It’s hard to have much of a future in the Extinction Studies Department. At least, this is the line passed around in department meetings along with nervous giggles from the young faculty. A motto of sorts: PUBLISH AND PERISH!
I am a professor at the CUNY School for Professional Studies. I was hired in the Extinction Studies department twelve years ago. It started as an undergraduate certificate program in the Sociology Department, but as soon as the effects of climate change began to be felt in earnest, the administration decided the program warranted a major of its own. Now, in addition to a BA in Extinction Studies, we offer a Master’s degree with specialties in Urban Design and Rising Waters, Social Program Creation for the Climate Dispossessed, and Social Theory in the End Times.
It’s tight quarters here since the Law School was lost to the rising East River. Office space is dear since we had to split the Law School faculty between Professional Studies and the Berkeley School. Nothing short of sexual favors or cash bribes will secure you a private office. The older professors who are still left spin yarns about the good old days when tenure meant job security and the right to sit in your office with a glass of vodka poured generously over ice.
And just last week, the Business Management Department had to be temporarily moved into the Sociology Building after one of those massive wind storms tore up the Atlantic coast. Feelings were running high, I tell you, because just last year the Business Department cost Urban and Community Studies two professors by being unwilling to let them share classrooms in the Business building. Those two professors were lost in last storm surge that took the Law School–the only place they could find room for the Introduction to Urban Emergencies and Planning class. Due to problems in the DHS Emergency Alert System, all were lost. The biggest blow to the university was more the fact that the two profs were adjuncts. Adjuncts take on most of the teaching in exchange for a possible tenure track position. Their deaths left the school with only the tenured professors to teach the classes and most of them were inland on sabbatical.
The dire effects of climate change and neoliberal education policy left the US with too little space and too many recent grad students. This confluence then combined with radical conservation policy on the part of the federal government that demanded clear and immediate action from the university. The aging professoriate had to take a stand for the dying planet and adjunct workers. Death became a requirement for tenured professors along with (most) committee work and student advising.
After the new laws, making full professor meant ending your life in a way consistent with your research while supporting the work of future scholars. This clears an office in the university for a recent PhD, and gives the planet an extra few gasps. Last year, Dr. Bradley chained himself to an ancient redwood and slowly starved himself. This kept the chainsaws away for another precious two weeks as he worked on a brand new and experimental process using old growth trees as carbon sinks. The data collected was invaluable to the up and coming young scholar just hired by the department. Unfortunately, the poor dead bastard’s article got rejected by the International Journal of Extinction Studies. The third reader called the findings “derivative and overly theoretical.”
Needless to say, I’m a bit nervous about making full professor. I’ve been reading new studies about a future ACADEMIC EXTINCTION EVENT that could cripple the university system forever. The data is inconclusive right now, but maybe I’ll talk to my brother-in-law about that job in finance. I could always come back to academia if CUNY needed senior scholars again. Plus, Wall Street was the first relocated after Battery Park was lost. Moved them all the way to Jersey just to be safe! I hear they all get private offices, plenty of ice, and golden umbrellas. A good place to weather the storm, right?