Sunday, February 15, 2015

50 Shades of Tenure Track Employment

Come in, Mr. Grey. Please, hand over the folio and all the application materials, that's a dear. No, no, don't sit down quite yet. I see you wore the suit as delineated in the advertisement; good, but you won't be needing that, not where you're going. Right this way. Oh, and put this on. Buckle this, strap this a little tighter. I need to assess you, evaluate you. I need your statement of research plans, prospective timeline of research productivity, all seventeen supplemental documents, your publications, your book contract, a big. fat. grant.  I hope you anticipated our needs, our fit, and made all tailored and tidy each response just. exactly. so. Your CV says you've been out of grad school for a while and there are so many ---- we have such a backlog of applicants. I hope you wow me. You need to impress, to stand out from the pack.

Before we begin, take this, and this, and you might want to spread this out on the floor before we --- ah, what's that? Safe word? Safe word? My dear, someone with your education and for this type of employment shouldn't even need to ask for a safe word ---- if you are the right kind of person for this position, you should already know it! Really, all we ask of you is that you embody all of the risk and instability and provide incredibly detailed and complex human resource materials for the benefit of our flexibility in a changing marketplace! Is that such a burden? If we had wanted anything less we wouldn't have included "pushy bottom" in the job ad, no?

Besides, you are special --- you have to stop thinking of yourself as a worker applying for a job like any other kind of worker in the labor market --- teacher, firefighter, office manager IT professional fast food line cook --- sure, they are all seeking employment that will provide them with a steady, liveable wage and safety net against uncertainty, and sure, they are all being pitted against each other in harsh competition and job de-skilling that is steadily eroding wages and job satisfaction, and sure, the decline of unions and worker solidarity across almost all jobs means that all of them are willing to undercut themselves in the hopes of winning job security just exactly like you are doing now --- but there is one very very important difference between them, sir, and you, sir. Want to know it? Want to hear what it is? Lean over to me, as far as you can against the restraints, and I'll whisper it in your ear.

Are you ready? Listen then:

You. Are. Worthless! You don't deserve reward, you deserve this! Don't believe me? Think back on what your professors used to say, what your advisor used to say, what your reviewers and student evaluations used to say. Don't they all agree with me? Are you not met with crushing rejection and disdain at every turn? Look at you --- you're an adjunct! We pay you shit, therefore you deserve only shit, therefore we pay you shit! You are only worthy to grovel!

But ... if you can show me that you really, really, understand this and properly punish yourself, I just might reward you. Can you take it? Can you take it even harder, and longer, and scrape together funds to endure one more year, one more round, one more set of interviews, one more cross-country trip for a one-year sabbatical replacement? Can you publish more than the rest of the VAPs, do more service, more teaching, more innovation, more reading my mind? Show me you've got what it takes --- I want you to push your own fist up your own asshole so far that you pass out, and while you do that, you smile!

Oh, what's this, tears, sweet sweet tears? Are you broken so easily and so soon, my pet? A pity. You know, if you can outlast these trials, the rewards are vast ... I might even allow you to be the one wielding the riding crop when we break in the next generation of acolytes. Would you like that? To show them how it's done? To continue the tradition? I have some forms for you to sign. You'll have to sign everything. But really I need just one thing: total submission. In your mind. You have to acquiesce to the whole system. Believe it, heart and soul. Believe there is no alternative, no other way. Believe it.

Ho hum, well, it was a pleasure, I'm sure --- I'll just take these forms and you can work your own way out of the restraints and find your own way back to the front. I think this went well --- didn't this go well? Our timeline is usually two weeks but with the break, of course, it might be closer to three ... if you end up being one of our finalists you just may get a call for a campus visit! Ta ta!

8 comments:

Sisyphus said...

Shorter version: I don't need 50 Shades to know that billionaires get off on hurting people --- Andy Borowitz.

Bardiac said...

This is heartwrenching.

nicoleandmaggie said...

It's not worth it! It really is just a job. You are not worthless.

Powerful and disturbing post. :/

Sisyphus said...

Sorry Bardiac! It was meant to be (black humor) funny.


Nicole/and/or/Maggie: the system only works when people believe simultaneously that they deserve this treatment and are too good for anything else.

Susan said...

Sis, your last comment is very true. And change happens when you reject either half.

Anonymous said...

This is a fucking great post. You've captured the demands and the mindset of academic employment pretty well. Readers from the outside (non-academics) will still only see it as whining and complaining about hardships that don't deserve commentary. But for those still striving to "believe" in academia and its promises wholesale, this will feel as uncomfortable as it should...

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

What a fabulously insightful analogy, and also how sad and awful. And funny. And awful. Uh, good luck?

Anonymous said...

Painfully, painfully accurate.