Friday, January 13, 2012

MLA aftermath

Here's how academic hiring often goes in my field (English):

-300 qualified people apply for one job (November)
-10-15 of them get interviewed at the Modern Languages Association convention (Dec-Jan).
-2-3 of them get interviewed on campus after the MLA (Jan-Feb).
-1 gets hired (March).

When I was on the job market, looking for a permanent job (for 5 years), I always hated that good news traveled by phone.  *Ring* "We'd like to interview you at the MLA."  *Ring* "We'd like to interview you on campus."  *Ring* "You got the job!" (I didn't get that last one very often, obviously.)

Bad news invariably came in an envelope, on a single sheet of paper, and regardless of how far I'd made it in the process, always came at the end of April.  There'd be weeks and weeks of hoping that I was just dealing with a really slow department before I acknowledged that my letter (the "PFO", or "Please Fuck Off" letter) was in the mail, the slow mail, the mail slated to arrive in April.

I resolved that as department chair I wasn't going to do that to people.  We interviewed 14, we're bringing 3 to campus.  I just phoned all of our "no"s.  I'd like to vomit now.  It has been an unpleasant afternoon.  I hope those "no"s feel, as I did, that knowing was better than no-ing in uncertainty.  But perhaps they think I am simply sadistic, wanting to hear them react to my bad news?

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