Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Is that a bridge I see going up in smoke?

File under: Righteous Indignation, Sound And Fury. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 5:09 pm.

“Hey, Moebius Stripper, any updates on the job front?”

Funny you should ask! Let’s take a look: so far, we have a school that doesn’t screen applications before the job is scheduled to begin; a school that advertizes for nonexistent positions; and a school whose employees are all on vacation around screening time. Anything else? Why, yes: we also have a school whose employment contact email was rendered nonfunctional sometime between the time I applied back in March and yesterday morning. Now there’s a clever way to avoid being pestered. Also, an outright rejection from a college looking for an instructor to do, for the next eight months, the exact same thing that I did (skillfully! conscientiously! with a smile on my face!) for the past eight months. Apparently “after careful consideration”, they decided that I fell so far short of their lofty academic standards that I wasn’t even worth interviewing. The day’s not over yet, but as of this writing, I haven’t responded that excuse me, what in the goddamned fuck are they talking about, they couldn’t even spell my name correctly in their three-line reply, and they’re snotting about standards?

Suspicion that I can’t back up, but that makes me feel better about myself: my incompetent former colleague, the Nice Teacher, whom I know for a fact was at some point employed by Standards U (and who might be employed by them now), was asked for feedback about me by that school’s math department head, who’d considered getting me to come into town for an interview. Either that, or he provided it voluntarily. In any case, I suspect that he approached this task with a level of skill and enthusiasm such that, had either been present when he was actually working with me, he’d certainly have gotten his contract extended. But neither had been, and so midway into the semester I found myself sitting in Department Head’s office, explaining that my colleague, as a consequence of his particular brand of ineptitude, was undermining my work. Thanks for telling me! replied Department Head. We certainly can’t have that! I’ll have a talk with him right away. And no way will he be back here next term. So I guess we’ll have work for YOU.

“Moebius Stripper?” (I’m guessing) said Nice Teacher. “I remember her.” The damned bitch! I’d still have that job at Island U if it weren’t for her! “Oh,” (I’m guessing) continued Nice Teacher, “She’s certainly a nice person. But, she didn’t teach appropriately. She misjudged her students. And I got better evaluations than she did.” Because I basically let my students see their tests in the day before they wrote them, but who’s keeping track?

“Thank you for your input,” (I’m guessing) said the department chair at Standards U. “We won’t waste time with an interview then.”

So, if this is how things went down, I suppose this could be construed as poetic justice of some sort: I screwed Nice Teacher out of a job, and then he screwed me out of a job. Except that it isn’t, because the difference was that I was right, and the Nice Teacher was wrong. No good deed, yadda. I could also get all self-righteous and say that it’s good this happened, because I don’t want to work for an institution that would not only hire my school’s sloppy seconds, but listen to him, anyway, so there; except that I still do want to work for them.

Even if that’s not how it went, feh. Fortunately, I have some technical writing work lined up for the coming months, and I’ve decided I want to visit all of the major Gulf Islands. (Five down, eight to go.) I’ve also decided to work on a math book I’ve been thinking about for a long time; more about that in a bit.

In the meantime, I guess I should be prepared to be in this for the long haul.


  1. Gotta love those requirements for academic jobs. I recently went on the market with my newly minted applied PhD from Pretentious Southeast University (technically, I’m still on the market…) and applied at a school with a mixed math/CS department. Their ad stated that they preferred a CS person, but I applied anyway. I got a phone interview with the chair (who seemed willing to hire me), she went to the committee, and I got an e-mail back stating that I did not have the CS credentials they really wanted and they would not hire me. However, they didn’t have anybody else better at that point in time (six weeks ago or so), so if enough time went by and their committee panicked enough, they would consider me then, should I still not have a job. I did not consider this my finest success.

    - tabstop — 6/2/2005 @ 6:47 pm

  2. Oof. You have my sympathies, having just done a job search last year. What really pissed me off the most is the communication skills, or lack thereof, exhibited by nearly all schools. Applications just vanish into a committee void. Even if there is no chance of getting an interview, they still can’t be bothered to politely send a rejection letter. It’s the little things; it just is not that hard to acknowledge receipt of applications or to add a modicum of courtesy to letters.

    Argh! Now I’m all steamed up on your behalf (and re-steamed on my own). Good luck.

    - sheepish — 6/2/2005 @ 7:51 pm

  3. Wow, I feel so lucky. The community college positions around here that I’ve applied for have all sent me rejection letters.

    I do need to get up off my ass and get some adjunct applications out for the fall so that I can get my monthly income past the $1400 mark. Thank God for a supportive (and well-paid) wife.

    - vito prosciutto — 6/3/2005 @ 12:21 am

  4. Actually, even when you are wellknown at the faculty, applying there doesn’t necessarily bring you any timely replies. For the PhD admission process at $HOME_UNIVERSITY (which I’ve passed through twice by now =/ ), they are normally kinda quick to decide (often within 30 minutes after the last interview), but can take at least a week to bother telling the admitted that they are indeed admitted. I got my last rejection after bugging one on the committee by email repeatedly, and that only the day before the date the ad for the positions claimed answers would have been sent out.

    Latest state is that I seem to be applying for a permanent position at my summerjob abroad, and thus probably won’t even return to $HOME_UNIVERSITY - or at least not for a while. Sad.

    - Mikael Johansson — 6/3/2005 @ 2:31 am

  5. “Standards” means that they want to keep claiming that xx% of their instructiors have Ph.D.’s, despite the fact that most Ph.D.’s can’t communicate at the level that pre-calc students require. I know darn well that I would be a disaster at teaching HS sophomore Chemistry, which is pretty much the level at which you are teaching math.

    - John — 6/3/2005 @ 5:47 am

  6. Yeah, I know that I’m going to need a Ph.D. if I have any hopes of getting a permanent job teaching college students how to add fractions - but this still doesn’t explain why Standards U hired my former colleague, who both can’t teach and lacks a Ph.D. Only difference is that Nice Teacher gets glowing recs from his laziest and most innumerate students, because he “teaches” in such a way that neither doing any work nor understanding any of the prerequisite material are essential to success on the tests. (The common exams, on the other hand, are a different story.)

    - Moebius Stripper — 6/3/2005 @ 7:52 am

  7. That sucks … when I applied for jobs last year I sent out loads and loads of applications, and many of them never replied to say “we don’t want you”. I think it’s partly because so many people apply for jobs; at Podunk we had many hundreds of applications. I saw the huge boxes full in the general office.

    But just because you’re snowed under with applications doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to be as clueless as the schools you talked about. They are going above and beyond the call of slackness.

    Good luck with the math book.

    - Hack — 6/3/2005 @ 8:37 am

  8. Ah, I had assumed that Nice Teacher was a Ph.D. who was taking the easy route in order to have more time for research. My bad.

    Student evals are BS unless they are correlated with grades, even then they are iffy at best as an indicator of quality. My undergrad institution used to throw out evals with the top and bottom scores on the 7-point Likert we used, and really only look at the 3,4,5 and 6 scores.

    My most embarrassing eval story is that a (rather cute) girl in one of my frosh chem classes left her phone number on my eval, not realizing that the teaching coordinators and my advisor saw them first. I was the butt end of jokes for a semester. And no, I never dated my students. Ever.

    - John — 6/3/2005 @ 8:40 am

  9. Ooh, we have another one:

    Dear Moebius Stripper,

    Thanks for writing to check up on the application you sent ten weeks ago. Turns out we decided that that position wasn’t going to start when we said it would, so we’ve stuffed all of the applications we received in some file. We haven’t even looked at them. In other words, it’s not you, it’s us. Except that we’re the ones who do the hiring, so suck it up.

    We’ll probably have a similar position starting in January. Or May. Or next September. If you want to apply for THAT position, you’re welcome to send us a new cover letter, CV, teaching dossier, and set of references. Remind us that you applied before, and maybe that’ll make us consider you more seriously. Or less seriously, because why haven’t you taken another job by now? We’re not sure when or where we’ll be advertising for such a position, but if you happen to run across our ad, feel free to send something to us!

    - Moebius Stripper — 6/3/2005 @ 6:02 pm

  10. Tales From The Trenches: Classroom Teachers Speak

    Once again, we present our regular Sunday feature, (updated throughout the day; newest posts at top) of entries that we have selected from those sites that are written by classroom teachers. We like to think of this collection as a group of posts tha…

    - The Education Wonks — 6/5/2005 @ 1:30 am

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