Bargaining with the For-Profit College Devil
I find myself in a precarious position, dear reader.
I’m not sure if I will be teaching once school starts in a few days.
At the end of last semester, when Monty Burns had the new contracts sent out, mine contained an ‘offer’ (read: hideous insult to my humanity) which amounted to LESS money than before I went back for my phd. I informed the proper departments about this oversight, and my repeated inquiries were ignored all summer long.
So now school is starting soon, I still have not been issued a new contract, and any secretary I speak on the phone whispers to me in a hushed voice that Mr Burns is insane, many people are upset about their contracts, and everyone (including them) is overworked and underpaid. I told one secretary that I could go out and become a waiter or bartender and make more money for less hassle, and she laughed the hollow ironic sound of a jaded homicide detective who has seen too many girls from the wrong side of the tracks bludgeoned to death, but knows he can do nothing about it and is just waiting for his 20 years to be up and collect a state pension. Yeah.
I know everyone there is being exploited. Does that mean I can’t ask to be fairly compensated? I know I won’t get it. But then what do I do? I also know that if I tell them to take their piece of shit meaningless contract and shove it, there are 100 people lined up outside who will gratefully take my place on the chain gang. Thanks a lot academia. Way to ruin the whole fucking supply and demand thing. So my refusal won’t change anything in the system, it will only mean someone else will be an indentured servant besides me. And that I’ll have to make good on my empty threat to work at a fucking Applebees and wear 17 pieces of flair or risk being written up by my new supervisor, a 20 year old college student with an unconvincing patchy goatee and greasy hair.
It’s obviously too late for me to get another teaching job for this year. And I still want to get my non academic business idea going, but I need money while I try to make that happen. I guess these are my options right now:
1. Tell them to go fuck themselves. Get horrible minimum wage job while finishing phd. Sing ‘pimps don’t cry’ to myself every night, as I curl up in my dog’s bed and weep for my stupidity.
2. Take the shitty job, knowing that it’s confirmation of the fact that my phd is worthless and I DON’T EVEN HAVE IT YET. Teach my classes with enough integrity to allow me to sleep at night but do absolute minimum ie: don’t give them the 10000 assignments the school says I should, but kick it old school college style, with the minimum amount of graded work and if the students fuck it up, it’s their fucking problem. Ya know, because it’s college.
(sorry for the terrible quality, but Will Ferrel makes me feel better.)
I’m just really conflicted, because even though I’m broke and stressed, I do have some shred of self-worth left, and it’s telling me to not take the job. And despite how insulting the ‘offer’ is, I’m sure there are loads of academinazis over at the chronicle who would say I’m so lucky to have a job offer and that the ‘life of the mind’ is one of sacrifice, and I should GTFO because I’m taking the spot from someone who really deserves it. This is ridiculous for a million reasons, especially since the shitty College Which Shall Not Be Named gives not one donkey scrote about academia, or publishing journal articles, research, conferences, students not plagiarizing, etc. The only thing it has in common with any legit institution of higher education is that it has ‘college’ in the name. It’s one step up from a diploma mill.
The real tragedy here is that this place could have been really special. Most of the faculty are wonderful and well-regarded in their respective fields (of course, because there are no fucking jobs anywhere else). If the college was willing to have some standards regarding admissions and academic integrity, it could have been a wonderful intimate place for students to learn and grow and get started in life. But that would involve turning away some tuition money, and it would also involve throwing some extra $$ to the people who actually make the place run. A few thousand here and there would be life changing for me and a lot of other people who work there, and it the affect it would have on morale would be so worth it. But Burns and Co can’t see past the bottom line and that’s the problem.