What is a job at UCLA worth?


Turns out it’s a little less high-status than you might imagine.

I’ve seen this sort of thing a few times before. They’ve created a soft money position for someone — they’re going to provide lab space or an office to someone who is then expected to write grants for their salary. The only difference here is that they were probably compelled by university policy to publicly advertise the position, thereby exposing one of the dirty underhanded secrets of academia to the whole world.

This ought to be criminal, except…this is a way to give someone an opportunity to work in a university for the status, the facilities, and — dare I say it — the exposure. Sometimes it’s done as a way to give a spouse a position.

Comments

  1. whywhywhy says

    Well the university will get paid probably around 60 percent on top of whatever money the person brings in as overhead. So don’t worry about the university…

  2. says

    They’ve created a soft money position for someone — they’re going to provide lab space or an office to someone who is then expected to write grants for their salary. …

    This ought to be criminal, except…this is a way to give someone an opportunity to work in a university for the status, the facilities, and — dare I say it — the exposure. Sometimes it’s done as a way to give a spouse a position.

    I’d almost be willing to buy that excuse except… they’re requiring teaching hours.

    NOPE. FUCK THEM.

    Unpaid teaching work? == slavery

    PhD requirement for volunteer position? == education is worthless.

    If UCLA was to send the message that slavery is fine and education is worthless, then okay. But I don’t think that’s in their long-term best interest.

  3. raven says

    It is actually worse than slavery.
    Slaves get food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, at least enough to keep them alive.

    UCLA is being a wimp here though.
    Go big or go home.
    They should be demanding that the successful applicant pay them for the privilege of working at UCLA.

  4. klatu says

    So this is the old “work for exposure not pay” spiel again that writers and artists have been dealing with? Sociopaths from all schools of life are cribbing from each other now, it seems.

    Crip Dyke already hit the nail on the head. Unpaid work is slavery. It’s practically the definition.

  5. azpaul3 says

    I thought we were all consenting adults here. Is there anything hidden from the announcement?
    If someone was willing and able to accept, whether for the prestige or other personal reasons, I’m not seeing the problem? Is this knowingly used to endenture poor post-docs unable to read and understand the English language? If you know what is expected, and you want to sign on, where is the abuse?

    I don’t live in this academic world. What am I missing?

  6. says

    You’re missing that most of academia is built on a form of coercion. The institution has all the power — and they abuse it. Adjuncting itself is a strategy for taking advantage of highly trained individuals, forcing them to take low wages and work long hours because the whole system is rigged. This is just the nadir of a trend.

  7. R. L. Foster says

    The only possible upside I can see is that on next year’s job application where it asks for teaching experience they can say they taught at UCLA. I know, it’s not much, but after seeing what my wife went through to land her current job in academia I understand the importance of previous teaching experience. Classic Catch-22. If you want to teach at the university level you need previous teaching experience, but to get that you need to have taught someplace which is unlikely if you’re a newly minted PhD..

  8. Alan G. Humphrey says

    #9 Nemo
    They have to pay their sports coaches with something other than prestige.

  9. says

    I’d like to refocus on the “education is worthless” message.

    This position in particular (as an entirely unpaid one) but ALL adjunct positions (or nearly all, there is occasionally a famous person who teaches as an adjunct for a living wage) communicate that the university or college in question simply doesn’t value education.

    The clear message is, “It requires a graduate degree to perform this job, but neither the employees qualifications nor the value of the work performed — educating undergraduates — is worth a living wage.”

    Why is the institution in the business of education in the first place if it values education so poorly? This floccinaucinihilipilification of their own product reveals that the persons who run the universities hate the universities and what they do.

    At the very, very least, each and every course should be labeled in advance with “instructor receiving a living wage”, “instructor receiving compensation that does not amount to a living wage in this region,” or “instructor is unpaid.”

    That way students can make informed decisions about whether they feel it is ethical or otherwise desirable to participate in this system that devalues education in the name of education. But of course for me that’s only a step on the path to firing the assholes that have done this to our universities and continue to believe this is acceptable. If student pressure helps through boycotting courses taught without paying an instructor a living wage, well then let’s have boycotts. But even those of us who aren’t students can bring this up as an issue with the public universities and colleges that are accountable to people we can choose to elect or to drive out of office.

  10. ardipithecus says

    Crip Dyke @ 13

    “Why is the institution in the business of education in the first place if it values education so poorly?”

    Because they see educating students as a means to an end, not an end in itself? Prestige, grant money, . . .? That would also explain why some of them don’t mind exposing students and faculty to covid.

  11. says

    Hmm, “teaching according to the instructional needs of the department” is unspecific enough that I’m doubtful teaching is actually involved. Maybe, maybe not. What’s the teaching load in courses per term? Undergraduates or grad students? Contrast with this listing for another position with the same title: “Responsibilities include lecturing, conducting regularly scheduled office hours, writing and grading exams and problem sets, supervising teaching assistants…” This really does smell like they’ve a person already joining up in some capacity and they had to post a “job opening” because of university policy. The position is only “open” for a month, whereas the others listed in that department are open for around a year. It could be that somebody at UCLA has a collaborator who needs a university affiliation in order to be co-PI on grant applications. Or, somebody at UCLA already has the funding to bring in a collaborator and pay them, and posting a pro forma “job opening” was easier than going up the chain to get an exemption to that policy.

  12. says

    Or, random extra thought, the person they already have in mind has an industry job and wants an academic affiliation too.

    I can only make guesses as to what’s really up, but overall, this does give me the strong sense of a “job opening” with a target audience of one.

  13. says

    A claim reported here is that “the post was for classes that are taught by postdoctoral fellows (who are compensated) and teaching a class is a part of their fellowship duties”. I’ve no way to verify that from a distance, of course, but it is consistent with the “required by policy to list this on the website” vibes.

  14. Kevin Karplus says

    “Adjunct” means something different at UC than in the rest of the world—is a courtesy title for people who want to be affiliated with the university. There are two different tracks: adjunct without salary (who get paid nothing, but may get privileges like offices, library access, advising grad students, attending faculty meetings, … ) and adjunct with salary (who have PI status but have to raise their own salary through grants).

    Neither is a teaching position—that is a “lecturer” which is a totally different job title and is unionized. A person can be both a lecturer and an adjunct professor at UC, but they get different review processes for the two roles and everything they do has to be assigned to exactly one of the roles—no overlapping.

    As I understand it from from comments on r/Professors, this particular job posting was for a visiting international scholar who was getting paid from home, but needed a “job” to get a visa.

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