Why I am working so much?

“Respect the sanctity of the snow day,” said one of my wise colleagues earlier this year.  As a department chair, I make every effort to remember her advice, but usually not for myself.

Today our university is closed in response to the Titan winter storm, but I’m still working, grading papers, reviewing dissertation drafts, and the trying to get ahead of the loads of administrative work the is required for my job.

I was contemplating all of this when I came upon this article, published today in InsideHigherEd, which does a great job explaining why I’m working instead of enjoying that novel I’ve been dying to read all semester.

 
In Search of Lost Time
March 3, 2014
 
As I am writing this article, I should be writing something else: an email to an editor, an email to an author, a letter of recommendation, notes for tomorrow’s classes, comments on students’ papers, comments on manuscripts, an abstract for an upcoming conference, notes for one of the books I’m working on. I cannot remember the last time I ended a day having crossed everything off my to-do list.
 
Why do academics work so much?

1) Part of it is habit. When we’re just starting out, we learn to say “yes” to everything. Join this panel? Yes. Send article in to special issue? Yes. Write a book review? Yes. Join committee in professional organization? Yes. Indeed, we learn to look for things to say yes to. This is how you build your C.V. Go to conferences, publish, get involved. If you don’t do it, you won’t get that elusive tenure-track job. Then, should you become one of the few who get the job, you’ll need to maintain a level of production in order to get tenure. Should you get tenure, you’ll want one day to get promoted. If that happens, and you reach full professor, well, best to keep publishing … just in case. What if your university falls on hard times? Or you need to move? Tenure is good, but portable tenure is better. So you just get on that treadmill and never get off.

2) Part of it is economics. At my university we have no “cost of living” raises. We have merit raises, but only when the state budget allows. So you always want to be in the top tier — the “Highest Merit” group — just in case there’s money for a raise. And I’m speaking here as one of the lucky, tenured few. For adjuncts, the situation is more dire. Everywhere, they teach more classes and for less money just to make ends meet, and may not even manage to do that. Employed at the whim of the academic labor market, adjuncts are increasingly joining the ranks of the working poor.

3) Busy-ness is also built into the structure of academic work. The more you do and the longer you’re in the profession, the more opportunities and obligations accrue. Writing letters for colleagues and students, getting onto committees, contributing to a book edited by a contributor to the book you edited, giving invited talks, writing grant proposals, and so on.  Some of this work is interesting (I enjoy traveling and giving talks, for example), but it’s still work.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2014/03/03/essay-why-faculty-members-work-so-much#ixzz2uvUWfklB
Inside Higher Ed

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