December 24th, 2012

How to hire a university professor: Canadian version

This is how deep the rot goes.

I won’t bother to excerpt any quotes, because I think you should read the whole thing.

And once you’ve read it, note that I disagree with the author’s penultimate sentence. She writes that “one can’t help but know” that the hiring process she describes “did subtle violence to intellectual integrity.” I submit that indeed, one can “help but know” it, and many people manage to do so every day. Such is the human capacity for denial, self-deception, ignorance, and groupthink.

23 Responses to “How to hire a university professor: Canadian version”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It doesn’t affect my intellectual integrity. I can quit any time. It’s those other people.

  2. Don Carlos Says:

    Amen, Neo, amen.

    I quit (tenured) academia when its downward trajectory became clear, and that was way back, 30yrs ago.

  3. Sam L. Says:

    I read it a couple days ago. Boy, does that all sound so familiar.

  4. Otiose Says:

    “Such is the human capacity for denial, self-deception, ignorance, and groupthink.”

    And they can be so self-righteous and condescending about it at the same time.

  5. physicsguy Says:

    I note the author was relating her story while being in an English department; the absolute worst of the bunch. Oh excuse me, we now have to call them “Literatures” departments, as “English department” is too pro-western.

    The same pressures apply in all academic departments, it’s just that the excuses become more strained within the humanities.

  6. Occam's Beard Says:

    Having been in the author’s position, I found that the worst part is the feeling of isolation.

  7. Stark Says:

    Please don’t get me started….

    People engaged in creating value, who’s organizations are subject to real global competition can’t afford to cultivate as much esoteric political correctness as those engaged in the field of education.

    Meritocracies are so much more motivating and productive, and they attracts those who will not suffer fools and laggards for very long.

    In commercial and industrial pursuits timely results have to be delivered to demanding customers who will vote with their feet to find the best for their money. Racism, nepotism, and cronyism in any form are not tolerated in the best work team environments.

    Those who can’t cut it often return to academia where they can gain acceptance and impress undergrads and huddle with others like themselves.

    “Ivory tower” occupants perennially strive to rid themselves of their aura of being out of the main contests of life. Unfortunately, the majority constantly prove through their lame behavior and skewed views that they have earned their reputations as life’s disconnected dreamers who fail to understand how the world really works.

    I guess you did push the button to get me started, sorry for the rant. Happy Holidays to one and all.

  8. physicsguy Says:


    I second that emotion…. I know of one other conservative on the entire campus and he’s in the math department. He keeps a relatively low profile politically.

    Interestingly, the student newspaper just before break ran an editorial about how isolated the conservative students feel. The author didn’t understand why that should be so. I contacted her and enlighted her as to the situation within the faculty. This liberal student was shocked to find out her profs were so close minded. I had a thought that in a few years she might make a new “neocon” 🙂

    Merry Christams to ALL!

  9. physicsguy Says:

    Now I can’t even type Christmas right ..Arrgh.

  10. Occam's Beard Says:

    Physicsguy, I used to try (with varying degrees of success) to maintain in public, no matter how idiotic the proceedings of a faculty meeting. On hearing the most errant nonsense imaginable, I’d look around the room for a compadre, but everyone else would look like they were listening to Socrates, so I’d just try to keep a neutral expression. Afterwards I’d go to my office, shut the door, and silently scream for a minute to purge the frustration I felt.

    The curious thing is that despite having a lot of very bright people, they never seemed to learn from experience. They’d do the same thing every time, get the same outcome, have the same problems, make the same complaints about it, then do the same thing yet again, and be surprised when they got the same outcome yet again. It was like Groundhog Day.

    You’d think scientists would repose higher regard in data, but nope. I often used to wonder what – if anything – would make them reassess their thinking.

  11. M J R Says:

    Point #1

    I was an Assistant Professor at an historically black college in the 1970s, and a member of the faculty senate for half that tenure.

    In the 2000s, I did another, shorter stint in academia, this time as a Professorial Lecturer (a part time adjunct) at an historically white college.

    Bottom line vis-a-vis the linked piece: no surprise here ^at^ ^all^. “Nuff said.

    Point #2

    “A member of the department who served on a campus-wide committee tasked with developing best practices to promote diversity mentioned one of their recommendations: after a minority candidate is hired, members of the department should take care to tell all their friends of her merit; the equity preference should not be mentioned.” — from the linked piece

    Separate from the above sojourns in academia, I served time in the corporate world. I telephone-interviewed a young woman for a certain technical position. She was extraordinarily well-spoken and very, very well-qualified for what we needed her to do. I recommended her for the job and she got it. I was quite pleased she was assigned to me.

    But when I saw her H.R. folder, I saw that it was prominently labeled on the front cover, “Affirmative Action” or something to that effect. I WAS LIVID — you wanna know why? Because [I’d put ^all^ the following in caps, but I know it’s not cool to do that] she had that job ^anyway^, no questions asked, no issue, no ^nothing^. She was a good hire, totally without regard to her genital anatomy or to her racial stock.

    I’m still a little livid, and that was in the late 1980s.

    Okay, time to go . . .

  12. M J R Says:

    P.S. — I’m a white dude.

  13. M J R Says:

    P.P.S. — the good hire was a black woman.

    I’m still sufficiently livid that I managed to “submit” without including all the relevant data.

  14. Oldflyer Says:

    The article and the comments above are interesting. I have been fortunate in that I don’t think I have ever worked in that kind of environment. “I don’t think” because I may have been naive or unobservant.

    It is true that in the USN there were factors at play, and diversity was possibly one of them Certainly, Nepotism was. We used to joke that Admiral’s sons were entering the family business. John McCain comes to mind. But, the organization was large enough to absorb some of that. I retired before the diversity push got too bad; although it was beginning. Even so I felt kind of bad for some of the minority pilots; they had to prove to their peers, who could be very judgmental, that they were there on merit and not to fill a square. Well, actually, everyone had to prove themselves. No place to hide.

    I wonder why the few in Academia who object are not more pro-active; especially since tenure seems to protect the mavericks.

  15. Mr. Frank Says:

    The article provides an accurate description of social science and humanities departments. With good reason I encouraged white, male undergrads not to pursue graduate work in those areas. It’s a stacked deck.

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    I wonder why the few in Academia who object are not more pro-active; especially since tenure seems to protect the mavericks.

    Tenure doesn’t really help as much as you might think. Within a university, deans and department chairmen can still make life miserable for mavericks in their decisions regarding, e.g., the nature and location of lab and office space, the nature and time commitment of teaching and administrative assignments, and the timing of sabbaticals. Signing off on consulting and corporate research agreements is especially problematic, because it’s easy to find a pretext to scotch them, and thereby cutting your personal income or cutting off vital research funding, respectively.

    Outside the university, you might get a rep for being a crank or just not “one of us.” Doesn’t sound so bad, but these are the people who will be – anonymously – reviewing your papers and grant proposals, i.e., deciding whether your career prospers or withers. Top drawer academia in a given field is like a small village, with maybe 1000 players worldwide tops, and we pretty much all know each other. (Think MLB players.)

    It’s probably not so different among flag rank military officers. They know which of them went to a service academy, where they’ve served, who’s being groomed for greater things, right? (My father was passed over for flag rank in the Marine Corps, so I have some passing familiarity with that world.) Being a maverick can exact a steep price in both endeavors.

  17. physicsguy Says:

    “I wonder why the few in Academia who object are not more pro-active; especially since tenure seems to protect the mavericks.”

    Just to add to Occam’s answer to Oldflyer’s question: Tenure doesn’t protect one from the constant mental assault that comes with being a conservative in academia. I know… the answer that is coming: buck up! Be strong! However, after literally 15 years of the isolation, along with the usual liberal hatred we all know, it gets wearing.

    Case in point: during the Iraq War I put up some resisitance to the usual “Bush Lied, People died” line running through the faculty. A public response I got from a black faculty member was, and I’ll never forget it, “Take your little white boy khaki pants and loafers and just go away. In fact, I hope your two little daughters grow up, join the military and then die!” The response from the rest of the faculty was crickets chirping.

    Later on, in a meeting with the president, he actually expressed shock at the person’s behavior. When I asked him why he didn’t respond, or why the person was not “charged” with hate speech as I would have been if I had made such a statement, he said, “Oh no, I can’t do that to minority faculty.” At that point one realizes tenure means nothing to a white male conservative in academia.

  18. Stark Says:


    A wise phychologist once said that a paycheck makes cowards of us all. Usually the bigger the paycheck, the bigger the coward.

  19. ErisGuy Says:

    This is not rot. This is a totalizing cultural transformation to, as Reich put it, “Consciousness III.” They have different goals, values, etc. than truth, justice, and the American Way. They are socialist greens. They are in the overwhelming majority. They have the right and power to make society in their own image.

  20. Otiose Says:

    All the above accounts remind me of this from Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

    People on the receiving end of racism can be so hypersensitive, but oblivious in the extreme when dishing it out. A lot of what goes on is no more than taking power and keeping it from one identifiable group to the benefit of another.

    I once had the pleasure of attending an indoctrination class in a military setting some 30 years ago, which mainly consisted of a black woman telling us how all white people are evil racists especially the male white people. I kept my mouth shut for most of it, but at some point I foolishly pointed out some breach of basic common sense which almost got me thrown out of the service as a racist.

    After the class a number of people approached me. One guy said that he had just come from a unit in which he (a human resources type) was ordered to go through all the evaluations past and present of all the blacks and mark all the gradings up one level across the board and then recalculate the scores and resubmit them to the central authority for promotions. Another woman from my company took me aside for some friendly advice (really friendly) telling me to keep my mouth shut and we’ll all get through the stupid b*tch’s class.

    For years I thought she gave me good advice, but I really wonder now. Look where it got us. Look who is in power and getting more power year by year, and are they really going to wake up one day after some epiphany and decide to stop?

    I’ve known a black friend for a few decades who graduated from a top university. I sincerely believe he would not need affirmative action to have gotten in to that school. I’ve talked with him on many topics and he is extremely intelligent (but still often wrong unfortunately) but on one in particular I find it almost unbelievable. He sincerely believes that ALL affirmative action is merely favoring the minority candidate over two otherwise equal people. That if the white has better qualifications then they are chosen. That’s his story and I’ve never gotten him to budge from it.

  21. Occam's Beard Says:

    In fact, I hope your two little daughters grow up, join the military and then die!”

    You see, this is the kind of situation that did violence to my soul, because I’d have to stifle a riposte, e.g., “Thank you for the kind sentiment. For my part, I certainly hope that your two little sons don’t grow up to join a gang and get smoked by a rival gang. But from the statistics, I wouldn’t put any money on it.”

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    ErisGuy: I think you perhaps misunderstand the meaning of “rot” in this context. I’m not talking about some natural process of decay. I’m talking about a purposeful policy that’s burrowed deep into institutions such as academia and has control of them.

    I don’t think, however, that they are in the majority (yet) in this country, much less the overwhelming majority. However, they influence the overwhelming majority by having control of education and the media, and probably in short order they will have a true majority.

  23. thomass Says:

    M J R Says:

    But your hire took pressure off someone else to make a bad choice due to AA… plus; sometimes there are tax benefits (but at the moment I do not believe there are any).

    Still wrong but if I were in HR I’d count the hire towards any ‘goals’ for the above reasons…. If the candidate found out and didn’t like it; hey, they’re free to vote republican. 😉

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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