roasting marshmellows in phd hell

Archive for August 2013

Bargaining with the For-Profit College Devil

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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.

3. ??????????

(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.


Written by universityoflies

August 22, 2013 at 16:41

How to Finish Your Phd With an Absentee-Landlord Adviser

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After a few months where I’ve felt like cashing out my chuck e cheese tokens and taking a shitty neon bracelet instead of a phd, things are finally getting better.  And there is one specific reason:


My thesis: now with 100% more St. Olaf anecdotes.

My thesis: now with 100% more St. Olaf anecdotes.

Specifically, friends in academia who have finished their own degrees and, seeing my own adviser-less situation, have generously offered to read my stuff and help me out.  I resisted for MONTHS, because if reading my old entries have taught me anything, it’s that I’m stubborn and don’t always have the best decision making skills.  If I was a cartoon animal, I’d be the coyote who repeatedly runs into the side of the mountain, even though bashing my face the first time should have been a clue that the tunnel was painted on.

I was afraid to send stuff to these well-meaning friends because they are smarter than me and better writers.  Sounds perfect, right?  Who else would you want to critique your academic bullshit?  And even though these people are truly good friends and have never been judgmental in any other respect, I was convinced that they would think I was a complete moron and wonder how the hell I got into grad school in the first place.

But yeah.  My sense of despair eventually overcame my vanity.  And I only wish I’d gotten over myself sooner, because the feedback I’ve gotten (even though they have no particular expertise in my specific odd corner of academia) has been more thoughtful and considered than anything I’ve seen from my adviser in years.

Now my thesis is in better shape than ever.  And all my adviser had to do was sit at the base of some tropical volcano and sip an alcoholic beverage out of a coconut.

So if you are toiling alone in the salt mines and you’re lucky enough to have met some genuine people in grad school, let them help you.  You can pay it forward once you’re out in the beautiful fresh clean air.

Written by universityoflies

August 13, 2013 at 14:30

What Should We Call Grad School

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I’ve started a half dozen entries over the last few weeks but don’t have the enthusiasm to finish writing anything.

My days currently look like this: wake up, eat string cheese, stare at thesis for 9 hrs, eat more string cheese.

The ‘staring at thesis’ bit involves changing a few words here and there, cleaning the kitchen sink, cursing my lack of foresight as a youth, and deleting loads of shit I thought was brilliant but in reality is horrible.  I’ve also had a few of those weird trances where you start writing and it feels like looking at one of those magic eye posters from the 90s because you are slightly cross eyed and focusing at something just past the computer screen.  Then, after you snap out of the daze, your word count has miraculously increased by 999999 and it’s time to stream an ABBA playlist on youtube because THIS IS PROBS THE BEST THING YOU EVER WROTE!!!!!!!  but not.

My ass hurts from sitting all day.  I feel like the dead professor from “A Grammarian’s Funeral” but without the genius.  Just the atrophied muscle and lack of life.

Anyways, if anyone out there in phd land is suffering through this with me, I am throwing some virtual gang signs in solidarity.

Check this out on your next cheese stick break:


Written by universityoflies

August 9, 2013 at 16:08