OK I will promptly stop ruining lives now

So. Apparently my critique of a “non-stipendiary residency” is going to bring about the end of feminism and ruin the dreams of a bunch of self-funded Sri Lankan geniuses if I don’t clarify a few things.

I’ve gotten several angry slash plaintive messages and comments from folks either affiliated with that five college feminist research center or sympathetic to it, basically saying that if I keep pressing this conversation they’re going to get shut down, and then that’s a huge loss for the feminists (such as myself), etc etc etc. Listen. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s dreams, and if your dream is to fund yourself into a courtesy appointment at a consortium of dripping-wealthy little colleges then please, for the love of the Goddess, follow that dream.

All I ask is that in the future, this “research associateship” be advertised closer to what it is. The people who’ve yelled at me have said, “This is obviously for international scholars! This is for people on sabbatical!” as if I should have known that magically from the following paragraphs:

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.

Number of times “international scholars who just need a visa” or “people on sabbatical” are mentioned; zero.

We welcome applications from colleagues worldwide for 2015-2016 Associateships in one of three categories:

International scholars vaguely alluded to here; I’d consider making that more explicit. Also here I’d make more explicit you are looking exclusively for people who already have money.

Research Associateship: Colleagues with faculty status at institutions of higher learning are invited to apply.

This does not say anything about wealthy international scholars from Sri Lanka who just need a visa, oh God do they neeed a visa!!!! It just says any faculty. This leads me to believe the “associateship” is also aimed at unemployed people in the area who are terribly desperate, or people on sabbatical (who could get a courtesy appointment for library privileges with a two-line email, but that’s neither here nor there).

Graduate Associateship in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies: Graduate students at the dissertation stage of their PhD are invited to apply.

Says nothing about international students, and indeed, seems to aim at US-based PhD students who somehow have enough money to relocate for a year. Which, fine, you want to do that and have the means, you do you.

Alumnae Associateship: In the spirit of long-term collaboration between Research Associates and Five College Faculty, this Associateship is awarded to alumnae of the FCWSRC who propose 1) a joint research or teaching project with one or more colleagues located in the Five Colleges to be initiated in 2015-2016 or 2) the continuation of an established research or teaching project in 2015-2016 with one or more colleagues located in the Five Colleges.

Just in case you are missing this — THIS INVOLVES TEACHING FOR FREE. THIS. INVOLVES. TEACHING. FOR. FREE. I repeat: Teaching. For. Free. (if this does pay, it is not specified anywhere in the listing.)

Applicants should complete our online application at http://apply.interfolio.com/27517 which will also require a project proposal (up to three pages in length), curriculum vitae, and contact information for two professional references. Project proposals should include 1) statement about the contribution to and significance of the project or dissertation for research and teaching in women and gender studies, 2) a detailed description of the project or dissertation and timeline, 3) a statement about the contribution and significance of your project or dissertation for research and teaching in women and gender studies and 4) how a stay in the Five Colleges will advance the project or dissertation. Alumnae Associates will be asked to provide the name(s) of their faculty partner(s) in the Five Colleges.
This is an application process similar in rigor to those for paid fellowships, including the one I had in 2008 at the IFK in Austria, which had exactly the same requirements (weekly seminars, a talk, my own research) but paid me 1200 EUR a month plus travel.
So, do I want this entire program, which has run itself unperturbed for the last two decades, shut down? Eh, I’m leaning toward no? If I, Rebecca Schuman, random person with no scholarly credentials, have the power to do something like that, I’d like to know, though, so I can exercise that power for any productive reason whatsoever. But I really don’t think one post-academic blogger making fun of an unpaid non-job is going to have any lasting effect on anything, so everyone calm your hormones.
What I and a lot of the readers who have commented here would like to see, I think (in case anyone is interested), is the following, for this and for all “non-stipendiary” positions:
  • More direct honesty in the call for applications about the fact that this is, in effect, a glorified courtesy appointment.
  • Something that both abides by HR rules and yet signals to readers that this is primarily intended to grant visas to people who would ordinarily not be able to get one, if indeed that is what it’s for.
  • The removal of the teaching one because that’s unacceptable.
  • Changing the application process to a one-page direct email where the potential “associate” lays out her bona fides and the bare bones of her project, maybe with a CV attached if they want to get fancy. Leave Interfolio and the $12 it will end up taking out of it.

Any other ideas for how the center can best move forward? I welcome them in the comments! Hooray!

Now back to ruining lives.

OH ALSO, speaking of “ruining lives,” by which I mean “jeopardizing the all-expense-paid trips to MLA of a bunch of shitbags who are too irrelevant to give papers and thus need to be running an active search to qualify for travel funds and that’s why they insist on interviewing at MLA even though the MLA itself wishes they wouldn’t,” please please please continue to fill out my MLA Cost Project Survey. It takes 2 minutes and it’s ANONYMOUS!!!

19 thoughts on “OK I will promptly stop ruining lives now

  1. “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.”

    I’m going to address this, from a poster called “Laura Briggs”. This is completely false, but nice try making this a visa-related conversation.

    Whether you are a foreign student (F-1 visa) or a foreign transfer student or a visiting foreign scholar (J-1 category), you have to show official proof of financial support at the U.S. embassy where your visa is issued. This proof takes the form of official bank statements showing your/your family’s financial assets and/or official letters from the host institution in the US showing it will support the visa holder for the entire period of stay. The more proof of financial support, the greater your chances of securing a US visa.

    Not having any financial support — say, a non-stipendiary “research associateship” — will make it much more difficult, not easier, to get a foreign student or a foreign scholar visa.

    The only people this does not include are scholars who are seeking refuge from their respective countries, typically those who are doing research on controversial political subject matter, not feminist critics/historians.


    • There is a reason why this proof of financial support is required. J-1 visa holders (whether they are foreign transfer students or foreign short-term scholars) have well-defined employment restrictions. A J-1 visa holder cannot just take up a temp job at, say, the mall or a Target.

      This is the exact rule:
      “Paid employment for J-1 research scholars or professors is permitted only if it is described on the Form DS-2019 issued to the J-1 visa holder. In most cases, it is not possible for a J-1 visa holder to accept paid employment outside of [university].”

      So to suggest that this unpaid associateship will save some foreign scholar’s academic career demonstrates both an ignorance of current visa procedures and an attempt to justify unpaid labor.


      • Not only that, but the U.S. embassy can be fairly tight in its measurement of what constitutes “financial support” — they set the benchmark, not the applicant. Given the relative values of currencies against the dollar, it would be considerably easier to meet the requirement that you support yourself while in America if you’re a professor at a European university than it would be if you’re in Sri Lanka or the Philippines. It strikes me that the only way academics in many foreign countries would be able to make use of the Associateship would be if they are funded by a Fulbright grant (or similar) or if they are directly subsidized by their governments to study in the U.S. (and I suspect that most governments, rightly or wrongly, aren’t particularly interested in paying someone to engage in Women’s Studies or literary studies as opposed to, say, economics or physics).


  2. Here is what I enjoy about your approach to this issue:

    1. Clearly, you are one of the few who actually knows how to close read anymore (and lolz in my Antlitz — we all know how much close reading is done in language and/or literature departments these days). The rebuttals that you have received are plain ridiculous. Thank you for clearly showing that this posting is catering to those who are in desperate need of opportunity in a system designed for the privileged few.

    2. Not surprisingly the Amherst College JIL posting (that our DGS and Chair have sent around THREE TIMES IN TWO MONTHS), AND being a non-TT position no less, is still having finalists fly to Vancouver to be interviewed. Are you shitting me? The Pioneer Valley sounds like a place full of aging TT professors who must cater to wealthy students, who are paying for deanlings and admins– and unpaid labor apparently for that matter.

    3. Let’s all be clear (for all of those apologists out there): If someone has tenure, has a professorship already, has an affiliation (as some have mentioned would be what this provides), why in the hell would they need a second unpaid one? Not to mention, the vagueness of the posting practically excludes international students and emphasizes Phd students as qualified.



  3. This is part of the trend that includes expecting law school graduates to volunteer in order to build their resumes while they await the results of bar exams and job applications. A viable option, perhaps, for a grad without student loan debt and with means. An outrageous burden for those who have a quarter-million-dollar debt load and no savings.


  4. Nothing really to add, but I wanted to voice my support. The “in order to do good for the world, we unfortunately have to treat our workers terribly” excuse should always, always, always be implacably rejected. (It is, come to think of it, basically the same as the excuse universities use more generally to excuse crappy pay for adjuncts.) Thank you!


    • Ah ahaha hah hah ha I am going to use that:

      “in order to do good for the world, we unfortunately have to treat our workers terribly”

      in le nutshell.


  5. As someone who was in the US on an F1 student visa between 2000-2010 I second the eloquent and well-informed voices that cry out ” BS” on the argument that this is an opportunity for international scholars. As a student, you can’t so much as put a legal toenail across the US border without a visa issued by the US consulate/embassy in your home country. To have that visa issued, as has been discussed here, you MUST demonstrate secure sources of (GENEROUS) income/savings BOTH at home (to guarantee you will leave the US as stipulated by the F1 visa) as well as your FUNDING while in the US. An F1 visa does NOT ALLOW EMPLOYMENT IN THE UNITED STATES; you may work up to 20 hours if the university itself is the employer, read: minimum or slightly above wage if you’re lucky to find a job. In terms of degree programs, (BA/MA/PHD), a student on an F1 visa may apply for what’s known as an OPT-a year of optional practical training where you are allowed employment for one year in an area related to your study. Non renewable. But, again, you WILL NOT have an F1 visa issued TO BEGIN WITH unless you demonstrate financial resources at home and funding for your US studies and living expenses (and the theoretical possibility of 20 hours of minimum or even full wage is NOT a consideration when your visa is issued).. At best, this so called “feminist studies opportunity” would serve only VERY WELL OFF international scholars, which puts us right back on square one.


  6. To add to the chorus on the Visa question – when I originally saw the ad, my first thought was “I wonder if they’ll provide the relevant paperwork if it does turn out to be a foreign scholar?”

    If you don’t already have a green card, enough money to get an F1 or H1B on your own steam (or have a US Phd, and are thus eligible for OPT), you’re probably going to have to turn down this Prestigious Special Opportunity at the end anyways (after going through the whole bloody process.)

    There are plenty of instances now (the U of Wisconsin Humanities Postdoc comes to mind) where the ad specifically states “You will be responsible for any and all Visa costs / administration. The university cannot provide any legal, financial, administrative support.” To support a foreign scholar actually does cost the university money (in oversight costs, reporting requirements, letter writing etc) – even if the position is unpaid. It drives me completely batty that universities have now decided that it’s another cost they can push off onto the job-taker, but at least be upfront about it.


    • Getting an H1B visa is not an option, as the costs associated with an H1B have to be paid by the employer (H1B is a dual intent visa; in order to avoid immigration fraud, an individual cannot pay for their own H1B).

      Laura Briggs’s argument that this associateship is intended for “international scholars in precarious situations” on another post does not stand for a second. However, it may be intended for international scholars who can show upfront that they have about $26’000 in their bank account.


  7. Academia only has value to the extent that academic labor has value. If this institute can’t provide their staff with monetary compensation, then no, I am not convinced such an institute should exist at all.


  8. I’m not sure whether the “but, visas!” argument holds water or not. But let’s say it does. Why not staff the ENTIRETY of American academia this way? Instead of paying professors a monetary salary, just “pay” professors from overseas in the currency of F1 visas, and let them pay for room and board out of pocket! Academia could save billions this way. Just a modest proposal.


  9. five colleges float in a warm bath of big bucks—the argument used to support unpaid labor, meanwhile reminds me exactly of the argument against raising the minimum wage: if we pay them (actually something! in this case) or more, there will be fewer of them! We have to exploit (the academic in this case) workers in order to save them! Go Schu!


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