For those who have not seen it, this piece from Inside Higher Education on the personal and professional consequences of “precarious” is unflinching in showing the costs of the neoliberal university in both personal and professional terms. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/13/historians-quit-lit-essay-rejects-notion-leaving-higher-ed-equals-personal-failure
I particularly like the call for those who made it to tenure to reflect on this. My own career, despite all the hard work, was significantly built on chronological luck of entering the professoriate when it was a possible vocation and not a fee-for-service job overseen by armies of non-academics. What obligations do the tenured now have to the “wreckage”? If there is an obligation, how is it to be met?
I was delighted to come across Joshua Sperber’s new research project about Rate My Professors. In Making the Grade – Rating Professors, published in CUNY’s New Labor Forum, Sperber studies what happens when students can “rate their professors” on the web. The project was based on an online survey of 41 students and 47 adjunct professors, which seems to have elicited a wealth of rich qualitative data. Continue reading Joshua Sperber, “Making the Grade – Rating Professors”
The geographer Alison Mountz published a remarkable paper last year, “Women on the edge: Workplace stress at universities in North America” in The Canadian Geographer (or on ResearchGate) . Based on 21 interviews and first-hand observations as a career academic, Mountz documents a series of difficult — at times impossible — working conditions and their bad consequences for the women in question. These difficult working conditions included gendered and racialized inequities, such as devalued research topics and disproportionate burdens of emotional labor. They also included more generalized bad consequences of contemporary academic work environments, such as generalized overwork, an “always on” situation exacerbated by technology, and a lack of boundaries between work and home life.
The personal consequences of these work-related stressors are multiple and, taken cumulatively, heartbreaking. They are above all psychological and affective, covering stress, burnout, anxiety, despair, isolation, fear and loss. They also extend into the human body, including weight fluctuations, problems with diet and sleep, and physical or mental illness. Mountz speaks of:
a constant aching and tiredness, coupled with insomnia—waking up alert in the middle of the night or extremely early, unable to sleep again; a yearning for sleep coupled with its elusive nature, a familiar frustration… (p. 213)
Continue reading Alison Mountz, “Women on the Edge”