Bonus Throwback to Rate My JIL: A Truly Feminist “Associateship” that Pays in “Prestige”

H/t to Shayna Weiss on Twitter for alerting me to the academic “job” ad to end all non-job ads. Are you ready for this? This has got to be the most pathetic thing I have ever seen, and anyone who applies for it is not just “a part of the problem,” but the very problem itself.

The Five Colleges, by the by, are Amherst (tuition $60K per annum), Mt Holyoke ($42K), Smith ($44K), UMass and Hampshire ($46K), in case you are wondering what kind of cash-strapped, barely-hanging-on institutions would need do such a thing.

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Five College Women’s Studies Research Center

2015-2016 Research Associate Program Call for Applications

The Five College Women’s Studies Research Center announces a call for applications and nominations for three categories of Associateships in 2015-2016 (DEADLINE: March 1, 2015)

Located in an area with one of the largest concentration of scholars dedicated to feminist scholarship and teaching in the world, the Center encourages engaged, critical feminist scholarship from diverse perspectives. During the period of appointment, all Associates are expected to be in residence in the Five College area, to attend weekly seminars, lead one public colloquium, and to collaborate with colleagues based at one or more of the Five College institutions. While at the Center, Associates are provided with an office at the Center and have access to Five College archival and other library resources. *This is a non-stipendiary residency. Travel, housing and living expenses are the responsibility of the Associate.*  (emphasis mine)

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To apply, you have to WRITE A PROPOSAL. You have to write a research proposal for a “job” where you are expected to be in residence but pay your own way the entire time. For a “feminist scholarship” position!

Because I can think of nothing more feminist than not being paid for work.

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81 thoughts on “Bonus Throwback to Rate My JIL: A Truly Feminist “Associateship” that Pays in “Prestige”

      1. Indeed!

        I’m finishing my PhD in the UK and even though it’s bad over here I just cannot get over how awful the system is in the USA, I really can’t.

        The shit academics put up with is just unreal.

        Because you know there are people willing to apply for this “job”

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    1. I like how diversity doesn’t include people who can’t afford to not get paid.

      “A diversity of rich people!”

      In fact that should be the animal group name for rich people.

      A pride of lions.
      A pod of whales.
      A exaltation of skylarks.
      A diversity of rich people.

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  1. Hi Rebecca: This is egregious, I agree, but it is not unique. In fact, in Oxford “non-stipendiary fellowships” with colleges are very competitive. Those fellowships do come with some benefits, such as having a free lunch in college a few times a week (that adds up) and using the senior common room (which has tea, coffee, comfy couches and some scientific journals and magazines). And if you’re lucky you can do some adjunct teaching for the college (tutorials), which are paid at a pro rata rate. People who vie for these typically already have some sort of position (a postdoc) and want the prestige and extra benefits of a college affiliation.
    A friend of mine in Harvard also had a non-stipendiary fellowship that she combines with a postdoc of a European university. This was also a competitive process, yet there’s no perks at all (nothing paid towards living expenses, no stipend). For a while it was looking like she would have a super-prestigious position in Harvard but no way to provide for herself except for the underpaid adjunct job or copy-editing job. Fortunately, the postdoc came through and they were happy to let her go to Harvard for a year on their wage.
    The reason such positions exist and are competitive is that people hope the prestige of these positions will help them land a real, paid position.

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      1. I don’t think free tea (and mediocre tea at that) justifies it. The system is gamed towards people who already have fellowships or some sort of independent income. I was just saying that this sort of jobs is not uncommon and with the buyer’s market we’re facing, I expect them to become more and more common.

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      2. I wrote a recommendation letter for one of these Oxford gigs. My mate was already employed at Oxford as a postdoc and lecturer, so he really did just want the prestige and lunch….

        He didn’t get it. I blame my American letterwriting skills not translating to British.

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    1. “Those fellowships do come with some benefits, such as having a free lunch in college a few times a week (that adds up) and using the senior common room (which has tea, coffee, comfy couches and some scientific journals and magazines). And if you’re lucky you can do some adjunct teaching for the college (tutorials), which are paid at a pro rata rate.”

      @helendecruz — this is not directed towards you, just a general rant at this disgraceful system.
      Having free lunch and access to a common room are not aspirational or career benefits. Being able to do adjunct teaching is not lucky either, since all it leads to even more adjuncting.

      The poster above who calls it ‘trust fund feminism’ is right. The only people who are currently able to afford the job market post-PHD are either independently wealthy or have families able to bankroll them for 6-7 years. Not coincidentally, these are also the very same people who enter and graduate from elite top-10 PhD programs. These are not unrelated phenomena. In this case, correlation **is** causation. This is what economic elitism in the languages and literatures employment market looks like.

      The rest of us (from state schools, at any rate) are out-moneyed and outplayed before we even begin, no matter how excellent our research or teaching. This “research associate” ad is making my blood boil at a slow simmer.

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      1. Yes, absolutely. This is not directed at Helen in any way and I say so at the beginning of my post. (I apologize if it came across that way, Helen.)

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      2. No – I am not endorsing the system! I think it is good to have a conversation about this practice, though, as it increases inequality even more (those unpaid fellowships indeed go to people who already have money, or to spouses of bigshots who are visiting the department).

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  2. My heart is beating so hard–and can’t stop muttering “fucking this and fucking that”. So, in writing a comment it crossed my mind: I can’t write “fucking” in the comments but I saw that you and NessieMonster did, too. So FUCK that “job.” My god. I am in such an agitated state. This SO compounds in the worst of ways a really ugly, sharp exchange I had w/someone last night over labor discrimination (against me). It kept me tossing and turning at night–and now I see this new fangled all-time-low shit academia is pulling. For a FEMINIST job at, as you pointed out, such cash-strapped institutions. I mean you couldn’t make this shit up!

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  3. I can understand that this might be something to do if you have a sabbatical for a year and you are already getting paid. It is not for people like Us.

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      1. Where simply being accepted into the club in an environment where you can talk with people interested in the same things as you is supposed to be its own reward.

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    1. @SinisterMonk. LOVED THIS: “Where simply being accepted into the club in an environment where you can talk with people interested in the same things as you is supposed to be its own reward.”

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    2. Perhaps everything they need except for decent library privileges? But that isn’t so hard to solve these days (and I’m pretty sure that many schools would make library privileges available if a professor with hir own funding proposed to move to their area for a year to pursue a project especially relevant to their resources).

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  4. As a professor at a third rate technical school in the middle of nowhere, I find this to be something out of fantasy land. I’m already disillusioned with the whole “gotta work for free” culture that academia has bred. And because I’m a provincial academic I don’t see the utility in working for free in one of the most expensive areas of the country.

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    1. Yeah, I would imagine that the overwhelming majority of people with brains also fail to see this utility. “Hey, you can only have this ‘job’ if you can afford to HOUSE YOURSELF in Boston.” My brother lived in Boston one year and I think his sad little low-ceilinged walkup of a one-bedroom apt cost $5k a month.

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      1. To be fair, western Massachusetts is significantly cheaper than Boston. (And far enough away that it would be a hell of a long and expensive commute.) Still not cheap enough for an UNPAID “JOB”, though.

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  5. And I’m not sure how you can expect any collegiate respect when everyone knows you’re essentially a volunteer. The college has made no investment in bringing the person in, other than giving an office to someone.

    If I knew someone like that, I’m sure I’d be impressed with the research, but I would assume that at on some level they were a bit of a dilettante – unfair, but that’s the reception/perception this “fellowship” sets the person up for.

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      1. I am totally with you on the awfulness of the “job” posting. How can you have a bunch of requirements for no compensation? I have inquired about arranging unpaid academic affiliations for myself and been shocked to find that universities now seem to think they can ask for free teaching in return for an unpaid affiliation. Just to point out, though, those of us who sometimes have unpaid affiliations of various kinds are already fighting enough stigma without folks who are in the business of critiquing academia also assuming that we are “dilettantes,” or that we have an unpaid appointment because we are too lame to have a “real” one. Sometimes library access (esp to electronic resources) is a Big Deal to an independent researcher. Sometimes we are isolated and thrilled to have networking opportunities. Sometimes we are making various family/health/career compromises that exclude a 60-hour-a-week tenure-track-job, and yet we consider ourselves serious scholars. I don’t need pity. I’ll take whatever respect you think is my due on the basis of my publications and presentations (but not my title or lack thereof, please),

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  6. “Associates are expected to collaborate with colleagues” Sounds like a dating service. Bring in the fresh meat for a year. Repeat.

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  7. It’s not a job though. It’s not described as a job. There’s no reason to hold it up to the standard of a job. The main activity is doing your own work, and you participate in the local networking. And you give one talk. You don’t have to teach a course or anything.

    If someone is interested in this topic and working far away from other Women’s Studies specialists, or only has access to a crappy library, it could be a great place to spend a sabbatical or dissertation year. And the American Association of University Women has fellowships at the grad and post-PhD levels (as far as I can tell from the website, also for people who don’t have a TT), and I can imagine those would combine rather nicely with this.

    Is it a case of “more for those who already have”? Sure. And I’ve personally never applied to something without funding, because I can’t afford to. But it’s a totally different category from crappy jobs.

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    1. Nice try. Many, many postdocs require exactly the same amount of work (sitting through a weekly seminar, for example) and pay money. Mine in Austria did, for example. 1200 Euros a month, and my responsibilities were–you guessed it, giving one talk, attending weekly seminars, and having access to the University of Vienna’s facilities and archives. It was a cushy fellowship to be sure, but they tend to be if you can get one. I LOVE that you’re defending this indefensible bullshit, though. Typical academic Stockholm Syndrome. LOL.

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      1. I am neither defending nor attacking, I am pointing out that the description of the program does not include one single mention of the word “job” or, since you mention it, “postdoc.” I’m glad you had a sweet postdoc, but I don’t see the relevance. There are fellowships that will pay you twice as much a month for two years to do all your own work, and you never have to present on any of it or give any kind of accounting for it. All that means is that they’re great fellowships, it doesn’t mean that every research centre that gets no teaching from people should have to pay them a salary.

        Like I said — this fellowship is not the kind of thing that I go for. But I can understand why it might be useful to people.

        Where do you get the Stockholm Syndrome thing from though?

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      1. This is replying to Rebecca’s comment: this is actually a more general shittiness in that geographic area. There are actual paid fellowships that *may* cover your Boston-area rent, but god help you if you have a small child who would, you know, have to go into daycare so you could do the work. (Full time daycare for an infant in Wellesley is around $2700/month.) A stipend might help a single person who can live in a spartan way for the year, but parents of young children are basically cut out of that. And what are the odds someone early in their career might have young, daycare-age children?

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      1. I’m not just trying to be pedantic — they clearly went out of their way to make up a silly word that would not awaken any expectations of funding. “Associateship.” That’s what they’re calling it. It sounds awful, but I don’t think they’re guilty of trying to confuse people into thinking it’s a real gig.

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      2. In my world, the word “associate” means job.

        Retail associate: paid job
        Customer service associate: paid job
        Associate in a law firm: well-paid job
        Research Associate: also a real job, except in this case

        One can dicker about whether this advertisement created an expectation of compensation, but it certainly uses the language of paid work. Except the non-stipendiary part, which is an especially infelicitous euphemism for “unpaid.”

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    2. All jobs can be turned into what you’re calling “not a job though.” What we have here is the total replacement of monetary compensation with compensation by “prestige.” This could happen to any job, by the way — provided a critical mass of people (call them trustfunders, scabs, Stockholm Syndromites, or what you will) willing to do the work for the prestige of it rather than for the money.

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  8. I keep thinking that the more they make this crap explicit, the harder it will be for people to keep justifying it. And I keep being wrong.

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  9. Actually, the full ad is even a little weirder. There is a research associateship for those who are faculty elsewhere — who could conceivably have research grants from their home institution. But there are also two other categories, including one for “graduate students at the dissertation stage of their PhD.” That IS kinda mind-boggling: who are these grad students who are in a position to fund their own housing and living costs for a year, who are almost certainly earning a fairly tight salary as TAs and RAs at their own school? Again, I suppose it’s remotely possible that they could get a research grant but how likely is getting one that covers living costs in the Boston area for a year? To say that this seems to require some kind of private income is not to suggest that every fellowship should come with a stipend — but a stipend does make it possible for a wider pool of applicants to try for it.

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    1. And the fact is, most faculty on the TT might not have the kind of cushy sabbatical available to do this thing. It really is only for the wealthy and/or well-connected, and/or spouses of the wealthy and/or well-connected.

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  10. I do think there is a sense in which even those caught in this nasty nasty system do internalize these gross corporate systems of valuation, and end up intensifying the disempowerment of those even more disempowered. The job I applied for (an actual job, at a middle-ranking college) was cut down in salary and rank from my application to when it was offered, as a “cost-saving” measure. The responsibilities of the job remained the same, but as contingent no-benefits labor, meaning much (more than half) of my labor (that which is required to do the job) is *nakedly* unpaid. That this is some crazy managerial scheme by administrators is probably not that uncommon, but what astounds me now is how many faculty “colleagues” radically devalue me on the basis of my title, despite the fact that I am the self-same candidate with the self-same credentials that might have gotten the full-time or TT gig, had it not been gutted. These are also the colleagues who say “well we’ll just have an adjunct do it, it’s cheaper” or the colleagues who try to justify crazy administrative decisions to let people go on “merit” “well so and so wasn’t cutting edge in their research” “well so and so only had X number of peer-reviewed articles, so. . ” I have had colleagues – nice people! – say to me “well aren’t you happy you are just an adjunct, because that means you can spend more time with your kids!!” It’s kind of in the same boat with seeing the sunny side of library privileges. Or denying that something like “leading a colloquium” or participating in a “workshop” is actually labor, that people would not be crazy to expect money for, because getting paid to “do something for someone” is not crazy. Academics, it seems to me, spend a lot of time believing ardently in the merits of the system that might someday privilege some of them, even if it doesn’t, and especially if it happens to actually work out in their favor.

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  11. One nice thing about the public universities is that they don’t have the prestige to pull this crap. Nobody works for the publics unless there’s $$ involved.

    Same in the UK: Oxbridge can get people to work for those make-believe units of “prestige” currency. Sheffield can’t.

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    1. @wobblywheel. Yes, public universities do pull this crap–and masterfully. It’s called adjuncting. Same thing: overwork, underpay (or pay nothing, really), in exchange for “prestige” for being “among the learned” and in pursuit of phantom–mirage TT job (or even just a full salary/wbenefits, lower than a TT). This is just ONE more expression of the same “work for free” bullshit.

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      1. @ DT. I disagree. For one thing, adjuncting, while awful, does pay something. For another, people don’t do it for the prestige, they do it because they have no choice, having been overspecialized into fields which don’t have any decent jobs left. In fact, adjunctships may hold to the opposite of prestige: stigma.

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    2. NOT TRUE. at my public university, the Communications department chose not to renew the contract of a paid and experienced lecturer so they could “hire” a less-qualified alumnus who *worked for free.* He had no Phd, no teaching experience, and — get this– when he took the class as an undergraduate, he got a C+. But hey he’s free!

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      1. It was at a UC. The person they let go was not only an experienced lecturer with a PhD and a J.D.. The replacement had a J.D., and that was it–not even so much as a M.A. in the discipline, and no teaching experience at all. He’s a nice guy, but he has no idea what he’s doing. His student evaluations are atrocious but he’s free, so who cares, right?

        This account leads to a dummy email address but Rebecca, if you want more dirty details let me know and I’ll email you from my real email address.

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  12. An idea sparked by atishehdance’s observations. Rebecca, I do think that the framing of your critique maybe doesn’t go far enough. The problem with this posting isn’t that it uses the language of paid work in reference to an unpaid position. It’s that positions like these are part of general trend of replacing monetary compensation for academic labor with “prestige” compensation (AKA Monopoly money) for that labor. That’s what disturbing here. Whereas, the misleading terminology in the posting is merely annoying.

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    1. “It’s that positions like these are part of general trend of replacing monetary compensation for academic labor with “prestige” compensation (AKA Monopoly money) for that labor.”

      Agreed. Cosign +1000.

      The irony is that the only job candidates who can accept prestige compensation come from prestige anyway (family money, elite programs) and are the least likely to need monetary compensation. This ad might as well begin with the sentence “If you are one of The Poors, Stop. Do not go read further.”

      The best piece of advice I ever received was “Never work for free. It devalues you and makes those you work for devalue you.”

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      1. It’s the same thing that has been happening in the arts for far longer and far more visibly, so there is plenty of framing out there already. When Lena Dunham didn’t pay her openers, there was a public outcry and she changed course. We’re never going to get that kind of exposure, but at least we might be able to show some solidarity with artists and see what they are doing to push back against this tide.

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  13. For whatever it’s worth, I’m pretty sure that this, um, position has been around for some time — at least since I was actively reading the JIL on a regular basis, which is over a decade ago. I was excited the first time I saw it, since it would fit my interests pretty well in several ways, until I saw that there was no money involved.

    So it’s probably not even a product of the really, really shitty job market of the last decade, but instead a product of the shitty job market of the last few decades. If anything, that’s worse.

    The only virtue it has is that it’s blatant:no money; find your own. Admittedly I’m coming from the privileged position of having an actual,predictable income (and benefits), but I’m increasingly frustrated by the fact that many early-to-mid-career fellowships assume a 50% match by the applicants’ home institution. There’s a definite perpetuation-of-privilege cycle going on in the fellowship business, even for those of us who have landed at the relatively cushy/secure end of the contingent spectrum.

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  14. I’m pretty sure these positions mostly go to graduate students and folks already planning to come to the area or in the area on sabbatical. In those situations, it’s not such a bad deal. It’s a title upgrade and a good networking opportunity, but, no, it’s not a job.

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    1. But it creates a precedent that work like this can go unpaid and that people should be happy about the office and the prestige, and that is an awful, awful precedent. And again, how any grad student can afford to self-support in that area without already being rich is lost on me. At any rate, what this is is a “courtesy appointment” and it’s nothing to advertise or be proud of.

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    2. @Professor Meanie
      “it’s a title upgrade.” Disagree. If I found out someone had taken a make-believe position like this, I’d question their judgement and consider them stigmatized. RS basically says the same thing in her post.

      “and a good networking opportunity.” Know what’s a better networking opportunity? Monetary compensation for research and teaching.

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  15. The world has gone mad. Have you looked at who the people associated with this centre are? Its current exec director is a male, and the rest of the crew are administrators. This is the best academic environment ever, almost no academics to be seen, but administrators aplenty and probably exceedingly well paid. The research associates appear either to be faculty elsewhere or (perhaps?) spousal appointments.

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    1. The director is a woman, at least her faculty website uses female pronouns, so I have to assume that’s what she is. The rest of the crew is one admin (normal for such study centres), a work study student, and an advisory board of faculty. And the research associates are mainly geographically local faculty or grad students, with some external fac and what seem like pretty accomplished activists. You can look at past years on the website too. Not a lot of them look like they’re just there because they’re somebody’s wife. Are we even looking at the same website?

      That said, the implication that a Women’s Studies Center is populated with spousal appointments is some kind of charming.

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      1. The job market is shit. It is totally possible for someone to be highly accomplished in his/her own right and still be a spousal hire.

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      2. CBGB: That was possible even before the job market was shit. One of my most famous (male) profs was a spousal hire. But these are not hires, they’re appointments to a women’s centre, and the implication in this thread has been — at some points — that this is a way to keep spouses busy/give them library access since they don’t have anything better anyway. That just doesn’t fit what I’m seeing on that website (mostly fac and grad students), and I find the completely unfounded implication that a women’s centre exists only to keep people’s wives busy (since these are all women associates) rather distastefully sexist.

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  16. I’m reading through these comments and it seems this is becoming, unfortunately, a conversation about spousal hires, whether this is a job ad, etc.

    Let’s be clear: this is a conversation about both gender and economic discrimination. This position uses the terminology of employment to advertise itself but pays nothing (the very point of employment).

    Research shows that women (and this ad will have only female applicants, presumably) under-earn men throughout their lifetimes, they negotiate for too little, and they are far more likely to work for free (a.k.a. “prestige”).

    And the only women who can apply for this position are likely to not need financial compensation anyway. If there are children (daycare) or spouses involved, or involved moving from an entirely different state, and the woman did not come from economic privilege, would she be able to afford this appointment? *That* is the problem with this “ad.”

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  17. My lab has courtesy appointments (“faculty affiliates”) with our local R1, getting us library and online library access. (But not parking privileges, alas.)

    To get it, I had to send an email requesting to be a faculty affiliate. Didn’t even need to say please.

    No proposal required. I think this “job” is well-deserving of all scorn.

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  18. I got one of these a couple summers ago. Offered a summer fellowship to have access to a great library in a very expensive city. It included housing, but that was it. I turned it down- no matter how magical the fellowship, I still have to pay bills, including the rent on my year round apartment.

    These sorts of gigs are clearly meant for people with family money or a spouse with a decent income. They’re not for plebs.

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  19. Wait a minute. This is silly and more than a little US-centric. This isn’t a job, it’s an unpaid residency. It’s been around for 20 years, and has primarily been useful to people on sabbatical, local activists, people with dissertation funding who are tired of being around their committees, and–this is the big one–folks from overseas who use it to get a J-1 visa and spend time working or studying in the US. It was briefly funded by the Ford Foundation, and when they shut down their Women’s Studies wing, the Five Colleges did not pick it up. Feminists have never stopped trying to get it funded, but, in the absence of funding, would it be better to shut it down? In recent years, it’s played host to scholars from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Germany, Palestine, the West Indies, Mexico, Turkey, and countless other places. This is so awful?
    If you think the precarity of US academics is the biggest story, think again; what may seem pointless to you is not for feminist scholars overseas in the context of the recent years of U.S. immigration restriction. This is why we’ve kept it going even without funding.

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      1. Uncompensated work in exchange for a visa? This doesn’t rise to the level of human trafficking or migrant agricultural labor, but it sure comes a little too close for my taste.

        Like

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