Listen post-academics and you shall hear
Of the kinds of jobs that are advertised each year,
In late October of job market season
Everyone is aware, even if they don’t know the reason
That many academic jobs are Lectureships that suck ass.
That was my terrible attempt to parody Paul Revere’s Ride. I gave up on the rhyme on the last line because speaking the truth, which is that Lectureships suck ass, seemed more important than coming up with a word that fit the rhyme scheme. My sincerest apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Why am I suddenly so down on Lectureships enough to mock them in (stolen) verse? Well, I was reviewing the job listings in my field because many of the jobs are just so laughably awful that it’s fun to read them.
A local college recently advertised a Lecturer position. These barely-not-adjunct positions are very common these days. Here is what the job ad says followed by my interpretation of what it actually means.
What It Says
“The [Blah] Department at [Blah Blah] College invites applications for a Lecturer position. In addition to teaching introductory courses, faculty are expected to teach in one of the following areas [long list of subject areas that are mostly unrelated except for the fact that they appear in this job ad together]. Candidates are expected to bring enthusiasm and demonstrated commitment to teaching.”
What It Actually Means
“You are not actually faculty, but we will call you that when it suits our purposes. You will have to teach a bunch of different things here at Blah Blah College. Basically, wherever we need a warm body in a classroom that semester is where we will put you. But you must be enthusiastic about this at all times because the definition of ‘commitment to teaching’ is just cold teaching whatever we want you to under any conditions that we deem acceptable. For example, if you don’t know how to teach Introduction to Introducing Things, then you will have to figure it out. With enthusiasm!”
What It Says
“Lecturers are also expected to contribute their expertise to the college through service work. Service may include [long list of service options including committee work and editing a magazine with students.] Job performance evaluation is based on teaching and service (not on research or publishing).”
What It Means
“We have some vague idea that you have ‘expertise’ in something, since you have a higher degree and all. But we don’t care if you write or publish anything of a scholarly nature ever again. We don’t care if you attend conferences (which is why we won’t give you any money to do so) or if you keep up on the literature in your field. In truth, we don’t care if the Lecturers in our classrooms actually know much of anything about the fields in which they teach. We just need people to staff classes, and your willingness to be one of those people is a mark of the kind of enthusiasm and commitment that we are looking for.”
What It Says
“Lecturers are eligible for what is called a Certificate of Continuous Employment (CCE), earned after five years of quality performance.”
What It Means
“After you have worked for us enthusiastically and with commitment for five years, we will give you a piece of paper that says we will invite you back in succeeding years. We will do this as long as you continue to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment and as long as our enrollment doesn’t decline or our budget doesn’t get cut. While these are in fact incredibly likely scenarios, we still promise to give you that piece of paper after five years that promises to extend any uncertainty you may have about your future in our department.”
What It Says
“Lecturers teach a 5/4 course load, earn a competitive salary, and have access to good benefits. MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: An M.A. or Ph.D. degree in [Blah Blah field].
PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS: Five years of higher education teaching experience in [Blah Blah field].”
What it Means
“Lecturers teach a 5/4 course load.”
Wait, Post-Academic in NYC, why did you stop there? Don’t you intend to continue your hilarious post about What This Job Ad Says Versus What it Actually Means?
I have no more to say because, here at the end of the ad, we have all the information about this job that we will ever need. LECTURERS TEACH A 5-4 LOAD. The person who takes advantage of this exciting opportunity may have well over a hundred students each semester. And this is a Humanities field, so these students need to write papers.
What else do we need to know?
This is where the hypocrisy of academia becomes appallingly apparent. The first paragraph of the job ad indicates that they really want to hire someone who is an enthusiastic and committed teacher. But then they propose to put that person in circumstances wherein enthusiastic and committed teaching CANNOT POSSIBLY BE DONE.
In my view, there is simply no way a human being, no matter how committed or enthusiastic, can teach that many students over that many years and do it well. This college, like so many others, can barely disguise the fact that it is not actually interested in good teaching. Therefore, this job ad means exactly the opposite of what it says. We do not want good teachers because we do not care about good teaching. We care only about working you to death before we fire you after five years, once your enthusiasm for garden variety academic exploitation runs out.