Post Academic


Rage Against the Professor

Posted in The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on April 14, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe report on professor salaries made it to the Huffington Post, and this information generated some wild speculation on what professors make and what it is they actually do. Some of the comments reflected a streak of anger toward professors in general and could be summed up as “quit yer bitching.” The comments swiftly turned into a debate over whether or not professors were valuable, period:

“I had drunks for professors, BORING professors who read out of the book, MEAN professors, you name it. And they all had tenure.”*

“These professors have a bloated sense of entitlement. At least they got an average increase!”

“Professors are no doubt due a decent salary – but the fact that they get the salary they do while being GROSSLY under worked is driving the cost through the roof.”

“Educators love to site the “prep time” and all the “work” that happens outside the actual teaching in a classroom. Perhaps these people that thrive on education should spend some time educating themselves about the real world.”

More after the jump! Image from Wikimedia Commons, US Department of Agriculture, public domain.
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Academia, I wish I knew how to quit you!

Or perhaps the better overused, overwrought movie quote to describe my situation would be: “Just when I thought I was out…you pull me back in!”  Or, more accurately, “Just when I thought I was out…I pull myself back in!”

Here’s a real-time example of just how easy it is for me to talk myself into keeping on holding on to academia, despite what my experience and better judgment tell me: A few days ago, I spied a plum job opening that’s kinda-sorta in my field, which is a big shock and a really pleasant surprise because postings for the tenure-track run mostly dry after the Fall and Winter.  This position would be one of the better jobs I’d have applied for this year (or really, any year), at a top-notch R1 public university with a strong graduate program.  And then, maybe my chances for the position would be better than they normally would be, since the applicant pool should be smaller due to the late date, compounded by the possibility that the job might not be so widely advertised and fewer folks will be on the look out for it.  And maybe the most attractive candidates–even though I do regard myself as a strong candidate!–have all been placed in tenure-track jobs or postdocs from earlier in the cycle.  I start to think about going for it, since, as my friends who are gainfully employed in the academic world like to tell me, it only takes one application and what do I have to lose anyway, except maybe a few bucks in postage and couple of hours of my time?

The problem is, I’ve been on this hamster wheel before and before that, and a few hours putting together an application can end up being a few more months waiting to hear from someone, obsessively checking the wiki, and investing some psychic energy that could be better used elsewhere.  The reality of the situation is that it would still be quite a stretch to make myself appear like a good fit, no matter how well I can sell it in my cover letter.  Plus, I whiffed on a postdoc at the same institution (which probably passed my application on to the department in which the tenure-track position is housed), so maybe that should be a big red flag.  And the job ad is written in such a way–it asks for two not-necessarily connected specializations in a sneaky “and/or” way–that suggests this could be an inside hire, which might also help to explain the late posting and the relatively short period to turn around the application.  There are some obvious warning signs to foreshadow where this story is going, and I think I’ve seen this movie enough times to know that I don’t like the way it ends.

So should I apply?