November
12th 2008
Welcome to Hard Times?

Posted under: Uncategorized

How bad is it out there?  From my extremely non-scientific perusal of my blogroll, it sounds like some of you are seeing evidence of the economic crisis in your universities’ budgets and in job opportunities (that is, in vanishing job opportunities).  I hear gossip in the hallways about searches being cancelled–Sisyphus for one is freaking out over the academic job market.  The New York Times and Bloomberg.com report that even wealthy institutions have instituted budget cuts and hiring freezes (h/t Gabriela Montell at the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog, On Hiring.  Dear readers, have any of these unfortunate things happened to you or at your university?  I rely on you to keep me informed–here in my sunny little corner of the Great American Desert there is just a sense of overall foreboding, but no specific bad news yet.

Just in case, maybe we’d better start reading up on feed sack dresses.  (Check out the ca. 1960 version of cotton bag dresses, shown above!)  Who says poverty can’t be stylish?

20 Comments »

20 Responses to “Welcome to Hard Times?”

  1. The History Enthusiast on 12 Nov 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    My department will not be hiring “in the near future,” according to my advisor. I think we were scheduled to have a search for a Latin Americanist this year, and I think we were supposed to have two searches next year.

    I will be on the job market next year, and like Sisyphus, I am starting to freak out.

  2. Meg on 12 Nov 2008 at 2:08 pm #

    I love how, now that there’s a recession on, sewing is trendy again. When I learned as a five year old I was the only one doing it. Now I see sewing books geared towards college kids.

  3. Indyanna on 12 Nov 2008 at 2:09 pm #

    There were supposed to be no searches around here at all this year while various colleges “gave back” positions to the administerium. Then suddenly we got approval to do a public history search. Then it got tangled up in efforts by the provost to use the search to force “Distance Ed” into the pedagogical equation here. Nobody knows who this Distance Ed is, but some think he’s the neer-do-well expat brother-in-law of some administrator. Now we don’t hear anything. None of the searches I’m tracking out there have been tanked so far, knock on Naugahyde! One remembers with shudders the famous melt-down winter of 1991-1992.

    Those threads above are pretty darn stylish. Who knew it was a scheme by the National Cotton Council, or that there even *was* a National Cotton Council. I was thinking New Frontier and maybe a prankish nod from Jackie Kennedy. (Who, to be sure, preferred to support major fashion houses). Historiann, you should maybe blog on “Queen for a Day,” a scandallous chixploitation show from the cusp of the Eisenhower/Kennedy divide.

  4. Rose on 12 Nov 2008 at 2:17 pm #

    There was an article in Sunday’s Washington Post about Michelle Obama’s uber-stylish election-night dress, and her potential to give the fashion industry a very public shot in the arm as first lady. I think she should start with the cotton-sack dress–she’d look fabulous in that one in the middle, I think!

  5. grant on 12 Nov 2008 at 2:37 pm #

    I don’t think the community colleges in my state will be doing any searches but we scored an additional funding source on November 4. Please go up to Blackhawk and Central City and try to win your retirement back.

  6. GayProf on 12 Nov 2008 at 3:27 pm #

    We were already having budget cut backs.

  7. Susan on 12 Nov 2008 at 3:34 pm #

    In a conversation with our dean this morning, he said he thought we’d hang on to the positions we have now, but that next year we’d be lucky to hire anyone.

  8. thefrogprincess on 12 Nov 2008 at 5:03 pm #

    As far as I know, the searches planned in my department are continuing but I’m going on the job market next year and I’m worried. I don’t study American history and so my specialty is certainly a luxury that I’m assuming most schools won’t think is a priority. The good news is that I’m already ambivalent about continuing in academia so there’s a limit to how long I’ll struggling along.

  9. Brett on 12 Nov 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    Our university had a universal hiring freeze, but that only lasted for about a week. Now that the total freeze has been lifted, we can maybe hire somebody to fill a vacant technical staff position, but our two faculty searches are gone.

  10. thefrogprincess on 12 Nov 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    and that should say “there’s a limit to how long I’ll struggle along.”

  11. Historiann on 12 Nov 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    Well, it all sounds like we’re in about the same place. (At least, the stories that Indyanna, Susan, and GayProf tell sound familiar.) My department didn’t get permission to run the one search we prioritized–but then, we got a brand-new line last year, and we ran two (successful) searches two years in a row, so we didn’t expect that we’d be permitted to hire our fifth new colleague this year anyway, regardless of was happening/has happened with the economy. Grant, I was a little surprised that the one ballot issue that succeeded this year in Colorado was the Casino Ca$h for Community Colleges issue. Congratulations–I guess!

    For all of you who are graduate students–History Enthusiast, thefrogprincess, and others–I am sorry. But, try not to get too down about bad news that’s not really yours yet. Everyone I know who finished a diss. and did a national (and in some cases international) job search found a job eventually, although there were some years of full-time temping, even after completing the Ph.D.

    Finally, on the fashion: Meg, the textile work revival is an interesting development, but I’ve thought the revival in knitting and sewing was about turning these skills and crafts into high-end hobbies rather than make-do-for-your-family strategies. (IOW, the cost of clothing would have to get really, really expensive again before sewing yourself made economic sense. After all, the Chinese economy is on the skids too, so they’ll be willing to drop their prices even lower in order to secure the American consumer dollar.)

    And Rose, I think you’re right that M.O. would choose the middle dress–she’s funky and daring (although I didn’t love that Narcisco Rodriguez dress on election night, and I have loved just about everything that man has designed in the past.) I would go with the option on the far right, the two-piece dress, but then I usually go for the more tailored look (which is why I usually dig Narcisco.)

  12. notyettenured on 12 Nov 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    We were hiring two positions this year and lost one. frogprincess, you may be comforted to know that we lost the Americanist position but kept the “luxury” field.

    Word is we’re not having a hiring “freeze,” but just a deep chill… (although in these northern climes people may define -25 as a chill).

  13. Another Damned Medievalist on 12 Nov 2008 at 8:34 pm #

    AFAIK, all of the searches in my College (and there are at least 5 on right now) are still on. Granted, most are replacements and one is new, but for a department with over 60 majors and only one FT faculty, so accreditation comes into it. But other places I know had cut searches well before the crunch really started to hit. Of course SLAC did change our raise structure this year, so some of us ended up taking a cut.

  14. Rose on 13 Nov 2008 at 10:57 am #

    Funny you should say that about M.O.’s election night dress, Historiann–part of the Post article was about exactly why it wasn’t a great choice. According to the writer, that same Narcisco Rodriguez dress looked a lot better both on the runway and in still photos than it did on TV…how it just didn’t translate on live television. Thank GOD I don’t have to worry about that in my own life! ;^)

  15. grant on 13 Nov 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    I did not vote for Casino cash. I have real issues with using gambling and state run lotteries to fund anything let alone education. Think regressive tax. I believe it passed not because it helps the CC’s with funding but because people want the chance to double down.

  16. Notorious Ph.D. on 13 Nov 2008 at 2:07 pm #

    Our one planned search is still on, and we’re still interviewing in a suite. But the department has had to make cuts in other places to do it. One example: in late September, while preparing my tenure file and book manuscript (and copy of the book manuscript for the tenure file!), I ended up buying my own ream of paper because said paper was being rationed by the office staff.

    Also, each faculty member is now limited to 500 photocopies per semester. Dept. budget folks advised putting exams on overhead projectors. So, not quite a flour-sack dress, but there you have it.

  17. Historiann on 13 Nov 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    Grant, I voted the same way for the same reasons. But, I felt a little guilty about it when I checked the box, because I was voting against funding for higher ed (and lord knows it’s not coming to us in Colorado through other means!) Well, a fat lot of difference our votes made, eh?

    Rose, everything I see in the stores is all black and red, or deep purple, which are a combination and color (respectively) that are hard to pull off for most women. I admire Michelle Obama’s daring spirit–better to err once in a while than to dress like a slipcovered sofa for 4 years.

    And ADM, notyettenured, and Notorious, I wish you luck with your searches. The good thing (maybe?) about hard times is that it means recruiting top people is easier if you’re not at a top-ranked university or geographical location. I was surprised (and pleased) to hear recently that one of our searches 2 years ago in a non-U.S. field was considered by the people in that field to be one of the best jobs going. (But, I’m sorry that it had more to do with the poverty of other opportunities in the field, and not with the Transformational Awesomeness of Historiann and her colleagues at Baa Ram U.!)

  18. Indyanna on 13 Nov 2008 at 3:22 pm #

    Our search in public history is apparently back on. The provost caved on his slacker kinsman, Distance Ed. But now the advertisement is lost in the internal bureaucratic haze and can’t be run until it’s located and a couple of quibbles resolved. Also, re a recent thread on phone versus live interviews: the human resources dept.–which has taken over from a dedicated outside office the affirmative action functions–has ruled we can do all of one sort or all of another, but not a mixture–which is probably a reasonable rule. Looks like no AHA and probably phone interviews. I better go back and revisit that thread.

    Wow, Notorious. We get 200 copies a month and think we’re being pinched! There are ways of getting them to let you run “your” stuff under the guise of grazing on the commons, though.

  19. Sisyphus on 18 Nov 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    I’m back and glad to be, as always, the chosen example of freakoutery! Unfortunately I overheard a most horrifying conversation between two full profs about TIAA-CREFs and how _nobody_ in the world was going to retire now unless the dean pried it out of their cold almost-dead hands, and how if the job market looked bad this year, we have barely seen anything yet. Oh, and our searches here may still get cancelled.

    Needless to say I was hyperventilating by this point. I need a drink!

  20. Ann Bartow on 19 Nov 2008 at 7:48 am #

    Things are pretty bleak here at the U of South Carolina. Hiring freeze, salary freezes, no travel money at all, not one dollar, and no tech upgrades, even though we badly need a new server. Oh and an increase in the size of the student body, plus tuition increases.

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