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Marissa Lingen

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But those words make sense separately [Jan. 31st, 2014|03:50 pm]
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Isn’t it funny when you see a particular piece of social fail replicated in different areas all in one week after not seeing much of it for months and months? The example I can use that seems least likely to be acrimonious for people reading this is adjunct professor, assistant professor, associate professor: these are all different things, but people who have not paid attention to academia may well not be able to parse by looking at them which one does what with which status, which pay, which opportunities for advancement, which authority over which other persons.

By way of saying: other people’s industrial terminology is not automatically intuitive even when it looks simple enough, and it’s best for all of us to remember to ask maybe? Before going around with grand theories and pronouncements about how it all should be handled? All of us including me. Yes.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: ellarien
2014-01-31 11:22 pm (UTC)


Somewhat sideways to your real point, those particular terms may not even convey much to anyone not immersed from an early age in specifically American academia. I was at different times during my time in Tucson an Associate Scientist and an Assistant Scientist, and I always had to check my web site to remember which was which. (I'd been there a few years before I cottoned on that "Scientist" meant non-tenure-track, as opposed to "Astronomer.")

(The British system has lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, and professors; not everyone gets to the level of professor before retirement.)
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-01 12:12 pm (UTC)


Yes. Yes, just so; sometimes "academia" isn't specific enough.

People get upset with jargon, but quite often we have jargon because we have actual different stuff and have to call it something. If you call it words people already know instead of SE14-47, people think they know what those words mean; if you use strings of gibberish or made-up words, they get annoyed at the jargon. Catch-22.
[User Picture]From: elsmi
2014-02-01 03:39 pm (UTC)


I'm actually in the middle of applying for assistant professor jobs, after coming up through the US academic system, and I still can't remember which is assistant and which is associate without looking it up every time. Even though the difference between those is in fact much more important than the associate/full professor distinction...
[User Picture]From: supergee
2014-02-01 11:18 am (UTC)


An obvious mnemonic is that adjuncts are treated like junk.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-01 12:10 pm (UTC)


Indeed, if you recognize that you have to learn it, that is a good way to learn it.

But, for example, you can't just say, "oh, assistant professors must assist someone," because no, not really, no. And then turning to your friend the professor and deciding to solve all their problems by telling them to get an assistant professor to do some task for them is the opposite of helpful.
[User Picture]From: supergee
2014-02-02 01:22 pm (UTC)


Good point. My wiseass suggestion is of limited value.
From: sheff_dogs
2014-02-01 05:22 pm (UTC)


So for those of us from over the pond?
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-01 05:35 pm (UTC)


If I have this correct, because it is not my field, so if I have gotten this wrong or if it's different at your specific institution, please correct:

An adjunct professor is someone who is hired at rock bottom prices, is treated like dirt, and whose best hope is getting hired into another job completely, because basically an adjunct position is the rock bottom for how our system treats people with doctoral degrees who are not postdocs. No one has any intention of doing tenure interviews for this person. They usually do not get to teach interesting seminars. Not only do they not get good offices, they don't usually get offices. At all. Sometimes a cubbie. If it's a really nice institution, a shared office.

An assistant professor is someone who has not attained tenure. Depending on how things go with their institution they may yet be permitted to apply for it, or they may be permitted to stay on as an assistant professor if they have already been denied it. But they do not have tenure.

An associate professor is someone who has attained tenure. They have held the Holy Grail in their hands, the golden light has shone briefly down around their shoulders, etc. etc. etc.

A full professor is someone who has attained tenure and gotten promoted beyond that to Gosh You're Cool. The golden light not only has shone down around their shoulders, it sticks around there on a pretty regular basis.

A professor emeritus is someone who has attained tenure and then gotten old. The university has discovered to their horror that people do not stop knowing stuff just because they got old. You cannot get rid of them. They keep asking questions. Sometimes they even keep knowing answers. They keep drinking department coffee. The students keep being fond of them and calling them by nicknames. Bullets cannot stop them....
[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2014-02-03 01:11 am (UTC)


That sums it up quite well.

What gets interesting is in the event of a known temporary hire.

Visiting Assistant Professor: Note the "assistant." However, not tenure-track and not expected to be. On the plus side, you get an office (it might have been the radioactive materials storage the year before, but it is an actual room with shelves and a desk and even space for a student or two to ask questions) and decent pay and even some benefits.

Adjunct Assistant Professor: in between. Office and actual pay, but no benefits and only around for a semester.

If you're wondering what an adjunct gets paid, assume 3-5k/course, depending on the generosity of the institution. That's it.