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Monday, 10 November 2008


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This is going on all over. What a depressing time.

Rich Puchalsky

Why does Superman have two heads?

(If you answer "red kryptonite", you will never get a job.)

(If you answer "because it's Super-Ettin" you will also never get a job.)

Rich Puchalsky

On the other hand, if you answer "Maybe it's Yamaai, that two-headed guy that Conan fought", you might be qualified to be the next President of the United States.


I'm pretty sure one of those is an arm, Rich.

Sorry about the jobs, though, Scott. I'm impressed, though, that you actually know the jobs have disappeared. In my field, we usually don't find out until we get a note back in May saying that the search was cancelled for lack of funding....


I saw some one-years disappear after a week last year, but in that case I think the logical inference was "Oh, the search was a sham." In this case, I think it probably as bad as we all think.

Adam Roberts

I think it's a hump. People don't usually draw attention to Superman's hunch, because its impolite; but it's there.

Timothy Burke

I hope you can at least take consolation in the fact that Obama is a fan of Conan the Barbarian comics, which is truly one of the more awesome things in this season of awesome. (But the reports don't make it clear: Thomas/Buscema Conan, or Busiek/Nord Conan? Or maybe Obama is a reasonable centrist who reads all sequential-art versions of Conan.)

But yes, lots of contract positions are disappearing, and even some tenure-track searches are being postponed. Want some more bad news? I'm guessing that within five years, a decent number of less-selective small colleges are going to close their doors forever, and probably some of the tertiary branches of public university systems as well.


I had thought it was Batman and Robin, running, capes flying old school, but now I just think it's a badly done silhouette.

I hear ya about the jobs; mine are going poof too. At least I had already sent out a bunch so that the search chair had to email me back and feel bad about it. Not that that gets me a job or anything (and Timothy Burke, I am not listening to you! La la la la la la la hands in the ears! That is just tooo depressing to think about while sending out my apps.)



within five years, a decent number of less-selective small colleges are going to close their doors forever,

Beloit looks like one of the first to go.

and probably some of the tertiary branches of public university systems as well.

Our jobs will be outsourced to Phoenix University....


I don't think it's as dire as all that. Sometimes economic downturns drive the unemployed to school, and someone will need to teach them. We will have an administration that would be open to expanded funding for that. Sure, they won't be cushy full-time tenure track jobs with benefits... But it should be OK. Then the boomers will retire and we'll have some real openings again. (Remember, the current baby boom is bigger than the 1950s one was!)


Thinking about it further, it occured to me that Superman is really the wrong superhero to call on in an economic crisis. He's useless; worse, he's useful at the kind of infrastructure building which would otherwise serve as an economic stimulus. (Though he often engages in the kind of infrastructure destruction which creates jobs as it interferes with commerce. Call it a draw.) Lex Luthor, on the other hand....

Iron Man and Batman come to mind as individuals with the wealth necessary to influence markets and create endowed assistant professorships.

Timothy Burke

Yes. The Bruce Wayne Chair at Gotham University! Heck, why not a whole department of experts who might, at some future date, be needed to provide a vigilante useful information. He can't get it all from Oracle.

I should note that a certain number of "disappearing jobs" are a completely normal if depressing part of the academic job cycle, whatever the economic circumstances. A lot of departments get tentative or provisional approval to list, and then have it pulled back, or decide it's not the right time to search, or get a look at the early applications and decide they don't want to do it this year. Some disappearances of this kind are perfectly kosher, some are sleazy. But I think there are likely to be more this year by far because a lot of institutions are pulling back due to budget shortfalls.

Rich Puchalsky

"Heck, why not a whole department of experts who might, at some future date, be needed to provide a vigilante useful information."

But this brings up the usual sticking point -- why would experts in literary studies really be needed? To address this employment problem, we would first need to create oddball Silver Age Batman-style supervillains that he'd need literary studies advice to combat.

So, let's see. How about Authorial Intent? This supervillain always announces which crime he is going to commit in advance, then does exactly that. However, he has the power of inaudibility, so in practice you need to deduce what he is supposed to have said from the crime itself.

Or there could be a gang called the New Historicists. They commit crimes that only make sense when examined with regard to a particular historical period. Worse, they like to humiliate lawbreakers by committing crimes that are not actually punishable in the current day, like champerty, or unauthorized DNA scanning.

Hmm. The Interpreter -- like The Joker or The Riddler, prefers to call Batman in advance to announce one or another high-concept crime. However, his calls always involve a "reading" of Batman's prior actions that cast them in a bad light. Unfortunately, these readings have no power to actually influence events.


why would experts in literary studies really be needed?

Many of Batman's adversaries have literary pretensions (which raises new possibilities for villains, to be sure) and there's a substantial tradition in recent crime drama of serial killers with aesthetic agendas.


All funniness aside, I'm a sad puppy. Another job gone today. I'm this close to just waiting until the CC jobs open up after the MLA and going that route for a year or two. I wonder whether the stigma of CC work will still apply given the current financial crisis. I'd wager the answer is "yes," because the people who have TT positions totally earned them, and would've at the height of the Great Depression, because they are that awesome.

Sabalom Glitz

Would you be able to provide the names of some of these schools, and the job specifics? I completely understand why you don't want to blog about in-progress searches that you've applied for, but if the job's disappeared entirely, I can't see it embarrassing the department if you named it--they're as bummed about it as you are. It would make the account more vivid, and give readers a sense of the particular jobs that are disappearing. I'm not sure if the "disappeared" jobs are, say, at schools where you'd be a generalist teacher, or at R1 institutions where you'd heavily specialize and be expected to publish consistently, or all of the above.

The Constructivist

In NY, Governor Paterson's proposals to address current and projected deficits include an implicit threat to force layoffs if unions don't agree to holding off on the coming year's negotiated 3% raise, several hundred million dollars in cuts to SUNY, and a small tuition increase, 90% of which goes to the state and not SUNY. If this goes through in anything close to this form, and if there's no federal bailout for states, our hiring freeze is likely to continue for more than a couple of years.

Here's part of UUP's response. Anything like this going on in your neck of the coast?

Karl Steel

Of course, Constructivist, I imagine Patterson could just raises tax on the rich a bit, cut the budget elsewhere (saying, by encouraging the repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws), and we (by we I mean CUNY, but I guess this would apply to SUNY too) would do just fine. Of course that's probably not going to happen.


First you gratuate from college, then you continue your education and get your Masters and you continue until you have your PhD. Now, you are unable to find work????? Yet, college education is on the uprise and needed even for entry level jobs. College tuition here in Texas will rise another $600 a semester because the colleges need to find the best to teach our children. Does this make sense??? Perhaps you can look into the many jobs out there that MUST be there because colleges are looking for the best to teach the best from high school. Oh, I'm sorry the rise in cost is just because the colleges want more and is willing to look for cheap educators instead of good educators. Do you know any out there!


They're closing departments and laying off tenure-track (ie not already tenured) profs in a bunch of places somewhere in the Florida system, according to someone I just talked to. And a bunch of those searches were just shuttered. However, a couple other places are still going forward with their searches, they told me, so I don't understand how the Florida system works.

I just got an email from the Women's Studies program at UIC saying they were going to have to cancel the search due to budget cuts (someone else told me WS departments are especially likely to get shut down or dissolved or cut during times of financial instability.)

And I don't know about your UC, but our campus has just announced that it will not hire any additional adjuncts/lecturers next year and will be cutting as many as possible, instead. They announced that they are just not going to run the classes, regardless of student need. So, sorry JP, but your hopes that this will translate into at least more temp positions isn't gonna happen now that "Tidal Wave II" has peaked and we're actually hitting a little baby bust reaching college age. There might be increased enrollment at the community colleges, but my friends who have gone that route have had very little luck without comp/rhet phds because they look like they are snootily "settling."

Obviously piracy is our only option. Either that or to become an evil and disgruntled supervillain.

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