Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Eugene Hicock: seriously out of touch with real academia

Your exercise for the day: fisk this piece mercilessly. Here are two whoppers in the space of one paragraph to get you started:

Faculty members decide what they want to teach and when they want to teach, if, indeed, they teach at all. This is particularly true regarding undergraduate instruction, which is something of an afterthought on many campuses. Faculty members typically spend fewer than 200 hours a year in the classroom. That amounts to just five 40-hour weeks.

Let’s see… in my current job, I get to decide exactly a third of what I teach (in previous jobs, it was even less, and I’ve been offered jobs where I would have had no choice whatsoever); nobody asked me when I wanted to teach; and nobody gave me the option of not teaching. I spend well over 200 hours a year in the classroom, time that doesn’t count office hours, responding to student phone calls and emails, class preparation time, research obligations, department meetings, service obligations, and attending co-curricular and extra-curricular student events. I don’t actually get paid for one quarter of the year, during which I am essentially unemployed but am expected to work on research anyway. A whole month’s salary went out the window to pay for my move to Missouri. My future employability is largely determined by whether or not three other individuals’ letters of recommendation say better things about me than other peoples’ letters. It’s really cushy.

I could easily double my salary in private industry, with the sole disadvantage of being stuck behind a desk for an arbitrary number of hours per week. Instead, for some reason I cannot fathom, I have spent the last three years competing with other people who—to a person—have a more prestigious doctorate than I do to find a job that is exactly like the one described in the previous paragraph but has slightly more job security—although not near as much as the typical corporate white collar position, at least for anyone who is at least mildly productive.

The really insane part is that I wouldn’t trade what I do now for the world.

þ: Margaret Soltan.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.
[Permalink] 1. Greg Weeks wrote @ Thu, 12 Oct 2006, 7:11 am CDT:

The scariest part is that someone so clueless held a high position in the Department of Education. And that people reading the NYT may believe it.


I’m not sure it is worth it to respond…preaching to the choir and all. I am in by 7:30am five days a week after dropping my girls off at school and home by 3:30 two days a week (on average) and home by 5:00 three days a week (on average).

I eat lunch with my girls at school two days a week (an hour away from the office at most) and eat at my desk (if at all) the other days. I work at home after the girls go to bed two nights a week (on average) and come in for a few hours on a weekend at least once a month. This starts adding up to 50ish hours a week.

As for WHAT I do (other than physically standing in front of a class)’s the obvious….LOTS of grading papers/presentations/exams/homework….lecture prep….running the survey lab….committees… committees…committees…. reporters….reporters…reporters…letters of recommendation for students and colleagues at this, and other institutions, going up for promotion and/or tenure….and…if I am REAL lucky…a little research. The administrative burden went up this year with my early promotion and it will go up again next year after tenure.

Where do these asshats get this stuff….

[Permalink] 3. Simon Spero wrote @ Thu, 12 Oct 2006, 10:11 pm CDT:

Bah humbug !

faculty members live lifes of unadulterated luxury; enormous salaries, millions of dollars in soft grants a signature away, and hordes of minions to rushing to attend to their every whim. Imagine all the joy of the committees, but with no power to vote or initiate anything.

For completely unrelated reasons, the rest of my week is divoted to getting all the papers of my PHd application delivered; since one of the letters I hadn’t gotten sorted is from someonme who turns ouf to the chairing the doctoral commitee I’m not too paniced yet.

I kind of get the gut feeling that my entire opinion of this issue my change a smidgeon once I look at what faculty salaries are compared to administrative ones of the the level (a big problem at UNC)

[Permalink] 4. Michelle Dion wrote @ Fri, 13 Oct 2006, 7:45 am CDT:

Fisking done.

The really insane part is that I wouldn’t trade what I do now for the world.

Definitely a sign of insanity. The life of the mind looked really good to me until I saw firsthand the bullshit that went with it.

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