You love your school.

You love the Episcopal Church (which, as far as cults that worship made-up stories and impose those made-up stories’ values on others, is not as bad as a lot of them).

You love rural Tennessee. It’s not as racist as I think it is (except to the people of color who tell me that it is–but why listen to them? They’re just playing the VICTIM card, right? Just scared of “closet monsters”?).

Great. I’m glad you love your whole experience. I was born at Deep Springs College and lived there until I was five, so I, too, know from isolated rural colleges and why they can be a real “community”–in fact, I’d say that from my experience at Deep Springs, a fifty-person, self-sustaining community many hundreds of hairpin-turning, carsick-making miles away from any major city, I know more about that than you do.

Do you know what I also know more about than you do? The post-2008 academic labor market. When I say that a small, rural institution in the middle of nowhere has the kind of profile for which a person with a working spouse, or a person of color, would not be a good “fit,” this is from years of experience on the market and studying the market, and reading about the market, and talking to people who are in charge of the market.

The entire point of my “Job Ad Grade” for Sewanee is that women and people of color will automatically be a poor “fit” for an institution with this profile, and so I MADE A FUCKING JOKE about the EOE language that calls this irony into question. Are there exceptions? Of course.

But the problem of the university town—which was invented before women or people of color joined the professoriate—remains, no matter where it is. Did I take some cheap shots at an easy target (i.e. Tennessee, which is home to a bunch of the dickholes currently responsible for shutting down our government)? Yes. And for that I apologize–and have apologized.

But I wrote the “grade” like that because I would have made a similar joke with any  school in a rural area in a region that has a poor reputation–deserved or not, though in the case of Tennessee most certainly deserved–for diversity and for having any industry whatsoever that would give a working spouse, especially a nonacademic working spouse, a chance.

Here is a list of non-Southern institutions for which I would have made almost an identical joke, and the near-identical jokes I would have made for them all:

  • Bates (Maine): “I hope Stephen and Tabitha King decide to become polyamorous in the next few years, because that is your only chance at finding a mate in rural Maine, unless you enjoy having sex with students, WHICH IS ILLEGAL and gross!”
  • Bennington (Vermont): “Actually I don’t know if it’s illegal–or even discouraged–to fuck your students at Bennington. There is probably a class in proper techniques for student-professor sex at Bennington.”
  • Whitman College (Washington): “If you don’t have a spouse yet, you can marry into one of the onion-farming dynasties! Or, more likely, find a marvelous specimen at the nearby penitentiary!”
  • Grinnell (Iowa–also my Granny, Aunt and Uncle’s alma mater!): “All that time alone will give you many extra hours to write angry letters to Rep. Steve King, who is also responsible for this shutdown shit-show we’re in right now!”
  • Carleton (Minnesota–also where I have applied to work three times!): “Don’t worry: you will be too busy freezing to death to realize how lonely you are.”
  • Vassar (my ALMA MATER! WHICH I LOVE!, in Poughkeepsie, NY): “You can be one of the ‘cool’ professors, who has a spouse in NEW YORK CITY, or one of the even COOLER ones, who fucks your students!”
  • The Pennsylvania State University (a RESEARCH-ONE UNIVERSITY! A “PUBLIC IVY!” Also a place I have applied to work, twice, and very badly wanted to work): “It’s cool, your spouse can get a job as House MILF at one of the frats!”

Some of my commenters (although none with first-hand faculty experience, all former students who may have a slightly different idea of what life in the faculty “community” at a place like that is really like) have pointed out that unbeknownst to me, Sewanee does make a special effort to accommodate spouses. That is great. I admire them for it, and hope that is really true. If I had known that, I would have found something else to make fun of for that ad, or left it off and made fun of one of the “open-rank” positions instead.

But my point is: shit got away from the real issue here, which is that…

a) the German job market this year is beyond pathetic (fifteen positions! And that’s COUNTING the SLA/linguistics and medievalist ones!)

b) many of the jobs are themselves not that great, “brass ring” or no (being THE ENTIRE German department? Having no chance at tenure? No fucking thanks)

c) the language administrations make people use in their ads is sometimes at odds with the actual candidates who will be a good “fit” at the institution.

I hereby now declare a 100% moratorium on arguing about Sewane: University of the South, with anyone, ever again. It’s a fine place. The ad grade wasn’t about it specifically. Truce.

Any comments from now on, on any post, about Sewanee: University of the South, will be moderated out automatically. Do not fucking talk to me about this bullshit anymore. It is a distraction from the real issue at hand—which is not, mind you, me and my shitty attitude, which are both quite well-loved at the institution I now teach, thankyouverymuch, but which is, in fact, the incontrovertible fucking fact that the German job market this year is the worst it has ever been, and people going out on it need to be duly forewarned.

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6 thoughts on “All RIGHT you Sewanee motherfuckers, I get it.

  1. Baha. Wait, are Sewanee comments going to be moderated out of this post too?! Just kidding. Hopefully people find this when they wind up at the other posts.

    I can’t speak for the rest of the Sewanee folk who wound up here through Slate, but after looking at some of your other articles I definitely appreciate the points you are bringing up.

    As you mentioned elsewhere, it seems like the two-body problem will only increase given the glut of people looking for jobs. Given that you are familiar with the market for professors, do you see any trend in increasing provisions for a spouse or does it seem like they are getting fewer and fewer? You may have addressed this in other posts — I have only had the time to read a few. Thanks.

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    1. This is not a “YOU TRASHED MY RANDOM TINY COLLEGE I HATE YOU” post so I won’t moderate it out! The two-body problem couldn’t really get much worse–basically what we’re told right now is to be jaw-achingly grateful (get it? from all the metaphorical blowjobs) for any permanent or semi-permanent employ ever, no matter where it is, no matter the personal sacrifice for it. We are supposed to be family-less, personal-life-less, hobby-less research automatons who DEIGN to teach (even at a teaching institution!), who value the Life of the Mind over the life of the whole person. No institution has to provide for spouses because, like you said, as long as there are 500 applicants for every job, why should they? The only way it will get better is if most PhD programs in the US shut down, and what few PhDs remain opt completely out of academia. But if only a few programs remain open, they’ll be the “elite” ones and that will create a monopoly of thought and…the whole thing is fucked. higher ed is a nightmare. Which is a shame, because teaching college is amazing. I never want to be an academic again–but I want to teach college for the rest of my life.

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  2. Graduate schools should counsel PhD candidates to date and partner with hairdressers, doctors, and fundraisers. We never have trouble finding work anywhere. Even in Sewanee.

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