This time of year is when the really interesting jobs start getting posted. The regular tenure-track cycle is now in the deadline phase (and soon to enter the wiki-nightmare phase–don’t worry, I’ll have a Vitae column on that!), and so the job listings we get now are all just a little…off. Check this one:
East Carolina U, Dept. Chair, Foreign Lang and Lit. I mean, I’ve seen some wack-ass listings this year, but at least they were in states that exist. I wonder if the sports here are in the same conference as West Dakota and North Virginia. (Yes, I am aware that East Carolina University is in North Carolina, so don’t fucking start with me. It’s a goddamned joke.)
Now check this out:
USC. “The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Language Center invites applications for an Associate Director for Articulation and Assessment. This is a full-time, 12-month staff position, which reports to the Executive Director of the Language Center.” This is an alt-ac position, advertised on the MLA JIL with the faculty positions.
On the one hand, I like what this portends, which is the normalization of staff positions and other alt-ac tracks for MLA list job-hunters. On the other, this demonstrates once again how utterly decimated many foreign-language job markets are, that a staff position that even five years ago would not have been on the radar of recent PhDs would be marketed to them. Presumably, there have always been highly-qualified candidates for jobs like these–M.A.s in linguistics and SLA (second-language acquisition), I would assume. From reading the listing, there is nothing in this job that would require either a PhD in any given language, or a PhD in SLA, or a PhD in linguistics, or a PhD of any sort. But this year, because this is a very solid-looking 12-month job in a highly, highly desirable location (one where I, in fact, quite passionately desire to live), chances are they will end up hiring a PhD.
And then suddenly there will be another class of jobs that “requires” a doctorate, because UCLA’s language center won’t want someone with an MA when USC’s has a PhD, and so on. On the one hand, this is (I guess) sort of a relief for the hordes of foreign-language PhDs coming into a nonexistent market–here’s another thing you can do!
But on the other, the PhD-ness of this particular “alt-ac” job is basically manufactured as a direct result of the job market. Maybe I feel bad for the otherwise wonderfully-qualified people with MAs who should not be punished for the wisdom not to pursue a PhD. I don’t know. But as much as I do support non-faculty career paths for PhDs (and am, in fact, quite happily on one myself), I’m just not sure marketing this sort of job on the MLA JIL is the right way to adapt to a changing world.
You know what else isn’t a good way to adapt to a changing world? Giving me a bunch of remarkably poorly-thought-out claptrap about how contingency is actually great. I realize this guy’s in the UK, where the NHS makes it so nobody has to worry that they’re one case of pneumonia away from death and destitution, but still. For fuck’s sake, when we have self-identified academics acting like Silicon Valley codebros (I’m surprised he didn’t end the article with “#meritocracy”), shit’s gone very, very awry.