Friday, January 28, 2011

What's Going On at Kalamazoo College?

Update 2/6/11: Comments here and on the jobs wiki indicate that this was the result of a miscommunication, not dishonesty.

Comments on the Jobs Wiki make it seem that the search committee at Kalamazoo has been telling candidates they were doing one thing while they were actually doing something else. According to various comments, KC did some interviewing at the APA, and also some phone interviews. The search committee contacted candidates on or around January 7 and indicated that they would be meeting two or three weeks from then to decide who to invite to campus. (Around this time, several people from various IPs claim to have independently confirmed, via email, that this was the search committee's plan.) So, they would be meeting around now to make this decision.

But then yesterday, January 27th, the committee emailed candidates to let them know that the campus visits were over, and that they had offered someone the job, and that the offer had been accepted. (Again, several people with various IPs indicate that this email went out.) (It is also worth noting that there is a lot of conflicting information on the wiki about this search, going back to a December 20 report that on-campus interviews had been scheduled. Maybe that wasn't bullshit.)

So that's pretty weird. Somewhere in there the search committee seems to have distributed inaccurate information. Either they told some people that they would be meeting about campus visits in three weeks while simultaneously inviting some other people to visit campus within that same three-week period, or else they invited some people to campus now while telling some other people that the job had been filled. Or else someone is fucking with the wiki in a serious way.

What gives?

--Mr. Zero

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

"My Aunt came back
From Kalamazoo,
And brought with her,
Some clowns like YOU!"

Xenophon said...

I have no knowledge or information about this search. My guess would be that someone's fucking with the wiki, but that doesn't mean the other things aren't happening as well. I don't put much faith in the wiki, though I'm glad it's there.

I will note that when you google "Kalamazoo College philosophy," your blog post is the ninth entry that appears. A sign of the power of this blog, I suppose.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Xenophon,

Yeah, the "fucking" hypothesis is somewhat strong. The only reason I give any credence at all to competing hypotheses is the apparently independently confirmed reports of the conflicting emails sent on or around January 7th and January 27th.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I had an interview with Kalamazoo at the APA, and I haven't heard anything one way or the other. I was told at the interview that they'd be deciding about campus visits "in the next few weeks".

Asstro said...

I wouldn't be too harsh on the college, honestly. At least they're keeping their candidates apprised of the search, even if there are blips in the process. How much better is it that they do send out inaccurate letters than that they, like 95% of the other schools out there, don't say a damned thing until a year after the search has closed?

Blips in searches happen. Searches are complicated bureaucratic undertakings. If there was a miscommunication, I suppose that's a shame, but I wouldn't think that shaming the college for doing the right thing and keeping people informed (even if not totally accurately) is a good way to encourage other schools to send out information in the future.

Plus, what really hangs on the timeline? Anything at all? Hopes? Dreams? The three candidates would presumably be the same in either case.

Anonymous said...

Something like this happened in a faculty search I was a candidate for a few years ago at Ole Miss. The chair of the search committee e-mailed me and assured me that I would be invited for an on-campus interview. Two months later after multiple e-mails sent from me with no response from him, I eventually got a letter saying that another candidate had been chosen to fill the position. Based on an insider account (given through a friend of a friend of a member of the search committee), they were initially going to have 3 candidates come to campus, including me. Then, the well-known advisor of one of the candidates (not me) contacted the chair of the department and told him "Hire my boy!" The department decided to save money, bring only that special candidate to campus and if they liked him, hire him. That's exactly what happened. They hired the advisor's boy! So much for a fair competition. So much for the end of the old boys' network.

Xenophon said...

Oh, sorry. I thought I was picking up on your language. Must be a reflection of the day I'm having. Didn't mean anything by it, much less a hypothesis or theorem or postulate.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of questionable behavior by search committees, did you see this post on Quinnipiac?

"on jan 22nd i was contacted by email, told i was on the list of 13 about to be phone interviewed, and asked what times were good for me. i replied -- then never heard back. anyone else with a similar experience?"

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I interviewed with Kalamazoo at the APA. The chair indicated at that time (29 December) that the SC wouldn't be meeting to discuss campus visits for "several weeks" and that I would hear from him one way or another once that process was complete. Long story short, I didn't hear from him again until yesterday when I received the form e-mail (mentioned on the wiki) about their having had on-campus visits, etc. It has been three weeks since the interview. As far as I'm concerned, the chair was not honest with me.

Now, according to the letter, conducted phone interviews (presumably for folks who couldn't make it to the APA) and on-campus interviews; extended an offer; and hired a candidate all in the space of three weeks. That's some FAST WORK!

Also, at least 2 or 3 candidates contacted the chair about a week after the APA and he told all of them that the SC hadn't met yet to discuss on-campus interviews. So what's up with that?

There's no evidence anyone is "messing with the wiki." The only people who are messing around with anything are at Kzoo.

Anonymous said...

Addendum:

If you look at the comments over at the wiki, you will notice that someone was claiming to have an on-campus interview scheduled about a week after the APA. This generated confusion precisely because other candidates had been told by the chair--at the APA and/or via e-mail--that the SC hadn't met and wouldn't be meeting until mid to late January. But now it seems likely that there actually WERE interviews scheduled a week after the APA, in which case it is incumbent upon Kzoo to explain why they lied about this fact repeatedly to other candidates. It just doesn't make any sense.

Anonymous said...

While I'm not going to deny that there are jerks out there, I don't think we should be too quick to judge. This whole process involves so many different factors, and is rarely just up to the chair, that I don't think it is fair to argue that the chair, or the department was not being honest. It is worth recognizing that both sides of this process are subject to many whims. Job candidates should never put too much faith in timelines offered up by chairs.

Anonymous said...

@1:48,

You seem to be missing the point. The chair explicitly told several candidates in the period between 29 December and 7 January that the committee wouldn't meet to discuss on-campus interviews for 2-3 weeks. The only way to make sense of the letter he sent yesterday, however, is to assume that the committee was meeting to discuss on-campus interviews within a week (possibly days!) after the APA. Ergo, the balance of evidence suggests that the chair straight-up lied to some of the candidates. Why he did that is anyone's guess, but this just isn't reducible to a "simple misunderstanding."

Anonymous said...

By the way, there is now speculation on the wiki that there was at least one inside candidacy involved. Maybe something akin to the 'Ole Miss story is happening here after all.

Anonymous said...

I posted about Quinnipiac on the wiki, the comment that Anon 12:50 quotes (Thank you, 12:50 -- someone heard me!). I really don't know what to think... It certainly doesn't sound good, and I don't feel comfortable writing to them; either they are slow and messy, or they changed their minds and decided to drop me from the list - either way I will just be a bother. But with the Kalamazoo story I am now starting to think there are various other possibilities one may consider!

Anonymous said...

The timelines that chairs provide are aspirational. Philosophy Departments are messy places filled with philosophers. It's also important to realize that EO offices at many places will not allow searches to be declared closed until after an offer has been accepted.

Anonymous said...

@9:31

It may be better to keep candidates informed than not to contact them.

But that does not make it better to lie to candidates than not contact them.

It's better to leave candidates in the dark about the timeline than to lie to them!

Anonymous said...

Here's my story for what it's worth. I wasn't able to make it out to the APA due to the weather, so I had a phone interview with Kalamazoo instead. During my phone interview, the chair said that the search committee wouldn't meet until the end of Jan. However, on Jan. 6, I was invited for an on campus interview. All 3 on campus interviews, including mine, occurred between Jan. 13-Jan. 21. I was told that the search committee hoped to make a final decision by the end of this week and they have. Also, I can confirm that at least 1 of the candidates is currently teaching at Kalamazoo.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, @4:13.

According to the wiki, certain folks were in contact with the chair around the same time he was scheduling your on-campus interview. The problem is that he CONTINUED to tell those folks that that on-campus interviews WEREN'T yet scheduled and WOULDN'T be for another 2-3 weeks. Now, why the hell would he do that? It's almost as though he was trying to hide the fact from those who were not being invited to campus. It's shady as fuck.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 1:48,

I am open to the possibility that there is some misunderstanding here. But it's hard to say what the nature of this misunderstanding could be. There is compelling evidence that several people with different IPs were told, on January 7th, that the committee would meet to discuss campus visits three weeks from that time. And there seems to be compelling evidence that several people with different IPs were told on January 27th that rather than wait three weeks, the committee invited people to campus almost immediately, and successfully offered the job to someone.

I mean, maybe there's some piece of information that would clear this all up. But I can't imagine what that would be. Maybe it's an elaborate hoax. I don't know.

Asstro,

It is true that, technically, this hasn't literally harmed anyone. Nobody was screwed out of a job she would have otherwise gotten or anything like that. But I think we can both agree that job candidates should be shown a certain level of honesty and respect.

Hi anon 3:53,

This is true, of course. However, they are usually "aspirational" in the sense that they take longer than predicted. It is highly unusual for a philosopher to do something three weeks before s/he says s/he will.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero wrote:

"I am open to the possibility that there is some misunderstanding here. But it's hard to say what the nature of this misunderstanding could be."

Yeah, no shit. The chair wrote to @4:13 on 1/6 to invite him/her for an interview. Over the course of the next day or two he proceeded to tell at various inquiring job candidates that on-campus interviews wouldn't be scheduled for another 2 weeks!!! WTF??

word verification: "STFAR," as in, "This shit's gone too far."

Anonymous said...

Let's just agree to call it KooKoo College and pity the fool who has to work with these lying imbeciles. The fact that no one representing KK College has come forward to defend or apologize for the committee's Janus-faced actions makes me believe that they know they did wrong and just won't admit it.

Anonymous said...

The same thing happened at a search two years ago at UW - La Crosse. I was told by the department secretary that they had not invited anyone to campus yet after a post on the wiki said they had. A week or so later, they hired someone. They never contacted me to tell me this, even though I had done a phone interview with them. Total a-holes.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed with Kalamazoo in 2003 at the APA and I never heard from them again.

Anonymous said...

Someone on the Wiki is saying that they have inside information that the job went to an outsider. But, as a matter of fact, the department website has been changed. The person who was listed as, "Visiting Assistant Professor," as of yesterday has had his "Visiting" dropped.

http://www.kzoo.edu/phil/faculty.htm

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if something similar to the Kalamazoo situation is going on at Le Moyne as well? A while back there was a change of status from First-round to On-campus on the wiki, which caused alot of confusion. And then the status was changed back to First-round. Given what happened at Kalamazoo, maybe the first change of status was not someone just fucking with the wiki (and our heads).

Anonymous said...

"The fact that no one representing KK College has come forward to defend or apologize for the committee's Janus-faced actions makes me believe that they know they did wrong and just won't admit it."

Perhaps you are overestimating the readership of niche blogs.

Anonymous said...

"The person who was listed as, 'Visiting Assistant Professor,; as of yesterday has had his 'Visiting' dropped."

Yep. Notice, too, that he earned his BA from Kalamazoo. This is nepotism all the way.

Re: Le Moyne

I think it's possible that something similar is going on. The same IP that was accused of changing Kzoo's status prematurely was also accused of changing Le Moyne's status prematurely -- in both cases because of conflicting reports from search committee chairs.

It's funny, because my instinct has always been to trust the word of SCs over anonymous job-seekers. Now I'm starting to think I'm better off putting my trust in fellow job-seekers. After all, we're all in the same boat and don't have much to gain by lying to each other, whereas we do have a lot to gain through solidarity and mutual aid. The same is not true of SCs, who are ONLY motivated by self-interest.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Kalamazoo and Le Moyne situations seem to be similar. I, along with 2 other candidates, have on campus interviews over the next 2 weeks despite the fact that the chair said the committee wouldn't meet until the end of this month.

Anonymous said...

I believe the other philosophy faculty member at Kalamazoo College (i.e. not the chair, as it is a 2 person department) was always listed as Assistant Professor on the philosophy website. He is still listed as "Visiting Assistant Professor" on the college page with all the faculty: http://www.kzoo.edu/faculty/index.php?name=elambert.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought:

If the APA is within its rights to formulate anti-discrimination policies and to censure institutions which violate those policies, why can't it develop a uniform or set of standards for conducting job searches coupled with the power to censure institutions which violate those standards? Such standards might include the following:

1. Departments must acknowledge receipt of application, and within X amount of time.

2. Departments must acknowledge completion of a search, and within X amount of time.

3. If a candidate has been long-listed, departments must notify the candidate whether OR NOT s/he has been shortlisted, and within X amount of time.

4. If a candidate has been shortlisted, departments must notify the candidate whether OR NOT s/he is being invited for an on-campus interview, and within X amount of time.

And so forth...

Thoughts?

Kingdom of Ends legislator said...

9:26, I know, it's amazing how those fellow-feeling, altruistic, communally solidarity unity loving job-seekers of three years ago are now motivated ONLY by self interest now that they're on search committees. It's really true, there's no such thing as character.

(In writing this I am motivated entirely by the formal thought of duty as such.)

Anonymous said...

It is fairly common for departments to not let any of the applicants know know that they have been eliminated from consideration until after the search is complete. The department might be interpreting that commonly held position as requiring them to not on their shortlist know that they were not, in fact, on the shortlist. They might even be acting from the guidelines of the college.

And there are at least two reasons to speed up a time-line. The committee might have been really impressed by someone and wants to move before another school picks them up. Or, the department might be in a bit of a panic about their funding situation (the change in disposition of the House is not limited only to the federal elections - lots of state houses have changed their make-up so state college funding could be affect dramatically...soon). Finally, with a small search committee at a small college, they might have scheduled the meeting late in the month when they knew everyone would be in town but then could have found that everyone was in town. They might have thought "heck, let's knock this bad-boy out."

All that I am trying to suggest is that it is at least possible that the department isn't, in this case, involved in shenanigans. They might be but the evidence doesn't seem there yet.

Mr. Zero said...

I don't think it's a big deal that they invited people to campus earlier than they said they would. I think it's a big deal that, when asked whether they had invited people to campus early, they appear to have lied about it. If you ask me, that's kind of a shenanigan.

Let's also keep in mind that speculation that the job went to an inside candidate is mere speculation. We don't know who was hired.

Anonymous said...

10:31, not sure what you mean about state funding -- Kzoo is private.

I don't understand why the SC would lie about when the interviews are/were happening. What's the motive?

Anonymous said...

"I don't think it's a big deal that they invited people to campus earlier than they said they would. I think it's a big deal that, when asked whether they had invited people to campus early, they appear to have lied about it."

Yes, that is PRECISELY the big deal. Why do people keep missing this?

Kingdom of Ends Legislator, I never suggested that job-seekers weren't motivated by self-interest. That would be absurd. My point was that job-seekers have nothing to gain from lying to each other and a lot to gain by sharing truthful information and engaging in other mutually beneficial, cooperative forms of activity. The same isn't true of people on SCs. Surely you can see why, under certain circumstances, it would benefit them to lie, or at least conceal the truth, from certain candidates -- viz., because it is in the interest of their search to do so. I am not claiming that this is a widespread phenomenon; I'm only saying that it's silly to give blind credence to SCs (while assuming that fellow job-seekers are all liars and backstabbers) when SCs, since SCs have more of a reason to lie to you than fellow job-seekers do.

Anonymous said...

10:31, you've totally missed the point. The problem isn't that they they expedited the search -- it's that they apparently misrepresented this fact to candidates who inquired after the status of the search. Perhaps the chair wasn't obligated to tell the candidates HIMSELF that the timeline had changed (unless he promised to do so), but since candidates wrote to HIM, wasn't he obligated to tell them the truth?

Anonymous said...

It seems really unlikely the position went to the current VAP, who is listed under some of the course descriptions but nowhere else on the philosophy page. He just doesn't fit the job description, and actually appears to be a VAP in the religion dept.

Anonymous said...

I know for a FACT the the 'VAP' was changed to 'AP' on their website MONTHS ago. It was NOT changed yesterday, as some here seem to speculate. Of course, if that VAP turns out to be the one who got the offer, then that is grounds for somewhat more responsible speculation. But, a reliable source tells me this was NOT the case; the position went to someone from outside.

Anonymous said...

Curious how often bad behavior among academics takes place among continental-oriented 'philosophers'! Has any X-phi person done a studen of this?

Anonymous said...

9:29, just to clarify--you have a campus interview at Le Moyne? I also interviewed with them at the APA, and got one of the personal emails indicating that they would meet at the end of the month. If they have actually already scheduled the despite this, it's definitely nice to know about it.

BunnyHugger said...

This all seems pretty gossipy and speculative even by local standards. Maybe we should stop kicking this around until we find out what actually happened.

The amount of bitterness in threads like this really shows what the job market does to us. "Hey! That guy got a job!" "The bastard! Get him!!"

Yes, I know the issue here is really supposed to be search committee transparency, but the grumbling about possible nepotism and so on also seems to point to poisonous envy. I am no saint; I feel it myself at times. I'm not self-righteous in this matter, just sad.

Word verification: ellysis. Definition: the state or quality of being an inhabitant of the Elysian Fields; often metaphorically applied to recipients of tenure-track positions.

Anonymous said...

I realize this blog is forum for job seekers to vent concerns, complaints, and what-not. I do realize that, but this thread is driving me up the wall.

If the chair at Kzoo lied (as he seemed to have done), that is sleazy. On the scale of sleazy things SC's can do, it doesn't rate very high. Some have asked why he might have done that. Really? Classic case of weakness of will: It's hard to give people bad news so he postponed the unpleasantness. Don't mistake me, it was wrong. But as I said, it rates low.

There is a kernel of good sense in the remarks by Kingdom of Ends (though not perhaps what he intended): Job candidates do not suddenly become pricks upon landing a TT position and serving on a search committee. These people are you in five or ten or fifteen years. They are beholden to an entirely different (and for you, alien) set of obligations, concerns, and pressures. Being on the job market really really sucks, but being on a search committee sucks a little bit too.

Mr. Zero said...

The institutional affiliation of the successful candidate is not the issue. The issue is the apparently false statement made by the search committee. There's nothing wrong with hiring from the inside. No further comments speculating about the identity or institutional affiliation of the person hired by Kalamazoo will be published.

BunnyHugger said...

I think Anon 4:43 has the right of it. Furthermore, I think there is still some possibility that this was due to miscommunication rather than maliciousness.

I'd like to see SCs be more transparent. I doubt it's going to happen. I once had a finalist interview at a school that had me fly across the country, rent a car, and then drive on my own another two-plus hours and check myself into a hotel. Two days later I reversed the procedure, went home, and never heard from them again. Two months later I finally broke down and wrote the search committee to inquire about the search (only because I kept getting nagged by colleagues about it) and did not even get a return email.

That, unfortunately, is how things work in this biz, all too often. Would I like to see that change? Sure. But the negative reaction in this case seems well out of proportion to the presumed offense.

Anonymous said...

"Weakness of will"??! *facepalm* Only a philosopher, I swear to God...

Anonymous said...

Don't you think this is all a wee bit overkill, not to mention bordering on speculative and paranoid? I've gotta agree with Bunny Hugger here.

I do agree, of course, that it is absolutely vital for Search Committee Chairs and members to treat applicants with honesty and respect. I just don't get the sense that much more was going on here than a miscommunication. I don't know what the chair said, obviously, but I find it hard to believe that s/he lied. That borders on the unfathomable. What possible incentive would the chair have to tell people that they wouldn't even be making a decision until after the on-campuses were over? The Weakeness of the Will argument doesn't fly with me.

Moreover, I just hopped over to the wiki to see what all the fuss was about, and it appears that, indeed, the entire wiki is a mess. There is no straight storyline. It is seriously doubtful that they actually scheduled on-campus interviews before the APA, since it would then make going to the APA moot... They wouldn't do that.

So, seriously, stop speculating about this and just accept that there is considerable misinformation floating about. Whether this was a case of deliberate deception or simple miscommunication, in the end, I can hardly fathom what the breach might have been.

AND, you can be assured that kvetching in this manner does little more than to persuade search committee chairs that there are substantial downsides to communicating with applicants. Better to keep quiet until the search is over.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this one will make it past the censor:

All I can say is, it's really, really easy to make comments like @4:43, @5:21, and @6:53 when you're not on the receiving end of this kind of crap. I really hope it doesn't happen to you any time soon.

zombie said...

I have no inside information, or any other information, about Kzoo. But I do have inside info about another job where it was erroneously (maliciously or innocently) reported on the wiki that an offer was made, while they were still interviewing candidates. So, you gotta keep those grains of salt handy for wiki info. It's only as good as the source.

BunnyHugger said...

Anon 7:21:

Assuming by 5:21 you mean me, I have indeed been the recipient of such crap, many times; I gave one example in my previous remark. I have been on the market often enough that I would be embarrassed to say how often, and have been an interviewee of both the APA and campus variety on numerous occasions. I know how it goes and I don't like it. I understand your frustration, but I don't think your ad hominem is called for.

Anonymous said...

Amen 6:53! This thread is just angry speculation by hurt and desperate people. What might be really useful and interesting is a discussion about how transparent the process should be and what information is owed to applicants.

Anonymous said...

7:21, the fact that they are really, really easily made doesn't mean they're wrong, though. The way you've put it presupposes that what's been happening to some applicants is "crap"; the comments you've targeted don't buy that supposition. (Nor do I; like some others my feeling is that the evidence so far is meager.)

wv: isbom

(I think wv is powerful evidence for intelligent design.)

a-158 said...

I don't know what the chair said, obviously, but I find it hard to believe that s/he lied. That borders on the unfathomable.

Unfathomable? I hope lying is rare, but it certainly happens. I was lied to by a search committee. I was told this by someone on the search committee, well after the fact, because he was annoyed that his department had lied to me.

I had an on-campus. I was told I'd hear something within 4 weeks. 4 weeks went by, but no news. I waited two more weeks, then sent an email, asking for an update. I was told that nothing had happened yet -- they were being held up by administrative stuff. This was a lie.

What really happened? They offered the job to someone else - #1 - at week 4. They were waiting for his response. When I contacted them, they hastily called a department meeting, to decide what to tell me. They thought #1 might turn them down. This meant that I was still in the running. (I had done well enough while on-campus to be considered a viable candidate.) They were afraid that if they told me the truth, I'd tell them to stick it. So they decided to lie instead.

This was a bad thing for them to do, but I also understand why they did it. I agree with the anonymous who said that this sort of sleazy is not all that high on the sleazy scale.

Anonymous said...

By way of laying this to rest, can we, perhaps, all agree on the following?

1. KC did a bad thing. Was it an AWFUL, TERRIBLE thing? No. Was it senseless and arbtrary? No. But it was indeed bad.

2. Nobody likes to be lied to, even when the lie is minor, even when it's being told for non-malicious reasons, etc. If we were in the candidates' shoes, we wouldn't like it any more than they do, no matter how many rationalizations we are able to proffer on its behalf. We probably would still be just as hurt and angry, especially in such a desperate and precarious job market. Ergo, perhaps some empathy and compassion is warranted here.

3. Just because this is the way SCs roll and, perhaps, have always rolled obviously doesn't mean this is how they OUGHT to roll. And just because something like this has happened to YOU obviously doesn't mean it OUGHT to happen to everyone else. And with that, I think we're better off switching to the topic(s) broached by Zombie in the other thread...

Anonymous said...

Update: it seems the 7 January poster (I was wrong -- there was only one of them) misunderstood his communication with the SC chair. He has posted a retraction on the wiki.

I think those of us who accused the chair of lying should probably "man up" and admit we were totally wrong!

Anonymous said...

Just for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that Anon 4:05 is not being sarcastic.

I was a bit agnostic about the Kzoo Chair's behavior up to this point. But the post on the wiki left me thinking that the Chair has behaved very very poorly. From what I can gather, he essentially bullied the posting job candidate into putting up the retraction. The candidate, to his or her credit, provides us with enough quoted passages from the Chair's emails to get a sense for how he's been conducting the search. And it doesn't look good. I say that not as a job candidate but as someone who's chaired my own department as well as search committees.

For shame.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it sounds like the Chair threatened to sue. How else should one interpret his use of the term "unmediated"?

Mr. Zero said...

anons 5:33 & 4:05,

I agree.

I would have read KC SC chair's email message (of January 7th) the same way the wiki posters did (assuming the communications have been faithfully reported). I would not have understood it to mean that they had already invited people to campus and would be contacting them at the end of january with a firm 'no.' I would have understood him to be denying that they had extended invitations for on-campus interviews. At the very least the chair answered the question in a profoundly unclear and highly misleading way.

I thought the threatening second email was extremely nasty. The poster's comments on the wiki were obviously not "libelous." And I don't know what in the hell 'unmediated' is supposed to mean. Is he pointing out that he hasn't gotten the lawyers involved yet?

And I want to extend my sincerest sympathies to this wiki poster for what must have been the worst phone call of his/her entire life. I can't imagine what it must have been like to get a call from the search committee chair, and then have him go, "technically, I didn't lie." It must have been pretty shitty.

Anonymous said...

Meh... I know plenty of continental philosophers who use 'unmediated' as a placeholder for 'I'm asking as a fellow X' or 'face to face' or some such meaning. I don't think I would really interpret that one odd word choice as a 'threat'. That sort of leap in thinking is what got the notion going that people had been 'lied to' (though, admittedly, in that case it was slightly more understandable). I'm also not at all sure how, after reading the email quotes at the wiki, there is enough info to comment about how the search as a whole was conducted. That seems similarly to be a leap in thinking.

Mr. Zero said...

anon 7:25,

I thought the threatening part was where the chair accuses the poster of libel. I mean it when I say I don't know what 'unmediated' is supposed to mean. (I realize you may have been addressing 4:05 more than me.)

Anonymous said...

Meh... again, I'm not inclined to interpret it in terms that are quite that strong. For what it is worth, the adjective 'libelous' is used as part of a description of what was posted on the wiki, not a direct accusation. Implicit accusation? Perhaps. But, I am more inclined to chalk this up the the loose use of terms like 'slander', 'libel' and 'defamation' in the common vernacular. I once tried to get clear about these concepts for the purposes of a paper...and was rather overwhelmed by the gap between common understandings of what constitutes these things and actual legal meanings. Anyhow, that is my reading of the situation. Zero, your blog has a lot of valuable resources on it. For instance, I would like to see more actual debate on the 'Are we owed transparency?' thread. But, speculative threads like this drive me nuts.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 8:52,

I see what you're saying. But I don't agree with you about "loose" uses of terms such as 'slander,' 'defamation,' and 'libel.' Regardless of what the specific, legal meaning of the term is, you don't describe something as "libelous" when you think the person has made an honest mistake--which the wiki post in question clearly was. To describe something as libelous is to say that it was a deliberate, malicious dissemination of what the disseminator knew to be false information. But if I'm wrong, I hope you'll let me know.

BunnyHugger said...

Mr. Zero:

I assume that "libelous" was being used to convey the sense of "our reputation is being harmed by this." Which I would say it was, given how much this has been kicked around here and on the wiki. I wouldn't have put it that strongly myself, but I understand the chair being somewhat frustrated in this situation.

I have heard that their whole timeline and interview procedure was rather messed up by the APA snow fiasco. I tend to think this whole thing was just a muddle rather than some sort of disinformation campaign.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't think libel has to be deliberate. Maybe it has to be irresponsible in some way.

Anonymous said...

"Meh" doesn't carry much weight with me; nor do the considerations that follow. What Mr. Meh seems to be missing is the fact that the Chair sent an angry email to a job candidate. BAD form and a nasty abuse of the dramatically unequal power relation. Frustrated or not, this is a moment the chair should have shut his mouth and let it blow over.

I repeat: For shame.

Anonymous said...

"Meh", can you explain why you are saying that we only offering speculation or making leaps? We now know the conversations that took place between the formal retractor and the SC chair.

We all would have read the SC chair's initial email the same way the formal retractor read it- as confirmation that no on-campus interviews had been scheduled. The chair didn't have to mislead- he could have ignored the request for info, or he could have said "sorry, I can't give any information at this point". I don't know how transparent a search committee should be, but thankfully there are no rules constraining our ability to share information with fellow candidates. The wiki poster had a right to share his or her information. And it doesn't seem to matter that s/he interpreted the chair's email for us since we would have interpreted it in the same way.

And Anon 8:40 and Mr Zero seem right- the chair's demand a formal retraction was very bad form. On the kindest (and least plausible) reading of what went wrong, the chair wrote a hasty email to the wiki poster, not realizing how misleading it was. In that case, the chair should have realized that the miscommunication was his fault, even if he wasn't intending to mislead. But now he looks like a bully throwing the weight of a school and its lawyers at what is likely a jobless and resourceless candidate because he can't acknowledge his own role and missteps.

Anonymous said...

Hi 11.21,
To clarify: I was mainly referring to 4.05--who seemed to be saying that the word choice of 'unmediated' allowed us to infer that a lawsuit had been threatened. If that was the intended meaning of the comment, then that is a leap. I was also responding to 5.53's statement that, based on a few quoted emails (which seem to be written in a hurry and are perhaps not representative of all communications), we could get a sense of how the search itself was handled /conducted. I think that, at best, the quotes give us a sense of how some candidates in the search were communicated with. This is my last post for a while; I'm under a submission deadline, and this blog, while fun, is a total time killer. Perhaps when I return I'll set up a profile as 'Meh'. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I think this is more a case of blood libel than libel simpliciter.

PigDog said...

Seriously kids, this has entered the ridiculous phase. It's a miscommunication, plain and simple. And yes, the school has been tarred by this speculative back-and-forth.

Consider this: consider that you are trying to woo your top candidate into the position. Conceivably, the candidate may have other offers, but still be attracted to the school. Then along comes this thread. That makes the whole wooing job a lot more difficult, even if it's the case that the candidate has contrary information in his private correspondence with the chair. So I do think libel is relevant here. Such an explanation might also explain why the chair and other members of the SC have kept relatively mum on this issue. Sticking their nose in during the wooing phase could undermine their prospects.

It is plain from the wiki how the miscommunication might easily have happened; and it is plain also that this was not a campaign of deception. I don't want to parse this too tightly, but that the chair said that the committee would meet "within" two weeks suggests that the meeting would occur, oh, I dunno, within two weeks, or during those two weeks.

This is what folks have been complaining about; but the miscommunication clearly occurred over the nature of the phone call that the chair would make when contacting the candidates in three weeks. Was it with news of fly-outs? Or was it with news of the end of the search? Either is a plausible interpretation.

This suggestion that somehow the more responsible course of action would be to "ignore the e-mail" -- I'm looking at you 11:21 -- is counterproductive and flies in the face of the sort of thing that job candidates have routinely been screeching about. They want more information. The chair sought to provide that information. He was sloppy in replying to the candidate. There was a miscommunication. End of story.

Except not. The story continues on. The candidate whines to the entire community that he has been lied to. The community is up in arms. For what reason? Because they feel betrayed by, essentially, a simple miscommunication; by the audacity of a chair to reply to an e-mail in a way that left some questions unanswered.

It's ridiculous.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi PigDog,

I agree with you that the SC chair was sloppy in responding to the wiki poster's question. But it seems to me that this is not exculpatory; it is exactly the problem.

I don't think that the chair was intentionally trying to communicate that the poster was still in the running, and that the committee would be meeting in the next two weeks to decide whom to fly out. But the fact that this is, as you say, a plausible interpretation of the chair's email is precisely what is so terrible about the email. When you are the chair of the search committee you have a responsibility to be more careful than this.

(And in fact, when I read what the chair wrote, the above interpretation is the only one I find natural. I see where the email is not technically inconsistent with the truth, but it definitely does not communicate the truth.)

I don't see how the wiki poster or anyone else has "whined" that "he had been lied to." I think that, for one thing, if a search committee chair lies (or merely carelessly miscommunicates) to you, it is not "whining" if you object. For another thing, there is a reason I didn't title this post, "Search Committee Chair is a Liar." I said, what is going on? Because it wasn't clear what was going on. I said a bunch of times upthread that I was open to there being a misunderstanding. I didn't know what the misunderstanding could be, but now I do.

For another thing, it really did seem like the SC chair was lying. This is because the chair sent a very poorly-written email that falsely suggested that they hadn't invited anyone to campus and wouldn't for another couple of weeks. This email did not convey the truth, nor did it simply decline to convey the truth. It is not, as you claim, that the email left some questions unanswered; it's that it seemed to answer the central question in a way that turned out not to be true.

Then the SC chair calls up and emails the poster, accuses him/her of doing something libelous, and makes a first, unmediated request that s/he retract the false claim--which implies that there will be further requests and that they will be mediated somehow. I'd like to go on record and say that this is not how you deal with a miscommunication. First, you accept responsibility for and apologize to the person for the miscommunication. Second, you correct the the miscommunication with the person. Third, if necessary, you politely ask the person to please correct the record on the wiki, or else to just do it yourself in the form of your own comment that would both correct and apologize for the miscommunication.

You do not call or email the person, accuse him/her of disseminating false and libelous information and demand that s/he retract it. You do not make high-handed accusations of libelous false statements when the person made an honest mistake caused by your carelessness. You start by saying you're sorry and you proceed from there.

So I would say that if the Kalamazoo people don't like the way that this is being discussed in the blogs and on the wiki, and if this is causing problems for them when it comes to wooing job candidates, they should look no further than their own search committee chair, whose misleading answer to a simple and honest question and whose imperious manner of dealing with the aftermath is what has caused all this. And anyways, they wrote to everyone on January 27th to say that they filled the position, so it seems that they wooed the person just fine.