Job listings for college professors in subjects like English or women’s studies are few and far between these days. The number of college-level teaching jobs of any kind is lower than it has been at just about any time since the 1970s. And consider how bad it is for a PhD to be married to another PhD: If you think it’s bad trying to find one job, imagine trying to find two—in the same area of the country. With that in mind, meet Benjamin Vogt and Jaclyn Cruikshank Vogt. They’re married and they both want to find jobs as professors. But instead of begging for work, they’re asking schools to come to them. Is this idea crazy, or so crazy it just might work?
First, a bit more detail on how hard it is to find a job as a professor in the humanities these days: Between the 2007-08 school year and last year, job openings in English departments, for example, dropped by more than 32 percent. Even those jobs that do exist are less likely to be tenure track, which means they come with fewer benefits and no job security. It’s grim out there.
Understanding exactly how hard it is to find a job as a professor these days makes the Vogts’ bold move look even bolder. Benjamin has been looking for two years, and Jaclyn is just starting her search. As Inside Higher Ed reports, the couple posted a job ad on their own blog, in which they ask colleges to apply to them:
Benjamin and Jaclyn Cruikshank Vogt invite applications from colleges for two tenure-track assistant professor positions: one in creative writing (poetry & nonfiction), Native American literature, and environmental literature; the other in twentieth-century American literature specializing in women’s and gender studies, ethnic literature, and with an interest in digital humanities.
And it gets even bolder. The couple’s requirements:
Successful colleges will be in the upper Midwest, rural or semi urban, diverse, flexible, creative, and academically rigorous while encouraging multiple perspectives, thinking outside the box, and offering interdisciplinary courses. Preferred qualifications include an integrated study abroad program, collegial faculty, an innovative benefits package, and an ecologically-progressive campus. Colleges may apply by emailing bervogtATgmail.com and attaching a letter of application with department philosophy and mission statement. If interested, we will proceed by sending you more information, including vita and teaching portfolios. Applications will be accepted until positions are filled. The Vogts are equal opportunity employees, encouraging applications from diverse candidates.
Surely there’s an element of cheekiness here; the couple cannot really be so naive as to think this will land them a pair of dream jobs. But Benjamin tells Inside Higher Ed “It’s serious. … Why not try something different and take advantage of social media? Maybe we can be the academic Honey Boo Boo or Gangnam Style?”
Someone who apparently works in higher-education hiring left a comment saying if he tried to hire by reaching out to people who posted their own ad like this, “I’d immediately be liable for violations of our equal opportunity/affirmative action guidelines. We have to choose from among the candidates who apply. Can you imagine the lawsuits from just hand-picking someone off the internet? Wow. ‘Discriminatory’ doesn’t even begin to capture it.”
Fair enough. But as Benjamin comments on his own post: “Why not have a utopia, I say.” For people job-hunting in a brutal market, it certainly can’t hurt to try.