Once again, I don't feel like doing work, I don't feel like moving around, I feel like doing nothing ----- nothing except eat these fresh rolls with lots of butter and honey. Unfortunately, I think eating all of them right now would be bad. So I'll try to stop. Or mostly stop.
Recently I was talking with some other grad students and it seems that they are actually trying to shrink the grad program, at last. This is good, say I. We had about 4 years while I was here where they had set a new, fair policy: only let in as many grads as you can fund. Now, that's funding for 4 years, and we certainly let in as many of those as we could, meaning nobody actually finished in 4 but you couldn't get teaching after that because they had packed in a whole new cohort of grad students. But, as the CA budget circled the bowl, things got worse and worse and we went back to our earlier pattern of "tiered" admissions ---- a certain class of people get a mix of fellowships and taships, a middle class gets just taships, and some people are accepted but guaranteed they will be given no taships or anything in the department. It's fucked up and causes resentment in the ranks. Furthermore, the numbers of people who actually accept and come here despite no funding has gone up steadily lately. Why is this? The bad economy? The increasing stupidity of the younger generation? An evil plot to sell them on working with the best faculty anywhere? I do not know, but I know that we are approaching the point where there are more unfunded students coming here than funded. Ick.
Oh, and remember how I managed to pick up someone's class last year when he had a medical emergency in the second week? I got offered that in preference to some of these new kids who had never taught before, probably beause I could hit the ground running and already had a track record of being an ok TA for the department. I don't know how I feel about that. It means that, unless some of our grads get lucky or manage to cozy up to some other department, they will graduate from here without any teaching experience, the one thing we actually have an advantage over places that fellowship their students most of the way through. What the hell is our dept. thinking?
They're thinking that having a ready supply of unfunded people gives them lots of flexibility to fill all the slots they do have, said my friend.
It's not just that, I reply. I got told that the departments here get ranked, and depts. with smaller grad student populations, if they slip under a minimum line, get allocated a smaller number of TA slots ---- like look at the Italian department. It shrank down to a certain number and they just rejiggered everything to not really do as extended a language program rather than scramble to fill all the TA spots they needed to. I still think it's a good idea for us to shrink our program, though, I added.
If they have all this demand for English sections ---- which that report said they do ---- added my other friend ---- then they could create some lectureships and actually support their own grads who didn't luck out on the market.
Fuck that, I say. That same report said we're chronically short staffed on professors. We're at least 10 lines behind what we should be after that big group of people left. And we're not keeping up hiring with retirements. We should hire like 12 professors, right now. Then we wouldn't have to have so many TA sections, and the profs would be happy because they wouldn't have 50 people on their class wait lists all the time, and then a bunch of grads from somewhere, if not here, would get real jobs.
Mmm, said Other Friend. Except it's cheaper ---- you could hire 3 grad students as lecturers at 1/3 time for the cost of one year's salary for a new prof. Less ---- 'cause a lecturer's full-time salary is way lower than a prof's starting salary.
Mmm, it was now my turn to say. Due to either sneakiness or stupidity, I got promised one rate for this adjuncting stuff I'm doing and hired at another rate, and I'm still pissed off, but it's not grievable (which makes me lean towards sneakiness, how smoothly this was done). (Note: UC lecturers teach 9 classes a year, full time --- 3/3/3. But they rarely hire any of us for full time rates, either giving us a 2/2/2 or a 1/1/1, hence 1/3 time. This lets them get around the whole benefits thing too.)
Except, I add, I kept going to the chair earlier this year and he kept saying there was absolutely no money for lecturships, absolutely none. But I keep checking the web site, and who are all these people --- like ______ ---- listed as lecturing for us?
______? That's so-and-so's partner, the new hire, said Other Friend. And I see that This Person and That Person, the spouses of our hires last year, are teaching for us. That's so wrong ---- they should be supporting their own and giving those slots to our grad students and recent grads. Do you know how many people are on the market this year? And what happens when they all graduate if they don't have jobs? They should be supporting us --- it raises their profile if we do well and get out of here with jobs, so ----
But giving teaching work to partners when we make job offers --- although making it very very clear that this will never ever turn into a tt spousal hire, which I think we say straight up --- helps us actually recruit the people we want to hire, and it makes us look good when the person stays instead of leaves for somewhere else and we have to do the hire again, I say. I can't believe myself as I hear myself say this; I'm arguing against my own direct interests here, and did I mention that the people sitting here on the couch with me are themselves an academic couple?
Right ---- well --- that's true too, Other Friend grudgingly admits. But I still think they should do more to fund those of us who graduate, considering how they're pushing so hard for us to graduate as early as possible.
Yeah, I say, and look at X program ---- they have lecturer slots for all their grads; no one goes on the market there until they have filed. That's who we're competing against --- X grads who spent their last year of grad school publishing the hell out of everything because they know they'll go on the market while as a lecturer next year.
Grumbles all around.
And it really depresses me, breaks in First Friend (who had been interjecting throughout but I can't keep all the conversation threads woven in), how the pressure to Get Out Now is changing attitudes in the program. We have a lot more people "just doing the time" who are planning on CCs or non academic work afterwards, and I like them as people, but it changes the seminars, it changes the tone of the department.
Oh yeah? I perk up. Like who?
She lists off a string of names, only one of whom I'd heard was planning on CC teaching instead of the researching and academia route. Interesting. My advisor is very much "Research 1 all the way," pushing you to take as many intellectual risks and hard routes as possible to get the big payoff, years and years and years later when you've really gotten the groundwork into your system. I'm now wondering how prevalent this attitude is in my department, and how many grad students actually see the benefits of it anymore. Certainly the departmental system with its speedups and its grinding realities of paychecks works against my advisor's students, as well as those of the prof who really pushes languages on her students.
It's clear from this conversation just how complex the funding problem is, and how our department (which is really more like a bunch of people all tugging the rope in different directions at once than "a" department) is stuck between a bunch of institutional constraints and constraints of its own making. I don't know what I would do. I mean, I know what I'd do if I were made dictator tomorrow and could just go in there and rearrange everything to my own liking; I just don't know how I would deal with all the endless negotiations and power trading and building coalitions that would need to be done to get even a minimum of progress. Meh. Clearly they need to go to some magic sugar daddy and get an endowment. I graciously volunteer myself for the Endowed Chair in Cog Studies.
What do you think? If you had to throw a certain group under the bus ---- grad students, recently graduated grad students, permanenet lecturers, spouses of tt hires ---- who would you chuck, and who would you save? Or would you spread the little bit of wealth out thin to everybody, and let everybody complain?