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.
Excerpts of Professor Never have appeared or are forthcoming in Creative Nonfiction and Literary Mama. Additional personal pieces about academic life that include excerpts from the memoir have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. 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.