Education, recent, Top Stories

Adventures in Adjunctopia

Near the end of one recent semester, word began filtering back to the pooh-bahs at a certain eastern liberal arts college, where I then served as an adjunct instructor of writing, that despite my lack of a terminal degree (surely the most ominous-sounding of academic laurels), perhaps I wasn’t such an unqualified disaster in the classroom after all. A horrific glitch in the registrar’s computer had placed some of the English department’s most promising wordsmiths under my supervision, and their feedback on my evaluations suggested that perhaps I wasn’t doing too badly for a guy with a “lowly BA.” (That’s how I actually used to list my degree on my CV, until one of my deans told me to “stop being an asshole about it, please.”) Students made a particular point of my emphasis on “preparing us for success in the real world.”

Normally, this is the point at which I would have been fired on the spot. I’d already gotten flak for making a classroom case history out of a lengthy investigative piece I’d done for Playboy, which had earned me a cool $8000; equipping students to aim for that kind of payday is strictly forbidden in college writing programs, which teach their young charges to concoct marginally coherent pieces for arcane, artsy journals with titles like Zephyr of the Ephemeral Consciousness. Among academics, it is considered a badge of honor to be paid in copies, or not at all. After all, you can’t put a price tag on genius!

But like many liberal arts colleges these days, my then-employer found itself dealing with an exigent, alarming phenomenon: a surge in the number of writing students who’d come to realize that not too many magazines or book publishers seek trenchant manuscripts that pointedly deconstruct Beowulf. Students in this category had begun demanding classes with a more pragmatic tilt. Thus, after undertaking an exhaustive inquiry intended to ensure that I was neither molesting the coeds nor—worse, from academia’s perspective—promoting a classroom climate tolerant of political views to the right of Mao, my department chairman approached me one day in the office I shared with eight or nine other adjuncts, at the end of the building’s most forbidding hall, as far removed from students and any significant aspects of campus life as they could put us. (I never saw any of my fellow adjuncts in the office, for the school carefully scheduled us so as to avoid the inevitable comparing of notes on wages and such. But I knew they existed by the proliferation of Styrofoam coffee cups with all that caramelized brown sludge at the bottom.)

“You know, we really like you, Steve,” said my chairman, even getting my name right. “You think you’d be able to teach an extra course for us next semester?” For this, he offered me the school’s customary adjunct pay times two. “If enrollment is strong enough, maybe we could even add a third class?”

Now, I’ve been around the block a time or two (mostly because adjuncts don’t qualify for parking in the faculty lots). So I cogitated on this a while, cogitating being what one does in airy venues like academia, where mere thinking would never suffice. I finally decided that the school’s covert objective here was the addition of another faculty member at wages more appropriate to jobs that require one to ask such weighty questions as, “Would you like fries with that?” A few days later I found my way to my chairman’s rather more sumptuous office in a much nicer hallway and told him I’d be delighted to teach two classes for the school. Even three. With one condition.

I wanted an actual professorship. At commensurate professorial remuneration.

I assume that his laughter subsided in time, although I still heard it echoing down the hallway when I got back to my office, several pay grades and tax brackets removed.

The following day he returned, grimacing, to my dank end of the hall, to inform me that, although he had no visiting professorships to proffer, the school might conceivably make me its writer-in-residence. He was careful to point out that this posed problems of some delicacy, for I was not exactly the prototypical author contemplated in such august arrangements.

My chairman didn’t elaborate, but I grasped his meaning. In keeping with the ethos described earlier, colleges tend to bestow writer-in-residence appointments upon the sorts of littérateurs who are forever in danger of having the heat in their feline-scented garrets shut off, or are under active investigation by the FBI for links to groups plotting the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Every decade or so, these artistes disgorge some impenetrable poetry or fiction (never anything as squalid as nonfiction or, God help us, actual journalism). As part of their duties, they’re expected to host semi-regular public readings of their work, which, for many of them, may be the only time that said work is experienced by anyone other than family members, other writers-in-residence, or their fellow terrorist-sympathizers. I, on the other hand, had written books people could actually order on Amazon, and sometimes did. One of those books had become, of all things, a Warner Bros. TV movie! (That alone had almost queered the deal during my original job interview.) My byline also appeared in glossy newsstand publications, even ones that didn’t feature naked women. All of which stood me in very bad stead indeed. How could the department justify giving so prominent a platform to a writer whose output could be (a) found in mainstream media and (b) understood without the ingestion of mind-altering substances and/or a crash course in subversive ops?

My mind swirling in such dilemmas, I asked my department chair the all-important question.

“So how much would you pay me to be your writer-in-residence?”

We went back and forth on the matter of compensation for several days. No doubt blue-ribbon committees had to be convened, and input solicited from the rest of the faculty—that is, the real ones, with those damn terminal degrees. Perhaps a quick search of local homeless shelters was conducted to see if any starving poets could be unearthed who were mad and incomprehensible enough to be more worthy of the post. At week’s end the department chair reappeared in my office door to inform me that the school had upped its offer to three times its usual rate for single-course adjuncts—or, put another way, about half the rate for bona fide, PhD-bearing professors. That was their final offer, and it came with a catch. In return for this largesse, I would have to agree to work with my chairman or his appropriate designee to “find something I could do” (his exact words) to justify my existence as writer-in-residence—a caveat that clearly implied I couldn’t simply give readings from essays I’d written for the likes of Harper’s, or Esquire, or The New York Times Magazine.

I won’t keep you in suspense; I took the deal. After some discussion, we settled on having me discharge my debt to my new position by giving talks in local at-risk high schools about the various ways in which writing skills can enrich one’s life. Why at-risk schools? I can only assume that the English department sought to avoid the certain embarrassment of parading its poorly pedigreed writer-in-residence before the more culturally erudite seniors at conventional high schools (who divide their time between booty calls and conquering advanced levels of Grand Theft Auto).

But I resolved not to feel glum about such matters. No sir. That night, I broke out the bubbly and reveled in my writer-in-residency, secure in the knowledge that my new title, plus the usual four quarters, would get me a cup of coffee in the school’s vending machines…located in a much nicer hallway than the one I called home.

 

Steve Salerno is a widely published essayist and professor of journalism. His 2005 book, SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, explored the self-improvement industry’s wider footprint in society. You can follow him on Twitter @iwrotesham

68 Comments

  1. E. Olson says

    A very entertaining, but sad story – no wonder you have actually had success in mainstream outlets. On one hand the story is somewhat promising in that your school/department actually seems to be slightly interested in providing students with faculty who can offer classroom experiences that will prepare them for real world jobs and careers, but on the other hand it continues to follow the all too common pattern of Leftist administration and faculty treating adjuncts very poorly. Its funny how Leftist academia’s concerns and protests regarding inequality and the plight of the disadvantaged stops so close to their office door.

  2. Barney Doran says

    Thank you, Steve. That was fun, but it begs the question: Who the hell would want to be in academia after reading the horror stories here on Quillette?

    • Associate Professor says

      Because Quillette focuses on events in a few very expensive schools and the occasional state flagship to create an impression of gender studies and SJWs running rampant. Quillette pays almost no attention to the mid-ranked state universities that constitute the vast, vast majority of academia. Indeed, one would note that Quillette’s laser-like focus on the excesses of students and faculty at a very few schools might even tip over into outright mendacity.

      • I checked the catalogs of my local state university, and others, Skippy and yes, in those mid-ranked state universities that constitute the vast, vast majority of academia, gender studies, SJWs, multicultural sensitivity training and multi gender inclusive bathrooms run rampant.

      • Gringo says

        Quillette pays almost no attention to the mid-ranked state universities that constitute the vast, vast majority of academia.
        Those mid-ranked state universities are imitating their higher-ranked brothers .Social Justice in Higher Education Summit to be Offered at WIU-QC.

        MOLINE- Western Illinois University-Quad Cities will offer a Social Justice in Higher Education Summit for higher education professionals Friday, June 1 on the WIU-QC campus in Moline. Registration deadline is May 28.

        Sponsored by the GradCenter, WIU College Student Personnel (CSP) program, and the Expanding Cultural Diversity Project, the event is scheduled from 9:30 to 3:45 p.m. in Riverfront Hall and will include breakout sessions, a keynote, and a networking social. The summit will feature speakers and facilitators with backgrounds in admissions, advising, residential life, student engagement, teaching, multicultural centers and more. The keynote session will feature two social justice scholars who will discuss strategies, programs, and styles to advance social justice in the field. For a list of speakers and their bios, visit wiu.edu/coehs/csp/sa/sjsummitspeakers.php.

        “This is a great opportunity for higher education practitioners who are seeking to expand their social justice repertoire, with an emphasis on practical approaches for personal and professional skill building,” said Jill Bisbee, CSP program manager. “We welcome all higher education professionals in the area to participate in these guided conversations with experienced student affairs practitioners and guest speakers.”

      • Because Quillette focuses on events in a few very expensive schools and the occasional state flagship to create an impression of gender studies and SJWs running rampant.

        There have been a couple outrageous accidents are top 10 schools (Yale and Halloween costumes, for example), but mostly those schools have stayed out of such trouble. That does not mean SJWs are not running rampant there, they are (source: I am at such a school), but it just hasn’t generated absurd headlines.

        And, if you notice, where that sort of thing has happened, it has been at the most humanities-focused of the top 10 schools (e.g. the likes of Yale). The likes of MIT, Stanford, Caltech, etc. have been mostly quite.

        Where you have seen truly grotesque manifestation of the SJW plague is the private humanities-focused liberal arts colleges, and also at a few state schools. Those private liberal arts colleges are indeed very expensive, but they are not exactly flagship, and neither are the state schools that have also generated headlines.

        P.S. There is a very big story that should have been a subject of a lot of reporting in much greater depth (and which is another important development that the SJW madness has very successfully distracted attention from) about how, just as is happening with the rest of society, in academia the rich and powerful are getting richer and more powerful, and resources and research excellence are concentrating further and further into a small handful of schools (mostly on the two coasts). The never ending funding cuts for state schools have resulted in mass migration of star faculty from state schools in the middle of the country to private school on the coasts (speaking in most general terms). As a result the gap between what used to be good schools and the very top research-oriented ones has widened significantly. But a lot of people haven’t updated their perceptions about it yet.

      • David says

        You mean, for example, the types of universities where students must complete an online training module on “Sexual Consent” in order to receive their exam marks?

        And they must score 100% in the module to pass.

        If this isn’t an indicator of widespread SJW ideology, I don’t know what is.

        BTW, I looked at the module questions and it seems I am a victim of sexual assault. That was news to me.

    • Daniel Farnsworth says

      Barney, the allure of a steady paycheck isn’t bad. Convincing yourself your work is meaningful helps too. You could enlist in the military for the same reasons, but that’s easier to handle since most of the horror of academia is expecting things to be some shining beacon of reason and civility. The horror of the military aligns with expectations, so move along, never mind how the horrors rank on their own merits.

  3. Benjamin Bernier says

    “I got a raise, then decided to bitch about it in a snarky article”. Not sure what the author’s point is here, other than to pander to a decidedly anti-academic audience.

    • We aren’t Philistines here. I think academics needs to face criticism for it’s shallow certifications rat race but also for the lack of applicability of much of the material covered in many degree programs. This is a critique coming from someone who majored in engineering and graduated at the top of the class in both college and high school. I greatly enjoyed many of the subjects such as history but I realize it was not a very helpful class when working in my current job and was all but useless when taking engineering classes. It just feels like an extra hoop is being placed in the way.

      • Angela says

        The inverse is true too though. Why should some poor inner city kid at a community college have to pass a college level algebra class in order to get a degree in social work. College algebra classes are the number one reason community college students never graduate.

        • I noted out history in particular for it’s futility. I think English and Math are perhaps the most useful to a person in terms life skills though. Literacy and numeracy are important in a number of fields and even everyday life. Social workers should be able to read and understand statistics so they can understand and create reports on the populations they serve.

          I am not sure multi-variable calculus or differential equations is useful to everyone so would agree that not everyone should be required to learn those classes but there is a lot of utility in knowing basic algebra and having some knowledge in numeracy.

          • Angela says

            Are public school system is really failling if a high school graduate doesnt have enough math skill to be a freaking social worker. I agree that writing skills are very important to be tauught at community college, but I also think some basic history of western civ is important too. The problem with requiring college level math to graduate from a community college is below a certain IQ level people simply wont be able to pass that class.

          • Hi Angela,

            I can sympathies with the position that western civilization be taught at college but it loses value for me once it changes from being an interest to something that has a price tag attached to it. Tuition costs can be prohibitively expensive when all the required extra courses are tallied in the cost of an education.

            I have all the sympathy in the world towards the IQ partition that has been plaguing the US as of late. It seems to be generalizable intelligence though which generally means the lower IQ person performs poorly in Literacy as well as in numeracy. In those cases, I think it is absolutely necessary that the person take away some life skills that can translate more concretely to application in their everyday life. Algebra can most definitely translate to applications in personal finance especially when interest is involved.

            Algebra is taught in high school and even in middle school, at least where I live. I think like literacy, numeracy should hold the most importance when testing and testing and ensuring standards in education. Most other subjects are ancillary.

          • Jim Gorman says

            College Algebra 2 should be a prep course for Calculus. College Algebra 1 should be for life skills. How to program a spreadsheet from raw data, calculating areas, stair treads, roof trusses, some statistics and probability, etc. In other words, things you would use in life. Mainly word problems and how to solve them.

          • Stephanie says

            @Jim, I couldn’t agree more on spreadsheets. I taught at a university college only a few years ago, and one of my labs was meant to get students comfortable with spreadsheets. The two science students finished the lab in literally 10 minutes, the humanities students took the full three hours or never finished. Some cried. The most basic functions, like dividing the contents of one cell by another, were incomprehensible to them.

            I had no idea how computer illiterate people coming out of the high school system were, and it does not bode well for their personal financial situation or their job prospects.

        • Because algebra instills an understanding of logic and critical thinking, two things lacking in social work?

    • Mark B says

      Benjamin – That piece was a lot of fun! It was “bitching” only in the long-established tradition of young academics poking fun at the various (and sometimes lovable) inanities of academia. And, seriously, you think of Quillette as “anti-academic audience”? A popular journal filled with articles about significant cultural issues, written primarily by people with advanced degrees is “anti-academic”?

      • D-Rex says

        Agreed, what could have been a whiny dirge was turned into an amusing and entertaining piece. It was more in the telling than the actual facts of the story.

    • Angela says

      At least he’s not reduced to writing snarky messages in an internet comment section.

    • Tamara says

      Someone never grew a funny bone or at least not a grasp of the difference between gentle ribbibng and “bitching”

    • Thanks for saying this before I did Mark. Benjamin — It is a tough critique to call Quillette “anti-academic.” I have advanced degrees in STEM and it pains me to let a comment like this go unanswered.

      We should be arguing for articles like this, arts programs in general need an influx of young, actually free-thinking people. These folks need to be teaching practical writing courses and influencing people to read and understand the humanities in relation to real world ideology. This is exactly the tongue-in-cheek writing style that needs encouragement.

      • Stephanie says

        Benjamin, the contributors and commenters on this page are disproportionately academics. Many of the rest hold several advanced degrees.

        There is nothing more academic than complaining about the problems in academia. If you want vapid “science says” articles that treat academia like unassailable clergy, there’s the rest of the internet for that.

    • John Brown says

      “Anti-academic” up your ass, mister. Academia remains tied with the mainstream media in the wretched contest known as “Who Can Make The Most Money, Who Can Wreak The Most Damage In A Position From Which I Can Be Fired?”. Like labor unions, academia has long outlived any whiff of usefulness. Pander to this, Bernier: go find a real job.

    • The point is that academia is hopelessly broken…taking advantage of ‘adjunct’ profs at cut rate prices to pay for the rest of the mindless bureaucracy, and the gatekeepers are shamefully corrupt.

      But part of this is what we get for having such staid institutions with little incentive to adapt.

  4. Jack B. Nimble says

    Here are some mildly interesting facts about Mr. Salerno:

    This article is an expanded version of one he published on the AEI website in 2004: http://www.aei.org/publication/in-real-life-writer-in-hesitance/

    His website including resume is here: http://www.journalismpro.com/

    His blog, Shamblog, is apparently defunct.

    See also: www[dot]unlv[dot]edu/people/steve-salerno

    Mr. Salerno reminds me of the skeptical know-it-all characters that Robert A. Heinlein used to populate his novels with, most notably Jubal E. Harshaw.

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @Ray Andrews (the dolphin)

        Self-plagiarism isn’t plagiarism, but it is common in publishing circles to note when an article is a revised version of something originally published elsewhere.

        Also, in Googling around, I discovered that Mr. Salerno’s background was more varied and interesting than this article suggests, and I thought that it was an observation worth sharing. YMMV, of course.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @Jack B. Nimble

          Fair enough. It sounded like you were trying to trash him in a trollish way. Sorry for the implication.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @Ray Andrews (the dolphin)

            OK. The comparison of Salerno to Jubal Harshaw was a bit lame, but a libertarian who has read Heinlein’s ‘adult’ novels would find that comparison to be a compliment.

    • Michael Harvey says

      Holy moly it’s basically the same story–from 15 years ago! Yeah, yeah, expanded, much unchanged. What a kick in the teeth for those of us who thought this was a story from the present (“Near the end of one recent semester…”).

  5. Brenden Frost says

    Enjoyed the story. I imagine that the more traditionally credentialed professors they turn out, the more professional-minded students will clamor for Salerno-esque instructors.

  6. blitz442 says

    “Now, I’ve been around the block a time or two (mostly because adjuncts don’t qualify for parking in the faculty lots).”

    Nice.

  7. Paul A. says

    It’s possible to make adjunct teaching work. I’ve done it for 4 years. My annual income is around the Canadian median. There’s plenty of work – I teach more than most tenured profs and have had to turn down jobs. My seniority means that I am prioritized for hiring each semester. If enrollment is high enough, I can choose between a bonus or a grad student to mark for me.

    As far as I can tell, the flimsy and tiresome claim that adjunct wages amount to McDonald’s money is justified by unpaid hours spent preparing and marking. It’s true that I’m only paid for the hours in the classroom. But re-teaching the same courses for 4 years means that work is now mostly confined to the classroom.

    While teaching five courses last semester, I had time to submit a research paper for publication on an unfundable topic that I am passionate about. I have no admin duties – I’m invited to faculty meetings but choose not to go. I get summers off. Don’t know if I will be doing this in 5 years. But with what seems like an increasing number of tenured profs complaining about burnout and pressures to obtain funding, it’s hard to see the downside at the moment.

    • scribblerg says

      Paul – Thanks for this. I have family and friends in academia and teaching, while I labor away in tech sales leadership. I get 3 weeks off a year – including Christmas etc. I regularly work 50 hour weeks, at my desk by 7 am, travel etc. I don’t complain, nor do I feel put upon or as though someone should have any sympathy for me. I choose this life and shoulder the burden with a smile, most days…

      But every teacher/academic? If they have to go to campus 3 days a week, during the teaching semester, they bleat. They leave early, come late. They have weeks off at a time and then entire summers. And complain. Nonstop. The only other bigger group of whiners are the health care workers I know. Have a sister who has pressured her 100k a year managemet job to be 4 days a week, for full time pay. This is becoming common in govt, apparently. This “flextime” is supposedly 4 10 hr days, lol.As though the day a week off is made up in the other 4 days.

      I counted the hours once. I work twice as many hours per year as the average college prof. Heck, with you teaching 5 classes I put in many more hours per year than you if you put in 25 hours/week outside of the classroom.

      I don’t care if adjunct profs are underpaid. Nobody cares how hard I work or how much I make. Nobody.

      • E. Olson says

        scribblerg – you just don’t have the correct perspective. Adjuncts are underpaid and overworked in comparison to tenured faculty, who in any school with a “research mission” or elite reputation tend to teach only 1 to 3 sections per semester, which may entail teaching the same course 3 times, and for this burden they get paid 2-10 times what an adjunct will be paid to teach 4 to 5 sections. Yes the tenured faculty member will likely have a service obligation (aka attending frequent meetings of meaningless consequence and writing/presenting an occasional report that no one will use), and will be expected to publish in some obscure journal or book occasionally, which are things that adjuncts typically don’t need to do, but the disparity in pay and benefits for the basic teaching mission of the school tends to be very large. Adjuncts with a terminal degree are especially resentful because they most often sought the advanced degree because they desired the academic life of teaching 2 courses per term and having a nice salary and office, but end up with much less than they expected (or were promised by their graduate school mentor). Adjuncts without terminal degrees are often resentful because they frequently are hired because of their “real world” backgrounds and find themselves very popular with students (i.e. teaching large sections) who actually desire to have real world skills instead of the social justice crap taught by tenured faculty (who often teach small sections as a result), and yet are paid a tiny fraction for what they and their students view as far better classroom performance.

        You are of course correct that academics are frequently big whiners about their “heavy work load” and “miserable salary” even though they tend to work fewer hours and earn more than most people living in the “real world”, but they don’t see it that way. What they see is that they have 10+ years of higher education, where they frequently studied hard and lived a somewhat frugal lifestyle, and now earn far less fame and fortune than college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who happen to both be white males, which just proves that capitalism is an unfair manifestation of white privilege and patriarchy, which will almost certainly be the topic of their next lecture and book.

        • Jay Salhi says

          “Adjuncts are underpaid and overworked in comparison to tenured faculty”

          The real crime is to compare the adjuncts to the ridiculously overpaid administrators whose ranks continue to grow exponentially.

          • E. Olson says

            Jay – agree 100%, and paying “diversity and inclusion” administration anything higher than zero is a pure waste of taxpayer and student tuition funding.

      • Agent P says

        And with all your extracurricular activities you are a very bust man Scribbs.
        Long time no see

        • Stephanie says

          I assume we’re talking about professors in soft subjects? The professors I’ve known are extremely busy. They work long days and over weekends and holidays. Summers aren’t “off,” they are a blessed reprieve from teaching, when there’s the best chance of spending time in the lab or writing up research. Without a rate of one original paper a year, funding dries up very quickly, and your job can be in jeopardy.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        So, scribblerg, you think tech sales leadership merits some sort of special acknowledgement? Maybe. Are you helping people? Trying to make the world a better place? Or are you just polluting society with more tech garbage and cheesy “leadership” nonsense nobody cares about and are pissed off because your job couldn’t be more meaningless or disposable?

        Nope, nobody gives a shit how much a tech sales leadership whatever-the-fuck works. You should go be a teacher or a healthcare worker if you think it’s so damn awesome, but of course you won’t.

  8. Very funny (and sad at the same time) piece. I would imagine Steve is being at least partially facetious. He must obviously like teaching and the compensation is probably adequate to his needs if barely. Sadly all the things holding him back in the world of academia are 100% true. You really shouldn’t have stopped listing your BA as “lowly” on your resume Steve. They haven’t stopped being assholes so why should you?

  9. Canuck says

    1309 words and not once did “Gender” come up. How refreshing

  10. John Brown says

    Any degree ending in “Studies” is quite useless.

  11. As a former adjunct with an MFA (a ‘terminal degree”) I thought I’d really enjoy this essay as there are many things to mock in adjunct-land. Unfortunately, although this is a cute voice and has some funny parts, the author’s condescension and arrogance annoyed me more and more as I read on, particularly since it pretended to be against the very same qualities.

    In order to mock adjunct-land, the author distorts and tells untruths, as opposed to dealing with the reality, which is, trust me, fully mock-able.

    For instance, he acts shocked that university professors actually need more than a BA. Um, where on earth would any university hire someone with a ‘lowly BA’ as he puts it (and yeah, he was being an asshole )? Is he proposing that universities now hire those with BA’s? Maybe he can make a case for it, but it’s not like this is earth-shattering or snobby in any way. Many professions require advanced degrees, eg law, medicine, science.

    As far as the rest of the faculty enjoying getting paid in book copies–No. No one enjoys getting paid in book copies. I mean maybe you might meet a couple of poets who can only publish that way, but it’s not like they *want* to earn no money.

    The only thing that has truth is the contempt for practical writing and anything to the right of Mao. That is true. I do wish he’d developed this more. There are lots of things that are ripe for mocking there–that and the crappy coffee and the careful schedules that encourage isolation.

    Instead, he writes about how he finagled getting paid three times what other adjuncts were getting paid, and gloated about it. To me it seemed that the only reason he wanted to publish that was to a) promote himself and his writing and B) rub it in their faces that he, a ‘lowly’ BA, earned three times what a poor shlub of an MFA or PhD earned. Which is just really petty and yes, asshole-ish.

    • Angela says

      You read a different article than me, because nowhere in there did he suggest universities give full professorships to people without graduate degrees.

      • Richard says

        Angela, the author wrote that he asked for a professorship in exchange for teaching more classes. The author only has a “lowly BA.” Is that not “suggest[ing] universities give … professorships to people without graduate degrees”?

  12. Garry Coulter says

    Great article. Quilette needs it own PJ O’Rourke. Academia is currently at a inflection point of worth to the student. Incur the costs of two Tesla’s or a decent sized home then try to pay it back and pay for everything else for a salary of $35,000 (Fine Arts Grad avg salary). FYI Gates & Zuckerberg never graduated. Dial down the smug sanctimony a bit on some of the comments and be thankful for your blessings.

  13. There’s no real journal called ‘Zephyr of the Ephemeral Consciousness’. I’m SO disappointed!

  14. From Steve Salerno’s website’s recent career resume “Writer-in-Residence, Muhlenberg College, Fall 2002—Spring 2005. Taught courses in first-person nonfiction and magazine writing/editing at this respected four-year college.”

    It’s in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I wonder whether the situation there or elsewhere has improved or dis-improved since then.

  15. derek says

    Did the quillette editors remove the last sentence “Return next week to find out what happened…”? Shane on then if they did.

    • Angela says

      I think he might have basically just submitted the same article he wrote somewhere else years ago. Soemone in the comments section dug it up. Maybe they informed the editors and they’re oissed at getting a rehashed article? Just a guess though.

  16. jimhaz says

    Someone above said – Why is there no edit button here?

    Because it would appear NO media organisation gives adequate resources to developing the very best website for comments. Seems like they think comments are for plebs (half right).

    Some clever dick will catch on some day that technically well structured Comments sections attract so many more page hits.

    • johno says

      I suppose that composing your thoughts in a clear manner before you hit post is out of the question?

      This was an article about writing skills, after all…

  17. johno says

    Actually, Steve, you’re exactly right. Writing skills are very valuable today, but not in the manner that they are being taught in most of higher education.

    Given the horridly trendy lingo that tends to dominate online, a person who can compose their thoughts in a clear and possibly even entertaining manner is at a premium in any business. While I work in software, I’ve always been an avid amateur writer. That passion has served me well when it comes to communicating with people outside the industry.

    However, as a nonconformist (by their terms), you probably won’t get far in higher education. As you probably know, they have some strange forms of advancement in that industry, and producing happy and successful students isn’t part of that.

    You have to make the right noises, and kiss the right asses. This is, after all, higher education, where the free exchange of (approved) ideas is encouraged.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Said the guy who doesn’t even work in higher education. Tell us some more bullshit about an industry you don’t know anything about, please?

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @Nakatomi Plaza

        I agree!

        Johno said “……..Writing skills are very valuable today, but not in the manner that they are being taught in most of higher education……”, but how could he [or anyone] possibly know how writing skills are being taught in most of higher ed today, unless they did a survey?

  18. Caligula says

    In some ways prestige, even more than money, is the currency of academia. So, no one should be all that surprised that this school chose to offer a prestigious job title in lieu of cash. Then again, it’s understandable that one might prefer to have both the prestige title and the cash.

    In the past writers seem to have learned how to write mostly by reading the works of others, figuring out they did it. And then often imitated their favorite authors until they found their own voices. Perhaps creative writing programs provide a shortcut in this process, although there seems scant evidence to support this assertion.

  19. Constantin says

    Too bad Playboy did not figure out the way to save cash by bestowing a title. I hope they read this article. You write a priceless investigative article and we compensate by bestowing on you the title of Jedi Of The Week and buy you a cup of coffee. leaving all the sarcasm aside, however, the point here was the poor bargaining position of real talent missing the obligatory entry into the club diploma? What is the conclusion?

  20. Jezza says

    If you want to learn how to write, read. Read the classics. Read trash. Read fairy stories. Read jokes. Read instruction manuals. Read poetry. Prime the pump and the words will flow. Simple. That’s all right, you don’t have to thank me.

  21. Defenstrator says

    That was an amusing read. I enjoyed your style and may take a look at some of your other work.

  22. Charles G says

    Definitely want to read more from this guy asap. Thanks, Quillette.

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