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Planning for the Future: The Job Edition.

I'm preparing to meet with the Department Chair in a few hours, where we'll do strategic planning about how to keep my position. Tomorrow, she and the Associate Dean meet about this. Some time soon, I'll give my presentation to the Dean. No pressure.

On the ego-boosting side, I got a couple of job offers last week, one that pays more than twice as much as teaching. Tempting, yes, but I love this teaching gig, and the students need the tech-writing classes I teach (and appreciate the SF and fiction-writing courses I teach). It drives me crazy that the powers-that-be at KU have (historically, anyway) displayed no understanding of the importance of writing in the professions. KU stands alone among our peer schools with no official technical-communication program. Shame on us. I've done all I personally can to get the program approved, but those at the Dean's level and above are terrified of commitment to a new program, so they're sitting on the proposal. And now they're considering eliminating my position.

Let's examine that proposition for a moment: Just about every Engineering program requires the first tech-writing course I teach, as do a number of science, design, business, and other programs. The English Department voted to make my position a permanent hire (that is, tenured). A couple of GTAs teach it occasionally, but they're done this year. If I'm not here, we'll likely have zero people teaching the course. This, despite demand that could support at least three full-timers teaching the tech-comm courses. This is not a position to cut in order to save money.

Oddly, I've come to realize that I wouldn't feel sorry for myself if I do lose my day-job: I would see it as an opportunity to dive head-first into my fiction-writing career for at least as long as the unemployment insurance holds out. See, I have a novel coming out in early 2010 and one more ready to sell right away. I have two previous novels I want to revise and publish. A young-adult SF series I'm dying to write. Three more adult novels. Tons of stories. Even a tech-writing textbook that I plan to give away online.

In that light, why do I care about keeping my position? Why am I fighting for it? Well, I love teaching. But I could easily teach part-time or just on occasion. No, it comes down to my loyalty to James Gunn and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. It would kill me to see his legacy wither. I refuse to let that happen.

In a perfect world, a wealthy science-fiction fan would donate funds to set up a sustainable Center. It would be truly perfect if we could have our own, independent facility with rooms for residential students to occupy for extended stays, but all we would really require is funding sufficient to support a permanent SF position at KU. The facilities to run ongoing programs - monthly seminars, credit courses, non-resident workshops, speakers, and so forth - are free or cheap to use here. We have our own offices, one of which is big enough to house our massive SF research lending-library. KU has a couple of fine libraries on site with large SF collections, plus museums and so forth. Lawrence has a fantastic downtown with restaurants and shopping and movies and music and everything else visitors need to blow off steam. With an endowed SF Professorship, KU could not cut that position. Grad students could come here just to study SF. We could have guest authors and scholars stay for a full semester at a time, if they wished. And Jim Gunn's legacy would be secure.

But even if we can't secure such, and even if I lose my day-job, I'll continue to serve the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. I'll fight to keep our programs housed here, where our endowment lives, where our book collections live. I'll fight to keep the office that also serves as our lending library.

So off I go to prep for a meeting to save my job. It's comforting to realize that I won't feel sad if I end up losing that job.




( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 12th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy that you've reached the place where you're not freaking out any more about not having a full-time paid day job.

one of which is big enough to house our massive SF research lending-library

I'm sorry, did you open up a dimensional rift somewhere that allowed you to expand the size of your office? Because dude. If you think that office is big enough you are high.
Nov. 12th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
Best of luck, Chris. It would be a damn shame for you to lose your job, and for the CSSF to struggle for survival.
Nov. 12th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
a lot of wow here.

as a fellow adjunct, i really identify with a lot of what you wrote. with the exception of having been offered a job that pays twice as much as the pittance an adjunct makes, i ofter wonder how much i could get done if i wasn't always teaching.

i wish i felt like you do. i don't.
the part time gig at the colleges give me a sense of security. and i really do get a lot from my students. they are aweseme!

i am surprised that writing is not valued more at your school. i always think that the visual arts occupies the top position in Novalueland.

any which way the wind blows.
Nov. 12th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
That's a very zen sort of mindset to have, and it seems like a healthy balance of realism, logic, and hope.

That said, I need to make my company invest in some continuing education for me in the next year. Technical writing was one of those areas of possibility. Could I email you sometime in the near future for a bit of perspective/advice?

Luck and grace to you!
Nov. 12th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
As others have said, I'm glad you are able to see positives regardless of which way this goes. Here's hoping for the best possible outcome for you (and your students, and the center!).
Nov. 12th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
Good luck, amigo! If I ever get wealthy, I'd absolutely endow an SF/F Professorship there. And I didn't know you had a novel coming out next year. Congrats!
Nov. 12th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
I am sorry that this is even a consideration at this point. Is there a way to move the endowment? Is it attached directly to the center? Could that be adopted by another school?
Nov. 12th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
I hope it all works out in some positive way for you man.
Nov. 12th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
Good luck
As a science fiction fan (of James Gunn's work, specifically, among others) I do appreciate your determination to continue working with the Center whether or not you're still employed by the university.
Nov. 12th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
Sending good vibes your way. Non-writers always undervalue the need for well-trained writers (says the currently unemployed technology marketing writer). Hang in there.
Nov. 12th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
Hoping the best for you, whatever that might turn out to be...but for the sake of KU and her students, I sure hope you stay.
Nov. 12th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
I truly feel your pain.

Having taught college for ten years, it was very odd making the switch to the private sector. Working half the hours for twice the pay did help considerably though.

And yet... I miss the teaching. I don't miss the politics (which I sucked at). I even miss the service a bit (there's a small part of me that like committee work).

When I retire, I'm hoping to get back to doing a bit of teaching. Maybe if your program gets saved I can come out and play.
Nov. 12th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
Good luck to you personally whichever way the university winds blow.

As far as the SF funding goes, may I suggest putting together a proposal and sending it to Paul Allen/Vulcan/the SF Museum? Really, you'd be the person to do it if anyone.
Nov. 12th, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
Um, wow. You have really good perspective on this, but I do hope the department keeps you. There's a need for better tech writing.

OTOH, I want to read your novels! Good luck either way.
Nov. 13th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
Wow. Good luck with that.
Nov. 15th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
Hope it all works out. I must say, teaching is fun, but I'm on overload. If I had an offer of a real job (instead of adjunct teaching positions), I'd jump at it. Of course, you've already been there. You've got all the perspective you need to make decisions. Of all the schools I've been at, CMU is the only one with vision to see what's needed and fund it. I suppose moving from Lawrence is not an option?

Luck and hugs,

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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