The Customer is always right, and the Customer “needs” an A.
This ad for an off-conference TT job at a regional campus of Texas A&M seems pretty normal along the lines of today’s job market.
- Grueling 4-4 teaching load? Check.
- Mind-blowingly rote courses? Check. (Freshman Comp! “Sophomore Literature,” whatever the fuck that is. Ooh, Shakespeare once every two years, edgy.)
- Stupidly specific requirements of applicants? Check. (“18 graduate credit hours” in everything you want to teach…so, your candidate’s expected to have repeated Freshman Comp and “Sophomore Literature” 6 times? Each? In grad school? You do realize that most grad students take one class in a breadth area, not fucking six, right? And that they get their breadth and depth by reading for, and passing, their comprehensives? And writing something called a “dissertation”? Oh, I give up.)
But honestly, that could be any ad these days, in any humanities department (complete with Freshman Comp–they expect everyone to teach that these days, which is both an insult to the entire discipline of composition and rhetoric, and a gross misuse of university resources–and you know if I’m defending comp/rhet, where every single one of my sworn enemies resides, it’s important). Teaching loads are high nowadays, and the few humanities classes administrations deem “worthwhile” enough could be taught by a precocious twelve-year-old. None of this is special.
But, speaking of “administration,” here’s what is special about this ad, and by “special” I mean *FACEDESK HARUMPH LET IT END*. And that is the header, in all-caps (which I hope is search-committee code for “the fucking administration made us put this here”):
PROVIDE EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE
Oh good. Oh, good. Customer service. Because students are customers. We are the employees charged first and foremost with creating a “customer experience,” with keeping the “customer” happy. You know what keeps higher-ed customers happy? As. Sucking-up. Never, ever criticizing them about anything. Never, ever, ever “making” them read “boring” things or do “hard” problem sets, or do anything with their brains that causes temporary discomfort. Franz Kafka once wrote that he only liked to read books that made their readers feel liked they’d been punched in the head. To the idea that one should read what makes her happy, he scoffed: “Those books that make us happy we could write ourselves.” I think the same is true for the #1 “customer” experience in college. The class that would make the average student “happiest” is the one where you never have to go, you take quizzes with answers you can Google, you cut-and-paste your papers from Wikipedia, and you get an A anyway.
The corporatization of higher education is a foregone conclusion. The commodification of everyone in it is the natural result. But when this corporatization, and its resulting commodification, are RIGHT there in a job ad…well, should we be depressed about the state of higher education, or impressed with this ad’s directness?