On Making Humanities Like the Sciences: Start Using Numbers
Arnold addressed the considerable issues involving the attempt of the “UC Commission on the Future” to align Humanities achievements with those in the sciences. That’s a tall order, especially when academics are already reluctant to give hard numbers related to who is getting jobs. Frank Donoghue, director of English grad admissions at Ohio State, isn’t fond of the question, “What’s your department’s placement rate?”
Here’s what Donoghue has to say about a “typical year”:
In that recent year, we graduated 11 Ph.D.’s; four did nationwide job searches, and two of them got tenure-track jobs. The third of those four Ph.D.’s got a two-year appointment as a visiting assistant professor that may possibly be converted to a tenure-track job, and the fourth got a one-year postdoctoral fellowship. Of the seven other Ph.D.’s, five did limited searches for personal reasons, and none got job offers. They will try again next year and in the meantime will work as adjuncts. One received a tenure-track offer but turned it down so that he could accompany his partner, who has a tenure-track job at a better institution. The one remaining Ph.D. did not go on the job market at all, but instead accepted a position as an English teacher at a private high school, which from early on in his graduate career had been his professional ambition. Now, what was our placement rate? Any answer to that question can’t be quantified.
Sure it can be quantified. Here’s Post Academic’s attempt to suss out Donoghue’s meaning:
Out of 11 PhDs:
2 tenure track jobs
1 visiting prof job
1 faculty spouse
1 English teacher at a private high school
More after the jump! Image of numbers in action from public domain, Wikimedia Commons.
I respect Professor Donoghue’s attempt to address the needs of each of his students, and it’s great that he can list that much about them off the top of his head. The whole article addresses his genuine, not to mention refreshing, concern for aspiring academics. But that’s footnote material. The numbers should be isolated, and they should be up front at the top of the page. If a potential grad student is dismayed by the lack of tenure-track jobs, then she can read the footnotes.
A short, accurate list of where people wound up is invaluable. For example, a potential English grad student might think “Okay, tenure-track jobs are hard to come by, but it’s good to know that I could teach English at a private high school. I might like to do that, actually, so maybe this program is a good fit for me.”
Whether or not it is Professor Donoghue’s intention, such a wordy response suggests that he has something to hide regarding the success of his program. He really doesn’t. The glaring statistic is that 5 of the 11 individuals became adjuncts, but it’s a terrible economy anyway.
An Open Letter From a Director of Graduate Admissions [Chronicle of Higher Ed]
Literature grad-school official on job placement: It’s complicated! [Boston Globe Brainiac Blog]