July 11, 2005

Nothing to see here

I’m sorry, I have nothing to report. Still knitting dinosaurs, but slowly. Spent another day at the beach on Toronto Island — an even more lovely time was had by all. We actually started some packing — it’s a tiny dent in a huge task, but it makes me feel a little less panicky.

Oh, and I did have something I wanted to comment on briefly. There has been a minor flurry among blogging academics about this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which essentially says that people seeking academic jobs shouldn’t have blogs, because they reveal too much about the candidate’s personality and interests, and may be have a negative effect on the interviewers’ opinion of the candidate. Essentially I think this is silly, as well as revealing a slightly worrying lack of professionalism on the part of the hiring committee the author describes — why would you actually go looking for online mentions of your candidates, and read their blogs? Would you call up random family members of the candidate, and ask about distressing character traits? Or colleagues who aren’t listed as references? Those are both public forums too…

But I will say, for the record, that I have thought about this issue, since my blog is in no way anonymous. (I don’t really believe anything on the internet is truly anonymous, to be honest.) My policy is that I will not put anything on my blog unless I’m comfortable with the thought of it being read by
  • my mother
  • my grandmother
  • my husband
  • my colleagues
  • my supervisor
  • my students
  • a potential employer

This does, I’m sure, make my blog much less interesting than it could be. But it also allows me to enjoy the knitting online community without any anxiety attacks. I don’t avoid all mention of school or teaching, but I treat this as a public forum, because it is. And if any department wouldn’t hire me because I knit, then that’s fine — I don’t hide my hobbies, and wouldn’t want to have to.

On the other hand, I’d never put this blog on my cv, as some of the candidates mentioned in that article apparently did — it’s in no way relevant to my ability to do the job, so it just doesn’t belong there.

I’ll try to have actual knitting content for you soon, really I will. In the meantime, stay as cool as you can, if you’re in Toronto — another 2 or 3 days of this 40+ humidex are in the offing, unfortunately.

Posted by Aven at July 11, 2005 05:16 PM

I’ve BEEN on several hiring committees (as I said on my blog) and I’d no more think of Googling a potential colleague’s name than I would calling up their first grade teacher, or their minister, or their former officemates for a reference.

I think there’s a privacy line that’s crossed when people do that, and the more I think about it, it’s in the same boat as someone asking you at your interview whether you plan to have children.

We got a long, stern list of questions we were not permitted to ask in the interview process (from HR). In some cases, we probably bent the rules - for example, we asked candidates if they had any dietary restrictions (we were having a potluck lunch) and when one fellow responded “no pork or pork derivatives and no alcohol” we all looked at each other and said “uh-oh, we may have crossed a line with that.” (but then again, you don’t want to serve, say, clams to someone with a shellfish allergy).

If someone gave me their blog address on their cv, I don’t think I’d even really look at it. I’ve skimmed “sample” publications people include (but I don’t go to the trouble of looking up the pubs listed on cv’s if they don’t include copies; maybe that’s being negligent but when you’re reviewing 15 or more applicants, you can’t be so diligent).

I don’t know. I’m not very “out” about my knitting on campus - my colleagues know I do, but I’m always a bit fearful that someone who is a Higher Up might regard it as “gee, she takes a wee bit too much personal time in the evening.” (I am probably being paranoid here; I am usually on campus from 7 to 4 and I am working on something most of those hours; there are a great many folk in some other departments who show up 10 minutes before their class and cut out 10 minutes after it’s over, and who refuse to attend committee meetings on Fridays or in the afternoons or whenever it’s inconvenient for them). But still. I don’t quite know where universities draw the line on “ok pursuits” and “this person is wasting her time - wait, OUR time”

Then again, I don’t have a family or a husband or even a pet - so I guess I could argue that my knitting is my children, and I spend considerably less time with my “children” than most people with real children do.

So I don’t know. I’m probably paranoid because I spent too many years as a grad student, and my advisor once said to me (upon running into me in the local public library where I had a stack of novels) “Oh, G-d, she’s a READER.” Now that I know him better, I think it was a more affectionate comment, but at the time I was flustered because I thought, “oh no, does he think I don’t take my work seriously?”

I also once had a fellow grad student make a sneering comment at me because I planned to visit family over the Christmas break; as far as he was concerned, school breaks were for getting ahead on research and nothing else.

I’m also paranoid because - big reveal here - I was asked to leave graduate school at the first school I was at. In reality, it was because they admitted too large of a class and I was inexperienced at research and really didn’t know what to do, and probably required more guidance at the time than they were willing to give. But for many years, I blamed myself (even after I succeeded at getting a Ph.D. and was the runner-up to “outstanding Ph.D. candidate” at my second school) and told myself I spent too much time reading novels, or out walking, or doing unserious stuff.

Then again, I’d not want to live like my erstwhile colleague, where the weekend only means you don’t have to deal with students for 48 hours, so you can get a lot of research done. I can’t live like a data-producing and processing machine, and I’d rather not work somewhere where that was expected of me. (Fortunately, my current department is not that way).

Posted by: fillyjonk at July 11, 2005 06:17 PM

I’ve had an online journal for 5 1/2 years. I’ve had some employers (and coworkers) who were aware of it; others who didn’t know it existed. I do not deliberately bring it up at work, but if someone stumbles across it (and it’s not hard to do because if you search by my real name, it’s often the first link that is returned - plus my real name’s on the main page), I’m fine with it.

However, I have written every single entry with the feeling that if I would not be comfortable saying the words I was typing directly to the face of immediate family members, or to coworkers, it didn’t belong in a public setting. I’ve seen too many people get burned because they were dumb enough to put something out there that was then found by the people they wrote about - and what blows me away is how shocked they are by it, as if somehow they thought that writing online made them immune from taking responsibility for their words.

Posted by: Jenipurr at July 11, 2005 06:45 PM

Sounds like a good blog policy to live by to me.

Posted by: Rebekah at July 12, 2005 03:06 PM

Great link! My Masters thesis is on blogging and education and this is a viewpoint that needs to be brought in. Of course, most of the research I find has been presented at blogging conferences and is generally rah rah blogging. So I’m glad to read this article.

Now aside from the delusion that a blogger is more likely to air dirty work laundry publicly (when they haven’t show any signs of doing so yet) than a non-blogger is pretty silly.

The article is really a great reminder of how to make yourself hireable. I tend not to tell any of my friends and family about my blog but it is more because I don’t want them to roll their eyes and say, “Gawd! Doesn’t she do ANYTHING but knit?”

Posted by: Laurie at July 12, 2005 03:30 PM

Mention of this article has been making the rounds on a bunch of blogs—with bloggers who maintain various degrees of anonymity.

I figure my blog is too boring for any hiring committee to take notice of. I figure they’ll see me and my family and a whole lot of knitting. Sure there’s some musing on political stuff, but by reading my CV they’ll see my leftie bent.

My biggest concern is a committee deciding they don’t want me because I’m a mother more than because I’m a knitter.

I also don’t want to work somewhere that I have to hide important parts of my life.

And don’t hiring committees have better things to do?

Posted by: Steph at July 13, 2005 10:07 AM

I follow similar guidelines—I only write about things that are proper for my family members/friends to read. It seems so strange to take up the blogs when interviewing someone…

Thanks for this interesting post.

Posted by: Lolly at July 13, 2005 02:05 PM

This is an issue I thought seriously about before putting myself out there, so to speak, in the knit-blogging world. I’m working on a phd right now, and face some of the issues that have been mentioned. Basically, fear that people will thing I’m not being “serious” enough about my vocation because I have gasp a life outside of research. Phooey. I’m sick to death of the ivory tower peering with disdain at those of us who enjoy our:
1. families
2. hobbies
3. gack TELEVISION (can you imagine?)
4. non-work related reading materials

Life is too short. That said, if you haven’t guessed, my real name is not slo moe. I specifically chose not to use my real name to (slightly) deflect googlers searching my name in a professional context. I completely agree with, and adhere to, the blogging “rules” in your post - well said. I agree, it probably makes for a watered-down discourse, but at least I will (hopefully) not get into too much trouble!

Posted by: moe at July 13, 2005 06:13 PM

I have been in on hiring 7 tenure track professors in the last three years. We have never googled anybody. That none of them have blogs, I know, because we hired them and we talk about mine. If they had had blogs before we hired them, I wouldn’t have known cause we didn’t ask. Nor did we google.

Although it’s true it’s partially a privacy issue, that’s not the core of things.

The core of things is that there was No Time for that sort of nonsense. We had between 100 and 400 files for each position we were hiring for. We had meetings. We had dinners. We had events to go to. Also, we had our regular meetings. ANd our classes. And our research. And our families. Honestly, if the chair had asked me to google anybody I would have whacked her.

And if there is enough time, you’ve got a department with way too much time on its hands.

Do not worry about your blogs.

However. Do refrain from, in your presentation to the faculty, announcing that you’re not sure you can handle the job. THAT was a problem….

Posted by: Anne at July 14, 2005 06:45 PM