“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 Frobes.com.