Monday, September 10, 2012

Job Market to Sisyphus: You're Too Old, and You're Ugly, Too!

I'm sure that you have seen the various other posts about the Colorado State job posted in the Chronicle --- basically, they have set a cut-off point of 2010 for the filing of the dissertation:
Required qualifications:
1. Ph.D. in English or American Studies or closely related area awarded between 2010 and time of appointment.
2. A promising record of scholarship/research in pre-1900 American literature and culture.
3. Ability to teach a range of subjects in American literature and culture between 1600 and 1900.
 Now, I know what you're saying ---- no, no, of course this is not discriminating against the candidates by age, since someone with a 2008 PhD-granting date could easily be younger than someone with a 2011 PhD. It's just saying that your 2008 dissertation, research agenda, identity as a scholar, all of that has gone stale and rotten and has started to smell like a pile of dogshit in July. Too bad you were stupid and stored your academic identity out on the hot and moldy basement of adjunct-dom rather than the temperature-controlled refrigerator of tenure. Besides, it's not like there are a lot of scholars who graduated and then didn't find tenure-track employment in the last five or six years, right?

Meh. I'm actually not all that offended by this. (It helps that I'm not an Americanist and so wouldn't be applying for this job regardless.) I think I'd rather people put this shit in their ads, straight up, if they are using the PhD conferral as a freshness date, than have the majority of the searches not list this and secretly use it as an exclusionary criterion, which I have been paranoid about for the past few years anyway.

I don't think though that it will cut down the applications by that much, and I don't think it will necessarily help them parse out the best candidates. And then, if we're going for something truly arbitrary, let's just highlight the sick random aspect of the job market and start specifying height or shoe size in our ads? Left-handedness?

I suppose it is kinda better than having punishing publication requirements to apply (two books and six articles in order to upload an application even, you worm!!!!), or throwing in an unnecessary amount of application materials as a way of discouraging large numbers of applicants. That doesn't actually work; it just makes applicants work even harder. And get grumpy.

And if cutting down on the number of applications they have to read through is the real reason they are specifying this, I am tempted to send in a packet simply out of spite. You'll be able to recognize my application easily --- it'll be in the flaming brown paper bag on your doorstep.


Anonymous said...

Oooh, that'd be kind of funny -- bomb 'em with application packets!

Maybe a cohort of people like me with absolutely no chance whatsoever could send in ones a la the Bic Lady reviews on

Anonymous said...

You know what? I'm sure it's an attempt to cut down on applicants. But it's gross, and it's a lazy way of doing it, and it doesn't ensure them hiring the best possible person. You know how you narrow your pool? You specify something more specific than "Ability to teach a range of subjects in American literature and culture between 1600 and 1900." I know things have sucked in Colorado for some time, and I'm sure that they've got a number of fields to fill, which is why they want to keep the period broad. But you know what? Make a decision. Pick a field. Pick a fucking priority. And if you can't, read 500 applications.

For what it's worth, I've got friends in a few departments there (not English) and I wouldn't want to work there, just because of the university, not because of the department. That said? If the MLA doesn't censure them, that is total garbage. Because this crap is really and truly wrong.

Anonymous said...

it's also worth noting, this allows them to throw out any applications where the PHD doesn't fit in the time-range. Thus, it's not worth it for you to submit: it will get thrown out before anybody reads it.

Sisyphus said...

Yes, but if the app was filled with poo I wouldn't care if they got far enough to read it. Not that I'd actually do that... I think.

Bardiac said...

Take the dates off your CV. Lots of people do that anyway, especially if there's more than a few years between the BA/BS and the phud.

(Not that you'd do it, but...)

Good luck this year. I hope things get better.

Historiann said...

As someone who teaches at CSU (and I hope as someone who is among Dr. Crazy's friends there), I agree with everything she said. I think it's just lazy and wrong wrong wrong, but I also think that the English Dept. is cutting off its nose to spite its face. What if some of their best potential applicants in fact have a 2009 or 2008 degree? Saying that your sell-by date must be no earlier than 2010 is just arbitrary. (Why not 2011 or 2012? Are Ph.D.s like wine vintages or something?)

Here's an inside scoop that may help explain (although it does not excuse) this maneuver: our college is running a number of searches, inc. one in my department that we hope to advertise very soon. BUT, we've been told that our TOTAL BUDGET for our search from the Dean's office is $1,000. Yes, that's right: our budget from the Dean's office is $1,000 for the advertising and all travel involved (whether for the search committee or the candidates.) Obvs., no department can run a search for $1,000, so each dept. will have to self-fund its search/es. But even with Skype instead of MLA/AHA interviews, it's ridiculous.

So my guess (sorry for the long comment) is that making a 2010 drop-dead date on a Ph.D. is a way to weeding out more experienced & better published candidates who might want more $$ than CSU will be willing to offer them. (Not that our starting salaries are great even for people who are just out of grad school, mind you). Please be advised that after 16 years of experience, 11 at CSU, 1 book and probably 10 or so articles, I will make about $64,000 this year. Our new hires make between $50,000 and $60,000.

All I can say is that this year's job candidates are being introduced to Colorado State University as it really is: austerity now, austerity FOREVAH! Except for the football coach ($1.5 million) and the football team, which will be getting a new on-campus stadium. Because you know, football spending is such an excellent way to provide for the instructional budget.

SEK said...

Actually, this is what I jokingly meant we were fighting about. It's not that there's a cut-off date for 2010, it Reid's clarification:

By specifying “between 2010 and time of appointment” we indicated that we are interested in applicants with up to three years in a tenure-track position as well as those who are just beginning their careers.

Meaning that if you landed a TT job between 2005 and 2009, you can apply. But if you didn't? They don't want you. They're specifically targeting people who graduated into the wrong market and failed to land a job. It's just disgusting.

Contingent Cassandra said...

The really nasty part, to my mind, is that they're at least theoretically willing to consider ABDs (that "time of appointment" thing). If they want to cut down the applicant pool, it would make far more sense to require Ph.D. in hand at time of application (though I suppose that may be hard to do, since one can't require a qualification to be in place before the job itself is, and academic job searches include a ridiculous amount of time between offer and actually starting the job). But creating a culture in which people are afraid to defend because various clocks start ticking (post-doc ones already do) is really counterproductive for everybody involved.

Dr. Koshary said...

Buncha douchebags. I *almost* wouldn't blame you, Sisyphus, for the flaming bag trick.

Also, I express my admiration for Historiann's George Wallace reference.