Putting a Price on What We Do (And Should Refuse to Do)

There is no doubt that PhD candidates invest more than time in their degrees. A PhD at Harvard, for example, is over $40,000 a year according to one source. This does not take into consideration fellowships and assistantships. Of course, it does not calculate living expenses either. My own alma mater now costs close to $9,000 an academic year.

Thinking about these costs made me all the more angry when I read Nick Roll’s recent article in Inside Higher Ed, entitled “Ph.D.-Level Position, $28,000.” Roll begins his piece by stating the average monthly rent in Chicago: $1,770. For someone making $28,000 a year, he states, that person would have $600 a month left over (to pay for taxes, food, and, of course, student loans).

The position about which Roll writes is for a “visiting” lecturer in German, who will also be the program coordinator. That’s right: teaching and administration, all done within a 67% position. I coordinated an undergraduate teacher education program for 10 years, and I know that teaching three classes and taking care of accreditation needs, student advising, and attending meetings in two colleges took far more than 67% of my hours each week.

Another blog post, cited in Roll’s article, breaks down the work in some interesting ways. But my favorite part of this analysis is the call to inaction:

Now, what to do? Simple. Nobody apply for this job. Do not apply for this job. Do not. Do not do it. Do not give this job the dignity of existing. Do not give people who think it’s acceptable to advertise a job like this, that pays so little and asks so much, even the slightest hint of legitimacy. Kill this job before it can multiply.

That advice is a good start. But we who are in positions of any kind of power in our departments and colleges need to also be vigilant, and stop these types of positions from being advertised in the first place.

Check out Roll’s full article in Inside Higher Ed.