[Humanist] 26.476 should I quit

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Nov 12 10:07:30 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 476.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>                  (172)
        Subject: Re:  26.475 should I quit

  [2]   From:    Alan Corre <corre at uwm.edu>                                 (3)
        Subject: Quitting?

  [3]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (26)
        Subject: Re:  26.475 should I quit

        Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012 10:13:56 +0000
        From: Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.475 should I quit
        In-Reply-To: <20121111095322.2380B2E00 at digitalhumanities.org>


I don't feel 'entitled' to anything. It's just that after so many false
dawns, cul de sacs, dead certs that turned out to be sclerotic pit ponies,
the luck of the draw and the rather arrogant, condescending attitude of
some (not all) academics I've run into (yes, I know it's an employer's job
market - but there's no need to be such a jackass about it, though), I feel
utterly disheartened.

I know I'm not the only post-doc with the scars to prove they staggered
through their PhD, but I think you forget that when you put your heart and
soul into something, quixotic though it may be, it really hurts to keep
being told you're not good enough.

I also get the impression you were simply in the right place at the right
time, so your self-congratulatory tone isn't particularly helpful. That's
the problem with a lot of people in Britain these days - they consider
their success well-earned, when in fact it is down more to random twists
and turns.

- Alexander

        Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012 08:15:01 -0600 (CST)
        From: Alan Corre <corre at uwm.edu>
        Subject: Quitting?
        In-Reply-To: <1614230635.325844.1352642269991.JavaMail.root at mail12.pantherlink.uwm.edu>

Jennifer and Willard's comments on this subject are very much to the point. It is my understanding that in the Communist USSR, when, for example, a professor of Arabic was called for, they would train an individual for the job which he would ultimately get. In this way that kept full employment and avoided oversupply, but at the high cost of lack of freedom on the part of the individual. This is the flip side of the freedoms we enjoy in the west; we have to take our chances what fate has in store for us, but at least we can prepare ourselves in ways we choose,and work and hope for the best. 

I would like to add one point about academic positions. It has always been hard to get academic jobs and probably always will be. Things have been made worse, though, by the current tendency on the part of universities to offer short term academic jobs where the incumbent does not know from month to month what the future holds. This makes it difficult to develop an attachment to the institution with which one is connected, and this important ingredient in becoming an effective teacher and member of the academic community is compromised. This may have been caused by the current tight economy, but like so many other attendant problems, cries out for attention. We do not want the standards of our universities to decline as a result.

Alan Corré

        Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012 11:22:08 -0500
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.475 should I quit
        In-Reply-To: <20121111095322.2380B2E00 at digitalhumanities.org>

This semester I'm teaching three undergraduate classes, co-teaching two
graduate classes, serving as Program Chair for my institution's Master of
Humanities program (so am responsible for curriculum review and revision
and every problem that every student and faculty member in the program
comes up with -- at least those that wind up coming to me), and I have a
7,000 word essay due on Kierkegaard and literature in about a week.  I am
advisor to about 20 students and serve on three committees, plus have to do
all of the usual for faculty meetings. My three undergraduate classes are
capped at 25 (but thank God, not all of them are full) and each class has a
20 page per student writing requirement.

There are few institutions with more reasonable work loads -- research
institutions may only assign a 2-1 or 2-2 teaching load, but then you'll be
supervising doctoral students.  So instead of 25 students who have to do 20
pages of writing each (500 pages of writing to grade per semester per
class), you might have three doctoral theses coming in at 200 pages or so
each, plus the reading to keep up with.  Many faculty members I know say
that they don't do anything but work, round the clock.  Many of them get
sick around November -- flus, colds, etc. -- largely just from lowered
resistance due to overwork.

Of course I'm describing conscientious faculty who are trying to meet
requirements and do their jobs well.  Other faculty members may assign this
work (or not), look the other way, just assign all papers As without any
feedback, etc.

Bottom line: if you can't work a 9-5 job and get research done you won't
cut it in an academic position anyhow, so it's just as well.

Jim R

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