RATE MY JIL 2018! Opening day, motherfuckers + possibly the worst idea I’ve ever had 

Well, here we are again. It’s the day the JIL drops in the MLA fields, and this marks my fifth year of dealing with my still-mixed cocktail of feelings about not being a German professor anymore by saying aloud all the things that current job-seekers wish they could about their pitiful field of available positions.

Much has changed since the first time I did this in 2013, when I was just getting used to my footing in the post-academic world and making A LOT of mistakes; and in 2014, when I was six months pregnant; and in 2015, when I didn’t do it because I had a baby and a book to write and could barely tie my shoes (disclosure: I never tied my shoes; I wore Danskos and PajamaJeans everywhere and it was not cute); and last year, when I cynically revived Rate My JIL to drum up “interest” in said “book” without looking too “thirsty“; and a bonus entry this summer, when I got literally 100 thousand human Earth views of what will probably be the most fucked-up ad of the season no matter what happens today or any day in the future.*

What has changed? Well, I just dropped my daughter off AT PRESCHOOL, for one. And what’s more, for the fourth time in a row, she charged into that room, like, Later, loser! and didn’t even look back. Today I even said, “Hey Fluffy, you wanna give Mama a hug and smooch goodbye?” And fuck if that kid didn’t look at me LIKE I WAS EMBARRASSING HER. Girl child, you have no idea how bad it’s going to get before it gets better, if it ever does (hint: IT WON’T. I AM PROFOUNDLY EMBARRASSING, so much so that your FATHER made me use a pseudonym for him in the book about how we met!).

Anyway, I’ve set up camp at a café down the street from said preschool, with one eye still on my phone in case they call to have me come fetch her because she’s gone apoplectic, because, well, let’s just say I won’t be exhaling about this anytime soon.

At any rate, a la the 2013 and 2014 Rate My JILs, I’ve got my beverage set up, plus my real work, which at the moment is the English translation of a forthcoming book about the material history of Swiss Jews. It’s super-fascinating, but also DEPRESSING AS FUCK. I know the history of my people is the history of persecution and death, but I’m currently plodding through the Middle Ages and if I have to translate one more passage about burning bodies in a pogrom, I might cry. Aaaaaaanywayz, this translation ain’t gonna translate itself, so let’s get to job-rating.

2017-2018 Outlook: GRAUSAM.

Once again, on the day the list drops (which usually represents between 30 and 70 percent of the total TT jobs offered in the MLA cycle), we find ourselves in the single digits, with a full third of those jobs either not in German at all, or not beginning-assistant level. So, here we go.

  1. We start our journey with a seriously what-the-fuck listing from the great liberal-arts school Bucknell. This position is “open rank,” and yet “ABD considered.” Oh, and “Dedication to the beginning and intermediate German language sequence is essential.” So someone who has barely ever taught can do this job, but also, it could go to a Full Professor who wants nothing more than to teach the 101 sequence until they shuffle off the mortal coil in five years. (Fun fact: I use the singular they/them now! LEARN TO LOVE IT! I HAVE!) Like, Bucknell, you are one of literally NINE jobs dropping on JIL day, and you are intentionally asking for applications from every single sad schmuck on the market and their brother. Why are you doing this to yourselves? Did you do something bad, and you feel like you need to atone? I can think of some other ways.
  2. Colorado College. This is a legit assistant-prof job. They want a modernist who specializes in interdisciplinary teaching (HEY!!! THAT REMINDS ME OF SOMEONE I KNOW!!!). Fun fact: I almost applied to Colorado College, but in the end determined that it wasn’t located far enough away from my parents and everyone I went to high school with, so it would be insufficient in spearheading my Great College Reinvention.
  3. Georgetown. Not a fucking German job by any remote stretch of the imagination, but enjoy getting a bunch of irrelevant applications for your Jewish Studies job in your School of Foreign Service. (Also: LIKE FOREIGN SERVICE will be a thing that exists by next year!)
  4. Georgia Tech. Blech, it’s a postdoc. If you’re still in the season of your life where you adore moving all your shit at (mostly) your own expense every nine months and you hate making any lasting friendships or connections, and you hate your family or BETTER YET don’t have one, this is a great opportunity. Otherwise, [fart noise].
  5. Gettysburg. This is one of those jobs where what they KNOW they want is a great teacher, but they’ve also made a bunch of verkockte research requirements, so they’ll get applications from, well, everyone since it’s open discipline, and they’ll be like me when I walk into a bodega when I’m fucking starving and get overwhelmed with all the choices and somehow always walk out with Combos, which at least I know I hate, so, a Rumsfeldian known known situation. Gettysburg, get your fucking shit together and keep your eyes on the teaching-emphasis prize, or you’ll end up with Combos.
  6. Hopkins. Sound the alarm, folks, this is an OUTSIDE CHAIR SEARCH. *Commence “Outside Chair Search” song and dance.* If there’s one thing I know (and I don’t know much), it is that there is nooooooo goooooood reeeeeeason any non-toxic, happily-functioning department would need to do an outside chair search. ANY department doing an outside chair is the living embodiment of Yeats’ “The Second Coming,” i.e. the best lack all conviction (and would NEVER be willing to chair such a cesspool) and the worst are filled with passionate intensity. Disaffected Full Professors with a savior complex who enjoy making slightly more money than usual for taking on the psychic load of an entire department’s bullshit, this one’s for you! LOL.
  7. Kennesaw State. Oh dear, HR definitely wrote this ad (or someone who doesn’t know, and probably doesn’t care, what German studies people do all day), so I’mma make a bunch of broad un-researched conjectures (I NEED to get back to my translation, homies) and say that just from looking at this ad I can tell that the recipient of this job will be the entire German department, which is both good and bad.
  8. Texas Tech. “Assistant Professor of the Practice” (aka non-TT). Oh great googley-moogley, I’m just gonna leave this here, with some bolding ‘n stuff. The successful candidate will have experience in humanities and second language instruction, grant writing support, promotion of language learning, assessment of language acquisition in a language lab environment, and online course development. This is a 9-month, non-tenure-track, full-time position, renewable annually based on performance. The teaching load would vary depending on department need but should be a minimum of one course per semester (25%). The remainder of the position will be dedicated to developing online courses, promoting language study at Texas Tech, assisting in developing hybrid language courses, assisting faculty in the grant writing process, assisting in the Language Lab and Research Center during the assessment period, and conducting research in the humanities and in second language acquisition. Service to the department, college, and university is expected. PhD at the time of appointment.
  9. Cal. CAL. Cal. CAL. Cal. CAL. Cal. I’ve been doing Rate My JIL or actually applying for jobs for…(counts ploddingly)…eight years now, and most of those eight years have featured a job ad from Cal, and most of THOSE years have featured in a cancelled search for Cal. I’m gonna give this listing a 23 percent chance of actually resulting in a professor, and then that professor an approximately 22 percent chance of staying there for long enough to attain tenure, and then a 21 percent chance of actually GETTING the tenure they apply for.


Well, that was fun.

Now, here is possibly the worst/best/worst/best idea I’ve ever had. I’ve been talking to my husband lately about how much I miss being a professor. How I long, sometimes, to be a professor again. My daughter’s bike route (i.e. my bike route and my daughter’s trailer-route) to preschool requires us to cut across the campus of Washington University, and ever time I set foot on it, my heart cries a little bit. There is nothing I love more than the feeling of a college campus during the start of a new year, and I would give pretty much anything to have my part in that world again. HOWEVER. While I miss being a professor, I do not one bit miss trying to be an academic.

WAIT WUT??? How is that possible? Well, because not all academics are professors (a-duh), and not all professors are academics (thank goodness). While the academic life—the exacting research that very few people will read; the endless meetings and politicking and posturing and who-is-busiest game; the complete and utter inability to speak one’s mind about any damn thing “until tenure” and then probably not even after that—holds no appeal for me whatsoever, the professor’s life—preparing a great course, teaching it, interacting with students, being a part of their intellectual development—is always where I’ve been happiest and where, after all of this (yes, even after all of this) I truly believe I belong.

So here’s my deal for you guys. This JIL season, I will apply—legitimately, sincerely apply—for EXACTLY ONE JOB DURING THE MAIN MLA CYCLE. I will bow and scrape to my old committee for letters. I will dust off all of my bullshit dossiers. But—and here’s the catch—I will also do so one hundred percent honestly and transparently. My cover letter will bluntly detail both my exit from academe and my recent addition of a child (GASP). I will also state plainly that I refuse to spend $1500 of my own money (actually closer to $3000-4000, since I have to bring the kid and arrange a caregiver) to attend the MLA conference, and, furthermore, that requiring conference interviews places undue financial burden on applicants, and, as such, that I will only be available for Skype and telephone interviews.

This year, I will apply for exactly one job. But I will do it as myself. 

Now as if that weren’t fucking bananas enough (guys, I DO NOT have the 15 man-hours and $18 Interfolio dollars to waste on this shit!), there’s more: I’m going to apply to one job this year, AND I AM GOING TO LET YOU, my 16,000 best friends, CHOOSE WHICH ONE. You read right, motherfuckers. I AM DOING THIS.

So  here’s how it’s gonna work. Every week I will put a li’l poll down here that contains all of the jobs for which I am qualified. Please vote for the one for which you’d most like to see me humiliate myself in the application process/actually to have (depending on your pro-anti-Schuman’s-soul stance, I guess). Since (OSTENSIBLY) new jobs will be added every week until sometime in late October, I won’t be able to tabulate the final result until then, but I still want to know what you think. So here’s this week’s! Please STOP, THINK AND CHOOOOOSE in the words of Daniel Tiger, and vote carefully (or pettily, if that’s your thing).

(*UPDATE: Someone did get that UIC job. I don’t know anything about them, but they look very nice and I’m sure they had their reasons and possibly their alternate source of income. Best of luck to you, person I won’t name but whose identity is obvious from the website! Nobody bother their ass; the ignominy of that job is punishment enough.)


Did you enjoy this post? I hope you did. Here is a book you might like!

21 thoughts on “RATE MY JIL 2018! Opening day, motherfuckers + possibly the worst idea I’ve ever had 

  1. A question: what does this abbreviation stand for: JIL (Rate My JIL in #9)?

    I recommended your book to my former students. One bought it for her Kindle reader, to read on the flight to Austria 🙂

    I will re-read the passage in your book where you meet and marry your husband.

    Alles Gute!


  2. An alternative for number 6 is that the Department is functional, but disagrees with the Dean or another higher-up about something they really care about, and the External Chair is intended to bring them back into line.

    Why yes, that was done to three Departments in my faculty about three years ago.

    All three departments are now noticeably less functional but the externally appointed chairs can Do No Wrong in the Deans’ eyes because they come from different universities (not Corrupted By Local Experience) and know they owe their position/job to the Dean…


  3. Colorado despite your misgivings, as long as I’m allowed to have a vote. It will be more family-friendly than most, salary will be very good, and a half-year leave is built in after every six yrs of teaching (likely a junior leave, too, before tenure, giving you time to really focus on the non-teaching duties).

    Also those outside chair things can s/t be ok, even good, if your chairing means a reduced courseload. You’re right that it’s usually a dysfunctional dept of course, but I’ve seen more than one become functional with an outsider to help insert some order/sense/sanity. Anyway, good luck on whatever you choose.


  4. Thank you for doing this experiment so that I (a fellow “failed” academic who “left the field” with a Master’s in the sciences and spent the next decade slaving away as a lecturer/adjunct) don’t have to.


  5. Not including Hopkins on the list? Just think of the possibilities; if you get the appointment as chair you can live blog all of the poisonous departmental infighting.


  6. Hmm. I don’t get the point of this. Illustrate the futile exercise that an academic job search has become? We got that aplenty. Give us a laugh? I’d much prefer your profanity-laden letters to baby or Rate My JIL columns. Seriously seek a college teaching job? Yes, I’d be curious to follow that! With affection I ask, is PKK about to jump the shark?


  7. About 6: That external search has to do with the fact that two of their full professors were poached by a certain other German dept on very short notice. Word is that it doesn’t so much have to do with a dysfunctional department, but with another school throwing around insane amounts of money in a push to become the biggest (and “best”) German dept in the US.


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