How Do We Survive the Academic Job Market — and Academia?

Jes Battis
23 min readAug 25, 2020

It’s hard to describe the academic job market unless you’re an asteroid in its wake. I first heard about it in college, when an English professor told me the difference between permanent and sessional instructors. I was still a teenager, and had assumed that all college instructors spent their days reading in spacious offices, possibly with fireplaces. After she disabused me of this fantasy, she added: “The job market is only getting worse. Some think it’s collapsing.”

This was the late nineties, and my college had recently seen some new hires. But the window was already closing. My professor told me this as a kindness. She wanted to temper my own desires to become an academic. Even a decade before the financial crisis, it still felt like a wild shot in the dark. You might as well try to become a celebrity.

Figuring out how we got from this late-nineties pessimism, to our current hellscape, requires a look at how academic hiring is structured. I think about this a lot. I have a permanent position, but the market still affects me — particularly as universities refuse to replace instructors who’ve retired or otherwise left. I also still think about applying for jobs closer to my family. This is no secret — most “mid-career” scholars think about the same thing. But I hope that some of these thoughts from a queer, neurodivergent, first-generation academic (who graduated from community college) might be useful in considering how to survive the market today.

Types of Academic Jobs

There are many types of academic jobs, though this is rarely explained when you’re a graduate student. Each job has a different set of expectations, and a unique division of labor. Before applying for a job, you should always arm yourself with knowledge by studying the institution’s collective agreement. This should include terms of reference, work division, and (sometimes) salaries for each position.

The “R1” job

This refers to a job with a 2/2 teaching load, which means you’d teach 4 classes per year and spend the rest of your time on research and supervision. As a grad student, I was taught that this was the only kind of job that existed. Everything else was a form of failure. Not only is this patently untrue, but the 2/2 position has virtually disappeared. Some larger schools can offer these jobs, but most departments require a more varied and teaching-centred position.

The teaching/research mix

This job often exists at mid-sized schools and liberal arts colleges. The 3/3 teaching load entails a split between instruction, research, and the broad category of “service” (anything from supervision to committee work). Though the job provides a reasonable balance of duties, 6 courses a year is still a lot, and it’s more difficult to embark on big writing/research projects with this load.

The teaching-stream job

This position is becoming more common, and often entails a 4/4 teaching load with minimal expectations of research. Sometimes these positions are called “bipartite,” in that they focus on teaching/service. Faculty members are often still expected to conduct some research, but it should be centred on pedagogy. These positions are tenurable, and have teaching-focused tenure expectations.

University-college/Community college job

These positions almost always carry a 4/4 teaching load, and are based on seniority and a system of regularization, instead of tenure. Instructors will teach on contract for several years, before gaining some level of permanency — often a 50% permanent post, while still making up the remaining teaching through contract work. After a period of time, they can achieve a 100% permanent position. This may seem precarious, but it still ends up being more equitable than the tenure system — faculty are more likely to achieve a permanent post in the end. “Community College” as a term can also mean different things. A community college in Canada usually has a 4/4 teaching load and may grant degrees in partnership with a larger school. In the United States, a community college may have a higher teaching load (5/5). Both can offer stable jobs, but your duties will differ.

Private school job

This category includes the religious school system, as well as other independent schools. Often, these schools don’t receive provincial or state funding, which means that their salaries and benefits may not be as competitive. That said, they tend to have smaller class sizes, and offer reasonable teaching loads. You will likely find yourself teaching year-round, and your spirituality may be a significant factor in the hiring process. But if you find a place where you feel at home, it can provide a stable and fulfilling job.

Writing Centre job

Scholars who specialize in academic writing may find a hybrid position working for a writing centre, which involves a mixture of teaching, seminars on writing, scheduling tutors, and other activities. This is a demanding job, without the privileges of a tenured position. But it can also represent a fulfilling and permanent post that draws upon many of your skills as a writer and teacher.

Educational Tech job

This is still an emerging field, but involves areas like course design, teaching digital technologies, consulting with faculty, and managing online learning tools. If your academic focus is within the digital humanities, and you enjoy the technical aspects of course design and delivery, you could be a good fit. Though this position also comes with a heavy load of emotional labour, since ed-tech specialists are often counselling faculty and students (particularly now).

Library Instruction job

This is technically a different job market, but still often embedded within academia — especially if you envision yourself working at a university library. MLIS degrees can range from 2–4 years and are quite intensive, but libraries also offer a number of varied positions that can play to your strengths. Instructional librarians often have a mix of duties: offering seminars on essay writing and research, teaching courses on methods, advising departments, and shaping the direction of the library itself.

Number of Jobs and Geography

This varies by geographic location. Jobs have severely contracted since 2008, and were shrinking long before that. To give you a general idea: if I logged onto the Modern Languages Association Job List in 2007, I might see 400 academic jobs in my field (English) across the United States and Canada. Not all of those jobs would be permanent, but the majority would be. In 2008, that number fell to around 200. Now, it’s less, and fewer of the jobs that do exist are permanent or offer a living wage.

In a country like Canada, you might see around 10 permanent jobs in English appear in a year. That’s 10 jobs across the country, and each one is in a different sub-field. So among those 10 jobs, you may be able to apply for 1. That’s 1 chance per year. If you have dual citizenship, your options widen a bit. Most universities will not sponsor a permanent VISA, which means that if you’re applying for a job, you need to already have citizenship within that country. For a while, Canada was hiring American scholars and sponsoring them, but now, an applicant needs to be able to legally work in Canada to be considered.

Searching for a permanent academic job means being willing to move across the country. It’s more than likely that, if you do land a permanent job, it will be in a place that you’ve never even visited before. You have to weigh your own needs when applying. Will there be a community for you? Access to reliable health care? Will you feel safe? Are things in reach, or will you have to drive for hours?

Academics are trained to think of the job first, and their own lives second. But your happiness and well-being are equally important. It’s possible to find great communities in small towns. It’s also possible to find living space in a small department. But follow your gut. If you don’t think a place is going to work out — consider something else. There will be other opportunities, even if they don’t look the same.

Where Are the Markets?

There are three general sources for academic jobs, and each has its pitfalls. The largest academic job market is in the United States. These positions tend to be posted on association websites (like the Modern Languages Association), and broader sites like Higher Ed Jobs. The second market is in the U.K, and I’ll include universities in Scotland, Ireland, and Australia (sorry Australia, I know you’re distinct, but there are undeniable similarities between these systems). This market is much smaller than the U.S., but still advertises positions world-wide. Finally, there are the more regional markets — Canada, parts of Europe, and other overseas countries. Canada doesn’t have a lot of universities. For a massive country, we only have around 100 schools that are hiring. Some of those schools don’t even post on sites like University Affairs. If you want to see their jobs, you have to visit an HR site. Being in-the-know, as it were, can be even more vital in a case like this.

When I was first entering the job market in the late 2000s, interviews still revolved around mega-conferences. A big school might receive 200–300 applications for a single job. Through an excruciating and often indecipherable process, they’d choose 10–12 of those applicants, and offer them a preliminary interview. This meant paying around $1000 or more, out of pocket, to attend a 20-minute interview in a major American city. Most grad students couldn’t afford this, and those who managed it were often worried they’d return home to an eviction notice. This process has mostly been replaced by Skype/Zoom interviews, but I feel the need to elaborate on exactly how crazy-banana-pants it was.

First, you would take transit to a fancy hotel, wearing your best ill-fitting interview clothes, and hoping that nobody would spill anything on you. After sweating through that experience, you’d walk up to an extremely distracted concierge, and ask if they could call the head of the search committee. You were never given their room number in advance — only the name of the head. Often, they gave you the wrong name, and so you had to write down everyone’s names and go through the list. It made you feel like an incompetent spy making contact with a reclusive informant. Eventually, you got through, and were given the room number. But there was a catch. If you phoned too early, they’d be in the middle of another interview. Too late, and you’d miss your precious window. You had to phone five minutes before you were scheduled to meet. That left you with minutes to find the elevator, negotiate a long series of hallways, and end up at their front door, panting.

These interviews are always at hotels, and I once discovered that the elevators were out of service. My meeting was on the seventh floor. A crowd of desperate academics had gathered around the out of order sign. We led each other up the stairs like a flock of goslings, huffing and puffing and trying not to pass out. What if an interviewee had been a wheelchair-user? What if they’d required some other mobility device? The hiring committee simply did not care. You made it up those stairs, or you didn’t get an interview.

The bottom line is that even interviewing for an academic position often requires a certain amount of privilege. The big-conference interviews have been replaced by last-minute Zoom interviews, where candidates must compress their careers into 20 minutes, while hoping their kids, partners or pets don’t interrupt the exchange. A sharp, expensive outfit is still required, even if the conversation is digital. Applicants must now gain expertise in digital platforms that we weren’t even talking about a few years ago, crafting presentations that are engaging, scholarly, and professional, with little chance to improvise.

Challenges to Academic Hiring

The financial and political conservatism of the eighties saw a contraction in permanent academic jobs, and a rise in underpaid contract positions. Even before that, many departments survived by diverting high-enrollment classes — often first-year, general-education classes — to instructors who worked on contract. These instructors made a fraction of a permanent instructor’s salary, which meant they had to cobble together 4 or 5 classes per semester in order to survive. Meanwhile, tenured professors were able to teach a few light classes while pursuing their own research. This isn’t what it looked like everywhere, and some schools did try to offer some semblance of security to their sessional instructors. But the bottom line was that these contracts could end at any time, and this system was well in place before I hit college.

Universities still see hiring a tenure-track instructor as an expensive risk. If that instructor manages to achieve tenure, or some other form of job permanence, they could become a fixture in the department for 2–3 decades. If they’re working at a larger university with reasonable funding, their salary should rise with the cost of living (not true at every school). But most universities run on a deficit. They are chronically under-funded by state, provincial, and federal governments. In the last decade alone, universities across Canada — where I live — have seen massive, irrecoverable cuts in funding, particularly from conservative governments. A mid-sized school requires a 2–3% increase in provincial funding each year — what they’re often met with is either 0%, or a 1–2% cut. The number of administrative positions has also increased exponentially over the past few decades — the starting salary for an AVP is around $200,000. In order to support this new administrative level, while weathering so many cuts, universities have leaned into a model of exploitation. They hire, then lay off, countless sessional instructors to keep departments afloat, while refusing to post permanent jobs. Many departments have lost more than 50% of their permanent faculty over the past decade, with few (or zero) replacements, while administrative hiring continues to soar.

How Departments Negotiate Hiring

Departments often challenge hiring inequity, but this process is also fraught. I used to assume that departments were simply granted a certain amount of permanent hires every few years. This has never been the case — at least not with most schools. Departments must first consult a dean with the hopes of securing a permanent position. These meetings are often incredibly vague, and it’s hard to know if the department has made any traction. Then they submit an application to a budgetary committee, including a detailed rationale for why the position is needed. Usually, this rational is screamingly obvious: ten people have retired and we’ve had no replacements! But many schools operate on a “reward” system of hiring, in which departments that secure the most funding also get the most hires. Other departments need to demonstrate a pressing need for a replacement, and the committee can decide that this need simply isn’t enough to warrant funding a search.

A great deal of negotiation goes on during these conversations. Departments might ask for 3 permanent positions, and admin will counter with 1 limited-term position (for 1–3 years). Department heads will often spend years negotiating for a single hire. When someone retires, the money used for their salary doesn’t return to the department — it’s “re-allocated” to a central hiring budget, and can be used for virtually anything other than replacing that retiree. Departments are often forced to fold multiple positions into a single job that anyone would find difficult to fill. Even if a dean tentatively signs off on a hire, the budgetary committee can still vote against it. The cycle might persist for as long as a decade, before anyone is replaced.

In order to challenge this, many schools created permanent-instructor positions in the nineties. These carried higher teaching loads, and lower salaries, but they were renewable and eventually tenurable. They gave long-term sessional instructors the chance at a steady job. University administrations responded to this in one of two ways. 1) They waited for all instructors to retire, and then eliminated the entire category, so that no instructor jobs could be posted again. 2) They created teaching-stream positions with heavy teaching loads (8 classes per year), and then committed to only posting those positions, while eliminating any jobs with lighter loads that had a research component. Either way, they were saving money by extracting more labour from already-overloaded faculty members.

These are just the financial challenges involved in academic hiring. We haven’t even gotten to the systemic racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia in hiring.

Ableism and Hiring

Hiring committees assume that all candidates are able-bodied and able-minded. As Jay Dolmage argues in Academic Ableism: “Academia powerfully mandates able-bodiedness and able-mindedness, as well as other forms of social and communicative hyperability, and this demand can best be defined as ableism” (7). First of all, you’re expected to understand the vague and often coded language they’ve used in their job advertisement. Then, you’re expected to absorb every available piece of information about their programs, faculties, and the wider university in general. You have to sift through all of this data for talking points that will show how you’ve thought critically about their mission and strategic plan — even if you’ve read it multiple times and still can’t figure it out. Finally, during a Zoom interview, you’re expected to seamlessly organize all of this data into a presentation that evidences your deep knowledge of the department and its place within the larger institution. You should also look into the future, and be able to discern where they’ll be in the next 10 years, and how you can make that happen for them (without asking for any funding or changing things in any way).

As an ND person with lots of quirks and tics — and what Melanie Yergeau calls “a rhetoric that avoids eye contact” — I find both online and in-person interviews challenging for different reasons. With a Zoom interview, you need to maintain a disposition that’s both cheerful and professional. The screen mitigates against affect: you’re basically Kenneth Branagh-ing some version of well-adjusted academic while desperately trying to scan your notes and avoid knocking over your giant coffee mug. Because the interview is short, there’s no time to pause and construct a balanced answer. This model privileges speed and recall over any holistic understanding of what the question may actually be asking. Any pause can look like epic indecision — any frown (even a thinking frown) can look stern. I once did a Skype interview in a hotel room with no heat, and as the committee gently asked how I might fill three separate jobs, all I could about was the blanket out of reach.

In-person interviews — which may or may not resume in the next year — are equally fraught. This is an endurance test. A campus “visit,” as it’s euphemistically called, might last anywhere from 6 hours to 2 days. A revolving cast of people (remember their names!) will lead you around campus and prevent you from ever catching your breath. They’ll rattle off endless facts about the school and its programs, then slip into an informal register to ask you a borderline inappropriate question about your sexuality or marital status. You’ll vault between ultra-specific academic topics, gossip that you shouldn’t be hearing, politics that you shouldn’t respond to (there’s no right answer), and interruptions from other people who are actually trying to work and don’t even have time to deal with another interview.

It’s always chaotic. And I’ll be honest. I can act normal for about 3 hours — roughly the length of a seminar class. That’s only if I have a break between sessions. Beyond that, I start to unravel. All the natural behavior I’ve been suppressing starts to creep to the surface. My eye-contact falters. My voice goes from engaged to something that sounds like an exhausted voicemail filtered across a great distance. My body starts to shake. Masking this becomes a full-time job within the interview itself. My responses sound more irritable, because brain fog is setting in and I’m struggling to organize my thoughts. I might even appear combative, but I’m actually just melting down. And I have the privilege of usually being able to manage meltdowns, without anything too dramatic happening. Not everyone can do this.

Imagine yourself in that state. Now imagine having to attend a 3-hour dinner, with alcohol, dim lighting, and rich food that you wouldn’t normally eat, where a half-dozen people are laughing and joking and talking to you at once. That absolute blizzard of sociability and subtext that, for many, can feel like a barely-acquired second language.

This doesn’t even cover barriers to physical access. Campuses that are hard to get to, and even harder to negotiate for a wheel-chair user, or someone with another mobility device. Cramped offices and classrooms. An M.C. Escher-like sea of stairs, leading to narrow hallways, and yet more stairs. It’s that scene from Labyrinth where David Bowie is leaping up staircases that lead nowhere, and Jennifer Connelly struggles to keep up. The bathrooms only located on every second floor, and lack of gender-neutral bathrooms. The expectation that you can sit, or stand, for long periods of time. Environmental sensitivities, like the sweltering room, the blast of air-conditioning, the fluorescent lights promising an instant migraine, the hammer of nearby construction, the assumption that you’ll be able to understand everything that’s being said to you at a rapid pace (often while in motion). The total lack of access to interpreters. The chronic rush of academia, which Alison Kafer calls the “normative and normalizing expectations of pace and scheduling” (27), where disabled bodies and minds are left out of that scheduling. These killing temporalities that harm everyone. All of this rears up as a series of brick walls to keep many applicants at a disadvantage, while a privileged few benefit.

Challenges to Diversity in Hiring

Most English departments are 90–100% staffed by white settler academics. There may be a few LGBTQ faculty members, but most will be straight. Disabled faculty members try to stay under the radar, if they can, for fear of judgment. There are few, if any, services designed to help disabled faculty members — at least at small and mid-sized schools. Able-bodiedness, as Dolmage argues, is often considered an invisible requirement of the job. I have never sought any kind of accommodation — not just out of anxiety that the request would be denied, but also because I wouldn’t even be sure how to frame such a request. We can’t figure out what we need if there’s no model for asking.

I’ve been on many hiring committees, and each department interprets the concept of diversity in its own peculiar way. Canada has legislation for diverse hiring. If an applicant self-identifies as belonging to certain categories or communities, they need to be considered first. This includes cis women, disabled applicants, Indigenous applicants, and POC applicants. LGBTQ people are not considered a protected category, though an applicant’s sexuality or gender identity might factor into hiring decisions (e.g., if the job is in LGBTQ Studies). I’ve also heard search chairs argue about whether or not cis women are an equity category (they are, under federal law). These structures seem as though they’d contribute to equity in hiring. But they are often rules that only come into effect once a shortlist has been generated. There’s nothing to stop a hiring committee from creating an all-white, all-male shortlist, and then saying that equity concerns didn’t factor into the process. Regardless of how much a department may be interested in pursuing a diverse hire, the selection committee can still restrict the interview process to applicants who look and sound like them.

The alternative method is to pursue diverse hiring from the first step. That means searching for applicants who identify as BIPOC, disabled applicants, queer, trans, and nonbinary applicants, neurodivergent applicants. Many scholars are terrified to self-identify within some of these categories, for fear of being passed over. It’s also incredibly problematic to think of an all-white committee trying to read “Blackness” in someone’s CV. But some applicants do self-identify. And many have online professional details — beyond their applications — that are within easy reach. It’s possible to search for things that mark out an applicant as different. You can base a search around finding people who don’t resemble the majority of scholars in your department. Even if the position is in a seemingly neutral field (spoiler: no such thing), you can set out to interview diverse applicants, and make that a term of the search process. Every search begins by setting out what, exactly, the committee will look for. This is the opportunity to say we want a BIPOC scholar, or we want a trans scholar.

Departments rarely do this. They insist upon finding the best person for the job, in the same way that casting directors look for the best actor. In the end, that “best” person often ends up being a white, able-bodied male who attended an Ivy-league school. This isn’t a coincidence, because committees are still looking for traditional markers of academic excellence — publications and awards — which cis white men have always had greater access to. Rather than thinking about the ways in which their department might change, they often select the applicant who will bring in a combination of funding and prestige. Even if there’s an internal candidate who’s fully qualified for the position, departments will often hire externally, in the hopes of finding someone even better. Someone who will solve everything for them. And over the course of their pre-tenure years, that person will take on so much work, and endure so many hopeful stares, that they might burn out, apply for another job, or leave academia entirely. Then the process starts all over again.

How Do We Survive This?

Survival and resistance look different for all of us. We all have access to different resources. Sometimes we can do good work, amplify voices, donate money, stir the pot, use what privilege we have to shield others. And sometimes we have to lie down. There are days when I work on manifestos, and days where I can barely get groceries without melting down.

How do we resist a market within a system that doesn’t see us as fully human?

There are things we can do, at every level, to challenge the vicious cost-cutting and de-personalizing models that academia has in place. There are ways to live with, and beyond, this corporate system which doesn’t define your abilities. There are ways of carving out living space in a profession that wants to devour your time, energy, and hope. People make this profession, and academia can’t function without us. The vital relationships between instructors and students define what’s good in academia — not the oppressive models on which it was founded.

As undergraduate students, you can:

1. Get to know your instructors. Find out if they’re tenured or precarious. Consider how many classes they’re teaching, and what issues they might be dealing with. Offer them feedback that helps them revise their courses, while avoiding critique that might endanger their jobs.

2. Tell your instructors what you need in order to be successful. Keep in touch, and let them know how things are working. If you lack resources or access, tell them. Be honest about your physical and mental health during the pandemic. Instructors need to hear this, so they can relay that information to department heads and administrators.

3. Get involved in town hall meetings and other conversations. Ask point-blank questions about your department’s hiring policies. Ask what their plans are for modifying content, expanding programs, and recruiting new students. Gently but firmly push them towards ethical growth and equitable hiring processes.

4. Ask for more diverse courses. Ask for courses in Black, Latinx, and Indigenous literatures, histories, cultures. Explain how these courses might allow you to be seen. Ask your instructors to include more diverse content, and to push — where they can — for diverse hires.

5. Continue to make your frustrations known about the pacing and cost of degrees. When administrators point out how costly it is to run a university, you can remind them of how much their new dorms and athletic centres cost, while the arts buildings are being fumigated.

6. Keep pushing for new directions in content and instruction. Let your instructors know the most humane methods for engaging you, while we all survive this time.

As graduate students, you can:

1. Involve yourself in hiring committees and push for equity. You may be one of the only voices in the room, but don’t be afraid to be vocal. The department head should ensure that you’re able to speak openly, and if this isn’t the case, you can approach the graduate chair for advice. This feels terrifying, and it shouldn’t be your responsibility. But you may be the youngest person in that room by decades, and they need your perspective.

2. Ask for seminars on professional development, which deliver honest information about both the academic and alt-ac job markets. Push for information sessions to discuss ways of pursuing careers beyond the PhD and tenure track. Talk with each other about these issues. Sometimes job applications can feel secretive — especially when there’s an atmosphere of competition — but you need to act as allies for each other.

3. If you host a grad conference, include panels on teaching and professionalization. Organize round-tables where you can discuss challenges facing current grad students. Don’t just see conferences as a place to present research — design them as spaces where you can propose new policies and share strategies with one another.

4. Push for more diverse graduate seminars that engage with BIPOC literatures and histories. If you see a gap in coverage, let the department and graduate chairs know. Often, departments don’t know what students really need, until they’re told.

5. Support one another. Form communities where you can share ideas, food, clothing, check-ins, and works that inspire you.

6. Demand regular and prompt access to counselling services.

7. Demand access to affordable food on campus. If you’re food-insecure, let your instructors know. Let the administration know.

As precarious, term, and tenure-track instructors, you can:

1. Involve yourself in committees — to the extent that you can handle this, physically and emotionally. Ensure that non-tenured faculty have a presence at meetings and influence over decision making.

2. Try to locate tenured allies who can serve as liaisons, sounding boards, and supports. Hit them with your grievances, and let them take some of these issues to department meetings. They will often feel more comfortable speaking out.

3. If you’re on the tenure-track, try to get a very detailed breakdown of what’s expected for your tenure/promotion application. Consult with the most recently tenured faculty, to see what their applications look like. Get definitive answers about what type of work you can include — especially if some of your writing/research is more creative. Ensure that all of your work counts, and not just the most traditional academic output.

4. Be honest with your department head if you’re burning out. Don’t stretch yourself impossibly thin in pursuit of tenure expectations that could easily shift. Remember that your physical and mental well-being are more important than being seen as productive.

5. Ask about the department’s plans to hire more faculty who could support you in your teaching and research. If you were hired to teach LGBTQ studies, for example, will they be hiring someone else in this field down the road? If you were hired to teach Indigenous literature, will this be part of the department’s efforts to hire more Indigenous academics — or will you shoulder the responsibility for this entire program? The department needs to understand the tremendous amount of emotional labour done by marginalized faculty. This can’t be a solitary endeavor — if it is, then the department isn’t actually committed to diversifying.

As tenured faculty, you can:

1. Yell. Agitate. Make scenes. Terrible old white men have used this privilege for ages, and you can use it for a better purpose. Bring up issues of diversity and equity at meetings. Don’t let things go. Don’t let colleagues forget that the very concept of a classroom is colonial. As Sara Ahmed writes, don’t be “willing to get over histories that are not over.” Be a killjoy.

2. Join hiring committees and push for equity. Look beyond your own research and personal experience, beyond your comfort zone. Imagine a position that has never existed in your department, and create it.

3. Diversify your own classes. Read widely. Familiarize yourself with key texts by BIPOC scholars in your field. Engage with work by queer, trans, and nonbinary scholars. Engage with work by precarious instructors, graduate instructors, and undergraduate scholars. Present theory and art by disabled activists, scholars, creators.

4. Act as a shield for precarious faculty. Defend them whenever possible. Be willing to strike. Be willing to put your job on the line. Be willing to lose your job, if necessary, if it means creating a better university.

5. Throw out the concept of rigour. This has always been an ableist and essentialist idea. Be compassionate and informative. Work with your students to create accessible spaces. Meet them where they are. Learn from what they know, and admit when your knowledge might be a bit outdated, or too influenced by various privileges.

6. Be open about your own identities and communities. Talk about your mental and physical health. Talk about the forces that make you a fully-faceted human. Find students and scholars whose communities intersect with your own, and support them,

7. Say no. Say no to inhuman schedules. Say no to unfair hiring practices. Say no to ableist policies that prevent students from accessing education, or invasive surveillance policies that equate students with criminals. Say no to cost cutting methods that push scholars deeper into poverty. Say no to giant projects that only benefit administrators.

8. Call out racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism, wherever you see it. Even in those private hallway conversations. Even when “they didn’t mean anything.” Even when it’s someone you love and trust. Even when it makes you anxious. Be the killjoy who ruins the conversation, if that act of ruination leads to some progress.

9. Realize that you are more than your job. And it doesn’t have to be like this forever. You can change the terms, change the conversation, and change yourself.

The academic job market may be inhuman, but we are human. We can affect change, and make choices that will create a better, kinder, survivable university.



Jes Battis

teaches creative writing, literature, queer stuff. writes books about knights, vampires, and salamanders. he/they