I’m in a sour mood. I’ve been in serious pain from my leg (no idea what it is, trying to find out) and it’s getting me down. So I’m going to whinge about academic employment. Not *my* academic employment, mind you: I have nothing (aside from my leg) to complain about. I am (a) massively lucky to have a job teaching music history at all, given the long odds against academic employment and the seriously long odds of academic employment in a field as small and marginal as musicology, and (b) inconceivably lucky to have gotten one at a place like IU. I am confronted with just how lucky I am every time I talk to a friend who has gotten a job at an exploitative college where the administration strip-mines the talent and energy of its grossly underpaid faculty, knowing that if Struggling Young Ph.D. no. 1 gets burned out, they can just bring in Struggling Young Ph.D. no. 2, or 3, or 4, or 5, or 6 . . . . hell, bring in a whole busload of un(der)employed Ph.D.’s, any of whom will be grateful for their new exploitative job, who will think that this is their big chance, who even now, as I write this, will be excitedly telling Moms/Dads/spouses/buddies can you believe it, I got a job! It’s a big teaching load, I know, but I’m gonna make it! That’s nice, says Administration. You go ahead and think that. Innocent youthful exuberance will keep them going a good long time. And when youthful exuberance turns to resentment, then rage, then a job in the service industry, no problem — bring in the next
sucker valued young scholar.
Aside from a certain bit of wonderful news, Terminaldegree has been an increasingly depressing read this year, as the sheer in-the-bone weariness has settled in from teaching a 4/4 load and doing administrative work and student hand-holding, all in service of a college that is cynically counting on the endless massed ranks of young docs to create the pressure necessary to pull stunts like this one. And doubtless telling the parents and alums that the Heritage of Tradition continues on its noble path with the work of fine young musicians like Terminal.
Those of you who are thinking about applying for graduate school in musicology might want to think about this.
And what makes this so infuriating to me is that the scholar’s vocation is (sorry to sound so maudlin about it) the highest sort of calling. The university is, or should be, exactly what the college public-relations flacks say it is—a great and noble institution held in trust between teachers and students, between one generation of scholars and the next. Thank god there are institutions that are actually like this, like my own, for example. But being employed at a place like IU, which treats scholars like scholars and not like chattel, gives one something like survivor’s guilt. Why was I lucky and not my friend?