Tuesday, November 08, 2005

 

Ask the Administrator: What to Reveal?

A correspondent sent a question that was new to me:

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I am an adjunct cc English teacher in (wherever). After getting laid off from my job as an editor, and after trying a few other jobs while waitressing to survive, I started working as an adjunct. I really like it and want to try to do it full-time.
My school has an English full-time position open, which I'm going to apply for. In between undergraduate and grad school, (some years) ago, I worked as an exotic dancer for about a year. A few years later, I wrote about my experiences as a stripper and had an article published at (a well-known magazine). If you Google my name, you can easily find my article.

I am not ashamed of my background, and I know that sex work has come into vogue in academia to a certain degree. I also pride myself on my professionalism, so this is not something that anyone guess from knowing me. What I'm wondering is if a hiring committee might come across my article and--if so--would that hurt or completely destroy my chances for getting hired full-time.

I realize it will depend on individual personalities of the people on the committee, I'm just curious what you think.
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In the age of Google, I’d venture to say that if it’s online, under your name, someone will eventually find it. (Hooray for pseudonyms!) It may be someone on the committee, it may be a future student, but it’ll pop up. When it does, what would you rather have done now?

In politics, they say it’s not the crime; it’s the coverup. If you list the article on your c.v., and they hire you anyway, you’ve defused the issue. If a member of the campus morality patrol later finds the article and makes a stink about it, the department and the dean have already committed to you; the only way for them to deny knowledge, at that point, would be to admit that they didn’t look at your c.v., which would be admitting a failure of due diligence on their part.

Would the article kill your chances of being hired? Maybe, but you’d be surprised. My college is in a very conservative area, and most of the faculty are quite senior, but a few years ago a very senior department hired a youngish candidate who could have raised many red flags around related (not identical) issues. She disclosed it in her cover letter, defused the issue upfront, and has been a real asset to the college. The students don’t seem fazed in the slightest, to their credit.

Yes, it’s possible that someone on the committee (we’ll call him the Crabby Puritan) will have an issue, and that could doom your candidacy. However, I don’t think you’d avoid the issue by avoiding disclosure. When the article surfaces, which it will, then the Crabby Puritan has the high-minded excuse of saying it’s not the stripping, it’s the covering up (no pun intended). Best not to give the Puritan the ammunition.

I say, list the article on your c.v., and good luck!

Have a question? Ask the Administrator at ccdean (at) myway (dot) com.

Comments:
I think the advise is sound. There is nothing wrong, and it may even be good, to list it on your vita. It seems relevant to the position you are applying for. But I would not do more. I was on a search committee recently for an administrator where a person began an interview with a different, but potentially controversial background issue. Before this I thought she was a good candidate, but her aggressive presentation of the issue which no one was actually concerned about, made me and others wonder, not so much about the background issue, but about her professionalism.

So I say note it, but don't make a big deal about it.
 
I am just about to graduate and start my job search and have been wondering about something similar to this. My progress was delayed a few times by things that were totally out of my control, two of them quite upsetting (deaths). This has left big gaps in my record, no publishing, no dissertation progress, in one case no teaching. Do I wait until it is brought up and then explain, or slip it in somewhere in the interview process? I don't want to freak people out or look like I'm trolling for sympathy, but I do want to be able to explain what happened.
 
In my opinion it is always better to be up front and frank about a situation. My husband and I encountered this type of thing. We began dating before he was hired at my school as a network tech. He applied for and received a position. We dated through my senior year, and his continued employment. We are now married and have 2, soon 3 children. We told everyone in the administration at the time. In his new position, he was up front about the "past" with the new admins and all is well. Had some curious student or reporter done some digging, it could have turned ugly, quickly, but we diffused it by being honest.
 
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