A great first meetup

It was wonderful to have fourteen people at our opening meetup. Several others have been in touch, but couldn’t be there. We introduced ourselves, our research, and our backgrounds, and had lots of good conversation.

Among us, we cover a wide range of academic fields – sciences, social sciences, humanities, linguistics, law, and education. Many of us are teaching as adjunct faculty and visiting scholars. We also do unrelated day jobs and various kinds of freelance work. We became independent scholars for many different reasons – a spouse’s employment, a change in direction, and of course, the lack of enough tenure-track teaching jobs.

On the agenda:

Monthly meetups. Social contact and mutual support are important! Please pencil in something for the third week in August. Date and place are still to be determined – see below.

A different venue for the meetups. While the ABC was very hospitable, the seating arrangement and background noise were a little problematic. Several people suggested alternative possibilities. Watch this space!

Possible future programs:
– Presentation/discussion of members’ scholarly work.
– Telling our stories.
– Strategies for earning a living; sources of income you may not know about.
– Other topics or themes as they arise.

Also noted:

Blog. If you’re here, you already know about it. “Following” the blog is an easy way to get updates and announcements.

Other organizations for independent scholars and adjunct faculty. In addition to those listed in the blogroll to your right, a Hidden Scholar recommends the National Coalition of Independent Scholars. Some organizations specialize in advocacy and activism, others focus on scholarship, and of course there is always overlap.

Hidden Scholars in the news

A wonderful story about Hidden Scholars – and about independent scholars more generally – appeared on the front page of the Daily Hampshire Gazette on July 9. I hope it reaches a few more of the academics out there in home offices, cars, basements, libraries, and coffee shops.

http://www.gazettenet.com/2012/07/09/independent-academics-form-support-group

And unlike the calendar editors I mentioned below, the reporter got all the details right. Thanks!

 

The Ronin Institute

Three cheers for the Ronin Institute, which describes itself as a “community of independent scholars.” According to a May 27 article in the Boston Globe, it’s named for the samurai who broke with the code of feudal Japan by refusing to kill themselves when their masters died. Scholars who don’t land a tenure-track position are “supposed to commit professional suicide,” says founder Jon F. Wilkins. The Institute offers an alternative, a place “to invent new ways to fund, support, and connect scholars who are doing their research outside of the traditional setting of the university.”

What’s especially striking is its focus on our “untapped brainpower.” The Ronin Institute isn’t about job-hunting or about challenging the adjunct system – although the organizations that take on those problems are necessary and commendable. Instead, it’s about the work that we’re already doing; about using our gifts, creativity, and above all, our extensive intellectual training, for the larger good. Three cheers.

(See the blogroll for a link to the Institute’s website.)

Meetup, part 2

Much as I honor local journalism — and I do — I have to point out that the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Amherst Bulletin published the wrong location for our meetup on July 12. Yes, it will be at the Amherst Brewing Company. No, the ABC is not at 24-36 N. Pleasant Street, but at 10 University Drive.  An editorial error, not mine.

See you there.

New study of contingent faculty

The American Historical Association reports on a survey of adjunct faculty by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce. The results are not surprising, but they are disheartening – except insofar as they may reassure you that you’re not alone. Here is an excerpt from Robert B. Townsend’s article:

“Drawing on responses from 10,331 faculty members employed in part-time teaching positions in the fall of 2010, the CAW report demonstrates the limited pay, support, and appreciation provided to most of those employed in those positions.  … For the history field, both surveys found that most of the respondents consider these jobs their primary employment, with only about one-quarter of those employed part-time in history reporting that they teach in these positions alongside another full-time job. But their continuing commitment to and enthusiasm for teaching is evident in the number of years the respondents spend in these positions. In history, a majority of the respondents had been employed as contingent faculty for six years or more.

“But the average payment per course remains relatively small–only $2,700 in fall 2010, with history faculty in these positions earning slightly below the average at $2,600. And the survey respondents indicated that they generally did not receive pay increases for working in a position for multiple years—indicating there is little premium for experience in these positions.

“Regardless of their relationship to the work, it is notable that large portions of the respondents in all the disciplines indicated income from these positions was either “essential” or “very important” to their livelihood.”

There is more. You can read the complete article here: http://blog.historians.org/news/1675/underpaid-and-underappreciated-a-portrait-of-part-time-faculty-members

The AHA will report on “the full range of contingent faculty employed in American colleges and universities” in the September issue of its publication Perspectives on History.