Monday, August 27, 2007


Ask the Administrator: Setting Up Base Camp

A new correspondent writes:

After ten years or so of adjuncting around, I've quite happily been awarded a "full-time one year" appointment as an Assistant Professor in an established state school. The union-strong faculty have successfully lobbied their provost to convert a dozen or so part-time adjunct instructorships into a few full-time positions. All good--there's hope. Seems like a really smart, savvy, and healthy department, teaching focused, and a very good fit for me. I, of course, hope to stay longer than a single year, but the department will need to want me, and the provost will want to re-appoint (or convert to regular ladder faculty) the position. Tips? Suggestions? How would you suggest I proceed to increase the likelihood of being able to stay a bit? Do tell.

First, congratulations on your new status! My free advice – use the medical insurance while you have it. Get the head-to-toes checkup. Seriously. Stuff can sneak up on you if you don't look. And kudos to the faculty union and the provost there for looking out for the profession. I hope they can keep that long view and eventually convert those positions from one-year gigs to tenure-track ones, or at least to multi-year ones.

All of that said, I'd suggest re-thinking what you're trying to do.

You can't control what the department, or the union, or the provost will do. (Or, for that matter, what the voters of your state will do.) You can do the usual things to make yourself appealing – teach well, be a good colleague, pick up some of the assignments (whether committee or teaching) that nobody else wants, play well with others, etc, and you should. But you could knock every single one of those out of the park and still find yourself without a job next year.

Selfless devotion to the profession is a lovely sentiment, but you'll have bills to pay. My suggestion is to use the travel and professional development funding now available to you to the hilt. You finally have a decent perch from which to make yourself visible in the profession. Use it. Start planning now which conferences you'll travel to over the coming year, and budget accordingly. (You may need to supplement departmental travel money with some of your own. Start budgeting now.) If you've been adjuncting for ten years, and you aren't independently wealthy, you may well have had to adopt a lean travel schedule. That's understandable, but it doesn't make sense now. Look around aggressively, put yourself out there, and use every relevant perk at your disposal to do it.

The obvious upside to this strategy is that it increases the chances of getting an offer from someplace else.

The less-obvious upside is that it also increases the chances of getting an offer from your current home.

The stereotype of long-term adjuncts is that they're often excellent teachers, but their professional development has been stunted. (That's not their fault, but it's not about 'fault.') I emphasize that that's a stereotype, as opposed to a universal truth, but it's out there. If you want to be seen less as an ex-adjunct and more as a rising star they'd want to hire permanently, you'll need to walk the walk, and to do it in relatively conspicuous ways. Don't be so grateful for the new position that you forget to claim your due. Work those resources, and do it without guilt or hesitation. That's what they're for.

In making a new permanent hire, departments frequently use different criteria than they would a temp. In a temp, you want someone who teaches well, doesn't cause drama, and is willing to take the timeslots available. In a permanent hire, you want all that, but you also want some confidence that the person will grow with the job. If you want to cross over, I'd advise showing the ability to do that by stepping up in the profession. Whether it will work at your current home, I don't know, but it will increase the chances of you finding a permanent home somewhere.

Good luck!

Wise and worldly readers – your thoughts?

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

It's worth noting, I think, that at most institutions with which I am familiar it is *exceptionally* rare for non-tt, one-year, full-time positions to be converted into tt lines. And even if that does happen, because of the legalities of the hiring process, it is *exceptionally* likely that that full-time position will not just be converted without incident, but rather that a full search will be held and the full-time person can as likely as not be left in the lurch. Also, at my institution, it's much more likely that any conversion that would happen would be from one-year full-time appointment to permanent full-time without possibility for tenure - and that after probably no less than 5 years - which would still have you on one-year contracts but would give you a greater measure of security, but still wouldn't have you in a regular-ladder position, and that there'd be absolutely no guarantee of a regular-ladder position for that person ever opening up and if it did of the permanent full-time person getting it. Sorry to be so bleak, but at least in my experience, this is a bleak situation. My advice would be to continue looking elsewhere aggressively if what you want is a tenure-track position.
er, "for that POSITION ever opening up..." Woops!
I've gone from full-time visiting to TT at the same school myself, but it is exceptionally rare, and I completely agree with the advice of DD and Dr. Crazy above. As much as everyone in the department may love you, they may end up loving somebody else even more during the national search, or the dean may really love someone else, or there may be an unwritten policy or practice against hiring people for TT positions who have previously served as visitors. You just never know. Whatever you do, don't believe anyone who says that hiring you for a TT position is "natural," "a sure thing," etc. It's just not true, and the people who say things like that are rarely involved in the actual hiring!

Good luck!
Nothing to say but that you're so right.
The good thing about an internal hire is they know you warts and all. The bad thing about an internal hire is that they know you warts and all. Kind of like making an impression on the pastor, anyone can behave for one hour a week....or for an interview. That being said, I agree with DD; take full advantage of this position to look for another.
I wish blogs such as yours had been around when I was in the same position, oh so many years ago, before I left the academy in frustration.
Have to comment that at my school the picture is very different--I can think of a good handful of instructors who got one-year appointments and were later hired tenure-track. They did have to go through the full hiring process, but because they had had a year to learn the campus and program, they were able to deliver great interviews. Agree with "Anonymous" about the warts-and-all thing--those with one-year appts. can show themselves to be great potential colleagues, or lousy ones.
What Dean Dad said. But this gives you much better footing, I think, for job searches. I managed to make the transition from a visiting position to T-T. When I left for SLAC, it was when I was also up for a FT position at the CC where I was visiting. Since I was replacing a late-notice retirement, the line for the position remained (although there was a twist ...). But in that position and the previous visiting position, I managed to get myself back to where I looked like someone staying in the game. I used all my funding, and to their credit, the CC found money for me to go to a second conference and present there, too. Had their search not been timed really badly (and had they offered me the job), I'd have had a hard time choosing between the CC and SLAC. But ... I was really lucky that I didn't count my inside candidate chickens -- three days after I pulled out of the pool and took the SLAC job, the CC search was cancelled for budget reasons. So use your time to look as good as you can, apply for the job if it goes T-T, but also apply for everything else.
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