

via Media don’t get #MuslimRage –

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