Academic Jobs Wiki

Donald Trump's Academy: Two Tenure Tracks[]

Donald Trump's attempts to divide up the nation into two unequal groups coincides with the recent neoliberal move toward two tenure tracks. The lower tier, exclusively for teachers, involves no support for research and much, much lower salaries. So, like what Trump wants to achieve, the lower tier creates a terrible position and tries to make it permanent. This plan has been compared to Jim Crow, a "separate but equal" tenure.

At Penn State, where something like this is coming to pass, the “tenured teachers” make 33-37k. The tenured full professors who want to implement the lower tier won't disclose their salaries. (I've heard they all make over 100k.)/

Michael Berube and that older generation of tenured faculty should do something ethical, like retire. (x4)

Michael Berube is just as angry as Donald Trump but even more resentful. Berube’s resentment is due to his own failures. He's been MLA president, published books, had prestigious fellowships, but he can't get hired in New York or California. Why? WHAT ELSE DOES HE HAVE TO DO? Why don't the faculty there respect him? In response to his feelings of inadequacy, he attacks women of color who are off the tenure track, calling them names, asserting his boorish mansplainer power. Ironically, this surely does not help his efforts to get another job in academia. He should work for the GOP or Fox News. They love people like him. (x2)

People who torment NTT women, like Michael Berube, are the first to justify calling people of color “monkeys”, the first to ignore how their cruelty destroys other people professionally and personally, and the first to blame victims who want to revisit his abuse, saying usually they are a waste of time or they are stupid. I remember once in the thread he said 2014 was too long ago to consider his abuse, as if things had changed too much. As if calling people monkeys or bullying NTT in 2014 were a long time ago. You said it. After you retire it will be just as offensive. In 3014 the message will be the same.  (x2)

Michael Bérubé and Donald Trump are two versions of the same person:

  • Both interact with women in precarious positions in the same way. When a pregnant NTT on the market critiqued Bérubé, he went off on her, saying her worthless “temper tantrums” and speaking her mind about academic jobs should stop. Bérubé has said NTT women of color are “monkeys” like the ones in “Wizard of Oz” and pleaded with people to believe this behavior is acceptable. Donald Trump has a long record of saying things that are just as bad.
  • It’s a bad look and an argument Bérubé is always going to lose: you’re an endowed professor, she’s pregnant and unemployed. You’re shaming her in public. She “worked” for slate getting $200 once every six weeks. She has no insurance. You’re an endowed professor. Why do you do this to people? What do you get out of it? (x4)
  • Both punch exclusively downwards, and Bérubé attacks NTT faculty (never his peers) Trump at journalists and women of color (who are never his peers). (x3)
  • Both are both dominated by insecurity that comes off as arrogance and egotism.
  • Both want lots of jobs, but really crappy jobs. Trump wants minimum wage work and Bérubé wants academic jobs at minimum wage with tenure. Since tenure masks how shitty everything is about those jobs, it allows him to sing about “academic freedom” and “governance” and other red herrings. It allows him to be a "hero" very much like Trump perceives his own "heroism".
  • Bérubé wants NTT to be “Teaching Tenure” while earning 20% of his salary with no support for research. Trump wants exactly this also, especially since “Teaching Tenure” will have more women and people of color than regular tenure.
  • Both want to be the center of attention.
  • Both want good jobs for certain types of people.
  • Both have labor ideas that are damaging to people of color. Many have observed that Bérubé’s jobs plan will be terrible for women of color (of all people of color, but women especially), but it will be fine for people just like him. People have called his ideas “Jim Crow” since they explicitly divides people up into unequal groups, and the lower group will have more people of color.
  • Both envision people just like themselves having excellent jobs.
  • Both are from Queens. That’s probably a big factor, especially since GOP isn't strong there. (Bérubé's ideas on labor are pure GOP tactics but he claims to be a democrat, just like he claims to have opposed the Iraq war.)    
  • Both have careers based on bullying people below them in the chain

At first I thought this was a distraction, some pontificating fuddy duddies and their chest-thumping. Then it hits home. This could actually become normalized. How do I feel about an academic feudal system? At the university you're royalty (real tenure) or a commoner (teacher tenure). Because the queens, kings and princes have power, they administrate policies that take resources for themselves. There's no one with real tenure arguing for higher wages or research funds or course releases for the lower class. This tier-based academy normalizes stupidity, right? But it's not stupid if you have the real tenure. Or if you're neoliberal or are invested in the corporate university. That's the irony. Not only does it permit underpay and other mistreatment, it encourages and even REWARDS universities for doing this. It also transforms teaching at the university level a kind of boutique gig that only wealthy people who do not need a living wage can enter.

The failure of the boomer generation of academics seems to have culminated in the two-tier academy. It's positive for them. More inequality makes sense. They argue for it. They want it. In the plan, NTT receive new titles—we are no longer "janitors" but “sanitary engineers”—and we'll have tenure. Tenure is important to these boomers, so this is a "solution" for them. But what tenure means in your life when you’re making 33k per year is very different from when you’re full tenured or endowed professor with degrees from ivy universities. For the latter group, it’s everything. Their needs and visions are important.

This allows a university to treat instructors like dirt permanently, and both legitimizes and legalizes underpaying them - while thrown in as a bonus that it expressly prohibits their access to institutional research funds. God forbid someone off the tenure track or a teacher with tenure to go a confrence or have a course release for the investigation they are doing. This kind of anti-intellectual neoliberalism is toxic and destructive. People like Michael Berube should be against treating his colleagues as scholars lesser value who do not deserve what he has. This implements a feudal structure, since the inferior roles will earn less than a living wage.

The ways two tiers of tenure will hurt women and people of color has been discussed at length on blogs and in comment fields. So those concerns have been voiced and heard. But the tenured still celebrate the division into two unequal groups.

When it comes to the faculty, separate tracks can’t be equal.

  • Interesting takes on the two-tier academy are in the comments of this article: "Our Job was to Fix It"
  • based on maintaining a 2-tier faculty system which is the root cause of the dysfunction in higher ed. In some cases, contingent faculty are stronger instructors, researchers, and contributors to our social fabric than tenure-line faculty. The "mess" is that the 2-tier system is supposedly based on merit, which is both highly subjective and clearly untrue.

Michael Berube is so angry about adjunctification, he wants to make it permanent. What's the difference between 20 years NTT and being on the second tier? Tenure!

Those who write defenses of Two-Tiered academy believe:

  • God has chosen scholars who graduated from elite univerities to have research privileges.
  • The division into separate and equal classes is natural.
  • The teaching class should not rebel or oppose their position as inferior: it is natural. (The hiring process told you so already. Listen to the hiring competition. You, lowly teacher, are just unworthy of research support.)
  • The teaching class should be loyal to their patrons.
  • The petite bourgeoisie with tenure love this, especially English department faculty. They may have some guilt but what is more common is a complete and utter contempt towards people like them who are off the tenure stream.  

---Two tiers are the Trumpification of the academy and in a very pure form. What's interesting is how Michael Berube's conservatism comes out in this very division. While he may volubly protest Trump, Berube and Trump have the same vision--by creating the institutional devices that result in the separation of people into unequal groups, Berube achieves Trump’s dream, at least how it applies to higher education.

They can teach their 5 composition courses each semester for 3 or 5-year contracts making 33k while I ruminate about their status from my huge office. I’ll write about them with a university laptop, gulping my coffee to hurry off on my paid trip to San Francisco or Paris for a conference in which I will give a 20-minute paper. I’ll fly direct because I can. I’ll stay at the Hilton or Marriott and maybe buy a coffee for a NTTF and tell them how great their careers would be if they had teaching tenure. And then I'll tweet about it. --Tenured Faculty

"Higher education is not simply another commodity produced by American factories; it is the building block of our culture and democracy."

If the two tracks are going to exist, why not have a single salary scale for all professors? Why not advocate equality in terms of pay and other benefits, compared to their tenure-line colleagues? Why not allow the Teaching Tier to offer classes in their specializations, instead of limiting them to introductory sections?

The tenured who celebrate this are from the top tier. They don't or won't recognize that everyone in the academy does research. A PhD is a research degree. It's a calling for everyone. If the teaching tier are doing research, why aren't they entitled to isntitutional support for it? Of course, two tiers hurts women and people of color more than others, because our access to research opportunities is so limited already. In the second tier, receiving institutional support for this part of your calling is explicitly prohibited.

Is the two-tiered faculty the end of academic pursuit of knowledge? Does is shuttle us right back into the medieval guilds, with the wealthy and elite hoarding all the resources for themselves?

Academic freedom, shared governance and tenure can only be important if you already have a living wage. Why not create a plan in which all faculty receive equal benefits, pay, and access to institutional resources? But the proponents of the lower tier tend to respond respond in clichés: “I would like to but don’t have any way to do that.” But that’s what you need to find out how to do. Why are you doing ANYTHING else? By doing ANYTHING else you’ve (mis)used your outsized social power to distract from what is primary:

1.    NTT (and now teaching tenured) do not earn living wages*

2.    Teaching tenured are underpaid for same work as top tier

                       *is 33 k a living wage?

Trump intends to create different scales (tiers) of people, some have rights, a voice, wealth and representation. The bottom tier are not entitled to the same pay, access to resources or to pursue the same goals. The top of the scale are largely from already-privileged backgrounds. The bottom are from non-privileged backgrounds.

Trump-schemes in the academy, supported by putative leftist tenured faculty, are destroying US higher ed.

It's amazing how alike Trump and Berube are. For instance, they deal with criticism in exactly the same way: Berube calls women of color who critique his work "monkeys" - and if you're on the job market and pregnant, Berube will demean your comments as "temper tantrums". I think Berube believes that people off the tenure track deserve this treatment, and that if his remarks hurt their jobsearches, so be it. It's their own fault! Just like Trump, insults and name-calling are their bread and butter. No one should ever questioned their splaining. Just be quiet, NTT, women, especially.  

People like Berube and Trump will always see themselves as victims, no matter how they treat others, especially people who are powerless (say, NTT!). Nothing can be their fault - it's they who have been wronged. The problem is not their name-calling, insults, punching-down, or power trips and power plays. The problem is that you observed that they insult poeple who are off the tenure track. They're presidents! How dare you question them? No matter how awfully they dehumanize you in public, it's your fault.