Sunday, March 01, 2009

Would You Take a Job at UCSC?

Fosco has to get up early tomorrow morning to make it to campus for a one-time seminar with a seriously important academic superstar. Said academic superstar is visiting UCSC tomorrow for a job interview in the History of Consciousness department and will be leading a seminar in the morning and giving a job talk in the afternoon. This is kind of exciting, especially since this academic superstar has done pretty important work in Fosco's specialty of queer theory.

And yet, as Fosco preps for this seminar, he can't help wondering: why would this scholar want a job at UCSC? Not that UCSC is Florida State or anything; but this scholar currently holds an endowed chair at the University of Chicago, one of the best universities in the country in one of the best cities in the country. Of course, it's entirely possible that this scholar is not realistically considering a job at UCSC and is hoping for this job offer as a bargaining chip to get a better deal from Chicago (sadly, that's the way the academic game is played). But assuming this scholar is actually interested in a job at UCSC, one might wonder what type of calculus goes into these kinds of decisions.

Just as an exercise in analysis, let's consider the comparisons:

  • Location: Chicago v. Santa Cruz seems like a pretty easy choice; but let's consider that this scholar, like most of the major faculty here, would most likely live in San Francisco. Chicago v. SF is a much tougher call, especially if you take into account the difference in weather.
  • Salary: UCSC will presumably be willing to pony up some cash here. But will University of Chicago be unwilling or unable to match it? I doubt it. In general, private schools (like Chicago) should be able to outspend public schools (like UCSC).
  • Prestige: There is no question that U of C is much more prestigious institution--by a lot. However, this gap closes a little when you consider that the "History of Consciousness" department at UCSC has a pretty sexy academic reputation. Some of the most interesting and innovative contemporary thinkers in academia have been associated with this department over the years. Who wouldn't want to be in the (virtual) company of people like Hayden White, Donna Haraway, and Norman O. Brown?
  • Resources/Facilities: UCSC is a public school in the middle of a major budget crisis. University of Chicago is a private institution with a largish endowment. Things here are pretty bleak financially; things there are, I would think, much better.
  • Students: I don't want to be too harsh on the undergrads and grad students here at UCSC--many of them are first-rate (including people like Mere who any university would be lucky to have). But there is no question that U of C typically attracts higher quality students (on average).
Which means, I would have to think, that a decision to take a job at UCSC must be primarily about San Francisco or its weather (or some combination of the two). Of course, this is all speculation and there could be plenty of idiosyncratic reasons for preferring one job or institution over another. However, this kind of academic job-related decision-making process has always been quite fascinating to Fosco.


m said...

hay thsk abut teh comint abut ucsc unddrgrats, i thk were preddy smart.

FOSCO said...

I think many of you are quite brilliant and have amended my original post to reflect that.

Maggie said...

I've not read her work, but DAMN that photo is fierce. I would hire based on that alone.

FOSCO said...

@Maggie: Yes! Doesn't she look amazing? She's the kind of prof you never want to cross.

Her blog is pretty crazy too, actually. I probably should have plugged it in the post:

Anonymous said...

She actually looks like a gypsy...