Friday, September 25, 2020, 3:30-5:00pm (Pacific)
Event Moderators: Emily Frazier-Rath, Gizem Arslan, Andrea Bryant, Sean Toland. Event Organizers: Didem Uca, Priscilla Layne, Beverly Weber, and Ervin Malakaj. Summary by David Gramling and Andrea Bryant.
Attendees: 50 people in US and Canadian German Studies and related fields (15 doctoral students, 4 recent doctoral graduates without employment, 8 contingent or non-tenure track, 9 tenure track, 9 tenured, 5 unspecified)
Experiences and Insights Shared
Faculty fatalism doesn’t help, but neither does mere reassurance. In the US and Canada, many faculty members openly give the “we’re on a sinking ship” message, which makes it hard for students to believe in the purpose of their projects.
The promise of interdisciplinarity has often failed us. Having a certificate or other interdisciplinary training does not help us get jobs outside of German Studies Departments, for instance in Gender and Women’s Studies or in Judaic Studies. With a German Studies PhD, one most often has to stay in German Studies for positions. The voices who used to advocate for interdisciplinary approaches have faded. Language departments’ work still doesn’t translate well enough to colleagues across the institution, particularly in English and sciences. Meanwhile, our own promotion / review committees still don’t adequately support early career scholars’ publishing / presenting in neighboring fields, like African Diasporic Studies, for instance.
Recruiting BIPOC early career researchers in German Studies is irresponsible, if we’re recruiting people into precarity. Consider focus on supporting local teachers and organizations of Color, instead of just trying to attract people into your programs. Institutional diversity efforts are often flawed and are still often run by people who don’t look like the people they’re trying to recruit.
Many of us still treasure a culture of knowledge, not entrepreneurship. Graduate Students often don’t want to go out and become atomized entrepreneurs; they/we want to do what research-teaching faculty do. Despite the bad signs, many graduate students often feel their/our lot is cast with faculty mentors, because we often pursue a similar set of values and visions about free thought, liberation, and discovery.
It’s a mistake to close or shrink graduate programs. Graduate education is a lifeboat for free thought, creative collaboration, activism, knowledge-making, cultural production, and alternative political visions. It doesn’t all come down to the academic or non-academic job market. The most dangerous thing right now would be for us to dismantle our own departments’ graduate programs. The grass is not necessarily greener in other industries, which can be significantly more toxic than humanities graduate programs.
Graduate advising is currently contradictory, fractured, and out of touch. The imperative to pursue alt-ac and ac modes simultaneously ends up splitting attention and doubling doctoral students’ work. Some faculty are still trying to protect students from publishing, presenting, and service work, even though this approach hasn’t made sense since the 20th century. Faculty simply don’t know enough about what good jobs there are outside of academia with a PhD, even despite the MLA’s efforts over the past ten years.
The job market is not going to rebound adequately in the coming two to five years. We need to focus on the long game, especially since we were still reeling from the 2008 Great Recession and the subsequent mass closures.
Language learning is being devalued more broadly, beyond our individual programs and institutions. It’s a period of wrenching structural change in this regard.
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