We Have Choices

Unlike many people in the world who are stuck in a dead-end job, we adjuncts have choices. Most of us are incredibly talented, intelligent & savvy people. We got ourselves through an excruciatingly difficult program with probably little or no support. We have Ph.D.’s for heaven’s sake! We have mastered the art of living on nothing. We are fast learners. We can surely survive a career change! So why then do we keep working for little money and little respect like helpless victims?

I for one am tired of the sound of my own complaints and have decided to quit. It’s been very therapeutic for me to blog about my experiences, but I don’t want to be doing this a year from now.  I’ve decided that I need to move on, make money, travel and enjoy what’s left of my youth. I am done playing this game and being a willing participant in this nonsense.  May you come to the same conclusion too!

“Ph.D.”-The Scarlet Letters in the Job Marketplace

As I have finally accepted the futility of seeking a tenure track position I have decided to quit adjunction and focus my efforts on finding other types of employment. However, these efforts have also proven to be futile. Out of the fifty applications for the non-academic positions that I sent out the past few months, I’ve only been called for three interviews. None of these interviews have resulted in a job offer.

I am overqualified for most of the jobs that I’ve applied for, so one would think that employers would jump at the chance of having me on their team. But sadly, that is not the case. Employers don’t want to hire someone who is overqualified because they would have to pay them more. They also don’t trust that overqualified individuals would work at their institutions for the long haulI–and they’re right. Additionally, employers don’t want to hire employees who are more qualified and skilled than they are, because if they are at all insecure in their own position, this would be highly threatening to them.

The economy is definitely a culprit. However, one would think that in a bad economy over-qualification is a must for competitiveness. It could also be ageism, but I’m only in my late 30’s.

There might be some of you, dear readers, who might think that I’m not interviewing well or I’m doing something wrong. I assure you that I have analyzed my interviews to death and have perfected my skills. I don’t like to brag but I’m an exceptionally socially apt person, for someone with a Ph.D., so I know that it’s not my personality getting in the way. Perhaps I need to undersell myself.

No matter what the specific reasons are for my lack of success in finding a job,  I feel that they all lead back to the three letters after my name. “Ph.D.” are my scarlet letters that I am unable to shake off, that keep me at the margins of decent employment.

California Tenure Ruling Sneaks Past Higher Ed


I spent a quite a bit of time yesterday researching and Tweeting news of California Judge Treu’s ruling that tenure prohibits students from accessing a quality education. I have loads to say about how this is wrong in so many ways, but that’s not the reason for this post.

This post is to urge all levels of Higher Ed faculty and media:

• to see that a decision against tenure affects every level of education.

• to start viewing every attack against teachers as part of a campaign to undermine not only faculty unions at every level but unions and the voice of the middle and lower class

• to connect the dots between neoliberal free market capitalism, Citizen’s United, the rise of our Oligarchy, deregulation, state legislative actions, and access to public funds.

• to perceive that undermining unions allows greater leverage in the so-called free market

• to…

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Back to Square One

With my Ph.D., I am currently making approximately the same salary that my mother made 25 years ago as a newly arrived immigrant. Both of my parents, who were highly educated in their home country had to take jobs far below their qualifications in the U.S., because those were the only jobs available to them as immigrants. Their sacrifice was for the hope of a better future for their children.  They always encouraged us to pursue higher education and I did.  Here I am, 25 years and a Ph.D. later, back to the same place that my parents were when we first arrived to the U.S.

For The Love of Teaching

I took my car to a car wash because it had been way too long (if you know what I mean) and it was looking like dirt on wheels.  After the wash there was still a big stain that wouldn’t come off no matter what, so I asked the owner of the car wash what could be done about it.  He said that it was a water stain and that it would cost at least $60 to remove.  I told him that I didn’t have $60 for this and maybe it would come off if I kept scrubbing it.  He said that I could damage the paint by scrubbing and that I should try to use some white vinegar.

Anyway, the guy was really nice.  As we were talking, he noticed that I had a license plate holder with my university name on it.  He asked me about what I did for work and I told him that I was a part-time professor at FRRU*.  He then began telling me about his daughter and how she was actually a student at FRRU and that she was currently studying abroad in France under the direction of world-renowned filmmakers.  I told him that she was lucky and that I wished I had gone abroad when I was her age.

He then began talking about careers and asking my opinion about which direction his children should go.  I told him to encourage his children to do anything except getting Ph.D.’s and becoming college professors (jokingly but really).  Anyway, he was surprised and he asked why, so I told him that 76% of all faculty were adjuncts and that we didn’t get paid much, had no benefits, had terrible working conditions and no hope for things improving.

So then came the zinger…he said: “But you do it ’cause you love it right?  It must be amazing to mold young minds! You’re doing it for the kids, etc. etc..” So I told him that I didn’t love anything THAT much and especially anything that was going to leave me destitute** at the end of it.  I also told him that he would never say that to medical doctors and surgeons–that they’re doing what they’re doing for the love of it, because they want to save lives so they should be ok with minimum wage because their work is their calling.  The guy totally agreed and said that he had never thought about it that way.

I think I made the guy feel guilty because at the end of our conversation, he said: “You know what? I’m just gonna do this for you and take care of the stain on your car.”  It took him 2 minutes (a few sprays of a cleaning product and a few rubs) to take care of the stain for which he was going to charge me $60 (which is more than what I would make for giving an hour long mathematics lecture at the university, which takes many free hours of labor to prepare).

*FRRU stands for Filthy Rich Religious University, a pseudonym for where I work.

** Caveat: I know destitute is a relative term and particularly in the context of seeing the day laborers at this particular car wash, who were actually doing all the hard work of cleaning cars for low wages.  I realize that their stories are completely absent from this narrative and I am much more privileged than they are as I have a Ph.D. and am having my car washed by them.  I believe that everyone needs a living wage, including day laborers and adjunct faculty.  Given this, I also have about $150,000 in debt and I make about $18,000 a year with no health or retirement benefits, so IF (because my privilege affords me choices) I continue on this path I will be destitute by the time I retire.