I've been thinking about some of the post-academic blogs I've seen.
I'm supportive of people who choose to not go to grad school, leave grad school, leave academics after grad school, or leave academics at whatever time. I think folks should pursue their happiness in whatever way they want (with the respect for other people, golden rule sort of caveat).
That said, these blogs and the responses sound pretty angry. It makes sense that their angry. I get that. But I also feel like there's a lot of anger directed at folks like me: people who managed to get a tenure track job, and especially those who've gotten tenure (as I have). And I'm not sure I get that. Or maybe I'm just really uncomfortable with that.
I've been thinking, and I can see a lot of ways that people at PhD producing programs might be more helpful, especially by recognizing the value of non-academic work, by helping grad students prepare for a variety of potential jobs (or supporting a career center that will help with preparation), and by encouraging grad students and graduates to pursue what makes them happy. I also think that they might work to reduce the number of students accepted to graduate programs, though this isn't totally unproblematic. (see Note 1)
What about those of us at regional universities and colleges, or less than elite SLACs? What are people like me supposed to do to contribute to a solution or make things less abusive?
Yes, I think most of us advise students that grad school is no brass ring and so forth, and the students who really want to go to grad school want to go and do go, and I'm okay with that. They should do what they want as long as they have basic information about the toughness of the job market and such.
Someone might suggest that everyone in my department should take a pay cut and use the extra money to hire an adjunct to a tenure track position. But that's not realistic. (Note 2)
What about converting adjuncts to TT jobs?
We just don't have the money to fill the tenure lines we have open because no one would come for the money available, and the administration won't give us more because the legislature is making more cuts. Again.
I think we do a pretty good job hiring. We usually tenure folks we hire unless they take another job, which they sometimes do, since we're in flyover country, don't pay well, etc. But when we get 100+ applicantions for a position, and 50 of them are pretty much qualified, then that's still 49 people who won't have our job. (Though at least one candidate is likely to have turned us down in favor of another job, too.)
So I don't know what folks like me are supposed to do. But I do know that there are a lot of folks like me at non-PhD granting universities. And I think a lot of the anger is directed at everyone in a TT position, but it seems mis-aimed at those of us at non-PhD granting schools.
Note 1: In my grad department, if they'd reduced my incoming class from 28 to 20--if I recall the number correctly--, for example, they'd have probably done it by eliminating the opportunities those of us from non-elite undergrad backgrounds. There were maybe four of us from public universities, and I'm guessing only one would have been in. The other three, probably not. That includes me. I think grad programs should accept more, not fewer, students from non-elite undergrad programs. I'm clearly biased about this.
Note 2: My university has just done a couple levels of equity raises (this year) to try to staunch the bleed of faculty leaving for other jobs because it costs more to hire a brand new TT faculty member and convince them to come here than it does to keep an associate prof with tenure. (This is a place that hasn't had cost of living raises or any other raises apart from promotions for a long while, and that has had pay cuts already via benefit losses.) That is to say, my university can't always convince the candidates it wants to hire to come here for what we can offer. (And often enough, if a faculty member leaves, that tenure-line is empty for more than a year, and sometimes lost altogether.)