Saturday, September 7, 2019
September 7-8, 2019: Academic Labor: Hire Jeff Renye!
[Usually around this time I’d be sharing Fall Semester Preview posts. I’m on sabbatical, so no teaching for me this Fall; instead I thought I’d connect Labor Day to issues of academic labor this week. Leading up to this special weekend tribute post!]
A tribute to one of the most impressive academics and people I know.
When I ended Monday’s post by recognizing perhaps the most important truth of 21st century academic labor—that the difference between those of us who have a tenure-track position and those of us who do not is entirely one of luck—I did so not only because of my general sense of those contemporary realities, but also because of a very specific piece of evidence: the situation of my best friend in the profession, Dr. Jeffrey Renye. That hyperlinked Guest Post is one of many times that I’ve had the chance to share and highlight Jeff’s work on this blog, from multiple Guest Posts to tributes to his teaching and his scholarship, among others. I still remember quite clearly meeting Jeff for the first time in the late summer of 2000, at the orientation for our PhD program in English at Temple University. We connected instantly, shared numerous classes as well as an office when we began teaching the following year, and have remained close for the nearly two decades (!) since, including the chance to share scholarly conversations such as his Nathanael West presentation on my 2013 NeMLA roundtable on nominees for a National Big Read.
I suppose those many connections over multiple decades could be seen as bias on my part, but I would say precisely the opposite: I am as familiar with, and thus able to offer an accurate assessment of, the specifics of Jeff’s teaching, scholarship, service, and professional career and identity as I am or could be with anyone’s. So when I say that Jeff is both the single best teacher I’ve met in this profession, one of the most interesting and impressive interdisciplinary scholars, and one of the most dedicated and responsible colleagues and department members, I do so based on a strikingly large sample size. You could say that it’s thus very ironic that Jeff has spent the seven years since he received his PhD in a number of adjunct faculty positions at multiple institutions; you’d be right, but I believe it’s a frequent and telling irony. That is, I would go one step further still than where I began this post—it’s not just that adjunct faculty members are as deserving of tenure-track positions as those of us lucky enough to have them; it’s that they are in my consistent experience (not at all limited to Jeff) some of the very best teachers, scholars, and community members in this profession.
I can’t personally change that overall frustrating reality, although I’ve tried in the course of the week’s series to highlight various ways we can all work toward that goal. But when it comes to Jeff, I can and do make, to every academic department, program, and institution out there, the plea in this post’s title: Hire Jeff Renye! I make that plea not because of all the aforementioned ways in which Jeff is such an impressive teacher, scholar, and community member (although, I mean, duh), but as an appeal to your self-interest. Your department and institution, your students and faculty members, indeed every aspect of your academic community will benefit immeasurably if you have the good luck to hire Jeff Renye.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Academic workers (or any other kind) you’d highlight?