Comments on: Hey, philosophers: buy your own damn keg History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:08:09 +0000 hourly 1 By: Indyanna Thu, 05 Jan 2012 19:09:52 +0000 @AHA Veteran: But, in fact, the “old guard”–depending on how defined–*didn’t* go through the conference interview process. It was the middle guard (since the decimated job market faintly revived in about 1985) that went through that process. Because until about 1978 there were no advertised jobs, and even when they began advertising them there were still basically no jobs to advertise. Historiann’s chronology is quite accurate. I’ll be glad to send her the detailed handout that my entering cohort got in the early 1970s about how to “look” for a job–which wouldn’t have involved a whole lot of looking had the market not imploded the next year–if she wants to print any of it on-blog.

And Historiann, your advisor is actually in print as having conditioned his willingness to make that trip east from Michigan on being allowed to continue to teach early modern English History along with early American!

The convention search, cattle call and all, and painful as it is, was a by-product of the democratization of academic governance after the 1960s rebellions, the rebellion against departmental patriarchs, and it did contribute greatly to the diversification of academia. But there’s no “ancient constitutions” guarantee that any of that system will endure if the zoo-like aspects overwhelm the deliberative aspects.

By: J. Otto Pohl Thu, 05 Jan 2012 12:43:44 +0000 I think the conference interview is ridiculous. I got invited to one once. It was for the University of the South at the MESA conference in DC. But, I was living in Bishkek at the time and could not afford to blow $2000 on plane ticket on the slim hope that I would get a job. In the corporate world the company will usually pay for transportation and accommodations for the interviewee. If they don’t then they probably don’t want you enough to justify the time and expense. The same thing should be true with universities. If they want to interview you in person they should pay your way. The only in person interview I have done for an academic position was the one I did for getting my permanent contract at UG. But, since I had already working at UG for eight months I don’t think it was really necessary. The Head of the History Department was quite familiar with my work by then. The process struck me as one of the many colonial holdovers still haunting the university.

By: Katrina Thu, 05 Jan 2012 03:35:32 +0000 The APA smoker sounds pretty tedious. But I don’t understand the attitude that running into other job candidates is such a bad thing. I mean, surely anyone being interviewed knows they’re not the only one!
As another commenter mentioned, meeting the other candidates is common in the UK, and generally they are very supportive of one another. After all, these are other scholars in your subfield: if you don’t know them already, chances are you’ll run into them at some point. Why not have a collegial chat?
Actually, I think the extreme of paranoia that seems to afflict the academic job search in North America (in history, at least) is corrosive. Job candidates are much more freaked out, and it’s not very healthy. People are unwilling to mention where they have interviews like it’s some state secret: I honestly don’t get it. Knowing who the other candidates are (and who gets the job in the end) can be demystifying – and the history job market needs more demystification, not black box craziness and smoke machines and “oh my god you might SEE another candidate!”.

By: Susan Thu, 05 Jan 2012 02:36:29 +0000 When I was not really on the job market, there was a job at fancy pants U. I was at the AHA (my mother then lived in the city it was in) and my advisor introduced me to the chair of the search, and took me to the smoker for fancy pants (where he had lots of friends). It was weird. (I didn’t get the job, but since it was really a year before I expected to be on the market…)

My worst convention experience was when I was kept waiting about 15 minutes in the hall by a search committee that wanted to give the previous candidate who had come from the UK a chance to make HIS case. No need for me to make mine, eh?

When I do conference interviews now, we plan 15 minutes between them, and even if we go over 5 minutes, we all have a chance to run to the bathroom and whatever else.

By: AHA veteran Wed, 04 Jan 2012 19:32:39 +0000 The AHA is academic hazing, pure and simple. Just like the oral dissertation defense. The old guard went through it, so you will too. It’s an excuse for proffies to go to fabulous cities on the college’s dime, and eat out at fabulous restaurants. It is very clique-ish. I enjoyed Chicago in January 2000, had 2 interviews, very proud of myself, didn’t get either one, spiralled into despair, but then I got a CC job that summer and I’ve been here ever since. Good luck to all history peeps.

By: Sisyphus Wed, 04 Jan 2012 19:30:28 +0000 Off topic, but the NYT has an article on teaching and technology in Idaho:

I was going to say it was a good article, but it actually doesn’t do enough to show why that one teacher’s point about learning is spot on — she’s relegated to the second page after a pointless first page of “whether teachers are republicans or democrats.”

By: Matt_L Wed, 04 Jan 2012 18:27:30 +0000 gagh. I hate the AHA Interviews, but mainly because I never had anything come of them. And I had to waste four days in January for four years in a row, plus plane tickets, hotels,etc. A waste of time and money.

The interviews were all uncomfortable, a waste of mine time and the committee’s energy. And yes, I did meet the other interviewees in the hall after finishing up. Better than the pit interviews though. I remember walking into the men’s room after one of those and slipping on vomit.

Its hard for me to come around to the idea of the AHA as being “a good time.”

By: Dr. Crazy Wed, 04 Jan 2012 18:19:27 +0000 H’Ann,
I think that you might be right if/when Skype were to reach critical mass, although… well, I suspect that the departments who will be the last to abandon the convention interview will be the departments who actually benefit the least from it (i.e., research universities with hefty endowments and loads of resources). So then that brings up the question of whether the convention interview will become a signifier of a certain kind of status within the profession, where the cost just of applying to prestigious institutions will be something like $1,600, when all is said and done, while the cost of applying for “regular” jobs will be at most the cost of postage and a reference service. If so, this might have the effect of taking a wide range of candidates out of the running for the “best” jobs, which seems unfortunate to me, if this is the way things go.

(It’s worth noting that relegating so many candidates to the “adjunct track” has this effect already… I’m just thinking about how the gap would widen unless there were some sort of regulation by the MLA or AHA or whatever *prohibiting* convention interviews at a certain point. And I have a hard time of seeing them do that, as it would likely mean the death of the conventions.)

By: Historiann Wed, 04 Jan 2012 17:16:22 +0000 Rustonite–as Tenured Radical and Dr. Crazy suggested above, the hiring process in academia used to be very simple. A chair of a department looking to fill a line would call his grad school besties to ask if they had any students who might be suitable for the job. They would recommend some chaps–and they were all chaps to be sure–and after a telephone conversation (no interviews, no campus visits for most) one of them would get a letter offering him a job.

This is how 100% of my colleagues who were hired in the 1950s-early 1970s at Baa Ram U. were hired, and I think it was a pretty typical way of doing business. My advisor used to talk about his two years in the academic wilderness, being forced to teach at the University of Michigan (!) before getting a phone call one day from the chair of the Penn History department offering him a job, quite out of the blue. (He even talked about how he had to think about it, because it was “only Penn,” and was it really worth it when there might be a more prestigious offer in the making.)

In part, the complications and the timeline of the academic job search are a result of that kind of unfair and patently discriminatory hiring. There was no requirement that jobs be publicly advertised, no prohibitions on asking about people’s personal lives, and really no rules at all. So in the main, the AHA’s (MLA’s, etc.) attempts to regularize and democratize access to open positions has been very salubratory for their respective professions.

BUT, most of these Convention-based hiring conventions were developed in the 1970s. I think that technology as well as an eye towards always making the search process as transparent as possible have already changed searches compared to the last time I was on the job market (11 years ago.) My hope is that hiring departments will continue to use technology to make things better for everyone, but of course in my view, the bigger problem is “will we have tenure-track jobs to offer,” rather than “should we interview at AHA/APA/ the other APA/MLA or do SKYPE interviews?”

By: rustonite Wed, 04 Jan 2012 16:23:59 +0000 I just applied for my first real job, and I was at home with my parents while I was putting the packet together. Explaining to my dad how hiring works in academia provoked quite a reaction. The stuff we go through is incredibly Byzantine compared to what happens in the corporate world. When my dad hired his last junior associate, this was the process:
(1) quickly scan 150 one-page resumes; dump 147 of them in the garbage.
(2) do three phone interviews.
(3) do one in-person interview.
(4) hire.

Whole thing took about a week.

Now granted, he wasn’t hiring someone for a potentially lifetime position, but even still…I’m trying to find better adjectives than Byzantine for what we do. Baroque? Needlessly complex? Bat-shit crazy?