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McGlynn TypologyAbove is what I have decided to call the McGlynn Typology of Faculty Jobs. Posted by Terry McGlynn at Small Pond Science, I think it does a great job of demonstrating the different elements that are emphasized in different types of institutions and, especially, the variation within institutions. As such, it should help graduate students think about the characteristics that they most value so that they can aim for a particular type of job (the title of McGlynn’s post is “What kind of faculty job do you want?”).

Perhaps the best thing about it is that if you think of it as a dart board, it reflects the reality of the job market in that you may end up at an institutional type adjacent to the type that you were targeting. Lots of people who would like to work at research universities, for example, end up working at regional comprehensives. The likelihood of ending up at an institution different from the one you are aiming for, though, probably decreases as you move away from your initial target.

Overheard:

-Did you know that you can “Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed?

-Totes, yo!

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Over on the Sociology Job Market Forum, people use SLAC to mean both small liberal arts college and selective liberal arts college. I have never heard somebody say the latter in person, probably because saying that makes you sound like an asshole (add it to the list of terms I don’t like…). Of course, using the word “selective” when explaining what I mean by SLAC has also never made much sense because my school is not particularly selective. If it were, I’m pretty sure that the admissions office would select students who could pay a higher percentage of the sticker price. Next year, this will change.

From my current outsider’s perspective, there are some clear advantages to working at a school where the “selective” label actually applies. According to the venerable US News rankings, my current institution is ranked roughly 100 positions below the institution that recently hired me. At the most basic level, this means that my new institution has a lot more financial resources. These resources translate into a higher salary and lower teaching load (3-2). I am told that my new institution also has something called “raises,” where one’s salary increases in some accordance with the cost of living. I have only experienced this phenomenon once at my current institution, so I’m not entirely sure how it works, but it sounds like something that is nice to have.

Financial stability is nice, but selectivity also affects other aspects of the institution. I anticipate that the average ability level of my students will be higher and that the range of abilities will be lower. These are good things, since one of my constant struggles has been figuring out how to challenge the students at the top of my classes without losing the students at the bottom. It also means, though, that my own workload will be higher because of the increased expectations for course readings and assignments.

The biggest downside to this selectivity, though, is less student diversity in terms of race and social class. If the diversity of my students’ abilities has been one of the worst aspects of my current job, the diversity of their backgrounds has been one of the best. I’ve found that sociological concepts are given added weight when students regularly interact with those from backgrounds other than their own. Class discussions also benefit from a diversity of experiences. Unfortunately, in addition to reduced racial diversity, my sense is that the social class diversity that does exist at my new institution is less visible as students try to “pass” as wealthier than they are in an attempt to meet the standards of their peers.

Despite the fact that as a white, middle-class male (actually, I’m probably upper-middle-class now…) I decrease diversity wherever I go, I hope to work with others on my new campus to increase diversity among students, faculty, and staff. I also hope that, as a sociologist, I can help others see that bringing in students (and faculty and staff) from different backgrounds also requires that you welcome and support those students once they arrive.

I once said that applying for a different job helped me focus on how I could make my current job more like the mythical “ideal” position. While taking a different job has helped me move closer in some areas, it is clear that I have some ground to make up in others.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed. Or don’t. Whatevs.

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While I don’t think that the job market experience will ever be considered “good,” after going on the market again as an assistant professor there is one thing that I think would improve the job market for both candidates and search committees: don’t request everything up front.

For me, a complete set of job market materials typically consisted of: cover letter, CV, teaching statement, research statement, evidence of teaching effectiveness, and letters of recommendation. Sometimes, schools added to this with requests for diversity statements, unofficial transcripts, or, worst of all, official transcripts. Even once I got rolling with the application process, it typically took me at least an hour to put all of these things together. This time included visiting the school’s website and tailoring my cover letter and evidence of teaching effectiveness for a particular job. The thing is, some of these schools probably didn’t look past my cover letter and CV before deciding that I wasn’t going to make the cut, so again I implore search committees: don’t request everything up front.

Submitting only a cover letter and CV would have reduced the amount of time I spent on each application dramatically, while still giving search committees the chance to see if I made the first cut. Not only would this have made my life easier, I suspect that it would make things easier for search committees, too. I found that for schools that requested everything up front, I tailored my evidence of teaching effectiveness to include only relevant courses, but left my teaching and research statements largely the same. For schools that requested cover letters and CVs first, followed by a request for more materials if I made the first cut, however, I tended to tailor my teaching and research statements as well. Knowing that the search committee had at least some interest in my application allowed me to put a bit more effort into it than I did otherwise, which likely gave them a better idea of how I would fit into their department and allowed them to make a more informed judgment about my application.

I’m sure that some candidates put this level of effort into all of their applications, but this probably isn’t feasible for those who cannot dedicate all of their time for a semester to applying for jobs. Since nearly everything is electronic now, giving candidates a week to submit additional materials would seem to be a worthwhile delay in the hiring process. The more schools that do this, the more time candidates can spend tailoring their materials for the schools that are actually interested in them and the less time will be wasted getting things “just right” for schools that will take one look at their CVs and place their application in the “not a chance in Hell” pile because they used Arial.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed.

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Five years after going on the market as an ABD graduate student, I went on the job market again this year. Although I had applied for a different job before, this year I decided to conduct a full search (some of the reasons for this will be detailed in future posts). This included another stop at the ASA’s meet market, countless applications, phone interviews, Skype interviews, and campus visits. Here are some things I noticed this time around:

The market moves more slowly now. Although there are still schools that post positions over the summer, this is not as common as it was when I was on the market the first time. Going by my records of jobs I applied for, here are the numbers posted in each month for 2008 followed by 2013 in parentheses: May – 4 (0); June – 10 (2); July – 14 (10); August – 4 (5); September – 1 (4); October – 4 (12). My sense is that many schools, especially those with less money, are waiting for the final word from administrators before posting their jobs, which wasn’t the case in 2008. Of course, I don’t know how many of the jobs I applied for in 2008 went unfilled because of the economy.

Almost everything is electronic. Most of my job market materials in 2008 were sent by mail. This time, I sent four applications by mail. The rest were submitted either via e-mail or online application forms. Rejections (when sent) are also handled by e-mail. In 2008 it seemed that I was constantly receiving envelopes from various schools containing letters telling me that they had hired somebody else. This year I think I received one. In fact, I became so accustomed to receiving e-mail rejections that I was sometimes surprised to find that an e-mail from a school was actually requesting more materials or a phone/Skype interview.

The market is still a mystery. Once again, there were several ads that seemed to match my qualifications very well that I never heard from, while there were also some that seemed to barely match where I had phone interviews and even campus interviews. The school where I accepted a job is more highly ranked (for whatever that’s worth) than the school where I currently work and I applied to a large number of schools between these two positions, many of which had no interest in my application (though one school did tell me that I had made their long list in my rejection e-mail).

Going on the market while working at a full-time job is difficult. In 2008, I was on fellowship while I looked for a job. In 2013 I was teaching three courses in addition to writing, advising students, and fulfilling my service obligations. People often say that being on the market is like a full-time job, and stacking that on top of an actual full-time job is incredibly difficult. It seemed like I was constantly writing cover letters, compiling evidence of teaching effectiveness, and even just keeping track of the positions to which I needed to apply after my paid work had ended for the day. I still feel behind.

In the end, it was a grueling experience but I am hopeful that it will pay off. I am excited about my future students, colleagues, and institution. Now there’s just the small matter of surviving the rest of the semester.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed. And let me know if this is as annoying as Fabio’s constant Grad Skool Rulz reminders!

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Since the news broke of a reported job offer being rescinded by Nazareth College, nearly everybody has weighed in on the issue (including Slate, Forbes, Jezebel, Inside Higher Ed, and academic bloggers). Quickly moving past the fact that I think rescinding an offer is wrong, even if none of the requested items can be provided, we can see the way that one’s experiences affect perceptions of the request and reveal how this sort of request may have been made.

My own response to the situation was probably closest to Kate’s at The Professor is In, who writes:

In short, 3 points: 1) rescinding an offer when a client attempts to negotiate is outrageous and unethical; 2) the institutions that rescind offers strongly tend to be tiny teaching colleges with current or former religious affiliations, so if you are dealing with one of those, tread VERY carefully; 3) this candidate, W, made some grievous errors in her approach to the negotiations, showing a tone-deaf lack of sensitivity to the needs of the institution. That does not justify the rescinding. But if she had worked with me on negotiating, I would have told her to remove or rephrase many of the elements on her list of requests, because they were inappropriate to such a small, teaching oriented, resource-poor, service-heavy kind of institution. However, again, her sin of negotiating ineptly is miniscule compared to the sin of an institution summarily rescinding an offer.

At my own institution, things like pre-tenure and parental leaves are based on institutional policies that are not up for negotiation. Regarding salary, the AAUP Faculty Salary Survey can provide candidates with a rough sense of what is normal for a particular institution.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Female Science Professor, who works at a research institution and states:

I don’t know if there is a gender angle to this incident or not, but speaking as someone at a research university, there is nothing in the candidate’s email that surprises or offends me. I have been asked for many of the same or similar things by candidates; some of these requests are routine, some of them require discussion. I say ‘yes’ when I can, and ‘no’ when that is the appropriate response for my department/university. Negotiations can be constructive and interesting discussions.

The gap between these responses is elucidated by David Ball at Inside Higher Ed, who reminds us:

Nazareth’s rashness also reveals a troubling disconnect between SLACs and R1 institutions around the hiring process. Job expectations and institutional cultures are oftentimes dramatically and necessarily different between the two. This communication problem can be exacerbated by the lack of liberal-arts exposure on the part of either the candidate or her advisers and the corroding belief many R1 faculty still propagate that SLACs can’t offer their candidates conditions in which they can flourish, even for those applicants most keen to teach in a liberal-arts setting.

Representatives from SLACs can be understandably fatigued when pushing back against these expectations and gun-shy when candidates demonstrate interests in a research agenda that appear to eclipse their investment as teachers. Graduate departments have an imperative to educate themselves about the expectations of liberal-arts colleges by listening to colleagues and recent Ph.D.s teaching in those settings. Likewise, SLAC hiring committees must proceed, particularly at the negotiation stage, with the knowledge that their hires may be getting advice that is oblivious to the realities of their institution.

Since there is a great deal of variation even within institutional types, it would benefit everybody involved to keep these things in mind when working through the hiring process. And, of course, remember that you should never rescind an offer.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed.

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It is likely that you have read about the job candidate in philosophy whose offer was withdrawn by Nazareth College. The candidate was reportedly told that his or her requests “… indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered.” Beyond finding the college’s response inexcusable, this statement stood out to me because it sets up “research” and “teaching” institutions as a dichotomy, which I have heard a number of times when talking to those from small liberal arts colleges about things like teaching loads. This dichotomy is demonstrably false not only because it ignores a lot of schools but also because the situations in which it is used reveal as many differences as similarities.

I have heard variations of the statement, “We’re not an R1, so…” to justify teaching loads ranging from 4-4 to 3-2. I imagine that a difference of three courses per year is significant, but it is not the only significant difference. Although I teach three courses per semester, I regularly teach more students per semester than friends who teach four. Despite this, my school does not have the resources of those in the top 100 national liberal arts schools (whether sorted by US News ranking or endowment). There are also large differences between teaching at a school with no religious affiliation, one with a nominal affiliation, and one with a tight coupling between faith and academics.

Talking about SLACs vs. R1s makes for an easy shorthand, and I have certainly discussed the common qualities that many SLACs share. Statements that start with “We’re not an R1, so…”, however, suggest a sort of inferiority complex that might be brought on by working at a school that nobody has ever heard of but that could also be linked to the perceived status of teaching vs. research in academia. After all, I have never heard somebody who works at a research university respond to a question about teaching load by saying “We’re not a SLAC, so…”.

I know that those involved in the job market from both sides are doing their best to make a good impression, but I think that making a good impression can be bolstered by having a bit of self respect. If somebody asks you about the teaching load at your institution, tell them. Then tell them about your class sizes, your students, and what kind of research you’re working on. If that person is a job candidate, giving them a realistic picture of life at your institution can be done without denigrating it. It is okay to reflect the complexities of life in the ivory tower.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed.

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Rachel at Rogue Cheerios, like others before her, responds with a qualified “no.” She also asks some important questions that prospective graduate students should answer and argues that soul searching should occur before grad school, not during or after it. In my experience it is easy to let academia supersede our other interests and much harder to try to figure out if there is a place in our lives for academia alongside our other goals.

For the last 12 years I have lived in places because they housed the academic institutions that would have me, but this is not the way that life has to be. In fact, I recently congratulated one graduate school colleague for deciding to live in a particular geographic area (job market be damned!) and another for quitting a tenure-track job in order to be nearer to those he cared about. These are hard choices and there is no wrong time to make them, but knowing that you are not, in fact, willing to move across the country once for graduate school and again for a job that may or may not materialize is a good way to determine that grad school may not be for you.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed.

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When Candide was on the job market, he held that everything would work out for the best. Atlas Odenshoot (I guess that the Chronicle has run out of normal-sounding pseudonyms) contends that the job market is more like The Hunger Games, where “the odds are never in your favor.” Odinshoot also shares some interesting insights about the fact that your advisor has been there before, the importance (or lack thereof) of appearance, rule changes, and competing with friends, concluding:

Of course, the academic job market is not exactly like the Hunger Games. If you lose in the games, at least it’s over quickly. The job market, on the other hand, stretches on for months, perhaps years. So when you write that email to your adviser to say you want to go on the market, it might be better just to raise your hand and shout, “I volunteer as tribute!” Better yet, just run off in the woods with Gale.

I guess that would be the equivalent of leaving academia. Compared to some adjunct positions, being with Gale might not be bad. I guess it depends on whether you prefer to be a movie boyfriend or a movie girlfriend.

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When most people think of working as an adjunct instructor, they probably picture teaching a semester-long course for a few thousand dollars with none of the benefits enjoyed by tenure-track professors (you know, things like health insurance, job security, and office space). It turns out, though, that there is a better way. It involves rising through the ranks of the military (the business world would probably work, too), losing your job, and being hired to teach a course for $150,000 per year. You might think that this sounds impossible, but it isn’t. General David Patraeus has done it, so it must be an option that the rest of us have been overlooking. As reported by J.K. Trotter at Gawker:

In April, CUNY announced that Petraeus would do a stint as a visiting professor of public policy at the school’s Macaulay Honors College, leading a seminar on “developments that could position the United States…to lead the world out of the current global economic slowdown.” According to documents Gawker obtained from CUNY via a Freedom of Information Law request, the fallen war architect will net a whopping $200,000 a year for the course, which will total about three hours of work, aided by a group of graduate students to take care of “course research, administration, and grading.” (He will also throw in two lectures.)

This is a lot of money to spend on one person (CUNY could have hired a number of assistant professors or an army of adjuncts with that much money). Corey Robin discusses this, and the fact that the reported salary was downgraded (now it is only $150,000 – good thing he also has a job at USC!) after Gawker posted the story, at Crooked Timber:

I have no idea if Lalor is right about whether tax-payers are footing the bill for this celebrity hire or not. But let’s assume CUNY is securing private funds for it. Isn’t that in itself a terrible waste of resources? Private donations don’t just roll in; university fundraisers work and cultivate donors to make specific donations for earmarked funds. The notion that even one paid member of the university staff is working right now to secure private money to pay for this hire is itself a scandal.

It’s also indicative of a larger problem: CUNY is being run (into the ground) by a group of men and women with no sense of how to educate students, how to build (and pay) a first-class teaching staff, and how to manage a great public institution.

It is unfortunate that this story perpetuates that myth that teaching a three-credit-hour course only amounts to three hours per week of work, but it is hard to know how much work Patraeus will actually have to do given his graduate assistants. The fact that Patraeus was hired by CUNY at all also perpetuates the myth that anybody can teach regardless of training. On the other hand, it would be interesting to observe whether Patraeus’s students are better-behaved than typical college students and, if not, how he responds to them arriving late, falling asleep, and texting. Are push ups part of the CUNY curriculum?

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I see letters of recommendation as a necessary evil, meaning that I recognize them as an important part of my job but often feel unsure when I am writing them about whether I am actually helping my students or not. Upon obtaining my job I was not given the code, so I wouldn’t mind abolishing them. As long as they are around (and students can help me out a bit), though, I guess I will need to keep semi-arbitrarily ranking students in terms of their writing skills, leadership ability, maturity, and any number of other things.

Recently, though, I came across a recommendation form that strained the limits of my ability for judgment. A student of mine was applying for a position at a nonprofit organization with a Christian orientation. Apparently, when applying for a job at a Christian organization no topic is off limits. Among other things, the evaluation form asked me about the student’s reputation on campus, personal appearance, sense of humor, drinking habits, spiritual focus, servitude to Christ, and whether he or she is a “serving-type person” and exemplifies a Christian life. What the hell is a “serving-type person”?

Some of these questions allowed me to respond with “I don’t know,” but others did not. In my written comments I tried to elucidate the candidate’s academic strengths and weaknesses but I’m not sure how my non-answers will be seen by the hiring committee. Maybe they only want students who talk about their servitude to Christ in every class. Since this student was thankfully not that type of person, I guess that I had no choice but to leave the judgment to God.

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