Historic Artifact? An Open Letter to Department Search Committees from 1997

papers

The following (co-written with my then co-editor at the now defunct Bulletin of the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion, the late Tim Murphy), first appeared as an open letter in our inaugural issue (26/1 [1997]) and was then reproduced as the appendix to chapter 6 of The Discipline of Religion (2003).  Though many things about the academic labor market may have changed over the past 20 years (e.g., many universities have moved to online application systems, complete with PDF uploads and automated emails to applicants, making the mention of self-addressed postcards an historical relic), it is re-posted here in its original form since, in large measure, the topics it addressed have — sadly — not changed much at all.

Given the characteristics of the current North American job market in the humanities and social sciences, where each year the number of qualified candidates far exceeds the number of tenure track openings, search committees sometimes fail to follow reasonable advertising and hiring procedures. In so doing, they increase not only their own workload but the workloads of all those who apply for positions. Overly detailed application requirements, coupled with vaguely defined job advertisements, suggest that search committees often do not define their departments’ needs before venturing into the job market. A casual survey of current job descriptions will suggest the manner in which candidates are sometimes confronted by virtual wish lists that few, if any, actual applicants could ever satisfy. Continue reading

A Response to “Responsible Research Practices,” Part 1: General Reflections

aarA few days ago I wrote a brief post on this site, intended to draw attention to a document that had just been circulated publicly by the American Academy of Religion (our main professional organization in the US), entitled “Responsible Research Practices: A Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct for AAR Members.” (Click here to read it or click here to learn a little more about it and to find the names [posted as a PDF here] of the 10-person committee that drafted it.) Approaching mid-July, and released without much fanfare (at least that I’d heard), it wasn’t entirely clear to me that members of the Academy would necessarily know this draft had been posted, or that their input was being solicited.

So my post was mainly concerned to just help get the word out a little more.

Picture 9I offered a brief critique, sure, but didn’t dwell on any of the details.

Since then I’ve talked privately with two people on the committee, to make my views known to them directly, and so I think my post from the other day now deserves a more sustained and public follow-up. Continue reading