Meet the underpaid university lecturer who lived in a tent for two years

Originally published at: Meet the underpaid university lecturer who lived in a tent for two years | Boing Boing


I had an undergrad mock me when I arrived to teach one day with holey boots on a wet, wet day. “you can’t be much good if you can’t afford boots”.

Yeah, that was pretty grim. And I sure as hell couldn’t afford new boots that term.

[Edit - I’ll add this was 25+ years ago, and the situation is much harder on sessionals today than it was then]


Something has gone very strange with this topic.

This links correctly to the correct BB article

But if you click [show full post] this happens

Which links to a completely different article…


I have sympathy for the hardship she went through, but this needs some context.

She wasn’t a university lecturer, she was a student. She was studying for her PhD and they gave her some work to help defray costs. We can talk about how that system has been corrupted and how professors offload too much to their grad students. But that’s not how this is framed. “Student’s deserve a living wage” doesn’t generate as much sympathy.

Universities, especially those in expensive cities like London, should provide significantly subsidized housing to their grad students. It seems the worst part of the story is that the school closed her residence for renovations without providing for those displaced, which is inexcusable. I would assume the offer of that housing was part of her enticement to study at the school.


Turns out it’s actually really, really bad when you run the university like a business.


Apparently it was an undergrad having their way paid by mommy and daddy.


Context helps explain this shit. It’s all about the money, and greedy assholes’ hunger for more and more and more.

Increasingly aligned with neoliberal interests, higher education is mostly primed for teaching business principles and corporate values, while university administrators are prized as CEOs or bureaucrats in an audit culture. Many colleges and universities have been McDonaldized as knowledge is increasingly viewed as a commodity, This results in curricula that resemble a fast-food menu while devaluing knowledge that stresses humanistic values.

In the age of precarity and flexibility, the majority of faculty have been reduced to part-time positions, have been subjected to low wages, have lost control over the conditions of their labor, and have seen their benefits slashed or eliminated. Many of these academics are barely able to make ends meet because of their impoverished salaries, and some even receive food stamps.

If faculty are treated like service workers, students fare no better, and are relegated to the status of customers and clients. They are not only inundated with the competitive, privatized and market-driven values of neoliberalism, but are also punished by those values in the form of exorbitant tuition rates, astronomical debts owed to banks and other financial institutions and, in too many cases, a lack of meaningful future opportunities once they graduate.



Spoken like a kid who has never had to pay for so much as a stick of gum with his own money.

God i do not miss academia one bit.


I hate to say it, but even having somewhere to park a tent for two years is quite a lot of privilege. Most people experiencing homelessness can’t manage more than a few weeks before something happens (crime, police raid, etc) that forces them to move. So what is this “protest camp” she managed to camp comfortably in for so long? Even real campgrounds won’t let you stay that long.

It’s worth noting that she’s homeless by choice here. Nobody needs a PhD from a fancy school and she’s lucky to have a grad school stipend at all, frankly. Not saying the neoliberal school system isn’t terrible, but a little perspective is still warranted here, I think.


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Exactly. The same context where she can’t make a living wage with whatever crumbs the school deigns to throw a PhD student’s way as an alternative to proper funding and subsidisation (as this story indicates, even free housing would go a long way). Wealthy neoliberal nation-states are basically undermining the basis of their own historic prosperity with behaviour like this.


Yes. They fucking do. When you’re a grad student, you have a full time job. You are asking to teach courses on top of your other full time job of doing research to complete your dissertation. It’s a job and it deserves a living wage like any other job.

Bill Hader Yes GIF

Well, NO ONE should be having to do that, unless they are making the choice to spend a year hiking the AT or something. No one.

Wow. Thanks for letting me know how you feel about those of us who care about education and pursuing knowledge for it’s own sake. None of us are asking for a god damn hand out. We’re asking for some fucking stability and a decent wage for doing actual work. Yes. It’s ACTUAL work.


I have a hard time believing that schools that can build these fancy sportsball stadiums and buy cars and apartments for some jocks that won’t even graduate can’t throw a bit of cash at their grad students.

Especially when these students are the ones doing all the work for their advisors, and likely writing their grants as well.


I never side otherwise about any of that. I’ve clearly said some things that have upset some folks so I’m going to bow out of this one. I’m not making my points well, clearly, and there are no hills worth dying on here.



In addition, right-wing media prefers to claim faculty are immensely wealthy, and corporatized and politicized university administrators and regents are doing all they can to make tenure and academic freedom a thing of the past.


I’ve met so many PhD bartenders it’s not even funny.

It actually isn’t. It’s sad.


Pop Tv Laughing GIF by Schitt's Creek

There is a like a thin strata of profs who do well… that’s not even all tenured profs.

Just happened here, so…

But we’re not even talking about the elite who managed to get tenure, but the rest of us who can’t even get a fucking job.


Um… yes, there are jobs/careers where one needs a PhD.

And Royal Holloway isn’t fancy.
(Surrey, on the wrong side of the M25 to be proper London.)


But I believe what @VeronicaConnor was saying is that nobody needs these jobs when McDonald’s is hiring. College should only be for people whose parents can afford to sink the money into, not people who can’t even afford boots.