Ordinary love and good will

I’m slowly making my way through Dean Dad’s archives.  That blog, which is cogent, well-written, funny and full of good information, has really been poking me to wake up and smell the coffee about the situation at 2YC.  (I described that situation here; all that changes in the fall is that I stop teaching at GU, jack up the number of courses at 2YC, and look forward to starting the M.A. course I’ll teach at another RU in the spring.)  Recently Dean Dad told a correspondent, “Adjunct gigs were never designed to be lived on. Some people try it, but it’s incredibly hard, and it was never meant to be done in the first place.”  Well, yeah, I guess.  Or, as one of my 2YC colleagues says, “This place is a great part-time job.”  Thing is, most of us–and you wouldn’t believe how good, serious, and hardworking most of the faculty are–almost all of us are doing it as a full-time job, just taking on more and more classes, and maybe a class or two elsewhere, at a public CC or another local college. 

In going to conference #2, I’m taking a financial hit because we’re paid per class meeting and I’ll be missing some class meetings (though, of course, not the planning and grading that go with them).  A couple of colleagues are subbing for me, and 2YC will pay them at their own per-class rates (one has a higher rate, because of more seniority; one has a lower rate, because of less seniority and no M.A.).  It works out to a tiny savings on 2YC’s part, which is probably canceled out by the extra time the payroll administrator will spend on adjusting their pay up and mine down. 

In industries other than higher ed, this scenario probably wouldn’t raise eyebrows.  If you want to take time off work to go to a convention of, say, model railroading enthusiasts, why should your employer pay you for working while you’re away?  Of course, in other industries you might be piling up vacation time.  In the years I’ve been involved with writers’ conference #1, I’ve been deeply impressed by how people plan all year to be able to attend; they save up the vacation time, sock away the cash, and make elaborate arrangements for the care of their children and pets.  Every year, at least one highly promising participant’s financial/employment/personal situation crashes and they don’t show.  [Every year, too, we have college and high-school teachers (and M.F.A. candidates, too) whose institutions are chipping in some or all of the cost of their tuition and expenses.]

Since I don’t teach creative writing at 2YC, the institution doesn’t really have as clear a stake in my attending this conference as they might if I were going to CCCC.  (Not that they would give me time off to do that, either, let alone pay my registration fee or plane ticket.)  A reasonable person might also point out that part of the reason I am going to conference #2 is to continue to build toward my goal of leaving 2YC; why would they want to do anything to make that easier?  To which I’d probably reply that if I felt that 2YC had more commitment to my development as an employee, I wouldn’t be so anxious to leave.  I have great colleagues there, and although it’s true that our students are not there to study English, it can be hugely rewarding to help people who loathe and fear writing to figure out strategies for doing it effectively and with less angst.  Some of the students like writing just fine, but have big organizational and grammar problems that I can help to untangle if they’re willing to work at it.  My immediate supervisors are good bosses, and the administrator of the department is a gem.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, the flexibility is an advantage (an advantage which costs the school nothing, and which works to their benefit as well).

And 2YC does, by the way, get some mileage out of the professional activities it does nothing to support.  Since 2YC is a technical/design school, they hire major-subject instructors who are professionally active, and the school website and recruitment materials all boast about the faculty’s professional memberships, activities, publications, art shows, etc.  The general-ed faculty get the same treatment; my publications and professional activities, as well as my degrees, are listed on the 2YC website (and, I’m told, the gen-ed faculty’s degrees and professional activities looked great on the last round of regional accreditation paperwork).  They just don’t want to absorb any of the costs of building a really good faculty.

I suppose what this really means is that I need to stop a) fuming and b) attempting to make a better life for myself at 2YC, and keep my eye on the things that will enable me to move to an institution that’s better suited to what I have to offer, and willing to compensate me more appropriately–not just pay, but things like a bit of research support and the ability to miss a class once in a while for a professional obligation without getting the paycheck docked.  The things that will make that possible are finishing the dissertation, finishing the second book, keeping active professionally (hello, conference #2), continuing to teach well at 2YC and BAC, and doing an absolutely kick-ass job at New RU in the spring.

Well, at least I know what I need to do.

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