Saturday, February 13, 2016

Just to pile on a little: Maybe there's something wrong with the interview process?

The finalists [for the Mount St. Mary's presidency] included two candidates with traditional academic backgrounds ...but they didn't "wow" the search committee the way Mr. Newman did.

When Simon P. Newman was interviewing ...he promised to bring the small Catholic institution in rural Maryland national exposure. 


  1. "Wow"ing is seriously overvalued in current American culture. Cf. recent discussion of student evals, who gets the highest ones, and why.

    1. I concur. This is not a friggin fashion show. This regards one of the most important individuals in the organisation.

      From the Chrampicle article, linked above:
      "The traditional academics came across as ‘I can take this school and keep it where it is,’" Mr. Coyne said, while Mr. Newman’s approach was "I can take this school and reimagine it."

      Of course. When one lacks direct knowledge of or experience with something, then "imagination" is one's only resort.

      When you choose flash over substance, you get what you deserve. And substance in one arena does not always equate to the same in another.

    2. And another thing (which I commented elsewhere, but seems apropos here as well):

      I'm not sure if this infatuation with "outsiders" is an American thing, but it must stop. If the world champion speed skater asked to borrow your car, you'd first want to establish that they had a valid driver's license, because, FFS, said credential speaks to the issue of whether they are in some way qualified to operate a car. So how is it that when time comes to choose someone to drive the bus, "we the people" collectively say, hey, let's not pick someone who's at least driven something like a bus, let's go for the speed skater who disavows any driving experience at all?!

    3. To play devil's advocate, I think people who express such preferences believe that whatever institution they're trying to influence is so badly broken that running it into a wall (to continue the bus metaphor) is not so much destructive as a means of jettisoning the dross that's making the vehicle cumbersome and expensive and not very functional, and shaking loose the useful bits and making them available for rearrangement into something that actually works.

      From my point of view, the problem is that the "shake it up" folks rarely seem to have all that much imagination, once you start looking closely into their plans. They don't want to make something new; they want to remake the university (or the government) in the image of something very familiar to them: a business that puts profit (and/or perhaps other easily-measurable metrics) above all.

      I, on the other hand, am all for tuning up the bus, or even redesigning it to work better. But as far as I can tell, many business-minded "reformers" merely end up adding on double and even triple decks to an infrastructure that was never meant to hold them, and then wondering why there are cries of pain coming from the original, lower deck (and why, if those people down there are so unhappy, they don't just climb up a deck or two, never mind that by now the occupants at the bottom need to stay exactly where they are -- or at least be regularly replaced -- crushed as they may be, to keep the whole structure from collapsing of its own weight).

    4. Your assessment is so spot on, on so many levels, that I don't know where to begin to elaborate on my agreement. Well, there is this:

      I just cannot understand the cognitive dissonance that allows people to prefer a driver who will purposely crash the bus to one who can navigate around the obstacles, while thinking that the former will still result in them reaching their destination on time and unscathed.