Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It gets better(?)

You know the "It gets better" Project for gays in their teens? Any tenured faculty want to start up a similar project for us who haven't gotten there yet? Or, would that require you lying through your teeth?

If so, that's okay, we're used to it. Anything will help. Please. Lie away.

-- Jaded Dissertator

[N.B.: The following bracketed note contains strong language. {N.B.: The insensitivity of this post is defused by this bracketed note disclaiming any real comparisons between the plight of homosexual teens and the plight of non-tenured faculty, which also takes half the fun out of the expected comments from people accusing me of being an asshole who doesn't deserve a job anywhere and that any place that hires me better be prepared to deal with the asshole to end all assholes because they just hired a complete asshole who is made up of a bunch of smaller assholes and within those assholes are even tinier assholes composed of certain shapes, textures, and sizes the combination of which can be deemed powers of the medium-sized assholes to make me seem assholeish to those who interact with me, but without said interaction, the powers would lie dormant in the featureless asshole substratum, i.e., they would be assholes we know not what, which is obviously an absurdity. Thus, and Q.E.D., I am not an asshole, you are for believing in such a manifest repugnancy as an asshole without any assholeish qualities that exists outside of our perceiving its assholeishness. /Berkeleyed}]


Anonymous said...

I'll play! It Got Better for me when I quit my program and got a job at a consulting firm instead. (I was ABD.) I now get paid like a grown-up, don't have to grade assignments and exams for first year gen ed classes, have weekends off, and don't dread the Christmas season anymore.


Hylas said...

Ummm but I'm pretty sure that I can conceive of an asshole that is not conceived by any mind (i.e. the assholish content of my thought might be distinct from the mental activity of thinking). So might it be possible that you're an asshole even without interaction and thus you actually are an asshole?

zombie said...

Ya know, I thought you were going for an Asshole Leviathan there, but then you zigged and went all idealistic on me.

Well played, asshole.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be better to focus on your academic work / teaching instead of coming up with such pointless proposals?

Lucky Guy said...

Last year, I lucked into a great tenure-track community college job that I absolutely love (I'm still in my first semester). It's a weird position that requires me to teach mostly outside of philosophy, but I'm being supported in adding new philosophy classes to the curriculum, so, in a few years, I'll be all-philosophy, all-the-time.

I'm in a beautiful small town in the Northeast, not terribly far from a decent-sized city. I earn a livable wage and was able to buy my first house. My colleagues are wonderful. I'm teaching extremely polite and hard-working students (for the most part). I'm paid a little extra to head my department (I'm the only person in my department).

I came out of an unranked department. I applied to only a handful of places (15, I think). I'm ABD (and will be for a while), but still making progress toward tenure.

I'm perfectly happy here. Hopefully, it will get better for all of you. Good luck!


Jaded Dissertator said...

Because it took me more than 15 minutes to write that blog post, Anon. 7:43 I am now unable to do anything research or teaching related. O NOES! I'm really fucked now.

Maybe YOU should focus on coming up with better comments rather than your research/teaching. It could obvi use some help.

(Time to write read comments and write reply: approx. 3 - 5 minutes.)

Anonymous said...

you don't have to be the asshole to end all assholes, or to have powers that lie dormant in the featureless asshole substratum, nor do you have to be denounced as an asshole undeserving of a job of any kind, to understand that declaiming any comparison between dead teens and your job prospects, *despite the comparison you yourself just made,* is in fact an asshole move. your irony will not protect you.

i say this out of love, jd. the kind of love only an asshole could understand, or probably give, for that matter. that is to say even the gardner can sense and perceive that yonder cherry tree is an asshole.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear more about the mereology of assholes. I know there is a literature on holes generally... perhaps there are implications here!

Anonymous said...

it would be a lie. sorry

Anonymous said...

Yes. We can call it the "It gets better, but all of a sudden you will spend a lot of time worrying about getting on various committees in order to get promoted, about getting your colleagues to come visit your classes and write letters about them so you can include them in your annual review, about the fact that you are the only thing preventing your many, many advisees from screwing up their course requirements and having to come back for a fifth year, about going to the right meetings so you can meet the right upper-level administrators and faculty who will be reviewing your tenure and promotion packet, about how you will get through your teaching load which is 3-4 times as heavy as it was in graduate school, about finding time every day (ha!) to do research so you can distinguish yourself from the rest of the career teachers at your university, about your kids (didn't have them in grad school, did you?), about that annual review (did I mention that already?), and then snap out of all this worrying because you've got 8 completely different things to do before you go home tonight" project.

Xenophon said...

How about a post on what makes for a good/useful APA question? I've been thinking about the comments about asking the same questions of everyone, and while I'll accept that if HR dictatates, then you gotta do it. But I'm still not persuaded that this makes for any kind of equity. Ethicists, what say you?

In any case, for people who can ask what they want to, maybe we should discuss what questions solicit the most useful information. I think I'd learn something. And what questions never end up going anywhere.

zombie said...

Xenophon, speaking as an ethicist, I'm not sure that equity is necessarily the goal of standardizing the questions.

Possible benefits:

1) keeps members of the SC from "picking on" the candidates who are not their favorites by asking oddball/impossible questions
2) keeps the SC members from favoring certain candidates by asking softball questions
3) keeps weirdos on the committee from asking inappropriate questions
4) keeps anyone on the SC from asking inappropriate/illegal questions

The questions, in my experience, tend to be pretty general. Tell us about your research plans, tell us what classes you like to teach, etc. Of course, they may ask ancillary questions that spring from the conversation, and in my experience, that happens. As for equity, it is equitable in the same way that exams are equitable -- you ask everyone in the class to answer the same questions, but in the case of essay questions, the answers will not be identical, which still leaves room for embellishment, personality, originality, etc. Even if the questions are constrained, the answers are not.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 1:44pm.

I'm fucking sick of hearing tenure-track faculty complain about their job situations. No, your situation is *not* as bad as mine. *You* chose to have children; I chose to forgo marriage and having children in pursuit of a vocation I love and to which I'm dedicated. If you can't do your job, or simply don't like it, then get the fuck out of the way.

Anonymous said...

Dear 5:08--

I think you missed my attempt at humor! Also, the part about kids was supposed to be the author of the post (me) thinking aloud about how there was less (for me) to worry about in grad school since there weren't any kids to take care of (for me). None of it had anything to do with you, or your decisions regarding child-bearing; I don't know who you are, and I wasn't thinking of you specifically when I wrote the post.

P.S. For what it's worth, I'm awesome at my job, I love it, and I wish the same to everyone else.

P.P.S. If you want to hear some real complaining, go to the College Misery blog. I'm pretty much an amateur.


tenured now said...

Yeah, I do love my job. Dealing with administrators is annoying, but what job doesn't require you to deal with a bureaucrat now and then? Pre-tenure there's pressure to publish, but let's be honest: getting tenure is much easier than getting that job in the first place.
It's good.

(I should admit that I also loved grad school, but I was glad to be done with it when I was done with it.)

Anonymous said...

Clever post. Being devotedly philosophical is not unlike being gay in the central respect: you gotta be what you are. But unlike being gay (bisexuality aside), there are degrees of devotion to philosophy. If you're like me (and say, 9:18) and simply want to teach and write as you may--then you are devoted. Options open up for you--lesser SLACS, CCs, some high schools--and you can thrive. Many people on this blog would hate what I do--teach a 4/4, publish as I can, etc. for less than 70k a year late in my career. But I still love what I do, and what I can contribute to the profession, even though it ain't appreciated much by the so-called higher echelons of the profession. But that is their loss as I see it--what they can't see that my parents never even got to high school, and, by comparison, my life is one of gratitude and joy for my opportunity, even as I now face furloughs, reduced benefits, and the general neglect of taxpayers who fail to see what I give to the state as valuable, as well as the louder voices of my own discipline, which (as many comments here imply) count me as pretty much a nobody outlier in comparison to the august R1s. But I challenge anyone who doesn't see that my lot is a great one as a philosopher--dreams are as relative as other tastes--one philosopher's cold nightmare of employment is another's warming comfort.

I got to do in life what I truly wanted to do.

If you love philosophy, it can get better--but you need a lot of luck in any case, and to the degree that you want a prestigious and lucrative position--well--good luck indeed. If you can "settle"--maybe teaching more than writing, but engaged in a life of the mind that actually pays you for that commitment, then you might also settle in to something truly satisfying and worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Although I am tenured at a university, I think CC tenure-track jobs are more than a sorry last resort for PhDs in this kind of job market. A good friend of mine with a PhD from a prestigious Humanities dept took such a CC job a year after I went on tenure track. She made more money in the first year than I did in my first three or four years. She got tenured in 3 years (took me 6). By the time I was preparing my tenure package in a cheap tiny apartment, she already lived in her nice house (in an expensive state).
Sure, she has to teach 5 courses a semester, with with 2-3 online courses, she still spends a lot of time at home rather than on campus. And she does not have to supervise dissertations and MA theses, has no publication pressures for promotion (although she does publish), and does not enjoy the "prestige" of a big university job (whatever the latter means). But she has summers off, plus a month + in winter, plus fantastic benefits (better than mine), and she avoided wasting years of her life on minimum wage adjunct and visiting jobs.

Anonymous said...

yeah, it gets better. being a graduate students had its moments and in many respects -- e.g. the friends I made -- was lovely. Being on the job market sucked shit. The first three years of being tenure-track were tiring, but more than compensated just by the sense that I had a real job, with a real salary, and was accorded real respect for doing something I genuinely enjoyed.

Going up for tenure was a fucking nightmare of anxiety and depression; but even then, it was so much better than the uncertainty of the job market. It really does get better. I love my job.

Truly, the best of luck to you all.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that the long bracketed crap was supposed to make your disgusting comparison somehow ok?

Fuck that noise.

You are worse than Hitler.

Chairephon said...

You are worse than Hitler.

So you say, but what is really called for is a detailed accounting of the relative degree-of-assholishness of Hitler and JD. Step it up, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

"A good friend of mine with a PhD from a prestigious Humanities dept took such a CC job a year after I went on tenure track. She made more money in the first year than I did in my first three or four years. She got tenured in 3 years (took me 6). By the time I was preparing my tenure package in a cheap tiny apartment, she already lived in her nice house (in an expensive state).

Sure, she has to teach 5 courses a semester, with with 2-3 online courses, she still spends a lot of time at home rather than on campus. And she does not have to supervise dissertations and MA theses, has no publication pressures for promotion (although she does publish), and does not enjoy the "prestige" of a big university job (whatever the latter means). But she has summers off, plus a month + in winter, plus fantastic benefits (better than mine), and she avoided wasting years of her life on minimum wage adjunct and visiting jobs."

Ding. Ding. Ding. Winner.

The market is so glutted I would LOVE to take a cc tenure job for the above reasons. Its not clearing up anytime soon, so it sure beats the minimum wage adjunct and visiting positions where you spend your life savings moving from city to city.

I say: community college tenure-track is quite alright. Afterall, I am 33, have a wife and family, and its been three years on the market.

If they offer, I am taking it.

Anonymous said...

disgusting comparisons abound!

Glaucon said...

Not only are you worse than Hitler -- which, it's worth noting, is technically in keeping with one of the sanity-restoration signs advocated by Jon Stewart, I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler, since one must not be Hitler to be worse than Hitler -- but I'll bet a pocketful of pfennigs that your cat looks like Hitler. And if it does, would it be wrong to pour gasoline on it and ignite it, as the young hoodlums do in Harman's example -- as one pours gasoline over and ignites job dossiers lacking detailed, individuated cover letters?

Anonymous said...

> No, your situation is *not* as bad as mine.
> *You* chose to have children; I chose to
> forgo marriage and having children in
> pursuit of a vocation I love and to which
> I'm dedicated. If you can't do your job,
> or simply don't like it, then get the fuck
> out of the way.

Why bother having kids when you can cry like a baby all by yourself, eh?

BunnyHugger said...

For some reason community colleges (almost) never want to interview me. I did have a campus interview with a CC once (didn't get the job, of course) but only once in several years of going on the market, and I apply to lots of them (which typically involves spending a frustrating amount of time filling out their online applications). I have adjunct teaching experience at two different CCs and a teaching-oriented dossier, so I wonder what it takes to get those interviews.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 5:40, that's a good one, you little prick. I like how you selectively accuse the job market candidate of crying like a baby but say nothing about the apparent crying of the tenure-track faculty member.

(It's now clear that Anon 1:44 was making a joke; but, in the initial ambiguous context, the job market candidate's retort was justified).

SLACkerProf said...

Sorry, folks. It doesn't get better.

I miss the carefree life of a graduate student, all the free food, and the readily accessible undergraduate women. I even look back with great fondness to my year on the market. All the possibilities, the hopes, the bubbly excitement.

Now that I'm tenure-track at a SLAC the food is no longer free and the students are strictly verboten.

To make it worse I have to spend all my daylight hours teaching, my nights trying to write meaningless articles, and mornings churning out letters for students who will immediately land jobs that pay more than mine. Meanwhile I wonder if I'll even have a job in another couple of years, let alone a salary greater than the one I started with.

Get out now, while you still have time.

Filosofer said...

I have to disagree with SLACkerProf. Of course, so far as I know, we're at two different institutions, and maybe I'd be singing a different tune elsewhere. All I can say is this: even though I wish I got paid more (I'm supporting a family all by myself on a slightly-less-than-the-median-household-income salary), and even though I'm at a middling institution in a part of the country I don't especially like, I freakin' love my job. Teaching chews up oodles of time, but, um, I like doing it, and I became a professor largely because I like doing it. I spend ten hours or so per week talking with students about subjects I find fascinating and important. I work from home a lot, so I see my kids more than many professionals do, I wear pretty much whatever I want to work, and I have the most flexible schedule of anyone I know. At least once each week it occurs to me that I sacrificed a LOT to get through grad school, and that, in hindsight, it was totally worth it.

I do miss all the free beer I got in grad school, though.

Anonymous said...

SLACker Prof.'s comment made me want to go read the "Women in Philosophy" blog again. This post made my day.

Anonymous said...

I want to tell you all how much better it can get, but when I try to figure out how to say it, it sounds like gloating. My situation (tenure-track) is better than I hoped, immensely satisfying. I was extraordinarily lucky. After serving recently on my first search committee, and seeing how many awesome candidates there are (on paper, anyway), I can't stop thanking my lucky stars.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that the fact that I'm not allowed to sleep with the undergrads isn't high on my list of complaints about the life. And:

"To make it worse I have to spend all ... my nights trying to write meaningless articles"

De dicto or de re?

Verification word: "hedchec"
Which sounds like a good idea.

Anonymous said...

I got a TT job last year at a SLAC. Does it get better? Yes. Absolutely. I don't lie awake at night wondering whether I'll work next year. I get a paycheck that allows me to pick out the food that I want and eat out occasionally without feeling guilty. If my car breaks down, I'll be able to either fix it or get a new car. Financial security means a lot, and getting a TT job means you have some of that.

But it's not all puppy dogs and roses. When I was a grad student, I taught, attended reading groups, worked on my dissertation, and was on the market. And despite doing all of that, I wasn't as busy as I am right now. I routinely put in at least 70 hours a week on teaching alone. On top of that, I have meetings, I am expected to participate in training and workshops, and I am expected to participate in the college as a whole and so must attend student productions, etc. My life right now is my job. There really isn't time for anything else. And this is without doing committee work OR doing my own research at the moment. Research gets added in next semester (this semester is all about survival), committee work gets added next year.

So there's pressure (teaching and, soon, research), there's a hell of a lot of work, and there are politics that you enter into simply in virtue of being a member of a particular department or division or having a certain person as a mentor or what have you. I can only imagine that these sorts of pressures and worries and timesinks will only increase, at least until tenure.

But still, it's a hell of a lot better than grad school. I love teaching and I get to do a lot of it. My students are more interested and engaged than they were at my R1 gigantic state university. I've never had more fun teaching than I do right now. My colleagues are invested in me, and my happiness and success are important to them. I am encouraged to do research and have a budget that allows for it. I have financial and job security. I am slowly making new friends in a town that I am really starting to love. And maybe I'm especially lucky in my circumstances, but for me it really is better, even if it isn't perfect.

Anonymous said...


So why not retire and make room for someone who might actually enjoy doing what you do?

Anonymous said...

It can get better. It did for me. I spent 8 years on the market without a single TT offer. In my 9th, I got an offer at a decent research school in a fairly sizable city with a 2-2 load, excellent travel funds, $80,000 salary, and wonderful colleagues. I'm now tenured. Approximately 500 applications. One terrific offer. It can happen.

Anonymous said...

"..and the readily accessible undergraduate women..."


Anonymous said...

Okay, I can't let this call for "It Gets Better: Academic Philosophy Edition" to draw to a close on such a negative note. Unlike Anon 9:02, I don't miss anything about the graduate school lifestyle or about being on the job market. The call I received when I got my TT job was among the greatest moments of my life. Things were seriously competitive years ago--not nearly to the extent they are presently--but, damn, there's nothing like this call, and there's nothing like knowing you have the opportunity of a lifetime. That's what it was to me, and it remains that to me now, everyday. Making it through tenure had its very difficult moments, moments of worry, self-doubt, yet there was, with 20-20 hindsight, less to worry about in reality. I was doing my work, building my department, and teaching my heart out. My colleagues appreciated my work and my efforts. I grew into my institution, recognizing the sorts of things that needed to get done, and seized every opportunity to make such things happen. If it all ended tomorrow, for whatever reason, I'd have no regrets. It didn't simply "get better" for me. I hadn't dreamt that it would be this good.

If I had my way, I'd hire a whole bunch of you right now, because the truth is that we need you. We need people TT, committed to the long run, and ready to start their professional lives with security and support. There are classes to be taught, programs to start, and a 1,001 things we haven't even thought of yet. I do not have the power to change how things are in the world at large, yet I assure you that my department is busting its collective ass so that we can make our case for new hires. I have no idea when this day will arrive, but we are ready and waiting, too.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it "gets better" for most who reach tenure. But certainly not for all. There seems to be something like "post-tenure depression", which affects some rather badly. Below are two links to discussions on the forum of Chronicle of Higher Ed about this phenomenon.
In some cases this phenomenon arises when people get tenure-stuck at a location they simply hate (bad climate, small rural town, etc) but can't leave without jeopardizing the tenure they worked for so hard over many years.
In others it is the sudden "pressure drop" from many years of very intense, stressful and uncertain life to a life that is most likely "fixed" for the rest of their existence. Unless one has the single-minded writing resolve of a Kant, this sudden pressure change may present the rest of one's life as filled with little more but aging toward death. Or so it seems from some comments I've seen...



Anonymous said...

SLACker, it gets worse because you can't sleep with the undergrads anymore? Dang.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:13, this is one heck of a Cinderella story.

BunnyHugger said...

Anon 12:13, thank you, you've given me a moment of hope. I just sent out the first application of the year in what is my going to be my fifth full-blown year on the market. (I think I sent out some applications selectively one other year, bringing the total job market years to six, but I won't count that.)

By the way, anyone planning to get a job at Harrisburg Community College "teach[ing] assigned sociology courses"? When I send them my application I'll make sure my cover letter is still addressed to someone at another school.

Anonymous said...

If you are lucky enough to find a job that has tenure or some degree of job security and you enjoy teaching, it gets much better.

I am very happy that I don't have to worry about moving into a cardboard box next year, and I get paid for talking about what I love. what can be better than that? Of course I have to grade papers, and that sucks.. but in the overall scheme of things, its a good life.

Anonymous said...

It gets better, RIGHT NOW, philosophers. Here's how.

Stop thinking there is only one thing in the world that counts as meaningful work.

Realize that you, regardless of what you do for a salary, can be a philosopher. After all, many famous philosophers had somewhat demanding day jobs. (Courtier, doctor, librarian, secretary, soldier... etc), and that college professor with a 2/2 teaching load is not the only (or possibly even the best way) to be a philosopher.

Appreciate that you are part of a tiny fraction of the world's population that gets to spend time studying what you love for a living, even if its only for a few years in grad school and under the tutelage of mostly ornery, old, racist, and sexist jerks.

Anonymous said...

"I routinely put in at least 70 hours a week on teaching alone."


Anonymous said...

12:34, dude, I could so be a courtier. When does JFC come out?

Hank said...

I second that. 70 hrs teaching/week?? I'm kick ass at my teaching and I spend less than half that on my teaching with a 4-4 load. Someone needs to learn a little time management and efficiency...

Anonymous said...

Maybe he/she meant to say 7 hours?

Anonymous said...

It is nice to be a perrenial VAP and seduce a new sex partner in a new city far away from the old one every year. No danger of running into the ex.

Anonymous said...

I miss sleeping on a broken futon that I dragged out of a dumpster on Brighton Ave. after the undergrads move out day. I also miss the drunken blackout sex with fools, the ramen noodles and thinking the Middle East is the world's coolest venue. I miss paying rent and not having enough money for dental work. Could it have gotten any worse? I guess so, but fuck did it get better.

Anonymous said...

I remember last year at his retirement party, I asked the Dean what he will miss most on campus. His answer? "Hot female undergraduate ass."

zombie said...

Speaking of things I won't have to do after I land my dream job, how is everyone feeling about the online application process this year?
I'm finding that more than 75% of my applications are electronic this year. This saves me a LOT on postage costs, since I'm currently working outside the US. OTOH, it's rather a pain to have to keep filling out what is more or less the same online form for every job. It takes about 15-30 minutes to do it, depending on how speedy they are about uploading documents. I suppose the financial savings are worth it, although if I'm driving to the post office once to drop off five or six applications, the online process isn't saving me any time. The depts who want documents emailed ought to talk to their IT people about file size limits too -- a teaching portfolio containing evaluations, syllabi and a teaching statement is going to be a big document.

One school I applied to didn't request letters of recommendation until the dossier passed the first level of scrutiny. I like that too -- I don't need to waste money sending letters for jobs I won't be considered for. Although given the discussion on this board about the relative importance of a good letter, that may be good or bad as a policy. I guess it indicates that letters are not the most important part of the dossier, but rather a supporting part.

So, not that anyone asked, I guess I'm feeling overall favorably toward the online application process because of the massive financial savings, and because the deadlines are easier to deal with. It would be perfect if we could just fill out the form once for everyone, maybe like having an uploadable form on Interfolio or something.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:32: No one ever talks about the downside of democracy. No more courtiers - one of them. I wonder if my Political Phil class has any thoughts about this.

Anonymous said...

I'm at an R1. Let me tell you that it gets better. So much better. Sure you have to put up with daft referees reading your papers, and lazy grad students, teaching, and thinking about philosophy in all the other moments, but it's all great. Really--it's worth it.

The only thing I miss is getting to do philosophy without having to teach or have any responsibilities. But I also had no money. So I had more time, but nothing to do with it. WIth money comes a little work, and a whole lot of freedom etc.

The grass is SO much greener. I chose the life, the job, the career, the family, the fucking big television, the washing machines, the cars, the mp3 players, and the electrical tin openers. And I chose good health insurance, dental insurance, fixed-interest mortgage payments on my starter home, my friends, my leisure wear and matching luggage. Sure there are folks outside philosophy who make more money than me, but I have all the above--and that's quite a lot.

Imagine going to the APA just for the philosophy--and nice dinners out--without worrying about the cost. Yeah, life is pretty good once you cross that line.