On the verge of its annual convention, the Modern Language Association has reported the largest drop in academic job listings in English in over a decade. This is the first drop since 1995. While the decline reflects real financial strain, demand, measured by enrollments, remains steady at the UW and elsewhere.
“If you have to cut, it is easier to do it in English or French than in chemistry or computer science. Part of this is structural—there are no laboratories that you have already paid for. The other part is that the job market in English and certain foreign languages has been depressed for the better part of a decade, so it is easy to find qualified part-time workers, who you can pay less, and give less time for research.”
(New York Times. 12/14/02)
An article in the New York Times (“Jobs Decline 20% at Colleges,” 12/14/02) quoted MLA President, Stephen Greenblatt, who cited both job market conditions and low physical resource investment demands of language departments as reasons why institution-wide financial pressures impact these departments so heavily.
English positions dropped 19% overall. Tenure track positions, which comprised 50.6% of total positions this year, declined at a rate of 17%. The rate for non-tenure track positions was almost 22%. This year also saw a relative decline of 3% in the percentage of non-tenured position openings to total openings. The situation also impacts senior faculty, with tenured openings also falling.
The 19% decline in English openings compares with a 21% drop in the foreign languages. Unlike the case with English, the drop in tenure track positions in History dropped at a higher rate, 13% than its overall rate of 6%. The drop in tenured openings in History is over 70%.