There have been some interesting conversations going on in the Twittersphere over the weekend, that’s for sure. It’s MLA weekend in Chicago, and the tweets on precarious labour and big conferencing have been particularly fascinating, because they question how much the tenured professoriate really cares to know about the struggles of the precariously employed. Here in New Brunswick, Canada, we are in countdown mode as we await a strike deadline at my home university (it expires at midnight tonight). I have felt particularly precarious in these negotiations, because even though I am in a full-time tenure-track position, I am on maternity leave this year and the effects of a labour action on that status have not been made entirely clear. In the midst of all of this, I have been catching up on old tweets about Faculty Orientations articles, and I found some feedback on Jacob Remes’s recent guest blog contribution “For Complaining: Three Anecdotes, and an Argument.” One tweeter (@imposterism) used the analogy of kvetching Ring Theory (see this article in the LA Times for a explanation of Ring Theory and for a useful graphic, which @imposterism references) to discuss the politics of tenure-track employees complaining. To quote @imposterism: “while relative privilege doesn’t erase value of complaints, it should perhaps determine their direction and aims.” Yes.
In 2014, one of my goals is to update this blog on a semi-regular basis (every week? Every two weeks? We’ll see how it goes). I’m starting here by outlining some topics that I hope to cover with the help of guest bloggers in the next few months.
Part of this effort will involve expanding our guest bloggers to include anonymous writers, so that we can try to cover some of these issues with greater honesty. Many people have approached me to say that they want to write something, but have said they are afraid to speak their truths online. I hope that this blog will provide these important voices with some writing space soon. (If you haven’t contacted me yet with an idea because you have been hesitating to put your name on something, I hope that you will take this as an open invitation!).
By Alison Toron
PhD, English, University of New Brunswick
Co-owner and co-operator of Nashwaak Noodles, Currieburg, New Brunswick
Among my closest friends, I am affectionately known as Dr. Noodle. This nickname represents the complicated tension that exists between my academic credentials and my employment situation: I successfully defended my PhD in Canadian literature in 2011, and I am currently self-employed as the co-owner and operator of a small business making and distributing fresh pasta. (I am also a new mom and a combatant with the MCAT, but more on that later.) My absence from academia is equal parts personal choice and the product of a dismal job market that offers so few full-time permanent academic positions that it’s almost laughable. My personal narrative of earning an advanced degree and then making a living that has little to do with said degree has led me to consider what it means to “use” one’s PhD, and more broadly, what this discourse reveals about our attitudes toward the general value of a graduate education.