Bad Search Committee Behavior: Naming and Shaming

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
When committees acknowledge
You want to work at their college(s)

…that their half-assed and patently ridiculous “acknowledgements of receipt” be broadcast the Internet-wide!

As I have written for Vitae, one of the many dispiriting aspects of the academic job market is that candidates spend literally hundreds of hours pouring out their entire scholarly and pedagogical beings into extensive dossiers, only to have said dossiers be met with a Nietzschean Abyss of total silence. Sometimes, committees do deign to let you know they recognize your application, and I guess they deserve a cookie or something for acting like human beings.

However, this is not the way to do it:

A reader tips me off to a friend of his who’s on the market, who applied to a position in English at Baruch College, which is part of the CUNY system, and thus located in New York, and thus a “desirable” job. Here is what this reader’s friend got as acknowledgement of receipt:

“An empty email with an attachment. The attachment is a Word document called “Baruch_Logo_English (3).docx.” Once you download the attachment, you see that it is a note of receipt of application and a link to the HR survey. A LINK IN A WORD DOCUMENT ATTACHED TO AN EMPTY EMAIL.”

That’s right, plebs, you are unworthy of TEXT IN YOUR EMAIL until you get to the campus visit stage. Text in emails is for appropriately tenured professionals, visiting dignitaries, and David Petraeus. Now please fill out this survey, because what we need is more of your time before we continue to ignore you.

Attention Baruch College English search committee: cut-and-paste has been around since 1985, and BCC since 1995. I realize you are probably still writing your manuscripts out longhand and then handing them off to the ladies in the typing pool, so this whole business is new to you, but I would like to go on the record as unimpressed.


Hat tip to reader “X” and reader’s friend “Y” for giving me the first name-and-shame material. Job candidates, keep them coming. Search committees, bless their hearts, are reading this blog and if we shame enough of them, they might actually start acting like Earth Humans.

7 thoughts on “Bad Search Committee Behavior: Naming and Shaming

  1. I was a semi-finalist on a 2012-2013 search, spent the $1000 to go to the darn interview at XYZ conference, but never received a follow–up rejection letter or email. Worse: the director of the program told a Beyond Reproach Trustworthy Source (BRTS asked w/out me knowing) that I had not made the finalists and that a rejection email had already been sent. However, said the director, there might be a non TT lectureship offer down the line because the director “really liked the work I was doing.” Where to begin, really. (Here it is important to note: the head of the program did not ask me a single question during the 8 or so person interview at the XYZ conference. He kept looking down at his kindle/tablet/device while others spoke).

    The Beyond Reproach Trustworthy Source contacted me confidentially (cautiously but excited) in late January 2013 and was shocked when I told him I had not received any rejection email or letter–even though all three finalists had already been invited and the director claimed to have contacted me. Needless to say, I was never contacted for the ‘purported’ lectureship search and I never received a ‘thanks but not thanks’ letter or email. Just paid it off my conference travel $1000, w/interest, on the CC few months ago. (the finalists? They included one insider and a person already on a TT at an Ivy League who did not match the job description–but she AND her spouse ended up getting TT appointments in the same dept. ).


  2. CUNY is notorious for this kind of behavior. I live in NYC and have applied for a few jobs through them. You won’t hear anything unless you are one of the finalists, and if you are one of the finalists, they might not even bother to contact you unless you are the one they’ve chosen. I spent approximately five months waiting to hear back from a school in the CUNY system after interviewing only to be called in the middle of the night by the department head offering me a visiting position for one semester. I hate NYC. Give me somewhere in the middle of Indiana where I can actually afford to buy a house and where the people are nice instead!


  3. I had a campus interview at a SLAC near Pittsburgh. It was a disaster (let’s just say we were not a good “fit”). I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear back from them for a while. A month after my visit, though, the email arrived. Fro HR. They informed me that although I was a very qualified candidate, they have chosen somebody else for the TT position in BIOLOGY!!! I wrote them back to point out the mistake, and they answered back saying that their decisions were final and I had no right to question them…ehhh


  4. Last year, U near Dallas with Methodist in its name had a search in French. The rejection email subject line was rejectionletterfrench2013.docx. There was no text either, just the aforementioned doc attached to the email. Stay classy.


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