Thanks to Professor Chris Waters for providing this detailed summary of hiring in the History Department.

Dear Dave,

Thanks for your note and the link to the debates, which I have just perused. Cameron Henry was a wonderful member of our Junior and Senior Advisory Groups, which we rely on to solicit student input on those occasions when we are making an important appointment in the Department.

I must limit myself to talking generally, rather than about specific individuals, although it is obviously the case that the more long-term the appointment is (ie a full-time, tenure-track position), the more extensive the review of the candidates by various bodies at Williams. For a tenure-track position, all members of the Department read the files of those candidates brought to their attention by the search committee appointed by the chair. Collectively they decide which candidates (say 8-12) are interviewed at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. The three finalists brought to campus then meet the faculty members in the Department, senior administrators, and, as Cameron said, students on our advisory groups. The decision about who to hire is made by the Department, after a thorough consideration of the opinions voiced by other bodies involved in the process as well, including the students.

Visiting appointments come in several different forms and shapes. For a two- or three-year appointment, we, like other departments, may indeed bring candidates to campus as well, although maybe only two, rather than three or possibly four. For a one-year replacement, or a postdoctoral teaching fellowship, candidates may also be brought to campus (as Paul Chamberlin was), although sometimes only one is (with a second candidate brought to campus if the first one obviously does not live up to expectations). When candidates are brought to campus, even for visiting or postdoctoral appointments, our students meet them. Appointments of very eminent, senior scholars who come to Williams for just a semester or a maximum of a year (like the Stanley Kaplan professorships or the Boskey professorships) are usually made by a body of faculty and do not normally entail a campus interview.

I hope this helps. Obviously, the type of procedure we follow depends on the type of position, with the most extensive consideration by the broadest number of people occurring when contemplating a long-term hire.

Thanks to Professor Waters for taking the time to explain the details to us. We now have testimony from an unnamed department, Anthropology/Sociology and History.

Conclusion: The testimony provided by the anonymous professor is holding up quite well and the criticisms made of it by Professor Peter Just and Cam Henry ’09 are seeming less and less justified.

Keep in mind that we all agree that the procedures for tenure track professors are as Professor Waters describes them, with the key feature being visits to campus by multiple candidates. The debate has been over the claim, by the anonymous professor, that the process for visiting spots is much less serious. Recall what she wrote:

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.

According to all the evidence we have gathered so far, this is a fair description of the process, not just in this one department, but throughout Williams. For a one year visitor, Williams does not, typically, conduct a national job search, review hundreds of applicants, invite multiple candidates to campus and so on.

Why were Peter Just and Cam Henry so quick to disagree with the anonymous professor? I think the main issue is that they misread his description as applying to all hires (which it does not) rather than to just a “one year visitor.” And, obviously, Bernard Moore is the reason that we are interested in this topic today since he was appointed twice to (different) one year visiting positions.

For those who care, my e-mail to Waters is below the break.

Professor Waters,

Hope all is well. We are having an interesting (?) discussion at EphBlog about the hiring process for visiting professors in the History Department, much informed by helpful comments from Cam Henry ’09 (cc’d above).

http://www.ephblog.com/2009/11/17/hiring-practices-in-the-history-department/

I realize that you probably have better things to do then to read all that, but could you clarify one point?

How many candidates for the position that Professor Revill now holds visited Williams, gave a talk, met with students and so on? Cam is unsure on the exact number.

Also, how many candidates for the positions that Professor Woods and Chamberlin now hold? Although I might be misreading Cam on this, it appears that students played no role in their selection (which I think is perfectly defensible). I just want a sense of how many candidates paid a visit to campus as part of the selection process for these Stanley Kaplan positions.

Thanks for your time,

Dave Kane ’88

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