To its credit, the Department of Philosophy at National University of Singapore, in a timely manner, emailed some applicants to its recently advertised open rank position to inform them that they were no longer being considered for the job. Unfortunately, the email addresses of all of the recipients of the rejection letter were visible in the “cc” section of the message.
The result was that over 200 people were exposed as having applied to the position.
For some, this is no big deal, for others, it is. It’s a kind of privacy violation, but as one reader of Daily Nous put it in an email, the error also puts some “scholars in precarious positions at risk, since many do not want their employers to know that they are applying elsewhere,” for fear of upsetting them, or giving them reason to not renew their contracts.
Once notified of the error, the search committee member responsible for it wrote to the affected candidates to apologize.
When contacted about the mishap, the Department also issued a public apology:
While notifying unsuccessful job applicants to our open rank position, the candidates were mistakenly cc’ed instead of bcc’ed by a search committee member. This was a horrible mistake on our part. It did not show respect for those job applicants who applied for our position; it was an egregious violation of privacy; and worst of all, it has potentially harmed many vulnerable members of our profession, particularly those who might be in precarious employment. Going on the job market is a stressful enough experience at the best of times; to our shame, we have made things unequivocally worse for those who have trusted us enough to apply to our position. There’s no excuse. We have to do better, and we will do better. We are reviewing our application handling procedures, including communication with applicants, to ensure that there is no repeat of this incident. We sincerely apologise to everyone affected by this error.
This is the kind of mistake that anyone is susceptible to making, and so perhaps all hiring departments should take a moment to review the procedures they have in place for communicating with job applicants so as to decrease the risk of these and similar errors.