Archive for December 12th, 2008
We are Rome, watch us fall

Several days ago, I began a post that was basically an angry rant about the economic situation, which I directed to all of the greedy people out there who I feel are responsible.  I deleted the post before I even finished writing it because I decided that it was not constructive to waste energy on negativity.  I am still upset about how things are economically right now, and how things have gone for me personally, but I am trying the best I can to remain optimistic and role model the kinds of behaviors that I someday want H to emulate.  I still do believe that greed is what put us where we are today, and I think that stinks.  Hasn’t history taught us anything?

I decided that I would bite the bullet and go crawling back to the University, tail between my legs, begging to teach a course that I wouldn’t make much money on.  The catch is that the course would have to be offered at 8AM so that R could watch H before going off to work.  The sad truth is that the cost of a babysitter would far exceed what I make teaching college students, so the only way for this to work would involve an early morning class.  In the fall, the University had asked me about teaching this spring, but I told them that I couldn’t commit since I didn’t know whether I would have a job at that point and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to follow through on my promise to teach.  At that time, things were looking good and I had the phone interview which of course, eventually went nowhere.  Fast forward two months, and I am in a desperate situation, asking the University if it’s too late to offer another course.  The response was that ordinarily it would be OK to offer another course at this late date, but that enrollments had been in flux (students are no longer able to get loans like they used to), and with a very, very enormous budget deficit, they didn’t want to risk offering the course.  Sorry, they said.  They added that they were “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”  

Because I have spent so much time looking for work, applying for work, and ultimately getting nowhere with it, I decided today that I would swallow my pride and call the Vermont Department of Labor and apply for unemployment.  I don’t think I will be eligible, but it’s worth a shot.  The reason I think my eligibility is questionable is because I basically cobbled together two part-time jobs to try to have some sort of income, and unemployment is not routinely awarded to those who are working in part-time jobs, and is definitely not awarded to those who have contract positions.  In fact, two-thirds of states do not offer unemployment benefits to part-time workers.  My situation is complicated; I had a contractual job as a lecturer, and I had a temporary job based on grant funding as a researcher.  The grant funding dried up and my teaching contract can’t be renewed because of the budget issues.  I wasn’t really layed off from a single job, and because I voluntarily left in May for NON-PAID maternity leave, I am afraid that they will view that as me leaving work of my own volition.  When I called the unemployment office, I got the recording “All circuits are currently busy.”  I suppose there are many of us out there in the same predicament.

The thing that is so mind-boggling about this is that 6.6 million mothers of children under the age of 18 work part-time and therefore have no protection during these turbulent economic times—that is 25.8% of all employed mothers according to the Census.  The particular type of work I was doing (adjunct or part-time lecturer) is an exploitative maneuver on the part of Universities nationwide to maximize profits while paying little salary and NO BENEFITS to inexperienced, junior scholars (such as myself), most of whom are women (33% of full-time faculty positions are held by women versus 47% of part-time positions).  And let’s face it, the flexibility of part-time work is going to call more women as they are often saddled with more childcare responsibilities (socio-cultural factors aside, there are biological reasons such as breastfeeding that contribute to this trend, like it or not).  I could write an entire post about the disturbing trends surrounding adjunct professors (and maybe I will); suffice it to say, the Chronicle of Higher Education routinely publishes a number of alarming articles on the subject.

Part of the economic recovery package pitched by the Obama administration includes a massive overhaul to unemployment benefits that would help to include the 63% of unemployed workers who are ineligible for unemployment benefits under current federal and state law.  The Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act (UIMA) has been passed by the House.  Nevertheless, don’t be shy about contacting your Senators about supporting this important piece of legislation!  It would help mitigate the effects of the economic downturn by enabling people to stay afloat for a brief period of time until they can find employment.

In sum, I am so sick of how stupidity and incompetence are continually rewarded in our society.  Every heiress with a massive fortune does not deserve to have their reality TV show broadcast for the world to see just how misplaced our priorities have become.  It is such an embarrassment.  Similarly, every CEO who single-handedly drives their company into the ground while walking away with their millions and still having the audacity to ask for bonuses as compensation for their failures sickens me.  When did our scientists, social workers, tradesmen, teachers, and writers become so unimportant to us?  When did we decide that being smart and thoughtful was a social faux paux?  Why do Universities pay political figures six digits for a single 50-minute lecture when promising academics are paid a couple thousand to teach an entire college course over four months?  Why do we continue to make such poor choices when we know what happened to Rome?  Oh wait, I forgot that they dropped ancient Roman history from the public school curriculum in favor of “Self-Esteem:  A Seminar in Feeling Great About Yourself Even When You Have Failed.”  That explains everything.