Category Archives: academic jobs

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Deans Love Books

“Doesn’t Matt care about publishing books anymore?” That’s what an editor of a well-established humanities journal recently asked one of my press colleagues. The editor had just returned from a meeting with me, where she had expressed interest in publishing “curated” collections of articles from back issues of the journal. It struck me as a wonderful idea.

“Why make these print books?” I asked. “What do you mean?” she replied. I explained that the articles already existed in digital form in Proj…

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The New Glass Ceiling in Academe

In honor of International Women’s Day, the university where I am currently a postdoctoral fellow held a conference on “glass ceilings in academia.” The midcareer professor who organized the conference invited me and a couple of other female postdocs to speak about our experiences as young women in the profession. But is the “glass ceiling” a relevant concept for describing the challenges we face at this stage in our careers? As postdocs, adjuncts, lecturers, and visiting assistant prof…

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War-College Woes

America’s war colleges are in the news with accusations that Sen. John E. Walsh of Montana plagiarized passages in his master’s thesis at the U.S. Army War College. But the problems of such institutions go deeper, often with their own distinctive wrinkle on ailments common to academe.

Even before Benjamin Ginsberg’s 2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, the problematic growth of academic administrators was a perennial hot topic in a…

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Academe’s Firing Squads

A quick Google search shows the wild popularity of a new genre of academic writing: the graduate-student blog about the evils of graduate school. With names like “100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate Schools,” these posts are populated by a cast of Dickensian caricatures of innocence and wickedness. Advisers are narcissistic thugs, and students are helpless, poverty-stricken orphans. Doctoral study, especially in the humanities, is a merciless fraternity sustained by cruel hazing rituals—arbi…

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Yes, the Humanities Are Struggling, but They Will Endure

Listen to the dire talk around colleges and universities, read op-eds and magazines, and you might think the humanities were in greater danger than the earth’s climate. In fact, despite the overheated rhetoric, the humanities are not at death’s door. Contemporary pressures will more likely push them into a new shape, even ultimately a healthier one.

That claim might seem bizarre. The proportion of college students majoring in the humanities has sunk to an all-time low. Students have turned their…

The Erosion of Faculty Rights

In the rush to online education, faculty members have been signing contracts that abrogate the ownership of their classes, erode their collective interests, and threaten the quality of higher education. No standard (let alone best) practice has yet emerged, and faculty members are largely in the dark about what is at stake.

Put simply, the stakes are huge. Online education is the new frontier where the traditional rights of faculty members and the quality of instruction are up for grabs. It is a…

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A Plan for the Modern College

As is commonly known, American higher education depends for its existence on the cheap labor of adjunct faculty members. According to recent reports, adjuncts make up as much as 70 percent of college instructors. The average yearly salary for those adjuncts is around $25,000, just above the poverty rate for a family of four, so these members of the professoriate, having put in their years working on advanced degrees while providing cheap labor as graduate students, have learned very well what t…

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Home College: an Idea Whose Time Has Come (Again)

“Maybe you should home-college,” I joked to a highly educated Ph.D. friend—doctorate in medieval history, two master’s, several years of adjunct teaching experience in three fields. She was worried about how she would pay for her own offspring’s eventual college education on her tiny salary, if she did not soon land a full-time job, preferably on the tenure track.

As the words hung in the air, the idea’s utility seemed obvious. Thousands of qualified, trained, energetic, and underemployed Ph.D…

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Assignment: Research Your Adjunct Teachers

In the Fall 2013 term, having graduated from Warren Wilson College with an M.F.A. in poetry—a terminal degree, of course—I found myself teaching composition courses as an adjunct for the eighth consecutive semester. This semester, however, was different from the others not only in the workload but also in the commute: I worked on two campuses in two states, with 30 miles of freeway, part of it under construction, between them. On top of that, I taught five courses.

The first institution I taught…

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The DIY University

As my colleagues and I began to get our courses organized for this academic year we were atwitter with anticipation. The classroom-management website we use had been totally reorganized over the summer. We were promised something new and exciting.

Most faculty members use classroom sites nowadays. Blackboard’s is a popular version. At Ohio State University the site is called Carmen. The old version of Carmen was entirely adequate. It would sometimes slow down (or crash) at the start of each term…