I’m now employed full-time as an Order Support Specialist on behalf of a major computer technology company. So, as an Unaffiliated Scholar (Ph.D. in Musicology, etc.), I’m finding it difficult to continue giving up hundreds of hours of academic work for no pay. So, the book chapter that was just published and the journal article coming out next year (both are about parody and intertextuality in the music of “The Simpsons”) will probably be my last work for free.
Should I do a lot of work over the next two weeks revising a substantial article that has provisionally been accepted for an academic journal? It pays nothing, and I am not in an academic position, where this type of work would be expected to be done. The revisions would probably take at least twenty hours to complete.
I already have a different-but-related, unpaid book chapter coming out later this year in a somewhat less academic context. Both items are about aspects of music and parody in “The Simpsons.”
The following is my discussion of academia, inspired by The Professor Is In’s interview with Herb Childress, on the occasion of the publication of his book: The Adjunct Underclass.
I wonder if there are useful statistics about how the “five times as many PhDs as spaces for them” (not to mention that it’s annually, not cumulatively) pans out re class origins and other factors. I’m a white male, okay, but I’m also from a rural, blue-collar, working-class context in which I was the first person to do a university degree, let alone an MA, PhD (UCLA, 2003), IT certificate, and MLIS (2018). Most of my relatives have been farmers, truck drivers, shop workers, homemakers, and so on.
I still feel like I don’t fit into academia, despite having taught dozens of innovative university courses (from 1999 to 2008, many as a part-time adjunct), publishing three well-reviewed books (from 2011 to 2016), contributing academic book chapters and journal articles, and presenting numerous conference papers. There are almost no post-docs in my field of musicology (or in my more specific areas of cultural studies, popular music, and film & television music), and most people at conferences have assumed I’ve been in a tenure-track position somewhere. However, in reality, I’ve also worked part-time in the performing arts (semi-professional choral singing), arts admin, and writing/editing, and temporarily full- or part-time (or volunteering) in web development and library work. I’ve also gone through bankruptcy and have frequently scraped by on welfare.
I’m in Canada, so at least I have free health coverage and ways to get free or affordable pharmacare. I’m now working as a part-time customer service representative for a government-run liquor corporation. I often feel like I should have started at something like this job in my late-teens or early-twenties, instead of having wasted several decades attempting to land successfully in academia.
People who keep trying to reassure others that they’ll get academic jobs are lying. It’s also too late for me to sort out an alternative-academic career path. At 53 (so, also dealing with the unspoken realities of ageism), I’m now giving up on “the dream.” Getting off of welfare and getting up to a working class income a little above the poverty line is the best I can hope for.Reply ↓
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The whole kerfuffle about the University of Waterloo’s Nobel-Prize-winning physicist, Dr. Donna Strickland, being “only” an Associate Professor is ridiculous. She has tenure at a fairly major Canadian university, can do her work, and has pay equity. Lots of academics don’t attempt to advance to Full Professorship, because the amount of administrivia, committee work, etc. one then gets stuck with is prodigious. The university’s President basically implied that it would be a walk in the park for her to get that, but she still might not want it.
A much more important issue is that 80-82% of Ph.D.s (e.g., in the humanities, in which alternative career paths barely exist) end up outside of full-time, tenure-stream academia. For example, tens of thousands of adjunct instructors do the same work as faculty-member professors for less than half the pay, usually with no benefits or conference travel grants, generally without unionization, sometimes without even having an office (or, say, having to share a photocopier room with dozens of others as an “office,” as I once did), and they also often do the paid part of their work only on a part-time basis. Some of us basically have to give up after years of that kind of abuse. Now THAT is an actual problem.
This article begs the question as to what “skim writing” might entail. Academic research and writing seem like an awful lot of trouble, given that it takes a long time to produce with almost no-one encountering it after all that. Also, Malcolm Gladwell and others are just going to reorganize selected parts of it, anyhow. Why not skip the middle man? Why shouldn’t we try to get to “deep digital” parallels to writing and reading?
Here’s my bio for a forthcoming book about The Simpsons (McFarland, 2018), in which I have a chapter called “Be Sharp: The Simpsons & Music.” (I may or may not still try and publish an entire book on the subject.)
Durrell Bowman has a Ph.D. in Musicology (UCLA, 2003), a Certificate in Computer Applications Development (2010), and a Master of Library and Information Science (2018). For about a decade, he developed and taught music history courses as an adjunct or visiting instructor at seven institutions all across North America. He has also worked as a semi-professional choral singer, built websites, and presented numerous conference papers, including several on music in The Simpsons. In addition, he has written books, book chapters, journal articles, media and book reviews, reference entries, and program notes. His books are: Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), and Rush and Philosophy: Heart and Mind United (co-editor and three chapters, Open Court Publishing, 2011). He hails from what Homer refers to as “America Junior” and agrees with Marge that “grad students just made a terrible life choice.”
I attended the Ontario Library Association’s 2018 Super Conference in Toronto late last week. It was my first conference as a newly-minted MLIS, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d know what to do or whether I’d fit in. The event has hundreds of sessions and hosts about 4500 delegates, but I’m not very good at schmoozing. However, I did meet and talk with some people, including a fellow author (mainly of children’s books about hockey), a colleague of an old friend, and a career centre counsellor. I also ran into lots of people associated with the MLIS program at Western University (London, ON)–and even a few I knew from elsewhere. In addition, I collected up the names of certain people to contact later.
I learned about things at some of the sessions (including poster sessions), such as newer aspects of RDA cataloguing, useful interactive/online learning tools, and a major linked data project. Other sessions, though, covered things I already knew about, such Gold Open Access, universities walking away from publisher “big deals,” basic document accessibility principles, and early career advice. I mainly attended sessions having to do with academic libraries.
The keynote talks I attended by Jesse Wente and Naomi Klein involved more general, library-adjacent, thought-provoking cultural issues of storytelling and community-building. An artist created large posters of those talks as they took place!
My main takeaway re the OLA Super Conference is that I should try to volunteer next year, present something, or at least register in advance. It’s an expensive conference to attend at the last minute, but I did at least have somewhere to stay for free. On the other hand, it’s difficult to plan to attend it ahead of time, because most people with jobs (especially new jobs) would find it awkward to attend something that mainly takes place on weekdays.