About Me

Find out more about me here.

17 January 2013


This recent article has caused quite the stir among academics and has launched countless rebuttals, including this one. I want to go on record as saying that my job is not very stressful. Sure, there are moments--typically predictable--that are more stressful than others (e.g. end-of-semester grading), but by and large, I am privileged to experience a lot less stress than most people. Let me point to a few reasons why I think this is. First, my job is incredibly flexible. Some have incorrectly stated that professors get lots of vacation time. I don't get summers off. For some stupid reason, my employer only pays me 10 months of the year, but I get year-round benefits, am salaried, and am generally expected to be productive during the summer months, even if I am not teaching. In fact, working at a teaching college, summers are my only real time to get research done, research being one of the three criteria by which I am evaluated. All said, though, summers--while not partytime--are mine to determine. Even beyond that, my school year is flexible. For example, I live about 70 miles from campus and only commute three days a week for classes and office hours, working two days a week from home. That's certainly not the same as getting two additional days off every week, but I do have unprecedented discretion with my time.

Even more than that, though, the job prestige enjoyed by professors affords us a class privilege that can mitigate what stress we do experience. Regardless of pay, the autonomy, interpersonal valuation, and, by definition, over-education of professors places us and our families in the upper class. It is similar for most physicians and attorneys. If you are a professor who claims to be middle class, you are deluding yourself.

Let me end with a note on personal ambition. Many, possibly most, professors have a lot of career ambition. We are socialized to be so. Ambition is the self-imposition of stress. Moreover, the valuing of such ambition is uniquely American. It's not enough just to do one's job successfully; one is supposed to give "110%." The hegemony of overwork--even among those who study such things and should know better--is taxing. I will be the first to admit that I actively avoid such stresses. I have done enough to be on track for tenure but am careful to avoid stretching myself too thin. Many would classify that as a "mediocre" mindset (though, I would dispute that). Even that word, however, becomes evidence of my point. "Mediocre" has not always carried a negative connotation. It originally just mean "ordinary" or "in the middle." By definition, most of us cannot be extraordinary. I, for one, am content to do my job well and be done with it. If you judge that poorly, that says more about you and our Protestant ethic than it does about me. I am happy to be happy now instead of delaying happiness for the unguaranteed prospect of increased happiness in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment