Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Good work. I'll probably kill you tomorrow."

There’s a passage in William Goldman’s excellent novel “The Princess Bride” in which the hero’s ship is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. All aboard are killed except for our hero; he is kept alive for one day, forced to work. At the end of the day, the Dread Pirate Roberts tells our hero that he did a good job, and he’ll probably be killed tomorrow. The next day, our hero is put to work again, and at the end of the day, the Dread Pirate Roberts says “You did very well today. I’ll probably kill you tomorrow.” This goes on, Scheherezade-like, until our hero becomes the Dread Pirate Roberts’ apprentice and successor.

Despite it's being a fantasy about pirates and swordfights and the like, this is actually a reasonable approximation of life as a lecturer as I know it. There are two types of lecturers here, a “Lecturer with Job Security” (that’s the actual title) and a “Lecturer.” The lecturer with Job Security can only be terminated with a year’s notice. I am not one of those; I am a lecturer.

Towards the end of every quarter, I have a talk with M_______, the department vice-chair in charge of teaching. Every time, she says the same thing. “You’re doing a good job. We probably won’t hire you next quarter.” There’s some difficulty getting money, or not enough students have enrolled, or the dean wants so-and-so to actually teach, or the University has decided that it hates non-faculty lecturers—whatever. Sometimes this actually happens, and I don’t have a job for three months.

When I talked with M________ earlier this quarter, I was told the same thing. I’m doing a good job; I almost certainly won’t be hired next quarter.

Apparently, the Powers That Be (that is, those even higher in the administration than the Dean) have decided to get more Frosh through Bis2A—like, a lot more Frosh. So, these powers opened up a pot of money, opened up a giant lecture hall, and opened up registration. So, a reprieve: I will be teaching next quarter (that’s just three weeks away), and I’ll have a class of two or three hundred freshlings to deal with. I am starting to get anxious about this—but on the whole, it’s better than the alternative. I wouldn’t say I feel like Westley, the hero of The Princess Bride—but I do feel relieved.

No comments:

Post a Comment