While independent nonprofit status offers us more opportunity for longer-term intellectual and academic freedom than perhaps experienced by many university-based alt-acs, the continual need to secure more funding to maintain our salaries does take its toll. Granting is highly competitive. Regardless of a proposal's other merits, one poor review by someone with a different theoretical or political agenda can sink a grant application. For tenured faculty, such issues are time-consuming annoyances. For alt-acs—including us—these issues can mean the end of one's salary. Moreover, unlike tenure-track faculty, this precarious status represents a permanent state. Alt-acs have no means of getting tenure and no means of ever acquiring the academic freedom that comes with a guaranteed paycheck.
That precariousness and contingency highlights the intellectual costs of neoliberalism. We would be more outspoken about certain issues and directions in “digital archaeology” if we had some of the protections of tenure. Indeed, our activism and advocacy on certain issues, especially on open access and concerns about over-centralization in digital systems has done us some damage in funding competitions, at least judging from criticisms in failed proposals. Obviously, criticism and debate are necessary; however, they are activities that are more survivable by tenured faculty than by contingent alt-acs.