roasting marshmellows in phd hell

Teaching for Montgomery Burns

with 12 comments

In the interest of anonymity and my favorite hobby (which is not being sued), I won’t go too deep into the specifics I find myself in.  Which is too bad, because if it wasn’t so horrific, it would be hilarious.  So, Legal Disclaimer: some details below may be changed to protect the innocent, ie ME.

Give me your soul, UniversityofLies..That’s right..

The for-profit college where I now find myself is run by a person who I’ll call  “Montgomery Burns.”  And, while we’re at it, why don’t we draw up a little character sketch?  Monty Burns likes: Money, Saving Money, and Eclectic Shrubbery.  Dislikes: Spending Money, People Who Leave the Lights On, Liberal Arts.

So what does this mean for the  students who attend this school?  Nothing good.  It means there are no remedial classes, because that would imply the students are weak.   It means many of the employees of the college are ‘graduates’ of the place themselves, which can create a very fucking weird dynamic when staff give you dirty looks in the hall and you vaguely remember them dicking off in your class and failing.  It also means overloading and combining sections in order to pay less faculty for less time.  So, per esempio, despite official paperwork saying the place caps a class at say 35, (and only being room for 35 desks in a class), shoving 50 people in there, making kids sit on the floor and on window ledges.  Cause it saved you a few grand!  Bazinga!

Monty and Co. cry and bitch about retention.  “We get em in the door, why can’t YOU keep them there?”  The “you” in question being, presumably, the faculty.  So in overcrowded classrooms with no extra resources to help these kids who were accepted because (lets be fucking honest here) they either could write a check or get the government to do it for them,  these kids are now expected to do college work (or an extremely watered down version of it), and they can’t.  Is it their fault?  Not entirely.  And when they disappear, vanish into the great unknown, whose fucking fault is it?  The man who pays himself a salary greater than what the heads of most nations earn?  No, it’s the fucking faculty.  Of course.

The place is run like an elementary school.  You are expected to teach like you are in an elementary school.  The first years are often confused and disappointed that they are treated like they’re in a fucking elementary school.  And this toxic environment causes idiots like me to think that a phd will solve all their problems.

The best thing to do is keep your head down and teach.  But it’s difficult when your classroom is barged into and your lessons interrupted by someone with information commercials for your students, who might be busy taking a test or um learning.  Or when your classes are cancelled at the last fucking minute, after you’ve wasted ages preparing material.  Or your whole department is fired in the middle of a semester because someone whispered the “U” word.  The message is clear to faculty and students alike: teaching is the least important thing that happens at this place.

In my packet of paperwork, there was some shady as shit piece of paper that I was supposed to sign, swearing that I would never talk about anything that happened at Fight Club, even after I leave and am no longer employed there.  I am not signing that piece of paper.  There is a fucking book in this.

I always associated the Ivory Tower with this picture. Should have thought that one through.

I am rambling now and I don’t really know the point of this entry.  I don’t know why I am so angry or surprised.  How could I have forgotten?  This place is the front line, the place so shitty that the fucking Ivory Tower looked like the best escape plan ever.  I’m angry for me, and everyone out there in the same boat.  I’m also angry for the students and their parents and everyone duped into thinking that higher ed is automatically the best move, or a stamped ticket to upwards mobility.

And I’m angry as hell that Monty Burns is able to make such a criminal profit by swindling so many disenfranchised young people.

Written by universityoflies

September 1, 2012 at 16:55

12 Responses

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  1. Thank you for being brave enough to share this information. I always knew the for profits were super shady and I think that’s true for every last one of ’em. Some more that others, of course, but all a varying degree of “shade”. I DO see a book in your future! Just wait until the government shuts them all down.


    September 2, 2012 at 18:24

    • Thanks for the kind words, Anon. It’s crazy how paranoid I felt about writing this entry, even though there’s nothing too specific in it..The place creates such a culture of fear it’s crazy. I have some specific stories I think I can share though, some about this place and some about a place I used to work at.. coming soon..


      September 3, 2012 at 15:34

  2. That is crazy and also terrifying. I watched a Frontline episode not too long ago about these for-profit colleges, and was completely put off by the marketing practices used to convince students to hand over large piles of cash. If those large piles of cash are in turn used, not in the service of their education, but to line someone’s pocket, then I think I’m going to throw up. I hope you can get the hell out of there.

    Post Medievalist

    September 3, 2012 at 16:55

  3. Write the book! Write the book! I think you’ve got a cracking writing style and these are stories which need to be told. Don’t know if you’ve come across The AntiAcademic ( but zie is also doing some interesting stuff in terms of fictionalising their own experiences which might be useful.


    September 3, 2012 at 23:10

    • thanks for the nice words, drpiglet. and thanks for the blog recc, I haven’t come across that one before and am always happy to find new reading 🙂 I guess I had this idea in my mind that the general public won’t be interested in our war stories, but who knows, maybe someone needs to write something a la Michael Pollan’s food manifesto but for higher ed?


      September 4, 2012 at 01:23

      • I think there would be a remarkable amount of interest in that book. I think people are always interested in what goes on behind the scenes in different industries. That’s at least how I feel, but I’m nosy. I also think it’s a story that needs to be told.

        Post Medievalist

        September 4, 2012 at 01:27

      • haha I am nosy too- you’re in good company 🙂


        September 4, 2012 at 21:30

      • Like postmedievalist, I think there’d be a lot of interest. I love sociological/anthropological accounts of work anyway, but also this is part of a bigger picture about the privatisation and inaccessibility of higher education and monstrous student debts – everyone ‘knows’ that a college education is meant to be the pathway to success/the middle classes/a nice hat, but no-one know where the obscene tuition fees actually go. I suppose I am seeing this in the same vein as ‘Nickel and Dimed’ by Barbara Ehrenreich, which is not a perfect book by a long way but goes a long way in revealing invisible work.


        September 4, 2012 at 17:32

      • you’re right, drpiglet…these issues that we are all writing about do play into the bigger picture regarding education and debt that most western countries are struggling with right now. I haven’t read the Ehrenreich book- I will add it to the ol reading list!


        September 4, 2012 at 21:29

  4. […] Teaching for Montgomery Burns – A for-profit college described (for legal reasons) as being run by Charles Montgomery Burns. […]

  5. […] earned, for what appears to be a lot less work.  Less stress.  Union membership and some kind of job protection.  More time to bike and kayak and do other outdoorsy shit that people in herpes commercials get to […]

  6. […] the end of last semester, when Monty Burns had the new contracts sent out, mine contained an ‘offer’ (read: hideous insult to my […]

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