Essay questions on faculty job applications

*Update, 11/22/08:  If you’ve stumbled into this post,  you’re probably looking for advice like what you’ll find here: What follows below is mostly commiseration.

I spent most of the day today filling out virtually identical job application forms for community college teaching positions. Not only were they redundant in terms of my data entry, but are redundant next to the C.V. I’m required to send in with them. ALL community colleges require them. To my knowledge, no universities do. There is no nationally standard form even though the information requested certainly follows common standards.

Then, I can’t not mention the community college that requires applicants to type out their ENTIRE undergraduate and graduate transcripts in the provided form, with dates, course numbers, course titles, and grades. Oh, and then attach your unofficial transcript…

Are they trying to warn us about how much of our time they’ll waste after we’re hired?

What I’m left wondering now is: what is the real purpose of asking faculty candidates to write short essays about diversity? Really? No one worth his salt as faculty would think of writing that they don’t have ANY experience or sympathy with diverse groups of students. Anyone with a graduate degree should be able to turn some personal history into a compelling “not to exceed one page”. Nearly everyone with post-secondary teaching experience has taught students of different backgrounds. And, everyone who has had a full-time position in the last decade knows enough key terms about “meeting the needs of the changing population”, learning styles, and culturally sensitive instruction. Wheat will not be separated from chaff here.

Is the question really just to get a writing sample? To see if we can make convincing arguments for when grant writing rolls around – all the while subtly reaffirming the college’s philosophy before the first round interview? If so, why not just ask us to write a grant proposal for them? Maybe then, at least if we get the grant there’s the chance they’ll have to hire us to administer it…

Here are some questions I’ve faced over the past few days:

“On a separate sheet of paper, or in the space below, provide a statement about yourself that specifically demonstrates sensitivity to the needs of the diverse academic, socioeconomic, cultural, disability, and ethnic backgrounds of community college students and the community at large. Your response is limited to one (1) page.”

“Please also discuss significant contributions you have made to promote diversity in previous positions you have held.”

Also from that college, “State briefly how you specifically fit the Faculty Profile of Personal and Professional Qualities and demonstrate how you have employed these qualities in the past. If necessary, attach additional pages (not to exceed three (3) pages total in length). “

“How does your work as an art teacher support social justice?”

“Please attach a response (maximum of two pages) which addresses your experience working with other cultures and communities and how you have applied your experience to a learning/working environment.”

“Provide any experience and training you posses which demonstrates your sensitivity to and understanding of the diverse socio-economic, cultural, disability and ethnic backgrounds of community college students.” (looks like they’ve seen the first one too.)