Saturday, December 01, 2007

IR Rumor Mill Discussion

We just realized we don't have a current thread for "meta" discussion of the Rumor Mill. Consider this it. One thing that might be worth discussing is our policy on reporting offers. We have not been entirely consistent about it this year, but it is now becoming an issue in comment moderation. This is what we wrote last time around:
Our current policy is not to disclose offers unless that information comes directly from the candidate in question. Job offers involve sensitive information exchanged between schools and prospective employees. A candidate often negotiates with a school over the terms of the contract. Other schools may have reasons to adjust their searches in light of a job offer. These and other reasons strike us as sufficient warrants for treading carefully in this area.


Anonymous said...

I can certainly understand a policy of not reporting the specific candidate to whom a school has made an offer, but what would be the harm in reporting whether or not a school has made an offer to someone. Since schools will often not inform the other candidates until they have an accepted offer in hand, it would seem like you would be providing a useful service to the other three candidates, as well as the wider community. How such info would harm the candidate who received the offer is not at all obvious.

IR Rumor Mill said...

Offers are fair game. Just not names. While that allows inference, we agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Too many threads.

IR Rumor Mill said...

3:24. Heh.

There's an issue we want to throw open for discussion.

Some background: we've generally been accommodating when faculty attempting to make lateral moves (or drive up their salary) ask us to censor information about them. But we're a bit unsure about this policy. Here are some of our questions:

1) Why should we guard the anonymity of those already in positions if we don't do so for people without tenure-track positions?

2) Why should we do favors for those who know enough to contact us, but not those who don't? But we also don't necessarily know which candidates are already in tenure-track jobs and which are not, so how are we supposed to enforce a uniform policy without adding another layer of work to an already pro bono job?

3) Do the scholars in question have any sort of right to keep their activities a secret, particularly once they already begin interviewing? If so, at what point does their interview become public knowledge and "fair game"?

We post these questions because we've been feeling less and less disposed towards continuing this policy.

We have, at various times, received, for lack of a better terms, "threats" from scholars about our disclosure of information concerning their interview activities.

Such threats have even come in the context of accidental disclosure, such as letting an unedited comment through. Thus, we hope our readers would understand why getting nasty emails about making mistakes in the implementation of what we view, after all, as a favor to specific individuals, makes us feel a bit uncharitable towards them.

Of course, given the great many rumors we do get about lateral moves from very diverse sources, we have doubts about whether our voluntary injunction makes any actual difference.

Consider this a license to give us feedback. We'd appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I think lateral-move professors who are cynically trying for a salary bump (which is the large portion of them, let's be honest) don't deserve protection. But maybe that's just me.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has been in the position of interviewing for a job at another university, and of having that fact noted on a blog, I don't think people like me are entitled to any special consideration. It can certainly create some awkward situations when many people know you are interviewing elsewhere, but it isn't a disaster. Most of your colleagues will have no trouble understanding your motives, having considered doing the same thing themselves. (My colleagues were certainly gracious about it.) In my case, I worried most about people at other universities and grad students at my own.

By the way, you should not assume that all those who are currently employed but interviewing for another job--even a "lateral move"--are doing so just to increase their salary at their current institution. That definitely happens, but people have many motives for moving apart from prestige and salary.

IR Rumor Mill said...

We hope no one would assume such a thing :-).

Anonymous said...

Has University of Pittsburgh extended invitations for Human Security position?

Anonymous said...

I find this whole discussion about lateral candidates kind of astonishing. The rumor mill can really not know what kind of constraints lateral candidates are under, what there motivations are, and the degree to which they need anonymity. Therefore there seems to be no question that they are under an obligation to first do no harm. The true service of this site is for people to know what stage a search is at. There is absolutely no need to name names in performing this public service, especially if there is a specific request to do so. It just satisfies our need for gossip. Nothing more, nothing less. For ABDs there is likely no harm at all, but there can be significant damage to those who currently have positions. I don't appreciate the presumptuousness of the Rumor Mill's comment that they might in the future disregard these requests, particularly when we have no idea who you are. It is breathtakingly arrogant to play god in this way. The poster above, the tenure-track professor, might be able to speak for himself, but not for everyone else. If lateral candidates don't mind, fine, put their name up. But not everyone. And you shouldn't expect these folks to police your site. There should a presumption of anonymity unless otherwise directed.

IR Rumor Mill said...

11:40 Thanks for your input.

We're not sure, however, why you find it "presumptuous" for us to honestly disclose our doubts about this issue and ask for precisely the kind of substantive feedback you gave.

As we indicated, we're feeling a bit miffed these days about getting threatening emails from "laterals" who don't seem to appreciate the context of the Mill or the changes we've made to its operating procedures. The Mill did not always take these issues seriously, and we're the *only* source of rumors we're aware of that makes any effort *at all* in this direction. And this is part of the issue we face: why go through the effort when that same information is usually available on other sites?

Remember that maintaining the Rumor Mill requires a lot of work for no real benefit on our part.

Another issue is what, exactly, the Rumor Mill's primary purpose is. You suggest it is to update the status of the search. But not everyone we engage with views it that way. Some see it as providing important information about the state of the discipline for the field. Others see it as a way for "out of the loop" schools to get important information about how the market is developing.

Anyway, we have one proposal on the table, which involves a similar policy to what we've adopted but with a more stringent presumption against the publication of "lateral" rumors.

As a side note: believe it or not, we don't necessarily even know which candidates are "laterals" and which are ABDs or newly minted PhDs. Search engines often help, but not always.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the rudeness of the emails, however upsetting it might be, is a reflection of the stakes for those individuals, and a reason for, not against, keeping their names off the site.

And while this rumor mill is moderated and others are not, that does not mean that there isn't an obligation to do what others do not do--protect people first, provide information second. And unlike the wiki, once info is up on this site, individuals concerned cannot take down their name unless they go through you first.

IR Rumor Mill said...

10:59. Thanks. As we noted, we're soliciting precisely these kinds of comments.

Anonymous said...

Too many threads. Kill 'em all off except the rumors and the Big Board.