We have to make a living…


I know y’all feel me out there in academia.  This year I have the pleasure of sitting on 2 search committees and a personnel committee, all within my department, which is in between chairs, and the interim chair doesn’t respect me.  And I hate my classes.  So far, there is a temporary contrast effect where my salary keeps me from leaving, for now… but the job conditions have me on the market (and the dean, too!).

At least I got a raise with tenure… at least I got the tenure bump… at least I have tenure….

#2 notes that she starts bright and early at 8am teaching a math class!  Also, she hasn’t gotten her contract letter for the year yet.  And she has no idea how many department searches her department will be doing, but at least now she has two interim administrators in addition to the non-interim provost (still no word on the interim president).  Oh, and after she completely reconfigured her class homework assignments etc. (but before writing down the changes on paper), the university reverted her blackboard page to what it was 2 years ago, two days before her first 8am class.  Thank you university!

Commiserate in the comments.

46 Responses to “We have to make a living…”

  1. Savvy Working Gal Says:

    I got a raise this year too. It helps just a little bit. Good luck with your job search.

  2. Pamela Says:

    I hope you find a better job, #1! And I hope #2’s university doesn’t have a repeat of that stunt with her blackboard page! Ugh.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No no, this isn’t a repeat… the blackboard page currently *is* what it was 2 years ago, complete with comments to students who have since graduated. All my changes are GONE.

      • rented life Says:

        Oh lord, what fresh hell.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Now I can’t even get into blackboard. The students still can though.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        … and now the class email list-serve (a totally different service) has rejected my message

        I was able to use it last week…

      • Debbie M Says:

        Call someone. a) They need to hear that this is not acceptable. b) Maybe there’s a saved version they can get to to help you.

        But then perhaps something drastic happened that caused them to have to go back two years. Even so, they should have sent out an apology. And they should do back-ups more often than every two years.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I spent an hour on the phone with someone on Friday. Just spent a half hour now. It seems like we’ve come to a workable solution in which I still have to do some additional work (changing links for each assignment) but they did find an archived copy (whew).

      • Debbie M Says:

        Oh, that’s a relief. Talking to IT people for hours sounds like not the greatest fun activity, but better than redoing all that work.

        It does sound like oddly they think this is a problem they are solving for you, if they found you an archived copy. Surly lots of people have a problem with a two-year-old reversion?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Well, I did talk with 4 different people, so who knows what each individual person thought they were doing. Mostly the earlier folks thought this was an unusual case and a curiosity.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Oh, sounds like it didn’t affect everyone–that’s good.

        (Interesting typo I made there: “surly lots of people.” Heh.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, I’m special. Not unique, but special. And this time of year there are lots of surly people! Including me!

        (She says– the city has messed up the lights so what used to be a 10 min commute is now a 25 min commute with stop and go traffic on a long stretch of highway. Unpleasant!)

  3. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    Enrollments are down. Again. We are threatened with teaching comp classes. I am contemplating enrolling in accounting courses at the local CC. I’d rather teach remedial math than comp, but nobody’s offering that option. Good luck with the search committees.

    • becca Says:

      Yipes. Why do you hate your classes #1? I totally get the ridiculousness of having to do all those searches at once. Work load wise, and to a degree in terms of making a wise decision when you don’t know who the other people are. ickyicky.

      I *sincerely* hope the appropriate version of Blackboard is saved somewhere for #2 and she doesn’t have to redo all that entirely. Remember, the % of students who will have actually checked Blackboard right before an 8 am class? Not high enough to really worry about. But the thought of that work *poof*? It would make me stabby and I *don’t* have an 8am math class (bleck).

  4. Foscavista Says:

    What a coincidence. Today, the system now shows my tenure bump!

  5. First Gen American Says:

    I worry for universities. It’s such a bizarro world and the costs to get educated seem to be spiraling to unsustainable levels. My university (which was expensive in the first place) has quadrupled in cost in 17 years. Yeah, it’s nicer now and has world class gyms and stuff that it didn’t have then but man..$54K/year..just for tuition? And yeah, some students make choices based on the facilities and you compete with each other to one up the next school, but the whole trend is disturbing.

    So for a future “ask the grumpies” question, I’d like to hear your take on Student Loans. Specifically, do you think access to student loans is enabling these costs to spiral out of control? I mean I couldn’t have gone to university without them, but I also majored in something where I knew I could pay them off when I was done. I also think it’s a little odd that this is the only type of debt that can’t be wiped clean with bankruptcy, so it’s an incentive to banks to loan as much as possible. In fact, when I was in college, they were actually trying to lend me more money than I needed. Sorry, total tangent here.

    • rented life Says:

      huh, I hadn’t thought about loans like that. My husband was offered more than he needed too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Brief answer: No, but I do think that’s part of why kids today live in luxury apartments rather than sharing rooms in run down dorms.

      We’re not 100% sure why education costs are rising at a rate greater than inflation, but we do know that part of it is declining support from state governments.

      • becca Says:

        It seems like every news story in my twitter and facebook feeds is about higher ed funding/loans crisis ect right now. Must be back to school time!

        Declining support from state governments is a huge part of the *tuition* problem at state universities (because, in inflation-adjusted dollars, revenues are not going up dramatically; although I suppose one could argue costs “should” be going *down* given the increased reliance on adjuncts. I blame Baumol’s cost disease for that not being remotely in the cards, I suppose).
        That said, private institutions (both non-profit and for-profit) seem to be ballooning even more than public (granted, the recession, and state government insaneo-world cutbacks [I’m looking at you, Arizona!], did push some of the publics to catch up in a hurry).

        I’m sure there are a lot of factors causing college costs to go up…
        1) Human-intensive pursuits are going up as a percent of GDP (see also: healthcare costs); a degree of this is the inevitable consequence of comparatively higher efficiency seen in robot-intensive types of economic activity (e.g. making cars). i.e. Baumol’s cost disease factors (e.g. the ever popular “too many administrators who are paid too much” answer, healthcare costs to pay for everybody increasing, pensions and other things costing more, ect. ect.).
        2) However, this does not explain the US problem relative to other countries- not all countries spend as much of their GDP on healthcare as we do, nor higher ed. For higher ed, you could argue we spend there to compensate for under-spending in the K-12 world. High school diplomas mean little for getting jobs, ect. Our *education* spending as percent of GDP doesn’t seem totally out of whack on a “does it pass the giggle test” level of comparison to other places, though I’d be happy to have someone with more social science training tell me more about what we should think about those numbers.
        3) At State Universities, tuition is increasing because state funding is decreasing (again, NOT because revenues, nor especially professorial salaries, are increasing). There’s a shift from state funding to federal funding over time, and the federal funding comes with more strings…
        4) There are more loans relative to Pell grants than there were in e.g. 1981, so there is a cost shift from taxpayers to students on this end as well. And a cost-shift from wealthier people to poorer people, I’d imagine.
        5) There may be some truth to the speculation voiced (by conservatives and others) that the apparently relatively unbounded capacity of federal student financial aid to expand to fit costs encourages institutions to raise costs to make the most of the Pell grant (at the low end) or play $$$ = prestige games at the high end. Maybe we need to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, and therefore harder to get. This will squash a lot of little people in the process though.
        6) I blame Harvard and DeVry. Harvard for pretending that their policies of “but we pay for poorer middle class people to come here almost completely! (out of our massive, tax-free endowment earnings)” means that they are not responsible for setting the stage for other institutions to play the NYU-typified “we cost more, so we must be a better institution” games. Harvard has set a disgraceful example, *even when* they occasionally use their massive tuition dollars to let in some token poors. And DeVry, because we all know they are preying on the neediest. It’s not DeVry’s fault they are needy, nor that DeVry’s incentives are with getting them *in* the door, rather than *out* of it with marketable skills, but all of the non-profit sector of higher ed seems to want to shift blame to DeVry, so I’d figure I’d note some responsibility there.

        If there are other major factors I’m missing that anyone wants to fill me in on, let me know.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I’ve been associated with the same large state university for 27 years, so I have actually watched a few things change.

        1) All the dorms have been renovated. Back in my day you weren’t allowed to have a toaster oven or microwave. Now you can have that plus free internet plus really fancy commons areas. Oh, and did I mention air conditioning?

        2) We have more gyms with more and more expensive stuff (and air conditioning). We even have an outdoor pool with palm trees. No wonder kids don’t want to graduate and go out into the real world. They can’t afford to live like this.

        3) We have waaay more services. Virtually all the colleges have staff academic advisors (who are mostly actually good). We’ve always had health services, but now we have more mental health services and lots of groups for people with various issues like smoking and drug addiction. There are also groups for GLBT folks and other groups who don’t feel they fit in. There are programs for first-generation students, who might not understand the culture, and for people who got in because they are in the top 10% at their schools, but their schools were crappy, so they need catching up. There are also programs started by staff that have become official, like a Halloween event for neighborhood children and a Christmas event where some staff make donations so that other staff living below the poverty line can get free presents for their kids. I think I mostly like these changes. I think mostly it helps people fix themselves up before they get out into the world, but I fear it may also make them dependent. Not sure.

        4) Everything’s online. This is supposed to make things easier (mostly it does), but programmers cost waaay more than most other staff and they are never done because things always have to be re-done based on demands from faculty and the legislature.

        5) Our school jumped into the competition for biggest scoreboard.

        6) Apparently higher salaries have to be paid to attract the best new faculty–and this has been true for at least two decades, so that adds up. And then you have the problem of new faculty making more than experienced faculty–some of those experience folks have to go and get job offers from elsewhere in order to get decent raises. And I’m sure the elsewhere job looks better sometimes, and then you have to do another whole faculty search.

        7) Many programs require that students have a computer, sometimes a specific one.

        8) Yes, the state contribution has plummeted. Not only do we charge way higher tuition, we also pay a lot of people to collect donations. There’s not just a university “development” group anymore–lots of colleges and even smaller programs have their own development programs.

        My college is a state “flagship” university, so lots of people want to get in. The state has been growing like crazy, but the university has the same number of students as 30 years ago (on purpose). Yet it has a lot more and bigger buildings. At one point they had to make a new rule that all new buildings had to include a certain number of classrooms because buildings with classrooms were getting torn down to build other things. I’m not sure what those other things are, though (besides labs). If there really are more labs, that’s probably good.

        That’s all I know. And I’m watching mostly from the sidelines. I don’t really know anything for sure except that you get free internet in your dorm now; that there’s almost no surface parking left (due to so many new buildings), only the more expensive parking garages; and that the staff advisors are way better than any advisors I ever had (and faculty advisors are happy to not have to keep up with things like all the different ways to drop a class, their deadlines, and their consequences).

  6. plantingourpennies Says:

    My MIL is currently complaining about new dean, bad classes, union grievances, taking on too many dissertations …

  7. rented life Says:

    Hating my classes is one reason I left full time. Teaching 3-4 sections of the same class every semester, and it’s not even a class I like (even if I do have fun students). This year, two weeks before classes started, the secretary at one of the campus centers calls me to ask why I haven’t sent in my paper work because I’m on the schedule to teach Monday nights. But the last email I have from their dean (dated March 1st) says someone else took the class. They never offered it to that guy, never told me, and put me back on the schedule. I wrote them a nice long email, with the one from March attached, saying that I had made plans (true) for Monday nights and I can’t change that and I never would have done that if I was told sooner than the class was mine. The dean said it was a “miscommunication.” Yeah, see, I’m not driving myself crazy with two weeks to prep because you dropped the ball….I don’t miss being full time.

  8. CG Says:

    So happy to be on sabbatical this semester. The meh-ness of teaching is making me question whether or not I will stay in this job even if I do get tenure next year. If teaching is not too much work (i.e., you’ve got things pretty well set) it gets repetitive and stale for the students. If you make the effort every year to make it not be repetitive, it’s too much work. How do you get to a happy medium on that?

  9. Susan Says:

    for a future “ask the grumpies” question, I’d like to hear your take on Student Loans. Specifically, do you think access to student loans is enabling these costs to spiral out of control?
    I’d like to hear your take on this too, N&M. I’m interested that your knee-jerk reaction was “no”. I’ve been assuming that this essentially risk-free source of money for universities and profit for banks was indeed underlying the current student loan bubble. Seems similar to ARM loans to mirror-qualified homebuyers that loan originators would package and sell off to me?

  10. chacha1 Says:

    all of the above are reasons why I bailed out of academe after finishing my Master’s. Here is hoping that various bumps in various roads will get smoothed out fast enough to make staying *in* academe not so painful!

  11. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Oh man, the chair in DH’s department just called begging for his class notes because another professor just quit last week and now the chair has to teach DH’s horrible life-draining intro classes. (DH, of course, had already left a copy of his notes with the department secretary.)

    • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

      He should have charged for the notes.

    • Dr. Virago Says:

      Wait, is DH in my husband’s department? Because he also has to teach a class (that he’s totally unprepared for) because a tenured person resigned over the summer and the part-timer he found at the last minute quit even *more* last minute (because he was hired full time somewhere else last minute) and then the grad school denied a grad student permission to teach it. This is what happens when a) adminstrations expect us to run on shoestring budgets and shrunken faculty numbers — there was *no one* in even the general vicinity of resigned-guy’s field to take the class over — and b) when they sit on requests for positions *forever*, leaving everyone to hire at the last freakin’ minute. Sigh. Do adminstrations not know what the academic year is??

  12. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Soap dispenser in the women’s bathroom is broken, and the student worker across the hall is both loud and will not shut up.

  13. undinenotofgeneralinterest Says:

    You have my sympathy re: Blackboard. It gets rolled back unexpectedly all the time. The first time it happened I thought I was crazy, but then I took to putting everything in writing elsewhere before I updated.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was gonna do it… but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. :(

      Fortunately after quite a bit of time on the phone with I think 4 different IT people, things seem to be ok… for now.

  14. frugalscholar Says:

    We haven’t had a search committee in many years. Hiring freeze. As people leave, their students are added into our already-bursting classrooms.

  15. bogart Says:

    Hahaha, if ever I regretted leaving the faculty side of things, this post + comments has me feeling much better . Also, love the cartoon. Classic.

  16. SP Says:

    Not directly related to this post, but in general, as the first academic related blog I ever read… can you explain:
    Exactly what qualifies a school to be “R1”? Does that stand for anything?
    Similarly, what is SLAC?
    And isn’t there some acronym for well reputed state schools too?

    Are there any other academic jargon acronyms I should know?

    PS – my husband is sure he is doing a post-doc at an R1 place, but was not clearly able to explain what it means (without google to help, though he knew what the general idea was. Google says that it officially only requires $40M in research, which my husband says is a low bar and probably not what people mean when they say R1. Is this universal across most fields? Is it a blogger thing? He also didn’t know SLAC, but I think it might be “selective liberal arts college”. If so, it would make sense that we’d not hear of it since liberal arts is on the other end of the spectrum.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      What Bardiac said below. Though when people talk about R1, they may also be talking about private research universities these days. It has a lot fuzzier definition than it used to. In general I think of it as a place where research is more important (and given more support) than teaching or service in terms of mission and promotion.

      SLAC is “small” like Bardiac said. There are some that are selective and many that aren’t.

  17. Bardiac Says:

    R1 (Research 1) is an old Carnegie classification thing that people still use because it’s an easy shorthand. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_I_university

    Well-reputed state schools. Some use “regional, comprehensive” to mean the school serves it’s region, as opposed to drawing nationally, and has a wide variety of areas of studies (that is, it’s not primarily an ag or tech school). Another way to categorize is by Masters or Baccalaureate granting. Lots of these are state schools. But there’s no reputation thing in there. (Nor is there for R1s, of course; some are way better in all ways than others.)

    SLAC = small liberal arts college. Usually people mean small private liberal arts colleges, between very small and say 5000 students. Some public schools figure in, too.

  18. Dr. Virago Says:

    In the misery-loves-company vein of commiseration: #2, you sound like you could be at my university. Which is to say, you’re not alone.

    Hugs to you both.

  19. J Liedl Says:

    We start next week (for me that’s 8:30, not too bad). I still have to finalize one more outline and set up two course shells. Eep!

    I’m on a boatload of committees and assignments. I think there are two searches we have this year which is exciting (although I might say “shoot me now” when I have to operate in French for all of those interviews. . . .).

  20. KeAnne Says:

    While I don’t teach, I do work at a university and can commiserate with much of this. Bureaucracy, meetings, reinventing the wheel, no raises b/c our state gov’t hates state employees and “liberal” universities. Fun times!

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