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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

More financial trials

So today I found out that my new position, despite requiring my presence on campus the third week in August, will not actually be giving me a paycheque until September 30 (bear in mind here that May 30 was my last paycheque from INRU). For reasons that are apparently as obscure to the department chair as to me, lecturers at Big Urban University are paid monthly, not bi-weekly. Okay, but what? You have to test-drive us for six weeks first?

Whatever the reason, it SUCKS. Guess I'll just have to put all my living expenses for the month on a credit card and hope I can then turn around and pay it all off. Right. Along with that computer I just bought.

I feel guilty bitching about my salary, but at the same time I feel mad at myself for feeling guilty. I'm lucky to have this job, when I might have had to spend a second year trying to scrape together a living teaching at INRU--commuting nearly two hours each way--while also holding down some kind of an office job. BUU is a good school, and it will be great experience, and as I've learned from recent posts and comments on a variety of academic blogs, I'll actually be making more money than many tenure-track assistant professors (admittedly, in less urban areas)--while teaching an equivalent load and not being expected to do any service or committee work.

But this is what the conversation about academic pay and workload always comes down to, isn't it? This oscillation between feeling guilty for what one is lucky enough to HAVE (a job of some sort; a relatively flexible schedule; The Life of the Mind) and feeling resentful about what one doesn't have (chiefly, reasonable compensation and, often, institutional respect). I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't expect to be compensated as well as a corporate lawyer. But I've had about enough of people claiming that bankers and lawyers "earn" their money--as if in some way academics didn't. Okay, so if I'm working 50 hours a week, I should make less than the lawyer who's working 80. Fair enough. But to pretend that a 25-year-old J.D., in his first year on the job, somehow, in some intrinsic way, "deserves" $130,000 a year (NOT COUNTING ANNUAL FIVE-FIGURE BONUS), whereas a 35-year-old Ph.D. with years of experience, teaching four classes a semester, "deserves" $45,000 (or less) is fucking ridiculous.

And it's not a supply-and-demand problem, either: there are more students in college today, and more teachers. It's just that the teaching is being done by graduate students, adjuncts, and other non-ladder faculty. Sure, they can usually do the job--but when I was a paralegal I could do a significant portion of the daily work of the junior associates I worked for (and I could have been trained to do even more of it). The difference is that the corporate entities who pay for the services of law firms want their work done by actual lawyers. Ideally, lawyers at the best goddamn firms and with the best goddamn degrees. But more importantly, corporations have the money to PAY for those desired services. (I reviewed a number of the itemized bills from multi-million cases I worked on . . . and anyone who doesn't think that those bills are padded, or who thinks that corporations even fucking care, is a moron.) Colleges and universities often don't have much money--but, more to the point, they often just don't feel like putting that money into faculty hiring when there's a new stadium or student center that could be built.

I'm not saying that corporations are evil, and I'm certainly not going to pretend that academia isn't also a prestige economy; I'm willing to bet that one of the main reasons BUU hired me for this job (for which, incidentally, I was NEVER INTERVIEWED, not even on the phone) is that I have three degrees from INRU and my advisor is a big player in the field. But the game is fucking rigged in so many ways, and they all make me furious. The fact that I'll probably land a decent job eventually, because of who I know and where I've been trained, is completely and grossly unfair--but even that unfairness is relative. For example: a former grad school classmate of GWBoyfriend's, who is fucking brilliant, as well as an amazing teacher and the warmest, most engaging person you could every want to meet, still doesn't have a t-t job after three years on the job market and a visiting professorship at a great liberal arts college. Not only that, but at the MLA this year she had . . . ONE INTERVIEW. Yeah, if she sticks around she'll unquestionably land a great job, but how many times do you try before you wind up completely disillusioned with the process, and so far in the hole that even that job at Harvard isn't going to pull you out?

Sometimes I think that academics themselves are to blame--if we weren't such suckers, and didn't put up with so much shit, there wouldn't be so much shit to be put up with. But this I can tell you: I know my own breaking point, and I'm not going to be pushed past it.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 9:56 PM |


Blogger Professor B commented at 11:54 PM~  

God. Yes. Just So Yes.

Blogger RH commented at 9:33 AM~  

And then there's the difference between corporate CEOs and "public" (i.e. municipal) "CEOs," who do just about the same work, but the "municipal CEOs" get paid a tiny fraction of what the corporates do. I guess life is just inherently unfair. But then again, if I'd wanted to, I could have majored in economics, gotten an MBA, and tried my best to be one of those corporate CEOs, if money had been the only factor in determining what to do with my life.

Blogger timna commented at 1:26 AM~  

yes, once when I was a finalist for a tt track job I was warned that it paid less than $30,000. that's just not enough to move a family of four and for Mr. T. to start looking for work elsewhere.

Blogger Z*lda commented at 5:44 PM~  

I feel for your financial squeeze. Some things about academic jobs are just irrational. For instance, if you're at the U of Wisconsin and accused of multiple instances of innappropriate behavior with students, you may have a contract that keeps you in a cushiony (altho slightly lower paid) job indefinitely. Here's an example.

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