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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Other stuff:

* Duke swine flu Patient Zero located. Get your torches and pitchforks and meet me by the Chapel.

* NPR is having a microfiction contest, no entry fee (but no real prize either). I've already entered more than 1,300 times.

* Trailer for Ricky Gervais's SFish comedy "The Invention of Lying" about a universe where no one has ever thought to lie.

* What is a master's degree worth? My advice to students in the humanities, as always, is to stay away unless they're paying you to go. Don't miss the structural analysis from Columbia's Mark C. Taylor:

The next bubble to burst will be the education bubble. Make no mistake about it, education is big business and, like other big businesses, it is in big trouble. What people outside the education bubble don’t realize and people inside won’t admit is that many colleges and universities are in the same position that major banks and financial institutions are: their assets (endowments down 30-40 percent this year) are plummeting, their liabilities (debts) are growing, most of their costs are fixed and rising, and their income (return on investments, support from government and private donations, etc.) is falling.

This is hardly a prescription for financial success. Faced with this situation, colleges and universities are on the prowl for new sources of income. And one place they invariably turn is to new customers, i.e., students.
* Also on the academic front is this on the split between reading and writing in English departments from the always insightful Marc Bousquet, at the Valve. Welcome to my future, everyone:
As of Fall 2007, contingent faculty outnumber the tenure stream by at least 3 to 1, roughly the inverse of the proportions forty years earlier. Across the profession, this trend line will drive the percentage of tenure-stream faculty into single digits within twenty years. It is hard to imagine that the trend line for English could be worse--but it is-- and the outlook for literature is worse yet. A 2008 MLA analysis of federal IPEDS data (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) shows that between 1993 and 2004, the hiring of nontenurable faculty continued to dramatically outpace tenure-track hiring in the profession as a whole.

However, in terms of absolute numbers most disciplines actually gained a modest number of tenure-track lines, or at least held steady. Political science gained 2.5 percent new lines; philosophy and religion packed on 43 percent. English, however, lost over 3,000 tenure-track lines, an average annual loss of 300 positions. This amounted to slightly more than one in every 10 tenurable positions in English — literally a decimation. If that trend proves to have continued — and all indications are that it has — by early 2010 English will have shed another 1,500 lines.
I just thank God I have an MFA to fall back on.