Friday, September 14, 2012

The New Normal In Academic Hiring

Colorado State University has now updated their job posting, so that now it only indicates that they are looking for an "entry-level" tenure-track assistant professor, with no further specifications listed about year of degree or anything else.

It's a nice gesture, I suppose ... but I'd still love to see how many long-term adjuncts they bring to campus for interviews. I'm thinking that the "best qualified candidates" will still mysteriously be the folks who are newly graduated, not those who've been already working as (non-tenured) faculty for five or more years.

I mean, I have a different definition of who your "qualified candidates" would be, but what the hell do I know, right? I'm not a professor, so clearly I know nothing.

So that's encouraging, I suppose. (Although I'm also open to the argument that it's better to see this kind of thing out in the open in job ads, to work against the myth that long-term adjuncting is the path to a tenure track job. It's a valid point, but it doesn't alleviate my anger...)

But if you're in the latter category - the ones who think that universities being blatant about this is a good thing? You'll be happy to hear (via a commenter on yesterday's post) that there is another job posting for a tenure-track assistant professor of Comparative Literature position at Harvard, which specifies that the Ph.D. must have been received since 2009. 

So again, we see the same thing going on. Either cluelessness by the search committee about the nature of the academic job market, or an outright effort to exclude an entire class of qualified candidates because they had the bad luck to graduate during the really lean years of the market.

(It's worth noting, this doesn't appear to be some special thing that they do at Harvard or anything like that. Here are a couple more postings for tenure-track assistant profs in the English department, which list no such limitation on candidates.)

I guess in some ways, it's a good sign that this hasn't spread to all of the job postings in English yet, even within a particular department. Still, we now see two separate departments, in two separate states, both of whom came to the same conclusion - that "entry-level" candidates in English are those who got their Ph.D.s within the last 3 years. That there is no structural problem in English that has left qualified candidates with excellent credentials adjuncting for five years or more, just looking for their first entry-level tenure-track position.

I've heard from some English postacademics that there are often as few as 50 or 75 jobs across the entire country in their given specialty in a given academic job season. Obviously, most people realize that the odds of landing one of those 75 jobs are pretty miniscule anyway, but they should still believe that their CV would be given equal weight with all of the other candidates who are applying - whether they graduated in 2011 or 2006.

But now we find out that the people who have most demonstrated their commitment to an academic career in English - who have toiled away for years and years in demoralizing adjunct positions for pay levels that other white-collar professionals would scoff at - are being discounted for some of these jobs before anyone even looks at their applications. And it's all based on one thing that is out of their control, that has absolutely no bearing on how well they could do the job being offered.

How demoralizing for current grad students and adjuncts. How discriminatory.

And how embarrassing for these departments and search committees, as they reveal to the world that they've been paying no attention to the status of the academic job market in recent years and where Ph.D. graduates have been landing.

And ultimately, how clueless and unprofessional of them. 

Here's hoping that English grad students read here and put some serious thought into alternate careers and job options for themselves after graduation. And here's hoping that long-term adjuncts who aren't happy might start thinking about other options as well.

Because what your advisors told you - that if you just adjunct for awhile, departments will be eager to snap you up once the market rebounds, since you will have so much experience???

Now you have unequivocal evidence ... it's a lie. And you deserve better than this.


  1. Ouch! JC This is hard to swallow, but so true...

  2. So sad, but said so well here. Thank you.