On my ‘Job Ad Grade’ for Sewanee

UPDATE: Hallöchen, thousands of new readers coming from Dean Dad’s post on Slate and elsewhere! I have responded to many of your queries/arguments/rebukes here, on a brand-new post with less swearing than the one below, which I have left intact mostly intact, despite the fact that I was extremely, viscerally upset when I wrote it, crying and with shaking hands, and would probably not write it again.

DOUBLE UPDATE: For more post-academic goodness (er, badness?) in 140-character snippets, you can become one of my well-loved Twerple at @pankisseskafka!

TRIPLE UPDATE: I edited this just a tad for excessive parentheticals, some extra “fucks” and a different ending. What the hell!

MEGA UPDATE: I have written another, and final, post on this matter. Please read it, and know that that is my final word on the Sewanee Debacle (the Sewbacle?), and that I will not waste another microsecond of my time in a side-discussion about some random college in the middle of nowhere and whether or not it is actually awesome, when that has 100% absolutely fuck-all to do with what I am really doing here, which is addressing the absolutely incontrovertible fact that the academic job market in my discipline, German Studies, is abysmal and will soon perish altogether.

***

If there is one ‘Rate my JIL‘ that got a surprisingly vitriolic, critical and unexpectedly verbose response, it was my critique of the EOE language in an ad for Sewanee: University of the South. I scoffed at the idea of “encouraging” women and minorities to apply to a position for which many of them, for reasons that seemed obvious to me, would be a terrible “fit” (and as we know, “fit” is the one and only reason one will get a TT job these days, literally nothing else matters).

Here is what determines a “fit,” so far as I can tell, as someone who has never been a good “fit” anywhere, oftentimes not even in my own house:

1. Do you get along with these people?

2. Does your background/lifestyle bode well for the area?

If your colleagues are all stick-up-their-ass Gravitas Freaks, and you are a fun-loving, sarcastic weirdo, you will not be a good “fit.” They will go with someone else who is similarly humorless and with a similar stick in a similar place.

If the college is in a remote town, and you are a person with a spouse who needs to work to survive/not be miserable, and that spouse cannot get a job at this institution (which is almost certainly the case), and that spouse would, indeed, have to get a job (if he could even find one) in the nearest “big” city or the next college town over, then you will almost certainly be biding your time at an institution like this, until you can move somewhere that is a better “fit” for your family, and thus, if they know what’s good for them, they will not hire you.

If that college has, from what I can tell, no or next to no faculty of color, and next to no students of color, and is located in a state where a large portion of the population still actively wishes there were segregation whose government refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, largely to spite our Black President for attempting to provide health insurance for the poor, who in this particular region are disproportionately Black, and you are a person of color… I’m going to go out on a limb and assume it will be a similarly bad “fit,” no matter how allegedly “open-minded” your legions of White colleagues and students are, and no matter how vehemently some of them believe institutional and regional racism to be a “closet monster.”  And if you’re a woman of color? See above. A single woman of color? I hope you like the Life of the Mind, because it will be the only thing you have.

At no point did I ever say: “Oh, the bumblefuck South/Midwest has nothing to offer a cultured, high-brow, cosmopolitan elitist such as myself!” This is because I am a complete shut-in who never does anything ever, and thus could “enjoy” that lifestyle anywhere. I am a total homebody who would be perfectly happy if I never went “out” at night again as long as I lived. I cannot remember the last time I willingly went to the opera, because I have never, ever willingly gone to the opera. The last rock concert I attended was in my early 20s, and even then it was too loud. I don’t drink. I don’t have kids. I don’t go to museums. I don’t do anything, ever, except for fuck around online, ride my bike, go to spin class, do yoga, go to the movies, and hang out at coffee shops, mostly alone. I would almost certainly be able to do this anywhere. I would almost certainly be able to be happy–or whatever kind of low-level misery passes for happy in my life–anywhere, as long as I had my husband with me. AS LONG AS. Do you see what I am saying here? DO you see, Internet full of morons?

IT DOES NOT MATTER where you have to go for your job, if you have to go there alone and you don’t want to be. My life in Columbus for the two years I was at Ohio State alone was the most miserable it has ever been. I would have contemplated suicide if I had not been too busy battling serious illness and injury, and too depressed even to think about what kind of action to go about to put myself out of my misery. My relationship was damn near destroyed and it is still raw in places from the hell I put it through by leaving my household for two years, by putting my “career” (HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) above my happiness.

People wonder why I am so angry and bitter about job listings that would 100% certainly require someone like me to move away from their support systems and everyone they hold dear. I’m angry and bitter because I did that, and it very nearly ruined my life, it very nearly ended my life–and as it turned out, the career wanted nothing to do with me anyway.

SO…fuck you, Internet defenders of remote areas, for misunderstanding my distrust of academic positions in those places. It has nothing to do–really 0% to do–with the character of a bunch of towns I have never been to and will never go to. It is about the isolation itself, and how that isolation can ruin a person, absolutely ruin a person.

I’m not an elitist. I’m a realist, and the reality is that almost all jobs like the one at Sewanee would be a “fit” for someone with a spouse that didn’t need or want a job–ergo, almost always, a male in a “traditionally” patriarchal marriage.  That is all I meant, and if you don’t understand that, and you still take this to be some sort of personal attack on your precious alma mater…well, then, I guess you can hope that The South Rises Again and I get hanged for treason.

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85 comments

  1. Well spoken. Not terribly on-topic, but I’ve found one of the hardest things for non-academics to understand is that academics are generally expected to go wherever the job is — and unlike many other intellectual labor jobs, that can be places that are quite isolated.

    1. That’s totally on topic. And then when someone dares mention–oh, those remote locations are not terribly good for someone who has no support system, every damn person in Kansas takes it as a personal affront, like I went to their house and called them hicks.

      1. I’d take it as a personal affront too if I lived in Kansas. Also I suspect the problem of itinerant profs will fade with time as MOOCs (massive open online courses) become prevalent at universities.

      2. But why, from me, who lives in MISSOURI, which is is like Kansas but worse in every way, because it had slavery? I am not talking about Kansas specifically. Or Oklahoma, or anywhere. I am talking about the general concept of remote-ness, as it relates to university towns, which were set up and founded at a time women did not participate in the workforce, and have not evolved to adapt. Trust me, I know that *all* human professors will be obsolete in 10 years, even the SuperProfs whose MOOCs will hasten everyone’s obsolescence (even their own).

  2. My alma mater was in one of those towns, and it was apparently pretty dire for single female faculty — though good for couples, as there were about 7 colleges within an hour’s drive. My father, who presided over a lot of hiring in his department during the early seventies, told applicants it was ‘a good area to raise children.’ Which it was, and which still might be a useful code for such places — I don’t know if that kind of statement is allowed in job ads or interviews any more, though, or if it would be regarded as making single applicants feel unwelcome.

    One of the things that bugged me as an administrator was just how circumspect you often have to be these days. But I am tactless, so perhaps it’s a good thing when I keep my mouth shut.

    1. When people tell me an area is “good for raising kids” I grab my little mixed race long haired boy chick and RUN AWAY. Even more so when they say an area has “a great school system” but are unable to explain what that means…. it’s a clue that they are the people that want to raise their kids an an area with as few kids like mine as possible.

      1. That’s why it infuriates me when White people get all up in arms when I suggest that PoC might be uncomfortable in their mountain-top shangri-la. “But my friends are OPEN-MINDED.” Anyone who describes someone who isn’t openly racist as “open-minded” is…well, let’s just say the kind of person who will wince when explaining to you that they moved to Ladue, St. Louis’ most odious suburb, “for the schools.”

      2. That’s so weird, I know someone from Ladue! However, what I want to say is that I am indian, but grew up in america, and had never really felt uncomfortable with my race. Most of my friends are white, and I went to school at a private school full of whitey-whites. But I realized at age 18, when I went to college that I don’t like being identified as a minority, and when I grew complacent in my city life after 15 years, and decided to try out a PhD program in South Carolina, I knew again how shitty it is to be considered a minority. It doesn’t matter if no one overtly behaves badly towards you, you always feel alone. I ended up quitting my program (a STEM program, no less) because I didn’t want to end up in a place like that.

        I know one person who went to Sewanee and he is perfect for that small South Carolina town where I met him. Those places don’t take all kinds, they just take one kind.

  3. There are more similarities between academic and military jobs than people in both would like to admit: you go wherever (leaving friends & family behind), you endure rituals whose purposes have long since been forgotten, the people at the top look at you blankly when you say it’s broken, because it worked for them, and leaving is considered a betrayal.

  4. I totally agree. When I was looking for a job seven years ago the advice I got was to apply for “all the jobs” available and worry about fit once you had offers to choose from. I was/am lucky to be in one of the few academic fields that still has a decent job market (rhet/comp) and I graduated from a high-profile program that likely got my application a second look over equally qualified candidates from “lesser” institutions. This is also the advice given to new PhDs in fields with much tighter job markets for the obvious reason that because there are so few jobs available you have to totally disregard your personal happiness if you want a tenure-track job. In both cases, it’s terrible advice. I applied for over 70 jobs, which was in line with what almost everyone else graduating in my program that year did. by the time we all got down to the “short list” phase of the process we each were in the running for 3-5 jobs each. For me, only one was really an option for all sorts of fit reasons, and throughout the process I was praying that about half of the schools I applied to wouldn’t call me because I didn’t want to be faced with the prospect of having to accept a job I knew I didn’t really want.

    In the end I got lucky and was offered a job at a place that I thought would be a great fit. After seven years I have realized that even thought my department and colleagues are wonderful and the location is about as good as it gets for climate, recreation, night life, family activities—you name it—it wasn’t a good fit for me for two big reasons: one, I discovered I wanted a job that would allow me to focus much more on teaching and less on research, and two, no matter how great the town starting a family while holding down a demanding job *and* being 2000 miles away from all your family is a recipe for a nervous breakdown.

    Fit is a complex matrix and most grad programs do nothing to prepare their students to navigate it when they look for a job. The focus is entirely on doing whatever is necessary to land that tenure-track job without regard for personal or professional fit and in the long run this does a disservice to job seekers and the institutions that hire them.

      1. Also, your advisor may not even know what it’s like to be at a non-R1 institution. Mine didn’t/doesn’t. So the mere potential for good advising is lacking if the faculty at R1 Super Flagship U has never known the life of the small town adjunct.

  5. I have been on the market for the last year. 12 interviews, four invitations to campuses out of state, multiple interviews at varying levels, so I would be classified as “very actively looking.”

    One thing that I sincerely believe that only a small portion of the academic world sees is the applicant’s interview of the institution. Job interviews should be just as much is this a good fit for my family as it is a good fit for for the employer. The assumption, right, wrong, or indifferent is that applicants come to the potential employer on bended knee looking for a job as a handout of sorts. And that they should be forever grateful for any interview that they get.

    I was recently in a small town in Kansas for a multiple day interview. One committee got a little snarky with me, at which time I told them that interviews go both ways. If they expect me to pick up my family and move to their community they need to sell me on the community as much as I was trying to sell them on my qualifications for the job. Made for an awkward moment, but I am betting that it will forever change the way everyone in that committee approaches external applicants in the future.

    I have made several professional moves throughout my career, for each one, it has taken a year or more of searching and interviewing. I recognize that it takes time to build experience and know how, but it also takes time to recognize the right working environment. One bad decision early on in my career taught me that. I picked up may family and moved for a job of convenience, chasing money and titles. I think that the family all agrees now that that move was a bad idea.

  6. So I get where you’re coming from, but I also really don’t understand why you’d want to work in academia. It seems like the least remunerative, least interesting way to use your Ph.D — why not take the skills you learned and go into government, or a start-up on the coasts, or something else that’s actually fun and exciting? Ph.Ds are awesome, I’m doing one, but I’m sure as hell not going to turn around and then try to become an academic at the end of it.

    1. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve applied for many government jobs and not gotten interviewed (possibly because I don’t know how to make my resume work; possibly because I didn’t have what they were looking for). I find start-up Silicon Valley start-up culture to be abhorrently hypercapitalistic and Ayn Randian, and when the bubble of “disruptive innovation” bursts and all those assholes have to put their office ping-pong tables up on Craigslist, nobody shall laugh louder than I. But that wasn’t your point–’twas just a cheap dig at start-up culture, which I loathe. HOWEVER, I’mma have to disagree with half of what you said. Being an adjunct (or a low-paid FT faculty) is indeed not remunerative. But it is incredibly interesting, if you are given even the most nominally interesting classes to teach (i.e. not remedial comp). I teach a first-year world-lit sequence and I am absolutely enthralled with every text I bring those kids, and it is my absolute passion to be in that classroom with them, bringing that literature to life. It is something I find incredibly interesting, and at which I am incredibly gifted–the question isn’t ‘why don’t I find a better job’–it’s why don’t universities pay their faculty what those faculty deserve, given how much college costs? It’s super amazing for you that you want to do something else with your life, and I do, too–eventually my consulting practice (currently 6 clients) will be large enough that I don’t have to adjunct anymore, and my freelance writing is also doing really, really well. But if the time comes that I really, truly never enter the classroom again, I will be heartbroken. I don’t want to “be an academic”–I want to teach college, because teaching college, if that’s what you’re “suited” for, is great. And it has more autonomy than working at a start-up–as a professor you basically have no boss. You are (usually) given a large amount of autonomy, if not complete autonomy. You get to work non-traditional hours, which means you can go shopping for food on a Friday morning when there’s no traffic. You get five (albeit unpaid) weeks at Christmas and nine weeks in the summer to get a break from students while you develop new courses or do your research (which I don’t do anymore, but hey). You get to work with a constantly-changing group of young people from all walks of life. The reasons that people want to be professors are usually noble and should not be discouraged–professors should simply be paid what they’re worth.

  7. Bitch bitch bitch whine whine whine. Why would you even apply at a school out in the country, on a mountain top, that is obviously far from your cosmopolitan elitist comfort zone? You’re right. You would be a terrible fit for Sewanee, but I think it’s because of your attitude and your assumptions. I have to travel all over the country for my job, too. I do it, because I like my job, and I know it’s part of the deal. I would give my left arm for an academic job at Sewanee or someplace similar, because I love the lifestyle, and the people and location are truly lovely. I can’t help but think that you would probably love it if you gave it a chance, but when you look around and assume that it’s going to suck, because you’re a minority, or a woman, or whatever, then yeah, it’s going to suck. It won’t suck because all those monsters in the closet actually exist, but you’ve already convinced yourself they exist before you even get there. If you think about it, it’s just another form of bias and bigotry.

    I was an anthro major, though, so I get a kick out of living in different places with people who aren’t like me. I enjoy being open to new cultures. You actually come off sounding like an elitist bigot here, and I’m glad you won’t be teaching my future fellow alums. To be fair to you, I’m not carting a spouse around, but if I ever do get married, I’d hope he would know that travel is part of the deal, and would be ok with that. There are plenty of medium-sized towns around Sewanee where spouses can work, if the University doesn’t find a job for him (they often do). You may have to get a little creative, but the opportunity is there.

    1. Please, 23-year-old totally unfamiliar with the challenges of a person with a spouse or kids excoriating a sincere expression of pain about the two-body problem, which afflicts only people with partners and families, do tell me what-for. You’re definitely not missing the entire point.

      1. :). In a way you have to admire the confidence of youth. I knew everything about everything at that age, too. I assume that commenter is 23. If not, then she is simply a functionally-illiterate psychopath, not unlike several of the Internet Full of Morons who came out to make my last week veeeery interesting.

      2. Word. As someone who dragged a family to a rural college town only to be confronted with bigotry and flat-out fear of outsiders–not to mention the fact that the culture at the workplace was completely closed to anyone who hadn’t been there at least five years–I agree that Miss Co-ed does not have a clue. Did I mention that my husband could not find a job to save his life despite his impressive resume? Or that my child, in the year that we lived in that godforsaken backwater, did not get a single invitation from another family for a playdate or birthday party? The piece d’resistance was when our landlord found out we were Jewish and decided to double our rent because he figured we were rich from all of the usury our people had engaged in over the centuries. We got the hell out before someone decided to lynch us.

      3. Eeeech. So glad you got out. Wish you the best, and thanks for sharing. I hope that some of these OFFENDED SO OFFENDED people see comments like these and understand.

    2. You were an Anthro major and you wrote this? Because you totally missed the point of Rebecca’s comments on what ‘fit’ really means, and the race/gender privilege it is actually based on. Yeah, your comment is a reminder of why the AA article “Anthropology as White Public Space?” was written.

      This comment reminds me of why I’ve tired of Anthropology and the unchecked White privilege through which it is so often practiced.

  8. I’m going to assume — despite having no real basis for doing so — that you do realize the two-body problem exists in many disciplines, not just academia.

    I suspect people got up in arms about your response to the Sewanee ad because, right off the bat, it sounded elitist and snobbish and dismissive. People who love a place don’t tend to appreciate that — and Southerners in particular *frequently* find that non-Southerners immediately assume they’re all uneducated, backward, racist hicks, and you made it pretty clear you operate under those stereotypes. (“[A] Church-run institution that proudly calls itself ‘University of the South'”?? Oh, no, no stereotypes there!) Also, you tossed in some fairly significant assumptions (including that the ad was disingenuous and “no working spouses shall trail”) without any real basis for them.

    In your responses to comments, you never responded to the fact that, while Sewanee does not guarantee jobs for spouses, they do try. (It also would have been nice if you’d managed to find it within yourself to recognize that, as a practical matter, small institutions can’t really guarantee spousal/partner hires.) You also never responded to the information — surely quite important to someone in academia today — that Sewanee has NO adjunct faculty, just professors, with benefits.

    You also, in your comments, utterly dismissed the possibility that one might find a new and very real community at Sewanee. Yes, it’s small, but the commenters were right that it’s also very close. As at any place where multiple human beings interact, there will be people who don’t get along, but overall, the faculty at Sewanee is pretty happy, healthy, and dedicated. Also, students and professors actually get to know each other, become friends, and keep in touch after the students graduate.

    Oh, and as for the dig about being Church run: have you paid any attention at all to the news about the Episcopal Church over the past, oh, 10 years? It’s gotten a fair bit of press, and it’s not exactly known for being like the pre-Vatican-II Roman Catholic Church, you know.

    And FYI, I know what you mean about La-di-due, which is why I live in the City.

    1. The two body problem is much worse in academia, because aside from the military it is the only discipline that regularly requires people to pick up and move somewhere so remote that there is often no chance their spouse can follow.

      Honestly, as a specific location Sewanee sounds like a nice place if you have a support system. The reason I didn’t address that specific stuff is that I am not being specific to Sewanee when I address the patriarchy and isolation of the academic job market and the tiny college town in particular. Sewanee is standing in for hundreds of schools with its profile. Small, rural, mostly white, mostly male. The individual character of the people there–and yes, I have “prejudices” about the South, mostly having to do with the “fact” that it is heavily Republican–is irrelevant. The fact that a new prof might be friendly with students is irrelevant (and if you the the faculty are friends with each other, that’s naive. You cannot be friends with people who are going to harshly judge every aspect of your life during your tenure bid. You are going to have to trust me that I know much more about the inner workings of academe than you do), because no “new community” makes up for one’s own spouse and children.

      Honestly in the Sewanee folks total inability to see that I am not being personal, I am not making value judgments about a specific area, and I am instead addressing the two body problem and the resultant fact that academia is very patriarchal, and that those are very real things. You want to counter with specific defenses of Sewanee, that is great, but I am saying something academics and people with spouses and children know to be true, which is they no amount of niceness in students or non horribleness in labor conditions or beauty in scenery can make up for geographic isolation from your family. Nothing can. That is why the only person who will be happy at that job is someone whose family comes along, and who doesn’t feel alienated by the surroundings. That person is not guaranteed to be a White Male, but is spastically far more likely to be. Hence, the EOE language made me, and everyone else who knows how academia really works, chuckle.

      I also think it is interesting that I have said, repeatedly and with great emotional pain, how living away from my partner for two years, even in a large and thriving college town, nearly destroyed my life. People act like the fact that one tiny college in Tennessee has nice people in it means my very real experience didn’t exist.

      1. I absolutely understand your points about patriarchy, etc., and I wouldn’t want to live away from my family, either. There are professors at Sewanee whose families live on the mountain and whose spouses work 30-60 minutes away, and a few who live off the mountain with their families and commute 30-60 minutes to Sewanee. (Murfreesboro, Manchester, and Chattanooga, TN; Huntsville, AL, etc.) Now, I concede that a 30-60 minute commute would not be my idea of a good time, but I spent several years with a 35+ minute commute right here in STL, so perhaps you can understand why I don’t regard that as an insurmountable barrier to a family living together.

        You’re correct that TN is largely Republican, but as it happens you’re incorrect in assuming that’s true of the faculty at Sewanee, who are overwhelmingly liberal. (The student body tends to be somewhat more conservative than the faculty, so I was in the minority.)

        FYI: As one example I know quite a bit about, the two-body problem is very real for clergy. Most parishes aren’t very large, and while there are many churches in large cities, the majority of churches in the US are not. Worse yet, not a few clergy meet their spouses in seminary, so they’re both ordained, but it is *extremely* rare for a parish to be able to hire both spouses – and even when it is possible, it is nearly always the case that one of the jobs will have to be part-time. On top of that, clergy don’t generally make very much, and they’re considered to be self-employed, so they usually wind up paying more in taxes on those smaller salaries.

      2. Yes! Clergy is another great example, I totally forgot (also, most denominations are heavily patriarchal, so it’s not that big of a problem a lot of the time b/c the submissive wife is busy doing wifely submission).

        I do think a 35-minute commute should be an insurmountable barrier. I am an extremely vocal, passionate and some would say even militant anti-car activist. I take public transport or bicycle to work, and would outright refuse to work anywhere I couldn’t, and so should others. Dependence on the single-car automobile is one of the most evil aspects of American society, and I want nothing to do with it. GRANTED..this may be because I get violently car-sick ;). But for either reason–either FOUR WHEELS BAD TWO/NO WHEELS GOOD or car + mountain road = barf, a long commute is a nonstarter for me and *should* be for most of America, but most of America doesn’t share my values in this regard, so I can see why most people wouldn’t understand why I would find a car commute unacceptable. Yeaaaah, I’m a crazy person. It’s cool. Back slowly away.

      3. While I don’t personally share your dislike of cars, I do understand wanting to minimize/avoid driving. I’ve never (knock on wood) had a problem with motion sickness, but I know many people who get car-sick, and can easily imagine that living in a mountainous area would be awfully rough on them.

  9. I almost forgot: In your previous post, you stated that Sewanee “proudly calls itself ‘University of the South'”. Actually, it proudly calls itself “Sewanee: The University of the South”, and generally just calls itself – and is referred to by students, faculty, administrators, and pretty much everyone else, as – “Sewanee”. Leaving that aside, “The University of the South” is the name it was given by its founders 156 years ago. Did you mean to imply that Sewanee should change its name? If so, for what purpose? So that people who don’t know the first thing about it might be somewhat less likely to apply their stereotypes about Southerners to it? Somehow, I doubt that would work, as it would still be in the South…

    1. Just like the Washington Redskins should change their name, so should the University of the South. Being Southern during the time of slavery and Jim Crow should be a source of deep, deep shame. Any progressive person would want that name to be more inclusive. Being proud of The Old South *immediately* conjures up slavery. You say Southerners have changed–but if so, why is every southern state refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare? There are surely non-racists in Tennessee, but judging from how that state votes, they are vastly outnumbered.

      1. Hold the phone. You’re equating “Washington Redskins”, a name that is an ethnic slur and which Native American groups have been protesting for years, with “The University of the South”, which was named after a geographical region?? Do you actually expect anyone to take you seriously on that score? You may think of “Southerner” as a slur, but I would hope that most people are at least a little more open minded than that. Or have I somehow missed the years of protests over usage of the phrase “the South”, and demands for a new regional descriptor which makes no reference to the compass or the area’s relative location in the country?

      2. As the previous commenter who did not even apply to Sewanee because the name put her off as a WoC, yes, I am. When I think of “The South,” I hear “…will rise again!” and so do a lot of people, especially people of color. You don’t see people in the former free states calling themselves The North or The Union or The We Don’t Think Owning Other Humans Is Acceptable And Never Did Hooray–the reason non-Southerners are put off by “The South” is that you are still self-defining by your Southernness, and the defining characteristic of what made The South The South was that it was in favor of “states’ rights,” aka slavery. Those two words are extremely potent, as my previous commenter has demonstrated.

      3. I am curious — what do you think of the name Washington and Lee?

        “University of the South is a name of convenient description; it is no party war cry, no sectional password!”

    2. Yes, Suwanee should change it’s name. Though I’m not in academia, I was a heavily recruited high school student thanks to my academic standing, and I can tell you that I didn’t consider Suwanee in large part because besides being in the middle of nowhere, I found maybe one or two brown faces in their catalog and, as a WOC already living in the South, “The University of the South” sounded like a place where I would feel alone and constantly on guard. No matter how great the school is, and I’ve never heard a bad thing about them academically, they won’t be able to address their diversity problem by holding on to language that, to many POC and anti-racists, harkens back to a horrifying time in history that deserves no nostalgia.

      1. Yes, CS, you are 100 percent correct. Living in Georgia, sneaking comments while at work and having not thought about Sewanee in probably 15 years made me a little doofy for a moment. My apologies and thank you.

  10. Sewanee would be one of the last places I’d ever pick to live, and I can certainly understand that a person of color (or anyone without a support system) would have a tough time there. I don’t think it’s fair, however, to tar “the South” as you do. It’s true that the South has a horrible history with regard to race relations. But so does the rest of the country. Some of the most horrific racism in the past 50 years could be found in places like suburban Detroit (for kicks, google Orville Hubble). I don’t think you’re any more likely to run into a racist in Sewanee than in South Philly.

      1. Oh and PS–Philly is SO racist. Good good that city is racist. And Boston too. And Oregon. And everywhere! Anyway, I’m off-topic here now. I’m going to write yet another post clarifying my Sewanee ad “grade,” perhaps demoting it down to an F+ for the extreme defensiveness of its alumni and their refusal to understand that when it comes to the academic labor world I know what I am talking about.

    1. There are certainly racists everywhere. St Louis, where I currently now live, is one of the most personally and institutionally racist places I have ever seen (though Missouri was “the South”). What I am talking about is voting patterns. The South votes overwhelmingly, hugely Republican. The Republican party is the 100% worst. Make no mistake I include Missouri in this. I speak as someone who currently lives in the red-state “South” and hates it.

      1. Hmm, I’m not a Sewanee alum, and I certainly don’t challenge your understanding of the academic labor market, which is no doubt impeccable. I’m just a Southern ex-pat standing up for the dignity of (at least some of) the people living below the Mason-Dixon line. Most vote republican, but 40ish percent voted for Obama, the extent that voting patterns matter. The South is often described as some congenitally defective “Other” place, but it just has slightly more of the obnoxious people that exist everywhere. It’s a difference of degree not kind.

        I’m just responding to a tone of discussion about that South that I’ve heard my entire life. I think it usually betrays a simplistic understanding of American history. Which I doubt you share.

      2. I should mention that I currently live, more or less, in the South (Missouri, after all, was a slave state). I’m not Othering a place I haven’t been–I’m Othering a place I live *now*. I realize that’s not much better, but it is a distinction ;).

      3. Well said, John C.

        While MO was a slave state, as a whole, it isn’t the South. The lower half of the state, especially, is very similar, but still distinct, but STL most definitely is not a Southern city. I absolutely agree with you that STL is terribly divided racially, and that is awful. I wish I knew of some quick and easy way to fix that, but I don’t, so we’ll all just have to do the long, hard work.

      4. Quick and easy fix: White rich people, stop being horrible and racist. Unify the City and the County. Let your precious motherfucking tax dollars go to Black people. Give a a flying fuck about poverty and stop blaming a population on whom the Establishment gave up fifty years ago for its own transgressions. I ride my bike through bombed-out looking neighborhoods in North City and County on the way to school. I see it almost every day. It is heartbreaking. It would be fixed if the rich White Klansmen in the County gave any fucks whatsoever about people who weren’t exactly like them.

      5. At any rate, I’m sorry I’ve gotten you so worked up. This whole discussion–the entire glut of attention this post has gotten–has made me really anxious and upset, and I have to turn my attention to something else for awhile before I go crazy. Peace be with you, and sorry if my vitriol about patriarchy and capitalism and racism hits the wrong targets sometimes.

      6. Oh, my God, I absolutely agree with you about so much of that. I meant to say that I wish I knew of a quick way to make all of those things (reunify city & county, stop being assholes about where your tax $ go, etc.) just happen, poof, done. I routinely drive up Union, and have counted at least 40 abandoned, burned, boarded-up buildings between Delmar and 70 – and that’s just what’s visible from my car as I drive past. I’ve represented foster kids in family court (City, not County), which involves making home visits; the kids all lived in North City, so I’ve also spent fair amounts of time in areas like Grand @ 70, which may be even worse than Union. It’s a tragedy, and it absolutely breaks my heart. No one should have to live like that. I believe it is deeply damaging to the soul to live – to grow up! – in such degraded conditions. And that’s just the environment; it is surely even more damaging to live a day grow up in a place where one is discriminated against.

      7. You’re right about that. I’m just really verklempt right now because this dumb post, which I wrote 100% to get The Feels Out, is now getting thousands and thousands of views and getting called “atrocious” and it’s Thesis Hatement all over again and I can’t fucking take it anymore.

  11. I sympathize with your plight. Grad school almost did me in, and it was in a major urban area. Academic life is isolating. And, sitting in my tenure-tefloned office, I can assure you that it does not get better (apologies to Dan Savage).

    I have to say, however, that the insistence that your critics “just don’t get you” because they don’t take the time to get to know you, is spoken in the accent of pot-to-kettle. Your statement that most people in Tennessee would prefer segregation is woefully uninformed. It simply is not true. It similarly is not true that Sewanee (the other name is unfortunate) is only a place for crusty white patriarchs. It is not true that you can judge an academic sub-culture simply by looking at “how they vote.” It is also not true that Chattanooga is–well–lame. It is a thriving city with a real arts scene, a very diverse and moderate population, and as much to offer as many college towns in the northeast. What would make you think that about it? Did you spend a weekend there? Or do you just assume that the South is a lost cause, inconveniently restored to the Union by Lincoln and Sherman, but better left to its own unenlightened self?

    There also are a number of institutions in the South–as elsewhere–which genuinely struggle to achieve racial diversity. I see nothing in the nature of Sewanee now or in the ad that suggests the encouragement is anything but genuine. The complaint here seems to be “how dare you act as if you are anti-racist given where you live.” And I just don’t see the purpose or value in that. It may not be elitist, but it is ignorant of both circumstances and of the problems inherent in the system.

    Mine, in a relatively large northeastern urban area–though not one deemed hip enough by many to “count” as all too different from Chattanooga–constantly struggles to recruit and retain quality faculty who do not fit the demographic profile of our founders. They quite reasonably feel the same as you do, and I wish I could do something to counter that. But the sad fact of the matter is that so long as there’s no one here who you want to hang out with, you’ll leave, and the next “you” won’t want to stay here either. Vicious circle. One that we and others struggle to overcome. Genuinely, even if unsuccessfully.

    I realize we can’t ask you to be the one to start something, or to keep something weak going. That’s a tough job. But those kids at Sewanee need your influence if they are going to listen to the better sides of themselves. And the future “yous” need to know you’re there if they, too, are going to influence those students. You would not be alone. The administration and many–MANY–faculty are on your side.

    Part of the problem may be less about “academia today” and something fundamental about academia. We don’t really like to argue–in person. We like quiet reflection. We like social interactions–usually so difficult–to be as smooth as possible to spare us as much trouble in the real world as possible. That’s part of why, for years, academics hired people–men–like themselves, even if their politics told them to do otherwise. It is easier to hire a clone of yourself, which really makes the water cooler conversations easier. That’s not a problem of white male professors, but of professors generally. You say you don’t care much for social interaction, but you want the interactions you do have to be as seamless as possible. So more colleagues like yourself, so you don’t have to explain your hobbies, your research, or your interests, with more effort than necessary. And more students like yourself, so that when you teach, your shared assumptions ease the discussion of difficult issues. It is the academic’s dream–and I often catch myself enjoying it.

    But it’s lazy, and intellectually dishonest. It is the root–the deep historic root–of just the problem you’re confronting. It just so happens that that root grows out of your tree as well as of the tree of the older oaks that are presently blocking your sunlight.

    I hope you find happiness in your career, but I urge you to use the tools of your trade and the fire in your belly to think about what you can offer to the field.

  12. I am in this situation, but in a different field which offers (sorry Humanities people) considerably better opportunities outside of academia, and I’m not a woman. So bailing is a more reasonable option for me. Here are two issues that underly the some of the problem here.

    One of them is the over-education of people at the graduate level. There is simply not enough demand in academia to support all the Ph.D.s it produces. Of course academics will be kicked around the country, payed low wages and given no job security. Why? There is a glut of new Ph.D.s being minted this year bringing a bunch of nearly equally qualified (minus, say, 3 years of experience) people on the market. It sucks, but people will be English professors for poverty level wages, and this means that you, Ph.D., overpaid greatly for your skill (either with time, or much much worse your own money). Ph.D. programs in the Humanities where the students pay for their own education with loans, as oppossed to 5 years of guaranteed funding as is the case in my field, are a sham. Sure, you’ll get a good degree and learn lots of interesting things, but by forcing you to pay out of your own pocket the powers that be are telling you “There is NO money here.” And why do some many shitty schools (at which I would *totally* work, serisouly) have Master’s and Ph.D programs? I’m convinced that it is souly to get them a steady stream of inside candidates so that I can loose out to lesser qualified applicants down the road. In seriousness, it is likely for the reason I just mentioned: They are cash-cows.

    The second problem is the current people in tenured positions. If I hear another faculty member tell me that “it was tough” when they applied I’ll fucking puke. They have a false idea that “they went through this too.” They didn’t, it wasn’t this bad. It would be one thing if the suffering and moving around of postdocs was immediately rewarded with a reasonable job but it isn’t. No one ever talks about the real difficulty of finding an academic job in graduate school. And why should they? Most everyone there is tenured or on tenure-track and they need graduate students to propogate the pyramid scheme.

    Of course everyone, including me, wants to believe they will be an exception to the horror stories you hear about academic hiring. Even knowing what I do now, I’m not sure I would have been smart enough to listen.

    1. I find the free-market answer to why it’s acceptable to pay highly-qualified people doing an important job a pittance to be very problematic–I wrote a CHE piece about it a few weeks ago!

      1. I didn’t say it was acceptible, and I don’t think it is. However, I recognize it as a reality for the foreseeable future.

        I belive a main reason people take these low-paying jobs is because they are under the duress of avoidable financial obligations, typically student loans that paid for a less-than-lucrative graduate degree. I believe that the only way to change this is by accepting far fewer students to graduate school, and only on full fellowships. This is unlikely to change, because schools make a ton of money off of tuition-paying graduate students, and younger faculty are under intense pressure to “perform” by advising graduate students, which perpetuates the problem.

        Achieving a stable and well paying position means playing the game. We can try to play by our own rules, by refusing to move across the country, demanding higher pay, or a reasonable amount of job assurance, but nobody is paying attention. I received a one year offer from a school on the east coast (I was living on the west) and I asked for a small amount of travel money to visit the one-big-conference-in-my-area-that-year. They said no. I didn’t take the job, but I don’t think they realized how poorly this reflected on them and I was too happy to get a better job offer to give them a piece of my mind. I don’t think it would have changed anything.

        Until we are in a position of power to change such things, all that you and I can do is wax-philosohpical about what’s wrong and how to fix it. Maybe enough people on hiring committees are listening to change things? Yeah, maybe … Still, I expect a better strategy is to play the game and the fix things from the inside … if we make it.

      2. What I have chosen to do is bring these injustices to light as loudly as I can. Thousands of people are viewing my blog today. That’s a start. I don’t know if you’re (unfortunately) familiar with my oeuvre, but I am a regular writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education and intimately, intimately familiar with the issues facing higher ed and the PhD world today. I have come to the conclusion that the main thing keeping “the game” in place is total cowardice in the face of it. I am trying to change that by yelling as loud as I can that at least I am not going to take it anymore. And other people are yelling too. Eventually, a LOT of people will yell. I don’t know what that will change, but I’m going to keep yelling until I see that something does.

    2. P.S. I totally sympathize with your frustration. I think that there are not enough people venting about the studpidity and unreasonable nature of the modern academic job market. It’s healthy to complain about all this, and nobody does it and everyone feels alone because everyone else is too cowardly to speak up about it. And then when you do put yourself out there, assholes like me are always chiming in with their two cents on how and why your complaints are invalid. Jeez, no wonder nobody vents.

      1. You’re not an asshole! You’re fine. I’m just really overwhelmed today, because Dean Dad’s post that got repubbed by Slate seems to have gone viral (as do all of their higher-ed stories). It’s Thesis Hatement Redux up in here but it’s my own blog, so I always interact with people. It’s a blessing, and I’m so grateful (and my pageviews from today only are going to net me TENS OF CENTS of ad revenue!!!! I’M RICH!!!!!!), but I’m really overwhelmed, too.

  13. Thanks, both for this honest post about the crazy reality of academic job life, and for the energy that it takes to respond to all of our comments (both fair and foul). I just wanted to add a little fuel to your fire with some bits of my own story:

    I am white, female, have a PhD from a top-10 philosophy program, was not a star in my dept, but got more than one job offer my first time out on the market. I took a job in one of those small college towns where, in order to have companionship, faculty had to bring their own with them or have affairs with married colleagues or their students (which people did). It was clear early on that the place was a bad fit for me. I got denied tenure. Speaking as a now-20-year academic veteran and full professor (somewhere else), getting tenure is ALL about the fit. People need to read this and know this now.

    But I won the academic lottery again when I went back out on the job market– I got a job so that I can live in the same town where I went to grad school, hang out with my friends and my very nice boyfriend– life is good. But here is my reality– not complaining, just letting those 20-somethings know that my life is about as good as it gets, and this is what it is like:

    I have a 1-hour commute in the car in awful traffic in order to live where I want. I pay a LOT on my mortgage because the cost of housing is so high. I teach 4 courses a term for very low pay, and in reality I always teach overloads– that’s 5 courses a term, and sometimes summer courses, too. I work hard to do research, and publish some, but it means cutting back on something (sleep, time with friends, self-care activities like exercise, cooking, etc). My students are under-prepared and teaching is sometimes rewarding but sometimes not. Many of my colleagues have opted out of research for a myriad of reasons, and relations between those that do and those that don’t are a bit uneasy.

    In short: I am a full professor and live where I want. But money is always tight, I should be working all the time not to be behind, and I have to steal time and cut corners to get any research done. And I am one of the LUCKY ONES.

    That is what academic life is like.

  14. So I read:
    “You cannot be friends with people who are going to harshly judge every aspect of your life during your tenure bid.”
    and
    “yes, I have “prejudices” about the South, mostly having to do with the “fact” that it is heavily Republican”
    and
    “I take public transport or bicycle to work, and would outright refuse to work anywhere I couldn’t, and so should others.”

    You grant yourself the right to judge republican voters and car drivers, but it’s problematic if others would judge your life and choices?

    Also, I’m trying to picture what you would consider a satisfying solution for academia? Move all universities in the country right next to each other with public transportation and bike lanes connecting this Utopia city where all spouses can easily find jobs regardless of their chosen fields?

    1. Me hating Republicans has zero impact on their ability to “govern.” Me hating in car drivers has zero impact on the automobile’s stranglehold on American transport. Colleagues’ personal judgments of a tenure-track peer can cost that peer his job and ruin his life. I appreciate your attempt at textual analysis, but your false equivalence is glaring. Comment grade: C-

      1. So judging other people is acceptable until one gets in a power position? Can you truly say that your beliefs wouldn’t impact your decision making if you were in that spot? Or am I now hurting my grade even more? ;)

        Can I ask you what is stopping you from seeking employment and thereby the opportunity to live and work in Germany? I agree, there is excellent public transportation there at a level that is unlikely to be replicated here. I also think that’s not just car mentality, but also population density and such factors.

      2. I have a PhD in German. I have lived in Austria and Germany. If I had any ability to live or work in Germany permanently, I would. But it is near-impossible to get a job in Germany as a non-German if you do something Germans can do. Guess what? Germans can teach German.

        Basically I would have had to marry a German. But alas, I married a New Yorker who lives in St. Louis.

        Judging other people–or, rather, pointing out factual things they do being damaging to the world, e.g. Republicans and single-driver auto drivers–when you have no power over them is 100% different than judging someone whose fate you hold in your hands. One is social commentary about a group of people–hundreds of millions of car drivers, tens of millions of Republicans; the other is personal judgment of a single human being. Honestly, I don’t mean to be a dick, but you cannot out-rhetoric me. I do this shit for a living. Albeit not very well-paid, but still. Your lines of argument are not good. You are reaching for things I have done to MORTALLY OFFEND you and missing my original point, about patriarchy and the “two-body problem,” entirely. Everything outside of those two things is irrelevant. If you have a point about those two things–that the patriarchy is awesome, that the two-body problem is not an issue because the patriarchy is so awesome–then fine. But you want to get on me for hating on Repubicans? Really? Especially now…

      3. I’m not trying to out-rhetoric you or win or something like that, but I am trying to understand where academia should go to overcome these issues. Maybe I focused on too much on specific remarks in my comment, but I am trying to understand if there is a realistic path toward resolving that patriarchy that you identify. What steps can schools in areas that you don’t want to live in right now take to make it a place where fit is possible? They can’t pick up and move to ‘better’ areas.

        To me, the issue as you describe it seems (at least partially) rooted in decision makers’ attitudes about groups of people, which in turn influence their judgment about specific individuals? And with that, I was surprised that somebody who argues so hard against that happening also uses statements like ‘I have prejudices against’ and ‘so should others’. If you think there is a different mechanism at work, what is it?

        BTW, I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to discussions so please talk to me as dick-ish or friendly as you’d like. I appreciate your

      4. The one thing that can be done? In the ad: “[Institution] recognizes the needs of dual-career couples and endeavors to accommodate their needs in any way possible.” That’s all. Instead of just assuming that every PhD in the US is told “you have to be flexible and willing to move,” which means “you have to be willing to put off having kids until you’re 43, but also we don’t care about your personal life because fuck you, Life of the Mind!!!” It has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with the location as ‘undesirable’ per se. It has to do with lack of opportunities for the spouse and the fact that academia will tear families apart unless those families are ole’ fashioned one-earner.

      5. Wouldn’t that sound just as hollow as the Sewanee job ad? If university is located in a remote place, how would they back that up and accommodate the dual-career couple. How can they create opportunities if the spouse isn’t in academia?

    2. And I don’t know about the universities thing, but there should be dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian access and good transit everywhere, yes. There should. That’s not Utopia, it’s Germany. I think a general economic recovery would greatly help the jobs thing, too. Which will never happen as long as the Tea Party has any influence in Congress at all and our President’s heroic efforts at getting people back to work are stymied at every effort.

  15. So, full disclosure: I’m a Sewanee alumna and I got a GREAT education there at a bargain price. Are there issues there? Yes. I was there. I saw them firsthand.

    I’m also a single female academician and I’m just a little uncomfortable with your thesis that I am more likely/able to be able to take a job in an “undesirable” locale because after all, it’s “just me.” I recently made a move that a) took me even further away from my family, b) cost me financially, and c) made me (as a singlet) have to start all over again. I did so to get to a better job where my particular skill set is more valued and better compensated.

    What advantage would I possibly gain by moving to a small isolated town except a paycheck? The prospect of lifeIong abstinence and celibacy? I am no more likely to accept such a job than you are. I think that the system has issues that are common regardless of marital status. FWIW.

    1. My thesis is the opposite! As a single female in a location like that you’re even worse off (unless you enjoy fucking students, which something tells me you do not!!). I have a whole paragraph to that effect, and I agree 100% with what Lexi Lord has written on the subject. I’m really sorry if you got the opposite impression! And I hope things are going Ok with your career and life!

      1. I agree with much of what you said, and I appreciate your clarification about single people. Unfortunately, it’s really common for people to blithely assume that if you’re single, you can and will go anywhere because, no big deal, no spousal job needed. But as a good friend of mine has said, “if you wouldn’t want to lug a spouse there, you don’t want to be single there.” Most of the rhetoric focuses on needing a spousal hire or other issues that assume coupling. The key is people understanding that moving without support sucks, whether partnered or single, and I think it would be helpful to start seeing these as linked rather than singles v. couples v. families.

      2. Yes. And I should have been clearer about my own context. A place that is hostile to working spouses is hostile to singles for the same reason–what it ISN’T hostile to is non-working spouses. So what I mean is that a job in a tiny town will be the best “fit” for someone who a) has a spouse, and b) has a mobile, usually stay-at-HOME spouse. Patriarchy in this situation hurts singles and dual-career couples equally.

    2. I do however think that as a single female you’d be more likely to be hired because they wouldn’t have to worry about a spouse. But really who knows? At any rate, sorry again if I made the opposite impression!

  16. Thanks for this response. Look, it’s a brutal gig any way you look at it. There are systematic problems that seem to be untenable, I’m lucky to have landed in a great place with great opportunities.

    In my experience, I have found that some places are, in fact, less likely to hire a single person because we aren’t as “stable” and are somehow less likely to persist in a less-than-ideal community–no ties, right? I can pack up my shit during the night and leave at any time. In that model, I have no “real” ties to the community because I don’t have a spouse or children in school or whatever. The idea seems to be that people with families are less likely to leave, even if the job isn’t perfect. As. If.

    And no, fucking students isn’t even on my radar. Thanks for recognizing that! This is a very interesting and overdue discussion.

  17. Full Disclosure: I am from a family with two academic parents. I have gone on to earn advanced degrees elsewhere. I agree that the “two body” problem is tough, and have the greatest respect for and sympathy with academics, whether single or coupled. I suggest that much of the issue results from supply and demand – there is a far greater supply of freshly-minted Ph.D.s than demand from academic institutions can support. I personally think that academic departments should give students a clear and honest view of their academic job prospects at matriculation.

    However, your indictment of Sewanee is misplaced, factually inaccurate, and condescending. Though not from the southeastern U.S., I am a Sewanee alumnus. You clearly are unaware of the facts surrounding the University and its history. Sewanee has taken numerous progressive positions over the years that were ahead of the rest of the country. Sewanee integrated well before Brown v. Board of Education. The Episcopal Church (which you surely know is integral to Sewanee) has taken a strong position in favor or marriage equality. As per the assumption that Sewanee students are all conservative, the majority of Sewanee students voted for President Clinton over President Bush when I attended in the early 90s (and nearly all were far more opened minded about the other point of view than most political comments to this article).

    As a non-southerner, did I fit in completely? No. Did moving to the south get me out of my comfort zone? Yes. Has the experience been essential to understanding people who are not like me (including a long list of internationally, regionally, and ethnically diverse friends)? Absolutely. Did Sewanee give me a first class education? You bet it did.

    Like all schools, Sewanee continues to try and diversify its faculty and student body. Recognizing that it is in a rural area, the University advertises for diverse faculty. What would you have it do? Not address the problem? Pick up and move to an urban area stone by stone? As one other commentator suggested, Sewanee actively attempts to address the two body problem regardless of whether the so-called “trailing spouse” is an academic. It views its faculty, staff, students, and alumni as a true community. Of course, you would not know that since your view of the history of the institution, policies of the Episcopal Church, and supposed politics of the student are so spectacuarly at odds with the facts.

    I don’t see any reason why you or anyone else would want to go somewhere that you would not like, whether an academic or not. No-one would begrudge you that choice. Like you, I would not be happy living my life at Sewanee. I respectfully suggest, however, that your consdescending responses come off as more a reflection on you than on Sewanee and the other schools you describe. Regardless, the problem is not Universities like Sewanee.

    1. Thank you very much for this comment. I have addressed these issues in my Oct. 4 post. Again my point had very little to do with the south, though if you read trough these comments you will see that students and faculty of color did and do often feel marginalized at institutions like these, some at Sewanee specifically. I do not discount your experience but I hope you don’t discount theirs either. I’m familiar with Gene Robinson etc. but my point had, again, absolutely nothing to do with Sewanee specifically. It had to do with the fact that leaving your partner and support system for a job far away from them is harrowing. I admire Sewanee for attempting to place spouses, and if they had mentioned that in the ad with their EOE language I would have found something else to make fun of. Your BAby Boomer parents were the last generation of professors who even had a chance to make it and their experience is not indicative of today’s academic labor market. It is the academic labor market I mean to mock. It deserves it. Everything else is secondary. Please read my newer post for more clarification, and thanks again.

  18. Hey there. Wow, exhausting thread. Lots of crazy comments. I just wanted to add a couple of quick things.

    First, as a lesbian academic — who was out and taught in a teeny midwestern town in the very EARLY 1990’s — I can tell you it’s not just women and people who aren’t white who are justifiably freaked out about the “fit” conversation. I’m tenured now, and have been tenure-track at several R1 schools and a chair. I’ve hired spouses to solve the two-career problem, and had my own spouses hired as well (female spouses). So I’ve seen and personally helped with solutions to that.

    But here’s what kills me, what chairs do not successfully address: even at (perhaps more accurately, “particularly at”) the best schools where I have taught (ie, best reps, best salaries, very urban or very hip/chic small towns), the straight male faculty almost always have wives and kids. The women – if they are married and have kids – are struggling madly to find time to teach, advise, do all the service work we are continually expected to do that men feel fine about not doing, write and be moms. They do not take care of their own health, and are often depressed about not being able to be who they want to be.

    Not to add a downer to a pisser, but working in academia does not just force many of us to choose living away from a partner. It’s much worse. For many women, it represents a choice between children and tenure. But I have never seen that choice come up for men. Having that traditional spouse at home – in unpaid labor, or part-time work – makes having a family possible.

    What’s the solution? I think universities should provide tenure-track faculty who are sacrificing their health and sanity with home-makers and personal secretaries. The people who are deciding on our promotions typically have that, if they’re men. If they’re women, not so much.

    1. Oh, + a million to everything you said. The only reason I didn’t address LGBT fit is that Sewanee’s EOE language didn’t even try in that regard. I imagine trying to make a life there as a gay faculty is hell in earth, something the heteronorming, class and race privileged nonacademics in this thread obviously don’t even think about.

  19. I think you make a lot of great points in this article. It’s certainly true that certain institutions/geographic locations can make non-white, non-anglo, non-hetero, non-cis-gender people feel geographically isolated. My question, from an institutional perspective, is, how do we go about making these institutions more diverse? I totally get that a person of color wouldn’t even consider applying at a place like Sewanee, given that there are very few, if any, faculty from diverse backgrounds. But how can this be changed? What would be a more effective way for these institutions to diversify, given that the search pool for institutions like Sewanee already starts out being extremely limited in terms of people from diverse backgrounds? Or, are you saying that it’s hopeless and there are some regions that will always remain segregated?

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