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Archive for May 26th, 2009

Last week I noted that there is more to a potential job than the school’s rank, even though nobody in my family has heard of the school where I will start work in the fall.  My experiences as a graduate student (and observer of junior faculty) in a highly-ranked department led me to seek a different type of career.  To many (especially my family members), it is probably hard to believe that I would prefer the job that I received to one at a prestigious institution such as Columbia, but I am constantly reminded of this fact when reading things like this (the original post has since been taken down):

The back story here is that I applied for a small grant from Columbia and they replied saying, “A serious research proposal should go beyond your impressions of and personal history with one institution. If it does not, it will remain at the level of anecdotal, single-case evidence, and will count as autobiography rather than systematic research.” Translation: ethnography isn’t real research. To their credit, my senior colleagues rallied around me, agrily responding that the rejection was ridiculous. They wrote a letter on my behalf, asked me to send a chapter from my book in contract, and leave it be. The response just came back from the VP’s office. It was worse than ever. This time, not some under-VP, but the VP himself responded,

“At this moment, the submitted material is highly readable, but the FDC [faculty development committee] believes that it does not sufficiently display an exercise of the research abilities we expect in a major research university. It will be work that displays such abilities that will also be important in meeting the standard for tenure.”

While I have considered the difficulty of publishing and its effects on tenure, I hadn’t considered that being awarded tenure at a “prestigious” institution would be related to the type of work one does, in addition to the quality.  I want no part of this world.

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