We drive ourselves (and I don’t mean to work each day).

4 03 2011

John Fea links to posts on professorial schedules and offers up his own to dispute the notion that academics only work nine hours per week and get summers off too. While I hadn’t really thought about it until now, I realize that my intended audience for this blog is other professors so there is absolutely no way I am going to insult you by writing about what I do all day.* We know we work hard and the fact that anyone feels the need to prove this to the outside world tells us a lot more about the outside world than it does about us.

I do, however, think it’s worth noting a few of what I suspect are universal truths about our respective packed schedules:

1) For all our bitching, what separates professors from most workers is the ability to control when we do what we have to do. Speaking for myself at least, there are very few places I need to be any given time besides my classes and office hours. This is a good thing as the fact that I can control when to do what I have to do makes a huge difference to my life. If I want to go to the gym in the morning, I can usually do it. If my wife needs me to pick up my daughter at school, I can usually do that. Working nights and weekends is the price for that kind of flexibility, but I’ve been able to keep the weekends to a minimum lately (except for when I have grading to do like this one coming up).

2) My job is (mostly) fun. My new favorite blog Worst Professor Ever is complaining about the salary differences between faculty and administrators, but unless your Gordon Gee (who makes more than many CEOs) or you’re completely useless like “the Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence,” I don’t really begrudge what you make because I don’t want to push paper for a living.

How many pages of mind-numbing reports does the average department chairman have to write in the given week, let alone the average provost? People should be paid more to do jobs that distasteful, and the fact that I have tolerance for paper-pushing will keep me permanently out of the traditional academic hierarchy. I can live with that. If I won’t enjoy the work, I don’t want to do it no matter how much it pays.

And, most importantly:

3) We drive ourselves (and I don’t mean to work each day). Like the teachers who by school supplies out of their own budget**, good college professors work hard because they care about their students and their universities alike. One of my colleagues at his last job still assigned papers in every class despite having 150 students each semester because it was the right thing to do. I require drafts for almost all my papers not because it’s a job requirement but because I’d feel horribly guilty if I didn’t.

In fact, when you think about it, college professors are the perfect workforce for exploitation: skilled, highly-dedicated, willing to accept non-monetary forms of gratification in lieu of higher wages and too individualistic to organize themselves.

Darn! I thought I’d be able to get through my first post of the week that wouldn’t turn out to be at all depressing. I’ll see what I can do next week on that front. I’ve been meaning to write about Alice in Wonderland again for a while now. I’m sure that will fit the bill.

* This is not a criticism of the people like John who are starting this meme. It’s a noble effort, but not one in which I choose to participate. It’s just a bit too close to “What I ate for breakfast” blogging for my comfort.

** We should get that tax deduction too! How much do you spend on your own classes out of your own pocket? I know I spend far more than I wish I did.


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4 responses

4 03 2011
Jack Rip

We also work on topics we choose and once tenured we can switch disciplines if we find it interesting. (I deviated from engineering to more medical research topics.)

If the dean doesn’t like me, and he doesn’t, he is free to resign, and I told him so.

I can do without the ugly academic politics and the fact that expertise in an area doesn’t correlated well with common sense. In plain English, I am tired of the idiots colleagues of mine.

11 07 2011
“Time is but the stream I go a fishing in.” « More or Less Bunk

[…] Any community college professors or adjuncts reading that last bit must be laughing their asses off right now. I ask for no pity in noting that Vedder assessment is laughably wrong in my case too because people like me generally drive ourselves. […]

28 02 2012
Has technology turned faculty into prisoners? « More or Less Bunk

[…] are limits. In order to limit the amount of overwork I have to put in today, let me quote myself here: For all our bitching, what separates professors from most workers is the ability to control when […]

12 05 2014
“How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist?” | More or Less Bunk

[…] adjunct could do what they do for so little. Yet despite our comparatively poor salaries, we still drive ourselves to work harder even as what we do is valued less and less. Soon our dignity may be all we have […]

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