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The Relentless Pace of Alt-Ac Careers

Exactly nobody worries about burnout among alternative academics. After all, why should colleges and universities worry about the wellness of alt-acs?

Alternative academics are staff.  Staff are costs, not assets.  Right?

We all know that staff bloat is responsible for the rising costs of higher education, and the diminishing number of tenure track lines.  (Well, neither of these statements are true – but blaming staff is much easier than figuring out what’s really going on).

In our screwed up academic labor market, complaining that the pace of work for alt-acs feels dangerous.

It is also true, however, that the non-stop pace of work may leave alternative academics vulnerable to burnout. There are few natural breaks in the work tempo for non-faculty academics.

The growth of programs outside of the confines of normal semesters, including new online learning programs, have made many academic staff jobs a 365 day (and sometimes 24/7) reality.

In the constrained financial environments that most colleges and universities now operate, alternative academics feel a great deal of pressure to constantly demonstrate their value.  Lacking any protections of tenure or autonomy, alt-acs are among the most vulnerable of all academics.

Every time I hear about an alt-ac colleague leaving their job, I always wonder if burnout was a factor?  A surprising number of alternative academics that I know have left their non-faculty gigs, not for another job, but simply to take a break.

In speaking with alt-ac friends and colleagues, the most common refrain I hear is that they have too much work.  That they are juggling too many balls, as their units are understaffed relative to the growing demands.

Some smart and progressive university is going to see this as an opportunity.  They will offer the option of short sabbaticals in their recruiting efforts.  They will stress a focus on job security, and a commitment to long-term career growth, beyond the tenure track.

A smart university will communicate that it sees its non-faculty educators as, well, educators.

Who is worrying about alt-acs as a group? What professional association or organization is advocating for this emerging segment of the academic labor market?

Have you been able to engineer a time of rest and recharging into your alt-ac career?

Story source:  Insidehighered

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