June 13, 2013, 1:10 pm
A few years ago I was sitting at a lunch table at a conference, and a gentleman sat down next to me and introduced himself. I replied, “Oh, we’ve met! I interviewed with you for a faculty position about 10 years ago and … ha, ha … you passed me over for another candidate.” The look on the man’s face was priceless, as he ransacked his memory to retrieve my name and tried to apologize for passing me over, all at the same time.
“Oh, what a favor you did me in not hiring me, though!,” I continued with a smile. “I was A.B.D. and gave a terrible interview. I was ill prepared, and the experience helped me to realize that I needed to get my act together the next time I had an interview. I am deeply appreciative of the lessons I learned from the process at your college, which was well run, by the way. They helped me a great deal as my career has progressed.”
He smiled back, and we had a…
June 6, 2013, 3:53 pm
Anyone with common sense knows that on-campus candidates need to be on their best behavior while interviewing. Doing a great teaching demonstration and being able to talk about your research are important, but good manners are expected. The same applies to the tenure process; collegiality is often considered alongside scholarship and teaching.
All too often, however, people forget about the “secret” members of some search and tenure committees—the administrative support staff—or underestimate their importance. The person who makes the travel arrangements for the interview will form an impression of the candidate. Support staffers likewise develop first impressions of new hires when helping newbies with the details of relocating. Even in the process of moving into an office and setting up IT equipment, technical and support staffers can build definite opinions of new colleagues….
May 29, 2013, 1:09 pm
“Jacqueline” was reasonably happy in her tenure-track position and had just passed her midtenure review with glowing evaluations and strong affirmation from her department’s leadership. She found her department’s collegiality quite encouraging and enjoyed a decent quality of life on her solid but not stellar pay.
Heading into Christmas break, she noticed an advertisement for a position in her specialty area at an institution near her family and many of her lifelong friends. The institutional change would be a lateral move, and she would start the tenure process all over, but the quality of life would be significantly better. She realized she was homesick and applied for the position.
To her delight, she ended up with an on-campus interview and felt that she had nailed it. It was hard not to spend her spare time thinking about Sunday dinners with siblings and movie nights out with…
May 21, 2013, 3:17 pm
“Dr. Incredible” announced her retirement with plenty of notice, so the department conducted a national search for a successor throughout the academic year. Her academic specialty was not particularly hard to come by, but she had been a terrific colleague and leader on the campus, a super-professor who was a mentor for dozens of students, led significant committees, and produced serious scholarship. She even had prepared baked goods for Monday mornings and had donated financially to the department to enhance faculty travel and student scholarships.
As the search committee began to review applications, it became clear that none of the candidates were the next Dr. Incredible. They were solid but not spectacular, promising but not omni-capable. Committee members began to believe that there was no way to replicate their about-to-depart colleague and said so publicly in the faculty…
May 1, 2013, 3:41 pm
Academics are notoriously bad at what other professionals call “networking.”
That’s partly because we tend to be loners and introverts by nature. The whole idea behind networking—meeting people just to say that we’ve met them, cultivating relationships based on self-interest rather than on mutual interests, making “contacts” instead of actual friends—is foreign to those of us who have spent our lives in libraries or laboratories, working alone or in small groups.
But we also fail at networking in part because—let’s be honest—we tend to regard the whole business with distaste. Getting to know people just so that one day they can help us out—and then calling on them when we need their help—strikes us as calculating, undignified, perhaps even unethical.
Having spent all our lives in a supposed meritocracy, we prefer to rely on more empirical measures of ability and…
April 26, 2013, 3:02 pm
Nothing in academic hiring incites more controversy and conspiracy theories than the issue of inside candidates, either those who occupy a temporary or interim position that is being replaced by a permanent hire, or those who occupy another slot at the hiring institution and who seek to move into the advertised position. Finally—although this is a somewhat different case—there are the institution’s adjunct faculty members, who may be seeking to be hired for a tenure-track or full-time position.
I come to this discussion with a good bit of experience, both as an inside candidate (once) and as someone who has led searches that included insiders, some of whom obtained the job and some of whom did not. I’ve also at various stages of my career lost out to a couple of inside candidates, and once been hired instead of one, so to some degree I understand many aspects of the predicaments…
April 23, 2013, 2:38 pm
Sarah shared with her doctoral-program mentors the joyous news of her first job offer from a relatively small teaching institution. Several of them said, “What are you countering to their offer?” She was surprised, figuring she should merely be appreciative of the offer itself.
They started peppering her with items she should ask for. Relocation expenses? A research assistant? A library allowance? Travel money? Those were not that surprising as she thought about it, but then they pressed on: a full-time, tenure-track position for her spouse? An interest-free loan for a house or down payment? Deferred compensation? A two-day teaching schedule? As they continued, she expressed her hesitancy that she might overreach and end up undermining the offer, or at least ruin the start of her career. One of the mentors pressed her hard: “Look: they want you; make demands. A good administrator will…
April 22, 2013, 1:28 pm
Friends of mine say that I’m loyal to a fault. They don’t know the half of it. The truth is, I have many faults, and I’m loyal to all of them.
OK, so that’s an old joke. But it helps me introduce a difficult and highly fraught topic: the loyalty that institutions show, or fail to show, to the people who work for them—particularly the part-time faculty.
Several weeks ago, I went to a high-school basketball game in my community. It was Senior Night, the last home game for the host team, when senior players and their families are honored at halftime. Another Senior Night tradition is that the seniors get to start the game—or at least play significant minutes, if there are more than five—even if they haven’t usually logged much playing time.
This team had six seniors, two of whom were regular starters. Two others were in the rotation, meaning that they usually played a good…
April 4, 2013, 1:31 pm
Chronicle readers have such interesting lives, and when one of them wrote to me recently with a subject line that read, “Ethical Dilemma! Can You Help?,” I couldn’t wait to hear more.
The short version of the story went like this: “We have found a perfect candidate. Her qualifications far exceeded any of the competition. Her job talk was riveting. We had her meet with stakeholders all over campus, and after almost every encounter, people wrote notes or whispered various forms of, ‘Where did you find her?,’ and ‘She is clearly the one.‘ There is only one problem; several of us will feel terribly guilty if she comes. Our department is a snake pit, and this woman will come to hate it as much as we do. We need her, but it would be cruel to encourage her to come.”
That is an ethical dilemma. So, what to do?
As we all know, nasty organizations are usually made better only when the…
March 20, 2013, 3:18 pm
This is the time of year when deans and department chairs dread the unexpected request for a meeting with a faculty member about an unspecified topic. A resignation may be coming, and our hearts flutter a bit at the thought of having to scramble to cover classes, conduct a late search, or, worse yet, engage in an uphill battle to fill the position the following year.
I have sat on the listening side of the desk enough to know that while I am sad to lose a colleague and perhaps a dear friend, people who submit a resignation usually do so with a heavy heart. I’ve had only a handful of departures that were purely about salary or teaching load. By far the most common reasons for moving are personal: professional advancement, social opportunities, or family necessities. The latter may involve factors like finding educational services for a special-needs child, caring for an aging parent…