by Con Chapman
BOSTON. Cynthia Crimmons is a professor at Walden College here, but she feels she isn’t really a part of the institution.
“I’m in no better position than the gypsy contractor who comes to your house to resurface the driveway,” she complains.
Crimmons is an “adjunct,” a part-time employee who doesn’t participate in the school’s health and other benefit plans. She makes a living by taking similar positions at several colleges simultaneously, creating a work schedule that requires her to commute across town each day of the week while older tenured faculty “sit in the faculty lounge sipping sherry as they look out at the Charles River,” she says bitterly.
The plight of the part-time professoriate has given rise to gangs of Ph.D.’s who rove the streets of Boston and resort to the sort of violence typically associated with rappers to get what they want; publication in prestigious academic journals, full-time positions with tenure, and prime parking spaces for their imported cars.
“We’ve been marginalized,” says Ulrich Ewe, a physics instructor at UMass-Boston.
“Yeah, marginalized,” says his colleague Theresa Reed, who teaches an introductory writing course at the same campus. “And if they’re going to marginalize us, the Chicago Manual of Style says the margins should be at least an inch and a half on the top and sides, and two inches on the bottom.”
The problem of underemployed academics appears to be worsening, according to Lynn Martinek of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “Everybody wants to be the smarty-pants who skates by teaching two classes a semester and getting unlimited use of the squash courts, not to mention access to our nation’s most pliable females,” she says. (“Pliable” is an adjective with French and Latin roots meaning “slutty”.) “But our economy can’t absorb all the eggheads we’re hatching, so we’re headed for chaos.”
In the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood that borders Walden, property crime is on the rise, according to Boston Police Sergeant James Hampy. “I collared a guy who was trying to jimmy a screen off the window of a 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath condo ’cause he wanted to live in the stately luxury of a bygone era,” he says with a shake of his head. “I told him–‘You wanna make money, be a plumber.’”
More distressing are the assaults that professors who edit academic journals have suffered when recognized on the streets by untenured faculty trying to make a name for themselves and acquire “C.V. Cred.” “I had a woman threaten me with a crowbar unless I published her ‘Transgendered Dystopias in 20th Century Latvian Literature,’” says Walter Kirn, a professor at Rowley College. “It made me want to work at a Big Ten school, where people are crazy on a predictable schedule around home football games.”