Here are the facts of our "Success Story":
Here's how former professors, advisers, and other drinkers of academe's Kool-Aid will see Success Story:Success Story finished undergrad at the top of hir class and was accepted to a PhD program at Fancy Pants U. While a graduate student, Success Story continued to earn many accolades. Because ze produced poetry in addition to the required research and analytical writing, professors praised hir "originality," fellow graduate students admired hir "devil may care" attitude, and the undergraduates ze taught for nearly 8 years enjoyed the edginess of hir classes. As a graduate student, ze published a handful of poems in very respectable venues and handful of reviews in obscure academic ones, but ze never published any substantive criticism or interpretation. Nonetheless, during hir last semester ABD (hired ABD perhaps because ze went to Fancy Pants U and hir brilliance was a foregone conclusion -- I digress), ze was hired as Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) at a 3rd tier, teaching intensive, regional public university in the rural South, thus smoothly transitioning from graduate school to professorhood. A year into this 3-year appointment, ze publishes a book of poetry but still has no academic publications, other than a handful of reviews.
Here's how other graduate students and adjuncting recent PhDs still entertaining hopes of an academic career but somewhat sobered (if schizophrenically) by the realities they see all around them might see Success Story:Ah, of course Success Story got a job! How could ze have done otherwise? Ze is brilliant, a brilliant poet with a promising future. And, of course, everyone from Fancy Pants U DESERVES a job. They wouldn't have gone to Fancy Pants U in the first place if they weren't true professor material, truly ready to dedicate themselves to the Life of the Mind. This wonderful VAP position is a great step ahead on the career ladder for Success Story, with the market as terrible as it is. Only the best and brightest get jobs of any kind, and this one will give Success Story the opportunity to prove hirself as a teacher with a VERY different set of much more challenging students from the ones ze taught SO successsssfully at Fancy Pants U. And we congratulate Success Story for having hir first book of poems published. Ze is as much a poet as a scholar, and we have no doubt ze will soon be able to turn hir attention to producing the scholarship ze needs to progress from successsssssful VAP to even more successssssssful tenure-track assistant professor. We have faith ze will be hired into an even better position when the term of hir VAP ends.
Here's how cynical post-academics might see Success Story:Oh, Success Story is soooooooo lucky to have gotten a job, any job at all. I'd kill for a 3-year VAP position, even if it was in Rural Subtropical Wasteland. But ze really does have to teach a lot down there. The load is 4/4, which doesn't give hir a lot of time for research. No wonder ze chose to work on that book of poems. At least it was something ze wanted to do and is getting recognition for. But ... it won't look great to tenure-track hiring committees if, 3 years out from the PhD, ze still doesn't have any academic publications, not unless the position ze is applying for is in creative writing, ideally somewhere that offers an MFA. And we all know how many of those there are! Still, ze went to Fancy Pants U. Ze will get something. I sure wish I had gone to Fancy Pants U! Then I wouldn't be stuck adjuncting. Everyone knows it's not the quality of your scholarship but where you did your degree and who your adviser was that committees look at first. If only I had a better pedigree, if only I'd gone to Fancy Pants U! After all, I applied for that same VAP position. I have 5 full-length, peer-reviewed articles and a publisher is currently reviewing my monograph, and I didn't even get an interview. Sigh. Maybe next year. Success Story is an inspiration to us all. After all, you can never hope to get anywhere in this profession unless you try and try again.
Are you kidding me? You'd have to pay me a lot more than $37K a year to take a 3-year VAP in Rural Subtropical Wasteland teaching 4/4 to a bunch of brats who shouldn't have passed the 9th grade. Oh sure, it does have a decent honors program. But do you think, as a VAP, you're going to get to teach the honors kids? Hell no! Success Story is mostly teaching comp, not poetry, and that's hardly good for building hir CV. Moreover, I don't know whether Success Story is single or has a partner, but I certainly would not drag a partner to Rural Subtropical Wasteland. There's nothing there but the university and Walmart. Ze would be unemployed and we'd both have to get by on my $37K. Even if the cost of living is lower, what happens after 3 years when the VAP ends? If Success Story doesn't get another gig, tenure-track or otherwise, ze certainly wouldn't be able to afford to move back to Fancy Pants U City, not unless ze has rich parents. Maybe the book of poetry will bring royalties? Ha, good luck with THAT! And why hasn't ze published any scholarship anyway? It's not as if ze can get by on just having a degree from Fancy Pants U forever. Then again, maybe I'm wrong. Yet another awesome reason to leave academe!! Good luck to you, Success Story! You are academe's future, so make the most of it!
|Good God, you get the nerdiest fucking people when you do a Google image search for "visiting assistant professor" and why-the-fuck are people who got their PhDs more than 10 FUCKING years ago at places like Emory, UNC Chapel Hill, and the London School of Economics still Visiting Assistant Professors (just click on the link)?|