Critical Readability

My critical readings of the best and worst of online media

Archive for the category “Academic”

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.

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’ –

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.

Colorado State criticized for job posting favoring recent Ph.D.s | Inside Higher Ed

CSU English Department post a job ad that limits applications to those receiving their Ph.D. between 2010 and date of appointment. Unbelievable.  At least they’re being honest, but this is not the direction I would like to see the job market go in.

Particularly infuriating is the explanation by CSU:  “Louann Reid, chair of English at Colorado State, sees it differently. When asked if the ad discriminated against adjuncts, she said her department is seeking an entry-level professor with an entry-level salary and expectations, and added that the posting was approved by the university’s office of equal opportunity. ‘I think people are assuming things that we are not assuming,’ she said.”

My guess is that Louanne Reid was never contingent faculty. If she had been, she would not fail to realize that the vast majority of applications who might apply for her position with a PhD granted before 2010 are not tenure-track faculty, they’re contingent faculty. Secondly, she would realize the enormous increase in pay/benefits/job security/and work load contingent faculty have to gain from an “entry level” position.  Her statement is insulting to all contingent faculty.

My suggest to those on the English job market is to flood them with applications expressing just how qualified you are for the position, and just how much you hope to gain from an entry level position. Also, you might spend some time schooling them on the state of education in this country, treatment of contingent faculty, the economic recession of 2008, and all the many other reasons why you do not yet have a tenure-track position.

Equally frustrating is the reality that is being discussed by faculty on a  blog by Chad Black. Comments, while thoughtful and likely spot-on, explore the possibility that extensive publications prior to hire in a tenure-track position can be used by the successful applicant to negotiate for a shorter tenure clock, and thus higher salary sooner than CSU would like financially.

So last year the job wikis argued that monographs are necessary to even secure an interview, and this year people are positing that extensive publication records might actually hurt their chances at a tenure-track position. Seriously. I give up.

via Colorado State criticized for job posting favoring recent Ph.D.s | Inside Higher Ed.

For Museum, Long-Lost Picasso Is Too Costly To Keep : NPR

So cool! Can you imagine discovering that a piece of art in storage is actually a Picasso? I love when these types of discoveries are brought to the surface. It reminds me of how much we do not yet know about the past, and as such, the enormity of future possibilities.

“Lo and behold, the piece in the museum’s storage area was a rare gemmail, one of only 50 Picasso made. It’s called Seated Woman with Red Hat, and it’s iconic Picasso, with thick black lines that mimic his brushstrokes.” via For Museum, Long-Lost Picasso Is Too Costly To Keep : NPR.

Ph. DJ Names | The Tangential

I think I identify mostly with “DJ Not Tenure Track But Still A Full Time Faculty Member So Quit Mistaking Me For A Student” and “DJ Faculty Bus Pass”

What’s your Ph.DJ name?

via Ph. DJ Names | The Tangential.

Alumni Donations?


I understand that in the grand scheme of things giving money to my former universities will ideally provide younger students with the same opportunities that I had. I also understand the urge to give money, especially to my undergraduate department.

But right now, nothing makes me more irate Read more…

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on


This is a beautiful depiction of the danger of a single story, while at the same time illuminating the power of an individuals’ story. In this Ted talk, novelist Chimamanda Adichie discusses the creation of a “single story” vis-à-vis literary, historical, popular, and media representations that are articulated, performed, reenacted, and reinforced through a process of cultural translation.

Like scholars F. Farahzad, T. Niranjana, G. Spivak, L, Venuti, and S. Faiq who have theorized the problematics of cultural “translations,” here Adichie explains that a “single story” is created through naivety, ethnocentrism, supremacy, hegemony, colonization, the white savior industrial complex, and above else, power. The result is a “single story” – a homogenized stereotype of difference that is uncritically cast upon an entire group of people.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes,” said Adichie, “is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

Rather, people and cultures are multifaceted, and their ethical representation thus depends on the “balance” of stories – a conglomerate of individual stories understood according to the multifaceted identities performed within each story, as well as the profound complexity of their relationship to one another.

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also be used to repair that broken dignity.”  Watch the whole video here: Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on

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