I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And another thing...

Further to my previous post about teaching and academic conduct and the payment offered sessional tutors... On my walk this morning I ran into a friend who teaches in a different discipline, in a different university. She told me how frustrated she was with a junior colleague who, because the department wasn't able to fund 100% of her interstate conference trip, was pulling out of the conference.

This is a tricky one. Obviously, it'd be ideal if we were all fully funded for everything, all the time. And the benefits to the individual academic — professional contacts, intellectual exchange, possibilities for future collaboration etc. — do also flow indirectly back to the university. But the public university system in this country simply isn't geared to funding every such trip fully. Heaven knows, my credit card took a severe beating for over a decade while I hauled myself off to international conferences and inadequately funded research trips. Having a research budget, and having a professorial salary makes a huge difference, I'm aware, and no longer paying 17% interest on a home loan, as I was in the late 80s and early 90s, also makes the idea of spending some of my own salary on research trips more practical and more palatable.

But I can't help feeling it is a kind of short-sightedness to count the cost of everything, every single time, and to refuse to attend a conference two states away if you can't travel fully funded, or in the style you'd like.

This is going to sound harsh, but I do think that sometimes we just have to acknowledge that the intellectual life is not the same as running a consultancy, for example; that life in the Australian university system is never going to attract the kinds of renumeration possible in the private sector (or in the wealthiest ivy league US universities); and that if you're going to measure yourself against that world, and against what it's possible to earn there, then you're simply going to make yourself miserable.

So going back to my previous post, the payrates for sessional tutoring are incommensurate with the time it takes, and with the professional training and accreditation the tutor has already acquired. But tutoring is still a great thing to do. Sometimes it's important to remember there are other ways to measure the value of things apart from the dollar amounts.

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