Friday, January 15, 2010

Extremely Large Esoteric Cats

Note: When I was recently roaming around in the FSP archives to classify my 2009 posts by general topics, I found that in some cases I had absolutely no idea what the post was about based only on the title of the post. In the future, if I look back at 2010 posts, I have a feeling that this may be one of those posts. Today's title, however, is not entirely random; it contains some keywords that are central to this post.

In the recent Lorrie Moore book, A Gate at the Stair, which I very much enjoyed reading*, there is a quote by one of the characters, the mother of a college-aged daughter:

"Hmph.. Academics.. They all shoot from the hip. And the hip is always in the chair."

I didn't really get her point, and neither did the character's husband, who asked "What did you say?" and she replied:

"Keeping a safe distance never keeps one from having an opinion, is all. Having no dog in the race doesn't keep people from having extremely large cats."

OK, I get it now (sort of). I even happen to be an academic with some extremely large cats.

The reference expresses the classic view about academics being far removed from the real life that everyone else is supposedly experiencing. We keep a safe distance from.. well, how would I know? Given that most of us professors do leave campus from time to time to do many of the things that real people do, why is it so common for us to be considered so isolated from the rest of the world?

Of course, one thing that makes many professors different from most non-academics is job security. That's an important difference, but I don't think it is sufficient to explain the view exemplified in the quotation above. Tenure alone can't explain why we don't have a dog in the race (but we do have extremely large cats).

And yet, for various reasons, only some of which are valid, professors are commonly considered and portrayed as living in a strange and different world. The way that campuses tend to be arranged and the apparent distance of many academic disciplines from "normal" life accentuate the appearance of isolation, but I don't see how this is substantially different from many other professions.

On the same day that I read the above passage in The Gate at the Stair, I also read a newspaper article that referred to the esoteric world of academia, contrasting it with the real world. Is academia just a long, strange dream that some of us are having (in our desk chairs)?

Esoteric can refer to something belonging to a select few. Presumably this applies to various types of knowledge, such as medicine, law, or piano tuning, but it is typically used to mean arcane when applied to academia.

Alas. What to do, other than to sit here in my chair shooting from my hip despite not having a dog in the race? I guess I will just give my opinions, such as they are:

- The view of academia as a separate entity from the rest of the world seems to be pervasive;
- This is undeserved in many cases and is a mild symptom of anti-intellectualism;
- I bet there are many professions in which people spend more time in their office chairs than professors do and yet this is not seen as a sign of being removed from the real world; and
- I have some extremely large cats. I may have mentioned that before.

* at least until the last 25% of it or so, at which point I didn't like it so much. But before it got too grim, I loved it. I particularly laughed at the description of the main character's first Intro to Sufism class.

43 comments:

John V said...

No one outside a university would pay us $100K+/yr to lecture 3-10 hours per week on arcane subjects, work very flexible hours, and design our own degree programs with minimal guidance under a philosophy of "shared governance", essentially free of external constraints for decades.

For 99% of faculty, tenure is a undeserved perk. We're in no danger of a political pogram.

I could work for industry or national labs for more, but with much more limited license for curiosity and less job security.

We profs may provide society with a valuable service, but it is easy to see why some view us as at a distance from the real world of business.

Samia said...

Why is business 'the real world' in the first place? Now here's a pervasive assumption...

L said...

Professors meet larger number of people regularly than do people in most other jobs....back office workers probably meet two clients and five co-workers per week on an average..a professor may meet 50 students and 10 co-workers per week. so on the basis of contact with fellow humans, professors are more "in the real world" than a back-office worker.

NJA said...

No one outside a university would pay us $100K+/yr to lecture 3-10 hours per week on arcane subjects, work very flexible hours, and design our own degree programs with minimal guidance under a philosophy of "shared governance", essentially free of external constraints for decades.

Oh how I wish! Here in the UK, academics get paid the equivalent of $55-90k/year, to lecture on courses that must be approved by multiple layers of bureaucracy before they can be run, and even then can only be assessed in certain ways pre-approved by the university (and each assessment must be checked and approved before being given to students). Shared governance has gone out the window in favour of corporate-style top-down management hierarchies.

True about the flexible hours and minimal guidance (at least in research), though... That's the main reason I'm still in the game. And the relative job security (although tenure doesn't exist in the UK in quite the same way as the US).

Comrade PhysioProf said...

It's just typical mainstreamed right-wing anti-intellectual lies. Yeah, university faculty are elitist egg-heads living in a an ivory tower far removed from the "real world", but corporate oligarchs with marble bathrooms in their offices flying around in private jets and telling the fucking United States government what to do are living in the "real world".

The fact of the matter is that university faculty are at the heart of the bourgeouisie (or however the fuck you spell that), no different from shopkeepers, mid-level corporate managers, non-flag level military officers, elementary and secondary school administrators, white-collar civil servants, and all the rest. There are obvious interests served by convincing the rest of the bourgeouisie and, particularly, the working class and poor, that university faculty are something different, which any schmo with half a fucking brain can easily discern.

Alyssa said...

I wonder if this stems from seeing university/college as "school" and not the "real world". Students are told that all the time, afterall - that they're preparing for the "real world", implying that universities are not real.

So, if you continue to work in an academic setting, you're really still "in school" and are therefore not living in the "real" world. I get this all the time from family and friends, especially during graduate school. They believe it to be exactly like the undergraduate experience, when clearly it is not.

At least now I can say I'm a researcher at a university, which seems to get slightly more respect, but still comes with the stereotypes you mention.

Anonymous said...

I work at a small liberal arts college (though not one of the "elites") where I happen to know that as a second-year professor I make less than an assistant manager at Walmart.

But one thing I do think isolates me, and I suspect many professors, is that we can easily never deal with anyone very poor and uneducated. No, all of my students aren't rich (most are also working jobs while going to school) but they are getting educated. And I really don't have to talk with anyone outside of the 'educated' world, besides an occasional 'hello' to the grocery store clerk or whatever.

Sure, there's other careers where that might be true, too, but it's more difficult to pigeonhole the entire profession that way. And many very educated people don't have these experiences. Take doctors, for example, their patients are going to be a range of occupations, some probably unemployed too, and a range of educations. They're not just sitting around apouting philosophy with other educated people all day.

Don't get me wrong, I think our job is tough and necessary, but *I* sometimes feel isolated from other walks of life. I feel like I would need to make a real effort, like join big brothers/big sisters, to get to know people from a range of backgrounds, whereas in some professions (public defender, public school teacher in less-desirable neighborhood) it comes with the job.

I agree with L that we see more people in a day than many, but do think that they tend to be the same sort of people - educated, or getting that way, and that's what we focus on.

And yes, I agree with others that there are many careers (particularly in business) that would fall into the category where we don't ever talk to anyone different than us, but those people are more difficult to lump into one group, and it does feel like some people need some 'elitist' group to complain about.

Maybe people think that because we work by thinking (yes and by research and teaching) and many of those business people are working (ultimately for money) but to make something 'real' or provide some more tangible service that is somehow more REAL to them.

John V said...

I'd cede to CPP that the decision-makers in business have jobs that are no more typical of the average worker than profs, and probably less.

On the other hand, to the extent that they determine corporate and even political decisions, they ARE the real world.

EliRabett said...

Universities grew out of monastic and religious institutions. The strings only started to be cut in the late 1800, 1900s. Some have still not been cut. Wanna guess why people have the image of universities not being of this planet.

Nick said...

I'm a left-wing pro-intellectual, and I think that many professors don't live in the real world in some regards, the most important of which is a grasp on the reality of working in non-academic environments. I work for a large government research facility on projects that are characterized as the most basic sort of research in which the organization engages. Yet, every pitch for funding I make for "basic" research needs to be explicitly tied to a realistic description of how the results of that research would be developed into a techology that addresses one of the specific technical needs of our organization. Academic collaborators (and paper reviewers) sometimes take us to task for not undertaking extremely time-consuming expermients and analyses that might provide some low-level description of the system under consideration, but which would provide absolutely no tangible benefit to the applications of interest. To the academic, this detailed analysis is the desirable product itself, while we view it as an expensive and time-consuming distraction from the critical path to a developed technology. My wife, who works for a local government in a very different field, has similar experiences when she collaborates with academics: They frequently want to undertake "just one more study" about the issue at hand, while she needs to get the whole issue dealt with and off her desk so she can start cutting into the "to do" pile that accumulated during the last round of "just one more study." This consistent inability to understand the need to produce results and get on to the next project is what makes academics seem out of touch with the real world to me.

Like most of the people I work with, I understand that it is the job of academics to value knowledge acquisition over practical results; the academics don't seem particularly interested in understanding the converse.

FrauTech said...

I agree with FSP's final points as to why people think that about academia (i suspect the anti-intellectualism plays a huge part).

On the other hand, John V's got a point. No, not every prof is making over 100k (b/c all state salaries are published where I'm at, a quick search reveals one of my professors for the current term is an assistant prof making 27k (!) and the other one, clearly tenured and way past working age is making 191k (!!) - i just hope the first guy has another job, b/c that is insanely low in this city).

I had some humanities professors who gave me extremely valuable wordly advice on investing, credit cards, debt and retirement. I've had plenty of brilliant engineering professors, but some of them have clearly never worked a day in industry. Is that a problem? I don't know. When sometimes their advice revolves around what we as engineers will do on the job, and when most of their students WILL work for industry, it can seem a little detached. Not exactly ivory tower stuff, just had professors talk about the workplace like it is some 90s/dotcom environment where there are "no bad ideas" and that it's more like their own research labs when it's usually not. Many of my newly graduated coworkers have complained about being poorly prepared for the working world. As in, taught the skills that would help for graduate studies or for research, but not so much for design/production/manufacturing.

Samia-While I grant you that neither business nor academia could flourish without the other, academia generally relies on business revinues in one form or another; wages of parents paying tuition, wages of working students, private research grants, future wages of students, tax dollars dependent on taxing for-profit institutions and individuals who work largely for the for-profit industry. Does that come off as conceited? Well I am, sorry, I'm working on it.

AcademicLurker said...

The notion that professors are coddled and sheltered from reality because of tenure is based on the false assumption that private industry is a miraculous engine of efficiency, in which incompetents and malingerers are ruthlessly weeded out.

Any one who has spent any time at all in a medium to large business knows that this is garbage.

Anonymous said...

What bugs me is that non-academics think academia is easy and fluff, but they don't understand that the environment (flexibility, job security) is what allows ideas to form and good research to occur. Ultimately, academic research leads to advances (mechanisms for disease, technology, etc) that benefit many outside academia.

Anonymous said...

salaries:
I'm an assistant prof, about to be promoted to associate, in a chemistry dept at a large, and medium range public U. I make 65K. I will make 70K after promotion.
I am now ina committee to hire a new ast prof (to replace me at that rank, apparently ;-) ) S/he will make 80K.

John V, I don't know where you work but I want to move there!
sigh.

John Lawler said...

I recently retired from a large midwestern university and I found that as my career progressed, I was more and more regarding my school as the "Michigan Home for the Smart". I.e, it was a place to warehouse smart people (in case they were ever needed) that kept them off the streets and mostly out of trouble. Safer all around, apparently.

It's not really a case of our being seen as "out of touch" -- we're not -- as it is being seen as "out of it" altogether. Mad scientists. That attitude allows the populus to disregard us, and what we know and what we've concluded, while still being able to benefit from our work (well, from some of our work, anyway).

Anonymous said...

That one cannot possibly imagine what one is so far removed from is certainly consistent with being too far removed from it. I worked for nearly a decade as an urban missionary before receding to academia. We must certainly confess that most academics are far far removed from much of real life (which is not one of business, but one of poverty and violence).

John V said...

My salary estimate was for a full prof at a doctorate-granting university:

http://chronicle.com/stats/aaup/index.php?action=result&search=Enter+an+institution+name&state=&year=2009&category=I&withRanks=1

I see averages ranging from $90-150K/yr on the first page that comes up (A-C).

Siz said...

Hey John V. Keep in mind that those are averages. That full professor making $120-150K/year has a PhD, most likely some post-doctoral training (2-4 years) and may have been at his institution for 25+ years. You think that $150K is an unfair salary for someone with that education and time committed to their job?

I think it's fair as all get out.

I'm still trying to figure out how I don't live in 'the real world'

amy said...

Huh. I read that quote a little differently. It seemed like she was saying that academics pretend to be objective and above it all, but we have an agenda and a set of biases like everyone else. But I haven't read the book, so I'm missing the context for the quote.

Anyway, back to the ivory tower issue. I agree with EliRabett that a lot of it is based on our history. But I also think conservatives in the US have been working hard to promote the idea that academics (the majority of whom are liberal) are elitist snobs. I thought Thomas Frank did a good job of defending this claim in _What's the Matter with Kansas?_ It was a truly amazing feat that conservatives succeeded in convincing people that George Bush - an Ivy League educated millionaire and member of an elite family - was more of a common joe than your typical English professor, who makes $50,000 a year (or under $20,000 if he/she is an adjunct) and spends most of the workweek grading papers and helping kids improve their writing skills.

Cloud said...

I have a similar view to Nick. I have run run into academics who have absolutely no clue about how decisions get made in industry, and why certain decisions have to be made- sure, that study you describe would be nice, but it doesn't add any value for the shareholders and they expect us to spend our time and money on things that add value. Not all academics are like this, though, so I try not to generalize.

I will also say that I have friends who have spent their entire careers working in non-profits/government jobs, and they can be equally clueless about how business has to function. And to be fair, until I did a stint as a government contractor, I had no clue how that world functioned.

I think the big difference is that a lot of people who go to work in academia never work in industry. Most people (in science) who work in industry have spent a fair amount of time in academia. If you've never spent any time in a particular "world", it is easy to be a bit disconnected from it.

And I'd say business is considered the "real world" because that is where the money that gets spent in the other worlds (like academia) ultimately comes from, and because that is where the majority of people work.

Cloud said...

Amy- I agree with the rebranding of George Bush. It was a stunning feat. He most certainly is a member of the elite.

Siz- I didn't read John V's comment as saying the money wasn't deserved. Just that the combination of good money plus large amount of job freedom plus huge job security is uncommon.

John V said...

Siz,

I said nothing about fairness of faculty salaries, I collect one myself.

However, I do sometimes have trouble arguing that slight budget cuts to universities are unfair, given the duress across K-12 schools, police, and welfare budgets this year.

And I've never met a dept that didn't feel owed more faculty lines, more TAships, higher salaries, and more and better space, regardless of whether it would be a good investment for the State. How many linguists and ethnomusicologists are really necessary in this depression?

And I have to say that a tenured faculty gig is a fun and comfortable existence - it always amazes me such jobs exist. I can see why 9-5 workers who can be fired on a moment's notice might be jealous.

FrauTech said...

So all ye academics answer me a question about salaries...

So my propulsion professor makes 191k (see my previous comment about posted salaries). He got his PhD in 1958 so he's had 50+ years of post-docs and teaching.

My stats professor started at my university 2 years ago, after a post-doc at MIT, and makes 27k a year. Is there any chance he could be using grants to supplement his income? I can't imagine living in this city off of 27k a year when an intern working 30 hours a week where I work would make more than that.

Does it seem like the PhD/professor market has gotten a lot worse in say, the last 10 years? I was looking at salaries for my professors and they are all over the map. Some are making 130k and 140k and don't seem significantly older than those making 80k and then there's a few making 40k or less. In engineering this seems ridiculous since an entry-level engineer could probably make 50k minimum out here. Any thoughts? Are there a bunch of baby boomers and older-than-baby-boomers clogging up the academic pipelines?

Kea said...

I can assure you that in my field, academics DO live in an entirely different world. The REAL world just isn't populated by affluent white male jerks.

Kevin said...

Academe (the magazine of AAUP) publishes an annual salary survey that is more comprehensive than sampling a few job ads.

The average salary of a full professor for 2008-09 was $115,509 in public doctoral-granting universities, and $151,403 in private (not church related) doctoral-granting universities.

The salaries are much lower at lower-ranked universities:
$88,357 at public masters-granting, $84,488 at public baccalaureate, and $74,933 at 2-year colleges. These are all full-professor positions.

If you combine all ranks and all schools, the average salary of professors is $79,439.

The highest pay is for full professors in private doctoral-granting universities (avg $151k) the lowest for unranked teachers in public 2-year colleges ($40.7k).

Janos said...

Some observations:

1. All previous comments seem to restrict the "real world" to the US,
and most to "business in the US".

2. Comments also seem to assume that if two worlds are different, one is necessary a winner, and the other is a loser.

Academic research and industry-sponsored research have different aims. When they collaborate, tensions result. Does this mean that one side is right?

3. Saying that a corporation's only role is to maximize profit for shareholders is an oversimplification.
Bell Labs' discovery of residual Big Bang radiation, drug co's research to produce orphan drugs, and some corporate charitable support are counterexamples.

4. "The 3-10 hours of lecturing per week" measure of academic workload is ludicrous. This kind of workload exists only at research universities. What about time for research?
Do academics turn their brain off after 5 PM and on weekends? Run labs 9-5? Are only people in the "real world" running interminable bureaucratic meetings, write proposals and write long reports that will be ignored? Is such activity the "real work" we talk about in a "real world"?

5. One of the origins of universities WAS religious/monastic, but that is by far not the only one. The Sorbonne was originally Catholic, as were Oxford and Cambridge, but the Grandes Ecoles (ENS, Polytechnique, etc.) were state sponsored and very non-religious in origin. State Universities in the US started through a federal "practical" program. Medical schools were often unaffiliated to religion as early as the Middle Ages. Engineering schools did not grow out of a monastic traditions.

amy said...

FrauTech: I taught at Tufts one year as a visiting professor. Salary: 30,000. I was living in a basement studio and eating mac and cheese. The Boston area is expensive!

Nicole said...

I find it perplexing that you have never had a career outside of academia, in the "real world" that people refer to, yet you convey the impression that you are sure academia is not so different. Why not ask people who have been in both? I would give those opinions more weight than yours.

female Science Professor said...

I don't equate the "real world" with having had another (nonacademic) career. I was talking about the fact that most of us professors do leave our offices and campuses from time to time; we exist outside of our jobs (and our desk chairs), so we can have opinions about the world, just like other people.

Rachel Bates said...

How about these science cartoons?

There are many good ones on Vadlo search engine http://vadlo.com/cartoons.php?id=1.

Michael Mark said...

The university professors that I have met or been taught by strike me as being just as human and real as anyone else, in the sense that they were aspiring, anxious, concerned, thinking, selfish, helpful, busy, overwhelmed, joyous, creative people. I just sensed they faced a different set of pressures and rules than one might find in other communities, but within the nexus of those constraints, responded as any human anywhere might...

As such, neither business nor academia is the "real world". They are both simply human worlds- places where disparities of justice, dreams, realities, opportunities, rules, influence, and fashion collide.

It is important nonetheless to note that business and academia are, in truth, quite different worlds. So what? Shanghai is different from Boston. Yet the people are remarkably similar, as human beings.

Adam said...

I worked in a "real world" job for a while when I was young before going to grad school. It was in advertising (not an ad agency, but a company that helped ad agencies make their product, so pretty similar). The day-to-day, hour-to-hour pressure to produce was much more intense than in academia. That's not to say that people in advertising produce *more* or *better* (however we want to define or measure those concepts) overall than academics; but they certainly produce something (whatever it may be) more often and on tighter deadlines, with more short-term pressures from more sources.

In academia, we have to produce from one year to the next; what we do from one day to the next doesn't matter much. We don't have "bosses" in the sense of a normal job. Our phones don't ring with something that has to be done RIGHT NOW or else we will get in trouble.
(Some of us, esp. the more senior, do develop many regular time commitments, but the character of committee meetings, teaching, hosting seminar speakers etc. is still not the same as what I remember from advertising and what I think is common in some other kinds of jobs.) The lack of those short-term pressures is important, it's what enables us to think about deep things and solve big problems over long periods of time. But it's a luxury that most don't have - and it also allows for a type of eccentric behavior that not all of us indulge in, but that is possible, and that would be much more likely to get one fired in the private sector. I think this is one source of the "ivory tower" perception.

Bagelsan said...

It reminds me of the anti-vaccination people, who blithely argue that scientists don't know/care what's good for kids but parents do, completely unaware that scientists often have children themselves. Those groups are not exclusive to one another!

It's an example of how the idea that scientists don't have a dog in the race can be really harmful to public health; if the public weren't so eager to discount scientists as real people maybe they'd listen better when scientists insist that they don't kill babies for a living, no really, they have them too.

Anonymous said...

It is extremely rare to find a job that has total job security AND give you the freedom to run your own show AND where the pay ranges from decent to very good. Academia - more specifically academic science - is the only sector where these are possible at the same time.

This is most definitely not the "real world" because it is not what 99% of the world's workforce experience. The majority of the workforce do not have freedom to choose their own work or if they do (such as artists and entrepreneurs) it comes at a price of zero job security. the majority of the workforce also earns a less than a tenured science professor.

I've only ever worked in academia, and I certainly don't kid myself that this is "the real world". I always feel privileged to have had the good fortune to land this job.

EliRabett said...

Hmm, one thing that goes unsaid is that academic salaries are almost always 9 month. That means that if you scramble you can pull in another third. If you can't fund that third, there is the death march through summer school

female Science Professor said...

And I am still quite convinced that most of us who have these unusual secure jobs at decent pay are real human beings. The fact that our jobs have some nice aspects does not mean we do not live in the "real world", unless you define life entirely by work and nothing else.

Anonymous said...

to the Anon8:03 who said And I really don't have to talk with anyone outside of the 'educated' world, besides an occasional 'hello' to the grocery store clerk or whatever.....Don't get me wrong, I think our job is tough and necessary, but *I* sometimes feel isolated from other walks of life. I feel like I would need to make a real effort, like join big brothers/big sisters, to get to know people from a range of backgrounds,

I'm puzzled as to why you appear to feel that being in academia prevents you from interacting with annyone outside academia except for the grocery store clerks?? Don't you have any hobbies or interests that you are involved in and which are not related to academia?

For example, among my academic friends, some play in rock bands, some play on sports teams, others coach little league, or their spouses do and force them to get involved too...I volunteer for several animal rescue groups and also particopate in sports teams. All of these have absolutely nothing to do with academia or the university community. Through these ties I have a lot of friends who are non-acadmics. In fact I have more friends who are non-academics, than who are.

I don't think it's healthy to interact so exclusively with "your own kind". It's like being a hermit. Over time it gives you a very narrow and thus skewed view of the world.

If you are feeling isolated because you only ever interact with fellow academics, then you need to develop and cultivate some hobbies or extra curricular activities and other interests. Broaden your horizons, force yourself out of your comfort zone!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of that out-of-touch-with-the-real-world image is based on the stereotype of a male professor whose stay-at-home wife is out in the real world while he's puzzling over obscure texts. Or the similar bachelor professor whose house is empty and ignored.

Doctor Pion said...

I can't really comment on the situation at FrauTech's university without knowing whether that stat professor's salary (or rank) is accurate. It could be a part-time job, or it could be that that published number is just the state part of the salary. However, it is true that salaries at universities are driven by supply and demand and friendships and bitching and threats to take their grants and leave (see supply and demand). Inequities and inversion are common as a result.

What prompted my comment, however, is the need to correct the comment about Boomers clogging the pipeline. Someone who got their PhD in 1958 is not a Baby Boomer. He is the father of one, likely hired directly out of grad school to teach the last wave of GI Bill students and the anticipated wave when Boomers started coming out of high school circa 1963.

Professors from the peak of the boom are in their 50s and likely joined the faculty in the early 1980s. (Think Clinton and W, both 1946, for the leading edge and Obama, 1961, as it tailed off.) No professor over 63 is a boomer.

My experience is that my generation, from the peak of the baby boom, was mostly locked out of academia in comparison to the generation born before the end of WW II. This is born out by AIP statistics that show my age group at a minimum in any histogram of the age distribution of faculty at research universities. See my blog for the data that show boomers were the least likely to get a PhD in physics.

As for the original topic, professors at the Ivy League don't shop at Wal-Mart while ones at a community college or regional university probably do. Half of the students going to college are in classrooms like mine, where you might have someone in a dirty shirt who just came from working 8 hours as a carpenter or someone who is a refugee from Somalia. I deal with the real world more than most office workers.

Thinkerbell said...

As someone who is still climbing the academic ladder, from postdoc to postdoc to next temp. appointments with fellowships that allow me to think in terms of 'secure' only 2-3 years ahead, the overall view of academics as offering 'job security' strikes me as hilarious. It would never, ever, be the first thing I would come up with when describing the profession or environment.

Anonymous said...

@Thinkerbell - I think it's understood and obvious that when we talk about academics' job security we are referring exclusively to the tenured professors. Because in academic science, postdocs aren't even "real people" they are serfs and don't even count for discussion purposes (I'm being cynical but there's a reason..the official reason is that postdocs are technically "trainees" and thus don't count as a real job)

Even assistant professors have more job security than the majority of the workforce. If you are given 5 (or however many) years to be evaluated for tenure and if you are denied tenure at the end of that period, well that's still a much longer probationary period than almost any other job in the 'real world' where you can be evaluated and fired within weeks or months or starting the job.

As for the postdoc-limbo period where job security is null - hey I've been put on 6-month-long postdoc contracts which is reaching the limits of absurdity regarding job insecurity.

So on the one hand you have the tenured profs who have total job security no matter what they do. At the other end of the spectrum you have the postdocs who are just as highly educated and also have years of advanced training and yet the majority of them will never get a pay raise or job security beyond 2 years or benefits no matter how hard they work or how brilliantly they perform so the only option for them is to drop out of the career path they have invested so many years to.

These two extremes, existing together as part of the structure that keeps the academic system intact and running, are absurd. I left academia long ago (for the "real world"...).

Ace Kittyhawk said...

I am aware, and don't care too much. I think our lives are pretty privileged but it takes a lot to get to that point. We work hard.
Also, in my field, we study humans, what it means to be one, what's human nature... I think I have many many dogs in the race, being human myself.
And yes to extremely large cats. And to pineapple hats And a parrot, too please. Stereotype me the crazy absentminded cat lady scientist and see if I care. I'll be doing good science, always.

Alex said...

I have some extremely large cats. I may have mentioned that before.

Do you have a Vegas magic show with them?