Friday, November 9, 2007

The Sex You're Trading Up For, What You Hope is Love

You know what's just about the most heartbreaking thing I've ever seen in my life? Watching a guy--a friend--apply for the tenure-track version of the job he's been adjuncting in for years. This is one of those things civilians don't get. They think, "Hey, he's a great guy and he's worked himself into the ground for that department. He's got a paper or two out, his students love him and the faculty likes him too. Why wouldn't the job be his?"

But academia doesn't work that way. Yeah, it's not like an inside hire's never happened. But this, from the Chronicle forums, is dead on:
My favorite metaphor for this scenario is old whore/wife comparison. As an adjunct for these years, you have been their whore. They like you, they like the "service" you provide them, but they will never commit to you. They can't see you as "wife" material.

God damn.

But my friend has got a good paper out, and his students and colleagues do like him. And yeah, he's worked himself into the ground for their department. So it's hard not to keep my hopes for the guy in check.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

It really does suck -- and, the best thing your friend can do is to apply around, ask for letters from the department and see what happens.

The fact of the matter is that many departments like their adjuncts right where they have them. See, while there are 500+ applicants for the tenure-track job, someone willing to take adjunct sections and teach them will is rare. Sadly, market forces have no impact on adjunct salaries.

The other thing that is kind of a cruel truth is that there are different sorts of "qualified". It is quite possible that your friend's CV is competitive within the pile of applications. The thing is, I've been in the uncomfortable situation of having an adjunct who met the minimum quals for the job, did the job as an adjunct for a few years, but didn't have the qualifications we wanted in a full-time permanent member of the department...

Best of luck to your friend --

Anonymous said...

Yes, it sucks being contingent faculty. I'm relatively lucky because I'm a lecturer rather than an adjunct, but I've been applying for a tenure track job with the department for a few years now and it does not seem to matter what I publish, what teaching awards I win, etc..., the fact is that they can get me for cheap and get me to do twice the work for half the money. Why would they want to change things? It isn't gratitude. My service to the students and success in publishing is nothing to them. Charity? Not particularly charitable people, I'm afraid.

What's particularly annoying about the contingent faculty experience is the yearly ritual of meeting the new kids coming straight out of fancy programs with no teaching ability and no publishing record being interviewed for the job you've been fighting to get and will never have an interview for. I have nothing against them, but inevitably one or more of them will get the tenure track job, life will seem easy, and inevitably they'll start treating the contingent faculty as if they suffer from some sort of mild mental handicap. Because, you know, if you weren't mentally handicapped, you'd have a tenure track job or something.

Anonymous said...

What goes for lecturers goes for tenure-track faculty at branch or regional campuses too. Some of those faculty do eventually make it over to the main campus, but it's shocking how long some departments (i.e. mine) kept faculty -- even world-famous faculty -- at branch campuses.

-- That Guy

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

ItPF -- That is uncomfortable. And it's just what I have a hard time explaining to some family and friends about the job market. A search committee has no reason to hire someone who only has the "minimum quals". After all, they can hire the best person available.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

When we were in the uncomfortable situation, the deal was that the faculty union had determined what the minimum quals were. As a department, we decided that our prefered quals were significantly higher, and the person who had the one-year job (and who expected to get the next t-t job) very clearly didn't meet those qualifications.

As you might expect, he was quite angry. We decided not to interview him, as it was actually best to know that he wasn't going to get the job earlier, so he could make his own plans. He spent the rest of the year bad-mouthing us and complaining to his students. We spent the rest of the year looking forward to having our new colleague in the next year.

I don't know what happened to him--- the worst part was that, due to confidentiality agreements, we couldn't tell him directly. We couldn't even tell him that we couldn't tell him -- nor could we explain why about 300 others were more qualified than he.

Via the division grapevine, I suggested he request a review of the search notes. I also made sure that my version was clear in the notes. Since I know the notes were requested, I'm pretty sure he got the message eventually.

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