First Reaction

If you are passed by for a job and your first reaction is that it’s because of what your successful competitor has in the pants, where they are from or what color they are, there’s something wrong with you. And it doesn’t matter whether you think “of course, she got hired. It’s all about hiring for diversity and affirmative action these days” or “of course, he was hired. Patriarchal imperialism and racism rule.” You are a dick either way. And it might be the reason you weren’t hired. Nobody wants a colleague who is a whiny, jealous idiot.

24 thoughts on “First Reaction”

  1. I would like to agree with you, but in the current climate I think that people who perceive hiring outcomes in terms of race and gender are simply attuned to the messages coming at them from every direction.

    Every university out there brags about their commitment to diversity in hiring. They announce expensive initiatives that will supposedly result in more diverse faculty hires. They create new job titles for people who will push for more diverse hiring outcomes. When we get onto hiring committees, we are all sent to diversity training sessions, where we spend a few minutes hearing that it is illegal to hire on the basis of race or gender and a few hours hearing that it is absolutely crucial for the university’s future that we hire more people of certain favored racial or gender backgrounds. And a non-trivial fraction of the faculty want to be seen as agreeing and helping to lead the charge.

    In short, a lot of people in academia are practically begging us to give them credit for every female and (non-Asian) minority hire. They are practically begging us to assume that the woman or (non-Asian) minority was hired not just because of their qualifications but because a large team of people worked hard to make sure we hire more women and (non-Asian) minorities.

    At the same time, a lot of people push a ready-made explanation for why we don’t have “enough” female and (non-Asian) minority faculty: Implicit bias on the part of hiring committees. When we join a hiring committee we are sent to training sessions where we are shown cherry-picked excerpts from the social science literature and scolded about our biases. We’re encouraged to confess. Many people around us eagerly confess. (I remember an administrator excitedly running up to us and telling us all about her score on her latest Implicit Association Test.) If at any point we question certain narratives it is likely that someone will remind us about our implicit biases. And the message of implicit bias is brought up in professional development workshops and advice articles from professional associations.

    In short, a lot of people in academia are practically demanding that we blame the hiring of white or Asian males on biased hiring committees.

    With all of these messages “in the air”, a person who attributes a hiring decision to the applicant’s race or gender (and the hiring committee’s preferences or biases) is simply responding to all of the signals buffeting them from every direction. They aren’t self-obsessed freaks, they’re astute observers of the people around them.


    1. This is an academic, though. Somebody who, at the very least, needs to be able to come up with an original thought here and now.

      My explanation is that this is an ignorant, unqualified opportunist with limited vocabulary and poor reasoning skills who hopes to get a job not on the strength of actual qualifications but by screaming all these slogans at people. We need to shame and ridicule these people which is what I’m doing right now at the forum where the discussion took place.


      1. I agree that they need to come up with original thoughts, but they also need to be able to accurately describe and respond to the reality around them. Frankly, I think that in most (but probably not all) cases, preferences for women and (non-Asian) minorities are stronger than biases against them. Yes, maybe if left to their own devices professors would favor white men, but hiring committees face scrutiny from Deans and Diversity Officers, and everyone knows what is expected. Everyone knows that if they send up a “short list” of people to invite for campus interviews, that list will be approved more easily if it is diverse. Everyone knows that the department will face less hassle and scrutiny down the road if they diversify their ranks.

        So if someone is saying “I think these hiring decisions are, in part, responsive to diversity efforts,” I think that person is accurately summarizing the reality around them.

        OTOH, if they are saying “I think these hiring decisions are all about implicit biases,” sorry, that person is missing a large chunk of what is going on.

        (Though, ironically, I’ve seen women be far harsher on female applicants than the male faculty are. I think it’s less some stereotypical “cattiness” and more that women can get away with voicing these criticisms more easily than men can. A male professor who cares about his paycheck will be very careful in his criticisms of female applicants.)


        1. Oh, absolutely, everybody is desperate to hire someone who’ll fulfill the diversity quota and get the diversity police off their backs. Yet the problem with these “more diverse” candidates is that they simply don’t exist or are extremely few. So if we reject, say, 80 candidates for a position, it is extremely likely they weren’t rejected in favor of somebody “diverse.”

          As for biases, I agree it’s ridiculous. Our speech is so policed that I once suggested a candidate’s Spanish was very bad for somebody wanting to be a professor of Spanish and people acted like I said something enormously offensive.


    2. And also, you and I have the same messages coming at us as anybody else. Yet we manage to have minds of our own still. And even my feminine voices is no obstacle to that. 🙂


      1. In Spanish, though? Has anybody here seen a Spanish program that overwhelmingly hires men in the past 10-15 years?

        This is a discussion that started on a Hispanic studies forum. If it were chemistry or engineering, I wouldn’t support the proposal but at least I’d understand the anger. But Spanish!!


            1. Or they stop arresting students for parking tickets (the latest drama). But look, I found out what an instructor does now and why they can teach so many sections!
              1/ There are a total of three courses they might teach, all from the same textbook.
              2/ They do not have to make their own syllabi, build their own websites or write their own exams.
              3/ No research, no service. Benefits and raises, though, based on evaluations. Quite a lot of job security.
              DAYUM. The de-professionalization amazes me.


              1. That’s how it is at my school. Plus, they are unionized. It isn’t a bad gig for somebody, I don’t know, much older, with a large family, or intellectually limited in a way that having no professional life beyond teaching “yo soy, tú eres” won’t drive them nuts.

                It’s not that it’s a hard job. It’s the opposite, actually. It’s very intellectually unfulfilling. I’d rather work at a grocery store, to be honest.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. It’s such poor program design, and it comes from years of zero leadership. When I was contingent at a better school, the M.A. level contingent faculty were all vibrant people engaged in the program and the school in different ways — running study abroad programs, creating poetry readings, doing town-gown things involving the Hispanic community, all kinds of cool stuff. And the program was coherent, I’d get the students as juniors and they’d all have acquired certain skills and done interesting things with the language already. I mean: you can cultivate faculty, but our places seem to be designed to drain them instead.


              3. I have so much to say about this but I’ll have to hide the thread again.

                Our new adjunct is trying to do precisely this kind of thing you are describing. He’s a great, young, energetic guy. But the moment he tries to do anything – and he really benefits the program with his work – all initiative is immediately beaten out of him by the full professor crowd. They are being just simply nasty. It’s like he’s mortally offending them by rising above his station and trying to contribute. I’m so upset about this because it’s reached ridiculous proportions.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Isn’t it just job wars? There’s no practical downside most of the time for saying someone else was hired because they were/were not race X or gender Y or other identity Z.
    It’s like John McEnroe, the tennis player in the 70s/80s notorious for on court temper tantrums when close calls didn’t go his way. I remember one announcer saying, it probably helped him more than hurt him over time as more line judges were likely to give him the benefit of a doubt (and avoid a nasty scene) than not.


      1. “a way for the unqualified and the dumb to get an advantage”

        Well that’s where my analogy falls down, McEnroe (as infuriating as he was) was an all time great player who probably didn’t even need the temper tantrums most of the time – although he also used them to psyche himself up – I remember one match where he wasn’t doing well so he picked a fight with a judge over something trival… and then started playing better.


        1. At the forum where this is all happening, in response to my comments, the original poster replied in a pouty way: “My English is not very good!” It doesn’t seem to dawn on that person that hiring committees might prefer other candidates not because of what is in their pants but because of what is in their heads.

          I was rejected for a job I really wanted in favor of a male candidate. His CV is genuinely better, so they made the right choice. Seeing his CV inspired me to get better and do more. It didn’t inspire me to go whine that I’m a victim of discrimination.

          Ok, job wars, I get it. But at least let’s fight clean.


      2. Well, recently it got us our first African-American faculty, very few, but some, and they’re good. It’s that without the diversity initiative those candidates get passed over automatically.


  3. You can’t really know why you weren’t hired, in an academic job search. Too many candidates, too many factors, too many flukes. Once you get down to the semifinalists or so, it’s a crap shoot, basically. You may be able to find out why you WERE hired, though.

    This having been said one can look at patterns. We prefer to hire white US males to the higher paying jobs, and their wives of any race or national origin to the lower paying ones. But we vary the pattern just enough so as not to be in a position to counter or deny its discernment.

    Diversity workshops IME are often about learning to cover or deny the discrimination you are practicing, in fashionable words.


    1. Who are we, though? In Spanish, most TT and tenured people are either not male, not white or not from the US. Not for any evil reason but simply because it’s Humanities so the field attracts women. And it’s Spanish so it attracts Hispanic people.


      1. Look at university wide hires, and I’ll bet you’ll see a different pattern. In arts & humanities too, check out who is in the power positions.


  4. Yeah, it shouldn’t be the first thing that pops into your head. But sometimes, based on the interview, you have to wonder… And sometimes the chair blurts out afterwards that you were tied with a male candidate in the faculty vote, and they decided to give it to him – literally the only time most find it acceptable to bring “diversity” into the equation…


    1. I’m sure it’s a justified reaction in sciences, for instance. But in Spanish, I swear to God, everybody is a woman and/or non-white. Right now at my department, the Spanish section tenured people are 3 women, 1 man and 1 vacancy left by a woman who retired. Permanent non-TT are 1 man and 1 woman.

      The department I graduated from with my PhD, 1 Latino man and a bunch of women. Later, another Latino man was hired. And this is very normal. I don’t have any experience of being a minority in a room as a woman in my discipline.


      1. As a woman, I do. Of course overall the field isn’t white, so I’m not used to having to deal with white people. Still, look how men and whiteness dominate in my department currently:

        Tenured: 1 WM, 1 HM, 1 WW (2/3 men, 2/3 white, no Hispanic women)
        NTT: 1 HW, 3 HM (no whites at this lower level, and only one woman)


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