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News: Talk online about your experiences as an adjunct, visiting assistant professor, postdoc, or other contract faculty member.
 
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Author Topic: 10 Ways to Get Yourself Fired  (Read 23394 times)
busyslinky
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« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2012, 12:36:54 PM »

This definition of adjunct is quite different than where I am.

Adjunct typically means a part-time instructor, with relatively few courses and interaction.

We have visiting professors, short-term post-docs, and lecturers that are on a yearly contract, but they are employed full time.  Most of the points in this article may deal with these folks, even though some of them seem to be poor satire/tongue-in-cheek.  It comes across as neither funny or insightful.

Not sure if many of these items are true, but they could have happened or been interpreted that way by the author.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2012, 3:22:33 PM »

It's one of the most inane texts CHE has ever published.  (And I say that as the author of some of the rather more inane texts CHE has published.)
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watermarkup
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« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2012, 3:47:27 PM »

Sorry about the bad link. I thought I checked it.

It's not the best-written piece I've read. You have to read it as a not entirely successful attempt at satire mixed with black humor. And like I said, the place I currently work is nothing like that at all. If you think the article is complete bunk, I'm happy that your career has let you avoid places like it, and I thank you for not running your department in similar fashion.

But I was surprised while I was reading it about how much rang true to my own prior experience. I was completely unprepared for a place as toxic as the one I found myself in after a job offer based only on a phone interview. You might hate the article, but my experience is what it is. You - or your students - might have already accepted a VAP position for the fall at a place more like my former school than my current one. You won't know one way or another until a few weeks into the semester, at least.
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spinnaker
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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2012, 3:52:51 PM »

That article is, in my experience, total BS.

+1   I've never been in a department that judged adjuncts on anything except:
       Meeting class regularly (though two or three cancellations a semester will not matter)
       Turning grades in on time
        Grading on some reasonable standard (25 grades of A in 1st year comp, or 25 grades of F, won't do)
       Being available at the time and place for which an adjunct is needed for a particular class.

Though we did once quickly dismiss the adjunct whose lawyer informed us he'd be missing class for a while because he'd been arrested for possession with intent to sell.


Did you forget? You don't have to have a reason. It's in the contract.
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janewales
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« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2012, 4:11:36 PM »

That article is, in my experience, total BS.

+1   I've never been in a department that judged adjuncts on anything except:
       Meeting class regularly (though two or three cancellations a semester will not matter)
       Turning grades in on time
        Grading on some reasonable standard (25 grades of A in 1st year comp, or 25 grades of F, won't do)
       Being available at the time and place for which an adjunct is needed for a particular class.

Though we did once quickly dismiss the adjunct whose lawyer informed us he'd be missing class for a while because he'd been arrested for possession with intent to sell.


Did you forget? You don't have to have a reason. It's in the contract.

Spinnaker, that's not true for all adjuncts. As I've posted before, ours are part of the same bargaining unit as the tenure-track faculty. Adjuncts are evaluated for teaching performance every year, through both peer review and teaching evaluations, and can be let go for poor performance, but the norm would be to go through several cycles of (written) notice about the need to improve, etc., before an adjunct deemed to be under-performing could be let go. This kind of dismissal has not happened in the more than 20 years I have been in my department.

Adjuncts can lose their jobs if the classes they normally teach are not available, so, if the soft money that supports those classes dries up and we offer fewer sections, then some adjuncts will lose their jobs. However, they will do so according to a seniority system. Again, these provisions are all part of a contract that was negotiated by the association that represents all faculty at the university.

I do understand that there are places where what I've described is not true, but it's just not the case that all adjuncts are employed in capricious, at-will sorts of departments.
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zuzu_
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« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2012, 5:01:24 PM »

Chime on BS. Based on my experience, this article is 95% false. In fact, I don't think I have ever read anything on the Chronicle that rang so false.

My experience is five years as a freeway-flier adjunct at five different institutions plus five years at TT/Tenured at a CC where I informally mentor and help adjuncts.

Miss faculty events. Stupid. Don't be a doormat or people will treat you like a doormat. Cancelling classes to attend voluntary, unimportant events reeks of desperation. It is also unprofessional.

Ask for a letter of recommendation. Again, stupid. People value you more when they know they might lose you. Any sane supervisor would be glad to write a rec letter and it might actually make him/her think about how it would suck to lose you as a colleague.

Trusting the help. This is elitist and just plain crazy. Many people, myself included, glean a lot about someone based on how they treat "the help."

Irritate the writing center. Just read the comments underneath article--plenty of writing center people have flamed this guy already.

Irritate your students. This one has a grain of truth. Don't be a d!ck.

Ignore RateMyProfessors.com and other social media. Again, grain of truth--you shouldn't be ignorant about these things, but not paying attention to this stuff is highly unlikely to result in job loss.

Publish. WTF?

Assume a compliment is a compliment. WTF?

Assume a democracy. This one actually makes some valid points.

Not becoming besties with the chair. Tiny grain of truth--of course you should cultivate a good relationship with your chair, but being a sycophant reeks of desperation.
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fast_and_bulbous
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« Reply #21 on: April 26, 2012, 5:11:42 PM »

Mostly just do your job well and don't be a pain in the ass to the regular faculty/chair. That alone should go a long way to keep you from getting "fired." Getting decent student evaluations helps. If they are terrible, we'll just hire someone else.

Going to departmental meetings can actually work against you if you decide you have to provide your opinion on every single matter (we have regular faculty for that, ugh). There is a fine line between providing useful feedback and being a pest. Meetings go long enough as it is.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #22 on: April 26, 2012, 5:44:46 PM »

Reading this article was like reading Dilbert comics because it's not exaggerated enough to be funny.  I haven't been at a truly toxic place, but, yeah, some of the items aren't wrong.
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spinnaker
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« Reply #23 on: April 26, 2012, 7:24:51 PM »


Did you forget? You don't have to have a reason. It's in the contract.

Spinnaker, that's not true for all adjuncts. As I've posted before, ours are part of the same bargaining unit as the tenure-track faculty. Adjuncts are evaluated for teaching performance every year, through both peer review and teaching evaluations, and can be let go for poor performance, but the norm would be to go through several cycles of (written) notice about the need to improve, etc., before an adjunct deemed to be under-performing could be let go. This kind of dismissal has not happened in the more than 20 years I have been in my department.

Adjuncts can lose their jobs if the classes they normally teach are not available, so, if the soft money that supports those classes dries up and we offer fewer sections, then some adjuncts will lose their jobs. However, they will do so according to a seniority system. Again, these provisions are all part of a contract that was negotiated by the association that represents all faculty at the university.

I do understand that there are places where what I've described is not true, but it's just not the case that all adjuncts are employed in capricious, at-will sorts of departments.

[/quote]

Right, some are not, but most can be terminated for no reason, or any reason, with no notice. Which is what makes the piece and some of the reactions hilarious. Most of the adjunct employers have gone to the greatest lengths possible to make the employment undoable, and some are now indignant about commentary that they have done everything conceivable to deserve.
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glowdart
that's a thing that I keep in the back of my head
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« Reply #24 on: April 26, 2012, 8:10:06 PM »

We have actually chosen to not rehire a couple of adjuncts who were disasters in the classroom, but we've also sent multiple people to observe them and given them copious feedback over multiple semesters before deciding to not offer them further classes. 

Otherwise, these are our general criteria, too.  The bar is much higher for full-time faculty. 

That article is, in my experience, total BS.

+1   I've never been in a department that judged adjuncts on anything except:
       Meeting class regularly (though two or three cancellations a semester will not matter)
       Turning grades in on time
        Grading on some reasonable standard (25 grades of A in 1st year comp, or 25 grades of F, won't do)
       Being available at the time and place for which an adjunct is needed for a particular class.

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watermarkup
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« Reply #25 on: April 26, 2012, 8:45:57 PM »

Zuzu, we have similar levels of experience, only you've been fortunate enough to have never landed at the place I was at. You have the luxury of considering this article 95% nonsense, for which I envy you. What I'm trying to say is that, as implausible as it sounds until you've experienced it, nearly everything in the column, or things very much like them, happened to me. Let's see:

Miss faculty events. No, canceling classes was out, but you never knew where attendance was mandatory, and where your absence was preferred. There were events never mentioned after the first day of the semester, with no later reminders about days, times, or what I was supposed to do there, where I learned only after the fact that my attendance had been expected, despite my having a conflicting medical appointment to treat an extremely painful condition.

Asking for a letter of recommendation. I agree that any sane, human supervisor would write a letter of recommendation. My supervisor was neither. Have you ever been non-TT faculty with a department head who doesn't want to write a letter of recommendation for you? You're stuck. It can easily mean the end of your career.

Trusting the help. I think the world of department secretaries and office assistants, and I'd never refer to them as "the help." But if the secretary is a gossip and a fabulist who makes up stories about you and shares them with a credulous chair, you're in deep trouble.

Irritate your students. "Johnny - stop talking to Billy during the lecture. Susy - if you plan on being a licensed basket weaver, you have to improve. What's that? You're going to go complain to the chair? Oops." Actually, Susy took it pretty well and stepped up her game, and the class got a lot better. Johnny ran to the chair, and the chair took his side.

Publish. Yes, some particularly lousy TT faculty members will not look favorably on research and publication by non-TT faculty. Your supervisor's loud protests on the departmental listserv (at an R1) that he can't possibly publish at the same rate he used to look somewhat hollow when the guy who's teaching twice as much as he is also publishes twice as much. My teaching and research were viewed as a zero-sum game: rather than benefiting each other, my research was perceived as evidence that I had the wrong priorities. After the cool reception I got when I mentioned an article acceptance, I stopped saying anything to my colleagues. I was everybody's best friend when the annual departmental review forms had to be filled out, though, where my publications were added to the department's total.

Assume a compliment is a compliment. In that environment, you couldn't take anything at face value. The implied criticism was never far below the surface of any compliment.

I actually don't have any complaint about the fact that I wasn't renewed. I know how the game works; sometimes the job is just plain over, and I've been non-renewed by wonderful people who were friendly and supportive the whole time I was there. I also see nothing wrong with firing incompetent faculty - but at that prior school, I was given the highest ratings in all areas in my annual review by the level above my supervisor.

My experience teaches me that the article isn't BS; situations like that are very real, if thankfully not common. But if not for an accumulation of very unlikely circumstances, that hellhole would have ended my career.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #26 on: April 26, 2012, 9:15:35 PM »

Asking for a letter of recommendation. I agree that any sane, human supervisor would write a letter of recommendation. My supervisor was neither. Have you ever been non-TT faculty with a department head who doesn't want to write a letter of recommendation for you? You're stuck. It can easily mean the end of your career.

Note for the reading audience, if you end up in this situation, try asking other people in the department to write you letters of recommendation.  Invite the highest ranking people you can get to observe your classes and make sure to make some allies if at all possible starting from day one.  You can get another job even if the chair won't write letters for you if you have letters from senior members of the department who seem sane enough.  I just did that as a non-TT person who got an TT offer without having a letter of recommendation from the chair, but with two glowing letters from full professors in the department.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2012, 9:17:21 PM by polly_mer » Logged

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janewales
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« Reply #27 on: April 26, 2012, 11:13:07 PM »

My experience teaches me that the article isn't BS; situations like that are very real, if thankfully not common.

Watermarkup, my worry about the article is precisely that the situations described aren't common. In my department, as I've said, an adjunct following this advice would be shooting him/ herself in the foot. The point about publishing is particularly pernicious. We're an R1; a good publication record is the minimum requirement to be considered in our department. We have in fact hired adjuncts, both our own and people who have been adjuncts elsewhere. But we would not consider anyone who did not have a competitive publication record.

Like I said, I suspect the piece was intended to be satire, at least in part, with (as is true for all good satire) a leavening of truth. The problem is that it might become a guide for behaviour. It wouldn't have been great if people had actually started eating Irish children after reading A Modest Proposal; it's also not likely to produce good results if unsuspecting adjuncts treat this piece as a useful checklist.
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spinnaker
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« Reply #28 on: April 26, 2012, 11:46:38 PM »

My experience teaches me that the article isn't BS; situations like that are very real, if thankfully not common.

Watermarkup, my worry about the article is precisely that the situations described aren't common. In my department, as I've said, an adjunct following this advice would be shooting him/ herself in the foot. The point about publishing is particularly pernicious. We're an R1; a good publication record is the minimum requirement to be considered in our department. We have in fact hired adjuncts, both our own and people who have been adjuncts elsewhere. But we would not consider anyone who did not have a competitive publication record.

Like I said, I suspect the piece was intended to be satire, at least in part, with (as is true for all good satire) a leavening of truth. The problem is that it might become a guide for behaviour. It wouldn't have been great if people had actually started eating Irish children after reading A Modest Proposal; it's also not likely to produce good results if unsuspecting adjuncts treat this piece as a useful checklist.


In the absence of periodic review or reliable predictions for what will bring success the only guide for behavior is conscience, and that is why there are so many good adjuncts.
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