Sunday, September 20, 2009

Random Random

First of all, thank you to everyone who wrote me or offered their application-reading services lately. There were a lot. You all are cool and helpful. At some point I realized the polite thing to do is to write back to all these people, but that feels kinda overwhelming right now, so you'll have to make do with blog acknowledgements. Besides, I sent out my stuff to Dissertation Buddy and a prof and want to wait for them to give me suggestions. They are not responding instantly, however, which is irking me a bit. How can I obsess over my job letters if the most current copies are out with other people? But I understand that I am being obnoxious and weird.

On Friday I puttered about for a while and then finally went to the Mexican food place, where I not only ordered chips and salsa but the fajita combo plate as well (shout out to my blogfriends who are not in the Mexican-food-belt! This post is for you!), and I had a delicious very early dinner and sat around on the patio people-watching and reading my book for a couple hours. Then I got back home and lazed around in a food coma because really I do not need that much food. But it was goooood! Mmmm! The only trouble is my book, which I'm kinda forcing myself through as I do not like it much. Do you have an author that you work on? And have you read all the books said author has written, including the ones everybody says are not very good? Yeah, I'm on one of those --- totally not loving this text but I feel I need to have read it to be well-read in my field and with my authors. This means that progress on it has been extremely slow. (it's still sitting there on my side table as we speak.)

Today, more puttering (there is no time-waster like it! You'd think my apt. would be clean and my job materials organized, no? But there is always more puttering to do!) and a muffin at Peets (not the best one I've had there I will admit) and I re-read my writing sample, which is lovely. I haven't read my writing sample in months --- and haven't looked at my dissertation since filing it --- and this chapter chunk is so nice! The best of all my chapters, even if it is a bit lumpy --- there are more colloquialisms in here than I'd like, and even some slack sloppy writing --- but there are ideas, oh, so lovely, the ideas, and I do lots of crazy, out-there stuff and connect it all in really complex ways. I heart me! I am so brilliant! Seriously, it is good. So far I have made a lot of little changes and comments in the margins (prepositions are especially tricky to get right) but I have not changed them on the document yet. I don't think there are any major changes, and I only caught one egregious typo (whether that is the only one that exists is another question), so really all I want to do is smooth and tighten some phrases, and to "breath test" some sentences. Not like they're drunk, but they might be too long and awkward. I like the idea of a prose breathalyzer though. Hmmm.

And then I met up with a friend for a movie! Yay! Sociality! The only problem about being social during job market time is that a) if you meet up with grad students and share funding troubles stories and discuss the paucity of jobs this year, you become anxious and miserable, and b) if you meet up with people who are not grad students you become rage-filled because you are talking to people who have no clue what you're going through and they are making plenty of money. And yet I think that being a hermit for the entirety of the job season would be a Very Bad Idea.

Seems like my friends who have not graduated have it just as hard or even harder than me right now, and are definitely getting squeezed in even shittier ways. I graduated and filed because I had an outside job (now dried up) and because I felt like a loser who had been in the program too long, but I managed to get those last few TAships in winter and spring even though I had maxed out my teaching availability. But other people got advised not to file this past spring because the department would only be able to offer grad student, not adjunct, funding --- and then they got axed. My grad student friend (who I have talked about here before but can't remember his pseudonym) had this happen to him and his teaching for the year has been yanked. And he is not ready to file, because a) he has been working on other stuff and made a schedule and plan which did not involve him filing now and b) his advisor is now out of the country on a research leave. AND!!!! He has not maxed out his teaching availability!!! They are pulling it from him because he is "beyond normative time" --- I think he is only at year 6. This is shittiness! Ultimate shittiness! Just last spring they made exceptions for me at year 8 and over 18 quarters of teaching, and now they are cutting him off --- they closed down his full sections because they did not have a replacement TA --- at year 6 and only 14 quarters of teaching! Fuckers!!!! (Let me note for those of you who are not familiar with UC that, on paper, we are not supposed to go over 18 quarters. And we are not supposed to exceed normative time to degree ---- which our department, being stupid, never changed from when it was set at 4 years for English.)

So my poor friend, through much begging and pleading --- and very time-intensive fighting --- has a TAship for this quarter but not for winter or spring. Which means he has to pay those damn skyrocketing grad fees for the next 2 quarters and can't teach. And they just eliminated the ability to take a research leave --- I heard this was because impoverished grad students were using it to avoid paying through the nose to the U, and thus it was targeted as a "loophole" that students were "abusing." Oh, and the "lecturer" positions that, when I entered the program way back when, were just handed to all the grads who didn't get jobs when they filed? Cut, over my stay here, first down to three and then down to one, and this year? They have split up all the classes --- that's a 3-3-3 load --- amongst everyone who filed. Everybody gets one class. Except for some of the people who didn't get any. (And me, but I was told that since I graduated the year before, I was fucked and really the department didn't owe me anything. It's my fault I didn't get a job after the first year.) I challenge you to live for a year off of 4K.

Thing is, with the UC switching to more large lecture classes as part of cutting its teaching budget, there's actually a huge demand for TAs. Like I said, we have about 8 or 9 sections that had filled that are now listed as "canceled." But graduate division is enforcing those time-to-degree rules (that were ignored or even unknown back when I started here) with ever more draconian fervor, like a tightening noose. I think the department is letting in enormous cohorts in response to this (who will now only get 3 or 4 years of funding; don't know what they're going to do to force turnover), which of course all makes me very pissed off. Seriously: thinking of going to grad school in English? I would very strongly urge you not to come to a UC, because people now are not getting the full funding packages they were promised, and what do you think will happen four years down the line from when you come here?

Anyway, I don't want to end this post on that note. The UC can go fuck itself, I have no love for my school or department or even much interest in what the fuck happens to it in the future. I hope they shut down all the PhD departments in the UC literature programs. Would serve them right. Did I tell you that I got Hulu to download? Sorta? If I try to go beyond about 2 hour-long programs the computer overheats and crashes. But I'm watching House, which is fun. I needed to pick a show that you don't have to watch in order or by season (and they only have the first episode of Mad Men up for this season anyways) and one that it didn't matter too much if it froze for buffering about every 10 minutes, so voila! House. My brilliant plan is to set it up so I have something to amuse me while doing all those damn dishes, which are boring. And since I don't really like House (why is it no one on that show can act? Is that why they spend so many minutes telling other characters what that person must be feeling?) it doesn't matter if it skips or hangs or stutters or I can't hear it much over the rinse water.

Ideally, however, someone would bring me even more chips and salsa and then do the dishes for me while I watched House on the sofa. But I haven't trained the cats to do that yet. And, you know, you can't have everything.

8 comments:

Renaissance Girl said...

Yikes. As you might suspect, I've got a vested interest in having UC maintain good English depts with good funding, so as to maintain what was once the high market-value of my own PhD. And beloved UC faculty are not loving all the administrative hoo-hah. But it sounds like your dept is responding with special terror to the crisis, and punishing exactly the wrong group of people. It's bread-and-butter, if you will. As for your friend: I don't know where the TAship refusals originate, but you might suggest that he beat the bushes in another department--in Honors college or courses, or Ethnic Studies, or Western Civ, or even UC Extension, or wherever he might parley experience into a position. My UC had a lean year early on in my time there, and I was the only grad who got a TAship because I went and harangued myself into two in a row, until the English dept opened up again. Don't know if that's an option in the current state of affairs, but it might be worth a try. Anything for the tuition-and-fees waiver.

Hang in there.

Renaissance Girl said...

Its, I meant. Crap.

Sisyphus said...

No, no --- the point about bringing in the stuff about time to degree is because this is a campus-wide, UC-wide, not a department, thing. Because he is starting his sixth year, he is denied *any* UC work until he files his dissertation (and I can tell you from my experience, there isn't any work *after* filing the diss.). This doesn't matter how many courses you taught or not or whether you get a job in another department (he's filling a hole in ethnic studies over in his "emergency exception" quarter), because he has been here for longer than normative time, he can never teach again. RRrrrrr! Stupid UCs/

Bavardess said...

Crap, what a dysfunctional situation. I really feel for your friend, who seems to have had the rules changed on him halfway through the game. And four years to degree seems way too short for English Lit (or History, which is my area).

Shane in Utah said...

My respect for the UC system has declined precipitously as a result of reading this blog and Acephalous. Departments have strong obligations to the people they bring in to their PhD programs, and it sounds like the lit departments at the various UCs are falling down on the job pretty badly.

I assume when you ask "why is it no one on that show can act?" that you're excluding Hugh Laurie? I think I watched two or three episodes of House before I realized that he was the same guy from Jeeves & Wooster. I think he's phenomenal, and kept me watching House long after the plots got absurdly formulaic and boring...

The offer to read your cover letter still stands, if you need it.

Sisyphus said...

Oh, yes, Laurie is the exception --- I think that's why their habit of explaining motivations annoys me so much. Here's Laurie acting his heart out and showing all these complex depths to what's supposed to be a very reserved man, and then you have all these long takes where beautiful people just stand there for long periods of time, and then tell House something stupid and obvious, like "you think you're so logical but you are really vulnerable and reaching out to this person." Bleah!

Shane in Utah said...

Agreed. It's like they have one good writer whom they designated for writing House's quips and insults. Everything else about the show is blech...

Renaissance Girl said...

Yikes--I misunderstood. That's horrible. For everyone involved.