Saturday, February 24, 2018

Quit Lit Junkie

So, back during grad school, I made myself two vows. First, I wouldn't read any more "quit lit" (i.e., academics writing about leaving academia), and second I wouldn't read any more diatribes bemoaning the academic job market. Those decisions were simply good psych management. If quit lit was depressing, akin watching a car crash, then reading about job market woes would had even Pollyanna looking for the nearest tall building.

Anyway, they're both related subgenres of academic writing, since the job market is the major reason we leave academia. While I'd personally never stop trying to read, write, and publish everything I could, academia's still the only occupation (other than lottery winner) where you can do that full time. Even today, though, I still can't believe my unimaginable good luck in landing a lectureship at the U of Arizona. Although anything less than a tenure-track position at a major research university can't honestly count as a "dream job," but still, landing a lectureship at a major research university is certainly a "daydream" job. It's beyond anything I could have reasonably hoped to have expected.

What brings on these ruminations, however, is a recent piece of quit lit that's been making the rounds. A historian named Erin Bartram wrote on her blog the following post, The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind. It's a powerful piece of writing. After the post went viral, though, I was even more struck by Bartram's follow-up, an interview she did for The Chronicle of Higher Education, which can be found here.

Some of the highlights of that interview:

  • "There are countless people who have . . . go look at my CV and find reasons why I didn’t get a job." 
    • Yes. Although I'm as bad at c.v.-stalking as anyone else, it's also a cop-out to "explain" her lack of job by what's on her c.v.. You must do everything you can to bolster that document, but luck will always be the major reason anyone gets a job in this market. As proud as I am of my c.v. at this stage in my career, I still just got lucky to find the right job at the right time.
  • "people I know have been turned down for jobs when their CVs as candidates already had more publications on them than senior members of that committee. That hurts."
    • Understatement. And -- anger, although deep down we all know that it's not really the fault of those academics entrenched in the system.
  • The "survivor's guilt" of someone getting an actual academic job.
    • Yes, yes, and double yes. Even reading about the murderous workloads of my friends who got community college jobs (and these are the "lucky" grad school survivors who weren't forced out of academia), my own sense of guilt is fine-honed. Once again, no matter how diligently one works on one's c.v., the most important factor at the end of the day is still just luck. And that realization makes life seem very, very precarious.

No comments:

Post a Comment