Saturday, October 2, 2010

Postdoc Arrrgh

Or, as I like to say in honor of regretsy: fuckery! Whimsicle fuckery, I say!

Dear innocent and misguided grad students: I am here to tell you that "postdocs" which are really highly-teaching-intensive VAPs or lectureships are the height of evil, and you should beware them.

Not only is there a high learning curve to just understand a new school and its mores, (Ooh I need to schedule a library instruction day ... where is the library? And why did I just get an email saying I need to go to the HR dungeon to sign something before they will disburse my paycheck? Oops time for the next class to start) not only is there a high learning curve for dealing with multiple preps for the first time, and not only is teaching composition incredibly time-consuming and full of official and unofficial assignments to grade --- to say nothing of the energy and money expended on moving halfway across the world --- but also, as soon as your semester has hit the high point of grading and random crappiness and your students have gotten over the "honeymoon period," the whole job application season explodes and takes up every last second of your nonexistent spare time.*


I have essays. I have other assignments I need to finish scribbling frantically on and check off in my gradebook. And I have not started any of them, because I spent all of today --- my "free day" --- schlepping out damn job applications. I don't think I even care about quality at this point anymore; they should be polished after four years of refining.

Plus I ran out of socks and underwear partway through this week so laundry today was not optional; it was a dire necessity. I'd like to clean the place, also, but that isn't looking feasible for this week (or month?) as I still have to read and prep all my classes for the beginning of next week, in addition to scaling this mountain of grading. Ooh and groceries; no wait let me count the number of cans of soup ... I'll try to put that off until next weekend.

And as long as I'm ranting, I will save some bile for the stupid online job apps that force me to give recommenders' emails and then automatically email them a letter request: look, princesses, my recommenders have between 15 and 20 students out on the market at any one time, each, and we're all going to apply to every fuckin' job that has the remotest applicability to us, so we all signed up for our dossier service, so as not to waste our recommenders' precious time with 60 or 70 goddam letter requests! It's not just that asking for tailored letters for each job is an imposition on my relationship with them, but that they are all whip-smart and I really want them to publish their next book! How will they get their work done if they are flooded with your damn letter-request emails? Arrrrgh!

Besides, Dr. Nonsequitur has yet to master Interfolio, or even, really, email. Your automated request to "hi, please upload a fresh letter with electronic signature thing to our specialized job website you will have to create a login for" is just going to make Dr. Nonsequitur very very confused, and then this person will either call me, or call in the dept. secretary for help, or bring in the dept. IT guy, or, most likely, all of the above, along with much dithering about and confusion, and finally Dr. N will force the latest slave advanced grad student who needs his prospectus signed off on to come in on his off day and find, scan, and upload my letter for the prof. I'd be worried about the grad student reading my confidential letter if I wasn't pretty sure that, given the amount of scutwork he has done editing up all of Dr. N's manuscripts, he has already helped write it. But really, people, your stupid "automated" request is going to bring at least one, if not two (I'm interdisciplinary) departments to a screeching halt. Are you happy?

* note to my students: Milton can write a periodic sentence and shake foundations. Johnson's sentences have the beauty of mathematical equations despite their length. Faulkner can write a 46-line sentence with three sets of nested parentheses and still have it parse perfectly. You peeps, however, are just dribbling effluvia onto the page without benefit of kleenex or even punctuation. May I suggest you exchange some of those apostrophes for commas and periods, and read over your dang work so that you catch where you directly contradict what you started out with at the beginning of the sentence? Don't make me Regretsy!


Dr. Cog.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

And this is why I've never even once considered applying for a post-doc.

Sorry -- this sucks.

Susan said...

Our system has referees send letters electronically to an email address. I assume -- since it's a human being who links the letter to the app -- that it would handle interfolio etc.

But I'll check. I'll call this the Academic Cog evaluation.

Dr. Koshary said...

What kind of fuckery is this?

I fear all of this stuff. I'm looking at the jobs and postdocs I'm applying for this year, and wondering when I will sleep in the coming academic year. It seems offensive to me that some of these places actually think that they can hire a VAP to teach six courses or more per year, say "The library's over there," slap the word 'postdoc' on, and think that it really is a postdoc. Precision of language is long-gone.

Shane in SLC said...

That nomenclature has always bothered me, too. A postdoc, properly speaking, should be a research position, with the fellow maybe teaching one class on the subject of the research. If what the school is really looking for is a VAP, call it a VAP.

When Stanford or whoever first dreamed this up, I suppose the reasoning was that "postdoctoral fellow" sounds more prestigious than VAP. But now that everyone is doing it, I wonder how much longer that veneer of prestige will last.

Anyway, sorry you're drowning.

Bardiac said...

I'm guessing the original thinking was that "postdoc" sounds cheaper and less permanent than VAP. :(

Sorry they're treating you so poorly.