Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Teachers beware!!!

    Teachers beware!!

    I am an occasional reader of  I say occasional because I don't really have the extra money to become a member, which means I only read the articles that are past the per-pay window.  This is sad for me as I have been recently cited in one of their articles, to which I am yet unable to read.

    I did find, though, an article about instructor copyright that piqued my interest.  I have taught online for about 10 years, ranging over some dozen or so courses and a half dozen institutions.  The majority of the schools have a set of course materials to which you may use or augment—some places allow much adaptation (even to the point of ignoring them), while others Bird U, for example, allow only strict adherence.  Paul Collins writes in the linked article about the possibility of losing course materials through a contract clause that would give the institution copyright of all materials in a course.  This would mean the university or college would own your lecture, tests, assignments, etc.  These could then be used to reinforce the core materials or, at worst, replace them.   The creator of the materials, under such a copyright clause, would have nothing to say about this use of his or her work.

    I have personal experience with this.  I taught composition for a specific online college.  I created all of my own materials for this intro course, and after many iterations, I moved on to other courses.  After a year or so, I was again assigned the intro comp. course, which on a lark I skimmed over the core teaching set.  And there I was, my material, my assignments integrated into the core set without so much as thank you note.  At the time I didn't worry to much about it…actually felt kind of appreciated (such is the nature of my beaten down status as an adjunct that I look for appreciation is all the wrong places).  

    Would I again, though, be so pleased?  I don't think so.  I value my expertise more now than I did as a newly minted professional.  I think I bring more to the class, which through effort and experience I rightly consider to be my own skill set.  I may rent these skills and materials out, but they are, in the end, my own.

    I have not yet put a copyright notice on my materials.  After reading this article, I think I will move to a pdf format with the copyright plainly indicated my ownership.  I will also go back and review my contracts.  

    Teachers beware.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Adjunct Pay: It doesn't

    Adjunct Pay: It doesn't pay to Adjunct

    This is an older posting from AdjunctAdvocate blogs, but it does provide some important adjunct fodder:

    November 17th 2005
    Finally, Adjunct Compensation Explained....It's About Meritocracy, Don't Ya Know?
    Welcome to Neverland, where compensation is based on one's contribution to the university.....
    Based on the following criteria, Syracuse University was selected as the number one employer in the central New York region: The Donlon Award honored the institution for wellness, family care, flexible work arrangements, individual growth, development and counseling.
    However, the Society for Human Resource Management and the local United Way evidently didn't get the memo that over 600 part-time faculty at Syracuse University are working to organize a union because they are paid peanuts, 80 percent of them do not have access to health care or other benefits, and none of them enjoys job security.
    Flexible work arrangements? How does getting sacked at the end of every semester work for you?
    Syracuse's VP of Human Resources, Neil Strodel, (who applied for the Donlon Award) explained that compensation at Syracuse is bawed on "contribution to the university."
    We thank Mr. Strodel for his insightful explanation of the meritocracy that is higher education. That's why carpenters at universities all over the country earn more than some tenure-line faculty. The tradespeople are making more substantive contributions. Time for faculty nationwide to break out their old T-squares, plumbs and levels and kiss classroom instruction goodbye....

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Friday, February 03, 2006

    The Dissertation Business

    The Dissertation Business

    A little background may be in order.  I left graduate school in the summer of 98.  I had completed all of my coursework, and had recently passed the written qualifying exams.  At my school the oral defense was little more than a drilling into your proposed topic by some faculty, upon which you took suggestions and wrote the big paper.

    At least I assume.  You see, by the time I passed the written exams, I was burnt out.  I had read for a year over each of their six lists (my PhD is to be in American Lit, but in order to pass I took a test over 6 different English periods—Old English, Renaissance, Victorian, Modern and Am. Lit I & II).  I skipped only the Restoration and Contemporary writers.  

    So I walked away, taking a consulting gig at 40k that put me on a plane to a large Southern town.  I was expensing travel, living in a large city and making, what I considered, decent money.  My fellow grad students were looking to start in the low thirties, if they could find a position.  One fellow, Sir Published A Bunch, applied to just shy of triple digit number of schools only to get no offers to interview.  Harsh.

    So, myself, with no publications, felt at ease with my decision.  ABD with a decent job, flying around the country delivering business training (ERP—SAP training, specifically), I didn't look back.

    At least for a while.  After the ERP slowdown of 2000 (remember the Y2K bug?), I was RIF-ed, but soon found another business teaching gig.  To supplement, and to keep my interesting in academic teaching alive, I started to adjunct.  

    I felt I had the best of both worlds: the business teaching salary with the academic teaching foot in the college classroom.  It sure sounded good in theory.

    Adjuncts don't get the best classes.  Without the PhD, I could count on a steady stream of into-writing courses or, with my growing business experience, some business and/or technical writing classes.  Even then, one college only grudgingly waived a requirement to have had a grad-level course in business writing in order to teach the freshman level course.  Experience was only marginally considered.  It turns out that they were two weeks before semester and needed someone fast.  

    So, I have spent the better part of this century scrapping from one institution to another, trying to fill in the adjunct courses as I could.  I have moved to three towns this century, and have hit colleges and universities in each.  I have also maintained an online adjunct presence.  All told I have taught at 8 institutions; have taught 23 different courses (some being variations of others); have taught 90 sections (the bulk in 6 week segments online).  
    Yet, each semester I worry that I will not receive a course, or that the courses will number too few to help pay the bills, or that I will not be asked back (adjunct positions float in and out of life for a multitude of reasons: enrollment, hiring practices or institution, whim of the chair, etc.).  

    My academic teaching has brought me no health insurance (even when teaching 5 courses for one on-ground site during a regular Fall semester), little to no recognition, and absolutely no sense of security.  

    This type of life is getting old.  Hence my blog.  

    I will let you know how things go.

    BTW, my dissertation outline (a requirement before they will allow me to petition to get back into the program) has been with my advisor over a week ago with no reply (not even to acknowledge receipt).  

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen