On Campus Visits: A Job Candidate’s Critique (guest post)

Below are critical suggestions from a graduate student, who’ll go nameless, who was on the market this past season. The suggestions are for departments, in regard to how they arrange and manage campus visits. We’ve discussed some flyout horror stories before, but there seems to be no lack of resourcefulness in how departments can make things lousy for job candidates. Feel free to share your relevant experiences in the comments. And also be sure to take a look at the brief “best practices” document on interviewing at the American Philosophical Association (APA) site. 

On Campus Visits: A Job Candidate’s Critique
by a graduate student and current job candidate

I am a graduate student and I am on the job market. Woe is me. Sure. But this year, I was lucky to have a couple on-campus visits. Unfortunately, I had a few experiences that made me think the APA should do a better job of publicizing, and perhaps elaborating upon, its guidelines for on-campus visits. Perhaps some of the issues I experienced cannot be fixed through departmental action. Either way, I would like to know if any other candidates (especially graduate students) have experienced problems while doing on-campus visits that should be brought to light.

Here are few suggestions based on what happened to me:

  1. Hiring Departments should be required to make clear their University’s reimbursement policies. While interviewing for a TT position in the American Southeast, I went out to dinner with a faculty member. At the end of the dinner, I picked up the check and said that if s/he would like I could pay for it since I would be reimbursed (I had been told to “keep all your receipts”). S/he agreed and I paid for dinner and drinks. After the interview, I submitted all my receipts. When I got the check in the mail, I realized that they didn’t cover any of my food costs. Not my individual meals and not that two-person dinner + drinks. When I emailed the secretary, I was just told I would not be reimbursed.
  1. Hiring Departments should ask whether candidates would prefer to book airfare themselves or have it booked by the department. The same department mentioned above, after informing me they wanted me to come for an on-campus visit, told me it was “easiest” (presumably for them) if I just bought my ticket on my own and got reimbursed for that later. I wasn’t really given the option to have them book it. And I didn’t feel comfortable requesting it. This particular trip also required international travel, so it really wasn’t cheap. At the time I had limited financial resources.
  1. Hiring Departments should pay for accomodations ahead of time. During a different campus visit, this time in the Northeast, the department “booked” a hotel for me. The hotel was nice. But the hiring department didn’t actually pay for it. When I checked out after my visit, I was asked by management to pay. I couldn’t leave, of course, until I paid. And I had a flight to catch (which I also was told to pay for on my own, see #2 above). Again, the hotel was quite nice. It was also $500.00/night. So I had to dish out slightly over $1,000 on the spot just to be able to leave. Thankfully I (again, a grad student) had enough in my savings account this time to cover this. I don’t know how long the reimbursement will take. That was summer money.
  1. Hiring Departments should educate the faculty members they include in the process about what is and is not appropriate. While interviewing for another position in the American Northwest, I went to dinner with a group of faculty (four of us in total). Halfway into breakfast, a professor started expressing discontent about the culture of “political correctness” that has recently “taken over” academia. Now, I disagree with the general sentiment, but not the worst thing that has ever happened. The issue emerged when this faculty member went on to say that s/he (a white professor) felt oppressed because s/he felt s/he couldn’t teach “the truth” of things to students anymore (let’s be real, it was a man). I then made the horrible mistake of asking: “What truths exactly do you feel you cannot teach your students?” To which s/he answered: “Well, for example, that it is a scientific fact that different races have different degrees of intelligence. That is just a fact.” Um. Ok. Um. Not sure what to do. I waited to see if any other attendees (all white) would say anything. Nobody did. I was the only person of color at the table. I felt like I had to engage the argument, which I did (quite aggressively). I didn’t get the job.
  1. Hiring Departments should have a protocol for post-decision debriefing (should they choose to engage in it). After interviewing for a TT position in the American Midwest and not getting the job, I was asked by a faculty member whether I would like to debrief. I really, really appreciated the offer since this is not common, and I personally find it valuable to hear what reasons were discussed by the committee when making the decision (e.g., “we thought the job talk was too technical and hard to relate to” or “we really wanted someone with some postdoc experience, so we went that route”). So, I was excited to debrief. In this case nothing went wrong per se. The “issue,” if I may call it that, is that I was told that the debriefing was “private” and I should keep it to myself. That’s not a big deal. I can do that. I just wish debriefing were viewed as just another stage of the search process. It should be done openly and with the full knowledge and support of the hiring committee. Still, kudos to the faculty member who reached out to me.

Any other people have similar experiences or recommendations for improving the on-campus experience?

Chad Person, "Kraken"

Chad Person, “Kraken”

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