Exploitation in Higher Education

I currently work as a teacher’s assistant for a Big 10 university in the United States and I’ve been feeling especially exploited by the university as of late, so I decided to finally sit down and do some calculations that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Keep in mind that these are really rough calculations, but they are the best I could do with the information at my disposal.  

My university charges more per credit hour for juniors and seniors than sophomores and freshmen, and even though I teach some juniors and seniors, to be as generous as possible (and to simplify calculations) I did all my calculations based on the cost per credit hour for freshmen and sophomores.  I also subtracted out my boss’ salary (divided by the number of TAs in my department) because he does do some work for our classes (mainly online work), but all of the grading and actual teaching is performed by me.  My boss also teaches, so he does bring in money for the university, some of which presumably goes towards his salary, but I decided to ignore that fact to simplify my calculations.  Again, I was trying to be generous. I also subtracted out how much my tuition cost as a graduate student because in addition to a stipend I receive for teaching, I also do not have to pay tuition.  Finally, I subtracted out how much I received as part of my stipend over the course of 2 years.

$459 (freshman/sophomore cost per credit hour) x 4 (my class is a 4 credit class) = $1,836

$1,836 x 113 (the number of students I will have taught over the course of my time as a TA at my university) = $207,468

$675.83 (cost per credit hour for graduate students) x 33 (the number of credits I will have taken over the course of my degree) = $22,302.50

$43,986 (My boss’ salary) / 7 (the number of employees he supervises, it may actually be more, I’m not sure, but if it is, that is even more damning) = $6,283.71

$20,000 (my approximate stipend for one year, I’m pretty sure it’s actually less) x 2 (the number of years I will have worked as a TA) = $40,000

$207,468 - $22,302.50 - $6,283.71 - $40,000 = $138,881.79

That means that over the course of just two years working as a TA in higher education, my university will have successfully exploited $138,881.79 dollars from me that I personally earned for them.  Let this be a warning and a demonstration that universities are inherently exploitative entities.  

Stylish scholars, my colleagues told me, express complex ideas clearly and precisely; produce elegant, carefully crafted sentences; convey a sense of energy, intellectual commitment, and even passion; engage and hold their readers’ attention; tell a compelling story; avoid jargon, except where specialized terminology is essential to the argument; provide their readers with aesthetic and intellectual pleasure; and write with originality, imagination, and creative flair.
—  Helen Sword, Stylish Academic Writing

I used to be the Queen of Procrastination, but there’s reason + ways I’ve overcome my problem. 

  • Do assignments when they’re given to you. Easy said than done, right? Wrong! It’s such a simple process, that a lot of us make such a big deal out of, just because we are lazy. When a teacher assigns work, do it that day. If it doesn’t require a lot of steps such as an essay, then you have no excuse to not finish it when it’s given to you.

- side note: I do my work as soon as I get home. I can’t study in a library because it’s too quiet for me. Honestly I’m able to get all of my work done in my room, on my bed. If you have enough discipline, you can keep yourself from trying to fall asleep. If you honestly can’t do this, then instead of heading back to your room, stay on campus and go to the library after class, or find a cafe. 

  • Get your priorities straight. You’re in school and there to get a better education so you can help make a difference in this world with efficient knowledge. Especially if you’re in college, why waste money when you’re not even going to do your work? These are the questions you seriously need to start asking yourself.
  • Your GPA only affects YOU. I know a lot of people say a GPA doesn’t define their worth, but in college…it does. We need to stop looking at everything with roses in our face. If you were so set out on not caring about your GPA, then you shouldn’t be in school in the first place. This life is very challenging and someone’s always going to outshine you. Procrastinating on work, is like procrastinating on life. You’re showing that you’re okay with someone showing you up.
  • Stop making excuses. You have NO excuse for not having work done. Unless you have a death in the family, seriously get injured, or having a form of disability that counteracts with your learning…you need to stop letting yourself down. I know a lot of people who suffer from serious anxiety and other situations, but still get their work done. I don’t want to hear your excuse & your teacher might not care tbh. 

- side note: breaking this habit early will definitely help you improve in the future. Procrastination can spread to your field of work also, and that’s when you’ll get fired from your job. Building discipline is very essential.

  • Nipping procrastination in the bud gives you more free-time. Have you had to cancel plans because you decided to do your work last minute? Well guess what, you’re stopping yourself from being able to also enjoy life. If you get your work done now, you can play later.
  • Write out your goals. Put your goals in your face, I have mine on a chalk board in my room. Write down what you want to achieve in life/school. When you physically see your goals, it will motivate you more. 
  • Work with a study group. I always stress having a study group in my posts because it honestly is what helped me the most. Have some friends, and work together. Literally, your whole perspective on work will change if the group is effective and you’ll all actually doing work.
  • Get off of Tumblr. Stop trying to focus your attention on social media, and other distractions. If you start allowing yourself to actually focus, you’ll enjoy doing your work more.

- side note: You’ll realize your grades will start to improve. Good grades help us strive even further in doing our work on time. I’m always ready to turn work in and find out my grade. This concept has helped me get over my severe laziness. 

I hope these tips help you all, and remember…continue being STUDIOUS! feel free to message me anytime for more advice and helpful tips!! - xoxo Domi :*

I just read some Judith Butler out loud to my husband and he had NO idea what I was saying. As much as I do enjoy reading Butler she represents a lot of the problems with academic writing.

I understand that not all books and papers can cater to the laymen, sometimes prior knowledge is simply required for context.

But there is still a great amount of work that is written BY academics FOR academics and I think that is a little tragic.
Books and papers should have a level lf accessibility that isn’t hindered by a lack of not having a thesaurus for a brain. Your writing should not be so dense, when you are talking about social issues, that the very people you speak of can’t understand your work.

If you have something important to say then it is imperative that you work hard on making sure that people are ABLE to hear it.

Hello everyone! To celebrate this blog reaching 100 followers (wow!) I decided to provide, to anyone who is interested, a masterpost full of resources for learning Mandarin Chinese! Two years ago, I walked in to my CHI 101 class with zero knowledge of the language, and four semesters later, I am able to read, write, and hold a conversation in Mandarin! In this masterpost, I will provide all the resources and techniques I learned in my university classes that helped me learn Mandarin, as well a free PDF copy of the textbook I used for my CHI 101 and CHI 102 class!  [original gif by: bigblueboo]

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In the Safe Spaces on Campus, No Jews Allowed, by Anthony Berteaux

When Arielle Mokhtarzadeh and Ben Rosenberg arrived at University of California, Berkeley on November 6 to attend the annual Students of Color Conference, they had no way of knowing that they would be leaving as victims of anti-Semitism.

The University of California Student Association’s “oldest and largest conference,” the Students of Color Conference (SOCC) has maintained a reputation for 27 years as being a “safe space” where students of color, as well as white progressive allies, can address and discuss issues of structural and cultural inequality on college campuses. Students who attend are encouraged to be cognizant of their language while exploring topics that directly affect students from marginalized communities: the school-to-prison pipeline, sexual violence, decreased funding to ethnic and LGBT studies departments, racially insensitive speech, and perhaps most importantly, a “disquieting trend” of hate crimes on university campuses statewide.

It was this disquieting, yet growing, trend of hate speech and crimes directed towards Jewish students within the UC system that spurred Mokhtarzadeh and Rosenberg, both Jewish sophomores at UCLA, to attend the conference. Their freshman year was punctuated by incidents of anti-Semitism that were both personal and met with national controversy. They were shocked during their first quarter in school, when students entered the Bruin Cafe to see the phrase “Hitler did nothing wrong” etched into a table. Months later, Mokhtarzadeh’s friend, Rachel Beyda, was temporarily denied a student government leadership position based solely on her Jewish identity, an event that made news nationwide. Throughout the year, they saw the school’s pro-Palestinian group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), issue criticism of Israel that overstepped into anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate. The campus was supposed to be their new home, their new safe space—so why didn’t they feel that way?

At the conference, progressive students and students of color—often themselves targets of hate, bigotry, and discrimination—were propagators of ancient hatreds against the Jewish people.

Mokhtarzadeh applied to the Students of Color Conference with the hope “of learning more about the experiences of communities of color at the UC… [and] sharing with those communities the experience of my own,” she told me. As an Iranian Jew, she believed her identity as both a religious and ethnic minority granted her a place to belong and thrive at the SOCC. Rosenberg (who requested a pseudonym so that he could speak freely about campus issues without fear of potential retaliation) said that growing up in the Bay Area had taught him to be an active member of social justice movements and progressive communities. “I was always encouraged to take initiative on issues and movements that didn’t directly affect me,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about the struggles that my fellow students were going through.”

But their experiences as Jewish students at the SOCC would soon inspire a rude awakening: the campus progressives who were fighting for justice on college campuses for students of color weren’t only ignoring anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish identity—they were sometimes the ones perpetuating it.

This was quickly made clear on the first day at a session called “Existence is Resistance,” hosted by leaders of UC San Diego’s SJP chapter. Students discussed the boycott of Israel as an issue of urgency for students of color. Rosenberg and Mokhtarzadeh told me that they originally had no intention to engage in dialogue about Israel at the conference, but they were horrified at how attacks on Israel soon devolved into attacks on the Jews. “The session went way beyond the boundaries of what was appropriate or truthful at the SOCC,” Rosenberg recalled.

For example, they said that Israel was poisoning the water that they sell into the West Bank, and raising the price by ten times. Any sane person knows that this is not true. They also said that when Jewish-American students go on Birthright trips, the Israeli government offers you money to live on a settlement. A number of things like that.

Rosenberg also stated that “There was also no mention of the Holocaust when talking about the history of Israel. They said that in the late 19th century, Jews decided to move into this land and take over it. They completely white-washed our history as a people.”

Mokhtarzadeh was also horrified by the rhetoric used during the session.

Over the course of what was probably no longer than an hour, my history was denied, the murder of my people was justified, and a movement whose sole purpose is the destruction of the Jewish homeland was glorified. Statements were made justifying the ruthless murder of innocent Israeli civilians, blatantly denying Jewish indigeneity in the land, and denying the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered. Why anyone in their right mind would accept these slanders as truths baffles me. But they did. These statements, and others, were met with endless snaps and cheers. I was taken aback.

At a conference facilitated by peers who they believed were fighting the righteous battle against racist speech and hate crimes, Mokhtarzadeh and Rosenberg heard anti-Semitic statements that were met with applause and approval—statements like “the state of Israel pays Jews to move to Israel to join the army and kill Palestinians” and even “you shouldn’t buy Ben and Jerry’s because they’re Jewish and have a shop in Israel.” But perhaps the most painful, and upsetting portion of SJP’s presentation was the section called “Intifada: Peaceful Uprising.”

There is no way we can hermetically seal the past in our current moment. The medieval past is already queer time; medieval time has become part of our queer now. Homonationalism now means medieval scholars must address how our historical fields are being used to uphold white supremacy and military machines.

This is not the time to scold the public for not being medieval historians; rather, this is the time to educate the public about the medieval past. If medievalists think that they can escape this fact or imagine that their work is not political and/or not going to be used in contemporary war machines, then medievalists must consider what privilege they have to dodge this? The idea that this can be separated away from the current now is a privilege of whiteness, a privilege of heteropatriarchy.

Homonationalism now means that medieval studies is and always will be political. Flavia Dzodan wrote the oft repeated phrase that “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” I would like to end this by saying that this should be repeated in our field—“my medieval studies will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.