Karen Kelsky: That there is some fantasy space for intellectual work that operates outside of the real economy. Intellectual work has to be supported with actual money. In the Renaissance, it was aristocratic patrons. In the high-growth postwar period in the U.S., the government made this investment, and that is when the current system of graduate training was established. We all forget this history and believe that the option of doing scholarly work is available to anyone with the talent, and that it’s above mundane concerns of money. It is neither. Refusing to foreground the actual monetary costs of academic labor in the current economy is a kind of grad-student gaslighting, and a form of abuse.
It isn't just the evaporation of tenure-track lines and the scandal of adjunctification. It’s the systematic debt that is now part of the graduate school experience. Graduate school debt is the fastest-growing form of student debt. According to the National Science Foundation, the average grad student debt is almost $60,000, and 20 percent of graduate students owe over $100,000. This is not in law and medicine. This is in the humanities, where there isn’t the faintest hope of a salary sufficient to pay off those amounts, even in the unlikely event that the student gets a tenure-track offer.