What does ‘Assistant Professor’ Mean? Beats the Everloving Shit Out of Me…

Today’s article on Vitae is about a total outlier phenomenon that is still really annoying: the “assistant professor” job listing that isn’t one. I would like this NOT to become a trend. Here’s a taste:

So can I play, too? Can we do the same thing with the higher ranks? Like, can we just advertise two-year, 5/5 contract jobs as “Eminent Scholars” now? Ooh, what about “tenure”? Can we just decide that the word “tenure” actually means, “to put in six years of service to the university, at which point the employee’s body will be donated to the medical school for experiments, dead or alive”?


22 thoughts on “What does ‘Assistant Professor’ Mean? Beats the Everloving Shit Out of Me…

  1. Can I play? “Executive in residence” is for friends of the dean who aren’t qualified to teach but got laid off from their jobs.


  2. the decision to slaughter in university life is laudable, but the one after death is the gesture the teacher, professional unfulfilled, whose intellect, hopes his recognition, in nothingness, though the logic own conscience, know from the start that without personal consent, geniuses are subject the science with the approval of the heirs, paid ‘fatty’ for their kinship, genetics, then when appropriate. In other words, morgues are full of corpses Unclaimed and exhibited the scientific exploration, which is not the case the university professor out of you, whose human nature is prone to daydreaming. What’s your response to this accusation the University, where you profess, or of the parent, or the student, and why not, even the student in training which yourself admire?


  3. And there should be a law against saddling contingent family with non-standard or humiliating titles, too. “Lecturer” is fine. “Instructor” is fine. Having “semester-contract non-continuing instructional staff” or something like that stuck on your CV forever is not fine. And the “teach 4-4 for 30K” postdocs should be banned outright.


    1. Yes! I’m technically a “non-renewable term instructor” right now, but damned if I’m putting that on my CV. I think “instructor” covers it just fine!


  4. There’s a similar problem with listings for some postdocs. In STEM, at least, a postdoc is supposed to mean a one- to three-year position under the supervision of some senior faculty with few or no teaching obligations. But sometimes “postdocs” have heavy teaching loads, especially if they’re not at top schools. We call them “fauxdocs.”


  5. I hate to tell you, but you’re wrong on this. Rank and tenure- vs. non-tenure track are two different things. Basically assistant professor requires a doctorate and may be in positions where there will never be funding for a tenure line. It helps the person in terms of where they are on the salary scale and in negotiations if applying for t/t later. At my previous university, Portland state, full time non-t/t people had no expectations of scholarship, fairly cursory annual reviews, and a higher teaching load, plus pay commensurate with the rank. Not a bad deal for people who were place-bound and maybe not hire able in a national search. Some have been there 20 years. This is in a school of education, humanities may not have similar opportunities.


    1. I hate to tell YOU, but adding the words “non-tenure-track” to a job listing takes no effort, makes things clear, and is the correct and non-unconscionable way to do it. Because every institution is different about “rank,” making the job search a nightmare if some consistency is not implemented. Wikipedia “Assistant Professor.” Google “Assistant Professor.” Always, always, always, always ASSUMED to be on the TT unless some modifiers are included. Not to include those modifiers is shit. The end.


    2. As Rebecca says, these ranks and their meaning vary from institution to institution. (For example, at my current employer the ‘Adjuncts’ are full-time, salaried, term-limited NTT positions, while the ‘Lecturers’ are term-by-term, part-time contract instructors. While, so far as I can tell, the opposite is the norm elsewhere).


    3. Rank and tenure-track are different things, but they are connected things. There is nothing long-term at the assistant professor rank that is not tenure track. All institutions need to do is stick the word visiting in front of these. Someone at the rank of assistant professor but not on the tenure track is a Visiting Assistant Professor – that’s perfectly clear and the term everyone should be using for this type of job,


  6. Rebecca: This is not an Asst. Prof. position but a postdoc at Elon that was recently posted on a listserv. So now we have a new NEW category: the teaching postdoc.

    Two of my favorite sentences:
    “Fellows teach a slightly reduced course load of five courses per year, all levels (including courses in Elon’s General Studies Program)”
    “Given the nature of this position, the first round of application evaluations will focus heavily on the teaching statement.”

    So basically three years of intensive teaching “at all levels” (i.e., no time to work on your writing), a low pay, stuck in semi-rural NC, and then you get tossed out into a much worse job market than the one three years ago, only to do it all over again. Also full points for unabashed ageism: “degree granted no earlier than 2012.”

    Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Teaching of Philosophy. Elon University invites applications for a 3-year, non-renewable Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Teaching of Philosophy, beginning mid-August 2015. AOS/AOC open. The Fellowship is designed as an intensive incubator of teaching skills and an engagement with teaching as a subject of philosophical reflection, systematic and venturesome experimentation, practice, and research. We seek a recent PhD (with degree granted no earlier than 2012; candidates must have degree in hand no later than June 1, 2015) whose teaching is organic to his or her philosophical life and who seeks to strengthen his or her already promising teaching skills in our energetic and collaborative department and university. Fellows teach a slightly reduced course load of five courses per year, all levels (including courses in Elon’s General Studies Program), participate in departmental activities (including bi-weekly pedagogy lunches), as well as offerings of Elon’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Fellows enjoy university privileges of Assistant Professors, including eligibility to apply for most internal grants. With that support, we expect Fellows to further develop a research agenda in philosophy pedagogy while also pursuing scholarship in their areas of specialization. To apply, go to http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/elon_college/philosophy/forms/application.xhtml, where you will be asked to submit: a letter addressing the goals of the Fellowship, CV, transcripts, a substantial statement of teaching philosophy and aspirations, summary of teaching/course evaluations, and three letters of recommendation. According to best practices for inclusive hiring, we ask that the teaching statement and c.v. are written for anonymous review (Please see our website for more detailed instructions). Given the nature of this position, the first round of application evaluations will focus heavily on the teaching statement.


      1. I doubt it’s actually illegal – it’s just shitty. There are plenty of postdoc fellowships in my field that are specifically meant for people who are less than 3-5 years out of their PhD. I assume that these places would weasel around any legality issues by throwing out something like “it’s not the age of the PERSON, it’s the age of the DEGREE! Surely if a 45-year-old who finished in 2012 applied we’d consider them just like everyone else!” (which, _riiiiiiiiiight_. Still, I see it as another example of “sucks, but it’s allowed”…)

        (and of course the rest of that ad is completely ridiculous…)


  7. @puck — Agree completely. In the light of Rebecca’s Vitae article on NTT “Assistant Prof” ads and this extremely shady “postdoc,” I predict this is going to be a trend over the next 5-10 years: we’re going to see languages and literature departments weasel-word their way around legal issues because they know they will get 600+ applications from eager and grateful candidates.

    Also, “sucks, but it’s allowed” should be the unofficial slogan for the humanities job market. 🙂

    Along with, “O RLY? *That* bad?”


    1. What’s “funny”/sad is that I work in STEM – we’re getting all this BS too. Can we just slap “sucks, but it’s allowed” on the *entire* academic job market??


  8. Just started a PhD program and I’m 40 so, I’d fit the category for a postdoc and not ageism. I love teaching but I’m preparing for a non academic job when I’m done because the academic job market seems SO effed up.


  9. There is also a 5-yr renewable non-TT Asst Prof position being advertised for Italian at Oklahoma. They are obviously changing their model. But they kind of have to call these “Asst Prof” positions, because if they only hired these types of employees from now on and they called them what they were – “Lecturers” or “Instructors” – eventually they would have no “Professors” left on faculty!


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