Rate My JIL, Resurrected: The Ivy Shuffle

Oh, hello. Didn’t see you there. It’s been a bit quiet around here for approximately the last 19 months. Coincidentally, I have a 19-month-old child. You know what wasn’t fun? Laboring without anesthesia for 20 hours and then having to get cut open anyway, and then somehow being expected to recover from major abdominal surgery whilst also caring for a helpless miniature human! And I’d still rather relive labor and the first two hellish weeks of being a parent on Nietzschen ewige Widerkehr loop for time immemorial than go back on the academic job market in German. As usual, Weird Al said it best.

In this situation, “you” is academia. Thought I’d spell that out since academics often have a hard time with jokes. You know what else is a joke? This year’s German job market. Mercifully I was too busy getting death threats from the Trumpiverse last year at this time to pay a goddamn microsecond of attention to the JIL, but this year I’ve got a walking, talking sentient being who sometimes tolerates a babysitter and always tolerates twenty minutes of Sparkabilities in her Baby Jail, so even though I now have many, many, many better things to do than Rate Someone Else’s JIL, I’m doing this for you, the sad suckers who are still out there for some reason. Remember: “sunk cost” is a fallacy. It’s NOT true that the longer you stay out there, the more reason to stay out there because otherwise all the time you’ve spent out there is wasted. The time you’ve spent out there is already wasted.

So. This year’s Rate My JIL is going to be, in one of my daughter’s favorite phrases, “a LITTLE bit different!” I’m going to cross over into other disciplines sometimes, and I’ll definitely be taking requests, so if you see a particularly ridiculous ad—or an innocuous-seeming one that has an unseemly backstory—please do send it my way, and I’ll do a special Rate My JIL just for you (whilst keeping you totally anonymous, of course, since as you all know, search committees regularly comb through the miscellany of Pan Kisses Kafka to weed out traitors, and they are all IT experts so they can figure out who you are no matter what username you use). But, as always (or, at any rate, as it has been dating back to 2013), I’m going to start with German. This year’s debut German JIL is one of the worst I have ever seen. It contains thirteen jobs total, which is abjectly terrible on its face, but wait. Three of those thirteen jobs are non-tenure-track (NTT), one is open rank (a.k.a. forget it), three are senior positions, and six of the thirteen (don’t need to be Adjunct Nate to know that’s more than half) are not in German, at all but merely German-adjacent enough that they can nominally be advertised on the German JIL but there is no fucking way in hell a Germanist will get them.

There is some crossover in the above basket of deplorables, so here are the brass tacks: On this year’s debut JIL, there are FOUR (one, two, three, four) actual beginning tenure-track (TT) jobs in German, for multiple hundreds of new, semi-new, semi-old, old, and old-old PhDs who are still for some ungodly reason attempting to squeeze themselves into this fly bottle. Still, though, four is four, right?

Ha. Ha hahahahahahahaha nope. Two (that’s half) of these positions are at Ivies or the Ivy-adjacent, which means they will hire exclusively from institutions of equal rank, possibly even themselves. These jobs are not for you, regular person (or even non-suckup-super-eminence’s-pet at an elite place). That means there are, on the first day of the JIL when the alleged “big dump” (ha) happens, exactly two tenure-track positions in German for which most of you can apply. Go home and get drunk now. If you’re already drunk, get drunker.

Here goes.

Albion College. Visiting Instructor. “The Modern Languages & Cultures Department of Albion College seeks a full-time, one-semester sabbatical replacement (emphasis mine) for our German program beginning January 2017.”

Yep, that’s right. This is pretty much an adjunct job (with, I am assuming, possibly erroneously, slightly better pay), for one semester with no possibility for renewal, advertising on a national list. Please. If you do not already live in or near Albion, Michigan, do not apply for this shitty job. Do not incur moving expenses for this shitty job. Do not leave a partner or uproot a family for this shitty job that is advertising on the debut JIL that once held all (or almost all) of the tenure-track listings of the year. They say the debut JIL is a bellwether. Not only is that true, but this exact job is a bellwether for the current and future state of German Studies. Drunk yet?

Baylor. Chair of the Dept. of Modern Languages and Cultures. Accepted specialties include Aramaic, King James English, and glossolalia.

Duke. Tenure-Track Assistant Professor in Theory and Global Culture. Do you enjoy having your application stuck at the bottom of a stack of 1500 of its best friends? You do? Then definitely apply for this open-discipline job at Duke. You have a better chance of getting $5 basketball tickets on game day than you have of getting this German-adjacent job.

Elon University. VAP. Every Rate MY JIL I will do an If You Can’t Say Anything Nice listing, and this is that listing. Hey, everyone, this VAP job is for three entire years! Wow! Fantastic! Definitely move your family to Elon, North Carolina for it!

Hopkins. Some Sort of Endowed Chair in Yiddish and yeah, this ad applies to like four people in the world, so, no.

Kalamazoo. Actual Tenure-Track Assistant Professor of German. I have a friend who got a job in this department so I can’t be too scathing. I’m just going to leave this picture here and wonder aloud: If these folks think German is a Romance language, you may get to teach some pretty fucking interesting courses.


Stanford. Assistant Professor of German. Godspeed, Princetonians!

Texas State. Assistant Professor of German. Well, Texas State-San Marcos, prepare to get the biggest deluge of fancy-degreed candidates you have ever seen. I think it would be the most amazing thing in the world if this were an inside hire and all these poor schmos in San Marcos, TX had to read through 500 super-earnest applications about almost-done dissertations in Transgender Transnationalisms.

**TRIGGER WARNING: NEOLIBERAL AUSTRIAN-SCHOOL GARBAGE CLAPTRAP BULLSHIT.** I’m about to mention the name of an institution whose very moniker will bring up trauma in many reasonable individuals. Please steel yourself accordingly, or simply look away from Rate My JIL for the next five to ten seconds.

University of Chicago. Same bullshit society of fellows thing they advertise every year. Have fun working for the Donald Trump of deans who does not know what a content warning or a safe space is and has never been in a position to need one! Fuck those assholes.

U of Maryland-Baltimore County. This is an open-rank, German-adjacent job you will not get.

Nebraska. Dept. of English. Director of a Judaic studies program. Not even remotely adjacent to German studies, unless you go all the way back before the great Anglo-Saxon Vowel Shift (not a thing, I realize. Making a point.)

Williams. The same VAP position they advertise every year or two. It breaks my heart that their administration just makes them do this year after year after year. Obviously making a search committee and combing through 500 applications from desperate bastards is a great use of time and I’m sure they adore doing it over and over and over again. CLEARLY YOU HAVE THE ENROLLMENT, BILLIAMS. JUST APPROVE A TT HIRE ALREADY. JESUS FUCK.

Yale. Assistant Professor of German. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.


All right, friends. I hear the dulcet tones of my kid returning from the park. This has been a truly great use of my very limited free time. I can’t wait to do it every week.


26 thoughts on “Rate My JIL, Resurrected: The Ivy Shuffle

  1. Medieval history (hot off H-NET): five TT-positions, two of which are senior hires, one at Amherst, one that’s a combo ancient/medieval/world history position, and one position that a normal human being might actually get. Good luck to whoever at SMU has to read 1200 applications before hiring someone from Harvard.

    Praise the lord, I don’t put myself through that any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I wish there were some sort of agreed-upon code for, “Yes, this position looks awesome, and yes, it absolutely is going to a Harvard golden boy with no publications but lots of ‘potential.'” Although I guess the professorship actually having a name like the Jeremy duQuesnay Adams Centennial Professorship in Western European Medieval History is about as close to that sort of thing that you can post without getting in trouble with HR.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder if the Williams VAP position is such until the year they find the VAP they *really* like, at which time it will turn into a TT (inside hire, but post the job anyway) position.

    Of course, with the PhD market, there’s always someone better…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I highly, highly doubt it. If a dept gets a TT line they do a damn search and make a damn hire (if they’re not utterly dysfunctional). I have completely changed my tack w/r/t VAPs b/c I know that it’s always the admin and never the department that wants one. Almost every department in the country would hire only TTs if it could; I really, truly believe this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not sure if it’s different in JIL, but in my field the problem with moving from VAP to T/T is that the ad drafts pass through enough committees to change the job description of the original VAP away from what eventually gets advertised. Enjoyed the article. Dat Yale job, tho.


    • It never, ever does. I actually had it for 1.5 years, but that was exceptional. I have known so many people who had that position before or after I did. If the market still worked like it used to, it’s a great “starter job” in theory, before you move on to the TT gig. But now that gig rarely comes, and then you’re living in extreme Western MA with no job (fun!).


  3. Here’s a great one that my advisor sent me. What does this even mean?

    “The Department of German, Scandinavian & Dutch at the University of Minnesota will search for a tenure-track (probationary) position in Scandinavian/German studies and/or North European studies, to begin fall 2017 or later. Position will be at the rank of assistant professor.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my favorites: “pending budgetary approval”. So, go ahead and spend a shit ton of time preparing two writing samples, getting three letters of reference, letter of application, and update your CV for this NON TENURE lecture job. But also, fuck you, we don’t have any money, HAHAHA


  5. Just got this letter from WVU because I was rejected from a job a year ago. I hope I win!!!


    This is a follow-up to an email sent to you on August 25, 2016, containing a link to a survey seeking information about your experience as a recent online applicant for employment at West Virginia University.

    The drawing for a $25 gift card will take place on Monday, September 19. If you wish to be included in the drawing, please click HERE to provide your contact information. You will be notified if you are a winner!

    Thank you for your interest in working at West Virginia University!


    Talent Strategy Unit, Division of Talent and Culture
    West Virginia University


  6. I love this! Thank you for writing it. The Spanish list isn’t much better. I guess I will be a stay at home mom for another year. –a semi-new (semi-old) PhD


  7. So, I finally allowed myself to look at the JIL. I measure on the first Friday after the official start date, and the JIL is now up to 7 TT jobs. For those keeping track, that’s the lowest ever, beating out even 2014 (9) and 2015 (10). Seriously, you’d have to go back 60+ years to find so few TT jobs. We’ll probably end up with 25 jobs in total for the year, like usual for the last several years. Or maybe not.

    Did cutting Latin save German? No. Did cutting Latin and German save French? No. Will cutting all the other languages save Spanish? Nope. They have 30 TT jobs. That’s less than German had in 2007. Are they cutting all the other languages to hire in strategic future-oriented languages like Chinese and Arabic? Nope, Chinese has 5. Arabic has 1.

    But if you have an idea for a Skype automatic translation app, you can probably get $5 million in startup venture capital to overcome the boundaries of language and make the world a better place.


  8. I just moved 400 miles for what is basically a non academic postdoc (meaning I have a definite job for 2 years, and then I definitely do not), and giving up on academia while STILL not having a permanent job with benefits makes me feel like a failure. But at least 2 years from now I won’t be limited to 4 tenure track jobs….this actually made me feel a little bit better.


  9. Another thing that should always be mentioned is: You will be competing with German natives. Two of these TT jobs will be going to Princetonians, the other two will be going to Germans (who might also be Princetonians).


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