Dear Search Committee: Go Fuck Yourself

Want to know what happened at one of my two interviews at the MLA convention in Los Angeles last week? I sent these two emails to the Chair of the search committee after the convention.

Dear Prof [Blah Blah],

I am writing because I was present yesterday at the [blah blah Hotel] for a scheduled interview for the position of [blah blah] at [blah blah College]. However, much to my dismay, after following your instructions to the letter, I discovered the hotel did not know the room number and had no record of anyone from [blah blah College] at their hotel.

Though your actions betray a stupendously indifferent and callous attitude towards job candidates who travel thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to meet with you, perhaps you can imagine my disappointment. Moreover, neither you nor anyone on your staff has tried to contact me since yesterday to explain this unprofessional and, frankly, despicable behavior.

Have a nice day.

THEN THEY REPLIED WITH SOME LAME-ASS EXCUSES AND “HEARTFELT APOLOGIES.” BUT I AM SIMPLY NOT HAVING ANY OF THAT. I AM DONE. HERE’S WHAT I WROTE BACK:

Dear Prof [Blah Blah],

Thank you for your message. I am glad to hear the search committee did not intentionally stand me up on Saturday in LA.  However, your explanation is still vexing from my point of view.

I arrived at the hotel a few minutes before 11AM and inquired at the front desk. They spent more than five minutes with me going over their registration logs and various handwritten notes. They claimed to have no knowledge of anyone from [your school] staying at their hotel. And they had no room under your name.

I paced the lobby next to the front desk for a few minutes with my cell phone hoping I would receive a call. My phone number is, after all, available on my CV. No call came.

Shortly after 11AM, I picked up a house phone in the lobby and explained my dilemma to the operator. She connected me to a supervisor who said he had no record of you, or anyone from [your school], at the hotel. He said, “another candidate called us this morning looking for the same room. If you find out where they are, please ask them to let us know so that we can inform any other callers.”

You say that you tried to rectify the problem when you discovered it on Friday. Nevertheless is seems odd that the error had not been corrected by Saturday.

By your account, you sent someone down to the front desk area to look for me. Perhaps this is so, but I assure you I was in the lobby next to the front desk until 11:20AM. I don’t know how I could have missed your emissary if he really made a good faith effort to find me. Secondly, I remain completely bewildered by the fact that it did not occur to you or anyone on the committee to contact me via the simplest and most direct means: a phone call.

Finally, after I left the lobby at 11:20AM, I went directly to check my email. There was no message. In fact, I still had not heard from anyone from [Blah Blah] twenty-four hours later. Since I presented myself at the hotel for an interview at your invitation, I don’t know why it should be my responsibility to contact you when it seemed that you did not really want to interview me after all.

I am providing such detail about my experience on Saturday because I plan to file a formal complaint with the MLA.  I am not doing so out of a sense of personal disappointment, though I certainly am very disappointed. I am doing so in the hope that this does not happen to anyone else.

As I’m sure you know, these are very difficult times for job seekers in academia. Many of us invest a great deal of time and money preparing for and traveling to interviews for positions that, statistically, we are unlikely to get. To not be hired for a position for which one has interviewed is one thing; to find oneself pacing a hotel lobby waiting for a search committee’s call that never comes is entirely another. I hope other candidates can be spared such indignities.

Sincerely,

postacademicinnyc

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18 Responses to Dear Search Committee: Go Fuck Yourself

  1. Anthea says:

    How awful of them! The behaviour this of College is appalling. I hope that they have their knuckles rapped by the MLA.

  2. James says:

    That’s some cold treatment….can’t believe that they didn’t even call or email. It’s terrible how hiring comittees just think it is fine for broke young academics just invest endlessly with hotels and flights, bizzarre culture.

    James from Selloutyoursoul.com

  3. Shame on them! Yes, you absolutely should call them out with a formal complaint. I am tempted to recommend that you name names as well, although I don’t want you to burn any bridges.

    I strongly recommend that you post your experience on the “Universities to Fear” page at the academic jobs wiki, if you haven’t already done so. Link here: http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Universities_to_fear

    You can’t name names, but you can name the school, and every little bit helps.

    I hope that your other interview went well and that, whether you get the job or not, that committee was far more professional.

  4. Good for you, calling them out on their incompetence. Sure, there’s a horrific oversupply of candidates, but that’s no excuse for horrifically rude behavior!

  5. Horrifing. Do contact me (rfeal@mla.org) if you want us to check on whether the department registered, as it should have, with our Job Information Service (see http://www.mla.org/convention_services). Perhaps you stopped by the Center yourself to report this (if so, we would have tried to follow up). Most interviewers give a cell phone # so candidates can call if there is a problem. This situation sounds like inadequate steps were taken on department’s part to ensure a smooth interview process. I am so sorry you had this experience.

    Rosemary Feal
    Executive Director
    MLA

  6. Arnold Pan says:

    Good luck, postacademicinnyc! That’s what I call social networking at work, from your message on our blog to the multiple tweets about it to the response from Rosemary Feal. If something comes of this, please let us know what happens. Keeping our fingers crossed…

  7. Jim says:

    This is why I left academia…The shocking disregard for individual feelings is so par for the course among university sc that this is not at all out of the ordinary in a world where such things would never be condoned in the business world. I’m so sorry for your experience. I really am. I’m all but certain that good karma is coming your way. I’m sending you my good energy.

    Warmly,
    Jim

    behavior most civilized employers would regard as unforgivable is

  8. Anonymouse says:

    Dear Job Candidate,

    Get over yourself. Guess what: we don’t care about you, just like you don’t care about us. We never met you. If we did meet, and I have no doubt the fuck up was as much your fault as ours, we’d take an interest like anyone else. Every year hundreds of princesses like yourself make the mistake of showing up at MLA thinking you’re the only candidate and everything is about you. It’s a zoo. Nobody likes being there and fuckups happen. If your whole world shatters after that experience there’s no way you were getting a job at this stage of the game. Hell, you should probably go home and live in your parents’ basement for a while until you grow a little courage. Toughen up and try again or quit, but don’t think you’ve been subject to some outrageous injustice and don’t think you’re going to find some other profession that will value your rarefied skills and nurture your gossamer ego to your satisfaction. What you seem to have learned from grad school is that you are the most special little chap in the whole world — so special that a whole committee has to be formed just to clap hands while you do some tricks that you learned. Job committees weren’t formed for your benefit, and most likely your dissertation committee didn’t much care about you or your work either. But if you don’t wilt every time you run into an obstacle or a disappointment, you can get to a point where you’re no longer hanging all of your self-esteem on imaginary parenting and then, like magic, you’ll be starting to grow up. Good luck with that.

    Regards
    Bumfuck State College

  9. Pappardelle says:

    After MLA, I was on the bus going back to the airport, and this (newly) associate professor mentioned how “entitled” people were on the market – how dare we expect to get a job? I mean, she spent 2 years as an adjunct. She worked hard for her job. The last thing we need is people to start waxing parental, giving us some tough love BS. None of us could have predicted just how bad it could get. The point is the more intellectuals the better, the smaller classes, the more dissertations on a million topics (rarified or not) the better….the more dialogues, the more conferences, the more coalitions, the more collectives, the more courses, the more knowledge being circulated the better……

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  11. annagrahamtastic says:

    This sounds like one of those nightmares that plague me before any interview. While I admire your choice to advocate for yourself and the rest of of in these situations, I do have to wonder just how many bridges you may have burned by posting such a rhetorically flaming letter. I hope this won’t travel through the grapevine (the kudzu) of the academic world and that you’re treated with more respect new time.

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  13. Julie says:

    Wow. Just wow.
    I had an interviewer stand me up at the MLA because he got iced in in Arizona. I know they didn’t plan for such an event (who would?), but just like you, my cell # was on the materials I’d sent, and I never did get a call. I did, however, call 411 in Arizona and roust my supposed interviewer out of whatever relaxing activity he was partaking of to demand to know what was going on. (I used nicer language.) Being prepared for an interview and then having to ask a little girl to get her daddy for me was … weird.

  14. Good for you for calling them. These shitbags should not get away with treating people like that.

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