Monday, 10 September 2012

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What's the academese for "no fatties"? Why do I need to know? No reason, no reason. [My response to the Inside Higher Ed article can be found here.] It has come to my attention that I’m now too old and too experienced to be hired to do my job. Consider the “Required Qualifications” of this listing for a position at Colorado State University: Ph.D. in English or American Studies or closely related area awarded between 2010 and time of appointment. A promising record of scholarship/research in pre-1900 American literature and culture. Ability to teach a range of subjects in American literature and culture between 1600 and 1900. For years our “betters” have told those of up who earned our degrees between 2005 and 2010 that we needed to do whatever we could to survive—adjunct or lecture or accept positions at community colleges—and that when the market turned around we wouldn’t be punished for having done so. Seems we were lied to. If institutions require candidates who earned their doctorate after 2010, it indicates that they’ve embraced the idea that there’s a Lost Generation of scholars out there. A Generation so embittered by the paucity of prospects and the years spent toiling in academic recesses that its members can’t ever be reintegrated into a functioning department. We—I earned my doctorate in 2008—have been tainted by market forces beyond our control, but instead of bucking the inherently flawed system as they do in words and print, these aggressively benevolent "betters" are conceding that they’re powerless to do anything for this Generation in deeds. “It’s not up to us,” they say. (Only it is.) “There’s nothing we can do about it,” they say. (Only they can.) “If you’d landed a job in 2009 this wouldn’t have been a problem,” they say. (Only there weren’t any jobs in 2009 and they damn well know that.) In short: the jobs promised to the Lost Generation are being outsourced to younger and prettier scholars for no particularly compelling reason, except that the younger and prettier scholars are younger and prettier. As Chad Black noted in the linked post, it’s not that there hasn’t always been a bias against those who don’t land a tenure track job after three years, it’s just depressing to see it codified in an advertisement—especially in light of what our "betters" have been telling about what will happen when the market turns around.
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“We were told to ride out the storm, but it seems we were lied to[.]” That's a handsome quotation from the Inside Higher Ed article about the Colorado State University ad discussed yesterday. From the article: Louann Reid, chair of English at Colorado State, sees it differently. When asked if the ad discriminated against adjuncts, she said her department is seeking an entry-level professor with an entry-level salary and expectations, and added that the posting was approved by the university’s office of equal opportunity. There's a strange disconnect because the question—does the ad discriminate against adjuncts?—and Reid's answer—the department wants to hire an entry-level professor with an entry-level salary and expectations. Do adjuncts not have entry-level salary expectations? Because I'm a short step above an adjunct and I can assure you that my salary expectations are entry-level. In a response Chad Black's email, Reid made clear the reasoning behind that disconnect: 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. So they want their pool of applicants to consist of (1) the fortunate few who landed a tenure-track position between 2005 and 2009 and (2) those people who happened to finish their doctorate after 2010. Notice who's absent from their ideal pool? Everyone who wasn't fortunate enough to land a tenure-track position in the worst academic job market in recent memory. It seems like Colorado State wants to punish undeserving scholars for the crimes of having to pay rent and eat during an economic downturn. But it's doubly cruel considering the fact that the hiring committees whose lines were plucked out from under them told applicants that the disappearance of the positions to which they'd applied wouldn't have any impact on their future in the profession. Because as this callous ad demonstrates, it clearly did. Colorado State thinks the fact that schools didn't have jobs to offer from 2005 to 2009 speaks poorly of applicants who failed to land non-existent jobs. To which I can only say nothing because we're in polite company. UPDATE: Turns out sending pesky emails to the President of my professional organziation pays dividends: In the Q&A, Bérubé said the CSU ad issue has been put on the MLA Exec Com agenda, and the MLA is un-approving the ad. @scottekaufman — Chad Black (@parezcoydigo) September 11, 2012

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