My name is Oronte Churm, and I teach at a large state university. Over the last year, I’ve written about my experiences in a series of dispatches for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
The co-editors of Inside Higher Ed, easily impressed, invited me to blog here. Until it was pointed out to me, I’d no idea that “bloggers” might be “paid,” and the whole “Internet” thing sounded vaguely “disreputable.” But I was moved by the story of two roving grifters with fourth-grade educations who founded a periodical devoted to the life of the mind—it’s the miracle that is America—and I said I wanted in.
Of course, my name is not Oronte Churm; that’s a pseudonym, as is the name of the university (Hinterland) where I teach, and the town (Inner Station) where my wife, two little boys, and I live. Some will be bothered at my use of a pen name, but they can rest assured that I thought hard about it and chose a name very suited to me, so these entries are indeed the real thing.
Once you change something from life to accommodate the writing, however, other things must be amended too. When I said, for simplicity, that I teach at a university, you might have assumed I’m a professor. I’m not, by title; I’m adjunct faculty—a non-tenure track, or contingent, or adjunct, lecturer in an English department.
And when I say I have a terminal degree (which qualifies me as a lecturer at this school, not an instructor, for slightly better pay), I mean that I am a Master of the Fine Art of writing, and have seen no need, thus far, to take a step down and become any old doctor of philosophy.
All this puts me in an odd position for writing this blog. I’m no scholar of educational policy, no historian of higher education, no labor organizer for the teaching class. If anything, I’m an accidental adjunct, having found my way here after stints as a fast-food worker, snake handler, soldier, deep-sea diver (link provided for those who failed tenure review this year), housepainter, bus driver (ditto), editor, production manager, and corporate writer. But I’ve never found a job that suits me better than teaching rhetoric, literature, and creative writing at the university level, and it turns out I’m good at it.
In fact, instead of disqualifying me to write about higher education, my background provides me a unique lens to see this weird and sometimes beautiful milieu we call “college life.” In these entries I’ll be trying to learn for myself about various aspects of higher ed—faculty, staff, workers, students, architecture and grounds, policies and repercussions, money, quality of life, reasons for being, and more. I hope you’ll join me regularly in the inquiry and discussion.