All posts by Gene C. Fant Jr.


Name Game

I’ve encountered some unusual candidate-search problems involving names that are easily confused or that have baggage. Here are a few. I’ve changed the actual names and/or genders to avoid invasions of privacy.)

One search committee had reviewed all of the candidates, narrowing the field to two finalists: “Sue Shirley” and “Shirley Shue.” When the candidates arrived for their interviews, Dr. Shirley insisted on being called “Sue,” and Dr. Shue insisted on being called “Shirley.” When the committ…


On End-of-Term Distractions

Now that we are in the most difficult part of the fall semester, with paper grading, holiday responsibilities, and end-of-term planning in full swing, I have noticed an uptick in those distracting emails that some folks love to send. From links to BuzzFeed lists (Wow! I never knew that about The Brady Bunch) to political essays (You won’t believe what he thinks!) to outright head-scratchers (Chain emails? Really? You have time for that?), ’tis the season for time wasting.

The last weeks of the s…


The Job Search: It’s So Not Personal

“Sarah” was a midcareer administrator who had landed an interview at a strong institution. She would be positioned to take advantage of her own strengths and could gain significant experiences toward further promotion. Her excitement was intense as she prepared for her visit.

The on-campus interview went well in the morning, but at lunch the senior administrator to whom she would report failed to appear. When the time came to meet with that administrator in the afternoon, a two-hour slot, she wa…


A Tough Time of Year for New Professors

The last week of October and the first weeks of November are what I call the “Uh-Oh Zone” for new faculty members. I first noted this when I supervised a cadre of graduate assistants who were teaching their first courses. A very large percentage of them filed into my office for a private chat and said the same thing: “I’m miserable and I think I should quit.”

When I talked to my very wise department chair, he said that this was common: They were snowed under with paper grading and with papers of…


‘First World’ Academic Problems

Perhaps you have seen some of the Web sites dedicated to highlighting the whining that is common to those of us who live in the so-called first world. I saw one the other day that cracked me up: Someone was complaining that there was so much leg room in business class that she was having trouble reaching the touch screen on the video display in front of her.

Some time ago I had the opportunity to participate in some faculty-development sessions overseas. My hosts were gracious at every turn. I h…


Mugged by an Offer

“Bob” was on the market for an English position and had been looking forward to attending the MLA annual meeting in December, his first since completing his doctorate. By mid-October, he had already been tapped for several interviews and was honing his thoughts when out of the blue came a call from one institution.

“We are trying to get a jump on the MLA and would like to interview you the first of November. Can we calendar you?”

He agreed and gladly completed the on-campus interview process. To…


The Accidental Pay Cut

“Bob” was a professor in a thriving department and carried a full teaching load; his breadth of academic preparation included credentials in several areas outside of his specialization. One day an administrator came to him and indicated that a new academic program was to start and that they would like for him to teach in it by separate contract. Just a course or two per year, as overloads.

Bob liked the idea, and, since he had two young children, he liked the idea of the extra pay; he learned th…


When Everyone Knows How Much You Make

In my first teaching position, the local newspaper printed all faculty salaries each October as a way to generate “transparency and accountability” for those of us who were on the public payroll. I was startled to see my name on the list the first time, and I have to say that it was not my favorite issue of the local fishwrap. I was less than thrilled to know that all of my friends knew what I made.

Nowadays this information is available on the Internet for many if not most public institutions. …


From Professional to Professor?

I often have acquaintances approach me for advice on how to become a professor. Most often they are in advanced professions, such as law or medicine. One incident from two decades ago is a good example of how the conversation goes.

A lawyer friend confided that he hated his job and wanted to be a professor, preferably at a flagship public university. Since I was nearing my Ph.D., he approached me with questions that he framed as statements: “I love the idea of only working nine months of the yea…


Faculty-Development Sessions

I met my wife at a faculty-development session, so I must admit to a soft spot in my heart for the year-opening activities. In spite of that, I also know that faculty-development workshops are less than popular for many people. Two of my past experiences speak to all-too-frequent frustrations.

In the first, the dean of instruction invited some quack/speaker to help us with stress management. Classes started the next day, but we were herded into a room where a guy who closely resembled the holist…