Will University RAs go the way of the dinosaur?

by Flyover

From The Chronicle of Higher Education (may be behind paywall; complete article text at the bottom)

George Washington University recently announced that professional, live-in staff members will take on the first-responder role that RAs have filled in the past. Instead of the 140 RAs it had last year, George Washington will hire around 200 students for hourly, part-time work like mediating peer conflicts, manning front desks in residence halls, helping students move in and out, and communicating through emails and social media. The university hopes to serve as a model for other colleges looking to alleviate the pressures on RAs.

Since George Washington’s program overhaul has been largely kept under wraps until [the announcement], it’s unclear how those who were hoping to become RAs, with the accompanying room-and-board perks, will respond.

What’s your experience with Resident Assistants? There’s no doubt that the job they’ve been asked to do has grown in scope and complexity since we were in college. To the extent that they act as peer advisors, it’s probably better for them to not also be enforcers. But given how many students rely on the free room and board, this decision could have a big impact. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year (or more), and if other schools move to a similar model.


Too Much for Students to Handle? Why One University Decided to Do Away With RAs
By Katherine Mangan

During his first semester as a resident adviser at George Washington University, Drew Amstutz comforted foreign students struggling with culture shock, reassured freshmen panicking over failing grades, wrote some students up for underage drinking, and found a referral for another who thought she’d been slipped a date-rape drug at a party.

Keeping students masked and six feet apart might have been added to his duties, had the university not paused its RA program this year.

An RA was expected to be “a jack-of-all-trades,” Amstutz said. “You had to be everything to everyone, from counselor to academic adviser” to social director and rules enforcer. “Absolutely no one can meet all of those demands and be excellent in all of them.”

Since Covid-19 broke out, the stresses of the RA job have hit a breaking point at campuses across the country. The role, which traditionally comes with free room and board, had already grown to include responding to crises, from sexual assault to mental breakdowns, at all hours of the day and night. Now, in a deadly pandemic, George Washington decided it was time to pull the plug.

The university announced on Thursday that professional, live-in staff members will take on the first-responder role that RAs have filled in the past. Instead of the 140 RAs it had last year, George Washington will hire around 200 students for hourly, part-time work like mediating peer conflicts, manning front desks in residence halls, helping students move in and out, and communicating through emails and social media. The university hopes to serve as a model for other colleges looking to alleviate the pressures on RAs.

“There’s a lot of stuff students are packing and bringing to college that I don’t think 18- to 19-year-olds are prepared to unpack,” said M.L. (Cissy) Petty, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “Covid was a wake-up call.”

Last fall, with only three of the campus’s 26 residence halls housing about 500 students, “we had time to think about what this role had turned into and what we wanted to change.” The university assigned a dozen paid staff members to the six dorms that had opened by spring, an approach that it will expand in the fall.

Petty said the decision to eliminate the all-encompassing role of an RA reflects “a philosophical shift to a more robust professional staffing model.”

Each dormitory will have at least one professional staff person living there to be the first point of contact for students. Because of their training, education, and experience, these staff members will be better suited, the university concluded, to handle parts of the job like safety compliance and behavioral intervention that many RAs found challenging and unfulfilling.

Charlotte McLoud-Whitaker, director of residential education, lives with her husband in a campus residence hall and is looking forward to having more professional staff joining her.
As the senior administrator on call in her building, she helped oversee some of the communication and planning during a tumultuous year upended by Covid-19 and racist attacks on the Capitol. When armed National Guard troops and military-style vehicles were stationed just outside the campus, in the heart of the Washington, D.C., her staff helped communicate with worried parents and students, letting them know where to get groceries and how to stay safe. The shift in residential-hall staffing, she said, “will allow the staff to build closer personal relationships with students” and make sure their needs are met.

Peter Galloway, president of the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, said he’s not aware of any other campuses doing what George Washington is planning, but he’s heard of others that are looking at ways to take some of the responsibilities off resident advisers’ plates.

Galloway, who is also assistant dean of students at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, said more students are coming to campus with mental-health challenges, worries about sexual harassment or assault, and parents who call their RAs to check up on their well-being.
“The magnitude of issues they have to deal with has increased significantly,” Galloway said. “Depending on the institution, it could get to the point where it’s too much for a trained but still undergraduate student to handle.”

He said some campuses are delegating the enforcement part of the job to professional staff members who patrol the halls, checking for students who are violating drinking or other rules. When RAs are also expected to be enforcers, “it makes their position difficult because they’re trying to create community, but the next day, they could be documenting a student for some kind of inappropriate behavior,” Galloway said.

Since George Washington’s program overhaul has been largely kept under wraps until Thursday, it’s unclear how those who were hoping to become RAs, with the accompanying room-and-board perks, will respond. Over the past few years, some of the university’s RAs objected to a university decision to overhaul their responsibilities, requiring them to walk the halls to check for parties and misconduct.

The goal was to make it easier for RAs to check in with their students, but some complained that it strained those relationships. The demands of the job have caused relationships between RAs and the administration to be strained as well.

With cellphones and social media providing nonstop connectivity, the role of an RA has become a 24/7 job, said Stewart Robinette, an assistant student dean at George Washington who focuses on campus living and residential education. “It was getting to the point where it was pervading all aspects of students’ lives.”

As mandatory reporters in Title IX cases, RAs are required to report concerns about sexual abuse, putting them in uncomfortable positions when one of their residents wants to confide in them but isn’t ready to report. Campus safety became a troubling worry after the 2007 shooting deaths of 32 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech. And with Covid-19, on-duty RAs faced threats to their own health.

“The only good thing to come out of the pandemic is that it has put the world on pause and allowed us to re-evaluate the way we’re doing things,’ said Amstutz, the George Washington student and former RA.

Amstutz is looking forward to applying for a new role — possibly in program planning or social media — for this fall. He likes that he’d be able to clock in and out, focusing on what he’s most excited about. “I was good at events with residents and used to really enjoy Thursday-night dinners, pre-Covid of course, in my room. All of the paperwork and reporting I didn’t find as much fun.”

If he’s hired in a more targeted role, “I’ll be able to go all in on planning programs,” he said, “knowing that someone else will handle Title IX issues” and answer the middle-of-the-night calls.
Manvitha Kapireddy, a senior who serves as president of the university’s Residence Hall Association, said she understands that not everyone will immediately buy in to the changes.
“This is uncharted territory,” she said. “When you think of college, RAs are a staple of that experience. What’s going to happen to the sense of community when you remove them?”

But she believes that having 200 students involved in roles, including peer mediators, that are more carefully tailored to their interests and strengths should help alleviate that worry. It could also, she said, help avoid student burnout. “With an hourly student position, you can clock in and out with a predetermined set of hours. It’s a good way to prevent students from being overly burdened with issues that are above their pay grade.”

Katherine Mangan writes about community colleges, completion efforts, student success, and job training, as well as free speech and other topics in daily news. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMangan, or email her at katherine.mangan@chronicle.com.

235 thoughts on “Will University RAs go the way of the dinosaur?

  1. So you don’t get free room and board anymore as an RA? You get a part time work study job? And then they use the money you now have to pay in room and board to hire “professionals?” Is that what they are saying?

    Also the task list seems very similar to that of a manager in corporate America. You have to deal with everyone’s personal problems, deal with discipline issues, FMLA, ADA, etc. etc.

  2. Yet another way to expand the ranks of professional staff members in universities, which as we all know has been ballooning over the last 20 years.

    In my day, RAs dealt with a lot of crap because universities didn’t have as many student affairs or mental health staff. People went beserk, like the guy my freshman year who lost it, took off all his clothes and started roaming the halls yelling at everyone. Drug overdoses, organizing trips to the museums for the freshmen, dealing with the guy who refused to live with a gay roommate, breaking up loud parties, soothing homesick kids – they did it all. My sophomore year, our RA, a guy from Germany named Achim, also sold lots of drugs.

  3. From what I hear from both DDs universities, full room and board is no longer a perk. The discounted room/board comes in line with the cost to live off campus and/or they get no discount and they are considered a work study student, who then uses that money to pay full cost or slightly discounted room and board.

    My daughters have had mixed experiences with RAs. DD#1’s freshman year did check in on them in addition to the safety inspections. Held some meetings to go over things they needed to know and some get to know you events. Was great about posting the important part of emails that most didn’t read in their inbox. After those who identified themselves as staying on campus over Thanksgiving, he held a meeting and helped them coordinated a little holiday get together. DD#1s sophomore year and DD#2s freshman year – the RA is pretty much MIA. This year, the RA at DD#2s school is not enforcing any of the COVID requirements, quiet hours, or no drugs in the dorm (as in you can smell it several doors down). It took almost 3 weeks before she introduced her self to all the girls on the floor.

    I definitely think the role and hours spent needs to be clarified. I do think at least freshman need some additional support.

  4. they are considered a work study student, who then uses that money to pay full cost or slightly discounted room and board.

    That makes sense as free room and board is taxable compensation if the period exceeds one year.

  5. On the flip side, an article on how Harvard utterly disrespects its teaching. faculty. This is from the Chronicle but I think it is not paywalled – I signed out and I could still access it
    https://www.chronicle.com/article/harvard-does-not-care-about-teaching-or-teachers

    Basically, if you are “teaching faculty” at Harvard, you cannot stay longer than 8 years. You are a disposable. The reason they Harvard does this is so disrespectful that it is almost laughable

    “Harvard claims that it must cycle through new teaching faculty to keep up with changing academic disciplines, evolving student interests, and new pedagogical developments. It could, of course, assess us to see whether we continue to meet these needs. Instead it assumes ahead of time that we have stopped paying attention both to the fields we study and to our students. It could subject our teaching to rigorous review before granting us renewable contracts, in the same way that it reviews professors’ research before granting them tenure. This is what it would mean for Harvard to take itself seriously as a teaching institution. Instead it simply assumes we are doing a good job — but it doesn’t really check, because we won’t be around for long anyway.”

    Keep in mind, these are the people that teach the undergrads. These are the people, should your kid get into Harvard, that they will interact with for the most part. And yet, they are disposable. After 8 years, out with the trash.

  6. I agree that the RA job is basically untenable as it is current structured. I was thinking maybe DD should consider it as an “easy” job where you largely get paid to be on-call. Certainly her current RA is not exactly putting in the effort — didn’t even show up when DD and her roommates were checking in (even though they had to schedule specific check-in times so the RA could be there to show them everything). Her RA even lives at home and is almost never even there!

    But boy was I wrong about what the job actually requires. All of the “Julie Your Cruise Director” stuff I remember, plus all of the TPA sheets/budgets/meetings of a boring corporate job, plus being on-call 24-7 during assigned working hours (for the off-campus housing, it’s something like 10 houses), plus all of the crisis management/calling cops/reporting stuff. There’s no way DD could possibly do all of that as an engineering major, and it wouldn’t be worth it for the minimal pay anyway — she’d be better off getting a part-time job at Starbucks.

    That said, I’m also not sure that the job needs to be inflated into professional staff, either. BIMD(tm), if you had a real problem, the RA was basically there to direct you to the right campus office for real help. Why not go back to that model, where they’re both Julie Your Cruise Director and the person you ask where to go when you can’t figure it out, but they’re not expected to be actually responsible for writing people up or solving the substantive problems?

  7. MM,

    Would these folks be able to get tenure someplace else? Or is that permanently off the table for them?

    Many industries, from the US Army officer core to BigLaw to management consulting, have an up or out model.

  8. MM — sorry, it’s telling me to sign in to access. But that doesn’t seem like anything new, does it (other than perhaps the proliferation of non-TT jobs)? Even BIMD, in my 7 yrs post-HS, three of the best in-classroom professors failed to get tenure or get a contract renewed, for the purported reason that their research wasn’t high-enough quality (I say purported because obviously I have no insight into it). And these were not exactly R1 schools in disciplines where funded research pays the bills — we’re talking English and law school here. IME schools won’t care about quality of teaching unless anyone actually cares enough about teaching to weight it more heavily than research in establishing the “quality” (a/k/a rankings) of a university.

    This is also why I like SLACs, btw. I didn’t have a single class taught by a TA. DD has a couple in the big intro-science/math classes, but even those are things like 2 weekly lectures with a TA and one weekly working session with the professor where they go through problem sets together.

  9. “Would these folks be able to get tenure someplace else? Or is that permanently off the table for them”

    Traditionally, they could. One of DH’s cousins, a psychology PhD, did the teaching stint at Harvard and then ended up at a decent directional state U. But that wsa 30 years ago. Nowdays, even directional state U’s can hire the best psychology PhDs.

  10. “Even BIMD, in my 7 yrs post-HS, three of the best in-classroom professors failed to get tenure or get a contract renewed, for the purported reason that their research wasn’t high-enough quality (”

    This is completely different. These people aren’t even allowed to come up for tenure. They can’t apply for an extension. And the reason given – sorry, after 8 years we KNOW you are no longer up to speed – is just simply ridiculous. Lots of faculty, teaching and research, hit their PEAK at around 10 years in.

  11. “BIMD(tm), if you had a real problem, the RA was basically there to direct you to the right campus office for real help. ”

    My goodness, that’s what I was thinking. RAs doing corporate style paperwork? What do all those deans do? BITD I used to arrange hall meetings to reinforce that you can sign up for intramural sports,remind people not to prop the back doors open, and turn a blind eye to the various pets being kept in the dorm. Secret Santa stuff. Shoulder to cry on. Referred kids with eating disorders to the right place, the deans for academic issues, etc.

  12. Harvard Does Not Care About Teaching — or Teachers
    The richest university in the world treats some of its most essential employees like trash.

    By Ben Roth
    March 16 2021

    You have undoubtedly heard that Harvard recently lost Cornel West after, as he has described, it disrespected him again. The same week, with rather less publicity, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences reaffirmed its misguided system of regularly discarding teaching faculty, the scholars who do Harvard’s most crucial pedagogical work yet are given no path to continued employment, no matter how excellently we perform our jobs.

    Harvard is a place of hierarchies. Below its president and Washington-lobbying administrators, below its many deans with their hands on the levers of the university’s budgets and policies, below its tenured professors with their job security and research budgets, and below its celebrity faculty like West with ready access to public platforms, stretches a vast but often invisible stratum of lecturers and preceptors, the recent Ph.D.s who do much of the work of teaching Harvard’s undergraduates.

    I teach in Harvard’s Writing Program, where for 150 years students have been required to take a small, discussion-based seminar, submitting drafts and revisions of essays for detailed feedback. Tenure-track faculty would never teach such courses; doing so while maintaining their research profiles would be impossible. Every year, my colleagues and I each have hundreds of individual meetings with our students and write a book’s worth of comments on their papers — more in one year than many ladder faculty have written in a decade, I would bet. Thus, we improve first-year students’ writing while also guarding the research time of professors. Elsewhere at Harvard, preceptors lead language classes and labs, and lecturers teach small tutorials and required sections in concentrations like history and literature and social studies.

    Despite the crucial nature of this work, Harvard views us as utterly disposable. After at most eight years, we are unceremoniously barred from further teaching. In the past, most preceptors and lecturers moved on after a few years to their own professorships at other institutions. But after the 2008 recession and then the pandemic — and with the shrinking of college-age cohorts on the horizon — the academic-job market has collapsed and will probably never recover. At our end-of-year parties, the Writing Program raises a toast to our departing colleagues. In recent years, they are forced to leave but have nowhere to go. They are left behind, without health insurance or any other benefits, to piece together a schedule of classes on Boston’s adjunct market or to start an entirely new career. Not the best context for a celebration of their years of hard work.

    When it became clear how thoroughly the pandemic would affect the academic world, Harvard extended the contracts of most ladder faculty by a year. Petitioned by over a thousand people to offer the same extension to teaching faculty, whose lives and careers were equally disrupted, administration did not deign to respond.

    Harvard claims that it must cycle through new teaching faculty to keep up with changing academic disciplines, evolving student interests, and new pedagogical developments. It could, of course, assess us to see whether we continue to meet these needs. Instead it assumes ahead of time that we have stopped paying attention both to the fields we study and to our students. It could subject our teaching to rigorous review before granting us renewable contracts, in the same way that it reviews professors’ research before granting them tenure. This is what it would mean for Harvard to take itself seriously as a teaching institution. Instead it simply assumes we are doing a good job — but it doesn’t really check, because we won’t be around for long anyway.

    Every year, I have to explain to my students, when they ask for letters of recommendation, that no one at Harvard cares about my opinion. I am happy to support them, and do when I am their best option since they have so few opportunities to interact with professors in large classes, but my word carries little weight. Every year, I have to explain to my students, when they invite me to dinner, that, unlike their professors, I cannot possibly make a career at Harvard. Eight years sounds like an eternity to a new college student, but I will still have decades of groceries to buy and mortgage payments to make after my appointment expires.

    Rather than identifying which teaching faculty are excellent enough to be retained or even promoted, Harvard expends significant resources each year to find and train their replacements. It replaces not just those few who manage to find professorships elsewhere, not just those who have proven poor fits, but also those who its own Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning has given awards, those who, despite their exhausting teaching responsibilities, have published award-winning books, and even those who department and program heads have identified as irreplaceable. At the end of the cycle, Harvard will have invested a great deal in new teaching faculty who will, at best, finally resemble those they have replaced — only to jettison them too, rather than make use of their fully developed talents.

    Why does Harvard want so badly to do away with us? The reasons it provides are so specious and incoherent that I can only speculate. Is Harvard so petty, despite its vast endowment, despite the pittance it pays us compared to tenured faculty, that it wants to constantly reset the salaries of teaching faculty? As evidence for this, I would note that it pays us significantly less than Princeton and Stanford, which have similar kinds of writing programs.

    Or is it those hierarchies? Is Harvard so obsessed with appearing selective that it will do anything lest its teaching faculty be confused for tenured professors, the chosen few deemed worthy to make a life at the institution? Harvard didn’t want to keep even West enough to do so, and it denied tenure to Lorgia García Peña. Some departments infamously almost never tenure their own junior hires. All of this turnover leaves Harvard less functional, as students have no stable mentors.

    It is sometimes said that Harvard is really a hedge fund that happens to maintain an educational wing. But even the educational wing doesn’t value teaching, as is demonstrated by its disrespectful treatment of the faculty it hires specifically for their pedagogical promise. Harvard claims that “many of the functions held by non-ladder faculty are highly demanding and require regeneration.” It all but admits that it is exploiting us, burning through our teaching energy and good will, because it can discard us, replacing us with the next generation of eager new Ph.D.s who will keep it running.

  13. “This is also why I like SLACs, btw. I didn’t have a single class taught by a TA.”

    LfB, the teaching faculty at Harvard are not TAs. They are contract faculty. This is a model that many schools are moving to, even SLACs.

  14. Nowdays, even directional state U’s can hire the best psychology PhDs.

    Could they have gotten tenure if they started at direction state U rather than doing 8 years at Harvard?

  15. I smell an age-discrimination lawsuit on your horizon.

    They are too young. Interesting to note that 8 years gets them just shy of a lawsuit if the average age of a newly minted PhD is 32.

    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

  16. Rhett, that was true 30 years ago. Today, there are so few tenure track positions in most fields that even people who did their time at Harvard are going to end up as perma-adjuncts. And the thing that gets me down is that Harvard, the holy grail of HS seniors everywhere, cares so little about teaching that it essentially treats its teaching faculty kind of like Teach For America interns. It is part of the overall trend to turn university teaching into a disposable commondity, handled mainly by adjuncts and people who will be booted in a few years. All so they can fund the ever growing expansion of “support staff” to create a “university experience” for students that is more about activities, sports, and mental health than it is about actually learning stuff. And conservatives all whine about college costing too much because they are all spending too much money on wokeness. They don’t get it either.

  17. MM — just to be clear, I’m not saying it’s exactly the same, just that universities have never actually respected or valued teaching, and this particular non-TT 8-yr-max “teaching professor” slot strikes me as the same thing, just wearing slightly different clothes. Anyone who goes to Harvard or any major R1 university expecting close relationships with all their professors and a personalized education is either delusional or very, very special. (And even in 1991, the legal writing teachers were non-TT professors with zero chance of moving up. Universities have never valued writing, ever.)

    “Is Harvard so petty, despite its vast endowment, despite the pittance it pays us compared to tenured faculty, that it wants to constantly reset the salaries of teaching faculty?”

    Uhhhhhhh, yeah? That struck me as the obvious reason you’d max people out at 8 yrs: because the new hires are cheaper. It’s not “pettiness,” it’s business; if they can meet their needs for less money, they’ll do so every time. Every company in the world does the same thing. And why would they do it any differently as long as there is a huge mass of newly-minted Ph.Ds eager to work for a pittance in order to put “Harvard” on their resume?

    Rocky: it’s not age discrimination unless (a) everyone is over 40, and (b) there is no salary differential to justify the distinction. You have to be able to prove that the business case is a pretext for discrimination, which is exceptionally hard.

  18. It is part of the overall trend to turn university teaching into a disposable commondity, handled mainly by adjuncts and people who will be booted in a few years. All so they can BRAG ABOUT THEIR TREMENDOUS RESEARCH AND MOVE UP IN THE RANKINGS, fund the ever growing expansion of “support staff,” AND BUILD FANCY FACILITIES to create a “university experience” for students that is more about activities, sports, and mental health than it is about actually learning stuff.”

    FTFY

  19. Mooshi – I wanted to say that your perspectives and warnings about stuff like this are not lost on me. Not that my kids would ever be able to gain admission to, or I’d be able to pay for Harvard, anyway, but it has made me more conscious of looking very closely at who’s teaching the regular courses for wherever we do end up looking. And it’s made me appreciate my own undergrad experience a little more, because we always had small classes and never any TAs.

  20. Back in my day, all the RAs were education majors. I’m sure there were others, but the ones I remember were going into fields where the RA roles and responsibilities fit their personalities and career goals. Having free room and board was much appreciated.

    Doing away with an official RA and having paid students to organize activities, offer peer support, and help navigate need seems ideal. If the “cruise director” isn’t setting up activities and events, then they get disciplined or fired. When I was in college the dorm floors that did not have a good RA had no consequences. The RA was there all year.

  21. Milo, TA’s are not the issue. Only a small minority of schools use TA’s. The school has to have a large PhD program to be able to staff courses with TAs. And mainly TAs are used to staff the breakout sections, not to run an entire course.
    The real issue is the wholesale move to staffing undergrad courses with part-time adjuncts and fulltime contract instructors. It is a huge problem for a number of reasons: these instructors have no respect and no voice in the institution, they have no office or place to be so they don’t meet with students outside of class (and that can be a real problem for students), they are not paid for office hours or curriculum development, and they are extremely vulnerable so they often terrified of the students. I spent some time two days ago with an adjunct who had discovered that her entire class had handed in the same code on a programming problem on the midterm. I quickly discovered the students had posted the question on Chegg, so I told her to give them 0’s at least for the question. She would not do it. She was too afraid the students would complain to the dean.

  22. Milo +1, thank you MM for pointing out some important facts that I would have overlooked during the college review process.

    I was fortunate that my undergrad and grad classes were taught by professors. My DH had a similar experience and we have been trying to share this info with DD as she takes this virtual tours. She isn’t really listening to us because she is more focused on the rah rah part of college.

    I only remember one RA and she happened to live two doors down from me during my first year at college. There were 100 girls on my floor and she did try to help us with registration questions, student health etc. I lived in university housing after the first year, but I was always in an apartment with 3 other kids so we didn’t have RAs. I think we filled out a form if we needed maintenance, but that required a trip to residence life. I don’t remember anyone being available for emotional support or questions about classes etc.

    I hope that we have a chance to take DD on IRL college tours in the fall because I won’t be swayed by the abundance of food choices, but I will look for some of these things that MM and others have highlighted when discussing what is/is not important.

  23. Our RA was a med student and so she was never there- I remember one meeting and that was it. I think she was available by email for people who had questions about where to go, but it was a mostly self-service place.

    The best teachers I had in college were about evenly divided between tenured and non-tenured faculty, but I think the proportion of non-tenured faculty has gone up by a lot since I was there.

  24. Also we didn’t have RAs after freshman year; we had “resident tutors” in other years, who were more like first year lecturers or grad students who have been there for a while.

  25. these instructors have no respect and no voice in the institution,

    Am I right that these folks get treated worse (intentionally?) than say Judy the accountant in the bursar’s office or Dave the 403b administrator in HR?

  26. Rhett, for adjuncts, yes, I would say that. Professional staff get treated pretty well, compared to adjuncts. They have a desk, a supervisor, a lunch break, a computer, and most importantly, a promotion path. They get to make decisions about stuff in their own professional domain. Now the cleaning staff and snackbar cashiers, that is another issue. They mainly work for outside contractors.

  27. As an international student I landed in what may have been a suite with an undercurrent of drama. It was an RA suite. So, I had a close look at the RA job and decided that even with free room board (single room), I didn’t care to be disturbed at all hours of the day and night. The RAs kept an eye out for excessive drinking, students went to them for personal issues or just general questions/resources. They did a good job. In a gossipy place, they were discreet which was important.

  28. “Rocky: it’s not age discrimination unless (a) everyone is over 40, and (b) there is no salary differential to justify the distinction. You have to be able to prove that the business case is a pretext for discrimination, which is exceptionally hard.”

    Oh I know, believe me, I know. I was writing wishfully. I’m very aware of which classes of employees are protected and which aren’t.

  29. “Am I right that these folks get treated worse (intentionally?) than say Judy the accountant in the bursar’s office or Dave the 403b administrator in HR?”

    They’re different universes within one institution. Judy and Dave weren’t going to be involved in curriculum development, or changes to the capstone program, or evaluating new departmental hires, or any of the stuff tenure-track faculty do that helps them shape their departments and their universities. Sometimes adjuncts don’t even have mailboxes, or there’s one mailbox for all the adjuncts. They don’t get notified about stuff that’s going on in the department. Sometimes the senior faculty don’t even acknowledge their existence when they walk in the room. They’re treated like scullery maids.

  30. and most importantly, a promotion path.

    Why would you say a promotion path is most important? There are tons of steady eddies (as Lauren would call them) who are happy to be an accountant in the bursar’s office if the pay, benefits and work life balance are good.

    Or do you mean that at least in theory Judy in accounting could, in theory, become the CFO. But an adjunct, short of winning a Noble Prize, will never get tenure.

  31. I appreciate Mooshi’s information on Higher Ed. I honestly don’t know how it will all turn out and I feel like it could be all rejection emails for my kids.
    (College Confidential used to have those – “I was rejected from every college I applied to threads”).

  32. They’re treated like scullery maids.

    To my mind it would make sense that adjuncts would be like nurses and tenured profs would be like doctors. Doctors, obviously paid more in most cases, more prestige, etc. but everyone (outside of a few assholes) treated with respect. Why did academia develop this class of adjunct unperson?

  33. Rhett, I think you have to distinguish between grad student TAs, adjuncts, lecturers, and tenure-track faculty.

    In theory, in the old days, being a grad student TA was a miserable purgatory before you left for your tenure-track job.

    Lecturers get one-year appointments with full salaries and benefits. They get nodded to in the hallways and occasionally even invited to dinner.

    Tenure-track faculty have the salaries and benefits, but they’re also stuck on every committee, every Faculty Senate subgroup, every bullshit thing that the tenured people refuse to do but that has to get done.

    Adjuncts are scullery maids. No money, no benefits, no respect. They’re treated like the lowest-caste group you can think of.

    I’ve been a TA, a lecturer and I’ve been tenure-track. I ran screaming out of academe anyway. I have never been an adjunct and I never will. Lifeguarding gets more respect and better pay.

  34. “Why did academia develop this class of adjunct unperson?”

    Many many years ago, adjuncts tended to be ABDs, all-but-dissertation. They were regarded with contempt because they couldn’t pull themselves together and finish their dissertations. “Obviously, if they cared at all about the life of the mind, they’d finish their research. They didn’t, so they’re beneath contempt.” That was always a bullshit attitude, but that was part of the origin story.

    Now lots of adjuncts have PhDs, but they don’t get tenure-track jobs because guess what! Universities can pay $3K to $4K per semester and get all their teaching taken care of, without having to pay $100K to $200K salary+benefits to a tenured faculty member. Remember, too, that tenured faculty can’t be fired except for things like “gross moral turpitude” — a standard that is never actually met by anyone. So the chair or the dean can tell a tenured faculty member to teach a particular course or do a particular chore, and they just simply don’t do it. Whaddya gonna do? Fire me? Good luck with that. There was a guy in my old department who always taught intro to Marxism. Didn’t matter what the title of the class was. Bioethics, Intro to Philosophy of Mind, Intro to the German Rationalists — all the kids got was Intro to Marxism. But that’s not gross moral turpitude. So there you go.

  35. There is a different class of “adjunct”, the professional or the semi-retired professional, who thinks it’s fun to teach a class or two. These are people who are not hurting for money. Some Silicon Valley engineers teach a class or two at Stanford (if they are themselves Stanford grads), and other business professionals will sometimes teach a class in their area of expertise. It’s not necessary to feel sorry for them because they’re basically doing it for fun.

  36. “Remember, too, that tenured faculty can’t be fired except for things like “gross moral turpitude” — a standard that is never actually met by anyone. ”

    When I was in grad school, one of the tenured profs was sleeping with a female grad student. He was also on her dissertation committee. He was really creepy, but he had tenure, so he could do anything.

    Some years later, he apparently did something to get him fired. He’s now teaching in some directional state university. All the women in my cohort celebrated when we heard.

  37. When I first moved to town 30+ years ago, several people I knew who worked full time not at universities also had a part-time adjunct job at one of the local schools. Most had masters’ degrees or a bachelor’s and the appropriate license (like CPA teaching intro to accounting) to teach evening classes that none of the tenured or tenure-track wanted and the lecturers were already stretched too thin. It was a win-win as the adjunct already had the job with benefits, they were looking for a gig job that wasn’t retail.

    Things have changed a lot since then and only one person I know who has been doing this forever (he teaches a history class that apparently no one ever wants to teach and he likes) is still doing it. My best friend’s next door neighbor is an adjunct – has PhD in a foreign language – but there are more PhD in this field than jobs. She couldn’t or didn’t look at the trend before picking her very niche research area. She feels it is below her to teach the language to beginners (honestly she’d make more with benefits teaching AP level in our school district) so she teaches a couple of junior college level literature courses that let her include information about her niche and complains about the pay.

  38. I have two friends that are adjunct at a large university. One has a PhD from an Ivy. The other has an MFA, and I don’t believe you can get a PhD in art, but if you can, he would not go for it, because he is an artist first and foremost who loves sharing his craft with others. Anyway, due to choosing family obligations over finding tenure, they are where they are and making it work, but it really is unfortunate because they seem to scramble and have to hustle a lot to keep their careers going.

  39. She feels it is below her to teach the language to beginners (honestly she’d make more with benefits teaching AP level in our school district) so she teaches a couple of junior college level literature courses that let her include information about her niche and complains about the pay.

    Well, she’s a moron, then. Obviously you should teach full-time at a high school rather than adjunct at a university. That’s the kind of attitude that allows universities to pay $3K per semester and still get loads of applicants for those jobs.

  40. So long as there are droves of bright young college grads willing and even eager to enroll in PhD programs in dying fields for which there are virtually no tenure-track job positions, universities will take advantage of the labor oversupply and hire them for peanuts.

  41. “Adjuncts are scullery maids. No money, no benefits, no respect. They’re treated like the lowest-caste group you can think of.”

    And my mom loves it! She really, really likes the students, and whoever her bosses are are super nice to her. They don’t pay her anything, of course, so if she needed money, this clearly wouldn’t work. Most of the students seem to like her because she’ll work with them individually for as long as they want.

    She’s just annoyed that they’ve already announced that they’re Zoom through December.

  42. “I honestly don’t know how it will all turn out and I feel like it could be all rejection emails for my kids.”

    This is what I hate about the college system. It makes perfectly smart, capable kids feel like they will never measure up, and it makes the parents of perfectly smart, capable kids feel like their kids just may not have what it takes. Louise, you have given your kids every advantage and there are many desirable schools that will want them, in your state and out of it. The Louise kids are going to end up doing well.

  43. I hope that we have a chance to take DD on IRL college tours in the fall because I won’t be swayed by the abundance of food choices, but I will look for some of these things that MM and others have highlighted when discussing what is/is not important.

    Lara, good luck getting that information.

  44. ” Remember, too, that tenured faculty can’t be fired except for things like “gross moral turpitude” — a standard that is never actually met by anyone.”

    That is actually changing quite a bit. In some cases, for the better – there have been many tenured faculty who have been booted over the last 10 years or so for sexual harassment.
    But there are also a lot who are getting booted when the administration decides to cut whole departments. And I think that is more common. Look at the mess at Ithaca College, or a Univ of Akron

    There is also an increase in faculty getting fired for speech violations. Most of those are due to violations of leftist norms, but some are complaints from conservatives.

  45. This is what I hate about the college system. It makes perfectly smart, capable kids feel like they will never measure up, and it makes the parents of perfectly smart, capable kids feel like their kids just may not have what it takes.

    It’s not “the college system” that does this, it’s the kids (and parents) getting sucked into applying to HSS with not knowing how competitive the process really is that does it.

    Most of us here, if not all of us, have had reasonable expectations for our kids, and as a group they were accepted at most of the schools they applied to.

  46. The next step for students is the applying for internships and feeling like no one wants them. DD#1 is a bit discouraged. Most of the ones she applied for do not even respond with a “flush email” letting you know they didn’t select you.

    She is in process on one. She had to do a 2-3 minute recorded video of tell me about yourself – once you signed into it, they recorded it so no do overs. Then, they sent her a combination of math problems and coding exercise, which she sent in yesterday (deadline tomorrow). Again, once she opened it, she had a fixed time to finish it. She is a smart kid, but the angst this is causing a kid who already has some anxiety issues is real. In theory, this should be a good fit, but she said some of what they asked really threw her. From what she has been able to find out, math and CS majors are the best fit with several engineering majors (including hers) following closely behind. Fingers crossed she makes it to the next level of the process.

  47. “This is also why I like SLACs, btw. I didn’t have a single class taught by a TA.”

    I think the Harvard model (professors research or teach grad students, teaching faculty for undergrads) is the perception, maybe the reality, at a lot of large schools. All I know is that during my stay at UCLA I was never once taught in a lecture by anyone other that a professor of some rank (except for weekly sections of 15-20 students in the giant PoliSci, Econ, Psych classes). Regular lectures/seminars were all professors all the time.

  48. My friend is getting her PhD. She doesn’t want to go back to the home country, has family money and is able to get by. She is an older student but has never held a regular job. Grading papers and dealing with students as a TA was an adjustment for her. Since she is in a field with low academic job prospects, I think she is better off going to Canada or the U.K. It will be difficult to stay in in the U.S.

  49. It’s a hard life lesson for AustinMom’s DD. Learning to accept rejection when you don’t even get official rejections. Ugh.

  50. AustinMom, those online tests are so typical. My DS1 is also in the internship applicaiton hell. Good luck to your kid!

  51. Austin, my DD is in a similar boat, struggling to find internships to apply for. A lot of employers that normally hire interns aren’t this year because of the pandemic.

  52. Austin & Finn – my kid is in the same situation.

    And, can you really blame the employers for taking a break from getting interns? Onboarding and bringing in experienced full time hires is hard to do virtually. Even harder for interns and recent college grad hires.

  53. Off the top of my head, I had TAs (no prof involvement at all) for calc 2, both semesters of Chem, and freshman English. There were a few others as well.

  54. Sometimes, when you have a grad student teaching a full course, they are not really “TAs”. I did that for a year when I was a grad student. I had already received my MS, so I qualified for an “instructor” position which paid better. I had to pay my tuition out of it (a standard TA position comes with tution remission) but I still made more money. And I got to go to the faculty planning retreat :-)
    The yar after that, I switched to an RA position (No, not the dorm position, but a research position, funded off my advisor’s grant) so I only did research.

    My DS2 has a grad student teaching his Pych course, but it is the same situation – the guy has an instructor position

  55. OT, at DS’ school, there are no undergrad RAs. The dorms have older couples, with at least one of the couple typically a university employee.

    DD’s school apparently still has student RAs. However, it might not matter to her. She’s missed out on her freshman residential experience, and she’s not sure what kind of dorm assignment she’d get for next year, so she’s exploring off campus housing options, which is very disappointing.

  56. In my grad program, after the first year you had full teaching responsibility but you didn’t get more money. Most of us got research grants towards the end when we were finishing up so we didn’t have to teach.

  57. My niece, the one majoring in nutrition, is also having trouble finding an internship. She’ll graduate this spring. First in her immediate family to go to college at all, let alone graduate. Too bad getting the internship is so hard.

  58. RMS, I’m wondering why your niece is looking for an internship rather than a regular job. Are internships the entry level positions in her field?

  59. “Obviously you should teach full-time at a high school rather than adjunct at a university.”

    There seems to be an imbalance between a bunch of highly degreed wannabe university educators, and a lack of highly qualified teachers.

    And even if teachers are poorly compensated in some placed (e.g., the rural areas near DD and RMS), teaching in general seems to be better compensated, with more stability and benefits, than being an adjunct at a college.

    One obvious reason for the imbalance is that many schools require their teachers to have teaching degrees/credentials.

    Perhaps this is one reason my kids’ school, which does not have that some requirement, is able to hire so many highly degreed teachers.

    I wonder if charter schools, especially charter HS, might be able to exploit that same loophole to staff their faculties.

  60. Finn, it has something to do with what level of Registered Dietician she can become. She is also looking for full-time RD jobs, but they will be at some lower level than if she got an internship. I’m afraid I don’t have the full picture. Anyway, if she gets a full time job, she can later get a MS and move up that way, apparently.

  61. DW has a family member who is a RD. My understanding was that the “internship” she had to complete after finishing undergrad was something that cost her parents an additional $10k or so. I was as confused as you are — it’s a weird racket.

    Finn – how did the compensation package at your kids’ school compare to that of the public schools in the area?

  62. She’s missed out on her freshman residential experience, and she’s not sure what kind of dorm assignment she’d get for next year, so she’s exploring off campus housing options, which is very disappointing.

    Sophomores don’t get to select rooms before freshmen?

  63. If we are taking about Harvard the only thing you need to be a teacher is MA is a 3.0 GPA and passing the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) in your area of concentration. Presumably anyone teaching at Harvard could pass that in any subject with a two week head start.

    If they aren’t teaching high school for twice the money, half the work, healthcare and a pension, it’s not because they can’t.

  64. Sometimes, when you have a grad student teaching a full course, they are not really “TAs”.

    The point is that it’s a grad student teaching the class instead of a professor. It’s the same from the student perspective.

  65. DW has a family member who is a RD. My understanding was that the “internship” she had to complete after finishing undergrad was something that cost her parents an additional $10k or so. I was as confused as you are — it’s a weird racket.

    You have to do an internship (1200 hours) before you can take the RD certification exam.

  66. “how did the compensation package at your kids’ school compare to that of the public schools in the area?”

    IDK.

    But I do know that a couple of benefits to all employees were very attractive. Employees’ kids were given preference in admission, and each employee could send one kid tuition-free, although that benefit is being phased out.

    It’s also incredibly convenient to work at the school and have your kids go there too.

    Also, teachers don’t have the same qualification requirements as public schools. In the HS, most if not all of the teachers majored in the subjects they teach, not education, and have advanced degrees in those subjects.

  67. “Sophomores don’t get to select rooms before freshmen?”

    There are separate freshmen dorms, including the honors dorm where DD hoped to stay this year. All freshmen are required to live on campus, but there’s not enough dorm space for all students.

  68. Am I too late for good news? DD got accepted into Baylor’s accelerated BSN program (nursing), which was her first choice. Thanks DD for telling us those existed. DS got to interview for a doctoral program, which was beyond his expectations. He only has one response so far on grad school apps and it’s a rejection to his first choice, but still plenty of second choices out there.

    And I’m at the airport waiting to fly home from my parents where I’ve been helping out for the past week after a fall. After daily gentle conversation in between the myriad home health aids, I’ve possibly convinced them to move to an independent living (+home health) near my sister in Chicago. As my dad’s situation progresses, my mom needs to be near family. The place we found is on Lake Michigan and appears to be quite nice, so hopefully it will all work out. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted compared to when I got here last Wednesday. Forward progress.

  69. “ If they aren’t teaching high school for twice the money, half the work, healthcare and a pension, it’s not because they can’t.”

    That’s a very good point

  70. “The point is that it’s a grad student teaching the class instead of a professor. It’s the same from the student perspective.”
    Is there any difference between a 32 year old instructor with a masters who is teaching part time vs, a 32 year old instructor with a masters who is continuing in the PhD program?

  71. RMS, at my university you had to have a masters degree to be able to take on a full course. I think that is pretty common – my current university has the same requirement. In my grad program, people usually got their Masters after two or so years. If they were continuing in the PhD program, at that point they could teach full courses and often did. It was a different position from being a TA. Most of us, though, eventually ended up on grant support as RAs.
    One thing to realize is that a lot of the students in my grad program came in with industry experience. So teaching as an instructor meant they brought a lot of background to the course. They were not much different from your standard industry adjunct

  72. “The point is that it’s a grad student teaching the class instead of a professor. It’s the same from the student perspective.”

    OTOH it can be quite a bit of difference between someone who just finished a bachelor’s vs someone well into a PhD program.

    And it depends on the class too. If it’s a basic math class for students who will never take calculus, personality and teaching style probably matter more than math knowledge.

  73. ” the only thing you need to be a teacher is MA is a 3.0 GPA and passing the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) in your area of concentration.”

    It’s generally different here. Licensing is required in general, and licensing generally requires coursework or equivalent in education.

    There are ’emergency hire’ exceptions, but those TMK are not permanent hires.

  74. Teaching at an elite prep school is an entirely different kettle of fish than teaching at a large public high school, even if there is a an education coursework workaround and the school offers a full range of college prep. A ph D looking for work in the latter is not going to be placed on day one in elite AP courses with the most committed students displacing existing experienced staff, unless it is a fill in for someone on medical or maternity leave.

    Back in the dark ages at Harvard undergrad, I don’t recall courses taught solely by graduate students. There were very few short term or non tenure track teaching positions, mostly in foreign language. Tutors and section leaders were grad students or post docs, but a senior faculty member gave the main lectures. But there also were hordes of Tenure track junior faculty in the up and out system. They were still faculty, albeit poorly paid. Their wives often held admin positions to make ends meet. They had to build subsidized housing for the young families so they could live near campus.

  75. Becky, that’s awesome!

    Milo, I think it’s generally true that private-school teachers earn less than public-school teachers. The flip side is that private-school teachers generally don’t have to put up with nearly as much crap as public-school teachers, since private schools cherry-pick their kids and thus can avoid having to deal with kids/parents/issues/situations that they don’t want to have to deal with. Also, they set their own curricula, so as a teacher, you can sort of match your personality to that of the school (e.g. crunchy teachers can find crunchy schools, Christian teachers can find Christian schools, etc.)

  76. My mother, who had her MFA, ended up teaching at a private school which was considered elite by my state’s standards. The governor and many other elite types sent their kids there. Most of the people who taught there were older women who were of the aspirational class – bored wives of lawyers, etc. Anyone who could, took ed courses on the side and bolted for the public schools as soon as they could. As bad as pay was in public schools in that state, it was far worse in the private school. And while they didn’t have to deal with fistfights in the hallways like public school teachers did, they had to deal with a lot of very messed up, entitled rich kids who drank and did drugs.

  77. “Anyone who could, took ed courses on the side and bolted for the public schools as soon as they could.”

    My kids both had teachers who’d previously taught in public schools. DS’ first grade assistant teacher had been a public school VP (she’s now a regular teacher with an assistant of her own).

    Many of the summer school teachers are public school teachers on their breaks. I think some of them see that as a possible step toward making a complete move.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the phasing out of the tuition benefit affects this.

  78. Good news, Becky!

    Good luck to all Totebag kids who are looking for jobs, as is my DS3. It’s tough out there.

    I got my first Pfizer shot yesterday morning. About 6 hours later I was hit with a wave of fatigue like I get from cold medicine, and my arm is sore, but otherwise no problems. My age category went from “eligible maybe in June” to” eligible in 2 days” overnight about a week ago. We were able to get appointments quickly and were in and out of the clinic in 25 minutes total. It feels unreal because my mindset had been that I had at least another 3 months before hope of acquiring any immunity. Nice feeling!

  79. Here it depends on what level and what setting a teacher is teaching. Suburban schools and elementary schools are considered the easier both in case of private and public schools. Where it starts to get difficult in public schools is the higher grade levels because of discipline issues. Also the public schools here are part of a large district so teachers are subject to changes that impact how they are supposed to teach. This is the biggest problem I’ve heard from longtime public school teachers.
    Charter schools are some where in the middle.

    The private school teachers may make less money but it’s a more stable environment. They also attracts career changers, who have enough of a cushion to “retire” to teaching. My kids school has career changers. They also have alumni who liked the environment and joined as teachers. Some teachers like to teach and coach a sport, so some have done that for years.

  80. HFN, I had the exact same symptoms with my Pfizer shot.

    DS1 is graduating and looking for a job, as well. I agree that it’s tough right now.

  81. But I do know that a couple of benefits to all employees were very attractive. Employees’ kids were given preference in admission, and each employee could send one kid tuition-free, although that benefit is being phased out.

    It’s also incredibly convenient to work at the school and have your kids go there too.

    Also, teachers don’t have the same qualification requirements as public schools. In the HS, most if not all of the teachers majored in the subjects they teach, not education, and have advanced degrees in those subjects.

    It seems like an antiquated system that helps ensure that privileged kids are taught mostly by people of similar privilege, who don’t need much actual cash to pay bills and a mortgage but are happy to be paid in scrip. Mooshi’s observations would seem to back that up.

    Imagine a country club that pays its maids with unlimited rounds of golf.

  82. Westchester does not seem to have nearly the number or variety of private schools that you guys report in your areas. I have looked into them several times in the past when I hit frustration level over certain school policies but never found much that looked attractive in the private sector. Mostly there are Catholic schools, but their number decreases every year. There are a few elite Catholic prep high schools, the kind where boys wear jackets and ties to class and girls wear long white evening dresses and carry roses at graduation. Those places seem to be the main alternative to public schools. There was a Jewish day school (not a yeshiva) that some friends sent their kids to years ago, but when I did a search, I can’t find it any more. There is a German school and a French school that cater to expats.There are also a few boarding schools that take day students, but those are really expensive and cater to a different social class. A couple of private Montessori schools that only go up to 8th… There is a private school that caters to kids with learning disabilities and ADHD. I only know of a few charter schools, which are all in Yonkers or Mount Vernon – high poverty towns with badly underfunded and struggling public systems. Oh, and there is this odd school in New Rochelle that does “thematic international”education. I had one of their grads in my classes a few years ago – the kid struggled a lot because I think he was used to always doing his own thing. https://www.td.edu/about

    But overall, if you don’t want Catholic, and that was never an option for us, then there aren’t a lot of choices in the private sector.

    And of course we don’t have school choice in the public sector either, except in Yonkers.

  83. “I was hit with a wave of fatigue like I get from cold medicine”

    Same thing here two days later, on Saturday. And I’ve been feeling fatigued this week, but I was working more the first three days and getting up earlier, in addition to the stupid clock change, so there are a number of factors.

  84. I was slightly tired the day after I got my first dose (more winded than usual when I went out for a run) and had a sore arm. I am due for second dose next week, and my understanding is that the second dose causes much worse after effects. Which is bad because I cannot take time off from work right now

  85. Good luck to all the job hunting kids. AustinMom’s DD’s interview process sounds grueling and stressful.

    ” the only thing you need to be a teacher is MA is a 3.0 GPA and passing the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) in your area of concentration.”

    “It’s generally different here. Licensing is required in general, and licensing generally requires coursework or equivalent in education.”

    It’s similar in NY, where certification is required. I know teachers who prefer working in private schools, where certification is not required. Part of it is not wanting to go through the tedious process of certification, but I think it’s mostly they much prefer the environment and students at private schools. Sure, there are some bratty, entitled students but compared to the disinterested or disruptive public school students these teachers prefer the former. The private school teachers typically have graduate degrees in their field and are more knowledgeable than their typical public school counterparts. (And I’m not saying that there are not many expert, knowledgeable public school teachers)

  86. We have a lot of public, charter, and private options here. The private are a mix of prices from local neighborhood catholic to $30k+ Catholic or Non-Catholic private. I didn’t realize how many options there were until this year when parents around me were desperate to find fulltime inperson learning. I’m curious where all the teachers have come from, as the charter schools have really popped up in the last few years.

    A good friend of mine on the East Coast has only Catholic school or Country Day as her non-public option. She wasn’t happy with public schools and looked into the local Catholic school. No space, and she can’t apply to the other catholic schools a bit further out because of some archaic rules.

  87. Hi all! I still check in from time to time. The job talk got me to respond. DS graduated in December, a semester early saving us some big $ is OOS tuition. Had no job when graduating but quickly got two offers and took a job with a signing bonus and generous relo to do something with hypersonic rocket launches. So stay strong! He had an industry internship in before times and then interned for my company last summer in data science. For me, took that company I started public and am on a glide path to retirement!

  88. We have a decent amount of school choice. This gives the teachers options in the type of setting they want to teach. Some of the magnets have a specific focus so perhaps some arts, science or language teachers prefer that type of setting where their discipline is a focus. The charters provide more of flexible environment while private schools provide more curriculum stability.
    There is movement of students between types of schools so people are not locked in.

  89. SoFl! So glad to hear from you. Our kids are the same age, and am pleased to hear about your DS and your own company. Taking a company public is a b*tch. So much work…

  90. Kim, my DD’s history teacher has a PhD in history. DS2 had her too. Both love her. She teaches AP Global.

  91. Rocky Mountain Stepmom – the second shot of Pfizer knocked me out. I had no reaction to the first one other than a slightly sore arm. With the second, about 12 hours later I had a fever, chills, and body aches. And I now understand what a pounding headache is. I had never had one before. Side effects lasted almost exactly 24 hours and then I was totally fine such that I was able to run 5 miles. I rarely get sick and my reaction really surprised me.

  92. So nice to hear from you, SoFL! I can’t believe your DS is out of college. It seems like yesterday he was still in high school. Glad to hear things are good for all of you.

  93. RMS – hopefully it goes well for you. My parents were dreading the side effects but they only felt sleepy and nothing else.

  94. Rocky – I will say that it was nice to have confirmation that my immune system responded in a big way. And the side effects were short lived. I do wonder if my reaction to the vaccine means I would have had a harder time with an infection. Maybe I am more likely to have a cytokine storm from this virus.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about side effects other than to try to have a light schedule for a couple days after. I know many people who had very mild or no side effects from the second shot.

  95. DH’s sisters and husbands have now all had their second dose. One sister and husband were really knocked out, but the others didn’t have much trouble.
    I am going to make sure I have ibuprofen stocked.

    DS2 had the pounding headache after his first dose, so I am concerned about him when he goes for his second next week

  96. Rocky, I have no firsthand accounts, but I think your age will play in your favor. All the older individuals I know had very minor side effects – feeling iffy and a bit tired. All the young folks were like Reality and knocked out for a solid 24 hours.

  97. “Any first-hand reports on the effects of the second Pfizer shot? We get ours tomorrow and I’m dreading it a bit, since I hear such scary stories.”

    Well, no. Second hand. DS2 just called this morning and said his GF, who got her 2nd yesterday morning started feeling more body aches + a fever of ~100 about 12hrs later. She’s at shot+24hrs now and still feels lousy.

    Others have related to me that the 12-36hrs post shot can be bad/flu like. Then fine.

    My 86yo mother had nothing other than a bit more arm soreness.

  98. Becky – that’s good news re your parents.

    SoFl – congrats and good to hear from you.

  99. “Others have related to me that the 12-36hrs post shot can be bad/flu like. Then fine.”

    This is what my brother reported after #2. I think Mooshi better plan on being knocked out for a day or two.

    Another interesting Slate article, move it to Politics if necessary, but it’s basically a bunch of anecdotes about couples experiencing “vax inequality” (one partner is vaccinated, the other is not). One woman was like “your obsession with sanitizing all our groceries that I’ve been playing along with all year — I’m done.”

    But some of the commenters are really mad about this. (Well, a lot of them were really mad about that Brown professor I posted on the Politics side.) But truly, some of these introverted people truly prefer pandemic life over normal.

    https://slate.com/comments/human-interest/2021/03/inside-drama-half-vaccinated-couples.html

    Well. This piece was full of shallow petty people that I’m happy not to know.

    I got shot #1 last week and my wife got J&J, so she’s all done. I should get the second in April sometime. She has now opened negotiations for going back out but I am not happy about that. Masking, distancing, all of that is totally in my wheelhouse. Once I get my second shot I intend to behave as though vaccines were only a gleam in a drug company’s eye. My marker for going back out in the world is when the COVID infection rate is so low that CNN and the NYT no longer report it.

    And if my wife wants to go out to dinner in the meanwhile she can go with her vaccinated friends. If I ask nicely maybe she’ll bring me carryout.

    My in-laws, who were grocery washers for a year, are spending the night over here in two weeks.

  100. So just reading up on Mills. Evidently they laid off a bunch of tenured faculty in 2017, so they were definitely having problems. I notice that the CS department, which is iconic for them, is really hollowed out now – mostly adjuncts

  101. We have vax inequality. DH isn’t vaccinated. I went out to dinner with a fully vaccinated friend last evening! It was weird but great. I think I have to be thoughtful about living more normally. I think a lot of us will after vaccination.

  102. “DH isn’t vaccinated. I went out to dinner”

    At least you didn’t make DH wait in the car for you like that chick who wanted to enjoy her Starbucks coffee at the outdoor table. :)

    Honestly, I wonder how some of those Slate relationships function at all.

  103. “DS2 had the pounding headache after his first dose, so I am concerned about him when he goes for his second next week”

    So I checked in with my sibling who ran/is running one of the Pfizer trials to see if they found that side effects from the first shot reappear worse with the second shot. I specifically asked about a young adult with bad headache after the first. He said they did not see that the second was worse and added “they should not skip the second shot” which I know Mooshi’s kid wouldn’t do, but clearly that’s a concern in the medical community. He also said that younger people have more side effects than older folks like RMS and me. Anecdotally, he had milder symptoms after the second than the first.

    I’m nervous about getting my second shot but his input helps me and I thought might help yall too.

  104. I haven’t read the slate article yet, but there have been news stories about how to reemerge into society. Many people with anxiety, and not anxiety from getting sick, but talking to humans. It has been a comfortable year for many.

  105. RMS, I had no effects at all from the second pfizer shot. I got an allergy shot the same day and that was more annoying than the pfizer. But I have a friend who said the second shot knocked her pretty hard for about 24 hours.

    DW is now eligible and we can’t find any place for her to get an appointment. I can’t even find anything that says when the places open up the appointments so we can hop on at midnight or whatever.

  106. Thanks, HfN.

    When I got the call that the pharmacy had a cancellation, I grabbed DH and shoved him in front of me for the shot. Mainly that was because he has Type 1 diabetes and was at greater risk. But I also knew that there were two ways this could play out in our household:

    1. I get the shot and DH nobly tells me to go live my life while he stays home and suffers (sigh).
    2. DH gets the shot and has survivor guilt because I don’t have it yet.

    I preferred #2. And it was moot anyway, because my man Guillermo the pharmacy tech called back within hours to get me back in for a subsequent cancellation (what is the deal with people cancelling back when the shots were so scarce?) so it all worked out. But I did absolutely see some annoying dynamics if our vaccines were separated by a month or more.

  107. April 3. Fenway Park. No tix for opening day available. Day 14 after 2nd moderna for me. Day 10 after second Pfizer for my friend. Her husband is not yet eligible. Hope they have coffee and hot chocolate, at least. Seats behind home plate.

  108. DD, is there a local FB Vaccine Hunter page? There are good people that just scope out all locations and report on FB their findings constantly…as well as offer clues to how to get to the webpages to show openings. For example, some pharmacies will a hold few slots for just 65+, so if you enter that you are 65 the appointment magically appears. When you get there the pharmacy is just checking that you meet any of the eligibility criteria.

  109. “But I did absolutely see some annoying dynamics if our vaccines were separated by a month or more.”

    If we’d had to choose, I would have made DW get it, even though I’m at much higher risk. It would be selfish on my part, not noble, just because I prefer a wife with less anxiety over Covid immunity.

  110. “At least you didn’t make DH wait in the car for you like that chick who wanted to enjoy her Starbucks coffee at the outdoor table. :)”

    I don’t understand why he didn’t get his own coffee and sit with her outside.

    DH has told me to go forth and live it up. I might get crazy and go for a haircut soon.

  111. “is there a local FB Vaccine Hunter page?”

    Our church has a group like this. Separately, I’m on the Youth Group parent council or committee or whatever it’s called. So we had this idea a couple months ago that we were going to get all our tech-savvy kids engaged in getting the helpless seniors their shot appointments. And I went to the training on Zoom, and I’m in the kitchen on this Zoom call, and we sort of realize that this is not going to work out that well against most kids’ school schedules. Plus, DW and her parents were kind of like hobbyist vaccine hunters, anyway, so she knew more about it than the person giving the training. She ended up becoming one of the church’s vaccine hunter people, even though for the most part, the regular senior citizen church members generally have sufficient family and support resources and wherewithal that there wasn’t much demand. However, other non-church people in the community get referred to this group all the time, so DW has scheduled appointments for quite a few people now. (And she found my dad his appointment in a different state.)

  112. I’m a total introvert, but nevertheless I cannot wait to rip off the mask and go out and about in public!

    We are a vax-unequal couple, and will be for a while, since DH started the process two weeks ago, but I am not eligible to even try for an appointment until April 19. It is what it is. I told DH that the one thing I don’t want is fully-vaccinated people from outside our household coming into our house to socialize before I am fully vaccinated. I’m not high-risk, but given my age, I’m not exactly low-risk either. DH is OK with that.

  113. RMS, I will stop by there tomorrow or this weekend.

    LT, I looked but didn’t see one.

  114. Becky, that is so awesome on all fronts – congrats! SoFl, good to hear from you, and also great news!

    My response to Milo’s article was pretty much summed up by this comment:

    “I feel like with the first couple, the issue is less that she’s got a vaccine, and more that her partner is a loon.”

    I will admit to being somewhat conflicted about going back to “normal”; part of me is excited, but the lazy introvert kind of likes the low-pressure environment of the last year (and a bigger-still part of me is suprised to find that I have any sadness whatsoever about leaving my little nest a/k/a prison!). But if you want to have a healthy relationship, you have to find a way to meet both partners’ needs. So many of those comments — both in the article and in the comments — seemed driven by anxiety, not any rational analysis of the risk. And so many of those choices described in the article seemed to focus on finding excuses to do what they wanted as an individual vs. compromising to meet their partners’ needs.

    My current compromise plan is that I’m taking a staycation next week. I know it sounds really stupid, but I am actually a little jealous of people who have nothing to do but watch Netflix, and so I’m just going to give myself a week with zero obligations and zero being on-call and feed my inner slug. My goal is to watch Netflix until I am bored to the gills and actually WANT to do something else, and then work on my stained glass and go to the gym and stuff. I’m hoping to get sufficiently bored to remind myself why I like work and people and leaving the house all that. Because my DH is more extroverted, and we are both now protected against the Big Bad outcomes, and so it would be unhealthy to let either my lingering anxiety or my introvertedness get in the way of doing the things that are good for both of us.

  115. Rhett — I did preregister, but that means the earliest I can possibly get the announcement saying that I have an appointment is the week of April 19. And since there will be so many people in that last cohort, it might be many weeks afterwards that I actually get scheduled.

  116. I will admit to being somewhat conflicted about going back to “normal”; part of me is excited, but the lazy introvert kind of likes the low-pressure environment of the last year

    I’m worried COVID turned me into a miser. Doing nothing saves soooooo much money.

  117. LfB. Are you a DC nerd as well as Marvel? Save justice league Snyder cut for next week. On Netflix, we liked the Samurai series and are planning on the Pirate kingdom one. Will report back.

    Of course, the big post vaccine news is that there can be an all grandparent in attendance birthday party for eldest granddaughter in mid April. Of course, she is going to be 12, but a young 12, so probably not a lot of sighs and hair flips. Sleepovers during April vacation week!

  118. Meme — yes, but DH would kill me if I watched that without him. ;-) Going to be a lot of Britbox and Acorn instead.

    And yay for in-person grandkid birthdays!!!

  119. “I’m worried COVID turned me into a miser. Doing nothing saves soooooo much money.”

    Opposite for me. My feeling is what is the point of having money if I cannot spend it on enjoyable things? I have already mentally planned the vacations that I want to do in the next five years. And who knows when something like this (or worse!) will happen. Got to get in what I can when I can.

  120. Like dining out? Personal travel?

    Now that you mention it part of the issue is that I bill by the hour. So every week I’m on vacation, it’s not only the cost of the vacation but the cost of not being paid.

  121. My second dose is in one week and I am a little concerned about feeling sick the next day, but I would never skip the second dose. I heard that it is over for most people within 24 hours so it should be fine. It is interesting that the elderly seem to have fewer side effects except for a sore arm. My DD is eligible now due to a job and a comorbidity, but her first dose is scheduled for late May. She wants to do it on a Saturday, and she wanted to avoid ACT, APs and finals. I wasn’t able to accommodate all of this without pushing the date to late May, but I am hoping to find something earlier that works.

    My DH id getting his second dose on Sunday, so we will be vaccinated along with all of our relatives except for DD.

  122. ” Once I get my second shot I intend to behave as though vaccines were only a gleam in a drug company’s eye. ”

    What is even the point of getting vaccinated then? (I’m being snarky – I know the point is herd immunity, etc). BUT…seriously. My pre-Covid life as a middle-aged married parent was not exactly exciting, but my life will absolutely change once I am fully vaccinated. I plan to resume my absolutely wild life of occasionally going out to dinner – including sitting inside away from bugs and car exhaust, going to events of all kinds, visiting friends and relatives, and riding public transit. I will continue to spend most nights on my couch with my immediate family, but I am beyond thrilled that won’t be my only option.

    Thanks for sharing the side effect info. It seems a bit random from my friends/family who has had massive side effects from the 2nd dose and who hasn’t. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  123. SoFl, great to hear from you. Thanks for sharing an update and it is nice to hear good news abotu your family.

  124. I am looking forward to indoor dining and going to the gym,but am not looking forward to the commute to work. Not commuting has been a big stress reducer.

  125. “’I’m worried COVID turned me into a miser. Doing nothing saves soooooo much money.’

    Opposite for me. My feeling is what is the point of having money if I cannot spend it on enjoyable things?”

    I am becoming MUCH more carpe diem. Between becoming eligible for year-of-retirement-penalty-free 401(k) withdrawals, breaking down my denial over how long I will be able to be alive, healthy, and active, and watching how this virus has completely shut down all of the kinds of things that I am wanting to do when I retire, I am losing all patience for continuing to work to save money for my old(er) age. I can no longer take for granted the fact that those options will be there and be available to me in 10 years or whatever. So while I don’t particularly want to quit this very second — because, really, what exactly would I do while everything’s still so shut? — the idea of waiting for DS to graduate HS or (gah) college is becoming less tenable.

  126. SoFL, I’ve been trying to reach you, but your old email is apparently defunct. Can you reach out to me at hotmail, please?

  127. Since DH is “retired” (HA! He’s on another Zoom deposition right now) we’re both being slightly paranoid about money. Nevertheless, we’re planning travel for April, and in looking at housing options, wound up with a really nice large AirBnB house. For 1/3 of that we could have gotten a terrible, tiny, stuffy little motel room in a place we’ve stayed before. DH was really leaning that way. But I’m so miserable in those little rooms, and DH always watches TV at night and I can’t block out the noise, and I hate the whole thing so much. In 15 years we’ll be unable to travel much, I suspect. So fuck it, let’s spend the damn money on decent lodgings.

  128. I feel the same way about the money. That is the reason that we getting nicer car , and I am planning all of those Italy trips for fall 2022 and beyond. Who know how many years we will have left to enjoy our $ with good health? Covid living showed us that we can cut back even more if necessary, but what is the point of having money if you can’t enjoy it?

  129. For me, I guess it just reinforced things I already thought. Yes – I definitely want to be in a position to be able to choose to retire early & enjoy those early retirement years and not have to worry about keeping this level of job into my 60’s. So – keep being diligent about saving. But also – life is too short to MMM things that you would actually get some comfort and enjoyment from. So on balance, I don’t think my priorities have actually changed that much.

  130. “we’re both being slightly paranoid about money”

    I guess it never goes away, does it?

  131. I guess it never goes away, does it?

    Meme said something the other day about old people being cheap. Obviously some of that is a lack of money. But not all of it. At some point you hit your 60s and friends start to pass. And, “Did you hear Barb’s husband died?” becomes a regular topic of conversation. I would think folks would realize that they really don’t have all that much time left. At least that’s how I feel when I hear of people dying at 62 or 65.

    Maybe the non-need based cheapness is part of a coping strategy where they just think they’ll live forever.

  132. Rhett, I’m standing right here. I can hear you.

    Partly it’s fear of end-of-life expenses. Partly it’s wanting to help with grandchildren expenses, and with the very probable medical expenses that may come along for the kids. Partly it’s just way too hard to give up on a lifetime’s worth of worry.

  133. “Obviously some of that is a lack of money.”

    I think for those who have some money, the bigger issue is knowing (or thinking) that you’re no longer in much of a position to earn more.

  134. SoFl, so glad to hear things are going well for your DS and you

    For my parents, I see that the money concerns are driven by “what if we need a higher level of care than we thought we would?” A woman they know outlived her money at the CCRC. They didn’t throw her out but apparently the place was not discreet about it and everyone knew. With my dad clearly going to be more expensive than planned, that is my mom’s nightmare scenario. I went over their finances with them and they should not run into that problem, but there are no guarantees.

    RMS, DD’s second job was a far pendulum swing from her first, and a terrible fit. She couldn’t separate that company culture/fit from the career, plus wanted to feel like she was doing something she values. She wants (admittedly based on zero knowledge or experience) to be a labor and delivery nurse.

  135. Rhett: there is good reason to be concerned, and it’s called the surviving spouse — which is, most often, the wife. If my stepdad had needed long-term care for his Parkinson’s, my mom would have been on the hook to pay for it. And the way Medicaid works, she’d have to spend down all of her assets before Medicaid would kick in. So she could have watched her life’s savings disappear to pay for his care, and then have nothing left but SS to live on for the rest of her own life — all of which would happen when she’s too old to really go back to work. Are there ways to avoid that? Sure. But generally not after the need for care becomes apparent — which is when most people think about it.

    Our nursing-home-type care system has a massive hole in it, and it hits a huge chunk of people who have too much money for Medicaid but too little to fund both nursing home care and a surviving spouse’s future living expenses.

  136. Rhett: there is good reason to be concerned,

    But that’s not really a totebagger concern, is it? The max SS benefit in 2021 is $3,895/month. $3,895 x 2 x 12 = $93,480. You’ll be getting almost $100k just from SS.

  137. “Any first-hand reports on the effects of the second Pfizer shot?”

    I got the shot just before lunchtime. There was minor arm soreness, no worse than any other shot. The next day, shortly after lunch, I got really, irresistibly, sleepy. I laid down and almost instantly went to sleep. About 3 hours later I woke up feeling much better, and haven’t had any other effects since then.

    “I think your age will play in your favor.”

    We’re pretty close in age, so perhaps my experience is more relevant than some others posted here.

    Shingrix side effects were much worse.

  138. SoFL, good to hear from you, and about your DS. I’ve wondered how he did/was doing, since he’s the same year as my DS and they had a lot of similarities in their coursework and the types of schools they were looking at.

    “took a job with a signing bonus and generous relo to do something with hypersonic rocket launches.”

    IOW, he is a rocket scientist.

    “For me, took that company I started public and am on a glide path to retirement!”

    Congrats! Sounds like you and Mafalda could hang out. Maybe PTM and his really rich friend too.

  139. RMS, BTW my reaction to my first shot was similar. Slightly more arm soreness than second shot, but less fatigue. It only took about 1.5 hours to sleep off the fatigue from the first shot.

  140. “But that’s not really a totebagger concern, is it? The max SS benefit in 2021 is $3,895/month. $3,895 x 2 x 12 = $93,480. You’ll be getting almost $100k just from SS.”

    Uhhhh, I was talking about the *surviving* spouse. So assuming that at least one spouse maxed out the salary necessary to max SS benefits for 40 years,* that means $3,895/mo. Which for a totebagger spouse is likely to be a significant drop in standard of living. And things like Medicare premiums and prescription drugs will very likely take a big chunk of that.

    *By way of comparison, my stepdad’s SS maxed out at around $3300/mo.

  141. SOFL – yay so happy to hear about your IPO. I’ve been involved in boosting Miami area entrepreneurs (angel investing) as well as volunteering in a mentoring program. I feel like our region is on a roll.

  142. LfB,

    Surviving spouse in the sense that the husband needed increasing amounts of care up to an including skilled nursing. Obviously, if all you have is a paid for house, $350k in retirement and SS that’s going to be a catastrophe for the surviving spouse. But someone toward the higher end of totebag doesn’t have that concern as SS would cover a significant portion of the cost of skilled nursing leaving your remaining assets to generate spendable income.

    I guess the question would be at what combination of assets and SS is the surviving spouse issue not realistically a concern. $60k in SS and 4% of 2.5 million?

  143. RMS, how was your first shot? What side effects?

    My guess (emphasis on guess) is that those effects are the best predictor of the effects from your second shot.

    But I suggest not scheduling yourself to work the day of the shot or the day after.

  144. Rhett — IDK. In my mom’s case, though, the kind of communities that would have been reasonable would have cost twice that. So if you’ve got $60K in (taxable) SS and 4% of $2.5M, you’re back to living on $40K-ish indefinitely to avoid draining your assets.

    Also consider that the vast, vast majority of American’s don’t retire with anywhere close to 2 full SS + $2.5M. Based on some generic website I just pulled up (that therefore must be true), the 90th percentile 65-yr-old has less than $2M NW, *including* home equity.

    So basically, the top 10%+/- can squeak by without draining their assets, if they can adjust their lifestyle to live on what might be a small fraction of what they had available before; the bottom, what, 25% (NW $44K@65) will be on Medicaid from day 1; and everyone in-between will have to drain their assets for as long as necessary to cover any sort of long-term nursing home care.

    So, yeah, I’d say there are a ton of women out there who have valid reasons to be frugal even post-retirement. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, right?

  145. “FALSE! You can pre-register and you’ll get a text to make your appointment when it’s your turn.”

    Yes! DS has pre-registered for his shot(s)! So has DD’s BFF.

  146. Finn, I had a very sore arm for about three days, but that was it. I read someplace that you should try not to sleep on that side after the shot — that is, try not to lie on your arm all night. We’ll see.

  147. “So while I don’t particularly want to quit this very second — because, really, what exactly would I do while everything’s still so shut? — the idea of waiting for DS to graduate HS or (gah) college is becoming less tenable.”

    You’ve already cut back, right? It seems to me that your job and your position with your firm puts you in a good position to perhaps cut back a bit more, and allow yourself to take vacations, travel, etc., but still continue to work. That continuation leaves open the option to ramp back up if necessary, or continue at ramped down level as your needs dictate.

    If seems to me that the bigger obstacle you face is your DH’s situation. Is he not able to ratchet back in his job, and take more/longer vacations?

    “Since DH is “retired” (HA! He’s on another Zoom deposition right now) we’re both being slightly paranoid about money.”

    Sounds like he’s semi-retired, not fully retired, which, like LfB, would seem to mitigate the fear of running out of money.

  148. “I read someplace that you should try not to sleep on that side after the shot”

    I heard recommendations to not get the shot in the arm on the side on which you sleep, which I followed.

    I wonder if the trials looked at whether efficacy was affected by whether or not both shots are taken on the same arm.

  149. Don’t forget that if you’re following the 4% draw-down rule, that has to cover your taxes, too.

    Is the nursing home cost deductible because it’s medical care in excess of x% of income? To the Google!

    If you, your spouse, or your dependent is in a nursing home primarily for medical care, then the entire nursing home cost (including meals and lodging) is deductible as a medical expense.

    https://www.irs.gov/faqs/itemized-deductions-standard-deduction/medical-nursing-home-special-care-expenses/medical-nursing-home-special-care-expenses

  150. “But overall, if you don’t want Catholic, and that was never an option for us, then there aren’t a lot of choices in the private sector.”

    Well, there is the option to move. I’ve known people who moved to get into better school districts, and heard many more such stories about people I don’t know.

  151. “Is the nursing home cost deductible because it’s medical care in excess of x% of income?”

    That may have changed, but a while back we planned that our appreciated ESOP stock was our LTC insurance, thinking that the LTCG taxes would be offset by the deductibility of much of the LTC costs.

  152. “kids are taught mostly by people of similar privilege, who don’t need much actual cash to pay bills and a mortgage but are happy to be paid in scrip. “

    My guess is that the teachers were compensated, beyond the tuition benefit, at least as well as public school teachers, based on not hearing of any teachers leaving for public schools once their kids graduated, and knowing many teachers who stayed until retirement.

    But it will be interesting to see how the phasing out of the tuition benefit affects the school’s ability to recruit and retain teachers and, FTM, all other positions at the school, e.g., custodians.

    “Mooshi’s observations would seem to back that up.”

    I don’t recall her making any observations about my kids’ school.

  153. According to Glass Door, the average teacher salary at Finn’s kids’ school is $75,793. Given the cost of living in HI, that doesn’t seem altogether comfortable. In the HI Public School system, well, I don’t feel like retyping it so just look here.

    Click to access TeachersSalary18-19.pdf

    I’d say Finn’s kids’ teachers are doing better, but I don’t know the benefits package.

  154. Hum… from what I can tell almost every type of nursing home stay would be deductible.

    In order for assisted living expenses to be tax deductible, the resident must be considered “chronically ill.” This means a doctor or nurse has certified that the resident either:

    cannot perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, toileting, transferring, bath, dressing, or continence; or
    requires supervision due to a cognitive impairment (such as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia).
    In addition, to qualify for the deduction, personal care services must be provided according to a plan of care prescribed by a licensed health care provider. This means a doctor, nurse, or social worker must prepare a plan that outlines the specific daily services the resident will receive. Though not required by law, most assisted living facilities prepare care plans for their residents.

  155. “What is even the point of getting vaccinated then? (I’m being snarky – I know the point is herd immunity, etc).”

    At this point, preventing hospitalization and death, and reducing the load on hospitals, making it possible for them to better treat those with non-covid needs.

    We have existence proof that vaccinated people can still get infected asymptomatically, which suggests they could still spread the disease and host mutations.

    “I told DH that the one thing I don’t want is fully-vaccinated people from outside our household coming into our house to socialize before I am fully vaccinated.”

    ITA. See above.

    “Once I get my second shot I intend to behave as though vaccines were only a gleam in a drug company’s eye. “

    ITA. Again, see above

  156. “I am looking forward to indoor dining and going to the gym,but am not looking forward to the commute to work. Not commuting has been a big stress reducer.”

    Will you not be able to WFH more that you did pre-pandemic?

  157. “We have existence proof that vaccinated people can still get infected asymptomatically, which suggests they could still spread the disease and host mutations.”

    I think any statistical basis for this concern is growing weaker by the day — fortunately.

    And to follow the gleam in the eye guy, you’ll never go back to regular life. I know that’s the goal for some people. Your choice, for sure.

  158. “you’ll never go back to regular life.”

    I think I will. It’ll just be a different regular than what was regular before the pandemic, although my pre-pandemic regular was already different from most people in the US.

  159. “It’ll just be a different regular than what was regular before the pandemic”

    different how? What do you think you will not be willing to do?

  160. I think the next 12 months will be a transition period, with most people getting back to mostly regular life this summer, and then some pull back for cold/flu season 21-22. Maybe really big indoor events won’t happen until 2022. And long term I think we’ll have many more people who choose to wear masks at various times. And just an increased awareness of respiratory illnesses. But life will largely be as it was in 2019.

  161. “different how?”

    Right now, I’m thinking we may never reach herd immunity for covid-19. It’ll be more like flu, where an ‘acceptable’ number of people get sick enough to die or require hospitalization, there are immunizations available to minimize that, and some treatments are available.

    So for me, I’ll probably use masks more than pre-pandemic, and also be more cautious about crowded indoor gatherings. It may factor into international travel plans.

  162. If you don’t mind elaborating, what do you mean by “crowded indoor gatherings”? Like you want to go to a restaurant, it’s full and there’s a 10 minute wait for a table. You’re not going in?

    An orchestra performance where 90% of the seats are full?

  163. “We have existence proof that vaccinated people can still get infected asymptomatically, which suggests they could still spread the disease and host mutations.”

    Can that happen between two vaccinated people? And by “can” I mean to a degree that gets the R0 above 1?

  164. “An orchestra performance where 90% of the seats are full?”

    Have you ever been to an orchestra performance?

  165. Reality,

    If in July anyone can walk into a CVS and get vaccinated and the vaccine is 100% effective against hospitalization and death why wouldn’t they have crowded indoor events? Some folks will still be leery for a while but they just won’t go.

  166. “Can that happen between two vaccinated people? And by “can” I mean to a degree that gets the R0 above 1?”

    At this point, I don’t think anyone knows.

    But I think in a month or two, DW and I may actually gather with some friends who’ve been outside our bubble, once we’re all vaccinated.

  167. “ Have you ever been to an orchestra performance?”

    Sure. Sometimes we try to do cultural stuff and we’ll go to the Kennedy Center.

    Is that a no-go for you?

  168. Rhett – I think both because kids won’t be vaccinated then and people from other counties largely won’t be and will be able to travel here, we’ll still be having some outbreaks, especially in areas where the vaccine uptake is low. I am happy to live in an area that is pretty pro-vax. And I think there will be some reluctance to gathering in huge groups indoors for a while just because of nervousness. But we’ll see. I feel like we are at the 5 yard line in the US.

  169. ” the vaccine is 100% effective against hospitalization and death”

    Has the J&J been 100% effective? TMK, the Pfizer and Moderna have been ~95% effective, which still means ~1 in 20 not protected to that level. I received the Pfizer, so I know I could be one of the 5%.

    I’d avoid such events, especially those that involve a lot of forceful exhalation, until community spread was a lot lower than it is now.

  170. We probably wont be going to the opera in NYC any more because we would rather spend the money in other ways. The last two symphony concerts precovid I had to bring the wheelchair. And he doesnt hear that well anymore. The pandemic has spurred increased quality of streamed performance. Finn, the BSO and the Met Opera may not be SRO anymore, but still quite crowded.

  171. TMK, the Pfizer and Moderna have been ~95% effective

    Against getting sick. They are 100% effective against hospitalization and death.

  172. especially in areas where the vaccine uptake is low.

    Fuck them. I really have no patience for paranoid nuttery.

  173. “1 in 20 not protected to that level. I received the Pfizer, so I know I could be one of the 5%.”

    Right, but would that be like 5% of the, what (how old are you?) less than one percent who would have gotten very sick, anyway?

    So aren’t we talking .05 * .009 or something?

    Of course it’s your choice to live however you want, but…I don’t know.

    You’ve always been an EXTREMELY cautious, risk averse person, long before we ever started talking about viruses. Except for the biking thing — you saw no issue with riding your bike (daily?) on streets with normal automobile traffic. That’s something I’ve tried and will never do again, especially seeing how many drivers are distracted.

    My other thought is along the lines of whether you’ve just “onboarded” this virus fear a bit too much, and now you can’t imagine that life could go back to normal.

  174. “Sometimes we try to do cultural stuff and we’ll go to the Kennedy Center.”

    Ohhhh….

    I’m extremely envious. I’ve been there twice; once, our family was on a trip, and we happened to be there when the National Symphony was performing the Brahms double and Tchaikosky 6th. It was at least 90% full; there were no empty seats near us

    I guess I was reflecting on my local experience, where I don’t think I’ve ever seen the local symphony hall close to 90% full for their regular concert series, except when Sarah Chang performed.

    But on reflection, I’ve been there when they were at 90+% of capacity when they showed movies while the symphony performed the soundtrack live.

    I’d definitely be inclined to go to the regular symphony concert series, where there’s typically no forceful expectoration in the audience– most people try to stifle their coughs and sneezes, or even don’t go when they have colds. But I’m not sure if DW would be so inclined. She’s not as much a lover of the symphony as DS and I. DD typically only wanted to go on Saturday nights when she knew she’s see some of her friends there.

  175. Right, but would that be like 5% of the, what (how old are you?) less than one percent who would have gotten very sick, anyway?

    It by very you mean seriously there is no chance of becoming seriously I’ll post vaccination.

  176. “Against getting sick. They are 100% effective against hospitalization and death.”

    I very likely could be wrong, but that’s not my understanding. TMK, the Pfizer and Moderna trials didn’t fully monitor for asymptomatic infection.

    And wasn’t the J&J something like 60 something % effective at preventing infection, but 90+% effective at preventing hospitalization and death?

  177. TMK, the Pfizer and Moderna trials didn’t fully monitor for asymptomatic infection.

    Obviously I mean your hospitalization and death. If anyone can walk into any CVS and get a free shot and someone doesn’t want one? Fine. If they get sick and die? Good, one less idiot in the world.

  178. “Is that a no-go for you?”

    The no-go list would, at least initially, probably include indoor events with a lot of people (thus higher odds of someone infected being there) that are quite crowded and with a lot of forceful exhalation.

    So I’d not likely attend a 90+% sold-out basketball or volleyball game or rock concert. I’d similarly avoid crowded nightclubs or parties with loud music, not that I’d gone to such places often since kids.

  179. “Obviously I mean your hospitalization and death.”

    Yes, and my understanding (and I could be wrong) is the Pfizer and Moderna exhibited about 95% protection against that.

  180. “Except for the biking thing — you saw no issue with riding your bike (daily?) on streets with normal automobile traffic.”

    No, that’s not correct. I’m fully aware of the risks, but I choose to ride anyway, taking measures to mitigate against those risks. I use side streets a lot, and typically limit my riding on main thoroughfares to those with bike lanes, wide lanes, or paved shoulders, very short stretches, or downhills where I can easily keep up with vehicular traffic.

    Regular riding makes me feel really good, enough to justify the risks.

  181. The data is suggesting that the vaccines reduce asymptomatic infections – https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/91591 I know this study is far from conclusive.

    I’m with Milo here. Now that I’m vaccinated, I’d have no problem returning to my 2019 life. I’d love to go to a sold out concert. I’m looking forward to going to see the Mets when they come to town in April. Of course I’ll keep up with hand washing and such, but I will stop wearing a mask when it’s no longer required.

  182. “The data is suggesting that the vaccines reduce asymptomatic infections”

    My guess would be that they do.

    What is much more uncertain is how much they reduce them, and whether vaccinated people who are asymptomatically infected can still transmit the infection, or mutated versions of it.

  183. Our local Totebag doctor (and Scott Alexander, for that matter) say that Up To Date is a kind of gold standard for explanations of various diseases and treatments and so on. I got a one-month subscription because I was looking something up, and the subscription hasn’t expired yet, so I looked up their vaccine info. For starters:

    Vaccine efficacy varies by type (table 11). Based on phase III trial data:

    ●BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine) had 95 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 at or after day 7 following completion of a two-dose series. (See “COVID-19: Vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection”, section on ‘BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine)’.)

    ●mRNA-1273 (Moderna COVID-19 vaccine) had 95 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 at or after day 7 following completion of a two-dose series. (See “COVID-19: Vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection”, section on ‘mRNA-1273 (Moderna COVID-19 vaccine)’.)

    ●Ad26.COV2.S (Janssen) had 66 percent efficacy against moderate to severe COVID-19 and 85 percent efficacy against severe COVID-19 at or after 28 days following administration of a single dose. (See “COVID-19: Vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection”, section on ‘Ad26.COV2.S (Janssen COVID-19 vaccine)’.)

    ●ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/AZD1222 (AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine) had 70 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 at or after two weeks following completion of a two-dose series. (See “COVID-19: Vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection”, section on ‘ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/AZD1222 (University of Oxford, AstraZeneca, and the Serum Institute of India)’.)

  184. Rhett – did you read that Atlantic article in its entirety? Her thesis is somewhat contrary to what you’re telling Finn. Although I’m not sure that I agree with it. The gist seems to be two some complaints against the gleeful — perhaps premature— Tweets and re-Tweets about 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

    One of the problems she cites is that very few people who got the placebos got very sick, either. (Hey, you don’t have to convince me that the disease is not all that dangerous. So I’m not sure how to take this criticism.)

    The other is, I don’t know, something about Israel and the jury could still be out on some of these results.

    Understand that I read this intermittently at red lights.

    “ I’m with Milo here”

    Yay!! It’s been a while.

  185. Then on asymptomatic transmission after vaccination, it’s pretty much what Rhett and Finn have been saying. Everything’s looking pretty good, but more studies are needed.

    ______________________________________

    Impact on asymptomatic infection and transmission — Several COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. However, asymptomatic infection also contributes to transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and the impact of vaccination on asymptomatic infection is less certain.

    Limited data from some of the vaccine trials suggest that certain vaccines may reduce asymptomatic as well as symptomatic infection. In an unpublished analysis of the mRNA-1273 trial, in which participants underwent nasopharyngeal swab testing for SARS-CoV-2 RNA prior to each dose, asymptomatic infection following the first dose was detected in 14 vaccine versus 38 placebo recipients (0.1 versus 0.3 percent) [80]. A subset of participants in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/AZD1222 trial underwent weekly screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection; there was a nonstatistically significant trend toward fewer asymptomatic infections in vaccine recipients (20 percent overall), although the effect differed by vaccine dose (49 and 2 percent in the low- and standard-dose groups, respectively) [90,140]. In a subset of the Ad26.COV2.S trial that underwent repeat serologic testing 29 days or later following vaccination, the rate of asymptomatic seroconversion was lower in the vaccine compared with placebo group (estimated vaccine efficacy 74 percent), but follow-up time was limited [86]. Despite the variable apparent effect on asymptomatic cases among these trials, the lack of increase in asymptomatic cases in the vaccine groups suggests that vaccination reduces SARS-CoV-2 infection overall and does not just convert symptomatic infections to asymptomatic ones.

    Several observational studies have also suggested that vaccination can reduce asymptomatic infection [68,141]. As an example, in a retrospective study following the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Israel, receipt of two doses of BNT162b2 was associated with vaccine effectiveness for asymptomatic infection of 90 percent [68].

    Until more data are available, continued personal and public health preventive measures are still recommended for individuals who have been vaccinated while in public or around unvaccinated people at risk for severe disease to reduce the risk of transmission. (See ‘Patient counseling’ above and “COVID-19: Epidemiology, virology, and prevention”, section on ‘Prevention’.)

  186. Rhett – did you read that Atlantic article in its entirety?

    No. I’ve read a bunch of things that said 100% effective. That’s the first one that popped up. It’s true as far as I know. I didn’t invest a lot of time in finding the best supporting evidence.

  187. “I will stop wearing a mask when it’s no longer required.”

    I won’t, but then I’ve been using masks, even outside of work environments where they were required, for going on 30 years now.

    But I’d also encourage others to continue using them, even after being vaccinated, especially in crowded indoor environments. We don’t know yet how long the immunity conferred by the vaccines last.

  188. No way, Finn. Not a chance. I hate them that much.

    In another few weeks, or maybe when all adults have had the opportunity to get their shots, if there’s no evidence of vaccinated, asymptomatic transmission, I’m starting passive resistance against them in stores. “Oh sorry, I forgot/it slipped/I was drinking.”

    It’s hard enough finding employees to help you when you WANT to find them; they’re not going to be able to enforce mandates that should be retired.

  189. Asymptomatic transmission is not a thing, regardless of vaccination status. This meta-analysis revealed that asymptomatic patients had a .7% transmission rate IN HOUSEHOLDS.
    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2774102

    The chance that an asymptomatic person can successfully transmit to someone walking past them in a store or especially outdoors is statistically zero. And because there is no evidence that masks actually work to prevent or even slow transmission in communities, there is every reason to follow Milo’s suggestions of “forgetting” one’s mask when out and about.

  190. Milo, please don’t take your hatred for masks out on employees who aren’t the ones who set their employers’ policies on masks. If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t patronize businesses that require them.

  191. Also from Up To Date:

    “Asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission — Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from individuals with infection but no symptoms (including those who later developed symptoms and thus were considered presymptomatic) has been well documented [132-138].

    “The biologic basis for this is supported by a study of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in a long-term care facility, in which infectious virus was cultured from RT-PCR-positive upper respiratory tract specimens in presymptomatic and asymptomatic patients as early as six days prior to the development of typical symptoms [139]. The levels and duration of viral RNA in the upper respiratory tract of asymptomatic patients are also similar to those of symptomatic patients [140].

    ‘The risk of transmission from an individual who is asymptomatic appears less than that from one who is symptomatic [107,109,141-144]. As an example, in an analysis of 628 COVID-19 cases and 3790 close contacts in Singapore, the risk of secondary infection was 3.85 times higher among contacts of a symptomatic individual compared with contacts of an asymptomatic individual [145]. Similarly, in an analysis of American passengers on a cruise ship that experienced a large SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, SARS-CoV-2 infection was diagnosed in 63 percent of those who shared a cabin with an individual with asymptomatic infection, compared with 81 percent of those who shared a cabin with a symptomatic individual and 18 percent of those without a cabinmate [143].

    “Nevertheless, asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals are less likely to isolate themselves from other people, and the extent to which transmission from such individuals contributes to the pandemic is uncertain. A CDC modeling study estimated that 59 percent of transmission could be attributed to individuals without symptoms: 35 percent from presymptomatic individuals, and 24 percent from those who remained asymptomatic [146]. This estimate was based on several assumptions, including that 30 percent of infected individuals never develop symptoms and are 75 percent as infectious as those who do.”

  192. Finn, all vaccines are 100% effective against serious illness (hospitalization) and death.

    Milo, I hope you won’t really do that. You’re just making life harder for employees.

    My one remaining caution is kids. Although statistically they aren’t as vulnerable, we personally know a family whose 14 year old died of COVID. No underlying conditions. Incredibly traumatic. And so until our kids can be vaccinated, we won’t take them to large indoor gatherings (like basketball games), indoor restaurants, etc. and will continue to support mask rules at school.

  193. I am so pleased that we have not had even a cold for 13 months and counting that I am sure we will wear masks in certain indoor crowded situations that we cannot avoid even when the requirements are no longer in place. But our behavior has changed during the pandemic and won’t change back in many ways. We have been very cozy with streaming and online cardplay The comments above about not wanting to spend money running around resonate. Handwashing and not touching the face are second nature by now. Zoom is no good for grandkids but fine for elderly cousins who are also tech savvy.

  194. “ You’re just making life harder for employees.”

    That’s my main argument not to

  195. I am going to wear a mask on planes when I travel, but this is because I never felt comfortable with germs on planes. I watched too many stories about babies being changed on tray tables and the cougher always seems to sit behind me on the plane. I know that I will feel better on the plane with a mask so i intend to keep wearing a mask.

    Some people are not mask fans, but I think it can be useful in certain situations. For those of you that don’t want to wear one, let your dentist or surgeon know the next time you have a procedure that they don’t have to wear a mask. Make sure they know that you think masks don’t work and that they don’t have to wear a mask when hey operate on you.

  196. “let your dentist or surgeon know the next time you have a procedure that they don’t have to wear a mask.”

    My guess is that your dentists wear them as much for their protection as yours, if not more.

    I’ve read that in the 1800s, dentistry was a very dangerous profession. Many dentists died from TB caught from patients. Apparently Doc Holliday was one.

  197. @Lauren – ITA. I hope there will be lasting changes in sick people staying away from the office as well. No, I will not wear a mask to Costco when I have no symptoms of any illness when it is no longer required. I always carried Lysol wipes for planes and travel, and I may add a mask as well. I will probably still carry wipes around for when I run errands & wipe my hands more. We will see.

    @Lark – I am hopeful that the 12-16 yo will be able to be vaccinated this summer, before next school year.

  198. DH, DS and I all became eligible for vaccines this month. DH got his first shot 2 weeks ago. DS and I got our first shots today. To celebrate, I finally took down our Christmas Tree. DS has his first day of in person school scheduled for tomorrow. He was on campus earlier this week to take his senior portrait.

  199. And I’m no longer with Milo. That would be a complete jerk move. The people who it makes life difficult for are the low-paid employees trying to do their jobs, not the people making the rules.

  200. “If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t patronize businesses that require them.”

    Some businesses require them, and others “require” them because of government mandates but have zero interest in enforcing that requirement. “Forgetting” one’s mask is a handy way to figure out the actual stance of the business owner.

    So make them ask. You might be surprised how little interest some businesses have in enforcing mask mandates, and how little interest local authorities have in fining them. But so long as people keep on complying with a useless requirement, it will remain in place.

  201. “Make them ask”.

    You are thinking of businesses being these faceless entities when in realty the people whom you are “making” ask are people like my teens who work in a small shop. It is stressful and exhausting for them to repeatedly have to ask customers to please wear a mask, please pull up your mask, do you need mask. They are only following the rules themselves as directed by their boss.They aren’t vaccinated, it might be months, and they don’t know if you are vaccinated. If there is a sign saying to wear a mask just wear a mask! It’s not that hard as an adult in a position of authority to do in order to take one thing off the plate of these kids who are doing their best to make you a sandwich so you can go on your way and they can get on with the next order. Be nice. Just follow the rules. Make someone else’s day a little easier or get your lunch somewhere else.

  202. So make them ask.

    Or you could choose to act like a grown up and wear a mask rather than making life harder for low-paid employees just trying to do their jobs. But you have the right to be an a–hole if you want.

  203. Masks have nothing to do with politics.

    If what you really mean is, take *any* discussion about COVID — including any mention of vaccines — to the politics page, then say that. If the administrators want to make that a policy, that’s fine.

    “Or you could choose to act like a grown up and wear a mask rather than making life harder for low-paid employees just trying to do their jobs.”

    It’s entirely likely that the low-paid employees don’t want to wear masks either, and are secretly cheering on the maskless customers. Thinking especially of the staff who wear their masks under their chins until they see a customer approach. Those people are very happy when that customer says “please don’t bother.”

  204. I agree with others that making the jobs of retail workers harder by making them have to ask customers, or to have to make the decision whether to ask or not, to follow local mandates as inconsiderate and rude.

  205. If you *know* that the store is serious about masks, then ITA that it’s rude to force the staff to make you ask.

    But lots of places of business are not actually serious about masks. They don’t care if you wear them or not, but the government makes them put up a sign and hand sanitizer at the door, so they do that and call it a day. Their staff would actually prefer to know that customers are comfortable without masks, so that they can petition management to drop the requirement for staff.

    This is a big country, and there is a lot of diversity in attitudes and approaches on this issue.

  206. Seriously DD, a sensible person doesn’t base everyday life decisions on outlier criminal events.

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