Musicology Job Wiki Roundup 2010 – Some Thoughts

August 1, 2010 at 9:43 am 3 comments

Thank you to those who commented on my previous musicology job wiki post. I’ll draw on some of these observations below, but suggest that everyone take the time to read through what has already been said (and hopefully will be said) on the topic.  I also encourage all readers to add their own thoughts, which can be signed anonymously or not.  Although it takes the form of a blog, Amusicology is intended to be an open forum.  Plus, you never know when a comment might spur some sort of larger action.

Which brings me to my primary thought: The need for more empirical statistics about hiring in the field. I am by no means the first to make such a call.  Last year’s wiki roundup prompted PMG to make the same request.

Hiring data certainly isn’t the only barometer of a discipline’s status, but it provides a much needed window.  As underscored by several comments to my previous post, the information gleaned from the musicology job wiki provides only a narrow window into several larger issues: the hiring process, success rates of different programs, diversity in the field, etc.  Enough to be simultaneously tantalizing and misleading.

If the AMS is indeed interested (as Bob Judd suggests) in pursuing more reliable data, it is important that they also commit to being proactive with the information once it is collected.  The board and several of the committees should identify items on which to take action even before such statistics become available.

One of the most obvious beneficiaries would be the Graduate Education Committee, which compiled a report on PhD programs in musicology, published in the February 2010  February 2010 AMS Newsletter (page 22), that relied on data from only 13 institutions.  (More than fifty US and Canadian schools populate the AMS’s own list of programs in musicology.)  Admittedly unreliable, their results would benefit greatly from such statistics.  But it shouldn’t end with mere reporting.  I would hope that the committee would, as stated in its mission, then provide some guidance about trends in graduate education, whether positive (potential graduate students would be wise to consider UCLA’s ongoing run of successful placements) or negative (graduate students would be wise to consider the increasing number of un[der]-employed PhDs).

Other committees would benefit as well.  The Committee on Women and Gender could address concerns raised on the wiki regarding the issue of gender (im)balance in the tenure-track hires that took place this year.  I highly suggest reading the comments between A16 and A35 under the “This Year’s Job Market” header on the wiki itself, which highlights several concerns and spawns its own discussion of hiring practices.  The issue may not be as bad as it seems…but it also might be a lot worse.

A few other thoughts based on this past year’s job wiki:

The difference in “average degree year” of those hired into tenure-track (TT) versus non-TT (adjunct/temporary) positions is revealing.  By my count the average non-TT hire went to a PhD that is 1-2 years out. That number increases to 3-4 years for a TT hire.  This seems to support Drew’s theory of the “Shadow Residency”.  That is, more and more PhDs are finding it necessary to work adjunct gigs–ranging from full-time, multiple year positions to cobbling together one-off courses at multiple schools–before landing a TT position.

From both personal experience and that of my friends and colleagues, a majority of the adjunct positions out there never appear on the job wiki. Such positions (including sabbatical replacements and last-minute openings) rarely follow the same hiring process as the full-time jobs tracked by the wiki.  Rather, these jobs are to be had only by word of mouth, recommendation, or just being in the right place at the right time. Tracking such hires would likely reveal the average shadow residency to extend well beyond the 3-4 year figure given above.

The number of open positions listed on the wiki continues to slide.  From nearly 130 in 2007-2008 to just over 90 in 2009-2010.*  Yes, the economy can largely be blamed for the fact that forty less searches were conducted last year than three years ago.  However, classes are still being taught and musicologists are still getting hired to teach them. Looking closer at the world of adjunct musicologists might also help explain the continued slide in the number of open positions listed on the wiki.  Adjunct hires ease the burden imposed by frozen budgets and/or unopened tenure lines and more and more programs are forced to “budget” accordingly.  Over the course of a career a handful of part-time adjuncts cost a lot less than a tenured professor.  I’m not ready to decree the end of tenure, but I certainly hope this economically-friendly trend doesn’t continue.

With my dissertation on the verge of completion, I am officially on the job market.  Right now I’m sitting in a rocking chair, holding my sleeping six-month-old son.  As I launch into my own job search, I’m more aware than ever of the pressures on those looking for employment.  Finding any job in this economy is stressful.  Given the understandably drawn-out process of academic hires, the musicology job wiki continues to be–for better or for worse–an invaluable resource.

Congratulations to those who got a job last year.  And, good luck to everyone on the market this year–let’s hope it is a good one!

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* As Michael Cuthbert points out in a comment on my last post, the low numbers reported by the 2006-2007 figure (78 positions) is more indicative of the relative obscurity of the wiki, then in its first year, than of the job market itself.

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Entry filed under: job wiki, professional development, Ryan Raul Bañagale. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments

  • 1. KG  |  August 1, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I completely agree about the need for more transparency in our field regarding hiring practices and statistics. What fascinates me about last year’s Job Wiki is how issues of anonymity played into people’s actions. There were scandals surrounding deletions and misleading information. For example, I was a finalist for a position that completely disappeared from the wiki. Either someone thought it wasn’t a musicology / ethnomusicology position, they thought it had been posted on our wiki in error, or they didn’t want to post the info regarding who eventually accepted the offer. Then there was also someone who just deleted information on a regular basis without saying why, how, or what was deleted. It was mighty fishy.
    I am wondering if there can be a wiki discussion of best wiki practices earlier into the job cycle.

  • 2. Ryan Raul Bañagale  |  August 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

    KG: The problem of people obscuring the job wiki is one of “for worse” aspects of the site itself. Both PMG and I have written on this in the past, yet the issue remains.
    What for(u)m do you think a “best practices” discussion might most productively take place? On the wiki itself? Here? Your blog? Elsewhere?
    I started drafting a “Ryan’s Rules of [Job Wiki] Order” (like Robert’s, but shorter and less fussy) for this post but dropped it. The reality is that, even with a set of guidelines, situations such as the one you describe will probably continue to occur.

  • 3. Michael Scott Cuthbert  |  August 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    At my institution we were prevented us from having job searches during the past few years by financial constraints that had nothing to do with switching to even cheaper younger faculty (new adjuncts vs. new TT or good FT lecturer positions), actually the opposite: several faculty who had announced retirements suddenly found their retirement savings (too heavily invested in stocks) to be much less than they had budgeted on. Therefore they delayed retiring, actually costing the department more money (due to their higher salaries — but you’re not going to deny a 30-year-of-service faculty member the freedom to delay retiring, so the dept. absorbed the costs). Put together with professors-of-the-practice, etc. who usually work PT now needing additional income via more classes, and the reduction of young faculty jobs becomes even more desperate. While the end of mandatory retirement can really be seen as important civil rights legislation to combat ageism, its negative effects on young people (and on institutional flexibility) is not discussed nearly enough.


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