Friday, November 07, 2014

The Ax

Budgets are being cut again here at NWU; supposedly our beloved state had budget problems, and the state university system is where such problems get balanced.

We're running pretty lean here, but cuts are happening, and more are on the way. 

Word is out that each department chair is having an individual budget meeting with the Dean, and getting the word on cuts, and the word is painful.  So says my friend who had her meeting already.

The bad news in Underwater Basketweaving is that their job search for a Deepwater Specialist is cut.  They've sent out letters to all the applicants, more than 100 of them, explaining the search's elimination.  And all that time faculty put in, staff put in, to prepare and start reading the applications, all that time is gone. 

Why didn't the Dean make that decision a month ago?  Instead, the signals the basketweavers got was full steam ahead, until it wasn't, and then it was a complete turn around.  Not a complete surprise, because everyone knew it was a possibility, but a turn around.

If the Dean decided a month ago, then that would have saved faculty time, but also the time of 100 plus candidates, all of whom spent (in all likelihood) a goodly bit of time preparing their letter for the UB department's ad.

So, I'm grumpy.

But.  I'm not supposed to know.  Yes, the cancelled searches seem to be being kept secret; I only know this one because I know the staff person who had the unhappy duty to send out all the cancelled job letters to the applicants.

It seems to me, the secrecy thing is really unhealthy.  We're in this together, and we should all learn in a timely manner of decisions that affect us, shouldn't we?


  1. Time and money. As someone who is (even still) applying for jobs, and who is (even still) on a perpetually tight budget, the amount of money it takes to apply for even a single job is not nothing.

    I'm at the point where I think twice about job searches that require more than a letter, a CV, and the names of three references at this point. If you want transcripts and letters and a writing sample and so on -- and *especially* if you won't let me submit it electronically -- and if you want all that just for the initial screening, I'm inclined to just write you off, unless there's something very, very special about your job,

    Even places that compile the portfolio for me and send all that out together are charging me a couple bucks to send each one out. If I apply for ten jobs a month, that adds up.

  2. Trying to keep cancelled searches secret is just silly. At some point, it will all become public.

    And yes, it's a lot of time for faculty and for applicants. If you need letters, that is another cost. So it's not trivial. It would be good if the Faculty Senate, or whatever you have, could remind the dean of this. It may be that the word only got to him in the last month, but I'd be surprised.

  3. Delagar - I get two professional memberships paid for by my school. One of them is MLA, and I just recently discovered that if you are a member of MLA, then Interfolio is free. No more $6 per delivery. Honestly, even if you had to pay for MLA yourself for a year, it might be worth it to cut down on your job seeking costs. But I hear you on the assembly of materials. I hesitated to apply for jobs because they seemed to all require letters of recommendation. But then, I happily was able to find people to support me, and I managed to get the applications out. (Thanks again, Bardiac!) But yes, it's a pain and can get expensive if all the right stars don't line up.

    Bardiac - I remember how disappointed I was in 2008 when so many of the jobs I applied for were canceled. The next year, some of those same jobs were offered again and I didn't apply because I worried about their financial stability. I didn't want to be at a school that wasn't financially stable.

    Now that I'm faculty, I can really empathize with all the people who did lots of work for nothing. It feels like I do that a lot these days.

  4. I agree that secrecy over a cancelled search is just heaping hurt upon hurt. It privileges administrative authority (nothing's official until we say it's official) and plausible deniability (if we don't ever say it was cancelled, nobody can say anything about it). Honesty would be a better policy for faculty morale and candidates' belief in future postings there or elsewhere.

  5. Are the people who think they can keep the canceled search secret aware of the academic jobs wiki? If they've sent out letters to the candidates saying that the search has been canceled (a smart as well as a kind move,since it keeps speculation and rumors from proliferating among the candidates), then that information is undoubtedly available on the wiki by now (and will remain there for some time to come). I'm not sure it's entirely a healthy thing (sharing of information good; obsessing about every possible theory about what's going on in every search in a very bad market bad), but searches and their results (or lack thereof) are pretty public these days.

    Which, of course, means that if someone wanted to say something to the Dean about the PR costs of the canceled search (since that's presumably what the Dean is concerned about), or about any of the other costs of the canceled search, one could cite the jobs wiki as a source of information. In the (probably unlikely ) case that the information about the cancellation of the search isn't on the wiki yet, one could even put it there (using an off-campus connection, of course). In short, I suspect there's a way to know that doesn't involve your staff acquaintance, if you (or anyone else) has a need to know in order to comment.