Follow Up on Academic Nonteaching Jobs

Last week, I posted about humanities graduate education and academic nonteaching jobs. That discussion is apparently something of a hot topic these days and I received a lot of great links via Twitter and Facebook, which I’m sharing here.

  • A New Humanities Ph.D.” by Paula Krebs looks at ways the Ph.D. could be reformed to train “leaders in a whole range of fields, far beyond academics.”
  • The #alt-academy project, edited by Bethany Nowviskie. Of particular interest (to me, anyway) are Anne Whisnant’s articles, “I am Natalie Henderson,” and “A ‘Nonacademic’ Career in Academe” (originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education).
  • Also from Bethany Nowviskie, “It Starts on Day One” is a “a modest proposal for reforming higher education in the humanities and creating a generation of knowledge workers prepared not only to teach, research, and communicate in 21st-century modes, but to govern 21st-century institutions.”

If the above links aren’t proof enough that the time has come to talk seriously about nonteaching careers in the academy, the fact that both the MLA session on this topic that I am co-facilitating, as well as the waiting list for it, filled up two weeks ago tells you that graduate students and young professionals are looking for this advice (advice that I’d bet they are not getting in their departments).

Which brings me to a beef I have with the “occupyMLA” folks (folk? who knows how many of them there are?): their Twitter bio states “Take hold of your alt-ac job advice & place it squarely in your variorum. TENURE TRACK NOW.” On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the call for more tenure-track jobs and I certainly understand that for those whose career goal is a t-t job, being advised to take an “alt-ac” job instead might sting. On the other hand, there are many of us (including me) who deliberately chose the “alt-ac” track and are tired of being treated as if that were an illegitimate choice. I realize that a Twitter bio needs to be short and pithy, but surely occupyMLA could have found a way to word it in a way that didn’t reinforce the distinction between tenure-track faculty as first-class citizens and alt-ac staff as second-class. Here I might also point out that yes, I understand, it’s meant to be humorous, but the bio combined with dismissive tweets (see one reaction below) makes one wonder just how much is humor and how much is true dismissal.

@ ah, I see what @ was talking abt. Was entering the discrs fr real but am flippantly rebuffed.
Katherine D. Harris

Solutions to the employment crisis in the humanities will require the efforts of all us (tenure-track, tenured, adjuncts, and alt-ac), so deliberately alienating people otherwise sympathetic to their cause doesn’t strike me as the best strategy.

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