Hard Times, Come Again No More

Last week, the NY Times published a depressing story about the state of tenure-track jobs. This gives you feel for the article:

Fulltime faculty jobs have not been easy to come by in recent decades, but this year the new crop of Ph.D. candidates is finding the prospects worse than ever. Public universities are bracing for severe cuts as state legislatures grapple with yawning deficits. At the same time, even the wealthiest private colleges have seen their endowments sink and donations slacken since the financial crisis. So a chill has set in at many higher education institutions, where partial or full-fledge hiring freezes have been imposed.

Marc Bousquet, however, calls the whole thing a sham. The problem isn’t the economy, he argues, because this has been the trend for the past forty years. Bousquet’s position:

Most of the people who won’t get tenure track jobs this year, like last year, and every year since 1968 (that’s all four “recent decades,” but who’s counting?), won’t get them because universities have substituted casual student labor for full-time faculty and staff positions.

I’ve blogged about Bousquet before (I guess a test of the new related-posts feature will be whether my previous posts show up below!), and his analysis of the higher education labor situation is quite convincing. I’m not as sure about his proposed solutions, though.

On the other end of the spectrum, Douglas Texter, in the Chronicle, recently wrote that the secret to be happy, productive, and making $100,000+ a year is to embrace adjuncting and build a career out of teaching as many contract jobs as you can:

I’m flourishing, making $100,000 a year as an adjunct, working nine months out of 12. This winter, as most of the people I know teaching literature were shivering in the cold and dark of the upper Midwest while eating ramen, I flew to Florida to bask in the sun and drink with Gore Vidal at the Key West Literary Seminar.

Texter describes his personal plan for making lots of money as an adjunct, though I can’t decide how seriously to take his article: his bio describes him as “an adjunct English instructor and a science-fiction writer.”

Are you looking for work currently? How has your search been going? And do you think Texter is on to something, or is his article a satire?

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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