Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ugh...

So my department chair wishes to create this mostly-online graduate program, let's say that it's in Advanced Mopery. I don't actually teach Mopery, and there are only two people on campus who do, but the graduate program is intended to be sort of cross-disciplinary, so there are a bunch of literature classes attached to it. (All theoretical classes at this point, taught by theoretical faculty.) The senior Mopery professor wants to list me as one of these potential theoretical faculty on the proposal, so this is where I come in.

I am not wholly opposed to the concept, especially if it means I get to teach less freshman comp, but it seems to me that 1) teaching an online graduate class would be a hell of a lot of work, particularly since the topics for these classes are sort of ... far-ranging. (This is not the sort of program where you can teach a seminar on whatever your dissertation topic was and call it a day.) And 2) we teach a 4-4 load, we don't have a whole lot of support for research or travel or intensive study of new works of literature, and the institution really, really does not have the resources to change this. Nor, as far as I can tell, will there be a pay bump for teaching a grad class. And, in fact, Department Chair and Senior Mopery Professor seem to be working with the cavalier assumption that if you start the program first, the resources will eventually come, and then they will be able to hire new faculty, and compensate the existing faculty, and so forth. Whereas I am of the opinion that if you start giving away milk for free, nobody will offer to take the damn cow off your hands.

Oh, and the junior Mopery professor (who is no longer very junior, being tenured, and who is also well on his way to becoming somewhat famous) ALSO really does not want to teach in this program without some reasonable level of additional compensation, which the Powers That Be have positively refused to give him. At which point he basically washed his hands clean of the whole thing and left them to figure out how to put this program together without him. I am not sure that Chair and Senior Mopery Professor have realized that he is, in fact, the one with the leverage in this situation, and that he has very, very good odds of getting a better job elsewhere. (Let it suffice to say that if you Google his name, the first twelve or so hits are not us, and they include quite a few articles in national media.)

Chair knows how to work systems like nobody's business, so I'm reluctant to say that she and Senior Mopery Professor are being delusional; she is also a seriously awesome and ridiculously hard-working person who basically bleeds in the school colors, but I think that in this case this is part of the problem, because she has a hard time remembering that for the rest of us, this is in fact a job that we are paid to do, rather than the great calling of our life. (And yeah, everybody in academia has a hard time remembering that sometimes, but with Chair it's on a whole other level and most of the time it's great, until she starts expecting it of other people.)

Fuck, I really like and respect all of these people, and I don't want this to turn into a massive departmental feud, but I see almost no way that it doesn't. Meanwhile, I want to be a good citizen, but I really feel like I can't get behind this program and don't particularly want to teach in it, especially if there's no prospect of getting so much as a course release. Because in the end, it is extra work, and work deserves compensation (and grad students deserve faculty who aren't all stretched out like taffy). I said so, pretty much, in the department meeting today, and I feel like I've suddenly flipped the switch from being the Mousy Assistant Professor whom everyone liked, to being a Mouthy Associate Professor who is about to have enemies, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that, either. But tenure means not only that you can speak up about things, but that you sort of have to, right?

8 comments:

Flavia said...

Ugh indeed. This does sound like a ton of work--both to develop the class and to run it the first time. I've never heard of anyone getting a pay bump to teach a graduate class, but it's pretty common to have some extra money over the summer (or a course release during the term) to develop a course and get it off the ground. That should go double for an entirely new program.

Absent that, yeah, no. Head-pats and administrative smiles aren't enough. And tenure means you get to tell some hard truths, and people have to take it.

Fretful Porpentine said...

I guess it's not so much that I think we should have a pay bump for teaching a graduate course, it's more that our salaries are at the zeroeth percentile (for real, according to the Chronicle), and I can't help noticing that people who teach at universities with actual grad programs, rather than pie-in-the-sky ones, get paid a lot more. And people at those institutions have real travel funding, and a functional library, and all kinds of other stuff we haven't got and don't have the means to get.

Fretful Porpentine said...

And also, part of Senior Mopery Prof's rationale for why people would want to enroll in this program is that our university's tuition is very cheap compared to other schools offering similar programs, which is true, but it's true because we don't have all of the resources you'd normally expect a university with such a program to have.

Mike Kanner said...

Although I don't teach graduate courses as a lecturer, I have been teaching a senior seminar on-line for a number of years. It is a great deal more work. Among other things, you have to have every aspect of the course done before you have the first student. It also gets very tiring reading and commenting on essays and research papers on your computer (assuming students read the instructions to send in WORD format and don't send as PDF files).

Here is the real kicker for us lowly lecturers (few of our tenure like to teach on-line), the powers that be think that these courses are less work and so we get reduced pay for them.

Bardiac said...

That sounds like a miserable situation. I'm so sorry.

I think a lot of schools see certain MA programs (especially on-line) as money makers. Maybe they are, but to do a grad program well takes a whole lot of resources, and those people don't always seem to be ready or able to provide those resources.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Online is harder for both profs and students. I don't see how a grad program could possibly be effective online. Another thing -- if you're going to have a grad program, you have to have the library resources and financial resources to support it. What you described sounds rotten to me.

I'm glad you're using your new tenure to stand up for yourself and speak your mind. I can't wait to do that without being terrified.

undine said...

Online is a lot more work, and developing the course is more work still. Someone should compensate you for it.

Mike Kanner said...

That is the world of adjunct faculty - overworked, underpaid and, like Kipling's Tommy, ignored until needed (e.g., teach a course at the last minute).