Thursday, April 05, 2007

Why I’m glad I’m not in academia

Bloggers Need Not Apply

I have been, in the recent past, a corporate executive, having the more-or-less final say over who does and does not get hired in the engineering department. As a matter of policy, I never checked blogs or did any other kind of non-work-related background check. I would consider doing so a gross invasion of the candidate's privacy.

Might such a check reveal important information? Perhaps, as the pseudonomous coward "Ivan Tribble" reveals. But everyone has to work, they have a right to work, and they have a right to be judged only on the basis of what they do at work.

For many years, as an non-executive engineer, I categorically refused to take drug tests—it's none of my employer's business what I do outside of the office. I'll never trade my liberty for a paycheck, and I'll never make someone else do so.

It's not up to me to criticize how academia works—and I'm sure academia cares not a rat's ass for my opinion—but I'm proud to freely discuss my ideas and opinions under my real name, and I will never ever be a part of academia, nor ever want to be a part of it.


  1. Fuckin-a, bubba. (Or in less stark terms, I wholeheartedly agree with your stated premise.)

    I think employers and others try to control others lives far too much already. Before I was a lawyer I was in a position to interview hires and did have strong input into who was hired. I could not have cared less what anyone I interviewed did outside of work. Hell, we were so busy I didn't have time to even pay attention to such nonsense. All I cared about was would this person do a good job in a timely fashion, making things easier for everyone else who was already working their ass off (60-70 hour weeks were the norm).

    Frankly, even if one did look into things like that, odds are that EVERYONE would have some unsavory characteristics if you dug deep enough, and those that did not appear to would have just been better at hiding it.

    But the morality/thought police still apparently have power. And I'd bet good money that the "enforcers" of morality like that are the biggest f-ing hypocrites on the planet.

  2. There are certain circumstances where I would definitely consider one's publicly presented personal opinions to be relevant to a job. The most obvious example is an elected or high-level appointed government official.

    On the one hand, for all I know (or care) one's personal opinions are relevant to academia, especially considering tenure.

    On the other hand, I'm entirely contemptuous of "Ivan Tribbles" argument, which doesn't single out anything special about academia per se, and one might also apply the same sort of "reasoning" to a job candidate's publicly available political or religious opinions. "If you expect to find a job, keep your damn dirty liberal/conservative/religious/atheistic views in the fucking closet, moron."

    To be fair, the same sort of non-job discrimination actually does go on in the non-academic sector, and it's just as reprehensible there. However as one's at least professional publications are directly relevant in academia, the practice of also evaluating one's personal publications seems more accepted.

  3. That is odd, considering that a large number of professors have blogs, like Crooked Timber, John Cole, Ann Althouse, or even Glenn Reynolds.

  4. Hmm, reading the article, it seems that the potential hires who's blogs were investigated made a point of bringing up the blog at some point in the interview process. That seems to make it a bit murkier.

  5. seems that the potential hires who's blogs were investigated made a point of bringing up the blog at some point in the interview process...

    Some did, some didn't. Even so, in my position, even if a candidate did bring up his blog, I would still dismiss it.

    One very important reason is that even if a candidate were to bring up his religion, age, marital status, etc., I'm still forbidden by law from considering that status. If I were to actively check out someone's blog, even on his suggestion, and it mentioned a protected status, I would be open to charges of illegal discrimination if I didn't hire the candidate. Why would I want to go out of my way to open up a can of worms?

    Sometimes "don't ask, don't tell" is a good policy.


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