• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Ask the Administrator: In a Holding Pattern

A new correspondent writes:

August 9, 2009

A new correspondent writes:

I’m writing you for advice because recently I’ve run into a brick wall in my job as an adjunct English instructor at a community college. First off, I have been employed with this institution for over four years (and have a total of seven years of teaching experience). For the first couple years I taught only two night classes since I had a day job with health benefits. During this time a position was openly advertised and I interviewed for the position. I did not get the position, but was told by members of the committee that they wanted to offer the person that received the job and I both jobs (this was impossible of course because of budgetary considerations). According to members of the committee the other person got the nod because she had been around longer than I had. I was okay with this decision because I could understand it. Luckily for me, I came into a small sum of money a few months after this, which allowed me to step down from working full-time in retail and teach 5-7 classes a semester, which I did for two years. During these two years, I worked at the writing center tutoring students, served on a committee that revamped the exit exam in ENG 111 and piloted the program for two semesters, and served on a college-wide committee focused on rewarding invitational education. I also was tapped to give a talk to potential adjuncts about how great the institution is and why they should get involved in teaching at the local community college. I thought, and was often told, I was doing everything right in regards to getting a full-time position (which is my dream job and I live in what I would call my dream area).

Recently an internal position was offered in the English department. I applied as soon as possible. To make sure everything was in order I called a couple days after personally dropping off my application. Everything was fine until I called to find out where the process was and was informed that I did not even get an interview. From talking to someone on the committee, all they could tell me is their process and that I have no recourse. The process was ticking off minimum requirements for the position and then checking off a box on whether or not I should be interviewed. The ballots were tallied by the HR department and calls were made regarding the interviews. From what I know, of the people that applied I have been employed longer at the institution and I fulfilled all of the minimum requirements for the position (no preferred requirements were listed).

The one silver lining is that the retail establishment I used to work full-time with has offered me back my old job. I am taking back this job because I need health insurance, but this means I have to go back to teaching only a couple night classes each semester.

The big question I have for you is what should I do?

The short answer is take the retail gig. English is enough of an employer's market that trying to wait out a single employer is a fool's errand. Get the health insurance, cut back on the teaching, and take some time to reflect.

The 'internal' posting is interesting. Typically, we define 'internal' as meaning 'currently working here full-time.' If we're creating a new full-time opening, we advertise externally as well. If you applied as an adjunct for a truly internal posting, I wouldn't be shocked to hear that you didn't get it.

(I'll add, too, that it can be difficult for committee members to answer the 'why didn't you pick me?' question. Assume that twenty candidates met the minimum criteria. You aren't going to interview all twenty. Clearing the minima doesn't guarantee anything. The truthful answer might be that other candidates cleared the bar by a larger margin, or offered some new skill set that you didn't, or whatever. Rather than adding insult to injury, committee members will often go with vagueness, and honestly, I don't blame them.)

It seems clear that your current cc isn't going to hire you full-time -- for whatever reason -- anytime soon. Whether that's morally right or wrong is irrelevant. It just doesn't seem to be in the cards. So my quick advice to you would be to start looking at other options. Seniority there isn't doing you any demonstrable good, and I'd hate to see you become embittered. Start thinking about other options, and about how to position yourself to be able to take advantage of them.

First thoughts, anyway. Wise and worldly readers -- what would you add/change/correct?

Good luck!

Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.


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