With Invisible Adjunct's announcement today that she is leaving the history profession and closing down her website, the blogosphere and the history profession are sadder and lonelier places. Ophelia and Jonathan have said it in comments to Michael's post here. In comments at Invisible Adjunct, Ophelia, Tim, Jonathan, Oscar, dozens of her other friends and I have said it. Read the parting notices at Butterflies and Wheels, Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass, Crooked Timber, and Tim Burke's"You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone". (See also: Akma's Random Thoughts, Apt. 11D, Barely Tenured, Blue, Brian's Study Breaks, Cyanograph, Donut Age [24 March 2004], Epistemographer, FutureStep, hem/mungen, Lord Sutch, Modulator, Ogged at Unfogged, Outside the Beltway, Pharyngula, Planned Obsolescence, PoliBlog, Relevant History, Rhetorica, Rhosgobel, The Salt Box, Scribbling Woman, Sappho's Breathing, Wealth Bondage, and WeeklyPundit.) Collectively, they are a remarkable tribute to a very bright, engaging, and many talented young historian who created and fostered an important virtual community. I intend to take up with the g_ds and g_ddesses of the history profession their failure to find a safe harbor for her among us.
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Rana Ravens - 3/29/2004
There are two additional component to add to the mix -- one is to make the exisiting adjunct positions viable career goals (decent salary, some degree of permanence, health benefits, etc.) and the second is to open up the opportunities for trained historians outside of academe.
I do think it's important for academia for figure out ways to retain and increase its cohort of working professional historians, but for the _historians_ themselves there also needs to be greater effort to find them places to practice their craft, _both_ inside and outside the academy.
Derek Charles Catsam - 3/26/2004
Of course I agree. I guess I am just not convinced that enough historians can even get out of their own way, never mind institute change. Plus, am not certain enrollment alone is enough to make many admins hire more faculty -- after all, apparently demand IS high enough for a huge adjunct rate. One problem -- regular faculty too often won't stand up for out part time brethren (pardon the gendered language.) and so the most logical force for change -- the facy=ulty itself -- are too self absorbed.
In any case, obviously we agree here.
Ralph E. Luker - 3/26/2004
I think you said it, Jonathan. Amen.
Jonathan Dresner - 3/25/2004
Actually, Derek, there's an easy and obvious solution: promote greater consumption. We need to be making the argument constantly and vigorously for the expansion of history departments, for the conversion of adjunct positions to tenure-track positions (across the academy, but for some reason it seems to be particularly pervasive in the social sciences and English), for the value of history as a discipline for majors and for the centrality of historical background to the general education of all college students. We need to oppose the continuing dominance of social studies over history in secondary education, and promote the study of pedagogy as well as historiography in graduate school.
Mostly, though, we need to be expanding our departments: growing enrollments, majors, minors; expanding our presence in university committees, pushing for grants, for interdisciplinary programs to include history components; making public engagement a part of our mission so that the broader community is aware of (and thinks well of) the university historians.
Granted, many of us are doing those things already, and we're swimming uphill, but it's really the only way to solve this problem long-term.
Derek Charles Catsam - 3/25/2004
We also have no idea about IA's other characteristics. I love her blog. I was saddened by her loss and how heartwrenching it must be for her. But I do not know her -- I can't help but think she must be a great teacher. But I don't know. I have no idea about her scholarship. I am saddened that we overproduce and underconsume in our profession, but as you could see from comments on her blog over the years, what is the solution? This is the worst thing -- how do you get fewer people going to grtad school knowing that many really want to and that those who seem like stars in the admissions process are not always the greatest contributors to the profession, and so only letting them in might be harmful to the profession down the road? I was heartsick for her, but I have no idea about the solution. Part of me thinks that it is a bit like a kid who only makes it to Triple A in baseball. You want them to make the majors. They might be great in the majors. For whetever reason, a lot of talented players are not going to get to the majors. And they knew this when they signed that first contract with the other new guys that year whose dream was to take the field in Fenway. More people want to do this profession than can, and I wish I knew how simultaneously to make us less popular and still draw the best people, or how to open up more slots. Ultimately, as I watch many friends go through her dilemma, albeit less publicly, these are my concerns.
Oscar Chamberlain - 3/24/2004
I cannot speak to IA's case, except that is obvious that some universities have passed over someon of rare wit. But one problem that adjuncts have is this system's hostility to on-the-job training.
In nearly in other profession, experience within the "company" would be worth something.
At a university, experience as an adjunct is, at best, a nullity when it comes to applying for a job at that same institution. All too often it is viewed as negative., an indicator that we adjuncts have been teaching rather than out producing a monograph.
Or that in-house work may simply be a badge of inferiority, regardless of the work produced..
The problem is not always the department, by the way. Sometimes, deparmental selections reflect and administration that wants each appointment to be a potential source of prestige. (Adjuncts seem about as prestigious as used luggage to such administrators). In that situation a department may have to choose between alienating administration and alienating the adjunct.
Guess who wins?
David Lion Salmanson - 3/24/2004
I have just been sick about this all day. It is just so so wrong. Sick and angry. Maybe I'll meet IA one day and be able to give a proper salute (bourbon, I believe, would be in order)but this just is horrible. And what's worse, it's happening to a lot of talented historians every year. Of course, one of my most talented colleagues from school is now a CEO so folks do move on.
Ralph E. Luker - 3/24/2004
Linda, Your sense that there are so many messages posted on IA's site today that any one may not get through is probably right. I have some faint hope that we will yet hear more about this.
linda seebach - 3/24/2004
Since nobody would ever get to my belated post on IA's blog, may I make a suggestion here? There are many people in her situation, as the passing tributes tell; could she not keep her community going by converting the domain names into a group blog?
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