Bad advice #2, and good advice #1 and #2

“Go anywhere.” Not quite.

Z to colleagues: Well, despite a request and funding from upper administration, I may not get my course release. It feels like discrimination, or inappropriate interference: do you think it is about me personally, or about our subfield, or something else, or am I being “overly sensitive”?

Colleague 1: Our subfield. The whole department is a service department, but we are the service subfield of the service department, and the result is that we simply are not equal to other faculty of our rank, either within the department or outside it.

Z, illuminated: I see! We are service teaching, period, so we are glorified instructors, so this is why they block development of our subfield and give us fewer points for good publications, and on the other hand do not seriously care if we do not publish — because they already had us prioritized in a certain way!

Z, not seriously, but to make a point: Gosh, if I had known this kind of thing, I could have made better informed decisions earlier on, and be making real money in a community college right now! On the beach!


We were supposed to go somewhere very research oriented or somewhere elite, but the real considerations are is how strong is the major? — yes, the undergraduate major — and how much institutional support or at least good feeling for the field is there? These modest questions, if their true answers can be discovered  in time, may be the ones that separate the jobs you should consider from those you should not.

If the outlook on these questions is poor, you might seriously want to take that multi-year visiting position in a nice place, scandalizing everyone by not being on the tenure track, or a different bad tenure track job in a location that has a great deal else to offer you.


Colleague 2: It is that everyone knows you are a revolutionary element and must be kept down. It is written on you in neon lights.

Z: How is it written?

Colleague 2: You are not obsequious and do not fear authority.

Z: You, Colleague 2, obviously do not read my blog. But seriously, dear reader, if you are a revolutionary element (I am so traditional, really, that I am always shocked to find I am perceived as a revolutionary element), you are probably best off in departments that do not mind this; that may eliminate much of the South and also schools with entrenched administrators who are old-style Southerners.

My advice is that you should go to places that resemble your undergraduate institution, if you liked it. You will understand these places and their students, and you will fit in. My undergraduate institution, of course, was a public Ivy and as we know, one should not expect to get hired at a public R-1 even in Mississippi or North Dakota. If you have this sort of problem you have to dissect your liking of your institution a little more.

For example, what did I like? The public-ness? The Ivy-ness? The urban-ness or lack thereof? The large size? The fact that in those days it was inexpensive enough and public schools were good enough that many regular people, first generation college students, immigrants and so on, could get in and could also afford to study there?

I liked that last thing, and I liked the size; I liked the Ivy-ness the least, but I did like the high quality faculty and the voluminous catalogue of departments, programs, and courses; these are some reasons why I learned to seek for myself the kind of institution I finally learned to seek.




Filed under News, Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “Bad advice #2, and good advice #1 and #2

  1. These are excellent points. You have made me return to the personal journaling I did when I was on the job market, and I find that I was discovering in the course of interviews and talking to other job-seekers and faculty at MLA that I very much wanted the sort of job I got (or a better-ranked school of the same type), but very much did not want to teach at a SLAC, although I had plausible answers for questions I expected to encounter in SLAC interviews. But all my intellectual analysis of what might be the good things, and my determination to get a job, could not overcome the combination of gut reaction and consideration of the hard information I was getting while interviewing. It appears that even at the time (and I had forgotten this), I was contemplating turning down such a job if it had been offered, and staying at my grad institution if they would fund me for another year, or even doing something else, because I could not bear the idea of living in a small town in the middle of nowhere, teaching at a small school. I could do the first part for a large university, and maybe (not sure) could teach at a small school in a large urban area. Not both. I’m just surprised that my grad-school-self was so aware, because looking back, what I recalled was the need for a job, not my ability to discriminate between jobs.

    Your posts make me very glad that I did get the job at LRU.

  2. Z

    Yes. I knew since high school that I was not interested in SLACs. This means one should not work in them, either.

    The problem with our kind of place, if you are applying for FL jobs, is the heavy language load. It is like being in English and having a lot of ESL and freshman composition, and not a great deal of the rest. That is why one needs there to be graduate programs, and the more, the better.

    And that is why I did not apply to this kind of place earlier on. But as institutions, I like these, and if I’d been in English, I’d have gone to a place like yours and never looked back. I would also have cased out areas I wanted to live in and gone to lesser known but interesting institutions like this one, and started an interesting life sooner.

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