roasting marshmellows in phd hell

Posts Tagged ‘the wire

This is not Clown College and I am not a clown.

leave a comment »

Other job titles that I do not call my own:

1. Camp counselor

2.Cruise ship director

3. Airline customer service representative who will refund you 10% your ticket price because a sky waitress did not offer you a diet pepsi on your last journey

4. Asswiper for people who are, sadly, missing arms

There must be some cognitive dissonance going on somewhere though, because I feel like other people (ie my students and the Professional Student Enablers like Dr. University of Phoenix Online) think that I am being paid a pitiful wage to perform the aforementioned tasks.

It was brought to my attention recently that several “complaints” have been lodged against me.  What was the numero uno complaint, you ask?

(wait for it.  it’s good.)


I can’t say it better than Capt. Daniels.  First of all, like I mentioned earlier, it is not my fucking job to entertain you.  Although on some level this comment does hurt me, because I try my hardest to make my class relevant and entertaining.  But at some point, we are going to have to do some fucking work.  When it comes time to do that work, I tell the students EXACTLY what I am looking for.  I give out rubrics.  I have examples of what an “A” paper looks like.  I then repeat my instructions until I feel like a dried up old sitcom actor relegated to the dinner theater circuit, because half the class has arrived 30 minutes late and wants to know if they missed anything ‘important.’  And certainly I am not asking a lot from them.  You could ask the same from a 6th grader and they’d do it with less drama.  But when my instructions are ignored and they turn in something that was clearly done 10 minutes before class and, as a result, get a failing grade.. well yeah it’s not exactly a day at the fairground.

Also.  not everything in life is fucking fun.  I remember my own undergraduate experience being challenging and rewarding, and yes good times were had, but most of the ‘fun’ I remember involved underage drinking.  Classes with my favorite undergraduate professor were difficult and exhilarating and fucking awesome.  But ‘fun’ is something you have watching stupid youtube clips of people jumping off roofs onto trampolines.

This conversation with Dr. UofP Online was so infuriating.  I am a fucking professional!  I am a hair’s width from having my phd (sob).  I do my work with integrity, and trust me, I take into account the limitations of my particular student population.  Nevertheless, I was told that I need to ‘remember where I am.’

It’s impossible to fucking forget where I am.

I don’t see any cobblestones or marble or other building materials that imply ancient tradition or scholarly rigor.  But I am still at an accredited college and I don’t see how a 10 page reading assignment and the expectation that people have their heads up and eyes open is asking too much.

“Not fun” is synonymous for having standards besides the ability to fog a mirror.  So because I have some standards and don’t take shit from lazy fuckers, they think they can lodge complaints about me all the live long day.  And they are right, because they can, and assholes like Dr. UofP online take their complaints seriously.

In many places, this is the reality of ‘higher ed.’

And I feel trapped, because why the hell else did I get a phd if not to dig in this mine?



Written by universityoflies

November 1, 2013 at 22:29

The Ivory Tower Needs Your Life Essence!

with 2 comments

I went to a ‘how-to’ academic careers type thing given by my phd program

The Ivory Tower is not pleased with your progress. Proceed to the nearest emergency exit.

recently.  Ze said some shocking shit.  I wish I had the powerpoint slides for proof, but since this is the internet, I’m sure you guys will believe me.

Prof X/My Dept Proudly Presents:  How To Get an Academic Career!!!!!!

Step 1- You’re here so you’re probably brilliant!  Well done! Your phd will take you 3-4 years to complete (provided you have no heinous problems which the school will pretend doesn’t exist!)

Step 2- Now your mail will say Dr. XYZ.  This will feel really freaking good. Next use that considerable brain power to publish a few articles from your phd.  Then turn your dissertation into a book, but only publish with the best house possible.  I hear Oxford University Press ain’t too bad.

Step 3- Ok Dr. XYZ with a book and some articles under your belt.  The job market is a bit shit, as you may have noticed, so you may need to take a postdoc position or two.  This will involve working like a maniac for below market wages and probs living in some hideous places.  These positions will last 1-2 years each, so good luck finding a partner/social life.   During this time, you should write another book.  It shouldn’t be that hard since you won’t have a life, anyway.  Figure 2-4 years total for postdocs.

Step 4- Job Market Time!  Give yourself 3 years on the market.  If after 3 years, nothing turns up, GET OUT.  THERE’S NOTHING FOR YOU HERE.

That last bit was not exaggerated for comic effect.  As soon as those words visibly flew out of hir face, they were prison tattooed onto my grey matter.


So, using my sophisticated math skills, this plan from phd to job search takes about 10 years.  10 years of training, publishing, furthering those job skills needed for a tenure track position (and wouldn’t leave much extra time for gaining other concrete skills for some alternate career).  And if, at the end, there’s no pot o gold, don’t let the door hit you on the way out?

(I know I’ve posted this before but it bears repeating.  This is some shameful shit.)

Are you fucking kidding me?  At this point in the ‘lecture,’ I was actively giving Prof X the superman laser eye stare, trying to wipe hir and this idea off the planet.  How can you tell us to bleed for academia for 10 fucking years, making no other plans, and then at the end, just get the fuck out leonardo, there’s rich first class ladypassengers who are more entitled to that piece of driftwood?

Playing the lottery and reading at the public library might be a smarter career plan.

To make matters worse, Ze also made the offhand remark that it was way easier for hir to get a job 20 years ago, back when you didn’t even need a published book to get a tenure track job. AH HA HA HA.  This made me feel loads better.

I also did not appreciate the subtle shift in attitude that occurred throughout the presentation.  The beginning was all ‘you brilliant sexy beast you,’ and by the time ze got to the whole ‘GTFO’ portion, it felt downright hostile.  Like ze was annoyed by the hangers on who can’t get the message and just cut their losses.  losers!  If you devote a decade of your life to this so-called training scheme (and are crazy enough to make the kinds of sacrifies discussed in my last entry), you’re not left with much.  No social/personal life, no job, no plan b, no other work experience, no money.

Where’s step 5?

There is no step 5 because it’s your fault.


Written by universityoflies

July 14, 2012 at 13:15

Academic Culture- pt.2

with 2 comments

As I mentioned in a previous post, my undergrad experience consisted of wonderful professors with the requisite tweed suits and shoulder patches, who took great care with lectures, thought provoking classroom discussion, and advice on career stuff.  When I wrestled over the grad school application process, they guided me (whether I was misguided or not is subject for another entry..)  When I successfully defended my undergrad ‘thesis’, they poured me a sherry (the drink of academic champions?) and invited me to call them by their first names and it felt like being initiated into their club of eggcellent minds.

Writing that last paragraph makes me feel ashamed.


(cue gratuitous clip from “The Wire”)


How wide eyed and gullible was I to think that professors would actually give the time of day to me, one of their enthusiastic students?   Tweed?  Sherry?  Guidance?  What kind of kindergarten touchy feely program did I attend?

I now know that my experience was not an accurate reflection of the larger culture of academia.  Très ironique too, because if I didn’t have that particular experience as an undergraduate, I never would have pursued postgraduate education.  So, insert other appropriate french sounding phrase here.  Merde?

In graduate school, the majority of the professors I encountered treated lectures and seminars as  sacred times where they could pontificate on whatever topic they felt like discussing, syllabus be damned.  Many an hour were wasted, when my fellow students and I had come prepared to hear about x topic, only to be talked at for 2 hours about something completely irrelevant to our course of study.  Like their idea for a new world currency, or Dancing With the Stars.  This was a top program at a highly revered school, which I say not to make myself feel better about all this misspent time, but to support my feeling that this experience was not an isolated event, a blip on the space time continuum.

During my time at Top University, I also have had the experience of attending many undergraduate lectures through my function as a TA.  The numerous lectures I heard can be divided into two categories; for the ease of categorization, let’s label them Shit and Fantastique, going with our French theme for the day.  The Shit lectures were 100% all given by older, tenured, male professors.  They consisted of a general summary of the text for that week, some extremely patronizing ‘information’- ie what does ‘characterization mean’ (something that these non freshman subject majors were well aware of at this point), and about 20-30 minutes of either historical context given at the sacrifice of a deeper look inside the text (and could have been an assigned reading for home via the course website) or chat about their own pet interest, ie what famous politicians like or dislike Jane Austen, etc.   I found this puzzling, not to mention, disappointing, on so many levels.  A number of these ‘lectures’ were given by internationally recognized experts in their fields, people who publish in the top journals and are very well regarded in academia.  Surely they are capable of distilling some significant analysis to their students?  Either they have collectively decided that these lectures are just a waste of their precious precious time, that they could be writing up in their garret, or else, once you remove the jargon and fancy words, the Emperor Has No Clothes.  Either way, it’s an insult to the students who take these courses.

Now, onto the Fantastique.. (which I am guessing isn’t an actual word?) 100% given by young female untenured professors and recently minted phds.  (I don’t think these demographics are a coincidence.)  These lectures reignite the excitement I felt as a pre sherry tasting undergrad.  They’re probably about 10 percent historical context and summary, with the majority of the lecture devoted to a nuanced take of several themes or ideas in the work, the way it was written, the significance or importance of the text, incorporating outside views and scholarship as well.  With no exceptions, all of these lectures were extremely professional and reflected the work and consideration that went into their preparation.  So what a slap in the face that must be to these young women, who work so hard for the ever eroding opportunity for either tenure or a professorial position of their own, to share the course with a bunch of people who clearly do not give a shit?  Again, more on this another day..

The next segment will deal with a horse of a different color–phd supervision.  I’ve got to dig out my flask for this one.

Written by universityoflies

May 1, 2012 at 12:39