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April 25, 2009

The My Daily List guide to entering academia

So you’re a PhD!. These 10 tips will help you redirect the bitterness you’ve developed as a student towards an exciting career as a tenured faculty member – what we all call the last bastion for gentlewomen and men of leisure.

1. In your interactions with students, remember to be as surly and dismissive as possible. Dedication and empathy will only result in students draining away your valuable free-time so do your best to insure that their first interaction with you is also their last.

2. Those who came before you toiled hard to create the imaginary concept of “shared governance.” Just between us PhDs, shared governance is nothing more than a way to avoid doing something you don’t want to do. In the event that the administration expects something of you, simply call a meeting that results in a report that shared governance has broken down. Don’t worry about reprisal. The administration have PhDs as well so they expect this response. It’s what they need to get past the non-tenured wage slaves’ union so that the undesirable duty can be shifted to them.

3. Speaking of non-tenured wage slaves, make sure that you check in with yours at least once a week to insure that they are keeping up the illusion that you are doing something. Admittedly, you accomplishing something is strictly for show but this illusion will prove to be an important factor in future budget processes.

4. Work closely with your Dean’s office to maximize the number of stipends and honoraries you receive while minimizing the amount of time you are expected to be on campus. For example, if you volunteer to serve on a committee that meets once a month you should either receive $2000 or have your workload reduced by one quarter.

5. Consider the implications of #4. It is possible to double your salary AND reduce your workload by 100%. In many cases, this sort of dedication is required for promotion to full professor.

6. Volunteer to teach as many introductory and core classes as possible. Remember your own experience as a student. These classes come with teaching assistants so you don’t really have to do anything except fill out the TA evaluation at the end of the semester.

7. It is important that you set regular office hours and that you are never in your office during those posted hours. The sooner you establish that you are hard to locate, the sooner students, peers, and non-tenure wage slaves will stop looking for you and leave you alone.

8. It is vital that you publish books and articles but don’t go crazy since no one really cares. If your subject is very specific, say the role of the common grouse in the transition from the gold standard in third world plutocracies, it isn’t even necessary to actually write the book. Academic presses frequently cut costs by printing the cover and binding blank pages when it’s clear no one will ever read the book.

9. The more you discourage people from being around you, the easier it will be to retire without having done anything. A lack of grooming is an important tool. Also, sprinkle your conversations with things like, “I own a small television but only to watch PBS” and “I love jazz” and “would you like to join the Green party?”

10. In your career, you may be troubled by people who don’t have PhDs and who wish to apply some other standard to you. In these cases, use the phrase “academic freedom.” For example, if a cable news channel discovers that you have sex with goats, inform them that you have a grant to study man/goat love and that academic freedom protects your right to pursue this knowledge.


  1. At our local institution of higher education, the faculty appears to include the task of rampant fornication with students in their job description. I don't have a Phd, so perhaps you could enlighten me: is there a small-print clause giving droits de signeures to the faculty? Always wondered.

  2. ...And when all else fails, don't forget to bang a couple of students.


  3. Husbands: it isn't necessarily a matter of entitlements, which they have in spades. It's just that faculty members are like 2 year olds. They put everything in their mouths.

    Jerry K: A word of warning to you sir. If you keep writing excellent posts on your blog you're going to force me to act like I'm not reading it so it will not appear that I'm stealing your ideas.

  4. I'll steal from you and you can steal from me! Deal?