A note: hello new readers! I love you! Now hear this: this post has been edited several times for accuracy after excellent notes from my tipsters. I should also point out to any new readers mercifully unfamiliar with my dubious oeuvre that I have no plans to apply for a tenure track position in German in the near or distant future. I left that all behind this past April and am now quite happily carving out my own path as a freelance writer and dissertation coach, which I love (and if you’d like some help finishing yours, just let me know. My client roster is almost at capacity, but I have room for one or two more).
These days, I adjunct three courses per semester at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Pierre Laclede Honors College, with the best and most inspiring students ever, the nicest colleagues in the world, pay that would be a crime anywhere but St. Louis but is just fine here and well above the national average, and plenty of free time to devote to pillorying the job market that nearly ate my soul. If you like this ditty, please stay tuned for my fearless and scathing new column for the Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae project, Market Crash Course, in which I provide gallows humor, real talk, virtual hugs and even a few practical suggestions. Launching in October!
Also, for a near-daily dose of 140-character realness, follow me on the Twittarz @pankisseskafka!
How do the advertisements for this year’s barely double-digit crop of Assistant Professor positions in my discipline measure up? I evaluate some of the finest specimens, and say aloud everything you know to be super-true but for reasons of propriety and/or simpering cowardice, you refrain from stating publicly:
University of Missouri, Columbia. “Specialization open; theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches welcome.” This position will go to an Assistant Professor already in her fourth year on the tenure track at a comparable flagship R-1 institution, who works exclusively on Goethe. Ad Grade: C+. The “+” is for high-profile use of the administration-pleasing buzzword “interdisciplinary.”
Sewanee: The University of the South, 18th and 19th C. “Minorities and women are encouraged to apply.” Ad Grade: D- for the blatant disingenuousness of “encouraging” women and minorities to apply for a job in rural Tennessee, where no working spouses shall trail, at a Church-run institution that proudly calls itself “University of the South,” and thus surely has a distinguished record of providing a safe and welcoming environ for people of color. Bright side: only an hour from the thriving metropolis of Chattanooga. It’s not that I don’t commend Sewanee for being an EOE. I do. It’s just–come on. A nice good ole White patriarch is going to be the best “fit” for that job.
Transylvania University, 19th and 20th C Cultural Studies. “Native or near-native fluency in German and a commitment to assuming the responsibilities incumbent upon a faculty member in a dynamic, one-person, German Studies program required.” You will be the entire German Department at this tiny college in Lexington, KY, until the vampires get you, too. Ad Grade: Team Edward 4 Lyfe!
University of North Dakota, “Strong Generalist.” I hope this Generalist, if female, is Strong enough to live in North Dakota in perpetual solitude, or is interested in marrying one of Dick Cheney’s grandkids. Look, North Dakota is spectacularly beautiful when you’re not freezing your nuts off, but you’d be fucking bananas to think anyone but a man in a traditionally patriarchal family situation would be a “fit” in this area. Ad Grade: 30 below zero.
Northwestern, Post-1750. “The successful candidate should demonstrate the ability to pursue a sustained program of research, engage in outstanding teaching in a broad range of undergraduate and graduate courses, and help shape a small yet vibrant department.” Enter this “vibrant” department in the final years before it gets so small it’s absorbed into European Studies, and enjoy students who are more “inspired” by the adjuncts whose ability to house and feed themselves are directly tied to their evaluations. This search will be cancelled, as it has been for several years (see also: last year’s debacle at Berkeley; my former employer’s outside chair search). Ad grade: D+. The “+” is for soliciting a 50-page writing sample in the first round. Enjoy pretending to read those.
Tufts, open specialization, open rank. This “tenure-stream” position is for someone with “demonstrated excellence” in “teaching at the college level in North America.” So, have fun getting this job, tenured Associate Professors who are native Germans, and nobody else. Ad grade: D-. The “-“ is for using British/Canadian terminology in a sad attempt to out-pretentious Harvard.
Harvard, open specialization. “Assistant professor appointments are for a term of five years, with review for possible promotion to associate professor in the fourth year.” Enjoy four years in “the Awesomest Post-Doc Ever,” filled with awesomely enormous amounts of scrutiny and pressure, awesome instances where you accidentally mortally offend one of the Übermenschen by doing nothing that you know of, and then awesomely don’t get tenure no matter what you do, because this department appears to have promoted exactly one person since the Reagan administration. Ad Grade: A. Because that’s the only grade anyone at Harvard ever gets, and at least they’re being honest in their horribly menacing ad. This search will also be cancelled.