On my ‘Job Ad Grade’ for Sewanee

by Rebecca Schuman

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.