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General Chat[]

There are indeed approximately 25% fewer job postings this year compared to the previous two years (MLA JIL). Also, more of these posts are not tenure-track positions, but that can and does often change when funding improves. If someone has the latest numbers please post those here and on the discussion page.


I'm getting my PhD in rhetoric in a Communication Dept., though my MA and undergraduate degrees are both in English. I've submitted a number of applications for rhetoric positions in English - those that do not specify rhetcomp and align with my particular speciality. I've gotten no response , not even a single request for more materials. Meanwhile, I've had several interviews in Communication. Should I just forget about applying for English positions. Are my applications being tossed because I'm in Comm?

  • There does seem to be a bias to hiring from "like departments" I have heard. So, even though a rhet post might be a match, the department reads that I'm associated with a "writing studies" program and assumes I am not really a "digital rhet" person. One faculty member at a univ. I applied to told me, "You really should have been in a comm department." Go figure. Can't win??
  • Often if a position is in rhetoric and in an English Dept, the expectation is that the candidate will still help lead the Composition Program in some capacity. Since FY writing is the engine, bread-and-butter, etc. of most rhetoric and composition programs, candidates basically have to have some background in the area.


Question: I've heard that not everyone is interviewing at MLA anymore. I'll be on the job market next year and am concerned because MLA is completely across the country and due to health reasons, I may not be able to fly out for it. If applicants aren't able to make MLA are most schools willing to do phone/video interviews instead or is it MLA or bust?

Boy, I hope not. I had to skip MLA for personal reasons. According to The Chronicle, I'm not alone. Some tenured faculty are skipping, too, due to the cost and inconvenience of holiday air travel. Money is tight and I'm not charging any more expenses.
A friend of mine on a SC said they conducted a video interview for a candidate would could not attend MLA, so I think committees are likely to continue to accommodate such circumstances.
A: I simply asked those who invited me to interview at MLA if a video interview would be possible. All said yes. :)

I just want to pass along a word of advice - please do not forget to do your homework on the taxes for the city, county, and state your potential employer is located and make sure you negotiate your salary to help compensate. As someone who's lived in SC for 8 yrs before moving to get my phd in another state - my husband and I BOTH ended up having fairly good full time and part-time jobs plus my financial aid overages just to make it and have a few bucks in our pockets for dinner and a movie once in a while (granted we did have one child). The taxes aren't so bad if you look at each one separately, but it's their collective impact that was killing us (we did have city, county, state, and sales tax - some of which did seem to overlap a bit, but hey SC has its own way of doing things). We literally had to wait to pay our vehicle property tax on 10 yr old vehicles with almost the full amount of our federal tax returns because they were so high - I actually thought once that we'd gotten another statement for sales tax, but it really was just a property tax bill). I know there are a lot of states in the NE that also have notorious taxes and my family in Wisconsin also suggest that they have high taxes too, so make sure to know what your job locations taxes are and how many there really are (I know before we left SC they were getting ready to vote on an additional service tax, which was intended to tax you at a McDonalds - hair stylist - any store w/ sales clerks -- anything where someone "serviced" another). With money and the economy being sooo tough - I just wanted to remind people to consider the many ways taxing can impact your pay check and the layers of taxing, so definitely negotiate to help off-set some of those expenses (I'm sure everyone will anyway, but just a friendly reminder).



Wikia Rants If you have any status updates, they'd really help other seekers.

I admit it... the fact that so many in a communications-centered discipline cannot edit a wikia page without problems worries me. I keep fixing formatting issues because they bother me and make it difficult to track job posts. Please, read the instructions and follow them. We would expect our students to do as much.

Absolutely annoying. At least once every 2-3 weeks, I fix the wiki formatting. It is disgusting that people can't use a wiki properly and not muck it up.


Disgusting? Hmmm--I suffer from computer illiteracy. Would like to be able to enter these convos w/out being yelled at for mucking things up. Allow me to apologize in advance for editing errors produced by this post. On the other hand, and forgive this overgeneralization, but why does it seem that the computer literati are such dicks about having knowledge that others don't?

The instructions are posted and available. It has nothing to do with computer skills. It has to do with reading the instructions -- a major difference. If it were an obtuse computer application, confusion would be expected, but the link to "Editing Help" appears below the editor.


I have a rant about the market and SCs. While I can't give any specifics b/c too revealing - I am very frustrated with this entire process. I am absolutely sick to death after what I found out - and want to throw in the towel. Among many other things (I do mean MANY) - how can a search committee honestly consider a job for someone who NEEDS 18 mos to put together a freshman comp syllabus because they don't know comp-rhet!!! I can't reveal details or any specifics, but knowing this school is considering hiring an incompetent when there are MANY qualified folks (seasoned ABD folks too) --- I'm speechless.

Plan B is?[]

I think the heading says it all.

No idea what plan B is. Non-profit work? Others?

  • Non-Profit might be a good way to stay engaged. Also, adjuncts can/do get hired when things improve.

Ironically, teaching K-12 usually requires a professional year, plus student teaching. So, that path would add another two years even if you have a Ph.D. This varies by state, with some allowing emergency credentials or other waivers.

  • Uh, K-12 isn't a much better market right now.

Thoughts on Over-reaching Departments[]

As someone not going to be a highly sought after (new assistant professor) candidate at R1s (though I've gotten nibbles), I know a few strong candidates taking interviews (and even early offers) at places they will not realistically go to. In part, they can't be blamed. Take whatever you get, especially in this market. But on the other hand, they effectively increase the chances of failed searches and jobless job seekers. Compounding the problem is that some departments at institutions that can't realistically recruit the top candidates are reaching for them nonetheless.

I wonder what others thoughts are? Again, you can't blame people for applying, but it seems reasonable to expect departments to seriously consider who they can and cannot expect to recruit successfully. If you offer interviews and the jobs to only the best candidates, you will most likely not get anyone.

But this, of course, is my first time on the market, and I'm sure this is the same every year (even good ones).

  • I think a lot of institutions will get a better candidate than they would in the normal market. I bet a lot did last year too. Most candidates will take all kinds of jobs if they have only one offer.
  • It's my first run in R1/R2 circles, but I have to say that the corporate world wasn't much different. You get apps from people you assume/know really want to be at a Fortune 500 company, and they might get the opportunity, but in this market that can't be certain. Some smaller firms are getting great people and some of those employees are stunned to learn they like the smaller firms. Things are rough, but you might end up content and later transfer to a "big name" institution.
  • Search committees usually have pre-set criteria going into a search, and they have to rank candidates according to those criteria-- it's an EEOC thing. They can't disqualify candidates on a "They won't come here" basis. So, if strong candidates apply, committees are somewhat compelled to pursue them. I've been on both sides of this situation, and yeah, it sucks for both sides.
  • I don't think that one can safely assume that the "best candidates" on the market in any given year will take a job with an R1 (or even R2, for that matter). For most candidates, there are many other criteria that factor in the job decision (geographic location, family, student population, community diversity, politics, religion, etc.) besides the research status. In fact, there are top candidates who choose jobs at community colleges, HBCs, tribal colleges, etc--or others who leave R1s for smaller schools. R1s/R2s that prepare accordingly should be able to offer the job to other candidates should early offers fall through.
    • A great point. I am married to someone with a master's degree. Comparing her field to the humanities and her compensation in private industry to what I might someday earn... tough choices.

Other ways of thinking about this topic

As someone who has recently taken a job at one of those universities that the above author suggests is over-reaching, I think it's important to complicate this notion of over-reaching. First, I think there are a lot of important things to consider in the above post and I don't intend this sub-thread to dismiss the above. I do think that we should consider a few things, though. I say this from the perspective of someone who got a PhD from an R1 university where there was NOT an economic crisis, received several offers--including an offers from R1 universities, and CHOSE to accept a position at a "teaching university."

  • Many of us who got into the field of rhetoric and composition did so because of a commitment to teaching and working with students from working class populations (the very populations that many of us came from). It makes sense for those of us who got our PhDs from top tier universities with these commitments to take positions at "teaching universities"
  • If we use the language of "over-reaching" to describe universities that serve working class and under-represented populations who choose to hire top-tier candidates, we are reproducing the very regressive labor structure that our friends in literature cultivated. And, I should say, that many folks in our field persistently critique.
  • We DO have a significant problem in many PhD programs in our field, though: most of us are trained to imagine ourselves at R1 universities once we graduate. This is a cultural problem in our field. That is, even the most supportive PhD programs tend to seek to reproduced themselves--i.e. other R1 faculty--unconsciously, and often with the best of intentions.
Finn08 16:19, December 31, 2009 (UTC)
  • Good points. I have learned how sensitive I am to condescending attitudes toward the "working class" of my parents and grandparents. I didn't find many people "like me" at the R1 I attended. I felt out of place culturally. (Another R1, my undergrad, was a great experience, but they had more diversity, too. Probably a result of location.)
  • I would add something too - I came from both a R1 for undergrad and a smaller elite school for grad school. I started school after I had other careers, and I think too that we (as well as the university environment) grooms us to think we've got to stay in the university system at any cost. I know that w/ my phd in comp/rhet I could go sooo many places in the public sector (or even start my own consulting business) and make just as much if not more money. For me, I won't take ANYTHING for the sake of taking just anything or adjuncting and being a freeway flier teaching at 5 places to get by and stay in the academy if there isn't a job for me this yr. While I'd like to stay in academia I also see the validity and ease with which we can fit in other environments--our degrees are absolutely portable and valued (look at job ads in newspapers - almost every ad wants people with excellent written and verbal communication skills - I think a phd in comp/rhet should be able to fit that bill adequately!)
  • It's so refreshing to hear you say this. What kind of jobs in the public sector? Other than teaching at the secondary level or working in a non-profit envionment, I've never thought about job opportunities for rhet/comp phds and my department certainly doesn't offer any support! Ideas are most welcome!
  • A few things - I use to work in a major land bank (we loaned $ to all the farmers from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania) - just in that building alone I could've moved throughout that business. We had a law dept, HR, trainers (yes - so if you have New Media Writing - this is HUGE - you can go independent and open your own consulting firm), marketing depts., communications depts., contracts/grants - because ALL of these depts valued and demanded expertise in writing and the knowledge of rhetoric would make us superstars. I have actually had people ask me to come and do weekend writing workshops for fiction writers (and the idea was teach them enough to get them started and then assist them in the development as well as the process of seeking publication). Heck - I don't even want to tell you the good and bad ways federal agencies such as the CIA could use someone savvy in rhetoric (we are trying to win the hearts and minds of the middle east - if that doesn't require knowledge of a rhetorical situation I don't know what does!). The deal is this - you've got to do it in such a way that people realize the actual intellectual work of our degrees (it's been so misrepresented and tarnished by its affiliation with underhanded political wrangling that people don't realize what a true gem rhetorical knowledge is - it is understand the seat of human thought, expression, and reception. Isn't it funny how we can knock out things like awesome letters and folks are blown away and we're miracle workers because we say exactly what they want, but didn't know how to express ---well, that's our training at work (know you're audience, know the kairos, and work your rhetorical magic!!). I think the same is true for Literature folks - they're setting themselves up completely wrong and working themselves out of jobs because they don't accurately market who they are and what they do. It's hard for society to see lit as valuable when you say "I examine literary texts from the Jacobean era" - but it sure means something altogether different when you say "I study literature because it is the historical marker and means of instruction for modern humanity - we examine the texts that explore what it means to be human" - this is a HUGE area right now - esp. for the sciences. Sciences (like literal doctors and nursing) are now being forced to take poetry classes and English classes because they have got to STOP objectifying patients and remember the human contingent. Today is certainly a time of selfish and self-centered thinking and not recognizing one is part of a whole (or if they do - would rather climb over the others to take care of themselves and screw others over). When I teach literature course - we always make connections between the past and today -- how are these text relevant today - are the same questions Ibsan asks w/ his play A Doll's House still applicable - and the answer is yes. I had a student realize he speaks to his wife in the same condescending manner as Torvald speaks to Nora and the way the class railed against Torvald really hit home to my student. He changed his tone and started asking "If he was like this - then why did she stay?" - which the entire class knew was really "Why is my wife staying" - maybe we changed 1 man's heart towards his wife, but it was one man who apparently never took the time to SEE his wife, and now has choices to make now that he sees that his treatment was inappropriate and disrespectful. Is literature relevant??? I say HELLS YES!!!! I think English (Comp/Rhet/Lit) is HORRIBLY undervalued and underrated (not to mention underpaid - we are the best bang for your buck in the entire university - think how much it takes to put together a science or computer lab w/ all the software and specialized equipment for some of these majors - we see every single student, give them awesome and life altering info and skills, and we're making in the 40s, lucky to be in 50s?!?!?! I seriously think the university's got it all wrong. Science wouldn't have logical thought if it wasn't for classical rhet!! We all do know that Aristotle was a scientist as well as rhetorician - the university's getting off cheap for all the work we can do (if I get to negotiations - I'm gonna negotiate like a fool b/c I know what I'm worth - watch the Joy Luck Club for inspiration!!) I think the problem is that as a field/discipline we don't know how to sell ourselves and express just how relevant and important we are!!! Oh yeah, and if you think I'm silly, crazy, refreshingly inspirational - whatever - you should see me teaching in the classroom!! Works Cited, MLA formatting, and grammar rules are a time of full-on celebration - I've got the rowdy room, but by golly they learn (we play jeopardy, have class races/competitions, play nerf basketball, and yup, that's right I believe in bribing my students w/ Starbucks gift cards. We make citation and grammar fun! Why does everything have to be dismal and painful - there's enough of that crap out in the world -hell, this wiki will make ya take a bottle of pills w/ a vodka chaser. I say NO WAY and NO MORE!!). No more half empty - it's only half to three quarters of a full glass for me! I may not be the average mousey, thin-lipped, end of my nose glasses wearing English teacher, but I am smart, I am savvy, I am inventive, I am a good person, I am funny and fun, and gosh darn it someone will like me! (for all of the old Saturday Night Live/Stewart Smalley watchers out there!!). If you ever wonder about your potential--just remember less than 1% of the population earn phds in anything - we're already exceptional!!

When to tell colleagues[]

Q: I am currently employed and am interviewing for a different tt job at a different university. When should I tell my colleagues? I've been told by one person to say nothing until an offer has been made, but I have become close friends with a few of my current colleagues and would prefer them to hear from me rather than someone else. Any advice?

One Response: Depends on what you mean by close friends, how much they know about your being on the market, and whether they are friends w/other dept. members who may not be friendly to you. If your being on the market is controversial, I would wait for an offer b4 saying anything (except perhaps to those close friends who already know all about your desire to leave). I've found that most people understand how sensitive (and awful) the job search process can be. And they can still hear the news from you -- you can tell them after you get the offer but b4 the chair sends out word of your official resignation.67.174.15.5 15:24, January 12, 2010 (UTC)

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