Read this. Then this. Then read this, and finally, this post. This last post is like a personalized rant from the job wikis, in which everyone with a job is a defender of the oppressive status quo, no one with tenure deserved it, and everyone on a search committee is making decisions with the specific intent to hassle, rip off, or shame the job candidates.
As to the original topic of this flamewar: I think most of us here can agree that it’s pretty abusive to give people less than a month’s notice, let alone less than a week’s notice that they’ll need to buy a plane ticket etc. for a mere first-round interview. Regular readers will remember that I am in principle against the convention interview, and urge committees either to use Skype or to dispense with the semifinalist interviews all together and just bring people straight to campus. It seems to work in other nations and in other fields, but historians and lit perfessers tend to resort to the “but that’s the way we’ve always done it!” excuse.
This is irritating, if unsurprising. Our professional customs and hiring procedures deserve the kind of scrutiny we apply to historical systems of credentialing professionals and managing labor. I should know–I started a blog because I was dissatisfied with the rules and traditions of academia, which seemed to me to work against intellectual diversity and innovation. Tenured Radical also started her blog to do just that, and has over the years offered lots of advice and ideas for graduate students and junior scholars to help them on their intellectual and professional journeys.
Take a look at her archives–it’s all there. You don’t have to like or take her advice, but her blog has served as a constructive space in which people might work out their frustrations with and/or share some of the joys of intellectual life in the modern university.
Who is Tenured Radical? Some of us–many of us–know her in person. Most of us really like and respect her, because she is the gold standard for collegiality, fair play, and intellectual engagement, not to mention her service as a public intellectual and radical feminist. Furthermore, she doesn’t just play this role online, but in real life too. She has been an academic fairy godmother to me over the past twenty years. I first met her as a graduate student when she taught at Penn in a one-year position. I met her again when we (totally randomly) shared a cab from the Atlanta airport to the AHA in January of 1996, when I was a grad student giving the job market my second (and ultimately unsuccessful) try. She paid the entire cab fare, plus tip, because I was an underemployed graduate student who didn’t have institutional funding for my travel, whereas she did as an Assistant Professor. The next time I communicated with her was six years ago this winter, immediately after starting this blog. I wanted to let her know that I shared her blogging ethic and some of her ideas about academia, and she very generously linked to my blog and recommended it to her readers.
“What a smarmy defense of a friend,” some of you might say. I like TR personally and consider her a good friend now, but she wasn’t when she generously shared her cab and her readers with me. Who was I in 1996 or 2007? Nobody much. I didn’t (and don’t) have a prestigious job at a name-brand rich university, so I couldn’t invite her to give a talk or pay her back in any way that would matter to her. I’m not an heir to a fortune. I’m not even in her period or field. I was just another grad student, another junior colleague that she helped out because she’s a stand-up guy and a thoroughly decent person who cares to cultivate the kind of work environment and collegial connections that we’d all like to work in.
And I know I’m not alone. Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.