Academic Selection - how it works in US

Well, it took me four months to understand the basic principles used by Faculty Search Committees.

  1. The prospective member of the faculty must be a true genius of money digging. There is no limit: the more money he can get for the Department, the better.

  2. The prospective member of the faculty should have average pedagogic abilities. He should be neither better than the currently best professor in the Department, nor worse than the worst one. A dull professor can only teach students and is incapable of participating in another, normally shared activity, for example, laboratory manuals writing. A bright teacher is also bad because he would like to transfer to a better University (there is always a way to go: from a community college to MIT), which creates a source of instability.

  3. The candidate should be as stupid as possible in scientific respect. Incapability of doing his own research is a minimal requirement. All the money he gets, he should distribute among other fellows of the Department (by no means among outsiders!) this way buying a place among co-authors. His colleagues get two advantages: "Buy one - get one free!". First, the money for a research. Second, the feeling of great moral satisfaction: "You know, I have generously decided to include our nice idiot X into my new paper. He understands nothing but tries to be useful". As there is no limit to human stupidity, the more stupid the person is, the better.

    It is not unreasonable to suggest that the financial genius (principle 1) and the scientific moron (principle 3) should be combined in one person to equal extends to make the mix stable. It is not correct, the features are important on their own and extreme cases are most valuable. After all, the complete absence of scientific abilities may somehow slow down the speed of scientific carrier but can never stop it.

    Three main principles above are a base allow us to apply formal logic to virtually all situations. One simple theorem:

  4. The candidate should not be a theoretician.
    Proof: a)A theoretician needs no expensive equipment ==>
    ==> b) normally reluctant to money digging.
    c) He prefers to work on his own and does not like to share money because of b).

  5. Some people worry about Affirmative Action. Evidently, a black female who lost her leg in Vietnam (and still suffers brain injures) has more chances than a young white male. However, American Universities are still truly democratic institutions. A black women would be hired not because of the direct influence of Affirmative Action but because of her higher commercial value. You can show her on TV, send to numerious meeting as a representative, etc., and she can achieve financial success by methods unavailable to an ordinary WASP. However, nobody would hire her instead of another reasonable candidate if she fails to satisfy three basic principles.

Two examples:

A) The ideal anti-candidate: Brilliant theoretician from the European research institute where academic researches were 100% state supported.

B) The ideal candidate: An African-American born into a well-off family, graduated from secondary school, literate and capable of calculating percentages. While in high school, graduate and post-graduate studies, he played soccer during the day, poker at night and slept during classes. He changed occupation after receiving his Ph.D: plays baseball during the day, bridge at night, but still sleeps during the classes (that he teaches). VERY IMPORTANT: A number of his classmates' fathers and a few fellas from his baseball team work as the most important financial funds sponsoring science.

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Last modified
August 1, 2006

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