Random Bullets of Academia: Tuesday Edition

March 18, 2014, 12:19 pm

jackofalltradesHistorians – are you sick of  adjuncting? Consider the highly-paid world of finance! In Perspectives on History, Chris McNickle talks about putting his history Ph.D. to use as the global head of institutional business for Fidelity Worldwide Investment. As it turns out, the savvy investor wants to know what things change over time; why bad things happen; and what might happen in the future. Doing this properly all requires research, evidence and argument, not to mention an understanding of the conditions under which the economy has flourished and crashed in the past.

I am really starting to like this monthly feature. It leads by example, and demonstrates a reform that all graduate programs might make without hiring another faculty member or making a single curricular change: just put on your department web page what your non-academic degree holders are doing.

(Adjuncting, by the way, is not a verb that spell check recognizes, and I have had to override “adjunction” several times to make it stick: does that mean it is also not really a job, but a condition?)

Where is it always Queer History Month? At, that’s where!  Currently we are featuring:

  • Karisa Butler-Wall, of the University of Minnesota, on public health pioneer Sara Josephine Baker;
  • A collaborative essay on “Queer Newark” by Rutgers faculty Timothy Stewart-Winter and Whit Strub.

Plus all kinds of other cool stuff: queer birthdays and bios, and research to start a class off on a project. Want to write for us? Let me know:

Planning the history of your department’s future: No one has to look back on a search and say: “Gee — I wonder how we could have done better?” The information is out there if you want it. Here are the AHA Standards of Conduct for employment. Read them and learn. Another thing you might want to do is plan a schedule that gives your candidates the information they need, as well as ample time to prepare for each stage of the process. By doing this, you can not only earn stars in heaven, you can avoid being pilloried on the Internet by angry ex-academic bloggers.  Biggest complaint I hear, this year and every year? The candidate pool not being informed of decisions in a timely way.

Before beginning the search, you should have seven documents ready, which do the following:

  • Letting people know that their applications have been received, but that you are awaiting letters of reference. This letter should also let the candidates know what the prospective search calendar looks like.
  • Letting people know that the entire application is complete;
  • Letting people know they have not made the short-list;
  • Letting people know they have made the shortlist and what you now want from them;
  • Letting people know they are not finalists;
  • Letting people know they are finalists, and putting it in writing what additional materials you need and what they will be asked to do during the interview;
  • Letting people know they did not get the job (a kind person would also let the finalists know that an offer has gone out, and that the department is awaiting a response.) This can be done by phone, which I prefer, but your HR may have a different view of things.
  • Letting the whole pool know who got the job.

Each of these communications should be sent, by email, as soon as you have approval to move on to the next stage. In this day of internet communication, there is really no excuse for people not promptly informing the candidates of all these things. Furthermore, if you write these letters before the search launches, you speed up the process for the candidates.

This leads me to the second biggest complaint: asking candidates to send paper copies of their dossier. I mean, please. Your department could buy each member of the search committee an iPad for the money and time it costs 200-400 people to print and mail dossiers that, depending on the department, range from a letter and a chapter to whole dissertations, syllabi, and articles.

Finally, the third biggest complaint: why ask for letters and writing from everyone? History is one of the few fields that does this: it slows searches down, and is costly for the candidates (yes, Interfolio costs money.) You can make a first cut from a letter and vita alone for many searches, because many of the people who apply will be ruled out for curricular and field reasons. Let’s say you only rule out half the candidates in this way: that could be a couple hundred people whose burden is lightened.

Are you preparing a new cohort for the market next year? A round up of links for job candidates is here.

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