Monday, December 29, 2008

Rocking the active voice

Mr. Zero's back, and is amazed at the improvement in search committees' grammar over previous years. Enjoy! --STBJD

Is it just me, or are the PFOs way, way better this year? I've gotten tons of actually decently written, responsibility-accepting rejection letters this year. Here's an example, from Pittsburgh:
Dear [Mr. Zero],

I am sorry to inform you that the Junior Appointments Committee has decided not to pursue your candidacy further at this point. We received nearly two hundred responses to our advertisement, including a great many from highly talented and accomplished applicants. Obviously there are many different considerations on which our decisions are based, and I hope you will appreciate that I cannot go into specifics about individual cases. We will keep your dossier on file until next year, when we shall probably be advertising a junior position again.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your credentials, and let me wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Sincerely yours,
John McDowell
(Not that I expected to be welcomed into the Cathedral of Learning, or anything.)

I've received a staggering number of PFOs like this. The Committee takes responsibility for making the decision, politely tells me to fuck off without being a prick about it, and wishes me luck. It's really, really weird--I got exactly one letter last year that approached this level of competence, and about 100 that varied between mild impoliteness and unspeakable rudeness. Could it possibly be that the burgeoning online philosophical community of which we have been a part of the past year or so is having an impact on the behavior of hiring committees? I know it seems crazy, but there it is, in black and white.

--Mr Zero


Ben said...

"We will keep your dossier on file until next year, when we shall probably be advertising a junior position again"

Does this mean that you wouldn't have to apply again next year? Or just to send them a quick note expressing an interest and reminding them that they already have your dossier?

That would be a time and money saver, of course, but I wonder how sensible it is - after all, hopefully you could present a stronger dossier next year (with another pub, more teaching, progress on the thesis, a VAP, etc).

Platowe said...

I think this is pretty much standard for rejection letters I've seen over the years. But I'm glad you posted it, because the phraseology that places references to "talented" etc. applicants right after the notification that they will not pursue YOUR application any longer leaves at least a whiff of being shit on, even if the good wishes later on attempt to wipe off the biggest chunks of stinking disappointment. We should be a lot more careful about that.

Anonymous said...

Nicest PFO I've ever received, from MIT:

"We're so glad we had the opportunity to read your application materials. However, having completed the first phase of our job search, the search committee has made the difficult decision not to go further with your application. This decision reflects our assessment of current departmental needs rather than any negative judgment on your academic record or qualifications, which are impressive.

Thank you for your application. I look forward to seeing more of your research in the future.

Rae Langton"

I mean, I actually feel sort of comforted.