There has been a remarkable amount of discussion exploding in the last 8 hours (? or so) regarding a job ad from Colorado State University, which reads:
The Department of English at Colorado State University invites applications and nominations for the position of Assistant Professor of English with an emphasis on Pre-1900 American literature and culture. The successful candidate will be appointed untenured and at the rank of Assistant Professor. This is a tenure-track, nine-month appointment, beginning August 16, 2013.
1. Ph.D. in English or American Studies or closely related area awarded between 2010 and time of appointment [emphasis added].
[other requirements that aren't relevant here]
I've spewed a bit (too much) about this on Facebook (sorry, meg!), but so I don't go following this ad round the interwebs and grumping on all the blogs of other people who are discussing it, I thought I should just say something here and then I can shut up about it.
1) Yes, it's a dumb ad. There is nothing magical about 2010 that renders those who earned their Ph.D.s after 2010 more qualified than those who earned them before. This requirement shuts out lots of perfectly qualified people.
2) Yes, in practice it will likely have a disparate impact on older candidates, since often the earlier you earned your Ph.D., the older you are (although if you are like me and take ten wonderful amazing years to earn your degree, you will be eligible for this job longer than the bright stars of your program who finished in six or seven!). However, the ad does not select for age. A 72-year-old who finished their degree in 2011 would be eligible, while a 29-year-old who finished in 2009 would not. That's all the law requires, people. Age of graduate degree does not confer protected status. And disparate impact is not in itself enough to show some kind of age discrimination.*
3) Yes, should ads like this become commonplace (and as far as I can tell, this is the only ad of its kind anyone has found), they will create perverse incentives encouraging Ph.D. candidates to put off graduating as long as possible so they can continue to be eligible for jobs with this kind of a requirement.
1) I have encountered any number of "early career" faculty fellowships that placed a cut-off date on eligilibity. Not all were aimed exclusively at faculty already in tenure-track jobs. This is not an unheard of practice.
2) CSU is likely trying to limit a) the number of applicants and b) the amount they have to pay the successful candidate (in that they may have salary requirements, whereby x amount of experience requires a salary bump; or simply that someone with a stronger track record may go up for tenure sooner and hence cost more sooner). It's a pretty arbitrary means of accomplishing (a), but that doesn't mean it won't accomplish the objective.
As for (b), if that is part of the reason behind this, it seems that people are shocked, SHOCKED that the university would let costs dictate something like this and put cost ahead of quality.
Um. Just a reminder: over 1/2 the nation's faculty are now contingent? Which kind of defines putting cost ahead of quality? (with the caveat that yes, I realize that many many MANY contingent faculty are of equal if not HIGHER quality than tenured/tenure-track faculty, but in many many MANY other cases contingent faculty are unable to offer the same experience as t/t-t faculty due to lack of resources/support, lack of continuity - i.e. they work one semester at one place, one semester at another, and so on, rather than being able to support students through their entire college careers - and the like.) Why is putting cost ahead of quality tragic but un-shocking when dealing with contingent faculty, but incredibly shocking when dealing with tenure-track faculty?
3) There are so many great candidates out there, that while excluding everyone whose degree is from 2009 and earlier is stupid, because it's eliminating a lot of great people, it's unlikely to mean that CSU will draw a less-qualified pool. Because there are also TONS of great candidates who still qualify. That's the problem - compared to the number of [tenure-track] jobs, there are too many great candidates. So it's not like this requirement cuts off CSU's nose to spite its face.
4) Those perverse incentives to drag out the degree as long as possible were alive and well in my grad program, where people regularly delayed defending if they didn't get a job, to stay on the university's health insurance and to continue to be eligible for graduate teaching appointments in their departments.
Really, I guess my reaction to the ire directed at the post-2010-Ph.D. requirement is this: this is such an egregious example of the problems with the academic job market? This is one teeny tiny tip of one really huge and all-encompassing iceberg. If I can jump to a different-yet-slightly-related metaphor, anger about this particular job ad strikes me as a little bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The academic job market has way bigger problems than this, people.**
*IIRC, you'd have to show that the policy was put in place precisely to create the disparate impact, and not despite the disparate impact (at least, that's the case for race/gender discrimination. Can't remember if it's the same for age). That is, you'd have to have no other purpose but to discriminate. I doubt this ad would be a violation under that standard.*** Plus, constitutionally, age isn't as highly protected a class as race/gender/national origin/religion. I can't remember all the Title VII standards, though my impression is that proving age discrimination is usually very very difficult.
**I do still love all my academic friends and this is not intended as personal criticism of anyone for whom this ad is rage-inducing.
***Keep in mind I could be completely wrong on that.