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« Feminist Philosophers is closing down - reflections on blogging as service to the profession | Main | Concerns about recommendation letters? »

04/24/2019

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Peter Furlong

Thanks for the post, Jake. Reading accounts like this one are enormously helpful, both for thinking through the variety of positions people have in the profession and in rethinking our cultural assumptions about what is most choice-worthy. Oh, and the comment from the president is appalling. I suppose it is a small comfort that the president was on the way out.

Jake Wright

I'm glad you liked the post. I agree that the comment was appalling. But one nice outcome from that incident was that faculty of all types were equally appalled and I felt very supported by campus administration. There was a farewell reception for the outgoing president on our campus the other day and I… did not attend.

Regarding the cultural assumptions, I think this is something that placement committees and we as a profession need to take more seriously—hence my post. There are lots of ways to have a fulfilling philosophical career, and there's no Platonic ideal of "successful philosopher." But I also think that questioning these assumptions goes well beyond the sorts of concerns that were germane to my post.

For example, there's no conceptual reason why positions like mine can't have pay equity and the protections of tenure, and I think there are very good moral reasons for providing both. Dubious budgetary arguments aside, making this happen would seem to require that we as a profession value teaching as much as we value research, which I also would argue we don't. Basically, I'm all for questioning the sociocultural assumptions that undergird our discipline, but I also believe strongly that doing so will take us well beyond "different jobs might make different people satisfied in different ways."

Wesley Buckwalter

Thanks for writing this and good for you. There is no sense in choosing a permanent job that makes you permanently miserable or is not right for you and your family.

Amanda

Thanks for writing the post, Jake! It sure took a lot of intellectual independence and sincere concern for living the good (or the best one can) life to make your decision. Some might consider this sappy or naive, but in the end I tend to think those are two of the most important criteria for achieving actual philosophical excellence.

You say:

"For example, there's no conceptual reason why positions like mine can't have pay equity and the protections of tenure, and I think there are very good moral reasons for providing both."

Yes, I absolutely agree. And I do want to note that while I don't personally know of universities offering lecturers protections that are truly equivalent to tenure, I do know of some that are moving in that direction. I will give two examples, one of an institution I used to adjunct for (a large regional state school whose philosophy department has no graduate program) and one is my current very large R1 university.

One of my grad school friends has been working at the regional state school for the past decade. He happens to be third in line as far as lecturer seniority goes, with the other two lecturers having been there well over 20 years. His original goal was to get a TT job at a community college. I know that he has been offered that at least once, but turned it down because he said it simply wasn't as good as his current position. He has a three year renewable contracts, and has protections for maintaining that contract as long as (1) he shows satisfactory performance (which isn't difficult) and (2) there are enough students to fill his classes. While I am not sure on the exact method for determining this, the general idea is that first there must be enough students for TT faculty, and then they move on to lecturers who are ranked in order of seniority. At a school like this the odds of classes not filling are next to nothing - every semester the school is in a panic to find part-time adjuncts to fill all their courses. Like you he is very involved in the department, has an office next to the TT faculty and does lots of innovative teaching work. I am honestly not sure how much he gets paid, but I do know it is enough to live comfortably in a very expensive part of the country and he gets great benefits. He almost always has the chance to teach summer classes for extra pay if he wants, as TT faculty typically turn those down.

At my own institution there are many similarities, lecturers have renewable contracts that are more or less assured given the size of the university and number of students. There are three different levels of permanent teaching faculty, and moving up gives additional pay and a bit more security, although the security is essentially a wash since even the lowest level is very secure. The teaching load is 4/4 compared to the TT 2/2, with options to teach in the summer for additional money. There is a ton of freedom in choosing which courses one wants to teach, whether online or in person, both lower division, upper division, and sometimes grad courses, and lecturers commonly make up their own courses. There is no research responsibilities but there is a very generous research travel fund that is just slightly lower than TT faculty . They are involved in the majority of department activities and get to vote on about 2/3 of department matters. I know some who in principle want a tenure track job but not really enough to leave their home and community, a couple are actively looking, and some I know don't want a tenure-track job at all, as they are very happy to avoid the pressure of publishing, even if they do choose to do research.

Anyway, that is just to draw a picture for others about what a permanent lecturer job can be like and why job market philosophers might do well to consider it seriously. This is not to say that there isn't real hardships in lacking the full protections of tenure, and I think every effort should be made to find give the same sort of thing to teaching professors.

Paul

Yes, thanks for sharing Jake. Although I have never turned down a TT job, I did just stay put as an adjunct until I was fortunate enough to get a permanent (TT) position. The reasons were similar to yours: spouse with a good job, affordable living, good community, church, and friends. It just wasn't worth moving to the middle of nowhere for us, but I also realize that I am VERY fortunate to have a partner with a good job who stuck with me through those difficult years, and perhaps even more fortunate to land the job.

As for TT protections for a job like yours, its seems that some big schools are moving in that direction:

https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Penn-State-University-Assistant-Teaching-PRofessor-Salaries-E2931_D_KO22,50.htm

These are examples of teaching assistant and associate professors, and if I recall correctly they have tenure. On the flip side, University of Texas was at least talking about implementing a plan to give associate profs 12 years to reach full prof, and if they don't their title would change to associate teaching prof, their teaching load would increase, and I think their pay scale might change. I think that these types of changes might help bring long needed equity between teaching and research profs.

Jake Wright

There are certainly some institutions where tenure can be based on teaching effectiveness, and I also grant that there are institutions that are making progress in that respect. My worry is that with the continued adjunctification and contingentification of higher ed, the tides are working *against* institutional/disciplinary recognition of the value of teaching. I don't think that the path to pay/protection equity should be to bring TT faculty down to the NTT level!

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