In December, around the same time that I learned that my college was not going to fund a renewal of my position, the Presidential campaign onslaught began full-swing.
Since then, I’ve been amusing myself by drawing comparisons between our ever indelicate political process and that of finding a job.
I couldn’t help but chuckle, back in the colder months, to see John Edwards on a TV news interview and wonder how long it would take a committee of weathered and jaded humanities professors, plus one representative from the staff who never says anything, to start exchanging funny glances and try to wrap things up without breaking a “fair” hiring guideline.
Who that has conducted an interview would not wonder what insecurities were hiding under such a thick and affected facade.
Then, which person would never be asked to participate on a committee again after forwarding the C.V. Rudy Giuliani sent in with “9/11” scribbled all over the front in red marker?
Let me also add that I’ve conducted somewhere between 400−500 interviews of teenagers seeking acceptance into art apprenticeship programs I’ve taught. So, I know a thing or two about nervous candidates.
And, John McCain is really nervous in interviews − especially if they don’t just lob him softballs. His answers, in so far as actually addressing a question, stink. It’s like he copied and pasted his replies under the wrong numbers. He fidgets his hands, twiddles his thumbs, and blinks a lot. I think he even gets a little mad when a non-softball comes his way, as if the interviewer’s too dumb to know that’s not how things are supposed to work (not that TV/cable news really press tough questions).
It occurred to me that this was a guy that most academic committees would just pity. They’d all feel a little bad, then never call him.
Then, it occurred to me that there really weren’t many candidates through the whole primary season who could muster an interview for a Lecturer position.
By contrast, I think Barack Obama could interview his way into starting with tenure in just about any department on campus, regardless of what he knows about that field. Then again, he was on the faculty at the University of Chicago.
Truth is though, that no one knows who’s going to win in November. My guess is that most voters will cast ballots along party lines without understanding any real implications of a particular candidate’s policy proposals. A lot of people vote by party-glossed and cultivated ideological predispositions.
Then, the next thing that occurred to me that it’s not exactly unusual for academic committees to do the same thing.
So, now I’m wondering how different the U.S. would be if we interviewed for our Presidents rather than voting for them. “So, Mr. McCain, tell me what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”…
Would we just declare a failed search and fill the cabinet with adjuncts? “Sorry Mr. Putin, the Secretary of State is unavailable on Tuesdays, she does some defense advising for Aruba on those days”.
Alternately, what if universities had candidates campaign for faculty positions? I could put up yard signs at Yale and say I have an international exhibition record because I saw Canada across Niagara Falls. That, and I have experience with the metric system. People would have to accept that because they share my non-Christian values.