Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mid Career Mike On the New Hire. "Welcome to Paradise, Shithead."

Listen, I'm not at an Ivy League school. Soda-Pop College is a bit of a tumbledown spot, but I work with the nicest folks, and have access to about the most spectacular beach I've ever seen in my life.

I have a low stress existence, love my students, and have a very nice life. Of course my colleagues are a part of that.

We had the chance this year to fill a new tenure-line spot, something this college hasn't had for 20 years. (I replaced someone who was retiring.) So, last September we geared up, did the job ad in some marathon sessions. Our small department shared the load of reading the dossiers, picking phone interview folks, and then bringing 3 different people to campus.

It was great. It was the smoothest and most enjoyable job search I'd ever been a part of.

2 candidates who came to campus were great. Both of them were veterans of the college wars, probably both in their late 30s or early 40s. Both women, both well published in refereed journals, great teaching, and both who knew enough about the area to know that it would fit their lives and the lives of their families.

They both gave great teaching demonstrations, and our visits with them were stress-free, actually informative, and the entire committee was agreed that we'd be overjoyed if either would come.

The third candidate, Chester from Charlesboro, was the only young candidate we brought to campus. Nobody on the committee loved him, but his dossier kept popping up in our meetings as someone who seemed too good to not take a closer look at. He had a better pedigree than anyone on the committee, or anyone else we'd looked at. But he was impossibly young, just finished his Ph.D. in an impossibly narrow subdiscipline, and well published already. His letters were off the charts, and when another candidate passed on the campus interview, Chester got the spot instead.

Chester was the last of the visits, and he was infuriatingly annoying. There was a problem with his transportation to the hotel, a problem with the hotel, a problem about what time he was WILLING to come to campus, a problem with his Powerpoint (ugh) presentation. He had the wrong laptop, the wrong slides, not enough copies, didn't know actual STUDENTS would be at his teaching demonstration, and the list goes on. He was aloof, condescending, and - worst of all - he said he'd never been south of Maryland before, and he didn't know how any of us could stand so much humidity.

We soldiered through our long-ass day with him, and I got the job of taking him over to the Dean's office for his last interview. As I shook his hand at the door, I thought, "Goodbye, you pretentious bonehead."

We made our recommendation to the Dean's office for one of the two first candidates, and waited.

And then we waited. It got to be that veterans in the department began to worry. "You know," one of them said, "Whenever it takes this long it's going to be bad for us."

And it was. The Dean sent us all an email, thanking us for our terrific work. They had hired Chester.

The reason, we came to find out, was simple dollars and cents. Our college's pay scale requires folks who come in with experience to be paid a higher salary. They simply plug their years of full-time teaching in tenured or tenure-track spots and a number pops out. Chester, of course, looking for his first full time job, charted right at the bottom, the minimum number. The other two rated higher and would have cost the college - and you won't believe it - and extra $2400 and $3950 per annum.

The committee had one last meeting. In the end, it wasn't our call. Even our department chair had to admit that she talked to the Dean, but got nowhere. In the end it was money and that was it.

The gap between either of the first candidates and Chester was so large, that it just never occurred to me. Had we worded our recommendation strongly enough? Had the chair really explained what a horse's ass Chester was? Did his brush with the Ivy League tip the scales? Had he had a standout interview with the Dean? Did somebody promise him a dehumidifier for his office?

And so it came to be that we had a new colleague. I checked with everyone on the committee, NOBODY got a thank you note from Chester. Frankly, nobody can believe he even wanted to come here; perhaps the job market has made us a place he'll deign to join - temporarily.

And that's just it. We'll be replacing Chester soon; everyone agrees. He won't want to stay here. He showed not one whit of interest in our conversations about the area. He was like a pissy shark churning through our little warm-bodied pond. What August 27th will be like, I can't even imagine.

Welcome to paradise, Shithead.