Here’s the UIC Fanfiction You Have Clearly Demanded

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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Sarah Kendzior tells the truth–now bring on the ad hominem attacks!

Sarah Kendzior tells the truth–now bring on the ad hominem attacks!

I am absolutely high on the genius of this article (and not just because she quotes yours truly, with attribution even). YOU GO, GLEN COCO. I am hoping the intelligent decision you made not to personalize this piece will spare you some of the cruel and largely unfounded vitriol I’ve gotten this week. It’s funny, too, because here’s how the (distilled) argument in my article went:

ME: the academic job market is overcrowded, so even if you are great, you probably won’t get a job, and when you don’t, you will be made to feel absolutely worthless by your peers, and you will believe in your heart that the only reason you failed–and make no mistake, you, personally, failed–is that you aren’t good enough. This isn’t necessarily true, because there is simply a massive glut of “good” people–with publications (check), great evals (check), and a decent rep in the field (until “Thesis Hatement,” check). So buck up! Don’t let those assholes tell you who’s “good” because they don’t know.

THEM: Bitch didn’t get a job because she’s not good enough. Obviously. I mean, look at her. Only one book contract? Only two articles in top journals? Only one of the most prestigious postdocs in the US? SHE SUXXX. And she ugly too.

This is a dangerous mentality–and not to me, I’m sensitive but I’ve basically just had a chorus of U MAD? in my head since Friday, making me giggle–because for the entrenched, it further entrenches them, and perpetuates exactly the abusive mentality Sarah writes so beautifully about (with so much true and palpable pain; gurl I hug you! this is a hug!), and makes sure nothing will ever change. And for the mid-indoctrination grad students, it sets them up for even more pain when the job market doesn’t work out for them (because even for the luckiest and the best, the people who actually get stuff, this shit is meager. Mea. ger. I mean, at least three of the most “desirable” positions in my field last year were at institutions LEGENDARY for denying tenure, and were in fact replacements for people who didn’t get it, despite being serious geniuses who are incontrovertibly great scholars and probably terrific pedagogues too. But I digress.)

I wish I didn’t scream inwardly with recognition at every line of this story (not just the one I wrote, heh), I wish things were different. I wish it were a true meritocracy, not because then I’d have a job (maybe I still wouldn’t, and that is fine), but because then we would know what we needed to do to be competitive for one. But, more than anything, I wish that exactly the series of psychological maneuvers Sarah describes in her article (I keep using her first name even though we’ve never met b/c we are Twitter friends and because I LOVE HER, DO YOU HEAR ME? I LOVE YOU) were not still taking place this very second, and I wish the article I wrote to try to bring attention to them didn’t instead succeed for some in giving them even more credibility.

I wish more than anything for the Slate article I wrote to be wrong. I wish the reason so many amazing people I know travel from visiting job to visiting job, or adjunct 7 courses a semester is because they did something “wrong” that the rest of you can avoid by going to the Ivy League or just by not being like me. I hope that every panicked graduate student who read “Thesis Hatement” and got placated by a bunch of his/her friends on Facebook with cries of “DON’T LISTEN TO A LOSER” is vindicated, and gets a job, and doesn’t end up in the incontrovertible reality that Sarah describes. I really do–but I have read the complicated theoretical writing on the wall, and I really don’t see things changing for the better. Instead, like I said a few days ago, I believe that in a few years it will be all adjuncts and MOOCs (although then who’ll be left to treat the adjuncts like shit? Maybe there will be like one tenured professor per department still. I don’t know). I really hope I’m wrong–I really do hope that what happened to me is simply the causal result of me sucking. But even with the total devaluation of my self-worth that had already taken place before hundreds of strangers weighed in on it, I just don’t think I am.