Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Inside Candidates.

Two different CM community members have sent us a head's up about a job wiki claim about an inside candidate. It's impossible to know if this whole tale is true or not, but with job hunt paranoia underway for many academics, we thought you might enjoy it. We'll start with the flava, and a link to the rest of the madness:


C1: I want to be very clear about this. The inside candidate, current VAP {REDACTED}, will get this job. She's doing a great job already, has MFA at Iowa and PhD at Florida State, just got her first book published this week, and is a Wisconsin girl. Anyone contacted for a campus interview should just save the plane money because this is a done deal. I hate the hypocrisy in this search, and I don't think it's fair to outsiders to be blindsided.
C9: To whoever wrote comments C1 and C8: you are idiots! For you to be anonymously revealing "insider information" on a national search is incredible. It hardly makes you paragons of ethical integrity. If anything, you're running the risk of scuttling the entire search. It hardly makes you helpful and admiring colleagues of the inside candidate who will always think the fix was in (others will as well). 

The rest.


  1. I think it probably is true only because my own experiences bear it out, and I haven't been on the job market for almost 20 years. My worst experience with it was when I went to an interview in a major metro area at my own expense. They had five finalists--four from out of state, and one inside adjunct candidate. The search committee chairperson told me repeatedly how impressed everyone was with my credentials. My mother took me to the interview (not in a snowflake kind of way--she lived in the area and had picked me up at the airport since I was paying for everything). The chair sought her out afterward (she was in the car reading a novel), told her what a remarkable job I'd done in the teaching demo and interview, and complimented her on what a fine job she and my father must have done in emphasizing education to me.

    A week later I got the call that while the committee had been extremely impressed with me and thought I had given the best interview, they were going with the adjunct only because he was "a known quantity." But then it got better. He was not happy with the salary they offered and went into negotiations with them. The chairperson called me back and said it looked like I would be getting the job because the adjunct was so "stubborn." He even told me I should stop going on interviews. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck and continued my search.

    A week after that, I got the call that said adjunct had finally reached an agreement with them. But the chairperson told me he would be retiring at the end of next year, so I should wait a year and apply again because I'd be a shoe-in for the job. The turnip truck still being nowhere in sight, I wished him a good retirement and told him I would have a job by then as I had five other interviews scheduled. Six weeks later my prediction came true.

    In my own department now, I've seen a bias toward adjuncts who are seen as somehow more deserving of tenure track positions than outsiders since they have paid their dues to the institution. I think a mix of people is better for a school because adjuncts tend to be locals with local educations from State U. National searches allow for colleagues with different views and educational experiences. To me, that's true diversity.

    Sadly, we are broke and won't be hiring anytime soon other than administrators since there's always money for them. At this rate, I'd be surprised if we get a new hire in the next five years.

  2. I am of the mind that whenever possible, people that have already shown dedication to the university should be given an advantage. But then anything can happen. The inside candidate may also be looking for a job, for example. And there are little problems like regulations mandating a search be conducted. What to do? You need to conduct a search, that's what.

    We have a person here who has been teaching for years. He has a ft position, but is not on a tenure line. His wife is tenured. He's got a Ph.D. and has a great teaching record, and some publications. He's gone above and beyond the call of duty, and taken on all sorts of tasks that he hasn't had to. And he loves our school and is dedicated to it.

    The next hire we make will be in his area, because we need a tenure line in his area. There will be a search, because it's mandated. If I can, I will be on the committee.

    And unless inside candidate and spouse both get jobs at Better World U, in which case I will kiss them both smartly on the cheek and wish them well, we will hire an outside candidate over my. Dead. Body.

  3. My experience mirrors Eskarina's, except that in my case, Tuk U didn't tell me about the inside candidate, who had 'paid their dues' (As if yours truly had instead spent his twenties, partying it up on a beach in Tonga). In my case, the faction wanting to bring in new ideas and experiences won a rare victory and, amid considerable acrimony as I later found out, I was in fact hired. Fast forward to my arrival on campus and I run smack into a posse of Sellas-from-Sparksburg:

    Over. Their. Dead. Bodies.

    And while many of them are lovely people, no amount of teaching service courses or work on committees or other contributions to departmental life changed a damn thing. Outsiders are outsiders. Since the 'new ideas' faction wins so rarely at Tuk U, a large proportion of our core Hamster Husbandry faculty have studied and worked at Tuk U since they enrolled in grad school. Result: everyone tells each other what they all learned in grad school about the best theories and most pressing issues in Hamster Husbandry, and other perspectives need not apply.

    I think I can honestly say that had they told me about Dr. Internal and hir posse, I would have turned down the job. (Of course the job market was better then).

  4. Funny, but the grapevine in these parts is that the "known quantity" adjunct is LESS likely to get a TT job because s/he is known to accept chump change for a tentative assignment.

    Why would they trust such a person with the plum of a TT position?

    1. That was the attitude I saw at the SLAC where I began my career as an adjunct. They had a retirement and put out for a one-year VAP to be converted to and readvertised as TT the following year. Several of us adjuncts applied, and three were granted interviews. I ended up getting a VAP elsewhere that paid more, so I withdrew before my interview took place; however, my colleagues who did attend theirs said the committee treated them disdainfully. It was particularly painful for one person who was an alumnus and a five-year adjunct because someone on the committee actually said to him during the interview, "I'm not sure you'd really understand our students."

      They ended up hiring outside for the VAP. One member of the committee who'd had a bit too much to drink at the end-of-semester party let it slip that "We'd never hire an adjunct for full-time work in THIS department, particularly someone who's been working for us a long time. If they were any good, they'd already have a real job by now."

      Ironically, I found out later that the VAP thought she was a shoe-in for the TT position the following year, so much so that she didn't even apply, thinking she'd automatically be in the pool and given an interview as a professional courtesy. Guess who not only didn't get the job but wasn't interviewed?

      The whole "our adjuncts are better/more deserving" thing seems to be more predominant at CCs in my experience.

    2. "We'd never hire an adjunct for full-time work in THIS department, particularly someone who's been working for us a long time. If they were any good, they'd already have a real job by now."

      Where can I barf? Isn't this a bit like assuming someone is ugly or smelly because they didn't go to the prom instead of checking them out for yourself? It's not like they're exactly remote or something.

      As for not applying for the job but expecting to get it - ouch. That VAP should have at least made his or her interests known. Somebody would have said, "Good - we look forward to your application." I'm sure the lack of an application was interpreted as a lack of interest in the job and the institution. I know a guy who had that happen to him in the private sector. Someone below him was hired to a position he wanted even though he was the obvious candidate. When he asked why, they said, "We didn't know you wanted the job. You never asked about it."

  5. Why would they trust such a person with the plum of a TT position?

    Why should anyone get tenure who was willing to work without it for seven years? Indeed, why pay profs at all? They were willing to PAY to hang out at the university and do research in grad school and if you ask any of them, they'll admit it wasn't just for the degree.

    I think we've hit on a great way to save a LOT of money in higher education.

  6. So what of the moral issue C9 mentions? I've seen complaints on both sides, inside candidates (VAPs, Adjuncts, Cousin's dog's sire's former owner), advice that a VAP is sometimes a really long interview and can lead to a job, complaints that adjuncts never get hired because of classism.

    But is it moral to air this laundry, and does anonymity matter? If the rumors successfully crashed the search, due to whatever HR requirements were missed, who loses? Does somebody win?

  7. I think we could stand to investigate another element of this post: accuracy. We have no evidence pertaining to the truth of these claims. Accordingly, this could be a rival pretending to be "in the know" or sabotage from within as the list of candidates did not suit one of the committee members.

    I do not trust the Wiki.

  8. I was an adjunct at my institution before I landed the TT position. I was up against 3 other adjuncts from different campuses in our institution and I was not the top candidate on paper. (The position had been advertised nationally, but the search had failed, so they were legally allowed to open it back up as an internal position.) One of the other candidates had published a lot more than I had, and was the top pick of the chair of the department, who was on the hiring committee.

    I blew that guy and the other two out of the water on the teaching demo, and the hiring committee recommended me over the objections of the chair. I got the job. The chair hadn't liked me to begin with, but she retired at the end of the year I was hired, so it was no biggie. Yes, I was the beneficiary of being a "known quantity." I had served on committees (unpaid, as an adjunct) and I was well-liked by members of my department on other campuses, and by my colleagues in other departments.

    It is my opinion that if a TT line opens up, and there is a qualified adjunct in the position--and by qualified I mean "has been teaching the same gorram classes that the new hire would teach"--then that adjunct should be converted into a TT position. No sham of a national search should be necessary. If you're qualified to teach as an adjunct, then with institutional support (i.e. enough money to work on one campus as opposed to 3), you can get your PD done and satisfy the department/campus/provost/whatever. But then again, that's not how the world works these days.

    I've had friends in other disciplines--who've worked 5 or more years on the same campus--shoved out in favor of an outside candidate who then LEFT THE POSITION within a year or two for greener pastures. It took us another two years of failed searches to fill it again (our pay scale is abysmally low and we are not able to negotiate). The adjunct? Long gone, which was a shame because she was good at her job and well-liked by our students.

  9. Umbrage regarding the job wiki always amuses me: "HOW DARE YOU FIND OUT ANYTHING ABOUT OUR SEARCH OTHER THAN WHAT WE CHOOSE TO TELL YOU!"

    If it's true, good for the faculty members who were willing to tell the truth. The invited candidates can make up their own minds about whether they believe what is posted and if they want to go through with the visit regardless.

  10. Yeah, I was an "over their dead bodies" hire once. Everyone knew but me, till I got there and they told me. And it sucked. The inside candidate was a spouse. I was the single, dirt-poor dyke who got the job. Apparently I should have stepped aside for the good of marriage as an institution, or something.

  11. The internal candidate is usually a spouse. Us singletons should of course be willing to remain unemployed until all the married couples have double incomes!


    1. Thank you for just saying that. The whole idea of someone's marital status and "dedication" trumping better-qualified applicants pisses me off.

  12. Well, I'm not married to an academic, so it has never touched me directly. And I understand the rage. But overall, I have the impression that the academic career is extremely hostile to marriage and families. The whole need to pick up and move to some random place - yes, entirely random - at some point in your 30s is probably the biggest problem, but it doesn't start or end there the poverty and uncertainty, the late start, the uniqueness and inflexibility of the jobs, the intensity of it during the child-bearing years, etc. - it is a mess. So if institutions do a little bending for this to make some lives less miserable, I can understand. It reeks of nepotism, of course, so I can see both sides here.

    1. The trouble with that argument AS, is that it tries to have it both ways: "let us all take pity on those who have achieved wedded bliss." The observation that academia is hard on marriage (true that) only makes sense if we acknowledge that most people find marriage (or similar spousal-equivalent-relationship-status) a desirable thing. The argument then posits that those of us who, by accident or design, have failed to achieve couplehood, should also be willing to step aside from a second desirable thing, being offered gainful employment in those cases where we are the best candidate for the job. To which I can see only one rational response:

      Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

  13. @Rosy and/or Guildy - Right. I can certainly see that angle. I sympathize. But I also sympathize with the institutions that have to deal with so many intangibles. We talk about them here all the time - people not being hired because they play golf or because they wear the wrong clothes or don't drink or drink too much or made some slightly less-than-perfect impression at some point in one the interviews. Lots of stuff in the hiring process does not have to do with formal qualifications. The "good enough pile" is huge. The "really good" pile is substantial. The "absolute best" is usually subjective enough to be disputable and be a small stack of applicants. If the spouse makes that pile fair and square, I see it as one of those things that has to do with department morale that effects the overall mood much more than some of what I read and hear about. I would say it is unfair, but less unfair and more rational than some of the shit that goes down at hiring time.


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