Episode 4: Not Sustainable

When I talk with other professors who are sympathetic to my situation, the most striking phrase I hear again and again is that the job is simply “not sustainable.” The feeling of having “no life,” of constant work, and of loss of control is pervasive. Many of the same causes are cited again and again: The growing requirements to “hold the hands” of the students and to be on call 24 hours a day to students’ every need and desire; the over-administering of higher ed and the growing paper-work, assessment, committees, etc.; the helicopter parents; and the current “market” approach to education, where students and their parents are treated as consumers, while teachers are providers of “experiences” or even safe “entertainment” and babysitting. Faculty, of course, are last in line in value to these consumers, behind boutique cafeterias and sports centers. And so facilities are first in line for funding in the race to grab students and their dollars. So many say the same thing about their current life as a professor: “I don’t feel healthy.” “I don’t eat well or exercise.” “I don’t laugh.” “I don’t have time.” “I am so stressed out.” “The students just don’t care.” “I am not sure why I am here.” “I am not sure how to leave, but I feel I should.” Some say, “I’d like to leave, but now I really need the health insurance!” (Hmm. That would be an interesting pattern to study.)