Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Confessions of a (Somewhat) Reluctant Consultant: Or, What Happens When Academic Dreams Go "Poof"

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Confessions of a (Somewhat) Reluctant Consultant: Or, What Happens When Academic Dreams Go "Poof"

Article excerpt

This essay really is about a protracted and painful transition from academic and teacher to consultant and researcher, but first, I want to get a few things off my chest. If you can stand some wholly relevant whine at the outset, stay with me, but if not, just skip to the third section. Key Words: Anthropology, Consulting, Academia, and Qualitative Research

Sour Grapes?--I've made wine, baby ...

As I begin this essay I'm sitting at a "desk" in the Faculty Lounge, working on one of the two computers to which adjunct instructors theoretically have access. I share this "office" with who knows how many other adjuncts, some almost half my age and others almost half again my age. I was told earlier in the summer that "no one ever works in there-you'll find it a productive little office!" Well, yeah, there are staples, pencils, and scratch paper, but there aren't any pens, notepads or usable reference books. There is no lock on the door, lockers aren't available, and my request to allow me to use a bicycle lock on the cabinets was ignored, so I use my laptop computer here at my own peril. The monitor of one of the two computers is unreadable (1). The wall clock alternates between being 20 minutes off (potentially dangerous) and 18 hours off (just annoying), but is too high on the wall to be able to take down easily and fix, which I would, but I'd be yelled at if I got caught and probably told to fill out a work order, wasting time, resources, and labor in the process. The photocopy machine doesn't work at all, and another single-pager does so but just barely, and wasn't designed for books and journals. It has no automatic feeder, doesn't collate, and the edges of the plate catch the corners of books and journals as the plate slides back and forth, the more so the more heavily one must press the lid to the plate to keep the books and journals aligned. The Epson Behemoth 767 scanner hasn't worked in this millennium.

The computer I'm working on is an, ahem, somewhat older version (a Pentium-I running at 75 megahertz--woo-hoo!) of those computers that grace the real desktops of the real professors who have real appointments. There isn't a tenure-stream here where I'm teaching for one term, but rather, a teaching faculty body that consists of adjuncts, on the one hand, and three-quarter and full-time professors, on the other. "My" computer takes several minutes to boot up at all and often 15 to 20 minutes to get to an e-mail portal--when it doesn't freeze up altogether. Typically, I set it to task and return in awhile. Because it doesn't belong to any one "real" professor, the hard drive is formatted to erase automatically at the end of the day any text written upon it, thus requiring one frequently to save to an even slower, less roomy, and less dependable floppy drive (and not to forget to overwrite the correct version of the document when one gets home).

The "desk" on which I write really isn't, being neither deep enough to handle a monitor, a keyboard, and two wrists, nor wide enough to accommodate the articles and books I need with which to write. My wrists hurt every time I use it, one being completely suspended off the edge of the desk, and the other being creased badly for lack of room for a wrist-pad. You tell me if there's irony here: my wrists hurt because I've been writing lengthy e-mail messages to my students in a medical anthropology course on, among other things, repetitive movement stress syndromes. It occurs to me that the mental states of overworked, underpaid adjuncts are understudied phenomena.

One little insult seems inevitably to lead to another. In the "New Faculty" section of my campus's monthly newsletter, you will not find my name. The article was penned by one of the people on the search committee who, collectively, thought that my overall qualities were rather more than required for the permanent, three-quarter-time position for which I had applied in July. …

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