March
25th 2009
Smart Woman, Foolish Interview: Associate Prof. Alice at Blunderland U.

Posted under: jobs, unhappy endings

A very merry un-interviewday to you!

A very merry un-interviewday to you!

In the spirit of letting it all hang out from the point of view of the academic job interviewee, Associate Professor Alice survived her interview at Blunderland University–just barely.  Regrets?  She’s got a few:

I just had to write you in solidarity with Freddie from Ft. Lauderdale.  I don’t care what you call me–just don’t call me unprepared for a job interview, unlike the department that interviewed me for a senior appointment in January.  Since I’m complaining to you–spoiler alert!–you probably have figured out that I didn’t get the job.

The whole search was marred from start to finish by the search chair’s truly breathtaking a$$hattery.  Either he’s suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition, or he deliberately sabotaged the search–I can’t decide which scenario is more plausible.  Maybe your readers can help.  From the first day he called me on the phone, he was like the stereotype of an abusive boyfriend:  he sounded reasonably personable and interested in my application, but then started immediately demanding a commitment:  how serious are you about this job?  Because we’re very serious about you.  Are you in a position to relocate?I was flattered but completely confused–why was I being hounded to offer proof of my commitment to a job I hadn’t even interviewed for?  I sent him an application–I didn’t realize that a blood oath was required at this stage.  I have a new baby, and had to check the interview dates with my partner’s work schedule, so I asked him to get back to me with a list of possible dates. 

A few nights later, he called me and said “Your interview is all set up for X date!”  Shocked, I told him (truthfully) that my partner had a business trip that weekend, and reminded him that I had asked him to run some dates by me before setting anything up.  He responded angrily:  “You told me this date was okay for you!  I set this up with the understanding that your calendar was clear!  I can’t change everything now!”  Instead of saying “clearly, you’ve mistaken me for another candidate.  We never discussed specific dates.  Here are three dates that are good for me,” I meekly apologized and let it drop.  And that was just my first mistake!

It was a bad omen when I arrived at the hotel to check in, and was informed that they didn’t have a reservation for me.  When I called the search chair and the department office trying to clear up this misunderstanding, I was told to just put the room on my credit card and they’d get the charges shifted to their university account later.  After a cross-country flight, I wanted to check in, so I handed over the plastic.  Several members of the department took me out to dinner that night, and they seemed quite comfortable with each other, and were very friendly to me.  That night in the hotel, I reviewed the itinerary for the next day carefully, and thought it was strange that the whole interview–for a tenured professorship–was squeezed into one day, and looked like the generic interview day my department offers to junior people.  No separate interview with the untenured faculty, no interview with the senior faculty–how strange, I thought. 

The next day when I was picked up at the hotel by the search chair, he continued with the abusive boyfriend act.  Upon my prompting, he talked to me endlessly about his own research and several books, but never got around to asking me any questions about my work.  In fact, it felt rather like I was interviewing him–except for the times he lectured me on how I organized my C.V., and that it was inappropriate that I, as a tenured professor, no longer listed all of the adjunct teaching and visiting lectureships I had before taking my Ph.D.  He implied that it looked to him like I was “hiding something.”  (Later when I met with the Chair of the department, I provided him a full list of my adjunct positions, in the interest of full disclosure upon the advice of the search chair.  I played it straight, but I was pleased to see that he rolled his eyes apologetically and said it really wasn’t necessary.)  When we got to the department office, I consulted with the administrative assistant about the hotel reservations and bill, and she apologized for the mix-up, saying “I’m sorry–I was unclear as to what the exact dates for your interview were.”  You and me both, sister.

The whole interview day I felt like Alice in Wonderland–specifically, the scene at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in which Alice is invited to have some wine, and then is scolded for sitting down at the tea table without a proper invitation.  It was like that all day long.  I had several nice conversations with people, many of whom seemed perfectly pleasant, but they didn’t act like they were interviewing me for a job.  They seemed to know it wasn’t a real interview, but for some reason they weren’t allowed to let me in on their secret, and I had to go along pretending like I was on a job interview.  I got the odd feeling that people recognized that the search chair had screwed up big time, and that people were shunning me in an attempt to distance themselves from him.  (Me, lumped with that guy like I’m his special pick?  That added insult to injury!)  Maybe I’m just projecting.

When it came to the research talk, I felt like I did well–at least, I thought, no one could fault me for being unprepared.  All I got was some limp applause.  I looked around the room–no questions, apparently–and this was a department at a prominent state institution with a Ph.D. program?  Finally, one faculty member spoke up to ask a question–which he could have answered himself with a cursory glance at my C.V. and application letter, and which moreover indicated a great deal of hostility to my chosen fields of specialization which, interestingly, were the exact fields specified in the job description.  (Did I really need to back up and explain that they invited me to campus?)  A few graduate students asked a few reasonable graduate-studenty questions, and then I was whisked off for a 5 p.m. interview with the Dean.  At exactly 5:50 p.m., I was kicked to the curb at my hotel, without so much as a coupon for the IHOP down the street.  Not that at that point I really wanted to spend any more time with those people–but I felt dirty.  Really dirty.  Oh–and last month as I reviewed my credit card statement, I saw that I got stuck with the full bill for the hotel.  Nice touch.  Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that the search failed.

I will keep this interview in mind when my department invites job candidates to campus.  All I can think is that the department was deeply conflicted about this search from the start–clearly, they shouldn’t have bothered to do the search at all.  The one major lesson that I hope I’ve learned is to stand up for myself better.  If someone is rude and isn’t making any sense–it’s OK to tell him that the conversation is over.  Nothing good will come of it if you indicate that it’s acceptable for people to treat you the way I was treated by this search chair and this department.  I cringe when I think about how I apologized and felt bad about their inconsideration towards me.  How I wish I had just asked them why they bothered to fly me across the country to be treated like this!  The other lesson I learned is that nobody reads anything you send–not even the first page of your C.V.  I spent more time reading the books and articles and researching the careers of the search committee members than anyone in the interviewing department spent reading my application materials and book. 

Interviewing–if you do it right–is time-consuming hard work.  My mistake was in thinking that everyone approached it that way.  I should have stayed home to work on my sure-to-be prizewinning next book, instead.

My, my, my:  two stories, two days in a row.  What are the chances?  Of all the luck!  It’s interesting once again that metaphors from romance–or, rather, romances gone bad–that come to mind so easily as Freddie (bad blind date) and Alice (search chair as abusive boyfriend) tell their stories. 

Are there really departments that don’t actually want to hire anyone?  What a waste of time and money–it seems like an expensive and not-very-fun habit.  I’ve heard about seriously dysfunctional departments that deliberately sabotage searches–have any of you visited or been a part of departments like this?  Why do they do that?  What’s your analysis?  As another Alice–Alice Roosevelt Longworth–used to say, “if you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”

38 Comments »

38 Responses to “Smart Woman, Foolish Interview: Associate Prof. Alice at Blunderland U.”

  1. Amy on 25 Mar 2009 at 8:23 am #

    I once interviewed for a job at Wesleyan and went to the campus for an interview. I wasn’t on the short list. I lived in the area, sort of, so they had me come to campus. The person interviewing me and I talked for awhile then he asked me if I had any distractions. I didn’t know what he was talking about so I answered that I was working full time on finishing my dissertation. After the interview when I told my husband what the interviewer had asked he said that the person was asking if I was pregnant.
    If it makes anyone feel better bad things also happen with job searches in other occupations. As a nurse I have had some of those experiences also. I think the academic job search seems worse because,at least when I was doing it, there were relatively few opportunities and a long process and wait.

  2. The History Enthusiast on 25 Mar 2009 at 8:55 am #

    At my uni we had a series of seminars about how to head out on the job market (improving your CV, writing cover letters, etc.). During one of our conversations a tenured faculty member who was leading the meeting said: “Think of this like a blind date. You are trying to get a sense of who they are, they are trying to find out who you are, and like many blind dates some job positions just aren’t right for you. It doesn’t mean you should stop ‘dating,’ or think that you’re a failure. It just means that chemistry wasn’t there. And when there IS chemistry, you’ll know it (wink wink).”

    Her description was much more humorous, but you get the drift. I thought of this when you mentioned all the allusions to abusive boyfriends and whatnot.

    The thing that sucks for me is that I really and truly hate going on actual blind dates, so this whole job market thing is wigging me out just a little. I so hope that I don’t have to deal with these horror stories I’ve been hearing the last couple of days.

  3. Professor Zero on 25 Mar 2009 at 9:37 am #

    I’ve been on interviews like that, although not as directly abusive. There’s a big difference when the department isn’t confused/conflicted, and also when they haven’t already ranked the candidates and put you second or third. I’ve heard a lot of stories like this and I’ve been on search committees where the search chair acted like this, and in searching departments where the chair acted like this.

    The dating/marriage analogies always work. I always thought it was because marriage was a business partnership and university departments are like families. Now reading this post I realize that it is also about men who think of women as sex objects and/or as abusable — you can compare it to dating because they treat it that way.

    In my favorite interviewing event, years ago, the candidate to whom we ultimately offered the job was someone I’d met in graduate school. I never knew her well but I did know she tended to gain weight fall and winter quarter. At the beginning of spring she was about 10 pounds heavier she had been in the early fall, then she’d slim down over spring and summer. It wasn’t that much weight and I was so used to it that I didn’t notice that in the four months which had passed between our interview of her at the convention and on campus, she’d put on the 10 pounds, as she always did during those months.

    A colleague from women’s studies (no less) thought she might be pregnant and mentioned it to her most favoritest friend, the very patriarchal search committee chair. She didn’t realize what he’d do, being in love with candidate #2 as he was (had gotten a thing for her at the interview).

    He was the best published person in the dept. and thought he could do anything. So he sent a memo to the dean saying the dept. had made a huge mistake offering the job to a pregnant candidate. He knew, said he, that her husband, a tenured faculty member elsewhere, would never let her move in her pregnant condition, especially since her husband was foreign and you know how controlling their are of their wives. He begged the dean to override the decision and hire candidate #2.

    The dean put a post-it on this memo and sent it to the department chair. The post-it said, “please control your faculty.”

    *

    I told the woman who had spread the pregnancy rumor that she had to stop doing that kind of thing, esp. stop sabotaging women, esp. if she wanted to be a feminist. She said she could never have imagined her friend would use her casual remark as he had. I said having made the remark in the first place was unfeminist and unprofessional. She cried. I realized feminism in women’s studies was about what one published, not about how one acted in real life, and soon quit that faculty.

  4. Professor Zero on 25 Mar 2009 at 9:47 am #

    EPILOGUE

    The candidate did not accept our offer because she got a really, really fancy offer. Not pregnant, she moved alone to that job and has had a commuter marriage since that day. It has been many years, but both her job and her husband’s are cushy, and on quarters, so they have lots of little sabbaticals and ways to move teaching around / ways to do teaching exchanges, so as to spend time together.

    We hired candidate #2 because candidate #1 turned us down. The man in love with her told her I was her enemy, and she believed him. I understood why she was so snippy and ironic to me all the time when I discovered what he had said.

    One of the instructors who had his own reasons to dislike the man in love imported a witch from Venezuela to cast a spell on him (spells work best cast on site). She cast a spell on him to get a very attractive job offer elsewhere. He soon did, and he took it.

    I just googled him and he has yet another fancy job and a very, very impressive c.v. I guess you can do that if you are raised to be a king and treated like a king, and you are the harasser not the harassee.

  5. Professor Zero on 25 Mar 2009 at 9:53 am #

    P.S. Just so you know: the woman told to stop making unwise remarks that could sabotage women’s candidacies, and who cried, was senior to me and I was untenured. So no, I was not abusing junior women, and I didn’t put my message in a mean way *at all.*

  6. Historiann on 25 Mar 2009 at 10:13 am #

    It’s interesting the role that pregnancy (or suspicions of pregnancy) play in the stories that both Amy and Prof. Zero relate here. Do you think that Alice was dissed because she had a new baby and asked for consideration when scheduling the interview? Was it a mistake to bring up family issues at all, one way or the other? (Presumably, there are lots of other reasons that Alice wouldn’t have been available for any given day or range of dates–conferences, visitors to her campus, etc.)

    I hadn’t thought that Alice’s new motherhood would have been a reason to treat her badly, but I’ve come to realize that my experience with pregnant and/or nursing job candidates has been that it’s not a big deal in my department. (One of our most successful hires interviewed here when her baby was 1 month old, so we flew her husband and baby out with her to make it easier for her to nurse and interview. It worked!)

  7. GayProf on 25 Mar 2009 at 10:14 am #

    All these terrible stories! Maybe I should have gone to work for AIG. . .

    Once again, this story included a search committee who didn’t bother to do the work of reading the files. This is just mysterious to me. If you want a colleague that you can interact with, wouldn’t you want to know their work? This seems especially important if it is a contentious search.

    And what is it like a for a faculty member who is hired by a search committee who didn’t bother reading their work? It seems like no fun at all to end up in a department where nobody knows the first thing about your actual research.

  8. susurro on 25 Mar 2009 at 10:52 am #

    This sounds so frighteningly similar to an interview I did that I had to re-read the part that indicates this search was this year so I know it isn’t the same folks . . .

    We had a search under a dysfunctional Chair at Pov U, worse, it was at a time that the admin assistant was also having a breakdown and the grad students in the joint department (who taught 98% of the courses and do 1/3-1/2 of the admin duties there) had started a coup and the person being replaced was much loved by many and had been intentionally shoved out. I pitied every single one of those candidates as none of them got proper itineraries, 1/2 the faculty boycotted their talks in protest, people actively bad mouthed each other during the meals, and almost everyone lied about the campus climate. It gets worse but seems too specific for a blog comment . . . Needless to say, the only reason we hired anyone is because the chair was making sure she did not get grief about losing a line should the outgoing colleague leave and no incoming colleague be there to replace her. Tho the person hired has shinned, especially under new leadership, a lot of the dysfunction of that search continues to mar the way people react to her.

    Ultimately, I agree with Gay Prof that basic things would fix many of the problems. And I also agree with your comment, Historiann, in the previous thread, that most people really do want candidates to succeed. But, having experienced interviews I would liken to being left alone with Chris Brown (I still actually shudder and reach for the hand of the nearest colleague when a certain person who terrorized me walks by at conferences after having actively avoided research in that field for years b/c the thought of being anywhere near him gave me panic attacks and flashbacks – literally) or stuck at someone else’s dysfunctional family holiday gathering, I do think we need to be better about standardizing interviews, circulating ethical guidelines, and holding people accountable.

    When I listen to the stories of grads of color on the market at the workshops we do, sometimes I really question what I am doing mentor queer students and students of color instead of encouraging them to take their brilliant minds out into the real world where they have legal recourse. I know that will probably invite backlash here, but honestly, there are somethings that really aren’t ok and they are happening way too often as the market goes south and everybody gets a little desperate.

  9. JJO on 25 Mar 2009 at 10:59 am #

    Like GayProf, I read this stuff and wonder how it can happen. It’s just so self-destructive and wasteful for departments.

    Because I’m now pretty solidly on the interviewer side rather than interviewee side, I often try to reconstruct these scenarios to try to have them make more sense: maybe innocent oversights or policies that have good rationales from one perspective might seem ridiculous, arbitrary, or personal to anxious job seekers — but almost every aspect of these stories is so bad that they can’t even approach being explained that way. And there are departments at my university (not mine, thankfully) from which I’ve heard some stories that are equally inappropriate, if perhaps in a less charged way (the best is a candidate being roped into helping a faculty member move).

    I haven’t experienced anything like this from either side of the process, but it’s good to have these horror stories out there because (beyond the enjoyable, gossipy horror of it all) they’re important reminders to people in functional departments of how bad things can get and how important it is to take an active role in making sure that the organization and conduct of campus visits is smooth, respectful, and fair for the candidates.

  10. Indyanna on 25 Mar 2009 at 11:40 am #

    On the in-the-family-way subpart of this thread: The guy who I almost dumped onto the asphalt in yesterday’s comment on the Freddie campus-visit thread had two weeks earlier stepped into our interview “tent” at the AHA in Chicago. The first thing he said was “man, I’ll be glad when this convention is over. I really want to get back home to see my brand new bambino in [where he was finishing grad. school].” We were totally charmed; here was a guy who was going to balance family involvement with work intensity. He also said lots of smart stuff about the field in question and research and teaching, and–having survived my icy driving–he got the job. The bambino is now in kid soccer leagues around here and, when we’re not kidding the guy about the frozen car doors, we’re kidding him about acing the interview in the billowy tent. Now I wonder, would a women candidate who led off a harried convention interview with the same strategic move have done as well? I don’t know the answer to that hypothetical Q. [I do bet/hope she would have said I'm not riding around in an effing car with a effing door that won't lock!!]

  11. Historiann on 25 Mar 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    Indyanna–that’s exactly my sense. Men who talk about their families and how much they love their kids get brownie points, but I suspect that women who do that are assumed not to be serious about their jobs or judged as not having the right priorities. Alice should not have been as honest with this search chair as she was–but then again, it doesn’t sound like he would have been a reasonable person even if he knew nothing about her.

  12. onebadbint on 25 Mar 2009 at 12:14 pm #

    I think we all know the answer to that question, Indyanna! I don’t mention my own children while interviewing, natch, but was still told by a search chair this year — who had specifically solicited my application! — that s/he couldn’t hire me because I was married and they “couldn’t take the risk.” It never occurred to me that taking the ring off would have been a good idea.

  13. Historiann on 25 Mar 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    onebad–how depressing. Every time I talk to people in the second-wave generation of women historians (now in their 50s and 60s) they are just amazed that younger women are still hearing these things. I actually think it’s gotten worse–it seemed like the cloud was lifting in the 1990s, but it might just be that I was in my 20s then and was much more naive (and didn’t enter the tenure-track workforce until the late 1990s myself.)

    I wonder if Alice thought–quite reasonably in my opinion–that she should be up front about her personal life, since it was a search for a senior person. In my experience, departments want to know what concerns a candidate like that might have from the start–unlike candidates for junior positions, who aren’t in a strong bargaining position usually because most of them are unemployed to start with.

    The sad lesson that seems to be emerging here today is that women should shut the hell up about anything having to do with their personal lives. (Oh, but then they won’t get hired because of anti-gay bias. Clearly, there’s no way to perform gender successfully–we’ll either be thought of as too femmy and mommy-oriented, or we’ll be thought of as too serious, too cold, and/or too lesbian.

  14. Rose on 25 Mar 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    Is it wrong that I derive so much enjoyment from reading these stories? It’s not schadenfreude–rather, a perverse delight in seeing just how badly some of these institutions that should know better f**k up.

    Alice should really demand to be reimbursed for the hotel expenses, though. I’d bypass the Department entirely and go directly to the Dean or the Bursar with the request. A horror story like this shouldn’t cost her money on top of the wasted time.

  15. Emma on 25 Mar 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    I realized feminism in women’s studies was about what one published, not about how one acted in real life, and soon quit that faculty.

    And how many of you turned the actual discriminator in to the appropriate authorities/HR on campus so that his conduct would be appropriately addressed, a record made, and thus possibly forestalled from happening again? I bet none of you.

    So don’t throw stones because not turning him in, and not telling the woman he went after, wasn’t particularly “feminist” either, just FYI.

  16. Emma on 25 Mar 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    I just googled him and he has yet another fancy job and a very, very impressive c.v. I guess you can do that if you are raised to be a king and treated like a king, and you are the harasser not the harassee.

    And if nobody ever turns you in. It seems to me that going after the woman in this situation was the safer, less effective, and more anti-woman choice in this particular case.

    I’ve represented enough women who’ve been discriminated against to know that the discriminators usually have histories of discriminatory behavior. Academia is legendary for this type of cover up which is why very few lawyers represent women academics who are discriminated against. The hiring/tenure decisions are protected by a particular subset of case law, but more importantly academia is perfect for covering up discrimination and passing along the harasser to somebody else. Congratulations for being part of the problem.

  17. Historiann on 25 Mar 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    Emma–you don’t know the exact circumstances surrounding any of these anecdotes. Furthermore, as someone who fought against a hostile work climate in a bad job for four years, I can tell you that reporting instances is likelier to lead to retaliation against the reporter than it is to a fat file that’s of use to attorneys in a discrimination suit. I believe that we have to respect people’s judgment in these cases–you don’t know how badly people need their jobs, or what their work climate is like.

    Furthermore, when you say things like “congratulations for being part of the problem,” it doesn’t sound like you’re really interested in having a conversation. You can disagree with people’s conduct, but don’t be insulting.

  18. anon on 25 Mar 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    this whole thing is really triggering. I don’t think I’ll be lurking here for a long while.

  19. Indyanna on 25 Mar 2009 at 5:30 pm #

    Yeah, I think you really do need to do more than just blow the whistle on a blog if the behavior goes beyond oafishness to harrassment, or telling somebody they won’t be hired for a prohibited reason. (Easy to say, I know). I’d be interested to hear about this “subset of caselaw,” though. I’m not a lawyer, but I know that back in the 1970s, at Ben Franklin’s University in Philadelphia, there were several huge sex discrimination in tenuring cases in the English Department. They didn’t involve harrassment (or maybe they did) so much as the old boyz informally deciding there were different standards for tenure depending on your sex. (Getting a big prestigious named teaching award was a definite kiss of death, and the award has long since been moved to post-tenure eligibility only). But I seem to remember that the young female assistant professors fought back in a couple of cases and they won. And have since gone on to have very distinguished careers. Maybe I’m misremembering some of this, but not all, I think. **

    The academy, along with its auxilliary apparats in the professional associations, is pretty complicit with varying kinds of discrimination. The AHA a decade ago announced that it had found “disturbing evidence” of age discrimination in hiring. It issued an earnest condemnation of the practice, later “folded” that measure into a more general statement against all kinds of discrimination, then recently brought the age issue “temporarily out of retirement” (you couldn’t make this stuff up) to issue another sober no-no, then presumably pensioned it out to the golf course again. This’ll stop the noisome thing in its tracks, I’m sure!

    ** There were also one or more discrimination-in-tenure cases in BFU’s prestigious War-Town Business School, which may have involved claims of sex-and-ethnicity discrimination. And the university claimed in filings that the courts couldn’t intrude in sacred academic decisionmaking, but the latter claims were rejected with what seemed to be derision on the part of the courts. Maybe all this case law got overturned in the Reagan years.

  20. Rad Readr on 25 Mar 2009 at 11:56 pm #

    The scariest part of these case studies and the various comments is Indyanna’s reference to the car door being frozen shut. Sends shivers down my tropical spine. Stay warm, Indy!!

  21. Nikki on 26 Mar 2009 at 6:27 am #

    I can’t believe no one has commented on the efficacy of the witch doctor’s spell! It seems that this may be the key to academic success…;-)

  22. Emma on 26 Mar 2009 at 8:49 am #

    I believe that we have to respect people’s judgment in these cases–you don’t know how badly people need their jobs, or what their work climate is like.

    So explain to me, please, how attacking the woman for “spreading the rumor” about pregnancy was better or more okay than reporting the actual discriminator in this case? It seems to me that you’re holding a woman responsible for the bad behavior of the harasser/discriminator. You don’t know how badly she needed her job or what her work climate was like or whatever else you believe is relevant here. Rather, you went after her personally and then attacked her on a public blog, meanwhile in both instances letting the harasser off scot-free. Because him being passed on to another institution by use of a ‘voo-doo’ spell? Not really the answer.

    Furthermore, when you say things like “congratulations for being part of the problem,” it doesn’t sound like you’re really interested in having a conversation. You can disagree with people’s conduct, but don’t be insulting.

    You were pretty insulting toward the woman you blamed for the man’s behavior. It didn’t seem to me like you wanted to “have a conversation” with her about anything. So, no, I’m not sure I want to have a conversation wherein you justify your, IMO, bad behavior and blanket condemnation of women’s studies professors as a way of letting an actual harasser a) completely off the hook and b) free to continuing his harassment elsewhere as long as it doesn’t affect you.

    I’m well familiar with the results of reporting harassment. And if women choose not to do that, I can certainly understand it and it’s not my call. But you felt it necessary to privately and publicly hold another woman responsible for a harasser’s actions and celebrate the fact that he’s now another woman’s problem to deal with. I don’t think that’s okay.

  23. Emma on 26 Mar 2009 at 8:56 am #

    I’d be interested to hear about this “subset of caselaw,” though.

    Yes, it’s the “courts can’t intrude in the sacred academic decisionmaking”. I mean, yes, courts can, there is a remedy for sex discrimination in academia. But tenure decisions are very difficult to litigate, in my understanding, because there is a real institutional aversion to cracking open that tenure decision which depends on so many “subjective” factors. And I would venture that record keeping about hires is not particularly good in terms of the decision, because it’s made in committee meetings and funnily enough nobody ever remembers anything bad happening in those.

    In fact, the memo about “we can’t hire pregnant women” and “we can’t hire people married to foreigners” is probably one of the few types of evidence that courts will understand as clear evidence of discriminatory intent. But then, if I was the University, I’d just argue that the guy had no influence on the hiring decision and, again, it’s very hard to crack open that decision.

  24. Historiann on 26 Mar 2009 at 8:59 am #

    Emma–who is this “you” you are attacking? I never said any of the things you relate. The story that has set you off was a comment from a commenter. Please direct your comments to the commenter in a civil fashion, and not to me.

    Is it really that hard to see which comments are mine, and which were made by someone else?

  25. Emma on 26 Mar 2009 at 9:40 am #

    My sincere apologies. You’re right, I did respond to you as if you were Prof. Zero. I don’t know why I made that mistake. Please feel free to delete the comment, both for my mistake and my tone.

    It’s true I don’t know all of the circumstances. OTOH, Prof. Zero’s post and described behavior, IMO, clearly placed the blame for the man’s harassing and discriminatory behavior on another woman. That’s not okay. It does not address the actual problem, it attacks another woman for something she did not do, and it allows blanket statements dissing “women’s studies professors” as anti-feminist to go unremarked and unchallenged and sit there as if they are true.

  26. Historiann on 26 Mar 2009 at 10:01 am #

    Emma, thanks for your comment above. Prof. Zero can speak for herself, but I will say that while most women’s studies faculty are wonderful and supportive of women colleagues, they aren’t always in every case. There have been recent high-profile cases in which feminist scholars of color in particular have had difficulty winning tenure in women’s studies departments, and I also know of another WS program (not at my university) in which the chair was aggressively anti-natalist. (As in, there’s only one particular sex/gender performance that’s feminist, and being a married breeder ain’t it.)

    I think most commenters here believe that Women’s Studies departments and programs are important spaces that nurture and support feminist scholarship, but we also recognize that there are individuals whose behavior may be less than ideal.

  27. Professor Zero on 28 Mar 2009 at 9:18 am #

    Emma, I am the whistleblower, and I am the one that lost my job, so get off my case.

  28. Emma on 28 Mar 2009 at 9:56 am #

    I apologize for the tone of my posts. It was uncalled for especially on this blog which has a very high level of discussion and thoughtfulness on the part of both the blogger and the commenters. In calmer retrospect, I believe that my posting was not in line with the standards set for this blog.

    If you did indeed blow the whistle on this guy and his discrimination, I withdraw all comments that say or imply otherwise and apologize for making them. And I thank you for taking the risk to blow the whistle because I do know that it is a risk. If you did indeed get fired or constructively discharged for blowing the whistle on this guy and his discrimination, I’m very sorry for you and anybody else affected by you standing up for women and for what’s right. And I hope you talked to a lawyer to find out what your rights were in that situation and that the lawyer was a help to you. Good luck to you in future.

  29. Emma on 28 Mar 2009 at 9:58 am #

    And, Historiann, your last post is quite right, thanks for the thoughtful response to a not-very-thoughtful series of comments by me.

  30. Professor Zero on 28 Mar 2009 at 10:06 am #

    And OH GOD, Emma. Stop preaching as though you knew the real situation and how these things work. You are interpreting very heavily, and inventing a whole lot of context and information you do not know.

    “So explain to me, please, how attacking the woman for ‘spreading the rumor’ about pregnancy was better or more okay than reporting the actual discriminator in this case?”

    This was in a conversation caucusing on how to prevent sabotage of the next female job candidate. The harrasser had already outed himself and been dealt with by the dean and chair.

    I was sweet to her. She cried so as to disarm me but also because she was in love with the man and they were both married to other people. It was very hard for her to see that he was willing to do what he had done and that he had developed this crush on job candidate #2. Those were the main things. SHE THEN SAID: look, you’re right, we have to watch this, I’m sorry I cried, it was manipulative.

    I quit that Women’s Studies faculty for lots of reasons and because of lots of incidents. Mainly because it was so white oriented but for lots and lots of reasons.

    I’m in a hurry and not explaining the whole thing, because it would take a year. But:

    (a) my objecting to that is not a direct reason why I lost the job, although it did let the administration know I was a person who would be a whistleblower, which marked me quite a lot.

    (b) I was rather shocked that feminist faculty didn’t “get” the gender harassment situation / would not come forward, but I was younger then than I am now and more shockable, had not seen so much inequity yet.

    (c) my conversation with that female colleague was about how to not let this kind of thing happen again, how to not say things that can be used by this kind of enemy.

    Most importantly, Emma, have you ever actually reported anything? Do you know what it is like, all the things that happen when you do? Do you fully understand, have you taken that risk, and dealt with the consequences of losing? Because I have, and in a situation more serious than this one, and later in life. I am still paying for it and the harrasser is still in place.

    There was no way not to report it because it was a safety issue and someone could have died. To that extent I won … the issue was dealt with. But the person is still there and being promoted, and I am maligned and not being promoted, and so there you are.

    If you believe that reporting things makes the bogeymen go away, then you believe that the institution is benevolent. That is NOT how things are, and people make changes by suing and fighting, not by “reporting.” And that is why you have to pick your battles, and not whip every inequity / weirdness over job candidate, etc., into WWIII.

  31. Professor Zero on 28 Mar 2009 at 11:54 am #

    Back to the other topic, though, on the women / families / pregnancy / job interviews:

    The drill I was taught was, hide your marriage and children if you have them because you will never be taken seriously if it is known you have them.

    That was because male professors, who were 90% of the full professors, all believed that women with husbands will not leave where they are because they will not uproot the husband, and women with children will not publish. So, the logic went, if you try to hire a family woman you will be wasting your time, and if you do for some reason hire one, your next step will have to be to deny her tenure. Therefore, hire a man or a confirmed spinster.

    I was told this and events always reconfirmed its truth. I notice however that things have changed. Now they LIKE family women. I could say more in more detail but I have to go so I will be telegraphic & get misinterpreted, or scandalize people.

    What I observe: they like knowing who you are sleeping with and that this person is respectable. They do not like not knowing. When I was still following the rules I had been taught and being extremely tight lipped they decided (a) that the reason I was living far away was because I had a boyfriend who was a professor in a university in that town, and/or (b) I was a lesbian and that was why I was not discussing men. Either way, they had to make up an explanation so they could Know.

    My eccentric theory is that this is why they now love married women, because they can Know (and thus feel they are policing sexuality and so on).

  32. Emma on 28 Mar 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    Most importantly, Emma, have you ever actually reported anything? Do you know what it is like, all the things that happen when you do? Do you fully understand, have you taken that risk, and dealt with the consequences of losing?

    Yes. And, in fact, my career path has been dictated by a commitment to work on behalf of whistleblowers and people who have been discriminated against. And it’s meant a lot of different things for my life, both good and bad. The jury isn’t quite yet in on the balance of it, though.

    Because I have, and in a situation more serious than this one, and later in life. I am still paying for it and the harrasser is still in place.

    Good for you and I’m sorry. Again, all I can offer is the advice to see a lawyer and determine what your rights are in this, or any similar, case.

  33. Contract Medievalist on 31 Mar 2009 at 5:02 am #

    Sometimes being *single* is a detriment. I interviewed at one school (Big LIberal Arts School in Tiny Town), and nearly every one of the interviewers worried that without a husband I would find life in Tiny Town incredibly dull, and would not find a partner there. I got the job, but then endured several years of watching all the faculty members with children leave meetings early while I was expected to stay as “I had nothing else to do,” of being told that married couples but ESPECIALLY singles should really be “married to the college,” and of never daring to talk about any non-historical activities — children and family were the only types of “lives” that were acceptable. Anything else was evidence of having a light mind and a lack of committment to the discipline. Whem I left, no fewer than ten of my colleagues expressed the sentiment that it was all for the best, as now I would be moving to a large city where I could find a partner.

    We still have SO much work to do!

  34. Historiann on 31 Mar 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Contract Medievalist–yes, anything at all can be held against women job candidates! Here are a few of my favorites:

    A male job candidate is confident and articulate, but a women candidate is overbearing and aggressive, and who the hell does she think she is, anyway?

    A male job candidate is shy and soft-spoken which means he’s appealingly modest, but a female candidate is mousy and we have doubts about her ability to manage a classroom.

    A male job candidate doesn’t seem to know much about our campus or department, which must mean he’s a really hot prospect and must have lots of other great interviews lined up, but a female candidate is just unprepared.

    A male job candidate has done a lot of research on our campus and department, which means he has prepared well and must really want the job, but a female candidate is trying to hard because she must be desperate–kind of pathetic, really.

    A male job candidate defends his ideas in a Q and A session, which means that he’s really knowledgeable and intellectually self-confident, whereas a female candidate is strident and defensive.

    I could go on, but I think you get the point.

  35. Contract Medievalist on 31 Mar 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    Most assuredly I do! And as we all know it doesn’t stop with the interview. Nor is it limited to academe, though it is perhaps very noticeable there both because of the attention paid to “fit” (which is important) and the (usually unvoiced) quixotic idea that because we articulate these concerns in our work and in the classroom that somehow these will translate to real life …

    Sigh. At least where I am now the men don’t congregate in the halls, coyly make “innocent” comments, and then ask, in the most exaggerated fashion possible, if they can say that any longer.

    Sometimes I want to beat my head against the wall, except that it’s an appalling waste of a head and not a good use of the wall. In tonight’s class one woman told me seriously that she wasn’t equal to her husband or to any man; her pastor told her so … and two other women NODDED. Please. Do not get me started! (Thankfully the other women in the class jumped in, and we actually wound up with a fairly fruitful discussion.)

  36. Professor Zero on 15 Apr 2009 at 2:45 am #

    Contract medievalist — my experience exactly — ALL of it.

  37. Why not start at the top? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 14 Aug 2009 at 6:54 am #

    [...] them!  What an unusual strategy for women job candidates–regular readers will recall Associate Professor Alice’s Adventures at Blunderland U. on a misbegotten interview.  Because these are women who have successful careers at their former [...]

  38. Comrade PhysioProf on 15 Aug 2009 at 11:12 am #

    Sorry I’m late to the party. In my experience, the main reason this kind of thing happens is that there are factions within a department, who have different goals for a search. One faction may have enough power to get someone invited to interview, but they do not have enough power to actually give them a fighting chance to be hired. And the other faction(s), of course, do everything they can to make the unfavored candidate feel as miserable as possible and come across as poorly as possible, to ensure that there is no chance of the person being hired.

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