Sunday, May 5, 2013

Search Committees

There are few faculties, especially those of any college with a religious affiliation or one located in some dime-sized Toonerville, that honestly desire to hire staff whose degrees are more esteemed than their own or whose skills are likely to be more proficient than theirs or whose reputations may case any kind of shadow, even though their protestations while serving on the search committee will conceal (without success) their fears and their intentions. In solemn session, behind fiercely cherished closed doors, they will find faults--with any candidate who is forced on their attention--cracks so minute only the eyes of a smidge could see them; they will be unsure of the lady's suitability (she will be too young or too old, too homely or too pretty--she'll be married in a minute, knocked up within a week, and borne off by her husband to hostess tea parties in Shaker Heights); or they'll be smugly undecided about where the new fellow will be in his work twenty years hence (is there any honest future in Willa Cather studies?); they will wave the flag OVERQUALIFIED like a military banner, be convinced the spouse will hate the school, his neighbors, and the town, and that both will gallop to greener pastures before a year is out, citing several precedents such as Professor Devise and his titillating daughter; they will be disturbed by what seems to be an absence of the proper faith in Mr. Brightboy's background and be instead rather high on Mr. Dimbulb, whose dossier is superlative and whose letters, especially the one from Professor Dormouse, incline their fog to drift in the pip-squeak's direction.

--William H. Gass, Middle C

(For the record I have no reason to believe that this in any way reflects the proceedings of search committees at a certain small, non-sectarian liberal arts college located in a central Maine mill town. It is, all the same, hilarious, leaving one to wonder if Gass did not draw upon direct observations from his time many years ago at a certain comparable institution in rural Ohio.)

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