Friday, September 14, 2012

Weekly roundup of academic issues

  • I'm late in posting about the CSU "expiry date" ad (now changed), but Dr. Crazy and Historiann and Sisyphus and now Timothy Burke have weighed in on the unfairness of it all. 
    • I don't have anything to add to this one, because you've all addressed it so well.
  • On MOOCS, Indyanna over at Historiann's place quotes from Tamar Lewin's piece: 

    Isn’t that amazing? At my school the Political Science department couldn’t develop a course on non-governmental organizations, nor could Physics and Astronomy decide to teach about superstring theory without jumping through a year’s worth of committee and senate hoops to persuade every cook and baker and horse-shoer who happened to hold faculty status anywhere that the change was not going to affect somebody else’s enrollments, or cause somebody’s external accreditor to question the credentials of their majors. But U-dacity can just slide onto a campus with a “proctored test” and kaboom, the credit hours will be rolled onto the transcripts.
Isn't this true, and doesn't it say just about everything about MOOC cheerleading? And, by the way, proctored and created by whom? Who creates those tests?  Who vets the tests, since the faculty doesn't get to vet the course and the university is not going to bother vetting it? How do faculty members know that they're valid or equivalent to a course? Or doesn't the faculty's consent to courses matter if it's a MOOC?

  • A mostly-civil discussion about whether David Perlmutter was right to urge candidates to take jobs even in locations that are outside their comfort zone (comfort zone = New York, Boston, Chicago, or Berkeley). Alexandra Lord replies, nope, that's bad advice: better a non-academic career in a place that you love. This fits in with a piece last fall, where "Emma Thornton" didn't like the weather at her "Fine Southern University" and gave up her tenure-track job to be an adjunct in England. 

  • Can't both of these options (academic job in a place you don't know and non-academic job where you want to live) be valid options? Why is there such animus and snark and defensiveness about one choice or the other? It's true that if you give up a t-t academic job, you may well never get another one (see bullet point #1), but that doesn't mean that you won't have a happy life outside academe, if you're living where you want to live.  Isn't the main thing finding work that will support you and your family, and, if possible, satisfying work? Academe isn't the only place where that can happen. 

    The thing is, as everyone has said many times, is that as an academic you don't usually get to have both: close proximity to family or major cities or whatever is important to you and a tenure-track job.  Knowing this, why are both camps on this issue so defensive? It's  "my intensity of commitment to academe beats your lack of intensity" versus "well, I care about my family/the arts/living a full life and you don't." Why does each feel so judged by the other? 

    In an old novel one time, I read a quotation that went something like this: "Are the people telling you how to think and act going to help you in any way? No? Then why do you care what they think?" 

    [Update: See also The Professor is In for her take on this.] 


    Dame Eleanor Hull said...

    I love that quotation.

    Anonymous said...

    Gee, as an economist I just assume that everybody is living where maximizes their individual utility function based on their individual budget constraint and if you're stuck someplace you don't want to live, you're getting compensating differentials with some other aspect of your life.

    We have a super grumpy post in our drafts ranting on someone (a non-academic) who emailed us about our complaining about not having big city amenities as she'd *chosen* to live somewhere nice as a freelance writer. (At some point we will soften the language and post it.) It's just not that easy. Isn't there some kind of choose 2/3... job you love, live with partner you love, place you love? We do know folks who have gotten 3/3 but they're lucky on top of being smart and hardworking.

    undine said...

    I do too, Dame Eleanor, and I think of it often when I'm being lectured to by someone who has a "you oughta" list a mile long.

    nicoleandmaggie--I love your economic point of view, and yes, 2/3 is about as much as any of us could ask for. It's okay to complain; isn't that what blogs are for?
    Maybe I'm just tired of thinking about it, but it's one of those issues that everyone gets impassioned about (like whether to call yourself Dr. or not) that I care about a whole lot less than I used to.

    sophylou said...

    I was horrifed by Perlmutter's comment about how, pretenure, it was maybe a good idea to live somewhere boring so you wouldn't be distracted from work. Pannapacker's mostly pro-Perlmutter piece relies heavily on him admitting that he has no life outside of work and family. What's an extroverted single woman in an unfriendly workplace to do? I'm pretty much with Lord.

    But yes, I also agree that it shouldn't be such a battle. Different people have different needs, for all kinds of reasons, and what works for one person might not for another. Why is that not a given?

    CarlD said...

    You are just totally right about this. Fwiw, my job is in an unlovely location with no amenities to speak of. It took me three years of market and adjuncting to get it, and 14 years in I'm still thrilled to get to talk with people about interesting stuff for a living. Plus as an introvert I never much used the amenities when I had them around anyway, so whatever. But guess what, your mileage may vary.

    You know, I do wonder if some of the heat has to do with the good old impostor syndrome. We've all been impostors since the academy expanded in the post-war and stopped being staffable by the elite, but this hasn't sunk into the collective emotions yet, so there's all this fretting about whether we're doing it right, and convert zeal to compensate for the nagging suspicion that we're not.

    undine said...

    sophylou--I missed that one about living in a boring place deliberately. Why would Perlmutter say that? It's like advising self-punishment until you can't take it any more.

    CarlD--that's my take on it, too; not being a city person, I didn't take advantage of those things even when I was around them. I like your idea about "convert zeal." Since we're academics, we want to prove our commitment by making a moral virtue out of our choices instead of doing 200 situps or wilderness training whatever other measure of toughness other professions might devise.

    sophylou said...

    Actually, the "it's good for your career/work if you live in a boring place and won't be distracted from your work" especially jumped out at me because I actually did take a VAP position in North Dakota. And fled when the year was over. But it's definitely there in the Perlmutter piece -- very openly stated. Almost felt like a call for sensory deprivation. No fun for you! Get back to work!