Sunday, September 26, 2010

Access denied/Giving 'til it hurts

I didn't think this would happen, now that I'm out of grad school, but I'm feeling a fresh surge of hatred for Dear Old University.  I tried to log in to JSTOR to look up an article, and found that I no longer have access to JSTOR through my DOU affiliation.  This wouldn't be surprising if the alumni association hadn't given me (along with all other new graduates) a free year-long membership which is supposed to include access to the library resources.  Now that I look at the alumni association's website, it looks like I might be able to gain access to individual journals through them, but that would be a different login procedure, one which has to wait until they respond to my request to activate my online access to the alumni association at large.  I don't think it would let me log into JSTOR, per se, but the list of participating periodicals seems to include everything that I commonly check in on.  (I'm in a few professional organizations that grant me access to their own publications, but no pseudologist worth hir salt restricts hirself to publications of disciplinary affiliation, unless zi has either boringly narrow interests, or a lot of cash to blow on annual memberships.)

This raises the sickening prospect for me of potentially being forced by circumstances to pay even more money to DOU over the next few years, in the form of alumni association membership, in order to maintain my access to all those professional resources that usually require university affiliation to use.  It's not that the money would be so dear — it's actually a good bit cheaper than some other affiliative methods by which some people can tap into JSTOR.  It's the principle of the thing; those of you who have read my blog from the start, or have rummaged through my archives, may remember the choking rage I felt when, while being denied financial support and health insurance by DOU, they solicited donations from me.  I've never planned to give DOU a nickel if it couldn't be earmarked for whatever I wanted, and alumni membership dues go into the general kitty for frittering away by the troglodytic administrators administrative discretion.  And you know, it's not like I didn't pay them tuition for eight fucking years! 

It's not like I have a moral objection to giving a little money in recognition of what a college or university has done for its alumni.  I've been a pretty consistent giver to my undergrad alma mater, except in a few years of extreme penury.  But, to be fair, I didn't pay for that; my parents did.  I'll wager a guess that they've never sent a check to Undergrad since my last semester there.  And even for Undergrad, I always tick a box to make sure my donation is directed to the fund for need-based scholarships; hell if I'll give them money to do something foolish like build another crappy snack bar in the campus center.

But now DOU may have the last laugh on me, since I don't know when I will again have an institutional affiliation that grants me online periodical database access.  (And what if I get a job, and then get denied tenure?  It will feel even more shameful to come crawling to DOU's alumni association again.)  It's repugnant to me to slip them even more money that they will use wastefully and in violation of everything that I hold dear about academia and educational missions.  But it may an unavoidable moral compromise; I'd be cutting off my nose to spite my face, if I refused a cut-rate deal to maintain access to a bunch of journals I need to do my work.  I'll probably do it, at the very least until I get a job at a school or institute of some sort.  But I feel tainted giving in to it.

I don't suppose any of my readers has a better/cheaper idea for me to regain access to JSTOR?


  1. The honest/legal option: check to see what databases your public library subscribes to. Seriously. If you have access to a major public library, they may well subscribe to research databases.

    What everybody I know who's been in your position has done: get a friend who has access to a research library and its databases to share their log-in and password with you. I know I've helped a few people out in this way, and I've done it with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. Sure, it's technically "wrong" but I'd argue that it's more wrong to charge underemployed people money for access to scholarly resources.

  2. Doesn't your postdoc position give you library access? If not, I would go make some noise over there ---- after all, if the postdoc is designed to support you in doing research, then this is the most logical way they could do it, no?

    I just ran into this, where my new school has some journal accesses but not many, and I crowdsourced it on facebook --- some current Gradschooland students offered me their proxy server login, and another was already in the library and emailed me the pdf.

    Don't give the bastards money!

  3. If you are an alum of a State Department/Fulbright program, you have lifetime access to the State Dept Alumni website, including JSTOR and other research databases. Does that help?

  4. @Nope: If my blog had lips, I would kiss you! (How's that for a welcome to my blog?) Indeed I once had a Fulbright, and I have just this evening registered with them so I can make use of this resource. Best news I've heard all day!

    @Sisyphus: Sadly, my postdoc is a little short on amenities, besides the money itself. It's not designed for sophisticated multimedia research involving computers; it's intended for old-fashioned research in which one ventures into a dusty archive full of old papers in Research City. There's a longer version I could tell you in person, but that's the blog-appropriate summary.

    @Dr. Crazy: Like I said to Sis, the fact that I will be in Research City in a few weeks actually makes the public (library) option untenable. (I don't know that RC even *has* public libraries!) Your second suggestion is a lot more feasible, although I'm definitely going to follow up on Nope's thought before I start cadging my friends for PDFs. You made me smile, though, with "a spring in my step and a song in my heart."

  5. Seconding Dr. Crazy. Everyone does it. Hell, I'll give you MY login if you want and if the Fulbright connection doesn't work out. Drop me an email.

    My institution now has both JSTOR and Project Muse, but it doesn't have several other databases that I urgently need, like Early English Books Online. A friend at the local R1 gave me her login and password without my even explicitly asking (just complaining loudly). . . and I've since learned that virtually everyone I know who's not employed by a top-tier R1 has a bootlegged EEBO account: through friends who are still grad students, advisors, or friends with cushier jobs.

  6. Ha! I love it. I had a feeling you might be a Fulbrighter just based on your blog name :)

  7. So yer postdoc isn't the "residential" kind but the kind where they give you lotsa money to go sit out in a field site?

    If yer going out of the country, how will you blog? Will you have internet access?

  8. @Nope: Good guess! Even our pseudonyms can give us away, is it not so?

    @Sisyphus: Don't worry, Sis, blogging shall continue! I'm curious to see how often I can get around to it -- and what I feel comfortable discussing -- while I'm off in Research City, but I certainly plan to keep it up. Research City is my field site, so it's not like I'll be 1000 miles from internet access. Perhaps it will give me a chance to post pictures now and then, too.

  9. An aged long distance post grad, now well out of academic life admires the work around. I studied before word processors, internet and smart phones. Only the kindness of librarians let me have access to interlibrary loans [actual documents] and at that time one University allowed access to their database. How it has changed. Well said.

  10. Privileged git. Did you think it was free? Broadcasting your open desire to break licensing agreements between major publishers and research institutions won't aid your pursuit of fame or three year post.