Post Academic

Sense & Sangria, College Misery Style

Posted in Sense & Sangria by Caroline Roberts on February 21, 2011
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PhotobucketNow I love me a good rant against a student or two, and College Misery fits the bill. The community is tight over there, so I can see why one of their members turned to the group to ask for career advice.

For starters, I applaud Raul from Russellville for sending his question to College Misery instead of a general-advice columnist. Not to snub Cary Tennis, the go-to advice columnist for grad students, but the people at College Misery … well, they know the misery. But Sense & Sangria can’t resist chiming in.

Here are glimpses of Raul’s problems at a tenure-track job:

1. I struggled in that first semester, but worked hard through it. I was astonished at the students, how exquisitely dumb they were, how fantastically lazy, how creatively they avoided work.

2. It is not just the students. My colleagues are closed off. My attempts to be collegial are often rebuffed or ignored. I haven’t come in expecting to be beloved or anything, but I find that I’m just ignored, left to fend for myself.

At first read, I wonder if maybe it’s not Raul’s career that’s the problem but the job itself. If his students are assholes and his colleagues are borderline assholes, then the best solution is to find another job.

Ah … but there are barely any jobs in academia. It’s not as if he can pack up and move anywhere. For that reason, I say what I often say in Sense & Sangria: There is no shame in quitting. If he’s worried about what family and friends might think, he might be surprised. Some of them might ask him why he didn’t do it sooner.

I noted that many of the commenters on College Misery said that Raul should at least wait his first year because it might get better. Hey, they’re professors, and they know better than me, a mere grad-student turned Hamster. On a financial level, he should definitely tough it out for as long as he can until he can save up an emergency fund. But I don’t think that people should waste time at careers they don’t enjoy, no matter how much time they put into it. Perhaps Raul can last until some of the assholes leave his department, but if he’s really miserable, he shouldn’t stay in a bum job just because he made a time investment decision that didn’t work out.

Image of a trippy sangria from Tamorlan from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

4 Responses to 'Sense & Sangria, College Misery Style'

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  1. jo said,

    I van relate to Raul. I have been in the same situation for the last 13 years. What finally did the trick for me, I just decided it was a job, not a lifestyle. I go to work, do my job, get a paycheck and go live my life. It has made all the difference.

    • jo said,

      that would be “I can” noy “I van”…

  2. No worries–your comment’s meaning rings loud and clear! Compartmentalization goes a long way. Since academia is sold so hard as a lifestyle, it simply doesn’t occur to a lot of people that they can treat it as a job. And treating it as a job doesn’t mean a person is any less dedicated. I am glad that you found a solution that works for you!

  3. Sound advice, as always. I’ve had a few people write to me after the first year of a tenure-track job — heaven knows why, I mean, I left! — and I should send them here and to College Misery! Good to get advice from someone who know the system and difficulties of getting out.

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