love, feet, absence

my fearless leader

Recently, the News Hour with Jim Lehrer ran a segment on part-time college teachers, people like me, although of course, for this academic year I am actually working full-time (for the first and thus far only time in my 15 or so years in academia). The transcript is here, although the streaming video version is even better. Anyway, as is often the case, some of the biggest loads of crap come from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl. First, he tries to argue that part-timers are hired not because they come cheaper than tenure-track faculty (we make less per hour, we have fewer or no benefits ... in fact, for some of us, the first effect you notice about getting your doctorate is that your pay as a lecturer with a Ph.D. is lower at an hourly rate than it was when you were still a graduate student, that is, you might make money if you're lucky enough to work more hours, but the pay-per-hour falls) but because they have special and unique skills they bring to the campus:

"We have people who are professional practitioners, who come in as lecturers and teach part-time: Lawyers, social workers. They teach composition courses; they teach classes in what we would call obscure languages."

I taught composition courses at Berdahl's school for more than six years. I was a graduate student when I did it. The vast majority of comp classes at Berkeley are taught by grad students; the ones that are not taught by grad students are mostly taught by people with doctorates who haven't gotten a full-time job. The latter is not a choice, for the most part, although Berdahl apparently thinks the world is full of people with $50,000 in unpaid student loans who want nothing more than to teach composition at his school for a coupla thousand dollars a course.

On the third floor of Campbell Hall, where my office currently resides (an office I share with three other non-tenure-track faculty members), there are faculty members in Mass Communications, American Studies, Religious Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Cognitive Science, and I'm probably forgetting a couple of others. All told there's more than a dozen faculty members on our floor, maybe closer to two dozen. One of them is a full-time, tenured professor; all of the rest of us are "adjunct faculty," lecturers or people on fellowships. I can think of one person amongst all those adjuncts who fits the description of us Berdahl is promoting, a psychologist who moonlights as a lecturer. And it's true that the lecturer life, when I have a job at least, suits me OK. But every other adjunct on my floor is working here because it's what the university offers, not because it's what they want from the university.

Dipshit Berdahl seems to think that people who raise legitimate questions about their work environment and/or the importance of treating instructors properly at a prestigious university are just disgruntled crybabies:

"In many cases these are... are people who had hoped for and expected to get or are waiting for tenure-track positions at universities. And so there is a certain frustration that is borne of their... of the status of their careers that they're at. And... and... and that obviously is reflected in some cases in their attitudes towards where they're working."

You see, it's not that the university treats me like shit. It's that I am too neurotic to accept my place on the totem pole. If I'd just realize that I suck, if I just understood that my paycheck reflects nothing more or less than that I am not as good as other people in my profession, then I'd overcome my bad attitude towards my employers.

This guy tells the world that I'm disgruntled because I don't accept his greatness, then has the gall to state of the relationship between university and lecturers:

"We try to make certain that their life isn't bad, and... and I hope that it isn't."

Gee, thanks, Coach!