An anonymous Williams professor writes:

Here’s stuff you probably already know. In my department, standard operating procedure for hiring a visitor would vary depending on the origin of the position. If, say, Professor X went on leave and the college gave us the go-ahead to replace his slot, it would usually be wholly in the hands of the chair to find a suitable replacement and to vet his or her credentials. This procedure could well be as insular as the chair calling up some friends at graduate programs that have a strong scholarly presence in what Professor X does, and then bringing on an ABD grad student. This person’s CV might be circulated among the senior faculty of the department for them to sign off on it, but, basically, it’s a low commitment/low stress process. It won’t surprise you to hear that it’s also a process that is basically at chance in securing someone with any talent in teaching. National searches with interviews and job talks and all that stuff, however, is thought to be just too much of a pain to do for a one year visitor.

Another conduit for hiring visitors is where someone else at the college suggests someone to the department (and has already secured monies to foot the bill). I and the other senior members of the department would get to see his CV. That would be the extent of the vetting.

I have to think that Moore’s appointment was more like the second case than the first, i.e., I doubt that Cathy Johnson in Polisci went solo on a visitor search and simply presented Moore to the department. But that’s pure speculation on my part.

As far as reappointment, it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’d be reappointed if his student evaluation scores were anything but terrible. In my department it would go like this:

Chair: “We need to decide whether to recommend reappointment of X”
Member of the department: “How were his scores?”
Chair: “Fine, middlin’ in one class, okay in another.”
Member of the department: “I heard from some student that he is not very good, is disorganized, can’t lead a discussion, gives everyone A’s, etc.”
Chair: “Yeah, me too. But it’s only for another year and his overall scores are fine.”
Members of the department: “Fine, let’s move on.”

It is very unlikely that any members of my department would visit the class of a visitor, since, in the first year, the person is already there and whether he stays for a second year has to be decided quite early to get the curriculum and catalog settled. At best we would get information from the first half of the first semester of the visitor’s teaching, and a great deal of latitude is given that early on.

One take home message is that the hiring and reappointment of visitors is far less rigorous that hiring tenure track faculty.

1) How, precisely, did Moore first come to Williams? Who made that initial call? There must be some connection here, but I am having trouble finding it. One possibility is Bill Spriggs ’77, economics professor at Howard University. Professor Spriggs came to Howard in December 2005, which would have been right around the time that Moore would have been applying to Williams. Did they know each other? They were in different departments, but I don’t have a sense of how big Howard is.

Note that Spriggs will be appearing (still?) at Williams at the roundtable event that Moore organized. Spriggs has also kept in touch with folks at Williams over the years. He played the key role in bring students from Xavier to Williams in the aftermath of Katrina. Spriggs was won the “Congressional Black Caucus Chairman’s Award” in 2004. In fact, Spriggs is still listed in the CBC website as a “Department Chair,” whatever that is. Moore had excellent connections with the CBC.

2) Was the Political Science department advertising for an opening in 2007–2008? I can’t figure out an easy to look up this history. My sense is that there was not a specific opening that Moore applied for and, in competition with other applicants, received. Again, I think that someone made a call. My best guess right now would be Bill Spriggs. If so, who did he call at Williams?

3) As always, knowing the history of Williams pays off in our attempts to understand the present.

Bill Spriggs ’77, a former professor at a historically black university, brought to Schapiro the idea of reaching out to Xavier when the extent of the damage to New Orleans became clear.

“It struck me that Williams was uniquely positioned both in terms of resources and connections to offer a comprehensive answer, not just ‘we’ll take a student,’” said Spriggs, who served on the executive committee to redesign the Science Center. “The problem with [that approach] is that the students would be out of touch with their faculty. You just rip the whole program apart.”

So, Bill Spriggs felt comfortable reaching out to Morty is August of 2005. I bet that, if he knew about a charismatic, well-connected Ph.D. student like Bernard Moore, either via Howard or the Congressional Black Caucus, he would not have hesitated to give Morty a call two years later. The Record ought to contact both Spriggs and Schapiro. [Needless to say, this is all speculation on my part. I have no first-hand information about the process by which Moore came to Williams.]

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