Friday, August 15, 2014


We've already started working on job ad language.  I have a feeling that there's stuff in the ads that no one applying really worries much about, but it's there.

One of the things NWU likes to have in our ads is language about how the community is "safe" and "friendly." 

What do "safe" and "friendly" mean to you?  To other folks you know?

For me, "safe" codes as "white," and I worry that I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Are we making people of color feel less welcome as applicants?  Or does everyone pretty much apply to every job anyway out of desperation?

And "friendly," for me codes as "only if you were born here," in a small town sort of way.


  1. I would read safe as there had been a lot of recent crime that someone wants to downplay. "Safe" is the default, right? So if someone mentions it, I assume they think I would think that it's not safe. Same thing with "friendly." I assume the place isn't filled with jerks. So if the ad says "Friendly," I assume there's a reason for me to think it's not (or at least has been perceived that way in the past).

    1. But I wouldn't not apply to a job that said that because desperation.

  2. Anonymous12:32 PM

    As a POC, I would think neither of those things. I would, however, think it was dangerous and unfriendly because otherwise why mention it?

  3. Yeah, I don't like "safe." "Friendly" doesn't bother me, but I'd rather have a more specific descriptor: "A friendly community of 4,000 just minutes from X and less than two hours from Y," or "located near excellent Z" or something like that.

  4. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Are you Yale or University of Chicago? That's what "safe" is signaling to me-- that you're a closed campus in the middle of a high-crime area. Or maybe that you're a regional campus and your closest competitor is in a high crime area and you're not, or you draw your student body from high-crime areas. More likely though that you're a closed campus in a high crime area yourself.

    Friendly, otoh, is code for small town with not much to do in it.

  5. "Friendly" would be a bit of a red flag for me as an introvert; I'd fear that it meant "you'll have no privacy" and/or "we'll label you non-collegial and deny you tenure unless you spend most of your supposedly non-work time showing that you're part of the team/family/community by participating in group activities."

    And I'd wonder about "safe" as well, for reasons already mentioned: wondering whether it either coded as "racially homogeneous, and happy that way" or some sort of protesting-too-much. There's been some recent discussion of an app designed to identify "sketchy" areas that might be relevant:,2817,2462271,00.asp .

    Overall, I'm with Flavia. I'd prefer numbers that I can interpret as I choose. In fact, I think the underlying problem that adjectives such as "safe" and "friendly" share is an apparent lack of awareness that such descriptions convey subjective judgments, and that different people might see the same community differently. I think many academics would be put off by the underlying assumption that they will see the community in the same way that the ad-copy-writer does.

  6. Anonymous2:50 PM

    Hey! How's it going? You doing ok?

  7. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Considering that you're not in a dense urban area, I would have decoded "safe" as meaning "If you're not sure you'd like it outside of a major American city, consider that we have a lot fewer muggers than you do!"--that is, a positive spin on the location. And, along the same lines, "friendly" means "People will make eye contact with you here!" But as this discussion shows, "safe" and "friendly" mean different things to different people in, and from, different contexts...