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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

April is the Cruelest Month...

...especially for academics, and more particularly those who act the part of such. April is when the last, lingering hopes for the efforts expended during the school year are put to rest--grants very definitely not received, promotions very definitely denied, hires very definitely not made. Especially that last one. "Mixing memory and desire," indeed.

I've tried to avoid talking about my job situation of late, mostly because my writing about such in the past seemed to me (and to others) to be turning a little too spiteful, and a little too self-pitying. I've got a full-time position teaching material I love; I've got an office and books and benefits and colleagues, so what's to complain about? Well, the lack of security of course. But everyone lacks security these days, or so they say; what's so unusual about that? Nothing really--my complaint isn't any different from that of a thousand other visiting and adjuncting academics across the country. But still, it's hard. We really thought this was our year. After a couple of years of bureaucratic confusion and struggle, things seemed to be moving forward here at Arkansas State; the search was approved, the committee was formed, applications (including mine) were being reviewed. And in the meantime, I was having a very good year on the job market--more interviews than ever before, and at some pretty good schools. Good omens were abounding. We made plans, talked about moving, about buying a home, planting a garden, getting a better car. Things were looking up.

Then came the spring, and the rain. The other searches didn't pan out. The search here slowed, and then slowed further. Finally, it came to a halt entirely--disagreements over what direction the search should go, now that it really seemed like it was going to happen, came to a head; formerly unclear agendas and concerns were clarified. I don't have any real objections to those agendas; they all reflect legitimate concerns by people who want the best for their institution as they see it. But it is tiring, and not a little frustrating. After three years, I've come to really appreciate the students and faculty here; they're friends and people I admire and have high hopes for. I like the rhythm of the place, its small little niche in the society and economy of northeastern Arkansas, and my even smaller, but still valid, contribution to such. I'd like a career in academia to work out here--but then, I'd like such a career to work out just about anywhere. But you can only tread water for so long. We're looking to see what we can change, how we can respond to the new situation. I'm pretty sure we'll give academia one year--probably here, but maybe somewhere else. And then? Well, five years is probably about as good a go as anyone can reasonably expect to give academia today. Come next April, if we don't see any of that elusive security on the radar screen, we'll likely be on our way to Plan B.

But for now, I'll just have to keep playing the hand I'm dealt. I'm not out of the game yet, and it's almost May. Time to rinse out the rain, break out the shorts, and look for something fresh and new. I hear rumors that the beloved Invisible Adjunct may be returning to the blogosphere. Not a moment too soon, I say.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it fits, maybe it doesn't, but reading your post I am reminded of the story about a man walking on the beach picking up stranded starfish and tossing them back into the sea. Another man comes along and looking at the shoreline, which is covered in starfish that had been washed up during a storm, says "Man, what are you doing? There are too many starfish! Your effort doesn't make a bit of difference." At that, the other man bends down, picks up another starfish and pitching it into the waves replies "It does to that one."
Dr. Fox, your time at Arkansas State has not been in vain. I may be one starfish in a sea of many, but you made the biggest difference in my life and for that I will be forever grateful.
You not only have taught me about political theory, international relations, and human rights but you've taught me how to think critically, deeply, and rationally about the issues that effect the world I live in. (Along the way I even learned a thing or two about apostrophies!) So, I for one am thankful that your professional time in academia crossed my time as a student at the time and place that it did.
Pssst...I know all your other students feel the same way, especially Sarah. By the way, watch out for her; this time of year she tries to butter-up the professors to get a better grade!!! Just kidding.
-- a starfish

Posted by Julie

Anonymous said...

Hi Russell,

Here's hoping things work out for you next year- I'll be sorry if they don't, as will many students, past, present, and future.  

Posted by Matt

Anonymous said...

Dude, my heart goes out to you. I couldn't last as long as you did, but I remember the feeling. (Hell, even 12 years later I remember the sinking feeling that came with realizing that I not only wasn't going to get to do the thing at which I was best, I had to find something else to do for which someone would pay me money.) Good luck to you, and I hope something works out for you in the next year.  

Posted by emma goldman