In this blogge post, former academic and now journalist Rebecca Schuman takes the English Department of University of California-Riverside to task for informing faculty job candidates that they will receive only five days notice before the start of the Modern Language Association conference if they are going to be invited to interview at the conference.
Schuman was really fucken pissed offe about this short notice:
The way I see it, Dr. Katherine Kinney and the Overlords of the UC-Riverside English department have decided that anyone they deem worthy will, of course, already be attending MLA, either to give several important papers, or to be interviewed by several other institutions who have the common fucking human decency to notify their candidates more than three days in advance. This is a move that is both elitist and out of touch. Because of the hyper-competitive market and huge glut of applicants for every job, nowadays many, many PhDs and ABDs now attend MLA to go on a single, solitary, pathetic interview–because, they’re told, “all it takes is one,” after all.
The UC-Riverside English department’s decision to give their candidates five days’ notice is unconscionable. I have never felt the need to name a search committee chair in public before, but this one deserves it. Dr. Katherine Kinney, you and your committee should be ashamed of yourselves.
As a natural scientist, it is bizarre to me that humanities job applicants would be expected to spend any of their own money on travel, accommodations, and a conference registration fee in order to interview for an academic job.
While Tenured Radical feels that the tone of Schuman’s reaction may have been excessive, it seems to me that Schuman’s complaints are grounded in truth: that the search committee acted thoughtlessly, blinded by its own privilege to the effect its actions would have on applicants. And I get the impression that the humanities job search process–which Schuman apparently went through multiple times without success–can involve a continuous series of microaggressions exerted by faculty upon applicants. Based on all of this, I figure that this UCR dealio was one microaggression too many, and set her off.
Looking back on my own entry-level natural sciences faculty job search–even though my own experience of it was clearly highly privileged–I myself experienced what I perceived as a pretty continuous stream of microaggressions. Had the ultimate outcome not been favorable for me, I would surely have become embittered and felt oppressed. So I am not inclined to blame people too much who do experience unfavorable outcomes and thereby become embittered and feel oppressed, and lash out accordingly.