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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Spoiled Rich Marxists

Rebecca Schuman has written an article that denounces UC-Riverside for waiting until 5 days before the MLA conference to tell the candidates if they will be interviewed there. This is obviously a disgusting thing to do because traveling to that conference is enormously expensive and it is crucial for people to know if they will get any interviews before they spend the last money they have in the world on airplane tickets and a hotel reservation.

I’ve interviewed at two MLA conferences and every time I had to max out the last remaining not-completely-maxed-out cards to go there. I will never forget the horrible feeling of being a worthless, useless outsider that I experienced when having to trudge over to Nob Hill in San Francisco where I was interviewed at several hotels in which I couldn’t afford to order even a cup of coffee.

I remember a liveried butler stopping me at the entrance to the breakfast room at one of these hotels.

“We are serving a buffet breakfast, Ma’am,” he said, staring at my old, scuffed boots that were leaking water like crazy. “It’s $48 and that doesn’t include beverages.”

At that point in life, $48 and $48,000 were pretty much the same to me since I had neither amount. The complete obliviousness of the people who decided to hold the (as in “the only one”) job hiring conference in Modern Languages at one of the most expensive places on the continent was mind-boggling.

So when Schuman criticized UC-Riverside, I thought that her post was bland and kind of boring (sorry, Rebecca!). “Duh, of course, what they are doing is disgusting,” I thought. “It isn’t like anybody will disagree.”

Boy, was I ever wrong, or what? Schuman was immediately attacked for her position by – and this is the best part – a blogger who calls herself “Tenured Radical.” Yes, it is totally radical to defend employers who treat prospective employees like shit. You need to muster every ounce of your revolutionary potential and radical way of thinking to condemn job-seekers for believing they deserve to be treated with a modicum of consideration and respect.

What I find completely hilarious is that people who consider themselves Marxists are doing this kind of thing. This is what Schuman has to say about such people:

I believe that academic hiring is a needlessly cruel exercise in gatekeeping by a bunch of self-professed Marxists whose own hiring practices favor the wealthy and well-connected; I believe that there can be no good reason on the planet for giving candidates five days’ notice whilst your own lavish, all-expenses-paid conference-attendance plans go completely unchallenged.

It’s one thing when you meet an honest-to-goodness Libertarian who says, “Markets rule, survival of the fittest, if you can’t pull yourself by the boot-straps, do us all a favor and hang yourself on them, etc.” One can hate this approach, but at least, such people are honest and they don’t pretend to be anything they are not.

But the folks who spout Althusser all day long and quote Paulo Freire at every turn while simultaneously cheering on the oppression of their colleagues get to me every time.

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13 thoughts on “Spoiled Rich Marxists

  1. A friend of mine had a name for that kind of person “Marxists who beat their maids”.

    They picked it up from observing latin american intellectual marxists in their natural environment.

    I’m also reminded of the Indian semi-diplomat who supposedly was screwing over her maid.

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  2. Amen to everything, INCLUDING the blandness/obviousness of my original post.

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  3. Alexandra on said:

    Marx was so good to his maid that he even had a child with her. I wonder how he could afford a maid while being supported by Engels?

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  4. I just discovered Dr. Schuman and her awesome series of posts on this subject. It makes me very happy that I am exiled to teaching university students in Africa. They tried Marxism in Africa in the 1970s and 1980s and it was an even worse disaster than it had been in the USSR and East Central Europe. So now here there are no Marxists beating their maids.

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  5. Right on, Rebecca. I jst had lunch with a former student who left one private institution since they were hostile to his looking after a daughter while his wife was at work. He drew valid comparisons with self-styled Marxists who lived in million dollar Tudor style houses, oppressed staff, and then utlilized Marxist jargon to impress colleagues at expensive conferences.

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  6. It’s annoyingly common for people to believe that having the “right” politics absolves them from the responsibility of basic introspection and analysis of their own behaviour.

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  7. After the MLA convention in Boston I decided not to attend the MLA conferences anymore unless it gets rid of that ridiculous job fair. Also, I am not even a member of the MLA anymore. And I think it is great,

    Finally, am I wrong or will next year convention be in Vancouver? Of all the places in North America, the organizer had to pick a city that is both super far, super expensive, and super boring. SIgh…

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    • At my department, the last MLA search was the one where I interviewed. The two searches we have had since 2008 were done on Skype and we didn’t miss the MLA in the least. Everybody was happy we skipped it.

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  8. Evelina Anville on said:

    Yes. We have also cut out MLA. As a side note, I never present at MLA. I personally think it’s too big a conference to put me in touch with people in my specific field. So for me, I have _only_ gone to MLA for interviews. So at my institution, we do telephone interviews initially and then fly the finalists for a campus interview (and we cover all the expenses for the campus interview.) As you say, nobody misses MLA in the least. I think the telephone interviews work perfectly well for the initial interview; candidates don’t have to spend time and money on a job they might not get; and we don’t have to give up part of our break to travel to some city solely to conduct interviews. Everybody wins!!

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    • This is good news because it’s only when the English departments stop doing the MLA that there is a chance of it becoming redundant as a job interviewing venue.

      “I think the telephone interviews work perfectly well for the initial interview; candidates don’t have to spend time and money on a job they might not get; and we don’t have to give up part of our break to travel to some city solely to conduct interviews. Everybody wins!!”

      – And people who go there to present or for the book fair will not have to stew in the high-stress environment generated by crowds of scared job seekers. Every time I visited the MLA, I felt completely drained by witnessing so much naked depression and misery that emanated from the job seekers.

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