Rate the JIL, Oct. 11

Randolph Macon College, Visiting Assistant Professor of German. Non-perfect “fits” need not apply to this position, which requires not only extensive pedagogical experience at all levels of German, but also a secondary speciality, or “interest,” in “politics, business [or] service learning.” But of course, why wouldn’t they be picky? They deserve someone perfect for this non-tenure-track job of unspecified duration but very specified employment instability. This institution is part of a very annoying trend, of low-profile institutions requiring an extensive application dossier—and an MLA interview—for a one- or two-year position (the listing specifies at great length what the candidate must have, but not how long this contingent job is for). Alas, whatever “lucky” sonofabitch they hire after their extensive (and expensive) search will not have much time to engage in service learning, because s/he will have to go back on the market the second s/he moves, largely at his/her own expense, to Virginia.


I was joking with my husband in the car on the way to our weekly grocery shopping trip today about this shitty ad, shitty because it is missing a VERY KEY PIECE OF INFORMATION–how long is this verkockte job for? How many months or years will its lucky recipient be out of the bread line? People care about this shit, you know. Not to mention that this is a job that would not get a second look in a market that wasn’t so abjectly desperate. My husband said: “Why is it that the middle-of-nowhere South is the last place with tenure-track jobs in the country?” I reminded him that this wasn’t a tenure-track job, but I know what he means, and I have noticed a trend in the past five years I’ve been out there in the trenches.

A few years before I went on the market, there were about 70 jobs in German, and they were all over the country, at every kind of school, from elite national universities, to plucky directional and regional schools like the one where I currently teach (and most faculty in the US teach), to small liberal-arts colleges like Randolph-Macon. The first year I went on, the geographic variety was still there, but there were about 35 jobs instead of 70. The second year I went on, there were again about 35, but I noticed a marked difference in where they were: this time it was predominantly elite institutions (including top-tier SLACs) and smaller-profile schools in the Midwest and South. By the fourth and final year I went on (last year), there were only elite universities, “public Ivies” and random tiny places. This year, it has become completely polarized: the elitest of the elite (Princeton, Harvard, Northwestern, Tufts) and podunk places in the South. There aren’t even any podunk places in the Midwest anymore. South only. I was thinking about why this is, and I have a Schubecculation about it, which is amplified by a few of the Sewanee defenders from last week’s Sewbacle chastising me for not praising Sewanee for not using adjunct labor.

First of all, praising a university for not using adjunct labor is like praising a parent for taking care of his own fucking kids. You shouldn’t get a reward. That should be the lowest standard of acceptability. BUT, second of all, there is a very good reason that Sewanee doesn’t use adjuncts–nobody would adjunct there, because it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere and if you made $6000 a year there you would starve to death. Rural Southern institutions are the last place in America that can’t rely on adjunct labor because they don’t have the PhD-glut population density that the coasts do, and I guess increasingly the Midwest does too (I keep hearing that towns like Columbus and State College are Coming Back, and I guess that’s true, from the lack of jobbage at such places–I mean, Penn State has decided it doesn’t have to tenure people anymore because it can just get someone new and cheaper and “better” every six years–a Public Ivy taking a lesson from the Real Ivies if ever there were one!). The rural South is the last place that actually has to recruit PhD talent and pay it something resembling a living wage.  So as much as I make fun of the area for its slavery and its segregation and its Tea Partying and its general red-state dickishness, the fact that its colleges and universities can’t (yet) get away with using a majority-adjunct workforce (exception: Atlanta, Athens, Chapel Hill, Asheville, other “desirable” locations–and I KNOW DESIRABILITY IS RELATIVE! FUCK! OFF!) is admirable.

Meanwhile, elite universities will keep hiring tenure-track faculty and not giving that faculty tenure for time immemorial. By next year even the Southern tiny-schools will have found some desperate adjunct labor, and the faux “tenure-“track positions will be all there is left.

So, my question is: since people will not, no matter what we warn them about, stop getting PhDs in German, how can we convince German PhDs to aim their dissertations for alt-ac employment and opt out of this truly ridiculous “market”? How much longer is this going to be allowed to go on before a group of self-professed Marxists says DAS REICHT?

10 thoughts on “Rate the JIL, Oct. 11

  1. Don’t forget that places like Georgia fund higher-ed through state lottery money, which never seems to run out. My small school out in the middle of nowhere is still finding some takers for ‘lecturer’ positions, but those folks are often driving 2 hours away from the main metro area.


  2. Pretty soon, I swear we’re going to read ads like this:

    “In addition to teaching Shakespeare studies, introductory & advanced writing, 19C slave narratives, graphic novels, and Asian documentary film, the successful candidate will also be strong enough to replace the water bottle for the cooler, adept enough to help the chair jumpstart his/her car, specialize in replacing the printer toner cartridge, and help the committee understand what the heck a ‘retweet is.”


  3. I have noticed the same phenomenon in the modern European history job list over several years, and though I agree with your explanation, there is a complementary theory having to do with subject matter. In most history departments, the Modern Europe tenure lines are getting cut in favor of non-Western history. (To be clear, I think this is mostly a good thing, despite my idiotic decision to study the British empire and thus get classed as a Europeanist!)
    Then it’s only the elite universities who can afford to keep hiring Europeanists as well as fill new lines in Africa & Asia; or the institutions in less cosmpolitan locales that don’t have the institutional pressure to beef up their non-Western history offerings (e.g. the need to offer church history protects Europeanists at religious institutions, a disproportionate number of which are in the midwest/south).
    It makes me wonder if a similar thing is happening to foreign language departments: European languages are losing funding (and tenure lines) to Asian language departments.


    • In the foreign languages there are most certainly ebbs and flows of “high demand” languages, and German has not been high-demand for many, many years. However, I think that across disciplines, there are simply so many PhDs in “desirable” areas that nobody needs to do a national search anymore unless they want a potential “superstar” (whom they will then not tenure, for to take advantage of an even buyer’s-ier buyer’s market six years down the road). I honestly don’t think the discipline matters: if it’s an area where you simply cannot get away with hiring an adjunct, you won’t; if you can, you will.


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