I was reading Bitch…

I was reading Bitch Ph.D. again, and she's talking about deciding whether or not to leave academia. There are kazillion comments on the post, from people in various stages of enthusiasm with academia, many of whom have jumped ship for jobs elsewhere (and are mostly happier for it). Perhaps not so coincidentally, the English job list just came out a few days ago; I'm waiting for the initial site-crashing intensity to die down a bit before I mosey over and take a look, but I admit, I'm going to go look at it.

Now why would I do that? Don't I already have the next four years planned out? (Visiting gig at Northwestern this year, three-year super-adjunct position at UIC after that.) And yes, yes I do. And I think the UIC thing is actually likely to be a really good job for me, relieving me of time-consuming administrative duties, letting me teach cool classes, while still hopefully having some time for both writing and baby. The salary is oh, a little more than half what I would get in a tenure-track job, but the teaching load is 2-2, which is a distinct improvement over the 3-3 at Roosevelt.

(For non-academics, this is two classes in the fall and two in the winter; teaching load is a critical component of any academic job, because a heavy load means less time for research/writing/publishing/life/etc. High prestige places (and sciences) tend to have lighter loads -- Kev has a 2-1 load. Lower-prestige places have heavier loads -- one college I interviewed at had a 4-5 load, and they were really pleased that they had just had it lowered from 5-5. I taught 4-4 (plus 2 in the summer) when I was an adjunct at Utah, and I actually did manage to get some writing done that year too, but a) I had no kid, b) I was teaching the same class over and over (freshman comp) which required minimal prep. Anyway -- the gist of this is lower teaching load = great good, worth seriously factoring into the job-seeking process. And tenure-track jobs tend to have lower teaching loads than visiting positions or full-time adjunct jobs. Thus endith the lesson.

So anyway, I think the UIC gig will be good, possibly really good or great. The program offers a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, which should mean relatively advanced students to work with, also good. I get to teach some lit. stuff for the Gen Ed. folks, which is always fun. And of course, it's in Chicago, which is where Kevin has his tenure-track job and we own a condo. So why would I even bother to look at the job list? I'm not planning on going on the market again, at least not anytime soon...

But. But but but. When you get a Ph.D., the carrot that dangles in front of you is that elusive tenure-track job, the kind Kevin actually has, with a light teaching load, lots of research support (i.e., time to write and funding for travel to give readings and attend conferences), the eventual title of actual Professor (as opposed to Visiting Prof, or Instructor, or the very random title I'll have at UIC, Assistant Clinical Professor (it's a long story)). And even though I'm not certain I actually want the tenure-track job (which sometimes comes with a lot of departmental politicking, and time-consuming administrative work, and and and) it's hard not to dream the dream. Maybe a job will open up in Chicago this year. Or maybe a job will open up somewhere else right next to a great job for Kevin. Maybe in the Bay Area, so we can be close to his family, or the East Coast, so we can be close to mine.

It's so tempting, I can't help but go look. Am I nuts? Is the tenure-track dream worth pursuing?

5 thoughts on “I was reading Bitch…”

  1. You are right about the politicking. If I could just teach my 2-2 load and work on research, I would be much happier. On the other hand, there is the illusion, at least, that one has some effect on what direction the program takes as a tenured professor. Sometimes it IS just an illusion, since one can always be outvoted. Is it worth it? Maybe only if you need the money. Isaac Asimov gave up a tenure track job.

    BTW, isn’t it “endeth” instead of “endith”?

  2. Some of us do miss you at Roosevelt. Your a great Professor(visiting, adjunct or whatever title they want to call you). Your class was the most engaging of the general undergrad classes I was required to take. As an English minor, I received my most useful feedback and support from you. Since I have sat through some of the most boring classes in the English department, I would like to say Roosevelt sucks and I really wish you were in Chicago teaching 300 level courses because Roosevelt needs qualified professionals like yourself!!!

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Aw, Danielle — that’s so sweet! Thanks for the kind words! I wish they’d been able to keep me too, but sadly, the Dean had higher priorities for her budget than renewing my Visiting Professor position, and the Provost couldn’t give her the funds for a new tenure-track line in Creative Writing.

    I can’t even say that they were necessarily wrong in their decisions, however much I would have liked to stay at Roosevelt — other departments might well have had stronger needs for positions. It’s not easy, being in higher administration and trying to figure out what’s best for your university as a whole. Maybe Psychology or History was desperately in need of new faculty; it’s impossible for us to say from the outside.

    Still, the Roosevelt students are great, and I miss them already! I hope you find more classes you love there…

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Oh, and David, not sure about ‘endeth’ — you’re probably right. I do like running things (and I think I’m fairly good at it, witness SH, etc.), and would be very tempted to take an admin job that let me actually run my own area. The potential for creating something beautiful and productive would be exciting!

    But I think I’m actually kind of bad at being junior faculty, and doing the kind of administrative work and politicking that generally seems to go with that. Hmm…subject for another post, I think.

  5. You seem to be very good at creating successful non-profits. Maybe you should found a liberal arts college to run the way you think it ought to be run. It really would need to teach only mathematics, history, literature, philosophy, physics, art, and anthropology! And perhaps music??

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