Thursday, March 01, 2007

Academic Values -- NOT!

Consider the following scenario: At Slavery U, there is a small Meatheadology program. There is also a rather new program in interdisciplinary Jackass Studies. As Jackass Studies was being established, Meatheadology was given an extra faculty line, in order to help support the new Jackass Studies program.

The history of this new faculty line has been mixed. The original holder of the post simply resigned, due to the various shenanigans at Slavery U. The post was vacant for a while, as various factions tried to capture the position. Eventually, a good person was hired, but they got poached away. The position has been advertised several times, but no candidate has taken the position, largely because of the profound inefficiency of Slavery U. Most reasonable candidates had taken other jobs, by the time the offer was made. This year, the position is being advertised again.

The hiring committee consists of three people. Professor X is a full professor from the Pumpkin Department and is cross-appointed in Jackass Studies. He has served on many Meadheadology committees, including hiring committees, thus he knows what he is talking about. Professor Y is an associate professor who is in Meatheadology and is also cross-appointed in Jackass studies. Professor Z is an assistant professor of Meatheadology. He knows nothing about Jackass Studies. However, professor Z has nonetheless been given 'administrative tenure', due to the fact he is currently in charge of Meatheadology.

Now, also in Meatheadology is a visiting assistant professor, Dr. Omega. He and professor Z are fast friends. Although Dr. Omega is quite good at Meatheadology, he knows nothing about Jackass Studies. However, he likes to claim the he does know something. Dr. Omega also has no publications.

The committee has earnestly been collecting and reviewing applications for the position. Professor Z had already told the Provost that Dr. Omega was the best choice for the position, before the committee actually met to agree a short list. When the committee met, professor Z favored only Dr. Omega, while professors X and Y had deep concerns about Dr. Omega's ignorance of Jackass Studies and lack of publications.

Another candidate caught the attention of some committee members, candidate A. Candidate A is a very strong candidate, with many publications. Candidate A clearly knows both Meatheadology and Jackass Studies. Professor Y made some calls. Candidate A has no job offer currently. Professor Z, during this process sent several e-mails explaining why Dr. Omega could be the only possible candidate.

Eventually, professor X suggested that candidate A be talked to further. If that did not work, then candidate B could be invited for a visit, then a choice could be made. Professor Y voted to support professor X's proposal.

Today we learn that Professor Z will not consider candidate A at all, as he considers this candidate too strong. He also disagrees with the rest of professor X's proposal. He again suggests that Dr. Omega is the only possible candidate. In the meantime, professor Y objected that 'due process' needed to be followed. Finally, professor Z announces that he has made up his mind. Dr. Omega must be the preferred job applicant. He is sorry that there is no consensus among the committee, but this is the only reasonable choice, in his view. Thus, Jackass Studies loses out to Meadheadology, because assistant professor Z is prepared to overrule full professor X and associate professor Y.

It has yet to be seen what will happen up the administrative food chain. However, things do not look good. The Provost seems to have taken a vow of silence. Professor X is none too happy, but feels that he cannot interfere too much in the internal affairs of Meatheadology. The head of Jackass Studies is also annoyed, but also does not want to interfere. Professor Y is as mad as hell, not so much at the outcome -- after all, Dr. Omega is a nice enough fellow, but rather at the total disregard for due process. Naturally, professor Z is happy, as he has hired his friend. Dr. Omega is also happy, he now has a job he does not deserve and is not fully qualified for. Of course, it is possible that the lack of due process may yet prove to be Dr. Omega's undoing with certain external powers, on that we will have to wait and see.

So, if you are applying for an academic position this year and you do not get a position, learn from the way things happen at Slavery U. It may not be your fault.

The CP


Blogger Tenured Radical said...

Oh my god. This sounds awful. We have similar moments at Zenith, although they are usually participated in with zeal by large factions in History, where the least qualified person is chosen for the job because of some entirely irrelevant quality and some of us have to go to war to try prevent a really stupid appointment. Once we had a poorly qualified candidate for a job who had worked for the DEA before going ot grad school and in his talk, people asked him questions like: "Did you like wearing a gun?" He almost got hte job but for last minute maneuvering.

I also am just beginning to think joint appointments are a huge cop-out, and a way for administrators to both save money and preserve a hierarchy where departments are always stable and programs, because all appointments are so contingent, are radically unstable.

Thanks for the advice on the margins, pal.

9:27 PM  

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