[Humanist] 28.127 how to help PhDs without permanent academic jobs

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Jun 16 22:29:06 CEST 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 127.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2014 22:56:11 +0100
        From: Daniel Allington <daniel.allington at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re:  28.123 how to help PhDs without permanent academic jobs
        In-Reply-To: <20140614201723.2B9B062C2 at digitalhumanities.org>

It's great, of course, that these issues continue to be raised, but I would like to make three quick observations about that particular website.

First, I feel that there's a little too much of the passive voice in the description of problems. For example: 'hiring decisions are often based on the subjects needed by individual departments, which are impossible to predict years in advance when a student chooses a thesis topic' (http://hortensii.wordpress.com/full-report/). Hiring decisions don't happen by themselves - we make them, and if we can see that it's counterproductive to do so on some particular basis, then it's up to us to change. It is entirely within our collective power as academics to improve the academic job market in this and many other important respects. Merely '[e]nsur[ing] that [our] PhD applicants know how bad the job market is' involves an implicit abdication of responsibility. Yes, I have less power to improve matters than my head of department, who has less power than the dean, who has less power than various pro-vice-chancellors - but all these people are academics. I'm told that there are universities where even the vice chancellor is an academic...

Second, there seems to be little or no discussion of unionisation or other forms of collective action, even though the union that represents university and college lecturers in the country where the Hortensii website was created has a number of ongoing initiatives that are directly relevant: in particular, the Stamp Out Casual Contracts campaign (http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=3532).

Third, instead of taking a strong line against the trend towards casualisation of the academic workforce (as UCU does), the Hortensii page on 'How the employed can help' (http://hortensii.wordpress.com/4-how-the-employed-can-help/) makes suggestions as weak as the following:

12) If you are a UK Classicist involved in hiring or supervision of non-permanent faculty, try to follow the recommendations of the CUCD
17) If you find yourself serving on a departmental review committee and that department is relying too heavily on non-permanent faculty and/or treating such faculty badly, recommend that the situation be improved (e.g. by making temporary positions permanent)

What do I find so weak about the above?

As for point 12, the CUCD's recommendations (https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/classics/cucd/tempstaff.html) are really no more than bare minimum standards for legal and ethnical behaviour. If the most that anyone can suggest we do is to 'TRY to follow' the recommendation that '[t]emporary staff should be explicitly informed of their employment rights under the law' (https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/classics/cucd/tempstaff.html), for example - especially where TRYING to follow such recommendations is only one proposal among many, with 'no suggestion that you should to tackle them all' (http://hortensii.wordpress.com/4-how-the-employed-can-help/) - then we really need to take a look in the mirror. Are we so very craven?

As for point 17, anyone who's been involved in trying to get non-permanent staff treated better or made permanent will know (a) that they really can't wait for us to somehow 'find [ourselves] serving on' the right committees, and (b) that any improvement in their lot requires those that care to do an awful lot more than 'recommend' better behaviour from those that don't.

We can be bolder than this! Please do take a look at Stamp Out Casual Contracts (if you didn't spot the link above, it's http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=3532).

With best regards


Dr Daniel Allington
Lecturer in English Language Studies *
Centre for Language and Communication
The Open University

www.danielallington.net http://www.danielallington.net

* and faculty UCU representative

On 14 Jun 2014, at 21:17, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 123.
           Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
               Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org<mailto:humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>

       Date: Sat, 14 Jun 2014 14:55:23 +0200
       From: Hartmut Krech <kr538 at uni-bremen.de<mailto:kr538 at uni-bremen.de>>
       Subject: How to help PhDs without permanent academic jobs

With permission from Professor Eleanor Dickey, I forward
her message to CLASSICISTS-L with the results of her survey
concerning unemployed PhDs in the humanities (please see
Humanist-L 27.959). Please address Prof. Dickey directly
through the link to her website given below.
Hartmut Krech

The results of the survey on what could be done to help PhDs
without permanent academic jobs are in; you can find them at
http://hortensii.wordpress.com/. It turns out that there are
quite a few things that could easily be done and would make
a big difference to people in this unpleasant situation, and
many of them would not even require money, so the next step
is to do them. Therefore I would be very grateful if people
could volunteer to help with this project, and/or put their
names on the web site as endorsing it, and/or publicize the
project and its web site in whatever ways you can.

I would also be grateful if everyone who forwarded the
original surveys to any e-mail list or other group could
also forward this message.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank most sincerely
all the people who have helped so far: the people who took
time to respond to the survey, the ones who wrote long
detailed comments, the ones who read successive drafts of
the report and found the mistakes in it, and particularly
the Classics department at the University of Reading for
their enthusiastic support.

Eleanor Dickey
Professor of Classics, University of Reading, UK
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