The web page that used to belong to Professor Bryan Garsten now features Professor Ruth Groff. I realize that this web technology stuff is quite confusing, but surely someone in the Political Science department can edit a file name.

On a vaguely related note, what is the deal with Political Science having 4 visiting assistant professors this year?

For those not in the academic world, a visiting assistant professor (a junior person with a one (or maybe two) year contract and not on the tenure track) is a strange beasty to have around. A place like Williams — looking for longevity and commitment — should want to have the vast majority of its junior faculty on the tenure track. Why should any of these visitors be especially committed to excellence in teaching if their time at Williams is so limited? Why should any Williams student invest in a relationship that will end in a year or two?

On rare occasions, a case can be made for hiring junior visitors — perhaps because someone got sick and a specific class needs to be taught — but these situations are few and far between. I can’t imagine why the Political Science department would have 4 junior visitors at one point. Are none of them good enough to be offered a tenure track job? Was Williams turned down by applicants who it has wanted to hire?

Most likely, there is nothing to my musings. Still, I worry. Old-timers will recall that the Political Science department was widely regarded as one of the most dysfunctional at Williams, caught up in internecine battles between an old guard of “conservatives” — read: Kerry voters — and younger “radicals”. This may have reached a head during the Reinhardt tenure battle a decade ago. In any event, the departure of folks like Cook and Jacobsohn should have healed this rift. So, is there some reason that the department still can’t get a handle on its hiring process?

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