Sunday, February 17, 2008


It's official. I am the VAP who didn't get the tenure-track job. There isn't much else to say, really. (Well, actually there is a hell of a lot I'd like to say, but it's better said in a less public venue.)

I saw this coming, as you've probably gathered from my last post; I saw it coming as soon as I saw the course eval numbers from last semester, actually. But it still stings like nothing else has ever stung except the breakup of romantic relationships, and I don't date any more precisely because I'm lousy at dealing with the emotional fallout. Apparently it is possible to get exactly the same fallout without actually having sex. Whee.

Going to fill out job apps now. And drink.


Flavia said...

Oh, Fretful. I'm so sorry.

Not that it helps at all, but I know more than one very smart, quite charming VAP who got passed over for the t-t job.

What will help is alcohol. Imagine me drinking one for you, too.

Fretful Porpentine said...


Sisyphus said...

ah, my condolences. May the job ads coming up be for bigger and better and more wonderful things!

I'll drink on your behalf tonight.

Dr. Virago said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. And I second what Flavia says -- including the drink.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Thanks for the condolences, Sisyphus and Dr. V. Hope you enjoy your drinks!

What Now? said...

Well, that sucks mightily, FP. I'm really sorry to hear the bad news.

Anonymous said...

1. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Well, if alcohol helps you to cope with your anger and dissappointment: yes: do drink. If not: try a cigarette. If there is a day to start smoking: it might perhaps be today ... .

2. You are not the only one in such a situation. Similar things do happen on this side of the Atlantic too. (No, I won't go into details here).

3. It's your universities mistake, not yours.

4. Yes, off to greener pastures!

5. Neither professional, intellectual involvement and engagement, nor sexual envolvement and engagement are impossible without emotional involvement and engagement. Perhaps you might want to give that sort of an approach a go.

6. Academic life can be easier if you see it as a job; an interesting job; certainly not the worst of jobs; but still just a job: neither a divine vocation nor Paradise. Yes, chances are that you will be paid more money for ann academic job if you tell them that you don't think having that job will mean celestial beatitude for you, and so they have to offer you money in addition to the job.

7. Best wishes for everything!

Susan said...

If it makes you feel any better, I think the idea that a VAP is an inside track is always a stretch -- and as I recall the job description was too. But it still is horrible. It's horrible not to get a job you don't want, let alone one you do. I'm so sorry.... maybe rent a really bad movie tonight? Something weepy and sentimental that will give you another excuse to feel sorry? Then you can also have the drink the Flavia suggested....

Fretful Porpentine said...

Thanks, HCK, Susan, and What Now? (BTW, HCK, I know I owe you e-mail -- apologies, but I think it'll be a while, as things are quite insane right now...)

Susan -- Actually, the problem with the job ad wasn't that it asked for something specific that I wasn't, it was that it didn't ask for something specific that I was. In other words, they were casting as wide a net as possible, and I had reason to think that was not a good sign.

Renaissance Girl said...

Shit, shit, shit. Ditto to all above, plus: Fresh air might be a good supplement to drinking.

Anonymous said...

Oh, FP, I'm so sorry. Would picturing yourself kicking each member of the committee in the teeth help at all? Seems like a good idea. They have no idea what they're missing.

I'm still working on how to send gin through the old tubes. Till then, I raise my glass to you.

(And, yes, for whatever anecdotal evidence is worth: with one anomalous exception in a department that had, shall we say, issues, all the smart, fun VAPs I've known have not been hired by their visited institutions. And all of them have ended up in happy places, in the end. There is hope. There is, in fact, much hope. In the interim, there's gin. And, uh, fresh air. Yeah.)

jo(e) said...

Oh, that sucks.


Lucky Jane said...

You are a—not "the"—VAP who didn't get put on the tt. As other folks have said, this situation is too common. Some departments get a little too excited about the unknown, so with them the VAP doesn't stand a chance, anyway.

Common as it is, it's an utterly crappy position to be in. I was in it three years ago. As HCK points out, it's just a job, but then it's also not. Probably none of us leave our work at the office. Also, being a VAP can be additionally isolating, because you aren't around long enough to create much of a support network.

For what it's worth, I found it helpful to vent to family and friends, some of the latter of whom were in similar situations, BUT NEVER to let the venting leak onto campus. Instead, I set out to make the school "regret" letting me go. I performed the roles of awesome colleague and passionate teacher to often apathetic Abercrombie dudes. Before long, I was inhabiting the role. Even if you're not particularly vengeful, success is the best revenge. I'm sure no one really regretted not hiring me, but it was empowering to have a goal that was also a distraction over which I had some control. Plus your colleagues will be falling all over themselves to give you kickass references.

I still have friends at that first job (more than I have where I am now, hmmm), and they're often going on about how fucked up the place is.

Keep applying for jobs and publishing, which are distractions that enable you to separate yourself mentally from VAP SLAC. You also never know what's going to pop up on the job list: it could be your dream job, and it could be permanent.

I hope I'm not sounding like a nag, but take good care of yourself. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables (plus chocolate if you like it), drink a lot of water, get exercise, and make sure you get plenty of sleep.

Oops, sorry I'm colonizing your comments, but while I'm at it:


Before long, what's going on now will shrink into an almost imperceptible bump in the road. Really, it will.

Anonymous said...

Take your time.

I might email you (on a second or third subject) before you mail me.

Something more connected to your posting here: I don't lnow about the rationality of making decisions on whom to hire for an academic post in your field and where you are now. Here are some observations from here:

- It is some sort of lottery. Being the roght person in the right place at the right time matters most.

- It certainly helps to be good to land a job. But whether you are good, or very good, or excellent, or most excellent is of rather limited relevance. If the search is for an expert on the reception of Aristotle's Parva naturalia in Northern Italy in the early 17th century: if you are that expert, and the only one: whether you are just good, or most excellent will matter very little.

- Teaching excellence matters less than excelence in research and (documented) talent in the acquisition of outside money. O.k.: if the assessment of your teaching says "dreadful" or "troll": this might seriously damage your chances, any anything which is better than "poor" might be seens as a plus, but an "exceeds expectations" in research and the acquisition grant money will matter far more than an "outstanding" in teaching.

- Outside experts' votes matter very much. So making yourself heard and seen beyond your own institution and impressing people positively there can help a lot.

- Making, creating youself a suitable position can be a viable alternative to just looking for what turns up.

- Very very much depends on sheer luck.

- and sometimes on good/lucky timing.

- Flexibility helps.

- Participating in academic self administration can be a way to create enemies. But it also can be a way to find allies. And experiences in that field can be a plus, as they indicate to a new employer that you might be a suitable person for taking part of their admistrative burden on your shoulders.

- To sum up: Landing a job most often is not just a result of being the applicant who is simpliciter the person with thze best research and teaching record, but the person those who decide judge to be the most suitable person for the job in question and the time in question at the place in question.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to hear about your job woes.

Here's a suggestion even though you didn't ask for one: concoct a revenge plot.

I do this with all ex-boyfriends though I don't necessarily execute the plot itself.

What's important is the planning stage. The planning will help take your mind off what a shitty deal you just got.

Fretful Porpentine said...

First of all, thanks to everyone who has posted comments -- I really appreciate having so many supportive readers out there, since I know only a handful of people in the region who are not New SLAC folks, and it's starting to feel very isolating right now.

A couple of specific things that I wanted to respond to:

Teaching excellence matters less than excelence in research and (documented) talent in the acquisition of outside money.

This tends not to be true at liberal arts colleges. In fact, one of the more distressing things about this situation is that I was told point blank that I didn't get
the job BECAUSE I came across as too much of a scholar and they wanted someone who would concentrate primarily on teaching. (I'm actually hoping that this was code for "we don't think your teaching is up to par," because the other alternative is that I shot myself in the foot by trying too hard to be the teacher-scholar I thought they wanted, which is all kinds of painful.)

Here's a suggestion even though you didn't ask for one: concoct a revenge plot.

Ooh, can it have poisoned skulls in it? And human-head pie?

(Seriously, though, I'm well aware that Lucky Jane has the right idea.)

Bardiac said...

/comfort. I'm sorry to read (belatedly) the bad news.

The job market's a painful lottery, and your getting or not getting a specific job doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with your great teaching, super research, or wonderfulness as a person. Alas, saying that just isn't convincing, sorry.

Anonymous said...

"I was told point blank that I didn't get
the job BECAUSE I came across as too much of a scholar and they wanted someone who would concentrate primarily on teaching."

There obviously are worlds which are more different from the one I live in that I was aware; (and I read this piece with great astonishment). I always thought that good teaching agt the advanced level (from the last pase of secondary school onwards) stems alsways from the assumption that teaching and research are just two sides of the same coin.

Anyway: with that reason given for your rejection: you should be able to use it as a decent entry pass for any application at a more, well, ahem, aspiring institution ... .

With that approach of your present institution: why should anybody assume that students educated there would be trained to pursue their own independent research? Which employer, which graduate program would be interested in them? If anybody paced a shot in the own foot there: IMO: it's them.

the rebel lettriste said...

me too! I just found out that my VAP has interviewed my two fellow VAP colleagues. But not me. Nice! Drinking helps, also watching Project Runway. I also particularly turn to crap magazines.

the rebel lettriste said...

all of which means to say: you are not alone in this. You totally ain't "the" only one this is happening to. Courage!

Fretful Porpentine said...

Oh, believe me, I'm well aware that I've just joined a very big club; when I said I was "the" VAP who didn't get the job, what I meant was that this is a recognizable species of disappointed job-seeker, not that I'm somehow unique in this :)

And I'm sorry to hear that, Rebel Lettriste. Hope things work out for you...