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My Absent Career 11: Minding the kids

Then something happened. A position came up for a lecturer at Bond University. Paul suggested I apply, as lectureships in Australia in philosophy are like honest politicians, only a few exist. I did, and to my surprise I got the job. Of course, this meant I had to surrender my ARC Postdoc Fellowship, which I did with great reluctance. It was beyond a mistake; it was a career ender. I’ll tell you how.

Bond University is a for-profit school on the Gold Coast in Queensland (think of Miami with all the charm of Cancun on spring break). It is named after a notorious grifter by the name of Alan Bond, who funded the first America’s Cup victory by anyone not an American. He turned out to be mostly hot air. An Australian Trump. But the institution did marginally better than Trump’s university, and still exists.

Now in the interview I asked whether there would be any kind of grading on a curve (properly called “normalisation of marks” as this is supposed to be making sure that the results fall on a normal distribution), and I was told there would not be. I asked if I had to conform in my classes to any particular kind of positions. Again, the answer was no. Both answers were outright falsehoods.

Reader, I worked my butt off that year. I took no days off. I was working seven days a week. I wrote a textbook (based on one done previously by Damian Cox). I taught over 600 students in two courses. I prepared electronic versions o fall exams and assessments. The day before Christmas, as I was submitting the results of the third semester’s classes, I was summoned to the dean’s office to be told that I was a poor fit, that there had been unspecified complaints, my evaluations were bad, and that my contract was terminated.

I was never shown the evaluations but I heard later they were fine. I never saw any evidence of complaints, although in retrospect it may have been that I didn’t automatically pass students who did no work. Bond is a full-fee institution (I hesitate to call it a university) and if mum and dad want their kid to get As, it seemed that As they should get.

In short, I wasn’t teaching so much as babysitting. Nevertheless I tried to teach. I suspect that as a Catholic leaning faculty, my choice of logical fallacies involving religion are what sunk me, although I also used atheist, scientific, political (both sides) fallacies as well.

So, there I was: broke, broken, without my ARC grant, and in my mid-50s. The ARC never offered me another grant despite us getting very good reviews (the “us” being my co-applicants), and I have been told that for a period there the ARC was vindictive against those who did not complete their fellowships. I also found out that Bond replaced me with a masters student, and used my prepared material. Of course.

So, I moved back to Sydney, and ended up doing bit work (this was just as the gig economy was getting started). I injured my back doing picking and packing for Sony, but since it was casual work I was not covered by workers’ compensation. I taught a few classes at Sydney and UNSW, but it was patchy work. And thus I was in the precariate, both academically and industrially for the next few years.

And although I applied for every single position I might be qualified for, after over 500 job applications, I realised nobody wanted to hire a mid-50 year old, not in academe nor in business. Age discrimination employment policies are illegal in Australia, but trying to prove this is next to impossible, so I merely note that Australian, American, British, and Dutch universities suspiciously will not employ people over a certain age.


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