Value for Money

Over the three years I spent in grad school and the time I spent earning a BFA , I heard a lot from faculty (mostly male) about life, education and art. A lot of what they said was worthless; some of it was insulting.

Most of the fulltime (teaching two or three classes a week plus committee work for two semesters a year on a nine or ten month contract) tenured/tenure-track faculty make VERY substantial salaries. Adjuncts, lecturers, staff and grad student instructors are generally treated with disregard by tenured faculty and administration and earn laughable wages. Well, if you can laugh through your tears…

Here are some of the words of idiocy directed at me through the years by art professors, accompanied by their salaries. Note that these professors, of various levels of experience, have ONLY MFAs; they do not have formal training/qualifications in education. They have not earned PhDs.

@Big Flagship State University:

Prof B, tenured:  $99k: Before I was a student, I visited BFSU and when Prof J was showing me around, we were approached by Prof S, who asked if J had seen “Joe.” No, the J said, but do you have a moment to say hello to Aleka, who is one of our grad applicants? Without even glancing at me, Prof S sharply says, “No.” and strides away.

Prof J, tenured: $68k:  This professor was my faculty advisor and the Sculpture area coordinator.  A month or two into my first semester, having gotten no introductions or orientation to the program, I finally caught the ever-elusive Prof B and asked how charges for materials and facilities use were levied; were the seminar fees used to cover them. His response, the first words on this subject since I had arrived, was: “Your class fees are used to subsidize the undergraduate program and grad students get a lot of free stuff, anyway.” Contemptuous, uninformative and accusatory–With this response, he’d told me who he was —I should have believed him.

Prof P, tenure track at the time, $75k: I was a half-time TA in this guy’s Intro Sculpture class during his third semester and I got very little useful experience during my time with him (or from my time with the students, either–there were maybe ten of them and of the four or five who would show up to any given class, half of them showed up 20 to 40 minutes late…this was not ideal for my learning experience, but when Prof wants tenure, Prof lets things slide…). He did interact with students, but would turn to me and complain about how much teaching he was expected to do–he deserved to be in his studio making work he could sell–and about how ‘needy’ some students were. A student, a non-traditional female student who the teacher had complained “…wouldn’t stop asking questions…” presented her piece entitled “Isis” for a critique and the teacher responded thusly: “You call your piece ‘Isis’ after the goddess? What kind of goddess? Where was this? You’re aware, right, of the terrorist group in the Middle East called ISIS?  You have to be very aware of  current events and the context in which you present your work. Viewers could get confused about what you’re trying to say.”

Prof F, tenured, $68k: My very first class of my very first day of grad school, I walked in the classroom and this professor actually sneered at me when I said ‘Hello.’ He told me I didn’t have the personality to be an artist and literally said “no” to every suggestion or question I ever presented him.

Prof/admin W, tenured, $102k: For the year he was on my Thesis Committee, he couldn’t bother to get my name right. He had a snit fit when I referred to him as ‘Associate Poobah,’ rather than ‘Assistant Poobah’ in front of my students, yet, in his very last email to me: “Have a good summer, Alekkeo.” How much more would he have to get paid to get it right? ffs.

Prof/Graduate Coordinator L, tenured, $106k: This professor, with whom I had never had a single conversation, emailed me this in response to my simple request that he change my presentation time (he’d not consulted me about it): “… there are other aspects of your question that concern me, and indicate a basic misunderstanding of the goals graduate school.   This initiative for students in their fourth semester is not only about giving a presentation, but being in professional dialogue with your peers. As such, it is important for you to attend and participate in the presentations by others. Peer to peer learning is important and I hope you see this in your own teaching responsibilities. 

I never got an apology from him. But then, maybe he’s not paid enough to be professional…

BFSU Chancellor, $434k  I’m just throwing this in for general knowledge.

BFSU Art School Department Assistant, $37k: This employee had 23 years of experience at BFSU. One of the very few reliably pleasant and friendly people in the whole building. She knew everything about the place. Invaluable.

BFSU Art School Department Accountant, $46k: This employee did everything money-related. She actually talked to me and got my name right every time.

BFSU Art School Museum Assistant, $34k: This person did the physical labor and artist relations connected to art shows, dealt with undergrads and grad students, grappled with faculty, did publicity for the Museum. She did LOTS of actual work, 40+ hours a week.

@Small Regional State University:

Prof/admin L, tenured $91k: (also my BFA faculty advisor) In response to my question about mixing ink colors, this guy, who had 17 years of experience teaching printmaking said, “I don’t really know anything about mixing inks, so you’ll just have to figure it out …”

Tech/prof K, $49k: I heard a young woman say the following about this middle-aged male studio tech/teacher whose inappropriate behavior I’d heard female students complain about every semester: “I don’t want to come to open studio hours, ‘cause he always exhibits this crazy sexual energy when I’m around…” This was undeniably true, too—I actually saw the guy talk to her once and he about busted out of his pants when he smiled at her… really disturbing.

Prof/admin T, tenured $80k: When I went to him to talk to him about sexually inappropriate behavior by a couple of instructors I had encountered/observed during my education (see above), he said: “What we look for is a pattern of behavior. Really, if you think you see something, you should just keep your head down.”

Dept. Assistant, $30k: This woman did all the heavy lifting and most of the student engagement for the dept. head sitting in the office next door, a guy who was making three times as much money and leching around after various women in the building to kill time on the job.

(This salary information is public—I attended public universities—and I present it here to provide further evidence that there is something broken in our university system when compensation is so unproductive and unrelated to supporting students.)