independent scholarship

An article at the John William Pope Center discusses independent scholars:

Whenever administrators cut costs, they typically do so at the expense of faculty. Universities hire adjuncts instead of tenure-track instructors, because they rarely receive benefits, have no contract, and earn as little as $18,000 a year. More than 40 percent of teaching staff at universities are now adjuncts… How are some scholars coping with this destructive system? By leaving it altogether. Margaret Hiley did this. She was a lecturer in literature in England but didn’t like the paperwork, teaching restrictions, and arbitrary university procedures. As a bilingual native speaker of English and German, the few enjoyable parts of her academic life were freelance translation.

Then she had an epiphany—why not buck the university system and go completely freelance?

Margaret contacted all her old clients and university colleagues. She put up a website and joined a professional association for translators. She took a course on self-employment. After a year of building up a client list, she quit her job as a lecturer. Margaret now has a near-endless number of projects from academic publishers and private scholars. She is able to charge £90 per 1,000 words of translation from German to English and earns far more than she ever did at a university.

She is part of a growing number of scholars who are taking their academic knowledge to the open market and profiting in ways unthinkable at a traditional university.

Comments: Independent scholarship has always existed, but usually as a small slice compared to the academy. As bad as the academy is, and I agree it is nasty for many, it does provide a stable platform for people to sit around and write 45 page articles on Chaucer. This is very, very hard to sustain outside the system. Also, on an emotional level, many would find it hard to sustain the interest outside the system. But I do agree that adjuncts are no so poorly paid that part time work outside the system is preferable and would be an adequate “day job” for many.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 13, 2015 at 12:28 am

Posted in academia, fabio

6 Responses

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  1. Perhaps the academy can remain a collegial space, which members join for the camaraderie and a system of social and professional support. That might be more faithful to the original spirit of it.



    March 13, 2015 at 12:46 am

  2. You write that “the academy [provides] a stable platform for people to sit around and write 45 page articles on Chaucer.” But isn’t it the point that this market is highly limited? And that universities are restructuring the market toward adjuncts, so that fewer and fewer academics — given they want to make more than $18,000 per year — have the time to sit around discussing ideas simply for the sake of discussing ideas? I may be missing something, but I fail to see how your comment addresses the actual issues at stake in the article you cite.



    March 14, 2015 at 12:51 am

  3. Agree With Austen and think that such a way of thinking is dangerously defensive (and elitist). Isn’t the article showing that exploited academics can organize such platforms outside universities? They gather Financial and human Resources, remain tightly linked to scholarship (this might depend on the discipline) and create a Space of autonomy where they could even discuss 45-page papers on Chaucer. And this is exactly what they cannot do anymore within academia.



    March 14, 2015 at 8:29 am

  4. I don’t understand the critique of Fabio’s point. He’s not saying, “isn’t it grand that adjuncts are so poorly paid that they are finding ways to sell their knowledge outside of academia?” He’s just saying that (a) there’s always been scholarship that has been produced outside of academia (e.g., the Parisian salons, although talk about elitist), and (b) for all its faults, including the over-reliance of [some] colleges and universities on poorly paid adjuncts, academia provides a forum for some types of scholarship that wouldn’t find a market outside of academia. Why is this controversial?



    March 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm

  5. FWIW, the original version of the quoted article, which is the author’s “about” page for his blog, ends: “If you want to learn about tools he used to start earning an extra $1,000/month as an adjunct, please enter your email below. You’ll immediately get the free report “5 Free Online Tools to Make an Extra $1,000/Month As An Adjunct Instructor.”

    Additionally, the author is PhD candidate in History who hosted a one hour webinar you can watch called, “How to Finish Your Thesis in 6 Months.”

    Liked by 1 person

    neal caren

    March 14, 2015 at 5:02 pm

  6. Krippendorf: Fabio wrote, “[Academia] does provide a stable platform for people to sit around and write 45 page articles on Chaucer.” The use of the word “stable” directly contradicts the point of the article he cites, which makes the case that fewer academics have access to this “stable platform.” In other words, the academic market is anything but stable. If the data provided by the article are wrong, say that. But your rewording of his main point — “academia provides a forum for some types of scholarship that wouldn’t find a market outside of academia” — still doesn’t deal with the fact that the market for this kind of scholarship is dwindling. Why cite the article — or in your case, purport to engage with it — if you don’t deal with the fact the academic market is not a “stable platform” and is in fact changing rapidly in the opposite direction of Fabio’s description. Tell me what I’m missing here.



    March 14, 2015 at 11:36 pm

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