July 9, 2005

More evidence that academia needs to get over itself

Today, an article was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Bloggers Need Not Apply. The author talks about how reading the blogs of several job applicants caused the search committee not to hire them. The committe pulled up the blogs of candidates, learned things about them that didn’t come up in the interview, didn’t like those things, and so didn’t hire the person. The article is written in the tone of Why would thse candidates be so stupid as to have blogs?”. They assume that the blogger was making a mistake airing their true self online:

We all have quirks. In a traditional interview process, we try our best to stifle them, or keep them below the threshold of annoyance and distraction. The search committee is composed of humans, who know that the applicants are humans, too, who have those things to hide. It’s in your interest, as an applicant, for them to stay hidden, not laid out in exquisite detail for all the world to read. If you stick your foot in your mouth during an interview, no one will interrupt to prevent you from doing further damage. So why risk doing it many times over by blabbing away in a blog?

What they fail to consider is the possibility that the blogger is happy to not be hired by a committee that has no tolerance for human nature. They say they realize that the applicants are human, but they expect them to stifle their humanity and act like little interview robots. I have become increasingly sick of having to pretend I’m superhuman, having no flaws and making no mistakes. My blog is my way to express my humanity to the world, in hopes that I won’t forget it myself. If a potential employer doesn’t like that, it is a good indication that I don’t want to work for that person. This does not excuse me from being a responsible blogger, and not airing department dirty laundry”, as they are afraid their applicants may do in their blogs. There is a line between what is appropriate and what is not, especially when dealing with work related posts. I think about that line all the time. That line is why Part 3 of one of my series has not been written. I doubt that professors would be less responsible in their blogging than I am. What I think really bothers the academics about blogs is this:

Worst of all, for professional academics, it’s a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution.

That’s exactly why blogs are important. But this flies in the face of traditional academic publishing, and is threatening to them for that reason. They shy away from blogs as personal diaries or unfounded professional spewing that couldn’t get published elsewhere. They don’t stick around for the review process that happens in the comments. It’s disappointing to see such an article come out of academia, which prides itself on being diverse and open-minded.

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