Cosmetic changes, the academic version of "seat up/seat down", and a long weekend

Just a quick note. I've added a few new folks to the fold under the Summer Vacation reading list, in part to welcome some of the lurkers. That's also meant alphabetizing the list - the order while distressing to me seems best since the list is growing.

I'm also thinking about this quote from a recent Tenured Radical post on the what-to-do's of the academic job market (the post is excellent, by the way):

And do not send anything by email unless invited to do so: this is incredibly lazy and annoying, and invites someone to screw up your file by not printing things out properly. While first impressions are by no means decisive, you do not want to convey that you are a confidence man from Nigeria, or that you are desperate.

While I can't fault the logic, it does seem a bit to me like a fight I had back in the day with a live-in-girlfriend about leaving the toilet seat up. At the heart of both debates is the question about whose life gets made easier and why. Certainly saving something as a PDF would seem to eliminate most of the problems of printing error, but the real question is do you want to make someone work even a little bit harder? Obviously, no. I'd send them cake and would open the letter for them if it'd give me a slightly better chance at getting the interview.

And yet, I bristle at this as I did with the girlfriend. Why am I the party in the process who has to go the extra- extra-mile? Aren't you courting me? Don't you want me to think you're active, interesting, considerate people to work for and with? Aren't we shooting to be colleagues rather than superior and subordinate? Do academic committees feel any guilt over asking for 200 page packets which they likely don't look through for each candidate? Ever been on a committee where there was remorse about the cost a graduate student had to pay for transcripts and reference letters and printing? I'm wagering no (at least it hasn't happened on any of the committees I've served on). Shouldn't something that makes it easier for both sides, at least, be considered?

Of course, part of what we're dealing with is the unfamiliar and an established power dynamic. Nothing is so frowned upon as treading on tradition. It wouldn't be unheard of to suggest that older academics might be nervous at being asked to use technology.

And part of what we're dealing with is a ritual of hazing. I think if you ask anyone who's ever gone through this process, they can tell you a story that feels like academic hazing. During my first round of job interviews, I didn't blink when one of the schools interviewed me at 6 a.m. my time. I don't think they were being malicious; I just think they didn't pause to consider time differences. But it didn't feel like I was in any position to point out just how inconsiderate that really was. I needed the job after all, and as my grandmother would've said, had she been an academic, "I know from power dynamics." But wouldn't it be something if the process recognized this too?

In any case, I'm not really as concerned about it as this post might seem. And I don't fault the Tenured Radical's advice - I'm just feeling, well, curmudgeonly today. I've already decided to cater to that level of fear that might hypothetically be living in the hearts of my search committees, so why ruin a long weekend worrying about that? Besides, there's plenty of grading to be done, and two movies from Netflix that I've had for months that need to be watched.

Oh, and for anyone wondering, the girlfriend and I compromised. I put the seat down, but she had to put it up when she was done.


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