Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Update on Colorado State's "No Olds Need Apply" Ad

The chair of the English department at Colorado State has responded to questions about their discriminatory highly controversial job ad, which I posted about earlier this week:
By specifying 'between 2010 and time of appointment' we indicated that we are interested in applicants with up to three years in a tenure-track position as well as those who are just beginning their careers. In examining the pool of applicants, we have actually given the true 'entry-level' applicant an advantage in that such applicants will not have to compete with others who have as much as six years' more experience.
Now, this sounds reasonable, if you are looking from the outside and have absolutely no idea what the academic job market looks like - especially in the humanities.

But from the inside of the academic job market - you know, the exact position that the chair of the English department should be looking from - this is still just as clueless and problematic of a statement as the original job ad was.

First, the chair is naively identifying "true 'entry level'" applicants as only those who are new Ph.D. graduates - or those who have jumped out of grad school directly into a tenure-track job. Wow, is that a blindfolded look at the academic job market! It's kind of staggering.

In a robust academic job market, this might be true. Every graduate will get a job, and then after a year or two young professors will reshuffle into different positions. That might make sense in a perfect-world academic job market ... but in the actual academic job market we have today? It doesn't. At all. And everyone in academia should understand that. No exceptions.

These days, someone looking to break into an entry-level tenure track job in the humanities could be either of these people, (not counting the mythical second-year tenure track prof looking to switch jobs): (1) someone who is currently ABD but graduating in May 2013 or (2) someone who graduated in 2008 and has been cobbling together part-time adjunct gigs at multiple schools, barely bringing in $20k per year while leaving no time for research or a personal life. Neither of these people have 'as much as six years' more experience' than the other. Both of them are just barely scraping by while trying to find that first, entry-level tenure-track job that they've been dreaming about since the moment they first showed up at their grad school's doorstep.

Do you understand that, CSU?? Both of those people are entry-level candidates. Neither of them have gotten started in their academic careers yet. Either of those people would probably jump at a chance for an "entry level" tenure-track job. Because they are BOTH "entry-level" applicants.

But your ad only excludes one of them.

And it does so in a way that confirms many people's suspicions - that long-term adjuncts are seen as damaged goods and are not seriously considered for tenure-track jobs.

Maybe that's not what you intended to communicate ... but it IS what you communicated. And if that's not what you intended? Then I have to admit, I'm a little terrified to see that the head of a major university department has such a shocking lack of understanding of the status of the current job market in English.

Look, CSU. It's easy. If you were looking for an entry level scholar, then you say that in the ad. "Soliticing applications for an entry-level, tenure-track Assistant Professor of English."

Then, as applications roll in? Pull out the ones that are sent in by current tenure-track faculty. (Hint: they'll be the ones that list "Assistant Professor" as their current job title. "Lecturer" or "Adjunct Faculty" or "Instructor" means something different. I know that's a tough code to break, but I have faith that you can figure it out ... or at least use Google.)

End result: you'll still get an applicant pool of entry-level scholars, without infuriating half of the academic world and giving the middle finger to a bunch of hardworking adjuncts who have believed so much in their dream of getting a tenure-track position and in the nonsense you've been peddling about "working hard and being rewarded with a tenure-track job eventually" that they've worked for shit wages and no benefits without complaint for the past five years.

But really, I should know better than to expect more from academic employers by now.

(I'm not even in English, and I never worked as an adjunct. But goddammit, this has to be one of the most tin-eared, close-minded, clueless moves I've ever seen a department make. I'm still speechless about it, three days later.)


  1. That department employs an army of adjuncts, too. It would be a sweet form of revenge if they all just up and quit. Can you imagine what an awful place to work that department must be? Sucks to be the person who does get the job.

  2. I have very little words left around around this job posting. You are totally right to point out the obvious that those who completed around 2008 and still adjuncting (and doing everything else to survive) are comparable to other more recent PhD graduates. The panel here needs to restructure this whole business and target it to 'early career academics' - this would include longer term adjuncts who are establishing their identity as academics but not given the opportunity for permanent employment and others just completed. I am happy to have put academic job hunting anxieties like this out of my radar now.

  3. I just feel heartsick for people who keep trying year after year who witness ads like this (and others) that basically treat them like trash. They should put an expiration date on PhDs: not good after 2 years. SERIOUSLY. Adjuncts rule.

  4. This is the new normal, JC. Here's a job post from Harvard comp lit: "Applicants must have received the PhD or equivalent degree in the past three years (2009 or later)"

    1. Wow. Just, wow.

      I'll write another post tonight about this. Thanks...

  5. You mean the university finally being honest for the very agist, sexist, homophobic, classist and racist institution it is. The good thing is, nobody really trusts the university anymore because of all the corporatization. The students realize they are being rooked, the tt profs, if they have adjuncted, know they are sell-outs to their own kind, and the greedy gutted administrators are just looking for the cheapest faculty possible and the young ones are usually the best candidates for this exploition. Seriously, when you leave, don't look back. It's a giant ponzi scheme, and more and more people know it. You can't keep fooling the people all the time, especially when people see so many of their family members suffering under this system. Its premises are so morally and ethically wrong that you should be thankful that have been released from its hold over you. Virtually nobody in the academy is doing any original work anymore and our societies will pay for all of its exclusions and injustices.