Welcome to Academia! Now Get Out!

No aimless wandering in this entry: institutions that invite applications for tenure-track assistant professorships and specify that they only want candidates with very recently minted Ph.Ds (2009, 2010) are behaving abominably. Yeah, you, Colorado State University and you, Harvard.

It’s long been known by academic job-searchers that there’s an unspoken expiration date on a new Ph.D, that if you haven’t landed a tenure-track post within six years or so of defending your dissertation, it will get increasingly difficult to do so as time goes on. That’s partly because the relative security of a tenure-track or even regular contract job, especially where there is support for research and a reasonable teaching load, allows a new professor to produce the research that will make later movement possible, whereas adjuncting at two, three, four institutions doesn’t lead much space or money for anything. But also there’s an insidious kind of prejudice that can enter into the conversation about a candidate: one of the people evaluating a dossier is going to say, sooner or later, “I wonder why this guy doesn’t have a regular job yet?” Often the person who says it is someone with zero awareness of the current situation in academia, zero empathy for the travails of job-seekers, and zero imagination about what candidates with all sorts of previous experience and histories might bring to the post. But all it takes is one person to plant the thought, and in a search where ten, twenty, thirty or more candidates might be strongly comparable in the assets they bring to the table, that might be all it takes to drop that person out of consideration.

At least when it’s a silent prejudice, it can be countered, deflected, or overriden. As explicit language in a job ad, it just ratifies the “let them eat cake” arrogance of tenure-track faculty towards the adjuncting masses. It’s particularly gross from a department that likely imagines itself to be producing strongly competitive scholars for the academic job market. CSU has fixed its ad, Harvard hasn’t (yet) but that either was ever written in the first place is likely a depressing sign of things to come–and I suspect that this is one case where faculty can’t blame managerialism, corporatization, administrators or any of the other favored scapegoats.

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4 Responses to Welcome to Academia! Now Get Out!

  1. Withywindle says:

    Hiring recent grads is also a good way to perpetuate an academic caste that has never known defeat, and hence remains unsympathetic to those who have.

  2. J. Otto Pohl says:

    You know trying to sum up sympathy for left wing American academics who enthusiastically supported black listing people like me from ever working in the US in academia is hard to do. I never even got an interview for an adjunct position despite having two books, several journal articles, a PhD from SOAS, and applying to hundreds of positions. So I really can not bring myself to care about the plight of the left wing ABD jerks with no publications that did get those positions as adjuncts other than to experience Schadenfreude. It is kind of like trying to feel sorry for Trotsky. I just can’t do it. The more US academia eats itself alive the better my institution looks in comparison. But, I am lucky in that unlike the vast majority of American academics I am willing to live and work in Africa where the narrow leftist prejudices of American academia do not reign. For instance here unlike in the US people actually have heard of SOAS and having a degree from there is not considered inferior to one from UNM or Cal State Fresno. So I managed to get a good full time gig without ever being an adjunct despite never getting a US interview.

  3. chris says:

    This tendency to create more unreasonable barriers to employment because it is a employers market is well reflected outside in academia where companies have posted “Unemployed need not apply” in their job postings. This is illegal. Fortunately, 60 Minutes did do an expose and such organizations as NELP are fighting against this type of discrimination. Now you see less of this. What needs to be done is a similar expose on academia.

  4. Withywindle says:

    Otto, if you’re happy to work in Africa, perhaps the time has come for closure about not getting work in American academia

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