This article in Vox describes the typical academic’s work week through a variety of studies. Overall, they fit my experience. When things are at their slowest, my week is maybe around 45 hours. This sounds like a whine, but it’s not about my job: I really enjoy what I do, and don’t mind 45-50 hours most weeks. When my week goes over 60 hours, which happens fairly often, I occasionally question my life choices, and during those insane weeks (like grant preparation weeks) when I sleep 4-6 hours per night and do almost nothing else (i.e., taking time to pee or eat breakfast seems like minutes I can’t possibly spare) I want to beat myself into unconsciousness with a shovel. I’m really trying to avoid having those weeks ever again… but, realistically, maybe I can just keep them down to maybe once a year.
My whine isn’t about my job, because it’s the kind of job that (so far) defies resentment. Oh, I can’t stay mad at you, worky! Come here and give me a hug. My whine is about the bizarre impression elsewhere in the American world that faculty sit around doing nothing and get paid for it. I have no complaints about my middle-class salary, or about the pretty limited possibilities it presents for the rest of my career (assuming I have one). But I work for it. We all do.
Oh, right: summers. I have occasionally heard something like, “But you have summers off.” Sure. If you want to guarantee that you won’t make tenure or–in Texas at least–you won’t pass post-tenure review someday, and then you’ll be out of a job. I’m overjoyed that I have flexible summers, but of course I’m working. So is everyone else I know. For one thing, our salaries aren’t usually amazing, and picking up a couple of summer courses helps keep the bills paid. However, for two or three summers I have declined teaching opportunities to focus on research, because otherwise I simply can’t keep my research career even basically competitive (at least not with my innate time management abilities). Now that UT-RGV is the thing, and given the continued messages from the administration that it will be “research intensive” (something UTPA never was, despite having some good research going on), it’s even more critical to keep our research agendas alive. We have to be competitive outside the university, just in case we get laid off in that administrative moment when UTPA and UTB cease to exist but before UT-RGV has come into being.
The issue of UT-RGV impacts my work decisions pretty heavily: the administrators responsible for making some of the key decisions continue, at this point, to avoid giving any definite answers about whether there will be layoffs in transitioning to the new university, whether tenure from UTPA/UTB will transfer, etc. Of course I can speculate about, and even understand, some of their reasons, which must include their own uncertainty about how this will happen. But of course we’re bleeding faculty, now–I know four faculty members in my small circle who have left in the past year, citing (at least in private) the uncertainty about what will happen with UT-RGV as being a factor in accepting jobs elsewhere. Most faculty will stay and ride out the transition, though, either for lack of other opportunities, after a careful consideration of pros and cons of leaving, or because we value what UTPA and UTB are doing in the Valley and want to be part of whatever they turn into, if possible. And we’ll put in more hours and see our families less and probably die a little younger because nobody will tell us whether we’ll still have jobs, or what the work life quality will be, a year from now, and because we’re hoping that, if lists are currently being drawn up of who keeps tenure (or their job) and who doesn’t, we’ll be in Column A.