Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Job List Misery -- and happy endings to leaving academia

So glad to be able to bring
out this old blurry graphic,
one of my favorites, and made,
of course, by the egomaniac Cal.
As an addendum to Alice's heartfelt, all-too-representative-of-the-view-from-the-trenches post yesterday, I thought I'd point out that the first MLA job listing (known as the JIL -- that's Job Information List, I believe) of the academic year is out, a fact of which I'm aware only because Rebecca Schuman has posted an analysis of the inaugural selection of JIL listings in German and "allied fields" (loosely -- in some cases very loosely -- construed). 

It's a small sample, of course, and the analysis features Schuman's signature hyperbole (which I enjoy).   Even taking the hyperbole into account, I continue to think she overestimates the advantages of an Ivy-League Ph.D. (or maybe underestimates the amount of "waste product" some Ivy programs produce -- though hey, some of us are doing useful stuff, even if it's a long way from what our professors/mentors/foundation funders imagined. Also, Schuman does admit that those of us who fall in the "non-suckup-super-eminence's-pet" category -- which might well be the majority of Ivy-League Ph.D.s -- might have more trouble.

Personally, I think a top-ranked-in-your-field public Ivy/flagship state u is the best place to go for maximum versatility on the job market, but (a) I, perhaps in company with Schuman, might well be doing the grass-is-greener thing, and (b) I really, really don't recommend getting a Ph.D. from any program, at least not with the intention of becoming a tenure-track college professor, right now. It's just not a reasonable gamble, at least not unless you're independently wealthy and would be genuinely happy to end up as some combination of adjunct and/or independent scholar, depending on whether it's the teaching, the research, or both that most floats your boat.  I don't know what that non-recommendation means for the future of the profession, but planning for the future of the profession falls outside the assigned duties of a full-time non-TT  professor -- even one whose title acknowledges that she is not just visiting her institution -- so I'm calling it like I see it, even though I do worry about the future). 

In any case, there's some good stuff in Schuman's post.  The Albion and Williams listings seem especially relevant to the current discussion, and her  analysis of those strikes me as spot-on (and in keeping with some of the observations in Alice's post and the comment thread that followed -- especially Cal's observation of trends even at decently-funded, teaching-oriented schools).  Schuman's advice not to move for the Albion job sounds absolutely right to me.  Even moving for one-year jobs strikes me as something to do only if you've got a clear sense of what you'll do next if by the time that job ends you don't have another one lined up (because that's a very likely scenario). 

Schuman is also a good example of a Ph.D. who sounds a lot happier now that she's transitioning to a non-academic career.  I don't think she'd mind my pointing out, however, that she lives in a household with one reasonably-reliable (academic) income (a husband with a TT job).  Figuring out the transition, and how to support ourselves in the interim, is a lot harder, as Alice's post makes clear, for those of us who are single (or for couples made up of two underemployed Ph.D.s). 



  1. Schuman hates us. Whenever her name appears I get an angry email or two. It is always dismissive and minimizing. And we have said GOOD things about her work in the past.

    1. Apologies for potentially drawing down her ire on you, then. Maybe she's mellowed? I do think she has done, and is doing, good work in urging people to think long and hard about going into/staying in academe, and I'm delighted that she's sounding happier now that she has escaped herself. It's inspirational (and I don't use that word lightly).

      Also, thanks for fixing the Alice/Annie confusion at the top of the post. I think there are still a few "Annie"s that should be "Alice"s below, but hopefully others won't be too confused (or will simply read through without noticing because they share my tendency to confuse names with the same initial letter. Really, there should be a name for this condition.)

    2. Cassandra...got the Alice/Annie thing fixed...

    3. Thank you! I'll try to keep people's names straight from now on.

  2. Hi, this is actual Schuman here. I have never in my life sent an email to College Misery, and I like you all quite a bit, even when you're critical of me! If you're getting angry emails (multiple!) from someone claiming to be me or on my behalf, that's--and I can't even believe this would be the case, that someone would have this kind of time and ire to mess with me like this--and impostor. (Again, WTF?) I'm also gonna make a minor correction, which is that Mr. Dr. Schuman is indeed full-time faculty, but he's NTT and has never been on the TT. Thanks! XOXO, Schuman

    1. Hi, as noted, several folks love you, and in going through 10 times you've been mentioned in the body of one of our 6200 posts, I don't see much that we did to raise any ire. Perhaps there are things in the 72,000 comments that are MUCH harder to search, but let us leave it at this...you are your take on the academy are beloved here at the Misery.

      If we wronged you somehow, forgive us.

      Fab Sun
      Real Goddamned Moderator

    2. Good to hear from you, and thanks for the information about your husband's employment status (same as my own; there are a lot of us out here -- more, I think than most people, including many of us with full-time NTT jobs, realize). I feel a bit embarrassed for having brought up the subject, but, as Alice's (yes, Alice's) post showed, there's something to be said for transparency, if only because it helps point out systemic patterns that individuals often experience as their own inadequacies if the patterns are hidden or denied. There's nothing wrong at all with being able to afford being an adjunct, or a freelancer, or an independent scholar, because one's spouse is more securely and profitably employed (or, for that matter, because one is independently wealth), but if the higher ed sector becomes dependent not only on its own workers, but also on their spouses'/other family members' incomes, then that's a problem, because it's probably an unsustainable situation (and, really, should be, because one doesn't want to be picking one's employees primarily from the ranks of those with other sources of household income).

      tl;dr: flashback to the '70s: the (apparently/all too often taken as) personal is political.