There's trouble right here in Academic City

Big discussions happening over at Dr. Crazy's place. Check out the useful post about approaching the job market after you've got a tenure track position and the useful comments about what the considerations might be once you do.

One of the thing I've noticed in my brief time in the blogging world (this go-round, at least) but also in academia at large is that there's a tendency to look at problems in a very particular way. Take this for example:
EdSmithers said...
I can't believe not a one of you has been a senior enough member of a faculty to know the damage that this "casting around for a better gig" does to a department.

The junior faculty of present day academe is made up of people like you, uncaring and selfish, not giving a shit about the students and colleagues you leave in the lurch with your pretty "look at me, love me, and miss me" announcement of departure in April of each year.
Ignoring the assumptions about why people leave, there are some things missing. The point that I never see mentioned at moments like this is that the people in question - in this case, junior faculty - are entering into a world with rules made by senior faculty.

Structurally, the university system is made up in such a way that faculty would be crazy not to leave. The April departures edsmithers bemoans happen because of a structural process senior faculty, organizations, and universities have much more control over than do individual faculty. Do I want to have to wait till late in this school year to give my departure notice? Not really. Do I have to? If jobs are posted in the Fall, interviews are done in Winter, and hiring in Spring, then there isn't much say that the person being ired really has in the process. Now, consider this gem:
Webmaster said...
Imagine our delight in imagining you might deign to stay here in Pudknocker town another year or two!

We will certainly forget your casting around for a better gig when tenure and promotion loom.
Who'd want to stay at a job where "senior faculty" condescend and stereotype junior faculty in such ways as edsmithers or who are threatened with retaliation for exercising an option in the labor market as advocated by webmaster?

The other thing that neither/both/the same seem to ignore is that sometimes leaving is the responsible thing. It is entirely possible that one could land a job that seemed perfect only to discover they are a poor fit for that department's needs. By the logic shown in those threads, you don't ever get to part gracefully; you can only be shown the door. But that's not the way the job market works anywhere.

It's also intriguing to hear "senior faculty" (this keeps going in quotes because the only evidence I can find of an academic edsmithers seems to be teaching one course a year in the Santa Clara University Law program) who (if they are, in fact, senior faculty) would've come in at a substantially different pay scale relative to inflation than new faculty. I can imagine it would be easier to marry yourself to a place if you were making the sort of money profs who started in the 70s or 80s are getting paid. Come back down to my pay scale, though, and I'm betting you'll rethink it.

[Addendum: if we must keep using this marriage/career metaphor, then sooner or later, complainers must cope with the fact that, just as in real life, a lot of times when say "it's not you, it's me", it's really you.]


5 Responses to “There's trouble right here in Academic City”
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adjunct whore said...

does do-me-feminism work in this metaphor? oh, right, too selfish...thanks for adding levity to this ridiculous discussion.

October 30, 2007 at 7:31 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Do-me feminism just makes this funnier. Glad I could add a grin admist the madness. And thanks, as always, for popping in.

October 30, 2007 at 8:57 PM
Maggie said...

OK, your addendum? Cracked me up. You're right: it *is* them.

Feel free to expound on why I should like the Spurs. 'Cause I like the b-ball, but am in search of a team to love.

October 30, 2007 at 9:14 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I'm not sure how to sell the Spurs; I grew up in S.A. so on some level it was never a choice for me.

But part of the appeal to me has always been how involved they were in the community. Back before it was logo'd and sold ("NBA Cares"), the Spurs players - before they were champs - were all over the community. I like that; they've cultivated an atmosphere of players who are selfless on the court and off.

On the court, they can do it all. Naysayers will tell you they're dull to watch because they play stifling defense. But they can run with the Suns if the need to (they don't because defense wins championships). And they do the fundamentals, they play team ball, and they play smart. They're also amazing at recognizing talent - particularly international talent. They're the team other teams - in the NBA and elsewhere - are trying to be.

October 30, 2007 at 9:35 PM