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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Jamrach's Menagerie »

January 04, 2014



You have my vote on this one!


That's radical, and an awesome idea. Doesn't fully solve the problem in terms of democratization (rich schools pay the whole way of their grad students on the job market, poor schools don't) but I like the accountability it implies.


Yeah, I'm not happy with the implications of saying "hey, your school is poor, so you're out $," but the proposal hits the rock/hard place problem here (school is poor, so you're on the rocks in one way, but then again, causing a school yet further budget crises just puts everyone on the rocks in another way). Obviously, if your program has no funds and can't place anyone anywhere, then something drastic needs to be done (like eliminating the program); then again, some smaller, poorer programs might be doing very well at the regional level, and it's unfair to whack them. It seems to me that professional associations might step in here--the MLA's tiny $300 grants, for example, would be less tiny if they were used as supplementary funds for poorer programs.


YES. As I read it I kept thinking about my former employer, which not only depended on armies of TAs but also the willingness of desperate, unemployed recent PhDs to teach enormous sections of intro surveys for a pittance. In other words, over-producing PhDs served all the penny-pinching needs of the university.


Nice idea! I think the problem here would be that you'd get MORE grad students. After all, if the uni is basically promising job interviews for life, then more students would be willing to roll the dice. We agree, however, that the grad student, at present, is not going into the program with eyes wide open.

Michael Berube

The MLA can't reach into any given program's pockets, but it can certainly regulate which departments are allowed to post or interview where.

How, exactly? And how would the MLA track each jobseeker, from each department, even years after s/he earns the Ph.D., to make sure they are being fully funded?


Michael: "Dear Department. Are you doing X? You are? Great! You're not? Bye."

Accompanied by

"Dear Registrant for the MLA. Are you a Jobseeker? Y/N. If you are, is your Ph.D.-granting department doing this thing they say they are?"

That would be a start.

Michael Berube

OK, leaving aside the massive amounts of staff time involved here (and this is, after all, a request for MLA staff to monitor every department and every jobseeker), what happens after the MLA says "bye"?

Let's take UC-Riverside, just at random. Let's say they violate MLA best practices about giving interviewees sufficient notice about MLA interviews ... or let's say they're not ponying up what they should be contributing to their jobseekers' expenses. The MLA refuses them a hotel room at the convention and space in the JIL. OK, so they advertise elsewhere and then Skype their interviews instead, just as you and I are suggesting should happen anyway....

And maybe, just maybe, some jobseekers will think, "well, I'm not going to interview with Riverside if they call me about that tenure-track job, because that department doesn't fully support its own jobseekers." But in this market, I'm wondering just how many people would think that.


Well, no, it would be a call to monitor every Ph.D.-granting department, which are a distinct minority of campuses under the MLA's remit. Which would require someone capable of developing an online form and filing responses in a database. Ditto the jobseekers. And something tells me that the "filing responses in a database" part is something that could also be automated. I'm pretty sure that the MLA could scrape up the money to hire such a person.

My little fantasy here is about telling departments to either begin subsidizing the grad students they insist on churning out, or to take the opposite route, which, indeed, would be to save everyone $ by Skyping. It's not about saying, "candidates, avoid evil department X."

Steven D. Krause

Or the MLA could take a principled stand by getting out of the conference interview business. It should have a position about how candidates ought to be screened via video conferencing software-- Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, etc.-- it ought to shut down the ballroom interviewing space, and it ought to strongly discourage departments interviewing in hotel rooms. Simple as that.

Imagine what it would be like if MLA went to MLA just for the conference. It might even be an enjoyable experience!

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