Thursday, March 03, 2016

A Tale of Two Universities or... Why the Mixed Feelings

I need to write at least one more lengthy post about this before I can put it behind me and (try to) move on, so please indulge me (if there's anyone still out there reading, that is!). :-)

I am attempting not to give too many details and to discuss general issues pertaining to my work at both places. (if you're curious to know more, just email me and I won't mind sharing more details). I have already written lots in the past four to six years, so for old time readers, not much will be new. I also want to write this to help sort through my mixed feelings in this moment of transition from "bad" to "less bad!" ;-P

U#1 has its advantages, even though they are pretty "minimal." The department gives us contracts every semester, but the renewal is indefinite into the future (why would they want to change that? Cheap labor, abundant!). As you may know, I had a yearly full-time contract at U#2 for the past four years, but renewal was not a given and it was a veritable nightmare in 2014. No benefits on the first and benefits on the second.

At U#1 part-time faculty members (a really really messed up definition, since some "part-timers" in this dept. taught 6-8 language classes -- maybe not anymore, I know some recently turned "full timers" are teaching 6/6) are eligible for all kinds of professional development opportunities, many of which are compensated and provide amazing opportunities to network and grow professionally. I took advantages of many of those and did very well.

However... all this "development" just led me nowhere, really. I often was the only person, or one of a few, who was non-tenure track faculty at these things and that was hard to bear. Some of these felt like a waste (maybe of time, more a waste of my talent & a lack of recognition from THEM or waste of their money too...). 

U#1 also funded me 100% to go to one conference a year. A perk that I suspected existed because they saved so much $ on teaching, that the budget allowed for it, or maybe not enough people did go to conferences (?!)... I don't know. I never asked, I just gladly took the money and went! (Obviously first went, then got the refund).

So at U#1 I mostly pretended I had a real job and was allowed to act like a real academic (including going to "departmental meetings," designing & implementing new classes, organizing student panels in the annual conference, etc.), but it was all very not real when looking at the pay and ridiculous semester by semester contract.

At the other place, for one year I was "in charge" as the only person in my area, then they hired a young(er) person (I had applied too, but, nah...), and for a year I still felt mostly ok. Except that the other full time adjunct faculty and I were clearly not considered equals as compared to faculty. Of course it's because of the type of institution, but this week I understood better what the problem is. It's what I explained in my first disgruntled post this week, we are supposed to "know our place" and stay there. And now it's official.

In all fairness, the dept. is actually trying to provide us all with FUTURE funding to go to conferences, but we don't have any now. I could say more, but maybe I'd reveal too much. As for What Now?'s question, yes, I have friends who support me, all of us are in the same boat. All we can do is to commiserate together. 

But there is no hope, really. One my office mates was denied tenure at an Ivy League school years ago, and the dept. chair has no clue of that and keeps reminding office mate of the "advantages" of not being tenure track (sigh...). The system is what it is and what I described earlier this week. It's pretty much take it or leave it. Change is NOT forthcoming, the New Faculty Majority multiple initiatives notwithstanding. In certain situations, there is NOT "strength in numbers."

Let's hope I'm wrong! And do you see now why I've been responding very unenthusiastically to any congratulations I've received on my long-time in coming three-year contract?

Sigh... (and I still need to share some other things that upset me regarding these issues a few weeks ago, I don't know if I'll get to blog those)

I really don't see how the situation is ever going to get better. The worst part is that I have a feeling that once one gets a TT job, one moves to the "dark side" and can't help but defend one's own position. I often have a hard time talking to my husband about my situation. He understands, but he is still part of the system/ "dark side." And once more I end a post without finishing it properly, but it's just because there is no "end in sight" for this situation...

1 comment:

What Now? said...

L, this is really hard. I'm so sorry that you're feeling unappreciated (and with very good reason, it sounds like). I'm glad that you're not alone in this, but I'm not sure that really makes the situation much better.