>I’ll be traveling to three foreign countries for professional activity in Summer 2010: Canada, the UK, and Italy. The first trip, at the end of May, is for the sake of medieval drama. The other two destinations will be part of the same month-long trip from the end of June to the end of July: first, to study the early modern book in England (in manuscript and print form) at the London Rare Books School; then, to do about a week and a half of research at the British Library; and then to go down to Siena, Italy, for the New Chaucer Society Congress.
I’m very excited about all of this. The Chester production and conference will feel like the capstone of many years of work on medieval drama, and I’m looking forward to spending a weekend watching theater groups from all around North America and the UK interpret and perform the cycle, as well as to hearing people present new research on the plays at the symposium. The European trip, meanwhile, is all about new avenues of my research into manuscript-oriented studies which, like the drama, cross the medieval-early modern divide. That research is still a little inchoate, in part because I’m largely teaching myself how to work in a set of new sub-fields, including manuscript and textual studies — hence my attendance at the LRBS. It’s also a move into new genres of literature (or rather, new genres for me to do work on) and for some reason I’m presenting on that work in progress at NCS, even though, as I said, the works is still rather inchoate. Ack! But still, I’m looking forward to NCS because, well, it’s in Siena! I’ve never been to Siena or Tuscany, and besides the usual academic conference stuff, NCS – as usual – is offering excursions to villas and castles and working Benedictine monasteries! And a final dinner at a vineyard estate in the Tuscan countryside! How fabulous!
But of course, all of this is going to cost me a whole heckuva lotta money. Mucho dinero. Mega bucks. And all this right before I take a year’s sabbatical (approval still pending) in which I’ll be paid 2/3 of my usual salary. I’m squirreling away as much money as possible to pay for it all, especially for my sabbatical year. I’m saving, as usual, for ordinary summer living expenses (since we’re paid only during the nine months of the academic year), but not just for summer 2010, but also for 2011. And then, in addition to that, I’ll be putting into savings every stipend I’ve been awarded, every honorarium I’ve been given (for example, for being a peer-reviewer for a book manuscript), every monetary Christmas or birthday present I’ve gotten or will get, and all of my tax refunds. I’ve also agree to edit a number of texts for a forthcoming largish literary anthology, for which I’ll be paid a flat sum, and that will be squirreled away, too.
I applied for travel funds to cover my costs for the Canadian trip, and I was allocated what I needed as long as I can travel in our production team’s van and don’t have personal transportation costs (although that may not work out), but I may be chipping in to cover some of the costs of taking our cast and crew there for our play in the production. We had originally signed up for a play with a small cast, but then found out we were also being assigned an episode from another play in the cycle — for good scholarly reasons — which more than doubled the cast members we need to take! Our theater department is still managing to cover most of it, although we may be the only group there that uses the technique of ‘doubling’ (one actor playing two parts) — we’ll see how well that works in open-air performances at multiple stations! But students might have to pay for food for themselves, and I’d like us all to go out and eat somewhere cool together at least one night there; I can’t really expect poor students to pay for that themselves.
I’ve also applied for an internal summer fellowship that will cover the cost of the London trip and give me a month’s additional salary. But that fellowship prioritizes junior faculty. Tenured faculty have gotten it in the past, and I think I wrote a good proposal that speaks well to people outside the humanities (I even called manuscript research our version of “field work”), but it’s certainly not guaranteed. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
And since NCS is in the next fiscal year, I can apply for more regular travel funds for that, but whatever I get will be a drop in the bucket of the total cost, even if the London portion of the trip — including the overseas flight — is covered by the summer fellowship. So even if I get all the funds I’m applying for, I’ll still have to carry some serious costs myself. And then next year, in 2011, I’m planning at least another month or so of research in UK libraries. Again, I’ll apply for all available funds — including some external ones this time, as I hope my project will be better defined by then — but who knows if I’ll get any.
Now, I’m not complaining here. Really, all I’m doing is a little financial planning in public. Because Bullock and I are DINKs (Dual Incomes, No Kids — an acronym that never really took off, alas) in a city with a low cost of living, and because we don’t live extravagantly (well, unless you count our taste in food and drink; or my penchant for the practical-but-cute, but also expensive, La Canadienne boots for winter; or the money we’ve spent on training, boarding, and grooming Pippi), I can afford to take a full sabbatical year and also make multiple trips out of the country. But I don’t know what I’d do if we had kids or lived in an expensive area, or both, as many of my academic friends do.
And I guess I’m posting this as a kind of public record of what professorial life is like for the vast majority of us (or, well, in my field, anyway) — those of us teaching at the less-than-elite colleges and universities. Many of my students are surprised to find out I’m not paid in the summer or that the research and conference trips I undertake aren’t fully subsidized. I know most of my readers know these things, but my blog gets Google hits all the time (often misdirected ones….but still). So, if you’re wondering, Do professors have their travel paid for? The answer is: usually only in part, and sometimes not at all. We get partial funding for one trip a year at my university. Do professors get paid in the summers? Usually, no, unless they’ve arranged the 9-month paychecks to be distributed over 12 months, or unless they’re teaching summer school or they’re a chair or a program director or other administrator. Do professors get paid while they’re on sabbatical? Yes, but often not their full salary. At my university, it’s 100% for a semester, 66% for a year. Your mileage may vary. And, in fact, I’m lucky that my university hasn’t cut sabbaticals entirely — as others in the state have done recently — although they’re being very stingy with them. Anyway, all of this means that we’re often footing the bill for our own research expenses, especially in the humanities and social sciences, whether that means the time we need (summers and sabbaticals), or the travel we undertake for conferences and research. And don’t forget, our job performance evaluations include research — it’s not just a hobby.
So, for the record, here’s what I’m estimating the major expenses of these three trips will cost all together, at current exchange rates and fares, and using government standards for mileage costs and per diem (though I spend a lot less on food and incidentals that the per diems allow):
Travel to & from Toronto (if there’s not room for me in the van or if scheduling doesn’t work out): $300 (using IRS mileage rat)
Lodging in Toronto: $ 250 (if I stay in the dorms, which I probably will)
Toronto per diem: $555
LRBS Tuition: $886
Round trip flight to London: $1200
Lodging in London: $1500 (I’ve arranged a cheap university dorm room already)
London per diem: $3060
Round trip flight from London to Florence: $220
Lodging in Siena: $370 (if I share, which I’ll likely do)
NCS registration, final dinner, and excursions: $435
Meals not provided: $300
Grand total: $8916
To put this in some perspective, that’s more than 10% of my gross income when I’m not on a reduced salary. Of course, as I said, Toronto is covered, and I’ll get something for Siena. If luck prevails, I’ll get that summer fellowship, too, and if not, I’ve got money saved. And there are my credit cards (hence my post title). I actually haven’t carried credit debt for more than few months at a time — usually after trips like these — since the third year of being a professor, when I finished paying off the $11,000 I still had from graduate school. (Though I still have about $28,000 student loan debt, much of which was taken out originally to pay off credit cards, swapping a higher variable interest for a very low, fixed one.) But I think after this summer it may take me awhile to recover.
Anyway, we’re doing a better job of letting students know the costs of pursuing academic jobs — the real costs and opportunity costs; the personal costs, as well — but I thought I’d throw out some more data on the costs that continue to accrue, depending on your field and your area(s) of research, even if you do get the coveted tenure-track job. I often get the “must be nice” comments from non-academics and students when they ask what I’m doing with my summer, and it *is* nice, I’ll agree, to spend a productive day in a manuscript library and then to walk “home” through Russell Square, or to spend five days in Tuscany with the world’s experts in Chaucer and other late medieval English literature. But it’s often partly or entirely at my own expense.