The Unknown Adjunct

December 30, 2009

Going Dark

Filed under: Uncategorized — unknownadjunct @ 6:25 pm

I’ve decided to pull the plug on this blog — my situation has changed, and the original purpose of the blog doesn’t match what I am doing.
Thanks to all my readers.
#30#

July 3, 2009

Plagiarism Short Circuit

Filed under: Academics,Recommended,Students,teaching — unknownadjunct @ 1:15 am
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G. Thomas Couser’s piece in IHE today on plagiarism is a must-read.

Inside the normal to and fro account of a professor demolishing a student’s rationalization for plagiarism is an insight that stopped me cold:

“[This is the] heart of the matter. Your use of the online “study guide” SparkNotes is a problem not only because it was unacknowledged but also because it entirely short-circuited your thinking process. Such guides very rarely enable students to carry out independent analysis of primary sources; rather, they tend to inhibit or completely block it because they trade in canned, bland summaries and commentary.”

This is a point about plagiarism that you don’t hear — or at least I haven’t heard it before and it isn’t reflected in the academic codes and plagiarism training materials in three different schools that I’ve taught for (I just checked). We talk about things like dishonesty, grades earned by false pretenses, and lack of learning, but the stuff I have seen never makes the “why” of “lack of learning” very clear.

My take. The mark of truly knowing a concept is being able to put it into your own words. When students decide to parrot someone’s version — particularly a bland puree of the work — they not only do not learn the concept, (and this is the important corollary) they eliminate the possibility of being able to use the concept in a meaningful way or as a point of departure for any kind of original insight.

Of course, this leaves me open to the charge of drawing conclusions based on my ignorance — after all, I am just an adjunct and the real professors probably knew this all along. But I suspect that if this precise point hadn’t occurred to me, it hasn’t occurred to others either. Be sure to give Couser’s piece a read.

Dear Plagiarist

July 2, 2009

Feeling the Heat?

Filed under: Academics,budget,government,Perspective — unknownadjunct @ 1:07 am
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I see from this op-ed in the LA Times that the Dean of the UC Berkeley Law School is advocating that the University of California system add an entirely online university.

He gives two reasons: first, so that the UC system can do “more with less”.
Hmmmm… I believe that usually works out to doing “less with less”.

Second, because “many talented Californians opt for the pricier online University of Phoenix over our public four-year campuses”. I’ll bet the Phoenix pholks will be trumpeting that money quote for quite some time.

Of course, as he goes on to say later, the true expectation of quality in California has effectively changed from a of “world-class K-16 education for all” to “better than Mississippi.”

The interesting thing here, now that I have joined the ranks of online instructors, is this idea that a university system in decline can be rescued from competition by the injection of online programs — presumably staffed by an elite corps of adjuncts.

Mississippi minions take note — maybe this approach will end up with the bottom of the barrel standard changing to “better than California”.

Building a new UC — In Cyberspace

June 25, 2009

Academic Piecework

Filed under: Academics,Job Hunt,Perspective,Status,teaching — unknownadjunct @ 1:07 am
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As I mentioned yesterday, quite a bit has changed since early May. In the proud tradition of the new academic realities, I don’t have a job — I have two.

After accumulating a wall-full of rejection letters (and not even a peep from my spring applications), things broke open in a big and unexpected way. Three days after my successful dissertation defense, my department chair (who had studiously ignored me during my student time) called me into his office. I expected a kiss-off and “good luck with that” kind of talk, but instead he offered me a job. I did my best imitation of a gaping fish before accepting (like I had any other choice — I’m too young to be a Wal-mart greeter).

Not that it was a good job or anything like that. One of the real faculty members had just gotten a temporary position and, after divvying up the remaining responsibilities, two intro classes still needed to be covered. So I get the job as a Lecturer (that’s an adjunct with benefits) with a 2/2 load and pay at the same pay scale per class as a graduate teaching assistant.

Did I mention intro classes? I really got the prize — these are frickin’ huge sections. Like, humongous, as in needing to be taught in the stadium.

Well, not quite that big — but I will say that my student load exceeds the total student population of many liberal arts colleges. I did the math: it was depressing. It works out to something less than $20 per student per semester. But nowadays, a job is a job.

As you might guess, that didn’t make the vig, so I had to piece together something else. Again, it just dropped into my lap. I ran into a friend from my former life, who mentioned that he was adjuncting for a distance-learning program for a certain government agency. I pressed him for more details, and he gave me a name. Lo and behold, they also needed some guest help. So now I also have an online adjunct position.

Between the two, it gets me somewhere north of the poverty line. All things considered, I’m thankful to get that much in today’s environment.

June 24, 2009

Strategy for Graduate School Application — Spell Check

Filed under: Applications — unknownadjunct @ 11:39 am
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I saw this sign up on campus last fall … I sure hope one of the strategies that was discussed was careful proof reading and the use of spell check.

Try spell-check as a strategy

Try spell-check as a strategy

June 23, 2009

Link Love

Filed under: Perspective — unknownadjunct @ 10:50 pm
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Dang! Someone actually mentioned me. Whohoo!

Of course, the money quote was “somewhat less tired”. Hmmm … you mean like “somewhat less pregnant”?

But, as JC Fields said, “Call me anything you like as long as you call me for dinner.”

Negotiating the Paradox

Expertise in English not a Requirement

Filed under: Academics,job placement,teaching — unknownadjunct @ 10:40 pm
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From the IHE job board:

Histroy Generalist (Tenure Track) at Valley City State University (Valley City, ND)
Primary responsibility is to teach survey and uppser division American history, non-western history, geography, political science and history method courses. Ability to fill other divisional needs as they occur such as composition, and humanities. Ability to meet flexible scheduling needs such as evening, off-campus, or on-line instruction.

They don’t want much, do they? And they probably will pay your a princely salary (hehe). I really liked the part about being able to teach composition.

I soooo want to call them up and ask them what their tenure requirements are. Any nodackers know the answer? Uff Da!

Histroy Generalist (Tenure Track)

Back from the dark

Filed under: Status — unknownadjunct @ 10:26 pm
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Probably all three of my blog fans were wondering what happened to me …

Short answer: A lot.

Big news is that I’m no longer ABD … yep, it’s Dr. Adjunct to you, bucko.

Ah, yes. Big question is, what is different, now that I’m finished? I’m not sure yet. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now, and I’ll fill everyone in during the next few posts.

Great to be back in the saddle.

I’m back in the saddle again,
back where inspiration is a friend.
Where blogerati feed,
And the bittorent folks seed,
I’m back in the saddle, again!

– With apologies to Gene Autry

April 22, 2009

Rejection Redemption

Filed under: Applications,Job Hunt,job placement,Perspective — unknownadjunct @ 4:13 pm
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This has been a roller-coaster day. After long periods of silence, two actual pieces of news!

First was not so good — I got the dreaded “thin letter” from a school that I had high hopes for. I had applied to one position that had been shriked and then reopened, and then the SC called and said they had a second position open and would I like to apply to that one too — so I felt that there was at least a modicum of interest. But, it was not to be (although they appreciated my effort and interest).

Then got a phone call from the local branch of For-Profit University (FPU) — they really have a lot of needs in my subject area and want me to come give them a teaching demo. Not really where I thought I might be going, but hey, you gotta pay the bills.

I’ve still got two packages out for spring searches in a neighboring state, but I’m getting resigned to the fact that this may not be my year. Sigh.

The good news is:

  • I will no longer be ABD, but “PhD in hand”
  • I can pay the bills
  • I will have time to work on getting a piece of my dissertation out into publication
  • I will be much better positioned for the upcoming fall hiring season

Those are not bad things

April 19, 2009

Six-Figure Follies?

Filed under: Academics,Perspective,teaching — unknownadjunct @ 7:58 pm
Tags: ,

Like just about any hungry adjunct looking for work, I stumbled across “Howard E. Rubin, PhD” and his site (AdjunctTeachingOnline) on how to make a 6-figure income as an adjunct.

He shows his “University” and “College” W-2s for the year, with a combined income of a bit over $104K for 2008. That’s impressive — let’s do the math. Assuming the rough national average of $2500/course for adjunct work, that works out to about 42 courses taught in the year. To bracket it, let’s set an upper limit of $4000/course, which puts him at 26 courses taught. The lower limit would be something like a large for-profit university, which comes in at about $1400/course, that would require a jaw-dropping 74 courses.

Let’s call it 30-50 courses per year.

  • For a 16-week course length (3/semester) that works out to 10-16 courses at a time
  • for an 8-week course (6/semester) that works out to about 5-8 courses at a time
  • for a 5-week course (10/semester) that works out to 3-5 courses at a time

From that exercise, it seems doable, as long as you can stay above $2500-3000 per course, and you have enough short courses to make it work. Five courses at a time is certainly doable — we expect CC instructors to do that all the time. Also, you would need several schools willing to pay you that (Rubin’s example has him working at 9 places). Plus, I think you would need a type of coursework with minimum interaction requirement and a canned curriculum that you could repeat as required.

So the bottom line looks like:

  • 8-10 schools
  • above average pay per course
  • teach only short courses
  • minimal interaction with students
  • easily repeatable curriculum

I’m not sure what else you get for paying $37/month on the easy payment plan. I’m sure there are some insider secrets that I’m not privy to, but I’ll pass. He’s been posting that only 25 people (26 in the email I was sent, oops!) will get that opportunity. But somehow I’m sure that he’ll leave an extra spot open if you really want to join the “Adjunct Professor Blastoff”.

All that said, his basic point is valid … if you’re willing and able to do the (huge) amount of work and preparation, then a six-figure income is in reach. I’ve had six-figure income jobs both in the government and in the business sector — they both took a huge amount of work and preparation too. In no case is this “easy money”. (Unless you can get folks to send you monthly checks to learn your “secret”).

Two weeks and a wakeup until I defend!

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