February 06, 2004

My Crankiest Post Ever

Welcome (or welcome back) to this my personal weblog. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been thinking about taking an extended break from the blog. And if you've visited in the past few days, you will have noticed that I've decided against this kind of hiatus, at least for the moment.

So I'm back in business. Yay or nay, depending on how you view this blog (more on this below). But now I have to say that I'm already rethinking my decision to continue.

Basically, yesterday's brouhaha (see the comments to "Reduced Salary, Reduced Effort?") has left me feeling cranky. How cranky? Well, too cranky. I took a break and came back full of things to post, and right now I can't see my way to posting them. I'm just too darn cranky. I mean, I haven't felt this irritated since a certain exchange with a certain Department Chair, which was quite some time ago.

To add to my crankiness, I've just received an email from someone who seems to think I am responsible in some way for my readership, which readership this person seems to view in the light of a class of recalcitrant, and not especially promising, pupils. This person thinks I could be a voice for these unfortunates, and is concerned that I say the right things on their behalf. Said person also urges me to out myself, on the assumptions that a) this would be liberating; and b) if I had the courage of my convictions, I would stand up for them under my own name.

So yeah, now I really am "moaning" and "carping" and "whining." If you don't want to hear me carp, and moan and whine, please read no further. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars (note: if you do pass go, unfortunately you will not collect two hundred dollars, at least not from me).

Right then. You've been duly warned. Today I am seriously cranky.

What I want to do here is to say something about what I think this blog is all about.

This weblog has variously been described as "partly sad but true, part pitty party," as "an incredibly smart blog on academia," as the "ranting of an anonymous and bitter person" (this from a personal email, so no link), as "required reading for all doctoral students," as an expression of "a sense of structural victimization and perpetual self-pity," as one of the "top ten blogs deserving wider recognition," and etcetera and etcetera. In other words, responses are mixed. Some people like it, some people don't. That's only to be expected, and indeed, that's only how it should be. I can't please everyone, and I wouldn't want to please everyone even if I could.

So different people have different notions of what this blog is or isn't, of what I should or shouldn't cover, of what I must or mustn't say. Some people express dissatisfaction when I post about certain topics (politics, for example). Other people express dissatisfaction with my failure to post about certain other topics (community college teaching, for example). Again, that's to be expected, and pretty much how it should be.

What I want to say is this: This is my personal weblog.

I guess I could leave it at that -- but if I were someone who could simply leave things at that, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have a personal weblog.

When I first started the blog, I said that I wanted "to think of my own predicament, and that of countless others who are in my situation (ie, unemployed or underemployed PhDs), in relation to a range of broader problems and challenges both within and outside of the academy." I also wrote that I was looking for "a space that is somewhere between the level of the personal and the level of policy," and suggested that this blog was "my small, my very small, attempt at carving out a space that I otherwise do not find." In other words, I was hoping to do something that falls somewhere between a highly personal online journal and a highly impersonal website on academic employment (with pie charts and graphs and all kinds of stuff that's basically beyond my ken).

Well, okay, that's pretty much how I saw the blog when I began, and it's pretty much how I see the blog today. The main difference, I think, is that I've moved even further away from the personal than when I first started. I used to post the odd entry in what I call "me-zine mode," and this I no longer do.

I no longer do this because I now have readers. Many more readers than I ever expected to have. Which is a good thing, obviously, and just what I had hoped to acquire: after all, who the heck sends stuff into cyberspace for anyone and his dog to read without hoping that anyone if not his dog will indeed read it?

One of the things I've learned about launching one's observations into cyberspace is that it takes a thick skin. It's pretty much a given that sooner or later someone or other is going to take strong exception to something or other that you've said or to something or other that you've failed to say. And of course you can't control the responses that you elicit. You have to be prepared to be quoted and misquoted, cited and cited out of context, interpreted, overinterpreted, misinterpreted, and so on.

Well, that's the public sphere. And if you could control the responses you elicit, what would be the point of eliciting them? And if you don't want responses, and are not prepared to deal with them, why publish on the internet? Get yourself an old-fashioned diary, write your thoughts in private, and keep it under lock and key.

I'm fairly certain I don't want responses on anything too personal, which is why I no longer do me-zine mode. But what about all that other stuff that I post about regularly? I guess the question I'm really grappling with is: am I still prepared for the responses or am I ready to pack it in?

Now, what's irritating me, and what seems at the moment like so much noise that I don't want to hear is not disagreement and counterargument in relation to some argument or other that I happen to have made. I like to argue and debate. I want to hear and learn from other perspectives. I wouldn't want my posts to be greeted with a chorus of yays.

No, I'm talking about another type of response altogether: the kind of comment that seems to take issue with the very existence of this weblog. This type of comment generally combines wholesale dismissal of the site and its purpose with heavy-duty psychologizing about the motives of anyone who would run, and of anyone who would participate in, a site called Invisible Adjunct. That is, it basically says, you're posting on academic issues, and doing so as an adjunct, and therefore you must be doing X and you must be saying Y and you and your readers must by definition be Z. This type of comment is often accompanied by the complaint that "You shouldn't say X and do Y or be Z [never mind whether or not I really am doing X and saying Y and being Z], because I don't want to read X and I don't like it when people do Y and I don't like people to be Z."

Now, what I want to say to people who make this kind of comment is something like this: "Look, if you don't like what this blog has to offer, don't visit the blog. Don't touch that dial, don't click that link. I mean, you know, I didn't come to you, you came to me. And if the very existence of this weblog offends your sense of decency, you notions of propriety, your idea of what should and should not be, do yourself and me and my readers a favour and just stop visiting already." But then I do have to say to myself, "Look, given that this kind of response is inevitable, no matter what you say or how you say it, if you don't want or can't deal with this kind of response, then don't run a weblog and publish your stuff on the internet." If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. It cuts both ways, doesn't it?

So I'm going to go away again and think this over and basically discover what feels right.

Meanwhile, since you're here, and I'm not done, I want to take this opportunity to emphasize again that, at the end of the day, though I don't post much about my personal life, I do see this site as my personal weblog. I don't claim to speak for The Adjunct, or for any other adjunct but my own cranky self, though I obviously do try to provide a space in which adjunct faculty members can speak for themselves. I'm not affiliated in my capacity as Invisible Adjunct with any professional organization or institution, though of course I often link to and comment on the doings and sayings and goings-on at any number of academic organizations and institutions. I'm obviously not trying to compete with the Chronicle, and don't even pretend to offer comprehensive coverage of issues pertaining to academia. What I'm doing is offering my own observations on academia and on whatever else strikes my fancy, by myself, on my own, from the privacy of my own home.

Well, but not quite on my own, after all. I also want to say something that I've said before, which is that this blog's readers are a very important part of this blog. So much so that I would shut down the blog altogether before I'd close down the comments function. Without you I'm nothing, at least insofar as I'm Invisible Adjunct. That said, I hope it's clear that I don't pretend to speak for my readers (they don't need me to do that, they do a pretty good job of speaking for themselves), and that my readers do not speak for me.

Which brings me to another point, which is really just the same point yet again (well, hey, I warned you...). Here are just some of the things that I think this weblog isn't:

*It's not a leaving academia site. I don't claim to offer advice on how to get out (or on how to stay in, for that matter). If you are thinking about leaving the academy and are looking for practical, concrete advice on how to make the transition, I recommend WRK4US and Beyond Academe.

*It's not a pro-adjunct teaching site (that is, it's not a site that recommends adjunct teaching as a viable career path). I would have thought this was blatantly obvious, but some of the comments in yesterday's brouhaha indicate that it's not. If you are looking for such a site, I suggest (which is not to say recommend) Adjunctopia.

*By extension, it is also, of course, not a Horatio-Alger-for-Adjuncts site. If that's what you're after, you can visit Adjunct Solutions, where Jill Carroll offers entrepreneurial strategies aimed at "building careers, one class at a time."

*It's not a union hall, though I do sometimes post on adjunct unionization.

*It's not the official or quasi-official organ of any group or body whatsoever, and not an official publication in any way, shape, or form. As I've said before, when you visit this weblog, you're not exactly hobnobbing with the academic power structure. Despite my google warning, rest assured that most people in academia have never heard of or visited, and never will hear of or visit, this weblog.

Point being, there's no party line, no official strategy, no organizational impetus to be found at this site. This blog is not intended to help people launch themselves into rewarding postacademic careers or organize their fellow faculty members into a collective bargaining unit or achieve unheard-of success (fame, fortune, and a table at Balthazar) as adjunct-entrepreneurs. To put it another way, while I'm more than happy to debate and argue about anything I post on this site, I'm not going to take responsibility for things I haven't said and for things I not only don't do but don't even claim to be doing. Still less am I inclined to view myself as in any way responsible for my readers: not what they say at this site, and certainly not what they do with their lives.

Again, this is just my personal weblog, where I post my observations and encourage others to post their own comments and observations in response. It's a free and voluntary effort all around. I am free to post, you are free to read and comment, or to not read and not comment, as you see fit. Of course I am also free to not post, which is precisely the question I am considering.

Okay, this really is the crankiest thing I've ever posted, which may be an indication of how I should decide the matter of whether or not to continue. And it occurs to me that after posting this entry, I may lose so many readers that my dilemma will resolve itself without any further effort on my part :)

If you've come this far: thanks for reading, and sorry I can't give you two hundred dollars.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at February 6, 2004 10:30 AM

Well, I'd give YOU $200, if I could.

I like this blog. I decided against adjuncting forever, but I do understand the dilemma. There are conversations I had in academe that i simply do not get to have now. Yes, I have a job, yes, I get paid more than I likely would as even a TT faculty member, but I still miss those conversations. There are pros and cons to everything, and I could list a bunch on both sides of the equation.

That said, I value this space, even though I no longer live your life, because I understand the dilemma that you all face.

Posted by: carla at February 6, 2004 04:55 PM

Hey there, IA, as someone who contributed considerably to the brawl of these past few days, I want to apologize to you for this. It was not specifically the message of those two that irritated me, it was how they presented it and presented it and presented it...Of course, I responded and responded and responded. Had I not, they probably would have gone away, or at least posted less. So again, I apologize to you, and I certainly hope you don't go away. Your blog and the various discussions on the Chronicle of Higher constitute my reading about the state of academia. Your blog is much more interesting. My best wishes, and I hope you feel better soon.

Posted by: DM at February 6, 2004 04:59 PM

IA, I'm so sorry to read that your hard work on this blog has been ill-rewarded. I think the increasing adjunctification of teaching in the humanities is an important issue, and I've very much enjoyed reading what you and your commenters have had to say on the topic.

After reading the thread on the winner-take-all market for humanities professors, I see that a number of the issues raised by the department chair and JT are ones that I myself was discussing in the Reduced Salary, Reduced Effort thread (#85, #99, #106). I didn't realize that comparing the humanities market to the market for classical musicians was offensive, and I certainly did mean to offend. I appologize.

Even though I am interested in these issues, I am no longer an adjunct and I am not in the humanities, and my participation in the conversation is likely unwelcome. I will withdraw from further postings and appologize for any offense given.

Best of luck with the blog - it is quite excelent (thus your large readership) - and I hope you do not give it up.

Posted by: Matilde at February 6, 2004 05:08 PM

Matilde: it's very strange to see a reference to posts I made half a year ago. I have little recollection of them so rereading them was an interesting yet weird experience. I'm an ex-musician myself and I think the winner-take-all analogy and the comparison you made between academia and highly competitive artistic careers is completely valid. The differences in details between academia and the arts doesn't eliminate the basic similarity between the two endeavors. Exactitude is not always the friend of truth.

IA: Keep up the good work. I am sorry you are being assaulted by ungenerous angry people. I think you are very reasonable and your weblog is highly worthwhile -- even necessary. Have a nice weekend.

Posted by: JT at February 6, 2004 05:22 PM

I find the discussions on this blog to be very interesting. I'm not an adjunct or in the humanities. I'm a tenure track associate prof in (interdisciplinary) economics.

I face some of the same issues myself - I am still looking for a job that will put me closer to my partner/girlfriend on the other side of the country. Tenure review is coming very fast and I only have a temporary visa in this country.

Also I face these issues in thinking about my teaching, advising and admitting grad students etc.

If I my experiences can help anyone else that would be great too.

Compared to finance websites that I used to frequent I didn't see much acrimony of any sort on this site, just rather a lot of posts in the last couple of days.


Posted by: moom at February 6, 2004 05:32 PM

Like Matilde, I am not an adjunct. From IA's post, I take it that my participation on this site is not entirely welcome. I too will withdraw from further postings and apologize for any offense.

This blog--and the undisguised hostility directed toward Red Baron and Red Baron Fan--does resemble academia as a whole: if you don't agree with someone, call names, pound tables, and try to cut off debate. It's amazing to me how uncomfortable many academics are with people who question their views.

It's really too bad that the most intellectually homogenous places in the U.S. today are university faculty lounges.

Posted by: Bemused Observer at February 6, 2004 05:44 PM

A very valuable weblog. I'm sure that it is an emotional strain to maintain an active comments function, and I appreciate your doing it.

Posted by: David Foster at February 6, 2004 05:47 PM

IA: Yay. So there.

Matilde: As one who responded to your remarks, I want underscore the fact that I never took offense at your remarks. To my reading eye, the way you phrased your comparisons led me to infer that you were not speaking contemptuously, or with disdain, but rather that you were (are) somehwat new to considering these thorny issues, and were simply trying to find your way into the discourse by making certain comparisons. Yes, I disagree with the comparisons, but I in no way was offended by them, which is why I tried to respond in kind -- i.e., nicely. By contrast, last Summer (or whenever it was) I was deeply offended by Dept. Chair. But if you take a look at D.C's comments it's very clear that his/her tone was of an entirely different kind than yours.

I for one hope you do not absent yourself from these discussions.

Posted by: Chris at February 6, 2004 05:56 PM

I wish this Weblog had existed when I was an undergraduate considering grad school, or, if not then, when I was struggling to deal with the various traumas of being a grad student, an adjunct, and a job candidate. It would have been a good source of frank information and a chance to recognize that I was not the only one going through the worst time of my life.

InvisibleAdjunct is part of a larger movement to transform thousands of isolated and self-accusing individuals into a real force for change.

Now that I'm on the tenure track, I am still glad this site exists and hope it will exist in the future. I encourage all of my students who are considering grad school to read it. Far from deserving censure or criticism, InvisibleAdjunct is the best of a small number of places where people in academy can talk about what is really happening to us and what we can do about it. IMHO, this site and its host represent everything that's good (note the lack of scare quotes) in academic culture. May it last longer than PMLA!

Posted by: THB at February 6, 2004 06:03 PM

Curious time for this post, IA. I have been mulling a not-dissimilar one, because I too feel that what I've said and what I am relative to academia have been pretty systematically distorted, when not totally ignored. Oh, or attacked. Lots of attacks, oh, yes.

And not from evil people, not from stupid people -- from decent folks, on the whole, trying to do the right thing. That's the worst part, that and the unnecessary self-questioning it gives rise to.

("Oh," I said to myself yesterday, rereading a lot of my own writing. "You know, I never said [what I'd been told I said]. Huh.")

Your blog has taught me a great deal, shined a flashlight into dark corners I didn't know about. Whenever I come here, I leave grateful to be on the path I'm on. Thank you. I'm glad you did this. I hope you keep doing it.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at February 6, 2004 06:23 PM

Hi IA -- I, too, apologize if I have caused offense to you, because I love the site. Oddly enought, what you say above about what you think the site isn't is what I understood it to (not) be. I think that the vast majority of threads are in fact very collegial and helpful, with most participants offering solid advice and commentary, often from their own experiences. I know that Bemused Observer things that there is some kind of siege mentality, but this is the first time I've seen it -- but this is the first time contributors seem to have a real jones for denigrating people who are willing to work as adjuncts (and academia in general), despite the inherent crappines of the situation.

Perhaps those people should read back through some of the other postings before dispensing their disapproval wholesale. Me, I'm glad you're here, and tell my students to come and read you because I don't want to discourage or encourage them per se -- but I do want them to go into the humanities with eyes wide open.

For the naysayers -- Remember, we all live with our experiences and decisions. I've made good ones and bad ones, but have never regretted getting the PhD and all of the things that too much time in grad school brought me (study and life abroad, knowing some truly great people, moving house between states and countries, a marriage, a child, work in high tech and a return to academe). Even if I stopped teaching tomorrow, grad school honed my thought processes, taught me to research and write, broadened my outlook on life in general. My train is going somewhere, because every bit of scenery along the way helps to make me who I am, and I happen to like that person.

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at February 6, 2004 06:50 PM

"From IA's post, I take it that my participation on this site is not entirely welcome."

You are quite right to conclude that you are no longer welcome on this site. Not for anything you've posted as Bemused Observer, and not for anything you've posted as the Red Baron, but rather for having posted first as the one and then, in support of that one, as the other. Sorry, but that's too troll-like for me. I'm banning your IP address (that would be the one IP address that is associated with both Red Baron and Bemused Observer).

If Mary Rosh turns up to defend the "research" of John Lott, my day is complete.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 6, 2004 07:50 PM

IA -- just wanted to express my support of you and your site. Both were there for me when I was in a really rough part of my life, and I'm grateful. Not that any validation is needed, but I think you have every right to be cranky!

Here's hoping that you have less cause for crankiness in the future!

Posted by: Rana at February 6, 2004 08:01 PM

Hey, folks, speaking of Cranky, I thought I'd mention that it's the Cranky Professor's birthday!

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at February 6, 2004 08:07 PM

May I just post, in defense of my fellow academics, that we are no more and no less able to handle criticism of our views than most people in this world and that our behavior really is not that abnormal.

Take care IA. I hope you stay and I look forward to many more fruitful and fascinating discussions, along with some serious and enjoyable references to the Simpsons.

Posted by: DM at February 6, 2004 08:29 PM

Because I don't want anyone to misconstrue anything I write, I prefer to read rather than post. I think this site is very informative and hope it continues, but if not, I understand!

Posted by: Anna at February 6, 2004 09:00 PM

Whoops, I'd better catch up on reading your comments threads. Generic comment is of course never mind the bollocks, but since I'm in a doubtful mood myself about my own blog in response to some emails and side comments lately, I'm hardly one to preach staying the course no matter what. But...stay the course. It's a good blog, not because of some *function* it serves, or duty, but just because...it's good. Simple.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at February 6, 2004 09:31 PM

well, well, well. "bemused" & the "baron" --
one and the same. who'd of thunk it. thanks.
you're doing a good thing here like everybody sez.
vive l'adjunct invisible!

Posted by: vlorbik at February 6, 2004 09:50 PM

You think that's cranky? Ha! Go read D*ve W*ner if you want cranky!

Seriously, I'm sorry you've been getting undeserved flak. Some people will never understand what a blog (as opposed to an official site of some organization) is, and some people will never learn to play well with others. Try to remember that you have the support and admiration of the vast majority of your readers, and let the idiocy roll off your back. Like Timothy Burke said, your writing is good. Make that good. I hope you stick with it.

Posted by: language hat at February 6, 2004 09:56 PM

One thing about this site is especially significant to me: Through IA, tons of adjuncts are now communicating with each other rather than muddling through each semester in isolation. My first reaction to finding this site several months ago was, "Wow, here are people like me! Kindred spirits!" Then, as I read the posts and participated in the comments, my reaction developed into, "Hmm, these folks aren't all like me; they have a wide range of opinions, some of which I've never considered before now." The opinions, questions, and experiences of people like Chris, ADM, and several others have helped me put my own experiences into perspective, and I'm grateful for that.

Posted by: J.V.C. at February 6, 2004 10:21 PM

I wish this Weblog had existed when I was an undergraduate considering grad school, or, if not then, when I was struggling to deal with the various traumas of being a grad student, an adjunct, and a job candidate.

I'm glad this weblog exists now, and existed this summer and last fall when I was considering grad school, and I'm not considering it very seriously at all now, or if I do go, I want to be sure I can find some other career. Thanks for writing, and I hope you keep it up. I value this blog highly.

Posted by: PF at February 6, 2004 10:25 PM


I love your site. It's smart, thoughtful, and as I have said to you before, a model of temperate even-handedness. I read your site every day, and I learn from you and your readers constantly. I do understand the sinking feeling one gets when trolls decide to live in your comments section (which I see as the virtual equivalent of a guest crapping on your living room floor) and when people write you privately to chew you out for saying things you have not said or even for believing things you don't happen to believe. Both are, I think, inevitable side effects of writing a blog that is larger than a me-zine, and that aims to perform a genuine public service in a consistent and sustained way. The trolls start to see you as big game; some readers begin to think of you as someone who somehow owes them (a particular viewpoint, or a certain volume of coverage, or whatever).

Meanwhile, the blog stops being an intellectually invigorating release and becomes an emotional burden. You know something has to change when you both feel that you can't take any time away from the blog (because god knows who might post what in the comments while you are away) and you dread putting time into the blog (because, again, god knows what someone might do with the next controversial issue you take up). It got so bad on my blog last spring that I thought seriously about closing down the whole site. I decided to try disabling comments first, and I was amazed by the wonders that worked. My feeling that Critical Mass belonged to me returned; my willingness to take on tougher issues was restored; and my sense of mission--and of joy in that mission--also returned. I still get trolled (you haven't lived until someone starts a stalker site in your honor), but at least I'm no longer hosting the trolling and buying the bandwidth for it.

I know that comments are an integral part of Invisible Adjunct. But you could experiment with a more mediated commenting system--say, one where you post comments yourself after readers send their comments to you via email--and see how that goes. I find that people tend to be more civil, and to choose their words more carefully, when they are addressing you personally in an email than when they are just slugging it out with one another more or less anonymously in the comments section. There's also Movable Type 3.0 (still several months away from launch) that will allow you to compel commenters to register with you before they can comment. All food for thought.

I'll miss you if you retire. But I will also understand.

Posted by: Erin O'Connor at February 6, 2004 10:26 PM

I like this blog, and I appreciate the effort that goes into it. But since you mentioned taking a break, and since it makes you cranky, I think it might be best to take it off-line (or whatever you do with these things - I have no technical expertise) for a while. I recommend this as a veteran of a grad student unionization war (still not over) where reasonable people on both sides expended vast amounts of energy trying to keep the rabid people on both sides from dominating the discussion, while still trying to keep up a civil debate.

While unionization and all of the other things discussed here are important issues, it's too easy for them to become what the profession is *about* for you. At least this is true for me. Instead of talking to people about the book you read in your field or the writing you're doing, you endlessly debate how to restructure the system. (I keep resolving to stop reading blogs on academia, unionization, etc., or at least not to turn to the Chronicle first thing every morning, but it's a hard habit to kick.)

Joseph Conrad said, "One can't live with one's finger everlastingly on one's pulse." I think that's what we do sometimes in places like these, helpful as they are. If it works for you, IA, go for it. But if it makes you cranky, take a break. Best wishes either way -

Posted by: af at February 6, 2004 11:37 PM

IA, I'm very sorry about all the recent events that have made you cranky. But your crankiness won't drive away this reader. Yours was one of the first blogs I found when I was trying to figure out whether the doubts I was having about academia were well-founded or if I should ignore them. When I started reading this blog, I was in the same boat as quite a few of the previous posters: isolated and unsure whether I could talk about my misgivings with anyone. You've helped change that. Thank you.

There's a lot of pressure, at least within academia itself, to ignore the increasing gap between tenured and nontenured faculty. To my mind, anyone who makes it harder to ignore the situation is doing an important service. If people insist on calling that "carping and moaning," they're missing the point. (But I'm sorry you have to deal with comments like that, all the same!)

Posted by: Amanda at February 6, 2004 11:51 PM

For what it's worth, your blog does good things in the world. I like all the perspectives out there, and feel this keeps me grounded in the reality of the profession when I might otherwise slip off into a tempting idealism.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at February 6, 2004 11:54 PM

Invisible Adjunct is one of my favorite blogs. It's good, even when it's cranky. Maybe it's even better when it's cranky. As a fellow blogger, I am reminded that IA, Tim Burke, Erin O'Conner, Brian Ulrich, and others are just enormously generous with their time and thought. Trolls of the world, find something else to do, would ya?!

Posted by: Ralph E. Luker at February 7, 2004 01:14 AM

Outstanding blog. I really hope you keep it up. It's a wonderful resource for me--the discussion on the community college thread (thanks again, ADM) was some the most useful I've seen on that issue. I really hope you keep it up.

Posted by: DJW at February 7, 2004 03:03 AM

Yes, it is your personal blog and if people don't like it they don't have to read it.

Posted by: Duckling at February 7, 2004 05:32 AM

I too would be very sad to see IA go - you are a splendid writer with a genial, tolerant disposition. There are very few of those about, you know. But the protection of your own happiness is much more important than the maintenance of even a great website like IA.

Posted by: chantal at February 7, 2004 05:51 AM

IA -

You've done a great job, and your blog has helped build a sense of community among many people - often in difficult and isolating circumstances. I would love to see you continue, but like so many other readers, I can understand if you've had enough.

All the best!

Posted by: better left nameless at February 7, 2004 08:47 AM


It's so totally your blog and it's so totally your life, and you can take 'em both back if you want to.

But the grace of your commentary and the oomph of the community here (despite the occasional exceptions) are deeply inspirational. I'm not an adjunct, and I'm not a humanist. But I'm at a stage where I'm thinking a lot about why I'm doing the work I'm doing and whether I'm at a good place to be doing it. I've learned a lot here, from you, from your links, and from your commenters.

And I hope you keep going.

Posted by: Emma Jane at February 7, 2004 09:59 AM

Dear IA

I was going to send you an e-mail, but thought my criticism would be better put in public.

First, this blog is an intensely valuable viewpoint and perspective.

Second, if it is too much of an emotional burden, you need to protect your health first, and you can always let the archives take up the slack for a while or a long while.

Third, if you were to put up a paypal button (you can solicit paypal donations), I'd use it. Maybe only send you enough for a movie ticket, but I'd use it just to encourage you.

Finally, God bless you.

Hope you can tell I think well of you, of how and what you write, of your decision to protect your privacy and your chances at a future in academia. I've a friend who is just the agent for an author who wrote a couple critical books and he gets enough flack that I almost turned down the chance to be an outside editor on the latest edition. If I had any hope at an academic career I probably would have.

Take good care of yourself. Many of us cherish you, in our own ways, and wish you well.



Posted by: Steve at February 7, 2004 11:04 AM

Up until your hiatus, I had been checking your site daily for a couple months. It has led me to some serious critical reflection about my own ambitions and the likelihood that I will achieve them. It has also exposed me to the most consistently intelligent and collegial (seeming at least) community of commenters I have ever seen on a website.

In terms of advocacy of the adjunct "cause," your archives certainly provide more than enough material to give people advice and indicate directions reforms might take -- your contribution on this front is already huge, and stopping now would by no means diminish it. I would be sad to see this site go more for the sake of the ongoing discussion it prompts in the comment section, which has sadly become a problem in recent days.

Running a high-profile blog, complete with trolls, seems to be a vastly different game from running a personal blog with occasional commenters. If your site has not yet crossed into the former category, then it is clearly on its way. If you do not wish to run such a site, that is completely understandable. If you do decide that you are up to the challenge of running such a site, then including a paypal link and some advertising would be more than appropriate.

Whether new material keeps coming out on this site or not, I will certainly continue visiting, just to browse through the archives.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at February 7, 2004 02:02 PM

Bemused Observer says:

"This blog--and the undisguised hostility directed toward Red Baron and Red Baron Fan--does resemble academia as a whole: if you don't agree with someone, call names, pound tables, and try to cut off debate. It's amazing to me how uncomfortable many academics are with people who question their views."

Stuff like that happens more outside of academia. I came here from mostly-political sites, and the level of hostility there is greater than here. The political angle doesn't matter -- left, right or center.

My own opinion, in fact, is that liberals with their genteel academic pretensions are far too slow to write people off. I have always found "go piss up a rope" and "fuck off and die" to be useful phrases for ending pointless discussions. Some discussions are fruitless because a.) there's not enough common ground, b.) the question is really rationally undecidable, as many real-world questions are, c.) one party is arguing in bad faith (or both), or d.) personal animosity becomes a factor. Gameplayers will try to make you the bad guy by baiting you into ending the supposedly rational debate, but screw 'em.

The substantive issue seems to be whether the problems discussed here are public problems or personal problems. This comes up all the time in policy debates, and people who claim that their personal problem is also a public problem are always called whiners. Red Baron seems to be one of those (common everywhere on the net) who believes that if you avoid direct insults, and profanity, people are wrong to react to your tone of veiled contempt. I'm sure he thinks that this is a kind of toughlove, but toughlove can mask other things.

Hope you stay on.

Elsewhere people have espoused the "living-room" model. If there's someone in your living room whose company you don't enjoy, you can escort them out. **You don't have to be right!** If Jesus starts to annoy you, ask him to leave. If you don't enjoy opera, ask Pavarotti to shut the fuck up.

This isn't Canada, you know.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 7, 2004 02:07 PM

Add my voice to the chorus encouraging you to keep going. As cranky posts go, yours was pretty temperate. I sure hope that neither you nor Dorothea Salo nor Timothy Burke are driven from the Habermasian Public Sphere because of trolls or simple misunderstandings. Yours is certainly one of the premier academic blogs. (With due apologies to some of the contributors here) I can't think of any existing blog that could occupy your niche in the blogosphere.

Are you a baseball fan? Your complaints remind me of the baseball analyst Bill James' valedictory when he shut down his Baseball Abstract in 1988. If you know and admire his work, a reading of that piece "Breaking the Wand" (in the Abstract) might buck up your spirits some. He's far crankier than you are, but lays out some of the issues of unanticipated success in authorship, audience, and community.

And so now let's see if this gets hijacked into a baseball thread...

Posted by: jct at February 7, 2004 02:26 PM

Thank you for giving another viewpoint. It is very important that we see the pitfalls of what choices we make before we make them, despite cultural insistence to the contrary. I'd rather have an hopeful grad student read here and get a big dose of undiluted truth when the future can still be changed, rather than shuffled down that road with nothing but the ignorant voices of career consuelers...

Posted by: Shannon at February 7, 2004 02:45 PM

I certainly have learned a lot from this blog and its comments section, and I think it's great that you don't call anyone who disagrees with you a "troll" in the time-honored internet manner (vide supra). I relish the lack of groupthink here, and I'd love to hear more about this email you received.

Furthermore, I think much more can be learned from your site about academic sociology than from the Chronicle.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 7, 2004 03:25 PM

Allow me to join the choir: this is a great blog you have here IA,, and I hope it continues, in whatever form you think best. (Ditto for you Timothy Burke!) Beyond that, maybe the best I can do is include here something I once wrote about this blog on my own:

"Speaking of academia, of course I read Invisible Adjunct. There is no other blog dedicated to academic matters that I read as regularly as I read hers. Why? Because she's can think and write about the nonsense of the academic--and the non-academic--world with both a sharp theoretical knife and grounded, humane common sense: a rare combination. She's the best example I can think of an academic who is really working through their vocation, with humor and curiosity and strong opinions. Also she's Canadian, which is almost always a plus."

Posted by: Russell Arben Fox at February 7, 2004 04:49 PM

I feel like such a Drama Queen :)

I'm feeling less cranky today, and a little bit embarrassed, both by the post (though I don't regret it) and by the expressions of support (which I also greatly appreciate).

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 7, 2004 05:52 PM

I read IA because it's a nice view of the road I didn't take. I graduated cum laude, got a Phi Beta Kappa key, scored 670 math, 780 verbal, 800 analytical on the GRE, and seriously considered going to graduate school in English literature. At the last minute, I decided I was not suited to attending graduate school and instead of doing that, I started a small ISP, a business which has been keeping a roof over my head lo these past seven years.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had gone to graduate school... so I read IA.

Posted by: teep at February 7, 2004 05:55 PM

Let me add one more group who benefits from not only your postings, but the discussion: those evil tenured faculty members who are actually making decisions about adjuncts (that would include me). I have learned a great deal from you (and Laura at Apt 11D), and it has changed my views. As my thesis advisor said, in dedicating one of his books to three of his elementary school teachers: a teacher never knows how far and deep their reach is (or something like that).

Posted by: rzg at February 7, 2004 06:31 PM


Wishing you well from afar. Heard a good put down today at a business meeting: "Cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it." Everyone laughed. Made me as cranky as you are. Been in business 22 years, and I still miss the world of academics. The two realms do "question" each other, question the very foundations of the other's decorum. You can't keep the "Successful Jerks" out of your comment section, but you can at least keep them out of your personal life. Don't out yourself.

When you join the world of business, if some day you must, join it under your "Real Name," but keep your real self for better work. I am half-hoping your enter "Jerk World," as an apprentice Jerk and work your way up to "Jerk in Charge," but that you do it without giving up any of your deeper insights. Twenty two years of wrestling with this identity issue and I can tell you, it never gets easy. You can be an intellectual of sorts in Jerk World, but you had better keep it to yourself. We bow to the Jerks in Charge, as the Greek Slave to a Roman Centurion, but we do not yield. Your true identity is not only none of the Centurion's business, he also has no way of understanding it. You couldn't convey it to him if you tried, Baptismal Certificate in hand. Stand in front of him, in propria persona, describing yourself in the most accurate terms, and you will still be invisible. "IA" bodies forth the reality. "Live in truth" - and wear a mask.

Posted by: The Happy Tutor at February 7, 2004 07:01 PM

Good Lordy! I step away from the computer for a couple of days, and I find that someone's been messing with my girl! Who's been messing with the IA? Whose ass do I have to kick?

Listen, IA. We love your blog. It has been a great place for me to come and vent, to discuss options, and often to have a good laugh.

You have no obligations to stick around. It's not like anyone is paying you for this. But I would be rather bummed out if you closed up shop. And somebody is going to get a serious ass kicking if that happens.

Posted by: Laura at February 7, 2004 07:58 PM

*grabs mace and chain, stands beside Laura looking for anti-IA ass to kick*

Posted by: language hat at February 8, 2004 12:51 PM

Fun place! What with drama queens and people with maces and chains.

But seriously, here's another 'don't leave' vote. (Unless you really want to of course. What I mean is, here's a vote for hoping you decide on the whole taking the good with the bad and despite all the tsuris, you want to stay.)

Posted by: Ophelia Benson at February 8, 2004 03:09 PM

As someone who lurks here regularly I must say that I find these discussions INVALUABLE. EVERY SINGLE person that I've run into that considers grad school is and will be steered to this site and others like it.

Blogging doesnt have to be either/or....u could cut back on blogging instead of quitting altogether. Either way good luck and THANK YOU for this wonderful blog-as many have said before, its an important thing that you do here.

Posted by: Geographyboi at February 8, 2004 06:02 PM

That was cranky? Maybe a little repetitious ....

Your blog is interesting, informative, and civil. You set a good example for the commenters, most of whom are also iic. I'm sorry for those "who crap on the living room floor."

Just remember, "If you stop blogging, the terrorists will have won."

(Actually, if stopping would be best for you, do it. It's your blog and your life. But I'd miss it. And academia would be poorer.)

Posted by: Roger Sweeny at February 9, 2004 11:13 AM

Don't worry, Honey Child. We love you.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 9, 2004 11:48 AM

I'd like to expand on zizka/emerson's comments above: I think "cranky" is a grossly undervalued mood and mode. Dispassion is great for some things -- I strive for it myself most of the time -- but sometimes it just isn't appropriate. There are things in the world that are just *wrong* (OK, there may be different perspectives on what those are, but I don't care right now) and people who perpetrate those unnecessary injuries, and there's nothing wrong with feeling and expressing that.

It's harder when it's directed at you, particularly incorrectly, but there's a great need for insightful and sustained cranky commentary in the world.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at February 9, 2004 03:29 PM

I have enjoyed your work, IA. What concrete steps can we, your nice readers, do to make your work less aggravating?

Posted by: Sumana at February 9, 2004 10:36 PM

IA, I love you! I'll understand if you decide to take some time off, but please don't leave forever. You've given me (prospective grad student, here) an eye-opening look at the academe machine, grimy bits and all, and I don't think you've ever been anything but reasonable in presenting your point of view. Seriously, I'm very grateful for your site. (And still considering grad school -- maybe I'm just a lost cause.) Thanks for keeping it up.

Posted by: sanarae at February 10, 2004 04:39 PM

Thank you for writing and maintaining this weblog. It offers an informed perspective on issues I don't hear much about in my daily life as a doctoral student, and issues I want to know more about. The resulting discussion is pretty impressive too.

Posted by: S. Worthen at February 11, 2004 10:39 PM

Yup. Another happy lurker here, just wanting to cheer you up (and on).

Posted by: polychrome at February 12, 2004 01:10 PM