July 9, 2005

Academic appointments committees that fear the blogger.

Here's a pseudonymously written article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about all the many, many problems bloggers present to the appointments committees who may be considering hiring them.

Yeah, all you academics who might be blogging or considering blogging. Be afraid, be very afraid. Don't you dare blog. Close down right now. You've got to choose. Do you want to be an academic or do you want to be a blogger?

Good.

There, now. More room in the blogosphere for me.

Well, really... Here's the Metafilter discussion of the topic. I suppose if I were desperate for a job, this article might scare me into not blogging. So you can discount what I'm saying if you want. But, for me, blogging is so phenomenally satisfying that I would find the possible career advancement sacrifices worth it, and, what's more, I love the idea that this blog automatically functions to deflect people from me who don't like it. Saves me a lot of damned time interacting with people I'm not going to like.

UPDATE: I went back and reread this article, looking for the one really serious danger that a responsible, high-quality blogger faces: revealing your politics. The article has nothing on this, perhaps because it would reflect poorly on the appointments committee. But I think there are people on appointments committees who would set themselves against a candidate who, say, voted for Bush or supported the war in Iraq. If you blog about politics, you're quite likely to write things that will make someone you're going to need to like you hate you.

Another thing I noticed on rereading was this paragraph:
We felt deceived by his overstatement of his academic expertise. In this case, it was not the candidate's own blog, but that of a boasting friend, that revealed the truth. The lesson? Be careful what you let a close associate's blog say about you. What that associate sees as complimentary may cast you in an unflattering light in the eyes of a search committee.
Well, there's little you can do about that! This is the same problem anyone has confiding in anyone. I guess there's just the extra concern that confidences can nowadays be violated on a spectacular scale. Or maybe the point is: don't let any bloggers near you. They might up and tell the whole world just about anything. Scary, scary bloggers!
The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.
What idiocy! Anyone on the faculty at any time might start a blog and hang out the dirty laundry. It doesn't matter that the person doesn't have an established traffic flow. All he needs is a link -- easy enough to get if you have a juicy post -- and the traffic will gush over. A person with an established blog has a track record of responsibility and an interest in maintaining the blog long term. It's that rash newcomer who's most likely to do something outrageous. How many of my readers think one day they are going to read something nasty about the University of Wisconsin on Althouse?

Man, these people are just too stupid to be trusted with appointments -- and too timorous to deserve to a university position from which to dribble out the contents of their weak little minds.

28 comments:

leeontheroad said...

Yes, though it's not just blogging, of course. As the Chronicle article indicates, "In some cases, a Google search of the candidate's name turned up his or her blog."

In other words, it's as much about google results-- which may or may not as much indicate a candidate's opinion or personality as a blog might. For example, if folks posted on a listserv in '98 and the archive is still around, it can turn up. I know :-)

However, sound policy still applies: don't post anything on the 'net you wouldn't want your [mother, husband, search committee] to read. (In my case, on the listserv archive, I merely proferred an alternate reading of a Genesis passage-- no big deal.)

Having said that, I was also recently misquoted by the campus newspaper, and that artcle shows up as No. 3 or 4 on a "venity google." It's really tempting to put a line in a cover letter that says "I really do know the proper use of the word beneficiary; the studet reporter didn't." Oh well.

It seems to me that-- easy for me to say, of ocurse-- that I wouldn't much want an appointment I could "lose" because, despite the CV, someone didn't like what they saw on google.

Dave said...

Daniel Drezner has a long post about the same topics.

Considering how cushy tenured academics' jobs are, I would think there's a strong incentive among those worried about getting tenure, not to blog.

David said...

Thanks Ann for another reminder why I gave up reading the Chronicle years ago. I now know more about some midwest professor than I want.

Ann Althouse said...

Lee: The Metafilterers talks about that too. Clearly, people need to be responsible for what they write. I like that: the tone of the academic part of the blogosphere is pretty good because of this.

Well, some academic bloggers try too hard to be good and end up booorrriinnggg. But maybe that should be held against the job candidate too. There's a trick to finding the right tone -- just as there's a trick to setting the right tone in the real-world environment of an academic department.

Blogs do give a lot of information about what sort of a person you're dealing with. Committees should perhaps worry about a person who doesn't reveal much about himself and is too timid to blog or too bereft of the sort of ideas that don't fit into academic articles.

By the same token, I'd be worried about working at a place that was nervous and prissy about blogs.

Beldar said...

I've wondered when some unanticipated consequence of my blogging is going to rear up and bite my butt in the practice of law.

It hasn't happened yet. The closest it's come so far was in a recent mediation, when our mediator (an ex-state court of appeals judge) mentioned to me that she reads my blog.

But I have this strong sense that there's a shoe out there somewhere, waiting to drop.

vnjagvet said...

Reputations are made by a career's worth of interaction with people. Blogging is but another form of such interaction.

Boring people are boring bloggers. Jerky people are jerky bloggers. Interesting people who put themselves into their blogs have interesting blogs.

The guy who wrote that critique of blogging students and faculty sounded like a jerk. Who would want to work in his department?

The article told me as much about him as I would want to know. If he had been a blogger, I would only have read him once. And I wouldn't hire him either.

Ron said...

For all the chatter about academic freedom, it often seems to be the academics themselves are their own censors. How many untenured people have I seen police themselves in a way that would make Stalin grin with delight before the Allmighty God of Tenure? Language, dress code, political statements, blogging, who one is friends with; I've seen such throughgoing self-monitoring over all these things and more, much more. Hardly a role model of intellectual or personal courage.

Before a summer time softball game, I was asked to "watch what I say" because my two untenured friends were afraid stray remarks of mine might get back via the grapevine to those who opposed their tenure. I looked at them and said, "You're crazy!"

leeontheroad said...

I think we're in substantial agreement, then, Ann, about accountability; but I also note that MeFi posters who id'd themselves as non-tenured academics reported nervousness about securing appointments. And therein lies the trouble, I think: one feels as though too much "outside research" is rather unfair. One already knows that one's colleagues are contacted, and there's no accountability for what they say.

I know that for consulting, what one orders at dinner is as scrutnized as the proposal and references. And then there's checking out one's spouse, too. If I say "mine wears a collar," that can be taken many ways. I prefer to say nothing at all.

Ann Althouse said...

Lee: What you're saying makes me realize how a good blog can protect you. You put so much of yourself on the page day after day, that people get a sense that they can see who you are. When those committees call colleagues, then may end up with someone who stabs you in the back for some bad reason of their own, and I tend to think that if the caller read enough of my blog he'd be a lot more skeptical than he might be otherwise. On the other hand, I'm sure this blog would make me unappointable at a lot of places simply because it reveals things like the fact that I voted for Bush and support the wars.

Kev said...

"Considering how cushy tenured academics' jobs are, I would think there's a strong incentive among those worried about getting tenure, not to blog."

That's precisely why "Juan Non-Volokh" of the Volokh Conspiracy blogs under a pseudonym (he's not yet tenured but hoping to be soon), and why there was more than a little controversy a few weeks ago when Brian Leiter threatened to "out" him.

The Postulant said...

It's worth pointing out too that small liberal arts colleges often develop quite peculiar and insular academic personalities. I doubt this search committee is typical of academics in general. I've been on lots of search committees, and I can guarantee you that we would never hold someone's blogging against him or her. Oddly, we hire for professional competence and promise, not political compatibility. And we don't have patience for the academic pretense that our jobs are so difficult as to be all-consuming.

Ann Althouse said...

The Postulant: Everyone says and even believes they are hiring for "professional competence and promise, not political compatibility." I'm referring to the prejudices that affect judgment when I talk about political things.

Ann Althouse said...

And just to be clear: I've never in my direct experience heard a job candidate opposed because of his or her politics. It's not a subject of discussion.

The Postulant said...

I've never heard it discussed directly either. Reading a bit between the lines, I take it that some bloggers or would-be bloggers might worry that people's judgments about their politics would color the judgments of professional competence: "She voted for Bush, so she can't be very good at constitutional law" (or "can't be very smart in general," or what have you). What gets expressed is the judgment about professional competence, not the one about politics, but the effect is the same.

That's probably a legitimate worry -- it's hard for me to assess, since I'm in a quite unusual department of ten that has two Republicans plus a liberal hawk. But people do manage to overlook quite odd views. At my last job talk I was asked a question that I couldn't respond to adequately without acknowledging my belief in divine providential control. I know lots of philosophers think theism is at least as intellectually suspect as political conservatism, but I got hired anyway.

I could imagine that law schools are rather more politicized, for obvious reasons.

Jack Roy said...

Perhaps faculties simply wish to avoid candidates that tend towards the self-congratulatory, impulsive and unreflective, and trivial?

You know, like this post.

Emily said...

Live dangerously, people! If you have ever done anything of public interest, you'll be google-able. If you've ever done anything controversial, people can find out about it. If this makes you decide never to do anything at all, you need to ask yourself whether you've got the right priorities. I've done various controversial things in my life, and most of my faculty colleagues know about them, but it has never been a problem. Most people actually want to have interesting colleagues, even when they don't agree with them. Even those who disagree strongly with your substantive positions will usually respect you for having guts, as long as can thoughtfully and courteously defend your words and actions.

All Blog Spots said...

nice blog

Larry Walton said...

Pure economics. There's little market competition, and limited demand. It's a seller's market. I suspect that straights are slightly less dependent upon filler and sheet than filters, but the price basically reflects what devoted coffin-nail smokers are prepared to pay for them. Lube Oil Filters manufacturers in India

chanti webmaxn said...

The quality of content is fine and the conclusion is good. Thanks for the post
Webmaxn Solutions ||
Web Development Hyderabad ||
SEO

chanti webmaxn said...

It is so interesting. I want to know some other information about this site…
Keyword research ||
search engine marketing ||
Guaranteed SEO ||
Profitable SEO

sai kumar said...

Medical admission 2014 Medical admission 2013
Medical admission 2014
MBBS in Mauritius medical college
Study MBBS in Mauritius
Thank you for sharing it in an easy to read and understandable format.

chanti webmaxn said...

Thank you very much for posting and sharing this great article.
It is so interesting. I want to know some other information about this site…
SEO Services Hyderabad ||
SEO Consultant ||
Keyword research ||
search engine marketing ||
Guaranteed SEO ||
Profitable SEO

chanti webmaxn said...

The quality of content is fine and the conclusion is good. Thanks for the post
search engine marketing ||
Guaranteed SEO ||
Profitable SEO

chanti webmaxn said...

Thank you very much for posting and sharing this great article.
Webmaxn Solutions ||
Web Development Hyderabad ||
SEO ||
SEO Services Hyderabad ||
SEO Consultant ||
Keyword research ||
search engine marketing ||
Guaranteed SEO ||
Profitable SEO

madhu eeprivate said...

I always like to read a quality content having accurate information regarding the subject and the same thing I found in this post. Nice work
MBBS in Mauritius
MBBS in Nepal
MBBS in china
MBBS in Russia
MBBS in abroad
MBBS direct admission

BOMMA MADHU said...

You have a very interesting blogging style. I really like the way you present.
Latest technology news | Recent technology news | Business technology news | Current science and technology news

chinni cute said...

Captain America -The Winter Soldier Hash Line: Soldier got too cold Language : English 3D Cast : Chris Evans,Scarlett Johansson,Sebastian Stan,Anthony Mackie,Cobie Smulders,Frank Grillo,Emily VanCamp,Hayley Atwell,Robert Redford,Samuel L. Jackson Direction…
Regional news

wsnp said...

The big news is all over the place already, with Superstar Mahesh heard ditching popular, Bollywood’s giant production house UTV Motion Pictures. They say that our hero is unhappy with…
Latest tollywood news
Latest tollywood news online
Regional news