Yes, we CAN do something!

Hortensii, the group dedicated to improving the situation for PhDs without permanent academic jobs, has registered its first success: the University of Manchester held a conference at which the organizer produced name tags without institutional affiliations out of consideration for the feelings of unaffiliated attendees. He informs us that he did this as a result of our survey. No-one reported having difficulties with those name tags, perhaps in part because a complete list of attendees’ e-mail addresses was included in the conference pack and therefore affiliations were not necessary for contact purposes. Thank you Nigel Vincent!

Now we would be the first to admit that as successes go this one is small. But it’s a step in the right direction, and every step counts: the only way we can make big changes is via lots of little changes. So we look forward to hearing about the next success: when you change something about academia, even a little thing, do tell us, so we can tell the world that change is possible and thereby encourage others to make more changes.

In other news, we have two more documents on this site, one a list of things employed academics can do to help and one an information sheet for prospective PhD students. We know the latter document is appalling, and we apologize for that, but we felt we had to do it because of the strong support for making sure that prospective PhD students know the truth about the job market. We also, ahem, have made some corrections to the original documents, which contained a few mistakes. Many apologies to all about those mistakes, and MANY thanks to the people who pointed them out! Please keep the corrections coming if you spot more mistakes: we know that having incorrect information on this site is highly undesirable, and we’ve made a big effort to get things right, so we really welcome help in that direction.

And we have lots of volunteers, which is great — but we could definitely use more! If you have volunteered and not yet heard from us with a specific assignment, don’t worry: we’ll be in touch soon with a possibility that we hope will match who and where you are. If you haven’t yet volunteered, please do! And if you have a good idea, please put it on our ‘Discussion and new ideas’ page for everyone to see — thank you!

We’ve also found a site that you might want to check out if you are having feelings of failure and/or considering leaving academia but worried that this might look like failure. It’s www.jobsontoast.com and has some good posts confronting the ‘failure narrative’ and suggesting what we can do about it, as well as practical advice for getting non-academic jobs. In the latter area, of course, we still also recommend http://versatilephd.com/.

In less cheerful news, we have heard from a significant number of people in the ‘precariat’ who support the Hortensii initiative but are afraid to say so in public because they fear being fired for speaking up. Is this really what academia should be like? Can we do anything to restore basic freedom of speech to our disciplines?

Keep up the good work, everyone! And on behalf of all the people who are afraid to say anything, let me say thank you to those who are not afraid to do something — we’re looking forward to the next success!

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5 thoughts on “Yes, we CAN do something!

  1. Thank you, Eleanor, for this really informative report and for all your work. Some of this was discussed at an APA (Chicago) panel that I ran with Chiara Sulprizio and Jody Valentine on “Contingent Labor in Classics: The New Faculty Majority?.” We filed a report with the APA Board of Directors with suggestions for action, and we are hoping that they do take action. I fully endorse this project. Barbara Gold (Hamilton College, USA)

  2. I’m curious: What’s wrong with “independent scholar” or “independent researcher” for those who don’t have academic affiliations? That’s quite common at one of the biggest conferences I attend every year (the Leeds Medieval Congress).

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