Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Should have seen this coming

This time last year:

Hey! Here's a new thing! The university executive (Vice Chancellor and friends) would like to know about issues affecting the 'man on the ground'. Specifically, early career researchers. What would improve our lives? They encourage us to form a group to brainstorm improvements and promise to consider them. For example, they say, maybe early career academics would like to have more bright colours in their offices to make things more cheerful?*

* Not the actual example, but I don't want this to be too googleable.

Early this year:

We have a working group. We discuss all the issues that specifically affect early career academics. We are unanimous that the number one problem is lack of job security. We brainstorm ideas. We approach the executive informally to sound out how they would feel about providing some 'safety net' funding to support young researchers for short periods between successful grants. Yes! They say. That sounds excellent. This is exactly the sort of initiative we would support! There is lots of money for that sort of thing right now. And specifically, maybe we could support people with brightly coloured offices?

(We should have listened to the subtext here.)

After months of discussions, budgeting, meetings, etc, we flesh out a proposal and deliver it to the executive. They call us in for discussion. "Hmm..." they say. "This might actually cost money."
"But you have a lot of money right now," we remind them.
But apparently they have just decided to spend 45 million dollars on bringing in international academic superstars.
"We will get back to you with our official response in a few days," they promise.

After a few days. Today, in fact:

Dear early career researchers,

We have considered your proposal to provide a safety net for early career academics who are on external funding. It seems like a great idea. We would just like a few minor changes to your plan. Specifically, instead of providing funding, we would like to provide some bright paint colours. And instead of this funding employing people, we will make department offices more cheerful. Although this may not solve the underlying problem you have identified (lack of job security), it will cost less money. It will also be a good test case. In 12 months we will check back and see whether, as your proposal suggests will happen, more young fellowship holders have been attracted to our university, and if they have, we may consider providing more funding to your initiative. Please reword your proposal so as to implement these minor changes.

Best regards,
Your friendly Vice Chancellor.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things are weird

  1. Someone just offered us $30,000. A PhD student in Geekman's department is, by some quirk of the system, drawing both a PhD scholarship and a postdoc salary. He doesn't want them. He asked the university to take some of the money away, but they won't. And now he is trying to give it away. He thought we might like it to help pay off the house. We turned him down. But that was a weird conversation.
  2. I have now been asked to teach into five different courses this semester. People seem confused when I suggest instead that maybe they should get the people they JUST HIRED to teach the courses instead of the person who they just rejected. "But those people can't teach!" they complain. "And you're so good at it!" Yeah. Isn't it nice that, as we are always being told, our university values teaching so highly.
  3. I am going to Japan on Saturday. (Osaka, Kyoto). Any tips?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sadly, I have had student essays that make less sense than this

I bought one of these LED faucet thingies, and it arrived today.

The packaging was the real treat, though. A word for word transcription follows below:

"Led Faucet light is the tap water can change the color of the tap high-tech products, Now theworld best-selling pop. Rotation can be installed at the tap on the use of, Open the faucet, Singularly immediate outflow of the light-water column, illumall washbasins, Dreams in the same sense."

And on the back:

"Now high-tech world of popular electronic products, Rotation can be installed at the tap on the use of, And allows you to tap the water column color, glorious!"

Glorious indeed.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It gets better

They just created a new job so that they can hire one of the men.

This is someone who is universally acknowledged to be a pain in the arse and to have done quite badly at the interviews. (The one who said our students suck.) So he would not have been a good choice for a teaching job. So they created a job with no teaching responsibilities so they can hire him anyway.

I guess it's nice to know they CAN create random new positions when they feel like it. Maybe they'll feel like it for me too one day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And now they want to know...

... whether I can teach some courses for them next semester.

Teaching is not included in my current contract.

Unfortunately, I can't just suggest they get the people they just hired to teach these classes since the new hires don't start until the beginning of next year. But damn! I do not feel especially motivated right now. Perhaps they might have considered waiting more than two days after rejecting me for a job before asking me to teach. I guess they are in a rush to cover the courses. (Next semester starts in about a month).

And I'll do it, because the person who fell ill and needs her classes covered is awesome and she is stressed about it, and because the department is offering to put some extra money in an account for me that I can use for research expenses.

But did I say damn! already? Yes, I believe I did. But I'll say it again.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Job rant

The only thing I'm kind of struggling with with this job situation is the thought that this was it. This was my only chance. Those gazillion retirements that are coming up as the baby boomers get to the end of their careers? They've all happened now, in our department anyway. We've had six retirements in the past couple of years. They replaced them with two hires at full professor level (but younger people who probably still have 20 years of career left), one at level C (so, maybe equivalent to the US associate professor level?) and this one junior hire. They may still be hiring one more junior person, but if they do, it will be to cover a sub-discipline that there is no way in hell I am qualified to teach, and I doubt I could even apply. The next retirements in our department are probably going to happen in around 15 years.

Geekman (fortunately) looks like he's set here for the foreseeable future. We aren't going to be doing an international job search any time soon. So I think I'm now committed to putting together one of those careers where you try and line up one grant after another. And that's pretty exhausting, if I can even do it at all. So many grant agencies don't let you apply for your own salary, and collaborative grants are kind of the exception in my field, so having other people willing to apply for a salary for me on their grant is unlikely. The big national grants scheme has just revamped all its funding rules, and I can't even tell if I'll be eligible to apply for a fellowship at the end of this current one.

Dammit. This is really hard.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Oh well

I didn't get the job. But it did go to a woman, and she is definitely the best qualified for the position. People have been talking about this position as "B—'s job" ever since it was first advertised. And the short-term one has been offered to another woman, who is also a good fit.

The only thing that I'm upset about is that it became clearer and clearer through the selection process that the head of the selection panel, who is also my immediate superior and head of our department, has no respect at all for my research and doesn't really think I'm a "real linguist". I have to keep working for/with this guy for the next three years, and I really respect him, so it's quite upsetting that the feelings aren't reciprocated. I don't know what to do about that.

I guess I have to stop hoping for his support and just get on and do things on my own. As I have been. But it's exhausting.