The weather forecast was once again for “plowable” snow and the snow ripple effect was already underway. A major school-wide accreditation visit, scheduled for that coming Tuesday with the team flying in on Monday, had already been canceled and postponed to the beginning of the summer. For us, it won’t make much difference – we were very well prepared now and that preparation will still carry the day a few months down the road. I regularly participate on accreditation teams and recognize the substantial amount of time and effort that the team, volunteers from the disciple, must invest even before setting foot on the campus. With a rescheduling, it is for the visiting team members an even greater commitment of time and effort that they must dedicate to the accreditation or reaccreditation. I am a strong believer in accreditation, which is typically overseen by peers from other institutions, and I thank all involved for their time and effort.
The next academic ripple is the impact on candidates coming in to be interviewed for a position. Often such individuals are our finalists and they come into town on a Sunday to be interviewed on Monday. Therefore they are able to minimize the time during the workweek that they are unavailable for what they are presently doing. Already during the previous Friday, flights for that Sunday had been canceled. For many of the candidates coming in later that day or on the next day it had already been made more difficult by pre-storm cancelations; once the storm begins the difficulty dramatically increases. To accommodate what had already happened and what was more likely to happen again very shortly, we had begun to reschedule those interviews. For the departments involved, we are getting late into the hiring cycle. And for the candidates, we are increasing their tension levels and the apprehension that naturally occurs the later a candidate is in the hiring process, but hasn’t yet received a desired offer.
Faculty, looking for an academic position, already have many challenges. Senior faculty are remaining in their current position in significant numbers. Nationwide there is a reliance on more contingent faculty. Class size and reliance on TAs seem also to be on the increase. The economy, though improving is nevertheless lackluster. The class format, everything from MOOCs to tutorials, everything from in-person classes to hybrid, to fully on line are becoming more varied. All these factors already make the process tense, and now add weather related delays to the process and the tension level is even greater. Anything we can do to help our colleagues in the early stages of their careers is enormously important. Mentoring clearly makes a major difference, and anything else we can do to decrease the tension level all through the hiring process helps the candidate make the transition more positive. None of this, by the way, suggests any compromise in the hiring standards. Just think back to when we started as faculty. For many of us, entering the job market in better times, we nevertheless still felt the stress. I am sure we appreciated whoever helped mitigate that stress. The need to do so is even more pressing today.