academic hiring procedures and university administration

Wed, 1 Jun 1994 08:34:14 EST

Having now received my 1,000th job rejection from academia over a course
of seven years (including rejections from institutions which in the
same breath are more than happy to hire me simultaneously on a part-time
basis) . . . I have finally reached the conclusion that committee
decisions in a post-modern world are totally irrelevant. As a result,
and after discussions with a dozen other highly qualified individuals in
the same situation, I would like to suggest a new mode of hiring for
academic institutions: trial by combat to death.

It occurs to us that trial by combat to the death eliminates the problem
of hypocritical pronouncements. Academics would no longer have to
make inane statements about how wonderful rejected candidates were in the
same breath that they picked the people they wanted in the first place.
Academics would no longer have to mouth platitudes about merit as the sole
criteria for hiring, when in fact merit is something determined by committee
in which committee members all have their own agendas, influenced by
administrative policies and political pressures . . .

Trial by combat to the death would, it seems, be a far more honest method
. . . much in accord with evolutionary principles, and principles of free

In short, our new method should allow anyone to challange any other established
academic for the position and resources controlled by the sitting party. The
strongest and therefore most qualified individual would then assume the

It also appears that in an environment of downsizing and overproduction, this
would also work to eliminate the excess number of academics produced . . . as
well as insure that younger academics begin to permeate an otherwise aging
hierarchy . . . this bringing about a rapid influx of new ideas.

Of course, for purely pragmatic purposes . . . certain ritual prescriptions
and proscriptions would have to be implemented to eliminate chaotic
disruption of intellectual activities . . . but, I am sure these would
emerge for the new system in due course . . . as the processes of fatal
interactions take place.

Just a thought . . .

John O'Brien