Schu’s News ANALysis: Adjunct Nate Silver’s Explosive Program Rankings

Now that the entirety of German Studies has seen–and in some cases had a shit-fit about–the latest and most explosive from “Adjunct Nate Silver,” you know I can’t let that shit go without at least a LITTLE bit of commentary. So, since it’s been a hell of a day (most of which I cannot comment on), I’m just going to do this PALE FIRE style. HA! Nabokov. Anyway.

Ranks 1-4. Princeton was no surprise, but there was a minor disagreement between Adjunct Nate and myself, around the question: If a program hires one of its own PhDs, does that really count as placing a tenure-track hire? I say no, ANS says yes, and now I pose it to you. Without that tenth placement, that kicks Princeton’s dominance down just a tad–though, to my taste, not enough. I’d imagine that everyone at Penn State and U of Cincinnati are shitting themselves, to which I say: I join in your glee that you have tromped all of the Ivies but one. However, a 38-46% employment rate is not a reason to be going around insisting that graduate programs should not be shrunk–and should, in fact, be grown. (More on that soon, below.)

Ranks 5-11. Ah, Hopkins, alas. Your grad students are throwing shitfits about shrinking their programs why exactly? It is clear your German program can’t place for shit, so maybe quit trying to staff your $60K/year school with cheap labor (although when they replace the grad students, it will just be with another kind of cheap labor–maybe with their own PhDs, since apparently they can’t find any other jobs). Huge congrats to North Carolina for beating all the Ivies but Princeton, and also to UMass (!), Indiana and UVA for beating most of them.

Ranks 12-17. Oof, Harvard, that’s gotta hurt. Apparently the only people who get hired from Harvard are the Harvard PhDs Harvard hires as Harvard Fellows.

Ranks 18-27. Oh look, it’s me! It depresses me that my department is technically one Schuman away from making it to the one-in-four club. However, we still beat Cal, which I can’t help but laugh about ruefully, because the were so unbelievably condescending to us (and still are). I guess they’re so busy deciding they’re too good for all the faculty candidates that come in that they forget to get their own students jobs. And, of course….terribly surprising and grim numbers from such “top” programs as Chicago, Columbia, Stanford and the ever-snooty WashU.

This might seem crass–and know that I am NOT making fun of the students in these programs. Students: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT you didn’t get jobs. IT is the MARKET. Period. Ende. Punkt. Definitiv. But there is still so much meritocracy bullshit talk out there, and I should know. After “Thesis Hatement” I got a lot–A LOT–of condescending messages from elitists about how since I was too dumb to get into somewhere like Stanford, or Chicago, or WashU, I’m obviously too dumb to get a job. I may be too dumb to get a job, but that’s because I was too dumb not to go to Cincinnati or Penn State. PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR THE WIN!

12 thoughts on “Schu’s News ANALysis: Adjunct Nate Silver’s Explosive Program Rankings

  1. I’m actually not *too* surprised by these results. A lot of the jobs out there are at working-class public schools — particularly regional schools and rural SLACs. I mean, let’s say there’s a position for a full-time TT job at Western Regional State University. And then let’s say we have these two candidates:

    J. Doe: BA (Directional State U), MA (State Flagship U), PhD (Other State Flagship U)

    J. Smith: BA (Oberlin), MA (Yale), PhD (Harvard or Elite State U)

    Both candidates will have produced quality dissertations and research (there really is no difference between Harvard and Other State U. dissertations and research, sorry!).

    J. Doe will likely have a lot of teaching experience at many levels, a lot of experience dealing with diverse learners, similar research experience to J. Smith, experience trying to squeeze blood out of administrative turnips, and experience attempting to grow programs that constantly face cuts.

    J. Smith will have taught introductory language (maybe) and perhaps been a grader. They will have taught exclusively carefully-selected learners. And otherwise they will have done very little else other than course work, exams, and research.

    If I’m hiring for my regional university’s program, I’m going to choose the person who will have most likely proven that they can face the challenges that small public programs face. I also want someone on my staff who is more likely to understand where my students come from, on a personal level. Right or wrong, a completely privately-educated candidate who went to the “best” (most expensive) schools will send a signal that they probably won’t be the best fit (or example) for students who are the least likely to come from privileged backgrounds. Plus there’s always that lingering thought that the candidate sees our modest program as an avenue to bigger and better things and will jump ship at the first opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a really lovely hypothetical. Premised on the conviction that search committees make sense and hire the best person for the job. I’d love it if state schools reproduced themselves by hiring state school PhDs. In my experience, however, in English literary studies, they don’t. The only ways to survive the academic job market are 1. not need or want an academic job 2. not need or want to believe that hires make sense and 3. not need or want one’s ideals to manifest in the world we live in.


      • You’re right. It probably is a bit of wishful hypothesizing on my part. 😦 But maybe not? I have been a fly on the wall during many many many hiring committee meetings at a regional public, and the comments I heard were sort of like what I described above: “Do you really think Frau Dr. Moneybags can reach *our* students? What about Herr Dr. von Modestmeans? His background really seems to line up with our student demographic.” It was a humane department, though. I adored it. Their chief concern was whether the person could teach. In second place was the probability that they would be team players and pull their service/advising weight. In third place was research, and in that instance it was basically just a question of whether they would be likely to be able to satisfy the research requirements for tenure. They didn’t seem impressed by bloated research-based CV’s. Not at all. And there *are* other departments like that out there. Honestly, I’d take a TT job at a regional public school over ANY other. Unfortunately, those schools tend to never really be able to offer very many TT jobs. 😦 Every time someone retires, they have to completely discontinue the position.


  2. I found the article itself very thoughtful, but all this “giggliness” (Nabokovian or otherwise) seems misplaced and a little crass.


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