…a virtual dog ate it.
Actually because I am so dog-tired, and because Ken keeps inexplicably wanting to use the computer in the evenings. Last weekend I wanted to post about a story in the newspaper: the outrageous fact that Irish Universities are paying unauthorized benefits such as topping up pensions, and appointing new lecturers above the bottom point of the scale. (Imagine! Not paying the measly minimum for a job you have to train to PhD level to do!) And today the Irish Times has a story headed “College work week as short as 15 hours”. This figure is based on calculating a) that UCC lecturers give on average 180 hours of lectures in the year, which works out as 6 hours per week; b) that academics spend about 40% of their time on teaching (which is a figure drawn out of a hat if ever there was one); c) that this works out as 15 hours per week. The paper reported that somebody did actually point out in the Dail committee meeting in question that you have to prepare for lectures as well as give them, but of course they led with the outrageous figure and it will be that that people remember – all those people who think we spend the summer on holiday. It’s so depressing. The inner splutter as one reads it, and the knowledge that, supposing you find time to write to the paper or text Matt Cooper or whatever, and supposing it’s printed or read out, people will still just think “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they.”
I’m pretty stressed and pretty tired at the moment. But I do love my job. In fact, in many ways I think it’s one of the best jobs anyone could have. Lots of human contact with interesting young people; lots of independence, constructing your own courses (within reason) and choosing your own research projects; enormous intellectual stimulation and the opportunity to pursue questions that fascinate you; flexibility, at least outside term-time; your own office, usually (mine even has a view of a tree, though unfortunately many of the offices in the building just look at other offices). I even don’t mind admin that much, though it can be frustrating and takes far too long. The main aspect of my job that has been getting me down in recent years, in fact, is simply the feeling that I am too slow and not doing enough, and that taking maternity leave – which I wanted to take, of course – has made me lose touch and forget things. Also, I spend most of my evenings and weekends on my family and not my work, and for that reason am falling behind. To be a successful academic, as opposed to a just-getting-by academic, you have to put in all the hours God sends. Which does make it depressing when the papers start talking about academics as a bunch of pampered layabouts who aren’t worth the money.