Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Advancing Downward

For your pleasure, a tiny example of academic absurdity I encountered today.

As many of you know, I'm completing my Ph.D in the UC-Berkeley Political Science department. Today, I was asked by the department if I would be interested in teaching a class for them this fall. I had a few logistical questions, but the important one for our purpose was how this job -- and in particular, its pay -- would be impacted if I filed my dissertation (and thereby finished the program over the summer).

To be clear: regardless of whether I was technically still a Ph.D. student or an actual, factual minted Ph.D., I'd be teaching the exact same class and doing the exact same work. I'd just have a different title: "Lecturer" if I have a Ph.D., "Acting Instructor" if I do not.

So you might be thinking that I shouldn't get a pay raise just because I've got some fancy new letters after my name (you might also think that, if one's job description is exactly the same as a "Ph.D. student" versus as a department lecturer, then such "students" are, in fact, employees and should be treated as such. But we'll leave that aside for now.).

But if I would just be paid the same for the same class before and after garnering the credential of Ph.D., I wouldn't find that absurd and I wouldn't be writing this post. No, the truth is that if I deign to file my dissertation and graduate, I'd be paid less as a Lecturer -- substantially so. I'd also lose my health insurance.

So as best I can tell, the best play for me is to just arbitrarily delay "finishing" my Ph.D., even if it is complete by this summer. Which seems foolish for a host of reasons -- but certainly not more foolish than nominally advancing up the ladder of academia resulting in somehow making less money with fewer benefits than a graduate student.

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