Cornell Continues to Receive Scrutiny Over Job Ad

April 14, 2016

Scholars, scholars everywhere and no professor to pick. Cornell University took heat last fall for posting an unusually vague job ad for a professor showing “outstanding promise” in “some area” of the humanities or social sciences, with special consideration of “members of underrepresented groups, those who have faced economic hardship, are first-generation college graduates, or work on topics related to these issues.” Critics took to Twitter, simultaneously making fun of the ad and wondering if it was a hoax (it wasn’t).

One applicant has now been told the search that applied to an exceptionally broad pool of scholars has yielded no hires. The university, meanwhile, says the search has, in fact, resulted in a hire.

“I’m writing to inform you that our search did not yield a successful candidate to match our specific research needs,” reads an email sent to one applicant Tuesday by the office of the dean at College of Arts and Sciences. “We received many qualified applicants from our pool and we surely passed by some talented individuals. We wish you well in your future endeavors.”

The applicant, who did not want to be identified in any way due to an ongoing job search, called the decision disappointing. “Who knows if they’ll run the search again, or even if they’ll break it up into a series of smaller, more specific searches …. I think elite institutions are in a very privileged position: in a shrinking market, many seem to be able to run failed searches without any repercussions.”

Karen Kelsky, an academic job consultant who runs the blog The Professor Is In, still jokes about the original job listing and didn’t express surprise that the search may have been unsuccessful. “It was a preposterous ad that said something like ‘We want a scholar in any of 25 disciplines.’ There is simply no way to create a short list when the criteria are removed entirely from any kind of clear departmental, disciplinary or programmatic context. It’s comparing apples, oranges, sliced ham and … garden shears.”

Cornell, meanwhile, says the search did lead to a hire. John J. Carberry, spokesman, said in a brief statement Wednesday evening that he couldn’t confirm the rejected applicant’s statement because “this ad did result in a successful hire for the college.” No additional details were immediately available.

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