Public Opinion Poll

As we know, I am in a writing group and committed to do research and ideally, writing daily. I always have a few minutes for this, no matter what, but I want to spend more time than that. I need to, if I am to get anything truly significant accomplished. I also deserve to because I have a contractual obligation to do so, which it is the University’s obligation to me to allow for as well as mine to them to fulfill.

In mid 2011 I committed to a major service/administrative assignment for two years. Now, the administration is offering course release so they can step up work on this for Spring 2013, but the department is not sure they can come across to me on that. Here is my list of spring activities. What should I cut out (something is going to have to go)?

- Teach Spanish 4 (what I want to cut out, I am totally replaceable here)
- Teach junior level introduction to culture I have never taught here (I prefer to keep this: for the sake of our programs and for inspiration)
- Teach senior/graduate level literature course, out of field (I prefer to keep this: for the sake of our programs and for my own education)
- Prepare three summer courses, sophomore, junior, and senior/graduate level, never given before, to teach starting the day after graduation (This may be cancelled by a fuerza mayor, but I do not want to cancel it by my own hand; for the sake of our programs and because I will receive $3,500 plus fringe and expenses for teaching these courses and I need the money)
- This major service/administrative assignment (I could resign, but I would really rather not and if I do not get the course release will probably just do a poor job here)
- Regular service (not a problem, so long as I do not get involved in funding or hosting of outside speakers I will not have excessive regular service)
- Research (This is what I want to step UP, but it is what I fear will have to fall by the wayside if something does not give)

Some in my department are very uncomfortable with the idea of course release and especially for Spanish 4. If that cannot be chosen as the element to cut out here, what would you cut?

Axé.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Public Opinion Poll

  1. Jonathan Mayhew

    You cannot do the major service / administration assignment without the course release, so put that as an either / or ultimatum. Spanish 4 is the course to go, obviously.

    Of course 3,500 for 3 summer courses is miserable, less than poor adjunct / T.A. pay. That’s like getting an extra semester’s worth of work out of you for less than a tenth of your salary (unless I’m misinterpreting something here).

  2. Z

    Thanks for perspective from solid ground. Yes. If I do not get the course release, I can also refuse the work step-up part of this service assignment. It is heavy in fall and normally not in spring, so to have it as originally planned, with the 3 regular courses, would at least be what I originally committed to.

    $3,500, yes, all our summer teaching is very poorly paid — it IS poor adjunct or TA pay, they do not differentiate during summer — but this only lasts 3 weeks and the figure is net. And, it may not happen: administration may decide against running this institute. They will decide soon.

  3. Not having foreign language teaching experience myself, I think Jonathan has good advice. $3500 for 3 weeks is better than the same amount for 6, 8 or 10 weeks, but still: could you find a summer job somewhere else, say as a paralegal or grant-writer or in an NGO, where you could make more (and enough to make it worth being somewhere with higher expenses) and enjoy doing something more in line with your real interests? I have no idea how to go about this, I am totally academic, so I’m just wondering. Or, with your languages, something like this in South America rather than North??

    • Z

      This is in Mex. D.F. where I hope to spend most of the rest of the summer. It is May 19-June 9 and then I am free, and my flight will have been free, and I will have been all expense paid for 3 weeks. To net $3500 so fast is actually not that easy, and we have been working on this since last year, and I think moving to become a paralegal (and I would have to know someone to hire me) or an NGO person might actually cost money. Plus, this would be good for our major. N.B. there are bar members working for $17-$20 / hr. doing legal research, the parallel to Ph.Ds who are adjuncting — this is why I do not think I can compete. There is someone I can ask in New Orleans and I will, perhaps this is more of a viable possibility than I think.

      If the Mexican institute does not happen I will probably have to teach summer courses. I was going to use that to prepare fall courses. The other thing one can do is grade the AP exam, which I am looking into but it sounds non-fun. I need some time at home because I have absolutely got to work on the house and this takes time and good weather. I used to go on NEH institutes and I may start these again. I am doubtful, as I say, about the possibilities of well paid, out of field jobs but I will start looking, by asking my people in New Orleans and going from there.

      This Mexican plan is something I have resisted for years as I am fully well aware of how poorly it is paid. It is just that since we haven’t had raises in 4 years, and they have cut travel and library funding, etc., I can no longer get through the month in the black or buy things I need for classes, or gas to get to research libraries for that matter, if I do not do extra teaching. I have a B&B business on the side, but I need more.

      Information about out of field, well paid, interesting, short term summer jobs in DC, NY, Chicago, Houston, Austin, SF, Albuquerque, LA would be more than welcome … ! Or perhaps other places!

      • If you get travel money and then can stay in Mexico then that makes total sense. I’m sorry I am so ill-informed about other options—it seems like in my youth, paralegaling was both better-paid (in terms of buying power) and easier to get into than it seems that it is now. But still, worth asking people in NO, I suppose. I hope you can dump Spanish 4. All the other things sound more interesting. The AP exam sounds awful from what I have heard of that grading.

  4. Z

    Paralegal, it’s like being a student worker and would be really draining, and it would be hard to get a job that was only for the summer, and it would be all summer, 9-5 — I think I would do better as a barista and if I teach at home, it will serve as fall preparation as well. AP grading, you have to have a roommate you don’t know in your hotel, too. I have always been against it although perhaps I will try it once.

    Mex. will be fun if it works. Otherwise I am going to work on this NEH thing perhaps. We will see — you are inspiring me, believe it or not.

    Spanish 4, yes. I cannot believe my dept. is having so much trouble with this but then it is all of a piece with their efforts, conscious or not, to repress the development of Spanish and faculty in Spanish.

  5. dclioness

    Course release, first and foremost. Then, drop regular service completely; major admin appointment should count for that. I have an admin appointment, and maintain one committee membership where the work of that committee accomplishes some of the work of the admin role. I do nothing else for that committee, though just agreed to be on a search committee in the spring. Summer courses have sufficient benefits — free travel, short-term — to be worth the prep. Drop either the junior or senior class, whichever is least painful to let go of this go-round; I’d suggest the one that is the new prep, unless it feeds directly into your research. There will be other semesters to teach the ones you don’t this time, yes? The juggling is insane; all the best with that…

  6. Z

    OK, thank you, that is liberating: to consider dropping one of the other courses. And timely, as I have to still argue for and on all this Monday. Thanks.

    • dclioness

      Thank you for your generous response. Didn’t mean to sound so directive! I think seeing your long list triggered MY panic response and my internal General immediately called for battle stations in clipped language. Yes, the war metaphor and the communication skills are unfortunate. And perhaps exemplary of the concerns you reiterate so well about quantity and quality.

  7. Z

    Especially since the summer courses could make, it is a good idea to drop *any* course they will let me drop now. Being directive actually helps since they will guilt trip in the other direction and I am vulnerable to this.

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