Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Onus

The onus is on me, of course. It's very powerful to claim the right, and the ability, to say no. Yet, with power comes responsibility. It's far easier when circumstance decides for us. Now the onus is on me to decide whether to remain at Lemon for another semester, or walk away from the long commutes, and excessive time commitment (excessive in comparison to the rewards).

My friend, Sara Chaisano, who was the impetus for getting me hired there has made several attempts this past week to keep me on board. Her latest is to authorize me to hold only one office hour (rather than two), "given that we just aren't providing you with the space you need to have them at times when you can be there." Part of the issue of my commute is the necessity to travel during peak traffic, or rather, the desire to avoid traffic, and the train/bus schedules available to me. I'd prefer to take the train than drive, but the schedules require 4-5 hours of traveling per day, and at times permit me little leeway, if one leg of the journey is delayed (meaning I might miss a connection entirely).

If I skip a morning office hour, that allows me to leave at 11:30, rather than 7:00 on Tuesdays. I could make myself available to meet with students after class on Tu & Th for say 45 minutes each, allowing me to hit the road around 3:00. If I drive rather than take the train, I might get home by 4:00-4:30 on those days. Currently, I leave the house before 7:00 on Tuesdays, and get home after 6:30 at night. Wednesdays will still be hectic, with me heading down around 3:00, and getting home around 11:00.

So, that would mean a time commitment of about 16 hours just getting there and back, and teaching. Think of this, with somewhere north of 70 students, if I spend 5-10 minutes a week on average grading for each student, that's about 6-12 hours more, plus what 2-3 hours of prep/week minimum (say 24-30 hours/week). My contract reads: "it is anticipated that Faculty Member shall work no more than sixteen to eighteen hours per week." HA! For those following along at home, that comes to under $20/hour, with no benefits, and no job security.

But, I enjoy teaching. I really do! And having a letterhead, and some colleagues who think the world of me (especially ones willing to write those glowing letters of recommendation), and sure the extra cash won't hurt, even if it's much less than I think I'm worth... maybe it's worth it. Mind you, I haven't decided yet. Will this year prove the one I get offered multiple faculty gigs? Do I even still want that?

I'm not walking away from my entrepreneurial efforts. I'm not going to put aside the research that fires me, that excites me, that I believe will prove not only commercially successful, but more important meaningful and beneficial for society at large. Can I continue to do that with a faculty gig? Not really a relevant question at this point, because I've spent three years for the opportunity to work adjunct, part-time, temporarily, hours from home and my family, without an office, or benefits, for a measly $20/hour! Is there any hope left that one of these schools I'm applying to will take me for what I've got to offer?

There's no telling. I made a commitment that this was the year I'd stop waiting. I have stopped waiting. I've stopped holding my breath. I've ended my depression. I've moved ahead on independent research, motivated by my passions, not by my reading of what may or may not benefit my eventual bid for tenure. Yet that glimmer of hope remains. There is that side of me that still loves the academy, that wishes to be a welcomed participant.

And so, I remain, one foot in/one foot out.

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