The article's an interview of Janie Crosmer by Audrey Williams June. Here's a short excerpt:
Q. What are the key things that contribute to faculty burnout?And then it goes on to suggest that we faculty folks should build better community:
A. Lack of time, poorly prepared students, cumbersome bureaucratic rules, high self expectations, unclear institutional expectations, and low salary. Research shows that the sources of stress have remained unchanged for 25 years. We know about the problem, but we're not doing anything about it.
Q. What one thing do you think would do the most to help reduce faculty burnout?Here's the problem: You see the causes she cites? Do you see anywhere in those causes a lack of community or colleagiality? No. I don't either. That conclusion has nothing to do with the findings she's discussed earlier. This is BAD scholarship or bad interviewing or something.
A. If departments would adopt collectivistic values. It's sometimes hard for professors to feel like they're in a community, a community where they can share the workload. If one faculty member is really busy working on getting a grant, for instance, maybe a colleague could step up and teach their classes. If faculty members didn't feel like they had to do it all, that they had someone within their community to turn to, I think that would help.
It's also sort of obvious (reading over notes: "sort of obvious" has to be the stupidest thing I've written in at least 15 minutes.) that the author hasn't actually worked long in academics. Who exactly is going to step in and pick up my upper level whatever class? One of the adjuncts who's got an MA but never actually taken a whatever class? And I've got a PhD, but I sure as heck am not going to whiz on in and pick up a colleague's class on modern film movements.
I'm pretty down about my state and all levels of our administration right now. I looked at the small claims court information, and it would cost me more to file than I'd see even if I won. So, one up for the administration, one down for me.
It's not like I'm going to do anything about it, either. I mean, I've fantasized about selling my property and moving, but for what there? (Though the idea of not turning in my letter of resignation until the day the contract period begins is juicy, I have to admit.) But, though it would cause a moment of glee for someone thinking about the MLA JIL, in reality, my department would just shrug and hire an adjunct for an extra section to teach my comp class and let the other classes go. We're already short four lines (if I recall correctly), so missing me wouldn't be more than a blip on the schedule radar. It would cause a bit of hassle to my chair, who's a decent enough person and tries hard to make things work for our department folks. Higher up, tt's not like the university is really all that worried about students in the humanities anyway. Yes, a few colleagues would miss me, but mostly my biking and dining buddies.
And the other, well, I can't see myself (or any of my colleagues) taking it out on anyone else. I mean, if I could kick the administrator in the 'nads and not get punished or thrown in jail, I probably still wouldn't, because I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer type, and not someone who advocates or threatens violence. And I'm sure as heck not going to take it out on a colleague or student, because being unethical and a jerk isn't how I want to be.
So I'm sitting here, thinking about Dorothy Parker's "Resume," and being all bummed. I have 24 minutes to rush out and buy a bottle of bourbon, but I know it wouldn't help, and I'd feel crappy in the morning. But I do have sugar. Thank dog for sugar. It's slow, but sure to work. Alas, it probably works in slow and excruciatingly painful ways that have to do with diabetes, gangrene, lost toes and such.
Back in the heady days of the early tech boom, one of my college pals was making a good salary, a really good salary. But he complained about the difficulty of never having time and working long, long hours. And he acknowledged that he really couldn't leave because of the golden handcuffs. I don't feel like mine are golden, but even brass is pretty much enough to hold me here.
I shouldn't feel as defeated and helpless as I do about all this, given that I have the proverbial good education and a job and I'm white and middle-class with all the advantages those bring. And yet, there it is. I'm sitting here feeling defeated and wishing I were just not.