Rate My JIL is back! Secondary Market Edition

So, you struck out on the robust 20-job tenure-track market this year. There’s a big surprise.

And yet, for some reason, many of you are probably readying the ol’ checking account to hemorrhage directly into Interfolio, to have a go on the “secondary market,” that august crop of non-tenure-track crap-show exploitationfests masquerading as jobs.

Why on earth are you not sticking a fork in your academic “career” and just moving the fuck on already? Reasons are many. Perhaps because your advisers are telling you to keep trying, it will get better next year! (It won’t).

Moving to an interesting new city for a year, such as Greensboro, NC, might be “neat” (unless you’re in a nice ol’ fashioned patriarchal marriage, it will only be “neat” if by “neat’ you mean “soul-screechingly, achingly isolated”)!

You’ll have time to get out a few publications, so that you can be more competitive next year (you won’t;  that no longer matters anyway)!

You never know, that one-year position might turn permanent (it “might” be renewed, year after year, and with each passing year you will become less and less of a “viable” candidate for any tenure-track position, anywhere, especially at said institution currently employing you as a VAP, which has all of the second-class citizenship of adjuncting, but with a full-time salary and benefits–but not, usually, any significant amount of money to help you move your entire person and belongings across the godforsaken country).

I’ll be writing about this on Vitae soon, so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the “secondary market” is exploitative, depressing and pretty much evil. And this year, it looks like it’s dwindling, too (“This food is terrible! And such small portions!”). There are currently five NTT “visiting” positions for you to waste $12 and untold hours of your life applying for. Here are some of them, and you’ll notice the grading system is different for this round. This time, I simply tell you whether it is worth your time and money even to apply.

Bowdoin, one-year sabbatical replacement, a.k.a. absolutely no chance whatsoever of turning permanent. “Candidates who allow us to expand our curriculum in new directions are preferred.” Because as the new kid, you can most certainly waltz into a department bearing some highly-experimental syllabus for a Senior Seminar, when they are expecting you to take all the miserable second- and third-year “bridge” courses (you know, when shit suddenly gets real, and students resent the fuck out of you for it? Those). Unless you already live in Maine, or you are from Maine, or you were already planning to relocate to Maine, NOT WORTH IT.

Princeton, part-time lecturer, aka adjunct. “The Department of German at Princeton University has an occasional need for lecturers (part-time) to teach German language courses.” That is: Princeton is advertising its fucking adjunct pool on the MLA list like it is something. I retract my previous grading system to add an option for SERIOUSLY? FUCK YOU.

University of Colorado, one-year Visiting Lecturer. Let’s see, would you enjoy working at an institution whose very possession of a sexual harassment and discrimination office precludes it from ever being responsible for any instances thereof? And instead works very hard to ignore them, until an outside review body comes in and releases a report so damning that it has no choice? I have been told by many, many readers in the past week that CU-Boulder is a fucking snakepit, and it’s not just philosophy. HOWEVER–being able to live for a year where the scenery is killer and the weed is legal, provided that you simply give up on being “productive” in any way (which you should, see introductory paragraph), might just make working in the sexual-harassment capitol of higher education WORTH IT.

UNC, Greensboro. Visiting Assistant Professor, no timeline specified, so you can assume it’s one year. “We are seeking a colleague with a promising research agenda in literary and cultural studies with preference for field of specialization between the 18th and 21st century, an outstanding commitment to excellence in teaching German language, literature, and culture at all levels, and a strong interest in working collaboratively with faculty and students across disciplines.” For a fucking one-year job, in a town where your spouse will certainly not be able to follow you. This job also has a 3/3 load, so you can kiss that “concentrate on cranking out publications” thing goodbye. Also they want you to teach online German. Also, they want you to act like it’s a goddamned tenure-track position, which it is not. Unless you already live in Greensboro, North Carolina, or your mom does, or you were going to move there anyway, NOT WORTH IT.

Vanderbilt. “Two year, non-tenure-track Assistant Professor of German.” See, we are calling it Assistant Professor, so that’s pretty much as good as being on the tenure track, right? Right? Oh, like you have a choice, pleb. Unless you already have plans to move to Rayna James/Juliette Barnes Central, NOT WORTH IT. Also, Juliette will obviously be joining the Highway 65 roster now, amirite? And I very much wish Will Lexington would come out. And is Lamar DEAD? I hope so, not because I enjoy it when people die, but because his character is annoying.

48 thoughts on “Rate My JIL is back! Secondary Market Edition

  1. Let’s not forget to mention that the Colorado job pays $40,000/year in *Boulder* … This is the going rate, though, for the lecturer/instructor gigs. VA Tech — one of the ones who doesn’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of applications and/or rejections — pays their full-time German lecturer $33,000/year. If it’s a public school, just do a Google search for that state’s public salary list and plug in the name of a person in a position you would be applying for. It will tell you exactly how much they earn. These lecturer/VAP/instructor jobs are for people coming out of a Princeton PhD with family money behind them … money which allows them to be able to take such jobs until their big break. You’d make more money as a Mississippi school teacher on an emergency certificate.

    Spot-on on the rest. The Princeton thing just baffles me beyond belief, though.


    • I agree on the substance of your comment, but I would like to point out that lots of people without family money can and do live in expensive areas on $30-40,000/yr, and the median American *household* income is somewhere around $45-50K, so I would appreciate if people would be careful about throwing around the assumption that a given salary is only survivable with family money. You never know who is in your audience. Whenever I see people identifying “insultingly low” full-time salaries it always reads as reinforcement of class divides to me, even though I know what you’re going for in this comment is the opposite.

      (I’m not implying anything about your financial circumstances, and definitely not defending the job market or saying people should move for these one-year gigs. This is just meant as a broad public suggestion of how to keep conversations about academic/post-ac employment feeling inclusive. I have rewritten it a ridiculous number of times because this is not a concern isolated to your comment, and I really hope it reads as constructive rather than argumentative.)


      • I’m sorry, I think maybe I should have been more thorough. You’re right — people do make it on these salaries. I myself could, as well. It becomes impossible if you’re the primary breadwinner for a family, but a single person could live *very* modestly. But this salary comes with hidden expenses: relocation (at least 1-2k), securing an apartment (first+last+security in major college towns — at least $2500), potentially furnishing an apartment, and then saving up to move after that one-year gig is over with. $40k/year without such expenses? Livable. 40k/year with such expenses? It’s not much different from living on a TA stipend.


      • That makes total sense. Thank you, both for clarifying and for being gracious about my using your comment as an example of something broader.


      • I think the bottom line is that VAP positions really only make sense if you already live in the location where the institution offering the job is located (and want to stay), or maybe if you already have connections in the area, and want to move there anyway, and the area offers other good job prospects (academic or non-). Otherwise, moving for a VAP position is a recipe for getting stuck somewhere where you have no support system or network, with no job. Definitely a “just say no” situation.


  2. Rebecca, ILY, so much that I kinda wish I’d taken more German so that I might be a better Scarlett to your Rayna. But it’s Haaaighwaay Sickstee Faaahve Records, not 68.

    P.S. If you wanna co-write a female stoner buddy comedy about two lady adjuncts at UC Boulder, I am down!


    • Nothing counts, except perhaps being the former advisee of a tiny handful of powerful people–but these days, not even *that* counts. Nothing counts. It’s a fucking crap-shoot. “Fit.” Not worth trying.


    • Once you rack up more than 1 or 2 high-profile publications, they actually start counting against you at almost all schools that aren’t Ivy/R1 institutions. You’re seen as too fancy and they’ll take you for a ditcher, but of course you probably won’t get hired at Yale either because they’re going to hire that guy (yes, guy) from Oxford/Sorbonne/Humboldt-Uni who already has 3 books out because nothing says fancy new faculty bauble like EUROPEAN. Or, if you have one good pub but it’s several years old, it’s “stale.” Lose-lose.


  3. “I arrived on this figure by not counting “open rank” or “advanced assistant/associate” openings, since those never, ever, ever, ever, ever go to beginning assistant professors”

    that implies there is even the slightest hint of following the rules. i have evidence to the contrary. multiple instances. shenanigans everywhere.


  4. I count six open rank searches (asst/assoc or asst/assoc/full) since 2009, with four of them leading to hires. Of the four hires, I think all were made at the assistant professor level, with three of them going to new Ph.D.s. The searches with hires were Texas Tech, advertised in 2009, and Grinnell, IUPUI, and NYU in 2011. It looks like the Texas Tech hire was about 4 years post-Ph.D. and was already in a prestigious TT position, while the other three were late-term ABD or new Ph.D.s. Even when they say they want to hire candidates with experience, they often don’t.

    The two apparently failed searches are both Northwestern (2009 and 2011). It’s possible they did make senior-level hires in those searches, but the outcomes of Northwestern searches always seem opaque.

    I haven’t specifically tracked advanced assistant searches, unfortunately, but I tend to agree that not many of those go to new Ph.D.s.


  5. Well… as a disinterested observer, and the conscience of this blog, I must say that the CU job doesn’t look THAT bad. At least, at first glance. Vail is only, what, 2 hours away by car? So you can do your German lecture/instruction thing in the morning, and ski a few hours in the afternoon. And if it’s a Friday, you can ski in the afternoon, and then stick around Vail for two extra days of skiing.

    I mean, yeah, OK, so it doesn’t lead to tenure. But it DOES lead to some pretty damn good skiing!

    My point is – let’s not paint every shitty non-tenure job with the same broad brush. Some jobs are less shitty than others.


  6. God I love this blog. I swear I’m going to get a tattoo on my forever-contingent-labor ass: “The first time you take an adjuncting job is the last time you’ll ever be considered for a TT job.”


  7. George, you are a hoot! Skiing at Vail. Yep, and RS can take advantage of her adjunct position in STL to eat at The Sidney Street Cafe every week.

    But RS, what would you suggest smaller departments do about VAP positions that are sabbatical replacements? 3- or 4-person departments aren’t leave-proof, so they need that replacement. Should we do away with sabbaticals entirely (honest question)? Is a one-year replacement position that pays ~$60K year + research funds + bennies for a 2/3 load exploitative? Moreover, the courses one is asked to teach in this position are not the dregs, but simply the classes normally covered by the person on leave, tweaked by whatever interests the visitor does have. All that said, does the mere fact of it being a terminal position entail exploitation?

    I think those sorts of jobs (sabbatical replacement) ought to be looked at much differently than the rotating VAPs or lectureships that many big departments use to fill out their curriculum. These jobs often entail teaching the classes tenure-stream faculty don’t want (bless their little hearts), are paid poorly, and seem designed to use the labor of the VAP, who teaches 3/3 or 4/4, simply to benefit TT and tenured faculty, who teach 2/2. That seems deeply unethical, both on the part of the departmental faculty, and on the part of the administration pushing these jobs. The Boulder and Vanderbilt jobs seem like the latter category, the Bowdoin job the former.

    Do people think these distinctions matter? Is *any* non-TT job a job not worth taking? I agree that they are often mis-sold and mis-understood as a foot-in-the door to TT employment at that institution, and that is not right. And all too often those who have taught in a number of NTT positions are passed over for TT positions because they are (wrongly, IMHO) considered stale. But *can* they give somebody valuable experience? When should one consider one of these jobs seriously, and when should run away?


    • I think those jobs should be filled by local people, as they used to be. MAs fine. Shouldn’t require or ask a PhD to put her entire life on hold and schlep across the country for nine months’ work that will actually make her chances for further work worse.


      • Not sure there are “local people” with the necessary expertise available in all locales. Are there that many Germanists (let alone physicists, Latinists, etc.) walking around Gambier, OH or Waterville, ME or Grinnell, IA or Crawfordsville, IN et al.? Can they drop everything to take up a full-time job every few years? For most institutions, the present system has been normal at least since the 70s. Before that maybe they’d employ faculty spouses (invariably women) as contingent labor. Surely we don’t want to return to those “golden years” of sherry and golf do we? While your idea may fly in places like Columbus, St. Louis, and Irvine, would it do so in Poughkeepsie?

        FWIW, I do think SCs need to change their criteria in order to reward those who do choose to schlep, rather than penalize them as they do now.


      • I suppose, but I had great fun at a couple of jobs like this, my favorites actually. At one of them especially, I made the most money I ever have, and taught 1 graduate seminar and 1 undergraduate course per term. And they had a good library. And as the IRS conveniently explained, my living expenses were tax deductible, even though travel to the place and back was not. And the job could not have been filled by an M.A. because the graduate students one was teaching already had much more than an M.A.


      • My dept. used to routinely hire local people to fill temporary teaching needs, but limiting searches to the local pool is no longer possible. The internet makes any job posting available nationally and not advertising nationally runs afoul of AA/EOE guidelines. Reason #856 why efforts like yours to make visible the downside to these jobs is so important. Just because the market will bear it, doesn’t mean it should or that individuals should sacrifice themselves to the market.


    • When I first went on the market I got 2 TT offers and one 3-year VAP. Liked that one, wanted to take it, wish I had. It was in good city and was well paid, and would have permitted me to recover from the PhD program and then go on the market for something good. As it was, I took the “sensible” option — nice TT job in nice SLAC, what everyone wants — and it was awful, as I am not a teacher-mother-suburbanite the way, as it turns out, many academics are. The shock was devastating and I am only beginning to recover now. Who knows, of course, what really would have taken had I accepted that VAP job, but something good, I am sure; it was in DC where there are all sorts of things to do. So no, the old-fashioned advice about only taking a tenure track job, and taking any tenure track job you can get, is not always perfect and can be a straitjacket.


  8. Except when you make $40000/year in Boulder, you probably have to pick between paying your rent and food and buying ski passes (not too mention that moving costs are never covered for VAPs, so that’s on you).
    I agree that not all visiting positions are created equal, but overall, if you take into account the toll relocating your life every year takes on you, VAP life sucks.


    • Yeah, washingbear beat me to it, but some numbers for those who aren’t convinced:

      A single half-day adult pass at Eldora costs $64. A full Eldora season pass is $469. Right now Vail lift tickets cost $119 PER DAY. Those big combo multi-mountain passes start at $500+ (the only one that includes Eldora is more like $700), and that’s if you bought them way back during the previous summer. If you don’t already have gear, get ready to toss out another $500 to pick up skis, bindings, and boots *if you’re lucky*. If you do plan to go to Vail/Breck/Keystone on the weekends, plan to spend 4+ hours in your car per weekend day (the traffic on I-70 is brutal and staying overnight is outrageously expensive) and pony up lots of $$ for gas and maintenance; mountain winter is hard on cars. Finally, if you want to live in a studio/one bedroom in Boulder – one that isn’t a shithole with flood damage on The Hill surrounded by crowds of undergrad dudebros – prepare to pay *at least* $1500/month. And remember, this is only a one-year gig. For $40K.


  9. George, no offense meant, but I don’t know in which world you live. Some people have a family to support and $469 for a season is a lot of money. As for “rent”, I meant housing rent, not gear renting. Also, parents buying gear? Some of us are not supported by their families in any way (which is, you know, normal, since we’re adults). We’re not here competing with contract lawyers to know who’s the most miserable (yes, that sucks, so does working at McDonalds, but that’s not the point of this blog). I won’t get into the gas money (20 miles X 2 X number of days skied in your “dream” = a fair amount of gas money). I also won’t get into the fact that being a VAP is not limited to teaching your classes, but also imply some prep and grading that you cannot perform on a ski lift.
    And I apologize for misspelling “to” in my previous post. Yes, I misspelled a two-letter word.
    Keep up with the Rate my JIL, Rebecca, it’s good and accurate.


  10. Well since these jobs suck, you can always come to the great north! No lie, I saw this ad a few weeks and immediately thought it merited a denouncement on Rate my JIL (or Rate my JIL-adjacent): http://www.mcmaster.ca/vpacademic/Hum_CLA_LingLang.html

    You only need to be competent in four unrelated fields! Pay is not listed, but it’s definitely well above 50K, could be closer to or above 60K. A lot of those Ks will of course go to cross-border move and high COL. You’d be able to afford to ski in the crappy southern Ontario resorts. You definitely won’t have time to, though. (George, are you joking? No really, I can’t tell.)


  11. P.S. I just noticed this:

    >Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Dear RS – if you want me to stop writing here, all you need to do is say so.


    • I have decided to moderate all comments for the time being, because some readers and commenters have been feeling bullied. If you don’t see a comment make it through, it’s because it has upset someone. You are always welcome to comment here, but some might not make it through moderation–and that’s true of everyone.


  12. “While your idea may fly in places like Columbus, St. Louis, and Irvine, would it do so in Poughkeepsie?”

    – My school is in a small Midwestern town, and this is how we handle sabbaticals. A colleague is up for sabbatical next year, so we all got together, I volunteered to take her research supervision duties and she will take up mine when she comes up. Then we divided her high-level courses among ourselves and gave our lower-level language courses to part-time local instructors. No searches were declared, nobody was asked to uproot themselves and follow a pipe dream at our school.’

    Departments have a lot of power to resolve these situations that they are simply not choosing to use. If a person who is going on a sabbatical teaches, say, a 500-level course that is a degree requirement, it can easily be waived just for that year and substituted with something different.

    If people know that opening searches for temporary positions is not an option, they find ways to solve everything very easily. All is needed is to decide from the start that people will not be treated like disposable paper towels.


    • Clarissa,

      How big is your department? What are your research expectations? Is what you describe feasible for a department of 3 or 4, 1 or 2 of whom may be pre-tenure (and who thus should be protected from such extra service)? My knee-jerk answer is “no.” Perhaps I am too hide-bound.


      • By extra service you mean research supervision of my colleague’s students, right? I’m pre-tenure but I volunteered because I don’t envision it as an extra hardship. There are three of us who have to split this person’s work (the 4th colleague has many other obligations and the 5th is the Chair.)

        Nobody would have made me do it if I hadn’t volunteered. The Dean said if we weren’t willing to solve this among ourselves, the colleague’s request for a full-year sabbatical would not be granted (as opposed to the more common 1 term.) And I really like this colleague. 🙂


      • Hi Clarissa,
        Yes, I do mean “extra service” by this. Sorry for not being clear. Is this sort of extra service normal across your institution? Will it be formally recognized by your institution’s promotions and tenure committee? Or, as I’ve seen in most places, will your own sacrifice be rewarded by you getting slammed for not producing more research (or, if not you personally, any generic junior faculty member behaving similarly)?

        On the one hand I think what you all are doing is quite laudable! On the other hand, I worry that what you are doing is simply allowing your Dean to run rough-shod over you as a department. Your department has now trained your administration to expect that you will do extra work for nothing. If your institution wants to support your colleague’s sabbatical then the institution should be doing the support, not you all.

        I fear that I am sounding like a stick in the mud here, and I really do admire your collective willingness to help each other out. But, this sort of behavior normalizes the “professoring as calling” problem we all suffer from. The more we “give” to our institutions, the more such giving becomes expected in due course. It ceases to be a gift and becomes folded into our duties. Teachers as a group widely experience this problem, and female teachers in particular suffer from it. You yourself may not think of such “volunteerism” as a hardship at this given moment (and I use scare quotes purposefully here as I don’t think junior faculty can truly “volunteer” for such things given the power imbalances entailed), but somebody else, some other time, may well (reasonably) feel that it is. How then do they respond? Can they really say no?

        Finally, it seems that, unless some of you are teaching overloads, then your department is necessarily offering a smaller slate of courses this next year. Especially for smaller departments this can be deadly. Do fewer students find your department over time? Are some students unfairly penalized by a relatively smaller number of courses to choose from? Again, these issues should not fall on your department’s collective and individual shoulders, but rather the institution should grant you the resources necessary for the proper support of your colleague’s sabbatical. Full stop.


      • I am trying to figure out why it’s acceptable and non-exploitative to guilt-blackmail a department into doing free work, especially those TT members of the department who essentially cannot say “no,” but it’s evil to offer the world at large a solid but not-impressive salary for the labour, where people can choose to apply for the job or not based on whether it works with their lives. So I guess I am also too hide-bound.

        Yes, this is just a department handling its business. All of these job ads come from departments handling their business. It don’t make it right.


  13. Brilliant on all counts, Schuman!

    Here is search committee take on VAPS: The SC looks down on candidates who couldn’t seal the deal at their VAP position. You say, “but it was only a sabbatical replacement for a year”— doesn’t matter to SC. If you’re great then, according to SC, the school would have hired you full time in some position.
    Don’t argue with this mindset. If you failed to get a job, my advice: stay on as a lecturer at your PhD granting institution. It is evidence that people at your grad program liked you enough to keep you. It’s the only NTT position that SC respect. If you say, “well, my grad program told me I can’t stay on because the new graduate students are coming in,” then you’ve just told me that no one liked you in your grad program and so they offered you the lame funding excuse to get rid of you. None of this is fair or logical or good for “business.”


    • I was offered a lectureship at my PhD granting institution–three times. And then advised to turn it down three times. “Working at a new institution will show search committees you can navigate a new place!” “This ACLS fellowship is going to be huge for you!” Etc. I often wonder what (likely better) turn my life would have taken if I’d just transitioned to perma-lectuership at UC-Irvine instead.


      • This kind of “advice,” as I’m sure you know, is so dubious. There are so many ways of interpreting career moves, I doubt that two committees think alike.


    • This assumes one can stay on. At my PhD program nobody, ever, was given this option. It was a kick out of the nest, go fly on your own mentality. It sucked.


    • My uncle was chancellor at UMM for years. He cut several athletic programs to keep the liberal arts alive. He was flayed for it. FWIW, I think UMM is the type of place that actually *would* hire their internal after 3 years of loyal service.


  14. Colorado is the perfect fit. I’m a young single male, so this whole immune to all forms of sexual harassment thing is pretty choice. Smoke weed with the more attractive undergrads, bring up the subject of an A based on a different form of oral performance, and bask in the fact I can get in on that whole sleeping with student thing long before I become some creepy old guy with tenure.

    At 40k a year I can economize, maybe tend bar a little on the side. After all not like that salary motivates me to work extra. Come winter and prime ski season we’ll be nicely into the winter term so no way they’ll fire me and hand my class over to a tenure track, so hello three and fourday weekends on the slopes. Or maybe middle of the week to beat the rush. Hmmm…


  15. The ONLY way any of this shit will stop is with some kind of real, national, adjunct-focused union. I realize this is a dream,but it is just true. In Canada everyone is unionized, but the adjuncts belong to the same union as everyone else, and it is to everyone else’s advantage that adjuncts continue to teach twice as much for half the pay.


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