Monday, February 15, 2010

Friday is JFP Day

I will be very interested to see what this thing looks like. Based on conversations I've had, the conventional wisdom seems to be that the VAP market will be strong compared to last year and to the TT market from this past fall. But that's what people were saying last year, and we know what happened then.

Do you suppose that a relatively strong February JFP will indicate or be a sign of a comparatively strong TT market in the Fall?

My prediction: 40 ads.

--Mr. Zero

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Based on conversations I've had, the conventional wisdom seems to be that the VAP market will be strong compared to last year and to the TT market from this past fall.

What reasons have been given for this optimism? I'm skeptical.

Mr. Zero said...

What reasons have been given for this optimism? I'm skeptical.

I didn't mean to suggest that there were any reasons exactly. I think people just make stuff up. That's how I came up with my prediction, anyway.

Anonymous said...

"What reasons have been given for this optimism? I'm skeptical."

I didn't mean to suggest that there were any reasons exactly. I think people just make stuff up. That's how I came up with my prediction, anyway.


If this philosophy thing doesn't pan out, you have a bright future in punditry.

Anonymous said...

the speculative reason i heard for these predictions was that schools need the teaching power but can't afford TTs, hence would hire more temps.

Anonymous said...

Here's to hoping there are simply enough VAPs to publish a spring JFP

Anonymous said...

there's already at least some VAPs in the online JFP.

how far is too far to move for a VAP? In inconvenience terms, not geographical ones, I suppose. How disruptive does it have to be to your life before an eight month isn't worth it?

SLACProf said...

I predict fewer full-time, benefits-eligible VAPs all around. I predict a rise in part-time, adjunctish positions that institutions will cobble together in order to replace a full-time position. So long as there are many people willing to work part-time for peanuts in order to "keep a foot in the door" then Deans have no incentive to make a full-time hire. Two part-timers at 15k/year each w/out benefits is much cheaper than one full-timer at 45k/year with benefits. Call me cynical.

zombie said...

Anon 7:31: there's no way to answer that question for you. How far is too far is entirely relative to your circumstances. Do you have a family? Or will moving only affect you? Do you have a spouse who will need to find a new job, or will you leave him/her behind for that year? Do you have a dog or cat? Do you have a lot of stuff to move?
How's your CV look? Would it benefit from another line? Is the VAP a good one? Do you currently have a job as an adjunct?
Will the VAP expose you to new colleagues who might be valuable contacts or references for you?
In my case, last year I decided not to pursue any VAPs because it would be too disruptive to my family, for too little benefit. But I took a 2 year postdoc outside the US, which has worked out really well for me (100% research position) and for my family. Given the economy in my home state, at least half of my adjunct work would have disappeared this school year, so it turned out to be financially prudent as well.

Anonymous said...

I predict that SLACProf, while perhaps cynical, is also spot on.

Part-time adjuncts will be the default particularly in areas where grad programs are within 2 or so hours of the institution needing instructors.

Short-sighted and to the disadvantage of just about everyone involved? Yes. But long-term thinking appears to be a luxury these days.

zombie said...

Is "no benefits" the norm for adjuncts? My last adjunct position provided full benefits, including healthcare and (optional) retirement, and free use of athletic facilities. It was also a unionized position in a state U.

Xenophon said...

"Do you suppose that a relatively strong February JFP will indicate or be a sign of a comparatively strong TT market in the Fall?"

The original question is a good one. I'm not sure. I guess it depends on how we understand "a strong JFP." If strong means lots of adjunct positions, I'm not sure I see the connection. If it means more TT positions than expected, I think that's great sign for the fall. If they cancel the print JFP because of lack of jobs, that's clearly a bad sign for next year.

Remember that a lot of schools budget based on trends over the last three years, so big deficits in one year will be reflected in hiring decisions several years later. Also recall that many state systems are getting savaged, and it's unlikely they'll ever catch up with these loses: schools had just made up their loses (in nominal, not real, terms) from the late 90s when this crisis hit. That's liable to happen again, especially if we are entering another credit bubble.

Then of course there's the backlog of un(der)employed PhDs waiting for their shot. Hopefully (for the profession) a lot of those will eventually give up and find satisfying and lucrative careers outside of the academy, and more undergrads will either bypass grad school or stick with terminal MAs. Otherwise, we'd need a really stellar jobs outlook to get the profession back to where it was in, say, 2006 (which, by the way, sucked). Hate to be the bearer of bad punditry.

Hey, it's a good sign that Harvard's hiring. They lost, what, 40% of their endowment?

SLACProf said...

@zombie

I think your use of the term "adjunct" and my use of the term "adjunct" must be miles apart.

To me, an adjunct is somebody who teaches anywhere from one to three or four classes per semester, but is paid according to each class (piece-work in the non-academic parlance). Because it is piece-work such workers are never considered full-time, no matter how many pieces they produce. Thus, they are never given benefits, an office, or any of the other other standard things a regular VAP or full-time instructor might expect.

Can you explain what you meant when you said you were an adjunct with benefits? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

SLACprof: What would you call a full-time, non-tenure-track instructor who gets benefits? An oxymoron?

An adjunct is simply someone who works on an at-will contractual basis, i.e., not on the tenure track. In many instances, adjuncts are part-time and do not receive benefits, but these are not essential to what an adjunct is. At my university, most adjuncts are less than full-time, but all are at least half-time and therefore receive benefits given union rules here.

SLACProf said...

I'll try to not respond to the snark, but I might fail! ;-)

What would you call a full-time, non-tenure-track instructor who gets benefits? An oxymoron?

Ummmm... A full-time Instructor. Or Lecturer. Or a full-time Visiting Assistant Professor. Often the difference among these titles can be whether one has received the PhD or not.

An adjunct is simply someone who works on an at-will contractual basis, i.e., not on the tenure track.

Ummmm... No. Typically the term "adjunct" is used to denote part-time, non-benefits, teaching faculty. Some unionized systems (I think SUNY may be one) have managed to negotiate benefits for adjuncts who teach the equivalent of a full-time schedule, or have been employed in the same position for longer than a few years (not sure what this number is). This is quite rare, however.

I can see how you might be confused, but since the term adjunct carries with it a certain amount of baggage it is important not to throw it around willy-nilly when talking about non-tenure-track positions. An adjunct is a much different beat than a VAP. I'm fighting tooth and nail to prevent my provost from hiring adjunct sabbatical replacements. I'll be thrilled, however, if she decides to hire VAP or full-time Instructor replacements. Big, big difference.

Capice?

Mr. Zero said...

My $0.02: my understanding of the terminology conforms to what SLACprof says.

Anonymous said...

Two more cents. While I agree that SLACprof has captured the way things *usually* are, anon 12:07 isn't totally off-base. There are a number of schools (including some SLACs!) that use "lecturer," "adjunct assistant professor," and "visiting assistant professor" interchangeably. Some will only use the "Visiting" title for true visitors (i.e., people who have permanent appointments elsewhere). For those schools, what usually is titled VAP will be "adjunct assistant professor." One lesson here is that if you're ever evaluating CVs, it's important to keep in mind that some schools use these terms in unique ways, and a person's employment history might not be what you would normally take it to be, just going off of the titles -- so don't mistake the baggage. (And, I do think it is fair to say that "adjunct" technically refers to those who work on an at-will basis.)

And, just to be sure: whether or not a position comes with benefits can vary independently of what its title is.

Xenophon said...

Can we distinguish between categories of employment and titles applied to individual contracts? I think this is standard usage.

People hired to teach a particular course or courses are generally called "adjuncts" when there are no institutional obligations apart from those required for the courses contracted. Full- or part-time positions that entail, inter alia, teaching obligations are often called VAPs as a category.

In practice, VAPs generally don't have research or service requirements, though some do, but VAP is a different and "better" status than adjunct, and is more likely to bring with it benefits like, well, health benefits. It's possible to have a system where there's little to no practical distinction between people in the two categories, but most schools try to make some distinction. Titles for VAPs may include Lecturer, Visiting Lecturer, even Anon 2:01's "Adjunct Assistant Professor" (though I've never encountered that, I can believe it exists).

Thus, to some extent the distinction is relational, and when schools go out of their way to erase such distinctions (for example, offering benefits to adjuncts), then the standard terminology may not be very helpful. I'd recommend some version of "non-TT" in such cases.

Anonymous said...

Fwiw,

I think lecturer is lower than VAP, but somewhere above adjunct in the pecking order. The position I had as lecturer was teaching intensive, there was no support for things like research or travel. The VAPs that I new were treated better. (I believe that VAP was something that the school decided to do away with. The department chair came up with the idea of having between 2-4 lecturers each year. If they had defined the position as VAP, the teaching load would have been less and the pay would have been higher. However, the department chair would have had to beg the dean for the position on an annual basis whereas the lecturer position was permanent but filled by lecturers on a year to year basis.)

Being a lecturer was better than being an adjunct. I was fortunate enough to do both one semester. I'd receive something like $2700 per course as adjunct and at the school I worked as an adjunct (I believe that their title was something like visiting adjunct professor), I couldn't get into the office they had available because that would require the secretary to get a key and I was only going to be there for a semester or two. Why not just have my office hours on the bench outside the building or find some chairs in the hallway?

When lecturers had low enrollment, they had courses canceled without losing pay. When adjuncts had low enrollment and courses were canceled, they weren't paid anything. This matters, too.

So, VAP = Not horribly shitty.
Lecturer = Shit.
Adjunct = The shit of shit.

Anonymous said...

I'll simply add that, in my neck of the woods, 'adjunct' has the meaning described by SLACProf. Frankly, when reading the earlier anon's comment, I was shocked to hear of an adjunct actually getting benefits like health insurance.

Anonymous said...

In my neck of the woods. Instructor is a rank that denotes someone who does not have the terminal degree in the discipline; An adjunct faculty member is someone who has a class specific contract and no other collegial/departmental duties; a visiting professor has a rank and is appointed in a department and usually has expectations of the other 33% of the job (teaching is 66% of our workload).

Anonymous said...

My prediction fwiw: 20-25 ads with more than half of them being repeats from the web-only stuff that is up as of today.

The need for teaching power (3 sections of Logic 101 say) will be met by hiring local known talent later in the semester or over the summer.

Anonymous said...

"In my neck of the woods. Instructor is a rank that denotes someone who does not have the terminal degree in the discipline"

I wish I worked in your neck of the woods. We had to have a Ph.D. to be hired as lecturers.

BunnyHugger said...

I was once titled as "Adjunct Assistant Professor" at a SLAC where I was an adjunct in the usual sense of the word. I just got to be "assistant professor" because I had a Ph.D. It had nothing to do with the actual status or type of position. It was certainly not another name for a VAP.

Anonymous said...

Anecdote: My institution just got last-minute approval from the Dean to advertise a 3-year VAP that was not in the previous web-only JFP. Feel free to draw wildly optimistic conclusions from this about the nature of the VAP market.

Xenophon said...

Do we need something else to draw our attention until Friday, so as to avoid the "if they put it up early, maybe they'd modify the old URL as follows" syndrome?

Hey look, an elephant!

No, that diversion won't last long enough or generate enough debate.

How about this? Rollins College is advertising a position is advertising a position in epistemology and/or analytic philosophy. Any ideas what "analytic philosophy" means in this context? It can't be analytic as opposed to continental, because then it wouldn't contrast with epistemology. Is it history of? Is it old-school "using logic to solve every problem in philosophy"?

zombie said...

OK, so I was technically an adjunct lecturer at SUNY. With benefits. And a union. But I was a contract worker, paid by the credit hour, renewed semester by semester, and I taught two courses per semester. I had an office (though it was a shared office). I had office hours. The other adjuncts in the dept had the same deal. Some of them had been there for many years. They were actually very nice to me there. The rest of the faculty spoke to me as if I were an actual human being.

My other adjunct job, at a SLAC, they were fairly shitty to me. I believe I was called an adjunct instructor there. No office space. I used to sit in my car before class to go over my lecture notes. I don't remember what (if any) benefits I got there.

But my understanding of "adjunct" is that it includes instructors and lecturers, both contract workers, renewed each term, and paid by the credit hour as opposed to a salary.

SLACProf said...

@zombie

Ah, yes, the SUNY system is an outlier when it comes to these things. You can mostly thank the union for how well you were treated as an adjunct there. Your experiences at the SLAC as an adjunct are, unfortunately, much more the norm.

As for how your "colleagues" treated you at either place, it would be interesting to see how social interactions between adjunct and full-time faculty vary according how the institution treats its adjuncts. My guess is that institutional invisibility (lack of office space, benefits, etc.) is followed by the sort of "social death" adjuncts experience.

The differences in zombie's treatment are why I am usually quite willing to get in fist fights with people who complain too much about unions. Yeah, they can have problems, but at least they provide some protection for the system's weakest members.

Anonymous said...

The California State University is also a unionized faculty system. Benefits are paid to part-time and full-time lecturers, including pro-rata retirement and also health benefits, if you teach at least 6 units (ordinarily, 2 sections) each semester.

At least in the CSU philosophy departments I'm familiar with, the part-time lecturers share office space, as they are required to conduct office hours, as per campus policy. They also get internet accounts, library privileges, etc.

Unfortunately, many of those part-time lecturers were laid off last year and lost their health benefits. The CSU Chancellor just released some $50 million in Federal stimulus money to be used for fall 2010 instruction, so part-time lecturers who were slated for lay-off will still have work, at least this fall.

Most of the California community colleges are also unionized, but I don't know if their part-timers get benefits.

The lecturers in the University of California (but not the tenured/TT faculty) are unionized.