Post Academic

Top Grad Student: It’s a tie!

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on August 20, 2010

And the winner is….nobody!  There appears to be a deadlock between English and Media Studies that seems impossible to break, even with the extended deadline.  The fair thing would actually be to hire the Media Studies candidate, seeing as s/he had the most combined votes through all 5 Top Grad Student contests.   However, this being academia and all, who says anything is fair about anything?  So here’s the typically academic solution to the problem: Not to hire anyone, no matter how qualified s/he may be and how much the dept might want a new faculty member.  This is how we imagine the finale and the explanation of the decision…

"Historic neckties" from Noveau Larousse Ilustré (public domain)

It was a knock-down, drag-out search committee meeting at the end, with each side making its case for its candidate.  Of course, as time went on, the English folks dug in, and so did the Media Studies contingent.  But instead of thinking what might be best in the bigger picture, the animosity on each side only intensified to the point that hypothetical lead judge Henry Louis Gates wished he was back at the Beer Summit last summer and hypothetical host James Franco started wondering why he ever wanted to pursue a Ph.D.

With neither the English proponents or the Media Studies honks willing to give in, the stalemate ended with no agreement and no candidate hired.  As the process dragged on and on, the English voting bloc started imagining no scenario under which it could stomach the Media Studies candidate, who now seemed insufferable and could never become a good colleague in its collective imagination, and vice versa.  But in order to tie the whole botched search up with a bow, they needed to come down to a bureaucratic solution, which boiled down to some kind of financial excuse and something about needing to hold on to the tenure line and reopening the search next year.  Of course, they dithered about the decision and left our candidates hanging–oh yeah, there was that Sociology contestant too, who almost got the job as a compromise choice.

As for our brave Top Grad Student contestants, they were left not knowing where they stood for too long, because the search committee held onto everyone just in case.  Wouldn’t it be appropriate, considering the conditions of the real academic job market, that we went through this whole virtual process–more than 5 weeks, I think –but no one ended up with the job and the tenure line in limbo?  Thanks to the tied vote, I think the virtual/reality contest actually resulted in the best, most representative ending we could have possibly had.  Can’t you just imagine our contestants getting something like a “Dear Applicant” form email explaining how no one was ultimately hired, while encouraging them to apply again next year?

Thanks for voting and for playing along!

One Response to 'Top Grad Student: It’s a tie!'

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  1. Talk about putting the “reality” in reality television. That was the most accurate outcome imaginable.

    I love how these hiring decisions all boil down to no one wanted to give in. But most budgets operate on a “use it or lose it” principle … which means that there will be no second season for the show since the budget line would–in reality–be cut.

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