Not Exploited

I hate it when people say I was exploited. If language really does have power, then calling me exploited turns me into a powerless cog in a brutal machine. I’d rather be called a fool. At least that leaves open the possibility that I am in control of my own life, however irrational my choices seem.

The whole idea that academe exploits Ph.D.’s is based on the belief that we aren’t being paid what we’re worth. But who determines what we’re worth? The tough reality is that it’s the market, and in the market academics are a dime a dozen. So that’s about what we get paid. —Paul RohrerNot Exploited (Chronicle)

He notes that if academics had to bid for jobs, like construction contractors have to compete with each other to offer the lowest price, “I’m sure there’s someone out there who is just as good a teacher or researcher as I, but who is even more desperate than I am.”

This Wal-Mart-inspired philosophy of setting faculty salaries probably wouldn’t have a noticeable effect on most entry level and survey courses, particularly in the humanities — where researchers need little equipment other than a library. Still, the stability of a long-term job contract is good for long-range planning such as curricular reform, mentoring, and the general pedagogical development of the teacher.

Does anyone remember the cattle-call Doonesbury cartoon of a few years back, where a dean stands in front of a crowd of desperate Ph.D.s and calls out the jobs he has available?