Saturday, February 21, 2015

The search is over

One of my colleagues jumped ship a few years ago. The administration took its damn sweet time to find the money for a replacement.  In the meantime, everybody (except them) picked up the slack.  Even when the provost did authorize another search, they waited too long to get their shit together. We ended up submitting the ad late in the hiring season this past year. In order to save money, it only briefly appeared at one chemistry job website.

We interviewed three decent candidates. Any of them would have been sufficient. The chancellor for academic shenanigans liked none. When asked, she said that we were looking for a superstar. This is true. How she expected to attract such a candidate with a late, limited search was neither asked nor explained.

We will try again next year. Actually, we will make several attempts to hire next year since more people are planning their escape. The way things are going, I may follow them. At least I wouldn't have to serve on a hiring committee.


  1. Ugh. You have my empathy. Here in Wississippi, jobs remain open and people are dropping out of searches because who in their right mind would come here if they had ANY other options?

  2. Hah! I like "Wissisippi". I hope being unable to hire anyone teaches you gov. a little lesson (except that the destruction is consistent with his goals.)

    As for this "looking for a superstar": typical adminiflake, this arrogant belief that it's such an employer's market, anyone can hire "above their standing". They can't (like we can't at my place), and even showering them with money often won't do the trick. Superstars by and large go to superstar places (which are still wealthy and hiring, thank you), and if not there's always industry (especially, I imagine, in Chemistry.)

    What really ends up happening (even with a well-organized search): the "superstars" turn us down, forcing us to go deep into our ranked shortlist (our dean, thankfully, doesn't meddle.) Or the search is canceled, the position disappears, and one TT line becomes two lecturer lines. Before you know it, tenure is destroyed through attrition alone. That's the plan, of course.

  3. I think there's a lot of this going around. People are anxious to move for various reasons (stagnant salaries, crazy governors/chancellors/university presidents, declining support for research) to move, but, since all of the above are affecting institutions of all kinds all over the country, the grass in other places turns out to be not as green as the candidate had hoped (and, conversely, the faculty in other places turn out to be just as unwilling as local faculty to work miracles with no resources), and searches fail.

    And, of course, everybody wants superstars (preferably superstars who don't have to be wooed or paid too much), and nobody wants mid-career faculty who have been holding down teaching-oriented positions of various sorts, and might require some time to show what potential they have to thrive in, and contribute to, a different sort of environment. So departments are fighting over the very few faculty who've been relatively well-supported over the last few decades, and have the publications that result from such support, but don't want to provide much support, for the searches or for the newly-hired faculty, themselves.

    Meanwhile, everybody's wasting time on failed searches, which further stretches limited resources. Ugh.

    1. We don't want superstars, so much as swiss army knives: multifunction device-colleagues with whom we can solve our (known) failings in one swell foop.

      Oh, and they have to be willing to move to a state from which people are jumping ship for precisely the reasons CC listed, for a salary that's small enough...

  4. Sounds like what happened some years ago at a church I used to go to. The leadership counsel managed to nearly drive our pastor to a nervous breakdown and so he ended up resigning. They formed a pastoral search committee who dragged their feet on EVERYTHING because it meant that the committee would have dinner once a week at an expensive chinese restaurant at the church's expense.

    It took them about a year to determine the qualifications that the new pastor had to meet. Once that decision was made, it took them an additional 6 weeks to place an ad in the newspaper. And then the interviews and guest sermons started: guest pastors would arrive to give sermons and have the congregation rate them. And for whatever reason, it was often the case that candidates would then contact the search committee to tell them that they were withdrawing their application for the position.

    We went 2 years without a pastor because this ass-hat committee felt the need to keep "praying".

    1. I once served on a committee that took a year to choose a new copier... and another 6 months to choose a vendor to provide a service contract for said copier.

  5. At my joint, we are about to lose a few faculty. Bearing in mind that over the last decade, upper-level administrative positions have been created at about the same rate that tenure lines have disappeared, and bearing in mind that we're just getting by with the skeleton crew that remains in the trenches, I ask: dare we begin the search early? I try to make a case that a search absorbs valuable time from expensive PhD types, and to run it while we are picking up the slack of the departed colleague(s) means even more burden. We're already hard-pressed to prep new courses or develop new pedagogies as it is, and if we run short on colleagues, the best we can do is rehash what we did in years past.

    Oh, no, the adminiflakes respond. We can't start the search early, because that means we might have to hire someone before that slot is actually empty, and that's TWO salaries we'd be paying. The horror! But you'll be happy to know that we're already way ahead of you. We've contracted with an outside firm to assess and address the productivity and morale of the faculty. We're sure we can count on your support during the multiple meetings, surveys, workshops etc. that will take place over the next several years, after which their recommendations will be circularly filed because the point of the exercise is to apear to be doing something, not to actually do anything.


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