academia: September 2005 Archives

If only

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If only I had realized which holiday we'd scheduled our various faculty meetings on yesterday. Can't say that it would have made things more productive, but as you might imagine, it would have been infinitely more entertaining.

Update: And speaking of if onlies...

Re-Tribb-ution

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Ahh, yes. Ivan "Not his real name" Tribble is back for Round 2, and one might gather from his extensive and defensive fisking of Round 1 that perhaps his tenured, pseudonymous feelings were hurt. Oh, but in "They Shoot Messengers, Don't They?" IT stands by his basic point. Well, he stands by his basic point if you strip it out of its context and allow him to back away from the claims that he made.

His "basic point" has become, simply, be careful what sort of image you project when you apply for jobs:

If "be careful what you say," is good general advice for the job seeker, why is it so controversial to add the word "online"?

Here's the thing, Ivan. It's not controversial at all. It's redundant. "Be careful what you say" is such a vanilla banality that it applies equally well to each and every single thing that you do in graduate school, from blogging to delivering conference papers to choosing shoes for your interviews to spilling a drink on somebody to whatever. Your original essay was the place where blogs as a medium were identified as something necessarily harmful and controversial. Back when that was your basic point, you were singling out a particular activity and suggesting categorically that, rather than being places where we might exercise care and/or judgment, blogs were necessarily detrimental to the academic job applicant.

The heated response prompted by your column came from those of us who believe that blogs, and the networks they engender, suggest the possibility of a much more open academia, a place where we don't have to spend our lives striving for the goal of becoming inocuous brains on sticks. To those of us who actually practice this type of networking, offering the advice to "be careful what you say" is to treat us as idiots, pouring our lives onto the screen in public without any thought of the consequences. And while there may be those of us who do precisely that, there are plenty of us who have thought carefully about how our blogs construct our identities, and who continue to believe that they do so productively.

As tempting as it would be to fisk your rejoinder, and to point out all of the places where you deserved precisely the range of reactions you received, let me just single out this one:

But of course our committee didn't use blogs as a disqualifier, as my column made clear. Lots of bloggers still misread that and assumed we had.

I stated that several committee members had reservations about hiring a blogger, which many respondents dismissed as irrational. I can't speak for every committee member's reasons, or every blogger's good judgment.

Either you can speak for every committee member's reasons (i.e., can say with certainty that blogs weren't a disqualifier) or you cannot. You don't get to have it both ways. You can't defend the integrity of the search process (blogs weren't a deciding factor) and the integrity of your original argument (blogs may be a deciding factor) at the same time.

The fact of the matter is that you can't really speak to the search process beyond your own experience of it, beyond your own impressions. You can't know whether blogs played much of a factor or not, and as a result, we can't really know whether there's anything to be learned from your original essay, other than your own antipathy--a largely and admittedly uneducated antipathy--towards blogs themselves. But I suspect that CHE isn't paying a whole of money these days to folks writing essays about "How I Hate Blogs." So you've dressed it up as market advice, a column "to help some people land tenure-track jobs." And if your point was "Don't blog; it'll get you in trouble" then even though I disagree, at least there was some point to your essay. Of course, that point, as you seem aware, requires more evidence than a "trend" (?!) identified from a single search in a single discipline at a single school. Originally, you seemed more than willing to make that particular leap in the interests of poking at the blogosphere.

If your basic point is "Be careful what you say," then I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not CHE bothers to pay you for a third column. Because that's not a warning that will help people land jobs--it's a bumper sticker.

That is all.

Except to mention that I refuse to offer IT even the implicit endorsement that comes with a link. Instead, go to The Little Professor and follow the link there. Also with the hat tip to Clancy.

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This page is a archive of entries in the academia category from September 2005.

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