Sunday, January 29, 2012


This morning, I'm thinking about my depression and anxiety in relation to my perma-temped job.

I am in my 13th year of teaching at Cow State Santa Claus as a temporary faculty member. I do not have the opportunity for tenure, and have very reasonable assurance that I will never have that opportunity. While the support for humanities education collapses, and while 75% of college faculty nationwide are similarly positioned, my PhD gets staler and staler, and I become more and more un-hirable as a starting assistant professor.

Among tenuous-track faculty (my gag name for those of us in perma-temped positions), CSU "lecturers" enjoy probably the best working conditions, wages, and benefits of anyone. What that does not do anything to resolve is the humiliation we're constantly subject to, and, for me, the added humiliation and despair over my status.

For instance, it is very hard to believe I am really worthy of a tenure-track job, despite having a longer and stronger publication record than several of my tenured colleagues. Psychologically, this is due to my position at the university being one in which I am constantly given that message on a daily basis.

I always worry. I am always concerned that this academic year could be my last, and that, given the landscape of faculty work opportunities, the last of my career. I have a very strong feeling of being temporary, of not being at home, of not being able to have a home, and of having nothing between me and the catastrophic loss of my employment, career, and what I am often rueful to regard as my life's calling.

What struck me particularly about this this morning is how difficult it is for me to sit down and read a book. I'm best at it around 9-10 am, sitting quietly in my work room at home in a blue armchair from Ikea (grad student furniture). But there's always something else I feel I should be doing, something that I have to do in order to try to save, or resurrect, my career. I cannot just sit there and read, not when tomorrow the university could begin disciplinary proceedings against me over a trumped-up charge, and nothing can stop them, because I don't have tenure.

(That's not a paranoid thought, by the way. I've seen it happen several times to temporary faculty, and as a faculty rights rep, I've had no way to do anything about it.)

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