Reality in hiring: NIU

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Thu, 15 Dec 1994 01:31:00 CST

Bill Loker suggests that NIU's vagueness in listing an opening for an
archaeologist in our department is, perhaps, a way of finessing clear
ethical requirements . . .

No, we're not trying to be cute. We have several contradictory facts
to contend with. I bother the list with them because our recruiting
situation may be typical. (I wish, back when I was in grad school,
my profs had told me more about what goes on in the job market. I
take it as a professional and moral obligation to explain as much as
I understand to as many students--mine and those of others--as will

To begin with, we are losing TWO archaeologists: Bill Fash, who works
on Copan, Honduras and will continue to do so in his new appointment
at Harvard; and Ken Honea, whose early work was in the US Southwest
but who has been working in Eastern Europe for the last twenty years.
Ken will retire at the end of the year.

We will be allowed to hire ONE replacement. (Every department in the
university will lose at least one position at the end of this year.
We're lucky to be losing only one, by retirement attrition.)

We have several students in the graduate pipeline who are doing their
MA work on Mesoamerican archaeology, most of them emphasizing work in
Copan; we have other students who have been working on lithic tech-
nology and related questions with Ken Honea.

We believe strongly in broadening the range of topics our students
can choose to pursue. We have two faculty members whose major
emphasis is on North American archaeology, and two more with some
experience in that area who are not currently working in archaeology.
OK, North America should be out. So then what?

The department has areal strengths in Mesoamerica and South East
Asia/Western Pacific cultures, as well as North America. It is
hard to decide whether to build on those strengths or try to give
our students a chance to work elsewhere.

Our job description was written in broad terms because we have broad
needs. Whoever we hire, that person will not be able to fill all of
those needs: we will have to compromise on someone who will be of
greatest help to students in our programs, knowing that we can't
give those students everything we want to. And there are other needs
beyond those of students: we have lost only one position because we
are recognized as one of the strongest research departments at NIU.
On a per capita basis (we are the smallest department in the College
of Liberal Arts & Sciences), we bring in more research dollars than
any other. (We're also sixth in the university in total dollars
of outside grants brought in, regardless of department size.) I have
already argued that quantitative measures of scholarship are
pernicious, subversive, anti-intellectual, and an all round bad idea.
But that's one of the bases that turns up in the bureaucratic
routinization--and by that standard we're a bunch of publishing
workaholics. Departmental survival demands that whoever we hire has
to be good at grantsmanship and publishing.

OK, the job description we put in our ads sounds like we don't know
what we want. Don't be silly: we know what we want, but we aren't
going to get it. We are reduced to praying that our eventual choice
will be obvious once we look at the candidates, and that the ONE we
hire will fill as many of our needs as possible.

Hey, look: although there are many days when I want to bang faculty
heads together here, I have to believe that we're doing the best we
can. It sure would be easier if we were expanding our faculty, but
contraction? Them's the conditions what prevail.

I'll accept nasty remarks about our failings if, but only if, your
snarls concentrate on their major source: the systematic dismantling
of the system of public higher education in Illinois--and California,
and New York, and Texas, and Minnesota, and on and on and on. If
you have to attack somebody, why not try the folks who decreased
taxes, increased defense spending, and threw the burden of health
care on the states while removing the finances to pay for it? If
you must, aim your first kick at the idjits who passed Prop 13 in
California and started a national movement to dump taxes that could
only result in cutting essential services--like higher ed.

-- mike <>