Among the articles I clicked to read this morning was one from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The second in a series about being denied tenure and what follows.
The title clearly begs for some discussion but I’m going to leave that to your imagination. Because in the middle of the article there is something even more disturbing. Or maybe it describes an important part of the socialization of this academic that led to thinking that title was appropriate.
In my first years as an assistant professor, I served as the department’s job-placement officer (along with the other junior faculty member with the least seniority). […] I struggled with the knowledge that the advice that had been given to me was generally useless to these graduate students. Do not stress teaching, I was told. Do not draw the reader’s eye to your experience in fields other than your specialty. That graduate certificate in women’s studies makes you look dilettantish. All energies should be directed toward procuring jobs at research universities, the ones with low teaching loads at the top of the Carnegie heap.
My graduate students could not realistically compete for those kinds of jobs. Nor were they likely to be able to compete for jobs at institutions with the same Carnegie classification as those from which they came. I was humbled soon to learn, however, that most of them didn’t want those jobs anyway.
Bright and talented, with extensive experience in the classroom, these graduate students were active scholars and researchers, but they also saw themselves as teachers of writing and literary generalists. And they wanted to work at smaller, regional universities, where they imagined their multiple contributions would be most needed and valued.
There is so much going on in that little passage.
On the bright side, at least there is recognition that not all PhD students have the same values as the people giving advice like “All energies should be directed toward procuring jobs at research universities.”
But that’s about the only bright side.
It’s not clear what advice she gave. Did she (does anyone?) say this out loud?
Nor were they likely to be able to compete for jobs at institutions with the same Carnegie classification as those from which they came.*
Has anyone ever talked to you about hierarchies of institutions and how the institution where you do your PhD might limit where you could work as an academic? Have you ever talked to your own students about that?
Have those of you have have been on hiring committees ever challenged that hierarchy when looking at applications? Or does the institution and it’s reputation not come up? Is this a myth? Only applicable in the US?
And what about the fact that these students valued teaching and being literary generalists? Do those people get tenure track jobs anywhere? Or are those the jobs being casualized, even in “smaller, regional universities”?
Are “multiple contributions” more valued at smaller regional universities? Or are those of you in such places also trying to hire people who will primarily advance your research reputation?
How do you advise students about academic careers? Apart from the obvious “there aren’t a lot of jobs out there”, what do you say? What do you feel uncomfortable about saying (or not saying)?
*For those more unfamiliar with the US system than I, the Carnegie classifications categorize colleges and universities according to their mission — research intensive, those with doctoral programs, those with masters programs but no doctoral programs, undergraduate, etc. A hierarchy that is only implicit in other countries has some official status.