Monday, December 13, 2010

A Job I Won't Be Applying For

From Higher Ed Jobs comes this doozy at Harper College of Palatine, IL:

Job Description: Teach 30 contact hours of introductory foundational philosophy courses each academic year.

Duties of Position: Teach 30 contact hours each academic year according to the full-time faculty contract in a student-centered environment. Hold 10 office hours each week. Serve on departmental, divisional, and college committees and pursue professional development in discipline-related field.

I've never heard the expression 'contact hour' before, but it has to be synonymous with the more standard "credit hour." I checked, and they're on the semester system and their standard philosophy course is three credits. So, what we're dealing with is a non-tenure-track [edit: the job is tenure track] job with a 5-5 load, mandatory 10 office hours a week, extensive administrative committee assignments, and pursuit of professional development (is that admin code for publishing?). Fuck that. [edit: discussion in comments has led me to soften my view about this job. I still don't think I'm going to apply for it, but it doesn't seem to be the monster I initially thought].

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

Googled "Harper College of Palatine, IL" and at the top of the page was the following ad:

"Harper College
Adult continuing education at an affordable price. Learn more."

I think that that pretty much tells you what you need to know. But if you do go to their website, you get to read:

"Each year, we provide 40,000+ students with job-ready degrees and certifications in nursing, computer technology, business, marketing, e-commerce, law enforcement, and more."

Anonymous said...

It's a community college position and is pretty typical, though not being tenure track is certainly a strike against it. Pay sometimes is pretty high at community colleges and sometimes the teaching load is 12 month. Don't know the particulars of Harper though.

Anonymous said...

At my school, "contact hour" describes the amount of clock time you're in the classroom. This can differ from "credit hours," although not usually in philosophy. Science labs are typically one credit hour but two contact hours. Similarly, a two credit hour studio art course might mean 4 or 5 contact hours. This doesn't make the job any better, of course.

Anonymous said...

FYI: at least at my school, "professional development" means things like going to teaching workshops, i.e. doing things to become a better teacher, though maybe at a place like this, publishing just gets relegated to ProfDev (something like "staying current in one's field"--which is obviously a problem when you've got a 5/5 load...)

Anonymous said...

"Contact hours" does usually mean "classroom contact hours." Sometimes the minimum number are state mandated (as is the case, I know, in Colorado). I was teaching in a contract lecturer position, 4:4 load, at a SLAC and got harassed by the chair of the department because I was very lenient with my class attendance policy, but required regular office hour visits. I thought that contact hours included office hours, but as I found out the hard way, it did not. I was swiftly fired.

Anonymous said...

on credit and contact hours

Xenophon said...

Like a lot of CCs, it just requires a master's degree. If you're a grad student who's wondering whether it's worth continuing only to see a dreadful market and maybe no job, maybe it makes sense to go for the job now, if you can get it. But yeah, not something I'll apply for.

Let me suggest this: whoever ends up taking this job, write in next year and tell us what you think.

Ben said...

I would understand 'contact hours' to mean face-to-face class time. I've regularly seen jobs specifying 6-12 contact hours (though some use 'weighted' hours, where different activities might count for more or less than an hour).

Even so, I struggle to make sense of the ad. 30 hours. If that over two semesters of, say, 15 weeks, then it's just one hour a week over the course of the year. Common sense, plus the fact they feel the need for 10 office hours a week on top, makes me think that can't be right.

Do they mean 30 hours *a week* over the year? That seems crazy (add in 10 office hours and all the preparation/marking and you're looking at maybe three times that). Or what do they mean?

A-158 said...

I would understand 'contact hours' to mean face-to-face class time.

Don't know what they mean. At my wife's old community college, "contact hours" meant hours on campus per week, which included teaching and office hours. But I think Zero's interpretation makes sense: 5/5 plus 10 office hours per week.

This is pretty standard for community colleges, as I understand it. Some do pay well. Two of my family members teach at community colleges. A friend does too. They're happy with their work. That said, it's not for everyone.

Anyway, on the plus side, Harper College is a non-profit, according to Wikipedia. Puts it on the right side, imho. (Very different from, say, Phoenix or Kaplan.)

Named after a pioneer in the junior college movement, according to its website. This is actually an interesting emancipatory movement in the history of the US. A person could surely do much less meaningful work.

Anonymous said...

The language isn't that uncommon, even outside of community colleges. The job described here would be the equivalent of a 5/5 teaching load (as others have suggested), but may not be on the semester system or may allow contact hours to accrue for summer teaching.

"Professional development" is deliberately ambiguous, but could conceivably include some (probably minor) research demands. But since Harper isn't making this a long-term position, it would be strange to request that a candidate showed long-term development with respect to research productivity. More likely pro-development means a range of activities that would enhance the person's qualitites as a "teacher-scholar" (to use another ambiguous euphemism popular for job descriptions of this sort).

The strange thing is the point about administrative demands. For anything less than a tenured/tenure-track position, I'd imagine that they are actually likely to be pretty minor and related only to Departmental business (in my Department, the visiting profs are asked to help with some Departmental burdens but not to help with other long-term items and never to help with university or college service). But I could just as easily be wrong about it. If Harper has NO tenured professors, that means faculty are, in fact, expected to shoulder the burdens of the adminsitration of curriculum, etc.

BUT, all things considered, a person could do much worse than a one-year contract with this teaching load. I know (and have even myself once been) adjuncts who are teaching comparable loads for barely any monetary compensation and no benefits. For many of them (some who might even apply for this position), this would be a significant improvement.

So... not a dream job, but it shouldn't be scoffed at.

And if you're on the job market for the first time, you might not think you want this now, but it might not be such a bad idea to apply anyway. If you don't believe me, read some of the other comments over the years on this site. There are lots and lots of people with excellent credentials and no jobs. And Harper isn't going to knock on anybody's door personally under these circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Useful information, provided by people who know what they're talking about? What the hell is going on here? I'm heading off to one of the other threads to bitch.

Anonymous said...

I've taught at Harper before. It's a pretty nice place: the students are better than you'd expect (many are knocking out core requirements before going elsewhere), the department is full of friendly people, and as suburbs of Chicago go, it's a pretty respectable one. If I recall correctly, they have five full-time people and a raft of adjuncts. I'd be pretty surprised if the job didn't go to one of them (although I have no inside information, not having taught there for a few years).

It's not 3-3 load at Franklin & Marshall, but there are worse ways to spend a year.

Word verification: "milit," i.e., what I will be eating when I do not get a job this year.

Ben A. said...

I'm tenure-track in philosophy at another Chicago-area CC and for us 30 hours means 5/5. (That's 15 hrs each semester, each course meeting 3 hours each week.) 10 office hrs weekly is standard; professional development may include publishing but isn't limited to that.

Perhaps I'm being dense, but what about the Harper ad specifies that the advertised job is not tenure-track? It's marked "fulltime," but does not clearly indicate whether it is limited-term or tenure-track.
If it's the latter, this might explain the service requirement.

The first comment moves too quickly, I think, in concluding "I think that pretty much tells you what you need to know" based on a banner advertising affordable adult education. That's central to the CC mission, certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Please don't confuse Harper with Kaplan or U of Phoenix.

David said...

I agree with implications of some comments: if, by this, you are ruling out all 5/5 community college jobs, then you've just narrowed your search immensely. Is that the implication here?

Anonymous said...

Anyone see this comment on Leiter's blog? Seems relevant to this post:

I take it that I'm Professor Huemer's worst-case-scenario, but it really doesn't feel like that to me.

I'm really glad I didn't have Professor Huemer advise me when I began my PhD program. I did everything wrong, according to conventional wisdom. I went to an unranked PhD program (i.e. because it was the only one that accepted me) without funding and took out monster-loans my first year before getting funded. I'm so glad I did.

It took me only a few weeks to figure out that I would never be like my professors, no matter how hard I tried. They were all freakishly intelligent, elite among elite. I just loved studying philosophy within my own intellectual limitations. I loved how studying it changed me. I can analyze arguments, recognize flaws and fallacies, formulate strong arguments for my own positions, etc. I feel that I'm a better person for having studied philosophy.

Last year, I accepted a tenure-track position teaching humanities at a small community college in a small town (what many would consider the worst of the worst, I guess). Finishing my dissertation will be a challenge, given my 5-5 load, but I'm still excited about it.

Would I love to be a professor at a prestigious research university instead of teaching at a community college? If I was someone else, sure. If I was as clever and original as the philosophers I admire, I probably wouldn't be satisfied with my position. But, I'm not, and I'm okay with that. I know I don't have what it takes to publish in top journals and have a lot of people interested in what I say. I would be miserable if I tried it (and would fail).

But, I can teach philosophy. I get to read all of you research folk and learn more about the field. I talk about your work in my classes (sometimes just to say, "Now, I've simplified things a little here, Professor X at University Y actually has a really cool new theory that concludes Z, but that's something you can pursue if you transfer somewhere else and take an upper division class in this stuff"). I can't do what many of you do, but I really love talking about philosophy, and I'm a good teacher! I can turn my students onto philosophy, and they can transfer to your schools and learn from you. I'm not a researcher, but I feel that I have a role to play in the field. I'm not you, but I admire you, and I can get bright students interested in your work.

I hate that positions like mine are not valued. Those of us plugging away in community colleges and teaching schools contribute to our discipline in important ways unconnected to research. One of my own professors was introduced to philosophy at a community college and went on to get his PhD from a top-10 program and has made important research contributions. It was someone like me, though, who got him interested in the first place, and that's valuable too, right?

It's disappointing when I hear people I admire speak so disparagingly of those of us who simply aren't suited for research positions but can add to the field in different ways. I couldn't stop smiling my first three weeks of classes at my new job, but I would have been embarrassed to list it on this blog's tenure-track hires (are people even allowed to list community college jobs?) because of the comments I've seen here.

Maybe there is a better way to advise students in this area, one that doesn't discredit the contributions of those not suited for research but who are valuable in other ways.

Mr. Zero said...

To be clear, I am not a community college snob. One of my close friends from grad school has a TT job at a CC that he loves. And, of course, numerous friends and family have attended CCs. And I know that 5-5 loads are typical at CCs.

But come on. This is a 5-5 non-tenure track (because it doesn't say it's TT) where you have to have ten office hours a week, serve on a bunch of administrative committees, and engage in professional development. That's not an attractive job. Sorry. (If it turned out to be TT, that would be better.)

Ben A. said...

For those who might seriously consider this job if it were/is TT, I suggest that it's worth your time to determine that for sure, and not just assume one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

This is the job I have, with what seems like fewer classes.

I teach a 5/5/2 load -- the summer 2 are taught in one "half summer" term. (15 instructional contact hours in major terms, and 6 instructional contact hours in 1 six week summer term.) My average class size is 50 students. I do 10 office hours weekly, and I serve on a couple of committees here and there. Professional Development is a broad umbrella term that covers a wide range of activities. Teaching workships and seminars are included; so are workshops offered by the campus on using technology and website, so is attending conferences, so is publishing or academic research, so is taking grad seminars in basically anything. My non-teaching work is a 10-hour a week commitment. I do all of my own grading -- no TAs or anything.

I got tenure in 3 years, no hassles. I have every last benefit imaginable, including tuition reimbursement. (Thanks, Union!)

My salary is on a par with the national averages for CC pay; according to admin, I work for the highest paying community college nationally.

I would like to tell everyone here who thinks this is outrageous to seriously consider what you are saying. I work a 35-hour contract week.

I am also a full-time Ph.D. student who attends classes and teaches a class at my Ph.D. institution. Although I admit that maintaining this schedule is pretty crazy, it's not impossible, and I have done a fairly decent job of maintaining it, while also maintaining a sane, normal life in other respects.

It's a 35-hour a week job, for heaven's sake; I only have to work 196 days a year, and I get a total of 12 weeks off a year. That's three months of paid vacation.

My father lost his job as an engineer in 2008, a year after I started in my position. He devoted 27 years to his company, received only 1-4 weeks paid vacation a year most years, and paid from his salary for benefits which I receive as part of my compensation package. He worked, most of the time, 10 hours a day, seven days a week. When he had to be treated for cancer in 2003, he had so much banked sick and vacation time -- because in 20 years, he took a sick day *once* and vacation only occasionally (job didn't approve of using even your earned time off) -- he was able to use it when his treatment finally made him unable to work. He was in treatment with chemo and radiation for 8 months, but could not take that whole time off. He worked full time for the first 2ish months and part time for the next couple of months before the treatment rendered him unable to speak and therefore unable to work.

And after all that -- they just dumped him.

My point is that most white collar professionals work upwards of 60 hours a week, probably though most of their careers. Very few of them have the luxury of constructing their own schedules, working without direct supervision of managers, and most of them hate what they do.

The job on its own is perfectly manageable, with sufficient time to pursuie your own goals if you want to. The main thing is that you can't teach blindly -- you have to be an efficient teacher, and that means knowing something about the craft and art of teaching, beyond what you learn in grad school workshops, etc. You have to learn to structure assessments towards objectives, because that enables one to grade quickly and accurately, and you have to know how to work with the population you have.

Oh, what a cruel life I have. A decent paycheck (that enables me to live comfortably in a very expensive city), full coverage for benefits, a decent work week, summers and winters off, and time to spend with my family and friends -- all I have to do is a job.

A-158 said...

That's not an attractive job. Sorry.

Yes, it is clear that you think so. I think that, for reasons already mentioned, this, or a job like it, may not be a bad job for someone else. It may even be a good job for someone who wants to move in this direction.

Ben A. said...

In email correspondence this morning, a member of Harper's philosophy department confirmed that the advterised position is tenure-track.

Mr. Zero, could you update the original post appropriately, so those who don't read the comments thread will be properly informed?

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for following up. I have edited the original post to reflect the fact that the job is on the tenure track.

Hi A-158,

Now that we know that the job is TT, my lingering concern regards the meaning of 'professional development.' If ProfDev means the things 2:03 suggests, and it pays well, then it is probably a good CC-level job.

But whether the job requires it or not, if you regard research as an important part of your professional life, then this job has a serious strike against it.

Nevertheless, I'm going to go ahead and agree that my initial reaction was hasty and overly harsh, as you and several other commenters suggest.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:12 is spot-on.

A-158 said...

discussion in comments has led me to soften my view about this job. I still don't think I'm going to apply for it, but it doesn't seem to be the monster I initially thought

Understandable and perfectly reasonable. You should hold out for the kind of job you want. If research is important to you, then you have good reason not to apply to community colleges. (I know, some at CC's do publish, but a 5/5 does cut into research time.)

I was on the job market for five years before I landed a 3/3 TT spot at a Regional State U. I sent out hundreds of applications during those years. I did not send one application to a community college. Despite my fondness for community colleges, I didn't want to work at one. I don't have anything against them, but I wanted to teach upper level philosophy courses and have some time for research.

Still, I was beginning to waver. My wife started hinting (gently) at the end of year 4 that it might be time to consider the community college route. She liked it. She thought I would too. I decided to wait until year 6.

Anyway, a job can be not bad -- or even good -- and still not be one you want or should try to get.

So hold out for the job you want. At some future point, a CC job may become one you want, either because of family responsibilities, frustration with the job market, or any of a hundred other reasons. Until then, you have no reason to apply to a CC.

Anonymous said...

A 5/5 job, with summers off and a long winter break? With full benefits and easy tenure in 3 years? With salary that often matches teaching-oriented state university campuses?

Nahh... Would rather stay unemployed or slave myself as an adjunct for years trying to get an R1 job against hundreds of competitors with equal or better credentials...
Anyone with this kind of attitude in this kind of job market is simply delusional, as far as I can tell...

Anonymous said...

I'm an ABD/adjunct instructor/job market candidate, and I want to thank the CC faculty who have commented. There's an elitism within our profession which ignores the valuable contributions one can make as a professor of philosophy at a community college.

Although I'd prefer a lighter teaching load which would allow me to devote greater time to research, I'm not averse to applying for a CC position. But here's the thing: I'm in a program at a highly regarded research university, and all of the anecdotal evidence suggests it's unlikely a CC would hire me because of 1) my institutional affiliation and 2) the fact that most of my teaching experience is centered around really bright, well-prepared, highly-motivated students.

So, if I may ask: did any of the CC faculty reading this take their PhD from either a Leiter-ranked program or a program at a top 20 research university?

I respect your jobs but doubt my application would receive serious consideration.

Ben A. said...

Some feedback for 1:38 --

I got my PhD in 2009 from the University of Washington, which was a great fit for me. It's not Lieter Top 10, of course, but it's Leiter ranked, and especially for those (like me) interested in phil-science, epistemology, and feminism, it had a lot to offer. I came out with a couple of nice phil-science pubs and lots of teaching experience at the UW and a nearby CC.

I haven't been on a search committee for my CC yet, so I don't have much inside knowledge of committee members' apprehension about hiring folks from big name schools. But I will say that a thoughtful cover letter saying why you're specifically interested in teaching CC philosophy generally and at this CC specifically is a good start. Coming in with some CC teaching experience can also help.

Best of luck, 1:38!

A-158 said...

Here are some blog posts on the topic from "Dean Dad," who writes "Confessions of a Community College Dean" for Insider Higher Education.

I think there are more. Go to Inside Higher Education, click "view all" blogs, enter a keyword into the search box (I used "interview") and filter (I chose Confessions).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:38 am, Anonymous 10:12 am here.

I recently served on a search committee for a new prof at my institution. Your concern is legitimate, but there are ways to deal with it.

First, whether or not you are "prepared" to teach at a CC depends largely on whether or not you know how to teach. Teaching to high numbers of students across a wide range of skill levels *does* require more than just a couple of classes of experience. That being said, many people who I work with (including myself) were hired with limited or little teaching experience, and that with mostly privileged populations.

As was mentioned, a thoughtful cover letter that conveys that you have researched the institution and that you understand that pedagogy is a skill that needs to be honed, and some indication of your genuine interest in the school can go a long way. Most of the CVs/cover letters I read from Leiter top 20 schools were dumped, less because of institutional affiliation and more because it was perfectly clear from the materials that these folks had no idea what teaching my institution actually involved. DON'T write 3-4 paragraphs on your research and then throw in a "Oh, yeah, teaching I like and I'm good at it." Prove you are passionate about teaching and are good at it -- show that even though your experience may be limited, you have a lot to offer and deserve a chance to share your thoughts with the SC. Those people -- regardless of institutional affiliation -- got interviews.

Actually taking a pedagogy class -- or reading a book or two on the subject -- can help, but so can simply talking to someone who is skilled and trained as a teacher, even if they don't work in higher ed. Most of what I learned about pedagogy -- and snagged me the interview via my cover letter -- came from listening to my boss when I was working as an administrator; she had a ph.d. in english with an emphasis in pedagogy. And she gave me the best CV/Cover letter/Job search advice I ever got in my life -- better than advice I have ever heard doled out by anyone in any philosophy department. (Like, how to negotiate a salary, or how to make sure certain of my needs were met!)

Anyway, hope that helps a bit.