Reader “Penthesilea*” has this to say about our previous discussion of a current job ad for a “part-time” position at the University of Illinois-Chicago that offers twenty-eight thousand dollars per annum as compensation:

Typical Schulman job. Doesn’t contact the school for comment, doesn’t understand the political context, singles out an institution that’s been brutalized by Rauner, writes a cutesy little fantasy of evil admins, and flails in the comments in response to folks who actually know what’s going on.

I don’t know who this Schulman is, but she sounds terrible.

It’s true that in my capacity of writing a blog that critiques job ads, I don’t routinely reach out to the writers of those job ads for comment/explication/justification. This is not because I have derelicted my journalistic duties—largely because in my capacity as a writer of blogs that critique job ads, I have no journalistic duties.

If I had chosen to write this up for a national publication such as Slate, the Chronicle or the Atlantic, you can be assured that I’d do my due diligence and reach out for comment, as I have in every single one of the hundreds of pieces of higher-ed journalism I have written since November of 2013, when, in my fourth or fifth article as a professional Slate writer, I did neglect to reach out to an institution for comment on a shitty thing they did, because I was a baby journo and didn’t know I had to. Then my editor said, “You have to,” and I said, “Duly noted,” and I have done so, and rigorously and professionally, ever since.

The fact is, I have neither the time nor the desire to turn something so highly specialized as job-ad critiquing into a palatable piece of actual journalism. This is my hobby. (Hey, we all have some weird-ass hobbies.) And it’s a hobby I barely have time for these days, in my capacity as Stay-At-Home Fuckup and Alleged Professional Author. (Also, BUY MY BOOK?)

It is also true that job ads should stand on their own. No applicant should have to go on a fact-finding mission to understand what’s “really going on” with an advertisement for a job. I didn’t contact UIC for comment because not only didn’t I want to, and not only didn’t I have time to, but also I didn’t have to. If they have something they’d like to explain regarding this ad, I’m all ears, but it’s nobody’s job to assume there’s a justifiable backstory and then go hunting for it, least of all nobody who is currently in the unfortunate position of an active academic job search.

Anyway. I wouldn’t say I “flailed” in my own comments, or did anything close to it, because flailing would involve caring, and I don’t. Do I care about the Illinois budget crisis? Sure, I guess. As much as someone can care about something esoterically that is just part and parcel of a larger conflagration of outrage-inducing garbage nightmare realities, a.k.a. our world at present. Have I been following said budget controversy religiously? I most certainly have not, and I am guessing that unless you are an Illinois public employee, neither have you.

I also know that there is literally no context on the face of the Earth that would allow for the advertisement of a job that bills itself as part-time, is definitively not part-time, and pays more or less the Chicago minimum wage for a highly specialized position requiring a specific and highly-learned skillset. The only mildly acceptable thing would be if this job had been posted as a piece of performance art in protest of Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, which it definitely wasn’t, because I have seen its poster attempt to defend it, and I watched as it was disseminated in earnest (and then most of the people it was disseminated to balked and refused to pass it on).

HOWEVER. I certainly know ENOUGH about the Illinois budget crisis to know that a job like that doesn’t get posted without some serious wackadoodle shit going on behind the scenes. And luckily for you, I have been offered a glimpse behind those scenes.

So here, gentle Penthesilea, is what’s “really going on” at UIC.

CHAIR: We need a new language program director.
DEAN: No you don’t.
CHAIR: Really we do.
DEAN: BUT THE BUDGET!!!!!
CHAIR: Yes, the budget thing is terrible.
DEAN: Wait, I have an idea!
CHAIR: Yes?
DEAN: I’ll curb my own salary about $200 a month, and get a bunch of my dean friends to as well, and that will create more than enough money to offer one full-time job once.
CHAIR: That is both weirdly generous and also not helpful in the long run.
DEAN: HA HA HA I am definitely kidding. My kid’s third birthday party isn’t going to pay for itself. Do you know how much a gluten-free bouncy castle costs? 
CHAIR: So are you saying we should just kill our German program? 
DEAN: *I* didn’t say that, *you* said that. Also THE BUDGET!!!! Our governor is AN ASSHOLE! It’s his fault!
CHAIR: He’s the worst.
DEAN: So we agree.
CHAIR: I guess?
DEAN: Look, you seem nice. I’ll tell you what. How about a “67 percent” appointment?
CHAIR: That sounds awful.
DEAN: BUT THE BUDGET!!!!!!!!
CHAIR: True. Everyone who is looking for a job in German follows our budget travails religiously, and will immediately understand the context of this posting, and will also be grateful for such a good job opportunity that will offer a “foot in the door” while they work on their own publications in their copious spare time. I will get a committee together and write an ad, and then disseminate it widely to German listservs, and everyone will be happy to pass it on. Also, everyone knows pedagogues aren’t real scholars anyway.
DEAN: Good meeting. 

FIXED IT!

PS: If you liked this, I heartily recommend a book you might also like!

PPS: this post has been updated to reflect the corrected spelling of a name, and to finish a thought about why that damn ad should have stood on its own merit that was truncated earlier thanks to a certain toddler.

PPPS: IMPORTANT! The milk-afflicted car, aka the #Retchmobile, is currently at the detailer with its stench fate TBD. STAY TUNED.

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7 thoughts on “Here’s the UIC Fanfiction You Have Clearly Demanded

  1. Hahahahaha! I write about academics for a living, but I’m a blogger, so I have no duty to the truth, and I think a 2+1 courseload plus admin usually gets MUCH HIGHER SALARIES in Illinois, because see above.

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    1. Please, defend this job. I’d really love to hear it. We are all listening. And while you’re at it, name one thing I wrote that wasn’t true, aside from fictional conversations written for entertainment. I wrote that post precisely because I DO have a duty to the truth. If the truth is they everyone at UIC makes less than 28K a year then all the better to expose.

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  2. So living in MO, working at a university, I have been paying super-close attention to IL woes. I also used to work in the WI system, so I’m pretty familiar with woes caused by choices made by politicians who think that higher education isn’t really for everyone and budget crises — real, fabricated, or anything in between — should be solved as much as possible on the backs of those lazy leftist faculty. I think that this job ad is SUPER important because it tells us something about the future of our country, of academia, and of the idea that everyone should have access to affordable public education. You are exactly right.

    Let’s not pretend that it’s a one-off problem or that some administrator made a mistake or that it’s an unfortunate side effect of a single budget crisis: this is part of a systemic devaluing of the expertise and skills of faculty *and* the right of students to have access to faculty time, resources, as well as the space to learn how to think and critique.

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  3. I teach in a different humanities department at UIC. The state budget crisis has indeed made for really bad cuts in many departments, and I bet this is all the money they have. That said: You can’t reasonably expect someone to do this job for $28,000 and I’m sure they know it. The mandatory minimum salary for FT at UIC is something like $37k. It’s obvious they’re fudging the 67% because they don’t have the $37k and are trying to figure out a way to get this job through HR. I sympathize with the financial straits departments find themselves in but this is an irresponsible way to handle it. I showed the listing to the person who handles HR matters in my department and their jaw dropped. Everyone at UIC is underpaid and overworked but this type of salary for this type of job is not the norm. It’s pretty embarrassing.

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  4. Why should the taxpayer fund the idle intellectual whose “work” consists of writing academic books no one in the world will ever read and teaching classes that only 5 kids on campus take anyway? Why should the state take money that could go to finding a cure for cancer or something important, and instead throw it down the rathole of Liberal Arts departments where some professor will waste that money sitting on his ass writing a book on Postcolonial Feminist Transgender Finnish Commercials that will not improve life for anyone on earth?

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