Friday, March 6, 2015

How To Succeed in Academia: Be Rich!

I ran across another link that those of you who find your way here may be interested in reading: an article by the excellent Sarah Kendzior, who writes about the reproduction of privilege and inequality in academia for the Chronicle's Vitae website.

Those of you who have been reading here for awhile know that this was a bit of an obsession for me for awhile - you can see my old posts on privilege and academia here, here, here, and here. I've also written about how this privilege divide has followed people into postacademia as well, both here and at HTLA.

But Kendzior takes it further, by pointing out that the vast majority of tenure-track slots in many fields are going to graduates of elite programs...but that the solution to this apparent problem, unfortunately, isn't as simple as telling prospective graduate students to only apply to elite programs:
The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent#sthash.sbh256KX.dpuf
The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less.
 She goes on to note that while it may be fiscally responsible for a prospective student from modest means to go to a cheaper graduate school in a cheaper city, by doing so they are likely dooming themselves to a tenuous career marked by low pay, insecurity, or even adjuncthood.

Academia’s currency is prestige, but prestige is always backed up by money, whether the expenditure for life in a costly city, the expectation of unpaid or underpaid labor, or research trips assumed to be paid out-of-pocket.
Her article references several studies that have recently been done on the hiring practices of academic departments. Since I no longer have access to a university library and the journals therein, I can't pull up the original studies. But for those of you who are still in the academic club, they might be worth a look.

For many of you, it's probably too late to forego grad school or to transfer programs. But if you can gather some information and prepare yourself for what you'll be facing on the academic job market, perhaps you can plan ahead, research some (just in case!) alternate careers, and NOT wind up toiling in adjuncthood once you graduate.


The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent#sthash.sbh256KX.dpuf
The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent#sthash.sbh256KX.dpuf

5 comments:

  1. Note that tuition at private/prestigious schools will be higher, as well as cost of living. Quite a gamble for the chance of a very slim payoff (and, too, consider the salary you'd get as an outcome -- not exactly mindblowing). The kind of gamble only the already financially secure can comfortably make.

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  2. God, I feel like academia ruined my life for this reason. When I was talking to professors at various unis and considering academia, I told them all I wanted to teach at a community college with an MA. NOT ONE explained the adjunct system to me. When I started my program and began considering going on for a PhD, so many people pushed me to do it because I was "smart". I was the only lone voice of reason amongst them all, the only one willing to do some simple math and going "but what about the financial ruin that seems inevitable on this track?" I stopped after my MA in 2009 because I figured out the game--solely with my own wit and instinct, I will say--and have been duking it out in the world on adjunct wages since. I've applied for 500 jobs over the last 5 or 6 years trying for an alt career and nothing. It's a crushing reality. I feel there is no way out. Applying for good jobs is excruciating now b/c it seems so pointless. I'm a caregiver for the elderly and an adjunct right now so I get by, but barely. I go to the food bank weekly. My window for children is closing now that I'm 35, and I'm still single. I live alone and I hate it. I can't really afford a pet. I often think I would have met the right person had my career or prospects for an alternate career had not been decimated by this economy and academia. I feel absolutely hopeless about my future at this point. I hope it's not, but...??? Adjuncts should have access to free education so we can at least attempt to rebuild our broken lives.

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  3. It's me again. I will also note that I was actually one of the privileged ones who had help from a parent, in several forms. I am still screwed. So there you have it. But my finances are probably more in tact than people who were forced to live on student loans the whole way through. My student loan is snowballing now due to the fact that I defer it every year thru IBR, but if I had extreme financial trouble on top of all of this like so many of us do I would lose my mind. I have so much compassion and love for those with giant student loan tickets and a damn social science or humanities grad degree. We all deserve a refund and free re-education.

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  4. Thanks for posting the link to the original article. Both it and your discussion were worth reading. I think it's dangerous spread the notion that grad school is the only path for people who are "smart," and that the only place to make a meaningful contribution is inside the academy. I left three years ago and now am much happier working with a social enterprise.

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  5. "You chose this, nobody is forcing you to stay." I swear to god I want to kick every jackass who says this. Everyone in grad school knows what a school can do to trap you into staying. Even if you're not taking classes, you're probably teaching and then you can't just give your two weeks notice because the school will take back the tuition payment for the classes you didn't take not to mention the fallout that would ensue. So you can't really look for another job and by the end of the semester your only opportunity to have any kind of employment is to stick it out another semester teaching because you had to commit to a slot at like midterm so your department can list courses for the semester. And since TAs are so horribly paid you go along and make the commitment because you can't save enough money to sit out a semester and get your personal sh** in order. Rinse and repeat.

    End rant. Sorry, I just hate hearing that we somehow wish all of this trouble on ourselves.

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