Bonus Rate My JIL: Inside Hires and Inside DIRT + Rate My Wiki

Hat-tip to reader John for this one:

Southern Illinois University, Carbondale: Assistant Professor of German. “Qualifications: Ph.D. in German Studies, or closely related field. ABD applicants will be considered if all degree requirements will be met by August 15, 2014. If all requirements for the Ph.D. are not completed by August 15, 2014, a 9-month term appointment may be offered at the rank of Instructor at a reduced rate of pay.” It’s cool, extremely obvious inside hire (who looks like a very nice person, btw), no pressure on finishing your dissertation. We are going to hire you whether you finish your dissertation or not. People who don’t already work here and have finished their dissertations need not apply.

I’m also very proud to have some inside dirt on this one:

Colgate, Visiting Assistant Professor of German. A friend of mine interviewed with Colgate a few years ago for a tenure-track job (I can’t tell whether the search was cancelled or not; their only junior faculty was hired in 2010, and my friend interviewed in January 2012, but it could be that said junior was a VAP who became an inside hire, and I don’t feel like figuring it out). During a post-mortem debrief at MLA, she told me that they interview “tribunal-style,” where they grill you on whether or not you know their program inside and out. “How would you compare our study abroad program to others?” I believe was the question. She hadn’t even pretended to know the answer, because unlike me, she hadn’t spent the previous week memorizing every detail about every program she was interviewing for and reading articles by the people about to interview her. I remember screaming at her in disbelief: “You don’t PREPARE for interviews?” That year, she’d gotten an interview at a place I didn’t and desperately wanted to work–without knowing a single thing about the place other than where it was located. She made it to campus, and only lost the job because they hired someone who was already on the tenure-track with a book out (who also happens to be a friend of mine, because the German world is tiny). All’s I’m saying is–some of the time you actually can get away with knowing jack-squat about the places that are interviewing you, but sometimes you can’t, and if you don’t internalize every minute detail of Colgate’s study-abroad program, you can kiss that 3/2 job “with the possibility of a third year” goodbye.


AND NOW, meine Damen und Herren, it’s time for…”Which Search Has Already Been Cancelled?” This year’s dubious honor goes to, drumroll please…

The University of North Dakota, an institution so legendary for in-fighting and backstabbing that several readers emailed me with either stories or hints (unfortunately, I’m sworn to secrecy–oh, the things I know. THE THINGS I KNOW. I wish I could un-know them!). So, all of you who were ramping up to Embrace your Inner North Dakotan and buy yourself a car-warmer and memorize the protocol for what happens if you get caught in an Alberta Clipper (CLEAR YOUR TAILPIPE EVERY FEW MINUTES OR YOU’LL ASPHYXIATE!!!), shut it down.


ALSO, according to this year’s trusty Wiki, which I now read purely out of Schadenfreude, there has already been “movement” on the following jobs, so those of you playing along at home for real can begin the Misery Spirals early! As you can imagine, I have a lot to say about the Wiki, which is wiki-why I’m writing a Viki-Vitae column about it for December (Peak Wiki), so I can’t say more about it here. But what I can do is try to assuage the pain a little for those of you already left on the shelf while you’re not even done submitting applications.

Penn State’s Advanced Assistant/Associate search has requested writing samples already. I’ve refrained from commenting on this search because I know people there, but you know what? Fuck it. It’s not the department’s fault, it’s the institution’s, so let them have it: this search exists because Penn State has decided it’s fucking Harvard, and denied tenure to an extremely wonderful and accomplished scholar last year. The department approved this individual, but the institution denied the case, because they are fucking psychopaths. This is a dirty, tainted job with blood allllll the fuck over its hands, and whoever gets it is basically a scab of the worst kind. Anyone with even the smallest amount of an ethical spine will stay far the f*ck away from a job vacated because someone who deserved tenure didn’t get it.

Princeton is also going through the motions of requesting samples from people who apparently did not think a writing sample was part of a “full dossier,” and may even page through a few before they decide which one of their own graduates they will hire. Because Princeton only hires the best, and since Princeton IS the best, there’s no way to hire the best that doesn’t involve hiring Princeton!

Transylvania U has requested some supplementary materials already; the rest of you can remain in the world of the living for now.

Mizzou has requested writing samples from established assistant professors with books out and favored pets of elite programs. Which of you will come and join me in a state where it’s legal to discriminate in housing based on marital status and sexual orientation?

I realize that making fun of this does not make the process any less painful, and for those of you who already see the machinations of the market marching along without you, as if you don’t even exist, as if they will not even give you a chance–I’ve been there, it’s harrowing, and for the next few months it’s only going to get worse. There are arguments both for and against even looking at the Wiki, and I would love to hear yours in the comments as I put this new Vitae column together.

20 thoughts on “Bonus Rate My JIL: Inside Hires and Inside DIRT + Rate My Wiki

  1. And these stories repeat themselves, with even more sordid twists and turns, across every.single.discipline. Academic meritocracy. Yeah. Let’s talk about the Loch Ness monster.


  2. Princeton used an online system to which one could only upload the documents they requested, among which a writing sample was not included. Amazingly, however, they requested a “bibliography,” as if only applicants with a dozen articles and a book were going to be considered.


  3. Wiki addiction is dangerous but otherwise, I feel lucky to have had that resource when I went up for jobs. Search committees may be overwhelmed but they act oblivious to the emotional and financial hardships of the search. Wiki news can hurt but it forces candidates to face to face the hard truth–you weren’t chosen or you’re one of 25 who was asked for a writing sample. I was never the type of girl to stand by the phone waiting for a guy to call, but the job search changed all that. One weekend when I saw a Wiki update that candidates were getting requests for interviews I actually thought my phone must have been broken. Why weren’t they calling me? Silence can be a form of power. The wiki shifts the power balance (a little).


  4. I’ve been a fairly regular user of the Wiki ever and I’m happy to say I’ve managed to escape addiction. I must say however that I’ve always been struck by the silence on the discussion page/comments section. I’ve looked at other academic wikis – postdocs, the French site etc. and they all seem rather chatty and social in comparison. I appreciate the reasons behind keeping it list-like and comment free, but at times I did find myself wishing for a bit more solidarity/ information-sharing.


    • I noticed that too! I would also like to provide a safe environment and solidarity on this blog–there are plenty of Germanists lurking, reading and commenting, but I realize a Wiki it’s not.


      • And you do marvellous work there – though I suspect the majority of venting is not in the responses. From the sound of it, you’re almost like a confessional (sworn to secrecy and all)!
        As to the Wiki business: from what I gather most think it’s better to be in the know, especially when it comes to booking flights and expensive hotels. And the information that appears on the Wiki tends to be rather accurate – though I know of cases where candidates were explicitly asked not to post information re. their campus visits etc. Personally, I appreciate every bit of knowledge wrested from those in power.. and breaking the silence, with whatever means, is good as far as I am concerned.


  5. I would be interested in your thoughts on this new phenomenon where departments without graduate programs are frantically trying to staff their programs with “Pre-Doctoral Fellows” and “Graduate Teaching Fellows” while one of their staff is on sabbatical/parental leave/etc. Used to be there would be a lot of sabbatical replacements in the form of Visiting Assistant Professorships. Now, though, departments without graduate students are increasingly turning towards exploitation of other programs’ grad students by giving them fancy titles for what amount to little more than adjunct positions. Or they’re scrambling to get one of the Fulbright Language TA’s, rather than offering people a real shot at a real experience to benefit them when they set out to find a real job. So now, even the VAP positions are eVAPorating (yuckyuckyuck).


  6. I’m sorry to correct something here, but the language in the SIU job ad (“ABD applicants will be considered if all degree requirements will be met by August 15, 2014. If all requirements for the Ph.D. are not completed by August 15, 2014, a 9-month term appointment may be offered at the rank of Instructor at a reduced rate of pay.”) is standard policy with almost all new tenure-track hires in the College of Liberal Arts. It was put into the language of my department’s most recent TT-search at the insistence of the CoLA dean, and we certainly do not have an inside candidate for that position.


  7. It would be interesting to see if SIU has *indeed* been phrasing “almost all” CoLA recent TT ads in the same way (it’s the new policy, wrote John, but have adds been reflecting this? Or is this the first one?).Hmm.


  8. Are you sure that the Department had nothing to do with the decision to deny tenure to the most competent professor in the department? Something else STINKS there.
    There is LOTS of blood as well as grad students without an advisor.


      • Perhaps, but only by means of a vote. And when push came to shove, where was the department to back her up when the university “blindsided” her?


      • I would imagine the non-tenured ones were totally cowardly, as they must be and as they have been trained to be. No telling about the tenured, though I know one of their “superstars” goes on the market for a fancier job literally every single year. He was a finalist for the chair job where I used to teach, but in the end it was pretty obvious to everyone that he wanted the job to have a better job for himself and his wife, and not to help the department.


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