Ep. 38: Creating Spaces of Love and Resistance in Academia
Today, Dr. Renee and Dr. Cristina sit down with Diane Nevarez, a professor in the Education department at University of California Irvine. They do a deep dive into the current state of academia with a focus on the many challenges that the American university system poses, both in general and specifically around the pandemic.
There is a lot of exploitation that takes place among adjunct professors precisely due to the contractual or part-time nature of the job. The hiring process is toxic and an air of uncertainty permeates the period in between classes. “I love what I do,” says Dr. Renee, “but I deserve to get paid more.”
Elitism continues to characterize the culture of academia, particularly when it comes to state schools. A CV that has Cal State on it isn’t as respected as one that mentions USC or Stanford or another “prestigious” school.
As a form of resistance, Diane once talked to her students about being pregnant while teaching. That was because, if faculty or students at USC were pregnant, there was an unspoken agreement to basically disappear until they were no longer pregnant. Unfortunately, this is a reality even in the ethnic studies department.
“Spring 2020 should have been cancelled,” says Dr. Renee. She and her fellow professors had no choice but to move their courses from in-person to online in under a week—not to mention they were expected to be “experts” right away at teaching classes online. And now, a speedy transition back to in-person classes is underway even as many students are still unprepared or unwilling to go out in public.
Boundaries matter a lot if you’re in academia. The emotional ups-and-downs of today’s educational environment on adjunct professors directly affect their family life; so, it’s more important than ever to set expectations for yourself, even if it means bracing yourself to receive only 50% of your usual salary.
Finally, Diane believes that building unity between other professors that look like her, along with celebrating spaces of love and resistance is the first step to seeing real change in academia.
Dr. Renee said it best: “My loyalty does not lie with any university or any department. My loyalty is to my students.” She, Dr. Cristina, and Diane have nothing but passion for their work as professors. At the same time, they bear the exploitation that the job comes with. They hope to change the entire landscape through their example and their resistance, especially as racial minorities in a predominantly white space. “What we’re doing,” says Dr. Cristina, “is radical in and of itself—just being there.”
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