Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Search Progress

It feels a little bit obscene to carve a pool of 103 applications (a final one floated in--postmarked well within the time period) down to 12, with 1 held in reserve (and 4 more who are a bit of a stretch held in 3rd tier reserve). It is true that the pool had only about 92 legitimate applications (approx 10-11 didn't follow basic instructions or didn't have an ANTH ph.d.), but it was still surprisingly easy to go through and eliminate people who just don't do the work we are looking for. Most of us agreed on the top seven, followed by another six who were highly ranked by the three search committee members who really know the field (our search procedures include one representative from each of the anth subfields), followed by five folks whom we might rank if more than 1 of the top 12 folks withdraws before the preliminary interviews. Now we await our Dean's blessing of the top 12. Our university has lots of check points built into the process of hiring (probably based on fear of grievances), but ultimately these work to preserve the hire. It is very easy to be seduced by a candidate who does something exciting, but not what was advertised for, etc. These rules keep searches from being hijacked by chairs (of departments or search committees), or even by other powerful figures like deans, who want someone inside, outside, or whoknowswhereville to land a job. As search committee chair, I'm highly attuned to these rules because of that long affirmative action workshop I complained about last year when I was serving in this same capacity. But I have new appreciation for how things can go wrong. On this committee, three of us (including my department chair and a faculty member who serves as the affirmative action rep to the committee [who thankfully is also a sociocultural anthropologist]) are all working to keep us on track. I'm also knocking myself out to keep us on our timeline, which is running a race against the crappy State budget, which will probably take a nose dive after the first of the year. The compressed timeline is brutal for everyone--but it *is* a tenure-track job and gainful employment for someone, and we really need another faculty member. I've done not much else but read files for the last four days (Sat-Tues), another weekend that I basically worked all the way through. But this deep focus on the task makes it somewhat easier to compare candidates one to another. No scholarly publications (journal article or book chapter) killed lots of candidates. This would not have been the case even 10 years ago, but most doctoral students leave the fold with a good publication or two, and certainly once they've been out for a year or two, red flags go up for people who haven't published. If they can't publish in or fresh out of a doctoral program, they are NOT going to publish once they are buried under heavy teaching and service loads. If your dissertation advisor isn't kicking your butt to publish, then she or he is not serving your interests well. Or perhaps you are just an endless researcher or twiddler. We just threw about 50 of these dilettantish sorts to the wolves or the wind (not sure which??). Without a second look. So grad students, before your graduate, get a good publication under your belt (doesn't have to be peer-reviewed, but it should be substantial, read well and generally do a good job of representing your scholarly talents) because most of your peers are. And often in spades.

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