"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Monday, November 7, 2011

Re-Reading an Academic Job Ad

Regular readers remember me posting a month or so ago about how I would do a very limited, very selective academic job search this year.

The gist of that post was that there were 5-6 jobs that might be worth applying for, given my idiosyncratic concerns. One of these -- the one that was of the MOST interest to me -- has a deadline coming up soon, but re-reading the ad, I found myself noticing a few red flags, as well as reconsidering some of the basics:
  • Despite being advertised as a "tenure track appointment," the job is only for "an initial three-year period." I find this opaque and troubling. Nobody gets tenure in three years. Is there some kind of initial review process going on here? Or, is this simply a more clever and deceptive way of designing a contingent position? Sure, we'll hire you onto the "tenure track (hehe)" for a few years. We'll pay you a bit better than a full-time adjunct. But ... we'll expect more, too, in terms of service and other obligations, and when your first three years are up, we'll give you the choice of continuing on for another three years at the same rate of pay -- or leaving, so that we can hire some other desperado willing to do even more for even less than you, as long as it comes with the title "assistant professor."
  • "This position is contingent on the availability of funds at the time of hire." So, what, you're going to interview people, bring a few to campus, and then put them on hold for a month or two or three while you work out your budget before making a decision? Or better yet, lead your favorite candidate to believe he or she would be getting an offer ... only to get a letter reading, "We are sorry. Due to lack of funds, this position has been canceled." Hey, it's not like any of these candidates will have other offers waiting! Why not offer them a glimmer of hope?
  • Not listed in the job ad, but after visiting the institution's website, it appears that A LOT of this department's courses are taught by adjuncts, even though they do not have a Ph.D. program. That would make me seriously uncomfortable. Because, you know, I would know that my privileges -- such as they would be -- would be had at the expense of my adjunct colleagues. 
  • Yes, it's true that I wouldn't have to move, but the commute, by public transit, would be two to two and a half hours each way (about an hour each way by car). Even if I could get a TTH schedule, I'd probably still end up renting a small apartment or room to stay in 1-2 nights a week to minimize trips. And given the cost of living around here, over the course of a year, that, along with the cost of transportation itself, would eat up what would be the difference between my current crappy secretary salary and what would likely be the starting salary of this "tenure track" position.
Am I being overly paranoid? Am I looking for reasons to lose interest in the few academic jobs that seem like potentially, possibly a good "fit"? Maybe. Will I change my mind and not apply? Maybe. Because, after all, there still is that nagging old problem: Right here in my own backyard, there are A TON of jobs, conveniently located, but THEY ARE ALL BEING DONE BY ADJUNCTS.

It just seems more and more like a Catch-22 scenario, no matter how you look at it, unless you get a job at a college that A) does not have a PhD program and B) does not rely on adjuncts.

Whatever else you might say about nonacademic jobs, at least there are ... more possibilities ... more options and fewer limitations ...

Stay tuned for further updates.

1 comment:

  1. No, you're not paranoid since those thoughts go through my head when I look at job adverts. I read them with a find tooth comb and wonder.