Where do I go to lament my ten useless years getting a PhD which has impoverished my family and I for a decade? No one cares that I am now a shell, making it up for the fam, they can’t know… So empty today and the nine month job search is starting to grind on me hard.
So, I had a job interview for a corporate job doing data analysis for customer experience measurements – with a corporation where I think I might be able to find a long term research scientist job – not in customer experience, but in public health. But hey a foot in the door is a foot in the door.
And see, the family is hungry this week. This PhD mama can’t feed her kids and it makes me so hopeless and so sad that I invested so much time in something that feels pretty worthless.
The interviewer who asked the question above waited for the “co-interviewer” to leave the room and then hit me with it…
Why can’t, because my family is hungry be an acceptable answer?
So I rattled off how I want to stay in the area and how academia is not what it used to be (my husband and I later mused that this second part to the answer made it look like it was second choice for me – which it is but can’t say that OUT LOUD). Her dad, and she was older middle age, was a prof so she had a different idea of what that world was like.
Anyhow, I’ve read my share of advice columns etc etc and I’ve become quite embittered with a constant stream of pithy and or already taken and seemingly not effective advice that has not seemed to help me for MONTHS NOW AND THE FAMILY IS HUNGRY. So, here’s yet one more alt-ac bit of advice that I hadn’t seen previously – if you go alt-ac, you might get the question above, and the corporate environment is not yet ready for us, I think, and they will wonder why we’ve left such a sweet deal. They WILL NOT CARE that temp-teaching positions have risen by 50% while all of the tenure track has basically stagnated so that the cushiness of academia, not that it is even cushy anymore as I see my recently employed colleagues struggling for work life balance, but I digress…. Just say, “I don’t want to be in academia, I want to be in the corporate world for reasons X, Y, and Z.” BE PREPARED FOR THAT QUESTION.
We’re also out of coffee – that’s always a bummer.
And now, for information on why Marxism doesn’t work, for all you financially secure Marxist-wannabes (I’m one, but have lost all hope) out there: I atone! I apply for all these jobs! I’m a great worker, I work so hard, I gain strength from employment and stable financial security! I JUST WANT TO WORK! SOMEONE PLEASE VALUE MY SKILLS AND HIRE ME!
I couldn’t have known… Here’s the data and supportive statement from the National Women’s Studies Association. “The MLA Academic Workforce Data Center reports that the number of part-time faculty went from 379,700 in 1995 to 757,700 in 2011; in comparison, there were 393,500 tenured and tenure-track faculty in 1995 and 430,600 of the same in 2011.” (See their footnote below, full statement included.)
I couldn’t have known, because there were jobs when I started my PhD-dream but they went away while I was “in”… And I’m left negotiating this sinking feeling of failure and taking a job that makes me feel underutilized, though at this point I will take anything that I can (except adjucnting – I’m so done with that, I will not be a cog in that machine. Also, I have one course I contracted to teach, and I’ll do it, but my heart is no longer in it.)
There are days when I can dream a different route – that seemingly ever-illusive “alt-ac” route but today, I am so filled with regret for the choices I’ve made, sociologically understandable or not. Yes, the MACROFORCES altered my trajectory, but it still hurts to be a failure.
“NWSA Contingent Faculty Solidarity Statement
As the largest feminist academic organization in North America, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) is dedicated to leading the transformative and critical field of Women’s Studies. Our members recognize that systems of oppression are interlaced and take seriously the material conditions of knowledge production, labor commodification, workforce stratification, and structural inequities in educational practices.
The NWSA urgently calls for wider recognition of growing inequality in academic labor practices, and, in particular, the rising number of contingent faculty. Contingent faculty colleagues often face heavy teaching loads, commute between multiple positions, and lack basic support in the academy. Such disparities have adverse effects on higher education more broadly. Given their critical role in higher education, contingent faculty need fair wages and benefits, professional development opportunities, structural and contractual protections for academic freedom, and due process protections.
The NWSA also underscores that the devaluation of academic labor, wage inequities, and disparities in hiring practices has been longstanding in the academy and connects to wider material and political contexts. Race, sexuality, social class, age, disability, gender, and citizenship are all factors that impact contingent employment. Comprehensive data on contingent faculty in the U.S. is unfortunately limited as the Department of Education’s National Study of Postsecondary Faculty ceased in 2003, and nothing comparable has replaced it. Thus the NWSA calls on the Department of Education to reinstate this critical survey in order to make the issues surrounding contingency more transparent.
As feminist scholars, educators, and activists, our members actively pursue a just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential. Given our deep commitments to an inclusive feminist vision and to contesting and dismantling multiple systems of domination, the NWSA is in solidarity with contingent faculty colleagues and issues this call for wider recognition of labor stratification and structural inequities in higher education employment practices. We are steadfast in our commitment to eradicating injustice and to fostering educational opportunities for all.
 The AAUP reports that more than 50% of today’s total professoriate (across institutional types) is contingent and non-tenure-track positions account for 75% of instructional appointments in U.S. Higher Education. The MLA Academic Workforce Data Center reports that the number of part-time faculty went from 379,700 in 1995 to 757,700 in 2011; in comparison, there were 393,500 tenured and tenure-track faculty in 1995 and 430,600 of the same in 2011. In addition, a June 2012 survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce [CAW] found that more than 60 percent of respondents who provided information about their gender were women, compared with 51.6 percent of faculty nationally. While nearly 90 percent of contingent faculty who responded to the CAW survey were white, the survey found that respondents who identified as black earned 25 percent less per course than those who identified as white.”
…and I am sitting here, tears streaming down my face, because I’ve made such a big mess of this career and I have to smile through it. I don’t want to be a happy woman! I want to be an angry woman – but oh, the power of the sanctions that would comedown upon the angry woman. Academia sees me, and they think I’m not worth the anger and they look through me and I just can’t bear being here in this rented office, not mine to place my books in lovingly, but one filled with tons of books left by people just like me. But apparently they aren’t sad.
Why am I the only sad one?
Why did the department that cancelled my contract then HIDE IT from my view? Why can’t they just pony up and pay me what I’m owed? Get me through these months so I can get a real job.
Oh, how economic stability is linked to a feeling of HUMANITY. And here I am teaching about the absurdity of borders and the travesty and tragedy and sometimes triumph of immigration, and I have THE NERVE to think that I’m work more than this warm office and health children with a roof over their head?