I can’t believe it’s almost time for the MLA JIL to come back — largely because I haven’t been on the job market in years, will never go on the job market again, and thus, unless someone sends me a particularly egregious ad with a chuckle, forget that it exists. But, my sources tell me that this coming Friday, the 12th of September in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fourteen, the world’s most depressing set of classified ads will return to our sphere. I am assuming they will once again be open to the public to search (although if I were Rosemary Feal, I would have rescinded that rule simply to prevent me from getting my big fat mitts on them — although, come on, I have enough friends now that I could get a logon in about four seconds, so).
So, I thought about not doing Rate My JIL this year because it does raise the ol’ blood pressure a bit and I don’t want to aggravate SchuFetus (who just, in fact, gave me a Miss Piggy-style chop in disapproval–and who, in three short weeks, will be promoted to SchuBabby once she becomes technically able to survive outside SchuWomb). BUT, it’s also my most heavily-trafficked feature, and what will SchuBabby need more: my dignity, or my money? All you parents out there know it’s my money; come on — so, capitalism wins, and Rate My JIL returns. Also, it’s fun, and every time I see some well-meaning tenured friend post a job ad on Facebook (like someone they know will actually get that job; like that job won’t either go to some Princeton snotnose halfway through his dissertation and/or be cancelled), I very badly want to subject it to the Schumometer, so, here I am.
Last year’s Rate My JIL taught me a lot about the inner workings of search committees, and the things people get most offended by when I make fun of them. Did you know that white people in the South get REALLY OFFENDED when you make fun of Ole Miss for being racist? How dare I? Pissed off about racism in your area but not yourself racist? Spend your energy fighting racism and not fighting me for calling other people (#notyou, of course) racist. If Ole Miss advertises a job again (especially a shitty one), it will get made fun of again for being full of fucking racists. We clear?
Now, on to the other thing I learned: A lot — like, most — of the most egregiously annoying, irrelevant, insulting and unpleasant aspects of academic job ads (which are multiplying in length like syllabi, and for the same reasons!) are, indeed, penned directly from the assistant to the assistant to the vice-vice provost between luxury cruises. So this year, I will never lose sight of Enemy #1: The Administration, who was so reluctant to give a tenure line to some foreign-language department that they just wrote the job ad like a business professorship anyway. Yes yes, #notalladministrators — but, on the other hand, the last time I was contacted by an administrator, it was on the Leonard Lopate show, and it was a “former college president” who called in to “explain” that the one and only reason for adjunctification is tenured professors taking leave to do their “worthless” research (in which case–MATH DOES NOT WORK LIKE WE THOUGHT IT DID YOU GUYS!). I have never had a single administrator write into me, or write in coherent prose anywhere, about faculty labor issues in a remotely compelling way, so until such time as that transpires, I will continue to place a substantial proportion of my disapproval squarely in the direction of the fanciest digs on campus.
That said, search committees (your “frenemies” in this situation, since they could feasibly give you a job, but probably won’t — and even if they do, their more social-skills-devoid members might make your life difficult forever), won’t be escaping culpability entirely — especially when they’re actually culpable. If you or your committee don’t want to end up in Schuman’s Hall of Schame, here are some pitfalls, that, should you be unable to (or refuse to) avoid them, shall get you roundly made fun of by yours truly:
- If you have a clear — we’re talking obvious — inside hire (the ad looks for “early 21st century digital studies about 1750s postcolonial discourse” and the department has a well-liked VAP whose capstone project is an interactive website about the Bessie Mae Griggs, the world’s first postcolonialist), and you still insist on forcing your fake-interviewees (and, for that matter, your real one) all the fuck way to Canada for MLA, AND you still insist on bringing three suckers to campus with no intent of hiring them, eff. You. Rules mean you have to run a national search. You can run a free national search on Skype. Eff you.
- Same as above: If you’re running an obvious sham search and you ask for a bunch of unique dossier materials, eff your mom too. You are just wasting desperate people’s time because you can. “Oh, but we’re not sure! We might find someone better!” Then you might want to have been sure not to write such an overly-specific ad so obviously targeted to one individual.
- If you’re a teaching-intensive or service department and you expect some Harvard-level research specialization and output from your ad, you will attract precisely the wrong candidate for your department’s needs and I will make fun of you for it. Yes, we know you all graduated from prestigious R-1 departments and were conditioned there to elevate the “profile” of wherever you end up, but that. Is. Elitist. Bullshit. Your primary duty is to your students, and your ideal candidate will attack your 4/5 teaching load like an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. You want someone all about teaching. Period. Fuck your profile. Your profile is your undergraduates.
- If you are advertising a non-TT job on the first week of the JIL and are treating it like a TT job (in terms of MLA, and of dossier requirements), you are enabling the desperation and feeding frenzy of today’s carnage disguised as a “market.” You are just as bad as the admins who won’t give you a tenure line. Your two-year non-renewable VAP job is shitty, no matter where it is or how much it pays, because your “new hire” will have to spend every year of it on the market, and thus remain a broken-down shell of a person–and, also, s/he will remain a second-class citizen in your department and grow less “viable” for the TT market every minute.
- Speaking of which: If you want to be TRULY AWESOME and the total opposite of all the imaginary assholes I’ve preemptively mocked above, do the following: Specify in your ad that “5+ years of teaching experience is preferred, though not required.” Why? Because that is sending a clear message to adjuncts and VAPs that they are welcome, and their experience — rather than making them “stale” according to the elitist bullshit rules of our current bullshit system — is valued by you. By making it “preferred” but not required you are also welcoming Princeton ABD snotnoses, should any catch your fancy. Everyone wins!
All right. Just a few days now. Who wants to “make it interesting” and take the under/over on the jobs in German this year relative to last? Last year’s first-day offering was an utterly decimated eleven jobs.
My money’s on the under.