While grading student papers one day, I noticed the words, “This Dump Sucks!” scrawled across the corporate-beige walls of my communal office in yellow highlighter. What self-respecting professional would vandalize his or her personal workspace?
My memoir, Professor Never: Life on the Other Side of the Tenure Track, responds to that question. In 90,000 words, Professor Never recounts my journey through a system of higher education in financial and moral crisis. In smart but colloquial prose, I chronicle my professional/academic “ascent”: from the mind-numbing work of corporate employment, to the intoxicating world of graduate school, to the ironic drudgery of the adjunct professor—all while raising a family. Professor Never culminates with my excruciating decision to leave the academy behind.
The September 2013 death of 83-year old adjunct professor, Margaret Mary Vojtko, brought national attention to the economic plight of poorly compensated university instructors. Since then, a regular string of news stories about adjunct working conditions have kept Professor Never relevant.
While this topic has been roundly editorialized, most book-length accounts of academic life are survival guides, including those that deal with motherhood. In contrast, Professor Never portrays the day-to-day life of an individual trying to balance childrearing with the impossibilities of today’s academic work culture. From the day I vomited in front of a student for lack of sleep, to the day my son’s dyslexia diagnosis illuminated my own reading disability, to the day I discovered my adjunct’s performance evaluation to be a fraud, Professor Never keeps it real.
I have published two personal essays on my departure from academe, one in the Chronicle of Higher Education (2006) and the other in Inside Higher Ed (2014). Since leaving the academy, I have worked as a tutor and a freelance writer/editor.
Professor Never engages the crisis in higher education today by contrasting the mind-opening wonder of a humanities education and the desire for work-life balance with the cultural and economic realities of a large institution bent on the bottom line. The work will appeal to those interested in literary memoir, cultural criticism, higher education, and outsider perspectives.
I am currently seeking representation for Professor Never and can be reached at dwerrlein (at) gmail (dot) com.