Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rumors at the Chronicle

Here's an interesting article about academic job market rumor mill blogs, posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. Discussion?

I've never visited the sites in question. I wonder if there isn't some way that the blogosphere can have a positive impact on this whole process. My wife, aghast, continues to muse at just how many positions in my field failed to be filled last year.

This is not only a shame, it is to my mind a crime. In the corporate world, if a position is opened, it remains open until filled. What harm would be done by continuing a search for a faculty member, filling it in the spring rather than the fall? What ridiculous roadblocks are erected in the way of departments and committees to do just that?

Surely, it is a lot of work to sit on a committee. I know. When I was a graduate student, I sat on one search committee for a senior administrative post, that met weekly (except for a few occasions) for over a year! But we kept meeting.

I can assure you faculty members who lament the difficulties of remaining on a committee, that what the unemployed scholars suffer in waiting is far worse! I frankly can't believe or understand that out of 90 or 100 or 186 applicants, it is impossible to find just one who is suitable, who is capable, to fill the position. Perhaps it is not so much a failing of the candidates, as one of the committees, of departmental expectations, of entrenched full professors unwilling to compromise, unable to accept the novelty of new research directions, or the untested interests of junior scholars.

Does it make any sense in the twisted world of academia to risk the loss of so many young, promising scholars, who simply will not or cannot remain on the job market for yet another year? What a waste of genuine talent. There must be a way. It's a matter of courage and commitment on the part of committees, departments, and administrators to find it. That is all.


Greg said...

The sad truth is that it in most fields, it is a buyer's market. Even if every position were filled, there would still be many people without jobs. This also means that if they don't find someone who has exactly what they want, departments are confident that the pool next year will have plenty more.

I'm not saying that's good, but it's true. The academic job market is pitiless.

ArticulateDad said...

Part of the courage then, on the part of committees and departments is to clearly, baldly state what they are really looking for. The vagueness of job postings leads to a considerable waste of time for applicants and committee members.

Sadly, I suspect that much of the problem lies in committee members with diametrically opposed views of what the ideal candidate would do or be. Again, this is a failing on the hiring end. I know this to have been the case at my doctoral institution, where entrenched tenured faculty held firmly to their own views, at the expense of potential hires, the students who would benefit from fresh blood, and the department which needed to increase its faculty.

Greg said...

That can be true, though in some cases it is even younger faculty disagreeing about what is most desirable.

Either way, incidentally, it is no failing of the candidate. Candidates are "collateral damage" (in the absolutely worst sense of the phrase).

Ahistoricality said...

The greatest challenge is from HR people, who are notoriously unimaginative and humorless about altering procedures. Also, declaring a "failed search" can result in the loss of a position for a department: there's turf battles, etc.....

I don't mean to defend the practice -- you're right that it's inexcusable -- but it's not sheer laziness or cussed stubbornness on the committee's part. Not always, anyway.