I fantasize about academic sharecroppers organizing with contingent workers across industries, a category (taxi drivers, seasonal workers in agriculture and tourism, truckers, office temps, construction temps...) that has exploded over the last twenty years. Together their power would overturn cities. But for that to happen, academic sharecroppers will have to tear their allegiance from the people who love what they love, that is, they will need to understand that my job is funded by their oppression, that there are more of them than there are of me, that they are the shaky foundation on which people like me totteringly stand. There are more and more of them and fewer and fewer of me. Adjuncts as sharecroppers. There's a reason it's #14. [more inside]
Who are the alt-acs? They are people with graduate education (mostly in the humanities and library science) who have decided to pursue alternative academic careers. They choose to skip the "dues-paying crap" often associated with pursuing a traditional tenure-track job, and avoid languishing in unrewarding adjunct assignments. They also tweet like mad. The results of a new (and, as of this writing, ongoing) #alt-ac census show alt-acs thriving in diverse positions; there's a strong contingent involved in the digital humanities, but also a historian at the U.S. Department of State, an exhibit developer at the National Constitution Center, and a self-employed "Editor, musicologist." [more inside]
What we have in academia, in other words, is a microcosm of the American economy as a whole: a self-enriching aristocracy, a swelling and increasingly immiserated proletariat, and a shrinking middle class. The same devil’s bargain stabilizes the system: the middle, or at least the upper middle, the tenured professoriate, is allowed to retain its prerogatives—its comfortable compensation packages, its workplace autonomy and its job security—in return for acquiescing to the exploitation of the bottom by the top, and indirectly, the betrayal of the future of the entire enterprise. Graduate school as suicide mission, in the Nation.
Tales of academe Newly-minted Ph.D.s describe their varied experiences on the academic job market. Most use pseudonyms. Many writers are remarkably bitter; some are not. Notable essays: the adjunct professorship as a career; teaching at a county jail; racism on the tenure track; and a series of columns by "Thomas H. Benton," who desperately tries to talk students out of entering graduate school, and then gives helpful advice to those who want to go anyway.