Saturday, May 07, 2011

The "Interview"

As I hinted in my last post, my "interview" with New England School (NES) was a fiasco. I went there on word from the Dean that I was "already on the schedule for the fall" and "teaching three classes." I arrived to meet first with the English department chair, who apparently had no idea that the Dean--his own wife--had made such a claim! Before this clusterfuck was realized, however, he proceeded to tell me the one decent piece of information that came out of the whole day. Basically, while the previous unwritten policy was that Visiting Lecturers taught nothing but composition and introductory literature courses, he has instituted the practice of "using the untapped resources" that are the PhDs who are working as lecturers to teach whatever class(es) need to be filled. Generally these are not 400-level courses, but 300-level courses are entirely possible. Unfortunately for me, between the retired professor who still teaches the Rest/18th c. in the department and the new hire they made in the same field, my chances of teaching a Rest/18th c. class are pretty much -0-.

The department chair was neither warm nor welcoming. He freely admitted that there were plenty of lecturers that he wouldn't even know if he passed them in the hall. He explained that NES doesn't "do" spousal hires, and that even if the most tenured member of the department came to the Dean and said "if my wife doesn't get a full-time placement I'm leaving," he'd be told "See ya later!" When I asked if the school had a faculty retention officer, he asked me what that was. And finally, he went on at length about how there has only been ONE lecturer to ever transition into a tenure-track job within the department, and that was only due to the fact that their first two candidates declined the job and the union stipulations required that his application be given preferential consideration. Sounds like a great place to work, huh?

I felt all the optimism I'd walked in with fall to the ground as he walked me over to meet the Associate Dean, who is in charge of all part-time faculty. After sitting down, she quickly asked if the chair had already told me that there were no sections for me this fall. What?! The?! Fuck?! "Um, no, actually he didn't," I replied, trying to hide the bewildered look on my face. That's when I started to get worried. Basically, the Dean hadn't told anyone except my husband that I'd be teaching in the fall, so not only was I not on the schedule for the fall, they explained that they'd have to work hard just to see if they could create three new sections of something for me to teach. I struggled not to break into tears as I explained to the Associate Dean, who actually was friendly, warm, and seemingly enthusiastic about me joining their faculty, that we had just put in an offer on a house and we only did so because I had been told I had a job for the fall. She said she couldn't promise me anything, but that they'd do everything they could to get me three sections for the fall. She had the chair walk me over to HR to get started on paperwork despite having no assignment.....and guess how happy they were to help me? Yeah, it didn't exactly fly. So, the department chair left me sitting in HR signing paperwork, while he went off to "scold the Dean." WTF??

I have never felt so humiliated in my adult life, so completely caught off guard and vulnerable. I've never felt so hopeless about a potential job either. This week, I got my course assignment for the fall, and the good news was that I'd been assigned Women's Writing to 1900 (excellent for my CV). The bad news was that I only had two classes! The e-mail also contained my assignment for the spring, which does have three courses, but for now, we could very well be completely fucked in terms of our mortgage loan for the house without that third course. So, I sent a very appreciative and thankful reply to the chair, expressing how happy I was to have this assignment and asking if there was any possibility of a third course being added. I mentioned that I am also qualified to teach the intro to women's studies course (which is offered as an interdisciplinary studies section), I offered to teach at the off-campus location, and I told him I was willing to take on another evening class (one of my classes is already in the evening). I even explained that I would be happy to take on any administrative opportunities that might be assigned in lieu of a course (i.e. Writing Programs Office). In short, I said I'd do anything, and I explained why (the situation with our new home purchase, which we wouldn't be in if I hadn't been told I could expect three courses). Again, I was very careful in my tone, and I closed with the acknowledgment that there may not be anything further he could do. I got a response that was basically along the lines of, "we're trying our best, but it's very difficult this late in the fact one of your courses may be reclaimed by a full-time faculty member...I'll be in touch."

I'm doing my very best to not be negative and to focus on the fact that we'll be within driving distance to an OMG ridiculous number of schools with whom I could find employment. Not only or primarily community colleges either, we're talking really good, small, private colleges and research universities. It might take some time, but I'm willing to wait if Hubby is happy with his position and our family is happy in our new town. I know I have no reason to whine or complain given that there are so many PhDs who have been contingent faculty for years on end. So, I won' least not much and not right now. Right now, I just need the Assoc. Dean to reply to my e-mail requesting a letter to verify my employment. The mortgage lender has said that it would help to have it sooner rather than later (i.e. when the paperwork gets to underwriting), and I haven't gotten any reply since I sent the mail on Wednesday. I'm chalking it up to end-of-the-semester business and that she may be holding out to see if she can get that third class on my schedule.

It's all just utterly disheartening. There's no doubt I'll be going back on the market again this fall, though I'll focus primarily on our new area. None of it makes any sense...Hubby and I have the same credentials, we both have extensive teaching experience and research awards. I have two publications forthcoming and a dozen conferences. But only one of us will have full-time employment come the fall. It's nothing short of a fucking lottery at this point folks.


Annie said...

people who say things like that untapped market comment should be slapped. hard. I am so, so sorry.

AcadeMama said...

Annie: What's worse is that he clearly seemed to think this policy was a great benefit to the lecturers. It was obvious that he doesn't see this is any form of exploitation (and I use that word carefully here, only because of his lengthy narrative of how nobody ever moves from part-time to full-time within the English dept). I also use that term because it seems fitting, given that Hubby will make more than twice as much as me and teaching only one more class than me.

Lisa Dunick said...

Man- that sounds, well, just plain blech. I've kind of come to the conclusion that the whole English PhD mill is one big chain of exploitation. Departments give out WAY too many PhDs when they aren't willing to fight for full time positions. And then we're supposed to be happy with adjuncting? Right.

But at least you'll be in the US and at least you have something to start with. Honestly, after that discussion, I don't think I'd want to teach in that department.

papajohn said...

Long-time reader, first-time comment. I enjoy your blog, especially the rants.

Sounds like a rough deal, but not bad in the context of being an adjunct.

I have to say though, I think you are directing too much of your frustration/insecurities at Hubby. My unsolicited advice is for you to let it go. He got a tt job and you didn't. This does not make you worse than you thought, but it apparently makes him better than you thought. Apparently he is so impressive that they gave you a job (albeit adjuncting). Stop calling it a lottery or counting publications, or complaining about the injustice of him being paid more for teaching one more class than you. You're an academic and know perfectly well that he will be expected to publish and do service--two areas on which you will not be assessed as a adjunct.

Time to move on. You had to know this was a possibility. The alternative is staying in place you clearly loathe rather than moving to a desirable region. Be grateful for his achievements, and stop comparing yourself to him. Having watched dual academic couples for years, I can safely write that nothing good will ever come from that.

AcadeMama said...

Lisa: Ultimately, I have to find full-time employment, so working for this department will be temporary. I've received the wise advice to teach whatever they assign, keep doing my own good work, smile, and say nothing.

Papa John: Just to clarify, my comment about the job market being a lottery (though it's true in many ways) is not my own. Hubby is the one who called getting this job the equivalent of winning the lottery. You are right about nothing good coming from comparing myself to him. I'm immensely grateful that he's put us in a position to get the hell outta here. However, that doesn't mean that the adjustment to being contingency labor will be easy or quick for me. And while I my research and productivity may not be assessed while I'm a lecturer, I will nonetheless *have* to be engaged and productive if I want to remain a competitive and attractive candidate to other schools that have full-time openings. That is quite a feat on its own, but especially so when one is without full-time child care (something we can't afford unless I have a full-time job). So ultimately, yes, I have to do just the same amount of work with less time and resources. I definitley don't resent Hubby; I am disappointed and frustrated with the situation, and those seem like pretty normal feelings. Did I expect this was a possibility? Yes, of course. Does that make it any easier to swallow? No, it doesn't. I will vent, then I'll get over it, and I'll continue on with my work.

Anonymous said...

Academama - you will be here, not in Qatar. Beginnings are always hard. Disconcerting. Our newness is like a negative filter, and we see things worse than they are.

You just have to get through this. You are on your way. You are in a perfect position. Trust yourself. Trust yourself. You are doing fine and you will be doing even better.