If anyone doubts the warping effects on one’s brain of being on a faculty search committee that involves reading 100+ files and 100+ reference letters, perhaps this post will serve as evidence that the effects can be severe.
We have had a cat vacancy in our home since last winter, so we convened a diverse and distinguished search committee consisting of three experts (us). We recently interviewed several candidates intensively, following the European model of interviewing all candidates at the same time (very efficient). We were, in theory, open to hiring at any level, and we did interview one very intriguing candidate who would have had to have been hired at a senior level, but we were unsure about how this older cat would interact with existing cats in our home department. And, although the cat appeared active during the interview, we couldn’t help wondering: would she essentially retire once securing a permanent position?
Our short list of viable candidates ended up consisting entirely of kittens. None had had a previous home position before, not even as a postdoc. There can be a great risk in hiring such an inexperienced feline, but the rewards are potentially great if they thrive in their new environment and have a long and productive feline career in your home.
We evaluated each kitten’s background, their potential for interacting with humans and other felines, and we tried to gauge their potential for creative (but not too creative) behavior. In the end, I must admit that we favored stereotypical kitten behavior over kittens who seemed to be pushing the envelope. The kitten to whom we made an offer (which was instantly accepted) actually looks a lot like some previous members of our cat faculty. We weren’t expecting this, but it somehow just happened, perhaps because we feel most comfortable with this type of cat and weren’t ready to deal with one that was too different from what we are used to.
Introducing a new kitten into a home department dominated by senior felines can be tricky, and can involve some less-than-mature behavior on the part of senior felines, who feel threatened by the energetic addition. Even so, we are looking forward to the energizing effect our newest feline hire will surely have on our older faculty felines. We are reasonably confident that the new kitten will get tenure and have a productive career in our home, even if none of the senior felines has thus far been willing to be his mentor.
2 years ago