November
28th 2008
Black Friday blogging: agony column updates

Posted under: conferences, jobs, publication

Before I dive into that pile of grading I’ve successfully avoided until today, I thought you might enjoy a few updates from this fall term’s series of agony columns:

  • Tenured Tammy, if you’ll recall, was applying for jobs to solve her two-body problem, with the additional wrinkle that she is a tenured associate professor, and her husband is a grad student applying for his first job this year.  You advised her to be vague in her application letters as to why she is applying for assistant professor jobs again, and you also urged her to seek accommodation at her university.  She writes that her husband had a telephone interview with one of the institutions they both applied to, but “it doesn’t sound like they’ll be issuing him an invitation to interview on campus.”  She reports the excellent news that “there has been some movement [at my university] regarding a spousal hire for my husband.  I’m not sure exactly what they’ll be able to do, but the Provost called [my department chair] yesterday and was very receptive to the idea, as was the dean of the college [my husband would work in].  There are still a lot of hoops to go through, and its very possible the department may not want him (which I totally respect) but I’m so encouraged to know that the administration at [my university] is amendable to the idea of spousal hires.”  What a concept!  Would that Baa Ram U. would follow your university’s example, Tammy.
  • Busted Barry was applying selectively for jobs this year and didn’t want to buy an airplane ticket for prospective AHA interviews, and you advised him not to advertise that in his application letter.  He followed your advice, but sadly, he wrote a few weeks ago to say that he has already been notified that he’s not a semi-finalist.
  • Worried Wendy, as you’ll recall, was dismayed to hear someone read back an article she published two years ago in the first half of a conference paper recently.  She has not e-mailed or otherwise contacted the person who “borrowed” her research without acknowledgement.
  • Demoralized Debby, whose first tenure-track appointment ended badly but who is considering going back on the academic job market, writes that “the whole thread was really helpful, even the dismaying stuff.  I feel like I have a more definite plan of action: try to get a book contract but not wait ’til it’s out, and focus more on teaching.   I don’t want to adjunct, but a course or two might be bearable if it would really help the CV.  I’m meeting with a sane ally from my former university soon who’s an administrator and a stellar teacher; I’ll sound her out about teaching, too.”

Your thoughts, dear readers?  Since most of these questions revolve around the job market, let’s make this an open thread for people on the job market to let us know how it looks out there.  Have you bought your ticket to go to the annual meetings of the Modern Language Association (in San Francisco this year) or American Historical Association (in New York?)  Who really looks forward to those job fair conferences, anyway?

15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Black Friday blogging: agony column updates”

  1. Knitting Clio on 28 Nov 2008 at 10:45 am #

    I think Worried Wendy should complain not only to the offender but to the chair of the session at which the “borrowed” paper was delivered and to the conference organizers.

  2. Historiann on 28 Nov 2008 at 11:17 am #

    Hi, KC–that’s a good idea. When I first posted on Wendy’s problem, some commentators urged Wendy to contact the plagiarist’s department chair immediately, which I thought was a little precipitous. But, your solution steps up the inquiry a bit (by involving the panel chair, so alerting someone else in the field and implicitly inviting them to investigate) without suggesting that Wendy is willing to push an inquiry that involves the other person’s employer.

  3. Indyanna on 28 Nov 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    I still think–going back to what I can remember of that thread without having looked again–that it would be fairly important to see an actual textual copy of the paper in question. She said that the paper borrowed the “structure of the argument,” I think, and that’s a lot more subjective a thing to rely on aurality and then memory than to say it incorporated her actual words. It’s almost a de novo question, to my knowledge, as to whether in the former case one or more silent footnotes in the commentator’s copy would suffice or whether an
    unambiguous nod to the author in the audience would be required as a sufficient acknowledgement of the contribution. It may well be that neither the author nor the commentator would be willing to provide a copy, and that’s a different story. But at this point I’d hesitate to push it too far without at least trying to see the text. I may be misremembering the degree of alleged incorporation. This is not a question of what would have been courteous or collegially appropriate, rather what would be required. Just a thought.

    p.s. O.K. I just clicked on the link in this post and she did say “directly lifted,” but that’s still a potentially somewhat ambiguous usage. She definitely shouldn’t just let the issue drop, though.

  4. Bing McGhandi on 28 Nov 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    I can’t wait to hear from Alliterating Allen!

    The job market is rolling over us like the Black Friday crowd over an ancient Walmart greeter. So far, of the 4 or 5 of us in my department who are making real goes at the market this year, I am the only one who has an MLA interview. I had my ticket months ago. Even if I did not get an interview, I was going because, galdurnit, I’ve never been to SF. I’ve also had a few requests for additional materials in the last few days. I am imagining that the committees are going to use Thanksgiving to get through the pile of apps. Of course, I intended to use today to grade. Heheh.

    There have been a lot of suspended searches, but it hasn’t been as bad as it could have been. This does not mean that all is well. A few years ago, I applied at a regional school in MO and I got to the campus interview stage but the Dean decided not to host us. I imagine that type of decision making is still possible higher up the university ladder.

    HJ

  5. Historiann on 28 Nov 2008 at 2:14 pm #

    Make that Alliterating *Andy*, since all of the names are two syllables that end in “y.”

    San Francisco is a nice place to be in January. At the very least, you don’t have to worry about getting snowed in or snowed out. Why the AHA insists on meeting in snowy places in January, I’ll never understand. We should just rotate through Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, L.A., and San Francisco, instead of Chicago, New York, Chicago, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Chicago.

    I’ll be thinking of you, Bing, and wishing you well in Chicago. I mean, San Francisco.

  6. Candy Man on 28 Nov 2008 at 5:46 pm #

    I think this job season is just making everyone a bit loony. I’m not on the market, but several friends are, and they’re all having terrible times of it. What most baffles me are the handful of departments — all English literature programs of good stature — who are hiring in my field and have put together search committees comprised entirely of faculty in OTHER fields (and not because they lack the appropriate faculty). I just don’t get it, and seeing my friends all fail to get MLA interviews, I can’t help but think part of the reason behind the rejections is that these committees just don’t know what innovative work in my field might look like. Is this common? I don’t remember it happening when I went on the market some five years ago.

    Anyway, I for one am relieved not to be going to San Francisco, much as I love the city. MLA is bound to be a complete sharks’ nest this time around.

  7. K.N. on 28 Nov 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    Two of the six jobs I’ve applied for have already sent notices canceling their searches due to budgetary constraints. It is shaping up to be a bleak interview season. I’ll be attending the AHA in NYC, but only because I’m a 90-minute bus ride away and don’t have to foot a hotel bill for three days.

    Historiann, I’m in total agreement regarding meeting places. The AHA is branching out somewhat in the coming years: 2010 is in San Diego, and 2013 is in New Orleans. Of course, the usual suspects of Boston, Chicago, and DC are in the mix as well. I’m sure the AHA gets an off-season deal for meeting north of the Mason-Dixon in the dead of winter, but given the importance of the conference, it strikes me that we can do better. The question is, would we be willing to pay higher registration fees for warmer sites? Or could we think of a different time of year? This is taboo, I know–it would upset the entire apple cart of job searches. But somehow other disciplines fill their faculty lines just fine without schlepping through ice and snow during the first weekend in January.

  8. Historiann on 29 Nov 2008 at 7:38 am #

    Candy Man–how weird. I haven’t heard this, and it’s certainly not the practice in History departments. Usually, English is the largest department in any lib arts college, so I don’t know why any English department would want their applicants screened by historians, anthropologists, political scientists, etc. Let’s hope this is a short-lived fad. (Is staffing the search committee a booby prize that goes to departments who didn’t get lines to search this year? I can’t figure it out.)

    K.N.–I’m sorry to hear you’ve been pre-jected from two jobs already (although it’s clearly nothing personal.) Thanks for the heads-up on San Diego and N.O. I might not feel so bad about being roped into a search committee next year if I could go to San Diego in January…!

  9. Dr. Crazy on 29 Nov 2008 at 8:07 am #

    I took Candy Man’s comment to be about field of specialization within the discipline and not about having search committees comprised of faculty outside the discipline, i.e., that the search committee for, say, a hire in Early American specialist, in a department where there are Early Americanists on the faculty, is made up of, say, an Early Modern person, a Victorianist, a 19th century Americanist, a Contemporary poetry person, and a Postcolonial person.

    My answer to that is that it may be that those people who seem most qualified are a) on sabbatical, b) served on search committees outside their field of specialization most recently and so were due for a year off, and/or c) have other current service obligations that are taking precedence over serving on (or chairing) a search committee (like serving on the university-wide tenure committee, faculty senate, or serving in some administrative post).

    In my department I know that we try to have at least one person who works in the advertised field on the committee, but that doesn’t always work out. I suppose at the end of the day, though, this goes toward the very good advice that candidates need to make sure that they are good at communicating the value of their work even to non-specialists, especially in early rounds of the job search, although this comes into play even more crucially when one gets to the campus visit stage (an entire dept. and sometimes outside folks will attend job talks and weigh in on them – it’s not enough to have people within the field get what you do).

    That said, if I read that wrong, and Candy Man is talking about search committees made up of people outside of the discipline of the hire, then I have no clue what’s up there. Sounds very strange.

  10. Historiann on 29 Nov 2008 at 8:43 am #

    Dr. Crazy, your reading is clearly the correct one! I misunderstood it. I think your explanation for why people far from the intradisciplinary field of specialization is right, too–there are always a lot of people who are on leave, or they’re chairing other major committees & so can’t serve on the search committee, etc. Of course, as a candidate for a job in X department where the person whose work is closest to yours is not on the search committee, one should try to suss out why this is. It will probably be due to rational reasons, but it may be due to the fact that the faculty member in question is a terrible malcontent, or untrustworthy in fundamental ways, etc.

  11. Candy Man on 29 Nov 2008 at 10:35 am #

    Yes, Dr. Crazy is right; sorry for the vague comment! I would understand about other obligations, etc., but in two of the departments I’m thinking of I have friends in my period-field who would have been very happy to be on the search committee but were pointedly not invited. You’re right about applicants needing to spell out clearly the relevance of their work. Still, something odd is afoot, and those friends not invited to serve on the search committees are justifiably outraged at the choices their colleagues have made.

  12. Historiann on 29 Nov 2008 at 11:19 am #

    Candy Man, thanks for the clarification. If I were of a conspiritorial frame of mind, I’d think that the people who muscled their way onto the committee ahead of more qualified colleagues were bent on setting the search up to fail. I know some people teach at rich institutions and in large departments that always get whatever they want from their deans, but there aren’t that many departments like that left, are there? My sense is that departments that mess up searches repeatedly stop getting lines to search. (If there’s any justice in the world, that’s what would happen!)

  13. Rad Readr on 29 Nov 2008 at 9:38 pm #

    Hi Historiann and co. I have been swamped (bet you have also) and haven’t visited lately. In any case…the School of Humanities at my u, which has hired about 12-15 new faculty a year for some time, recently cut our searches this year from 9 to 4. Unfortunately, they had been advertised already. This was painful for us, but (of course) worse for applicants. (When I was on the job market in 97, one university canceled a search after they had bought me a ticket for a campus visit.) The job market in California affects the rest of the country, so I think this will be a tough one.

    In terms of search committees, Dr. Crazy hit it on some of the reasons for the make-up of committees. But I also think Candy Man is onto something: departmental conditions can affect who is in and who is out.

  14. Rose on 30 Nov 2008 at 5:42 am #

    Excellent news for Tenured Tammy! I hope she’ll keep us posted about the progress on this front. Regardless of how it turns out, it’s heartening to know that some administrators consider quality of life issues important.

  15. Historiann on 30 Nov 2008 at 12:22 pm #

    Hi, Rad–it’s been a while! Welcome back. That’s some distressing news from your college. But, I suppose it’s better to be prudent with new hires than to have to consider cashiering new faculty you’ve already hired.

    And Rose–I’ll keep updating on Tenured Tammy’s situation. I get the sense that the attention and interest of the Provost at her university is an unexpected and very welcome new development.