Les just Skyped me. Cal just Skyped her. Cal just sold his 5th book.
He's going to want to promote the shit out of it here in the coming months. Fucker.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An Early Thirsty From Atua Bear. Meet the New Proffie. Same As the Old Proffie.

Once the semester officially begins, my department will begin job talks/campus interviews. We are lined up for five campus interviews. The CVs were distributed throughout the department, and I noticed something quite odd: all five candidates have the same research interests (theoretically and regionally) as the professors that sit on the selection committee! Two candidates are a mix of two professors on the selection committee, and these same two candidates have very similar research interests.

This drives me nuts because there are a large number of grad students (myself included) in our small department are working on a certain field of which the professors know nothing about. I don't think the faculty are oblivious to this, but I'm not sure why they continue to not hire in this area. Perhaps it is because this is a harder area to publish in. One professor in our department told the grad students that "we look for people who can publish." Another professor recently said that "faculty preferences" would determine our next hire (a faculty member is leaving after this semester), and all the grad students rolled their eyes because the "faculty preferences" ignore what the grad students need. I spoke with a recent grad (landed TT at an R1) that was appalled that this same situation (hiring where we don't need hires) happened last year too.

Q: Is it normal to hire/interview candidates that look like current faculty? Why won't they branch out? Can the grad students do anything, or should we return to our corners?

PS: I'm not sure why the department continues to admit students that study this area, but this continues to happen. I came to this school because it was one of the few I was admitted to... I did, however, make the decision to reapply to new schools this past fall, and I hope to hear some good news about changing universities in the coming months.


15 comments :

  1. This reminds me of a number of job talks I attended, where the search committee members' questions amounted to, "Why didn't you talk about MY research?"

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  2. How do grad students ever conduct good research when there's no faculty in their area of expertise to mentor them? I presume this happens regularly and it works out well enough in your field (liberal arts?) but it's very different from the way we do it in science. Just curious.

    As for why your school keeps admitting students in this situation, that's easy. You're all paying tuition, right?

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    Replies
    1. It isn't just because they pay tuition.

      I knew of a prof many years ago who had students working on a number of topics, most of them unrelated to each other. I'm not sure as to which of those topics he was interested in, though it wouldn't surprise me if it was just to enhance his image and make people think he was an expert on a variety of subjects. After all, he had the publications to prove it.

      As well, he treated his grad students like cheap labour, often hanging on to them for years. He did that because they produced lots of data which he often published under his own name with little or no credit to the students.

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    2. I'm in that situation now, and I doubt it's that uncommon in the humanities and the social sciences. I'm in a small, fairly unique interdisciplinary department and the faculty on my dissertation committee know little about my historical/geographic focus. They are, however, experts on the theories and methods that guide the research and analysis. I do get some occasional guidance from faculty outside my home department who know my research area.

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  3. This really blows, and makes absolutely no sense at all, unless the program you are in is looking to narrow its focus for some reason.

    I must count myself lucky--if we ever get another tenure line on my campus, we are asking for someone whose area is very different from mine and my other colleague's (we're both approximately the same period, just with different focus). And we will be allowed to do this because the department agrees with the idea of a diverse faculty.

    You're doing the right thing in looking for a better fit. There have been times over the past decade that I wonder why I didn't leave my program when it became obvious after the first year that the hiring was headed in the opposite direction from where I was. I would have saved myself $20,000 and a year of headaches trying to get what I needed.

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  4. This is a replacement hire, right? Are they looking for someone whose field matches the field of the prof who's leaving? That's very normal.

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  5. If your institution is similar to my alma mater, grad students are the last thing faculty are thinking about when making most decisions. It also sounds like the hiring process is pretty far along, so there isn't much you can do. Although come to think of it, there wasn't much you could have done earlier either. As a grad student you have two choices: 1) Drink and grouse with your fellow students, or 2) find another program. I chose option 1 and it made me into the upstanding cynical asshole I am today.

    That said, your department must be doing something right, if your grads are getting R1 TT jobs.

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  6. At my institution, faculty are so scared that someone else researching in their area will take away their beloved classes or eclipse their efforts in publication (in other words, they won't want the competition), that this rarely happens. But we're a small SLAC and each person covers an area, so to speak.

    We actually take student opinions seriously based on senior exit interviews. In the past three years, we've added courses and two new areas because of senior exit interviews saying we lacked in those areas, compared to other programs they'd scouted. Depending on your relationship with the program director or Chair, can you talk with them about your concerns?

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, a good SLAC will listen to their students and make changes.
      But, I'm assuming Atua Bear is at a research type institution (R1 maybe?). To give you an idea...


      Scene 1: SLAC - Chairs Office

      Student: Prof. Perv is a terrible professor! He made us read his erotic fan-fiction in class, read off his powerpoints, and never had office hours.

      Chair: Jesus christo! You poor child, here's a cup of hot cocoa and a blanket! I'll make sure this never happens again!

      **************

      Scene 2: R1 - Chairs office.

      Student: Prof. Perv is a terrible professor! He made us read his erotic fan-fiction in class, read off his powerpoints, and never had office hours.


      Chair: I'm sorry, who are you? If you have a complaint you can file it with the assistant director for student complaints. Now please get out of my office, I have an important meeting with the associate vice dean for parking lot diversity.

      *Fin*

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    2. You forgot the Strelnikov version where I just rack a sawed-off shotgun and say "I'm giving you five seconds to get the living fuck out of this room...5...4...3...2...1..."

      [BLAM! racking noise.]

      [Sound of door closing.]

      Ende

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  7. Why did you go to a grad school without a professor to advise you in your field? I was in that position as an undergrad, and I persevered with some inter-collegiate help from the unis across town, but I made sure that wouldn't happen to me in grad school. Was it one of those things where you start at project A and end up evolving to subject G?

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  8. To the question.

    It happens all the time among proffies who are secure. It never happens among proffies who aren't.

    Both are wrong.

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  9. Actually we aren't paying; almost everyone in the first, second, and third cohort has funding. I have 5 years of guaranteed of funding.

    This is not a replacement hire. In the future, there may be a replacement hire for the faculty member that plans to leave in 6 months.

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  10. Throughout the Space Shuttle era, this was more than once noticed about NASA's Astronaut Office. Even though most NASA astronauts who flew on the Space Shuttles were not pilots but scientists, formally "Mission Specialists," the selection committee was well stocked with pilots, who tended to select people like themselves. Scientists aspiring to be astronauts were therefore advised to make flying their number one hobby. This made for a conservative, conformist astronaut corps---Han Solo characters need not apply---so it's obvious to me why the public lost interest.

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  11. This is a form of inbreeding. Once a department reaches critical mass of individuals who see things the same way, they start to reinforce each others views, simply because they all have the same view. Since they don't see very many people disagreeing with them, they assume they are right and that the few who do disagree are wrong. University of Tuktoyaktuk has a specialty in Gerbilomics that has crossed this event horizon. We just keep hiring gerbilomicists no matter what we actually need to deliver our program.

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