Job Wiki, friend or foe?
By several accounts, this past year’s musicological employment opportunities (2006-07) were the best in several years. Perhaps someone with a longer memory than I can confirm that– or, maybe they can’t. That’s because, in the past, figuring out just how many jobs were available required a great deal of hunting and gathering. Resources such as theor the College Music Society’s “ ” report what jobs are available, but don’t offer a simple running list of these positions. Even if one compiled a full list of schools, it wasn’t worth much beyond knowing who was hiring what, where.
Enter the (wonderful/wicked) word of wiki.
As many of you know, this past job season was accompanied by the first incarnation of the “job-wiki.” For those of you not in the know (if you weren’t in the know, would you really be reading this?) a wiki is an user-updated webpage. This particular wiki tracks the progress of (almost) all historical and ethnomusicological academic hires during a given year. It recently tracked the status of more than 60 jobs, both tenure-track and temporary hires. As schools and applicants moved through the various stages of hiring (secondary material requests, phone interviews, flyout lists, etc.) the page broadcasted updates to all interested parties.(but come back, I’ve got more to say!)
This page doesn’t share any information that isn’t otherwise available; it just disseminates it in a rapid, centralized way. I get the sense that this task was completed primarily by the applicants themselves. However, due to the nature of wikis, figuring out precisely who contributed these updates is unknown. For example, I know of instances where current students at a given institution provided “insider” updates on the process at their own institution. At the same time, I’ve heard tale of people removing previously posted information.
When this webpage first appeared, someone on the AMS-Students listserv called it an “evil job search wiki.” And while I’ve heard tales of people who discovered they didn’t get a particular job by checking the site, it seems to me (from this side of the job fence) that this system is a blessing to the applicants. For those managing multiple job searches, this is a quick and easy way to see where the various programs are in the process, allowing them to make more informed decisions than ever before.
The system also benefits the hiring committees—though exactly how is a little beyond my purview. Some possibilities, given that not every school hires at the same point in the year or the same rate of speed, are that job committees can see who they are competing against, where they compare to other schools in the process, or even see if a particular applicant has been hired elsewhere.
The job season is completed, how is the wiki still helpful?
As someone not yet on the job market, I see the wiki as a highly valuable tool for tracking trends in our discipline. This past spring, the Student Forum of the Society for American Music presented a panel on the job process. As a part of that, co-chair Sarah Gerk, compiled a very helpful list of all job postings in musicology from 2001 to present. (I’ll post the results of this here in the near future). This list, and others such as that assembled by, provide interesting insights into recent trends in hiring. With their work in hand, the wiki becomes even more helpful:
1. It tells us what types of positions (specialties) are being filled right now.
2. It allows us to compare the original job posting to the ultimate hire.
3. It reveals which programs are placing their PhDs.
Point 1 will become more useful as time goes by. Point 2, would be a very interesting project for someone to take one. Point 3, I’ve done a little work with: Of the 66 initial job listings, 47 placements were made. Out of those schools that hired (according to the wiki)…
18 Schools placed 1 graduate: Alberta; Chicago; Minnesota; Montreal; Northwestern; NYU; Ohio State; Penn; Princeton; Texas-Austin; UCLA; Illinois, U-C; UNC, Chapel Hill; Florida; UCSB; UC Davis; Virginia; and Washington University, St. Louis.
8 Schools placed 2 graduates: Brandeis; Boston University; Cornell; McGill; Michigan; UC Berkeley; Yale; and University of Washington, Seattle.
2 Schools placed 3 graduates: Columbia and Pittsburgh
1 School placed 7 graduates: Harvard
Such information is very helpful for many reasons, not the least of which is that it helps perspective students get a sense of which schools are having the most success. And while this is certainly not the only point one should consider when selecting a program, it is one that was previously more difficult to gage.
At the same time (and this is one place where I see that such information may be “evil”), the wiki does not say if those hired individuals are freshly minted PhDs, or, if this hire represents a move from one institution to another. For example, glancing at some of the names on the wiki reveals that several placements (including some from my institution) went to already established professors.
How might we improve the wiki?
1. Hyperlinks. I’d like to see hyperlinks from the school name directly to the job posting itself. That cuts out the need to go through the Chronicle or the CMV (which itself may be nothing more than a link) to get to further information about the subject.
2. Courtesy. It became standard practice over the course of the season to add the name of the person who accepted the post as soon as that information became available. More appropriate, perhaps, would be to allow that individual the opportunity to either add their name (perhaps as a badge of honor).
3. Confirmed. This is a wiki so all content is by nature subject to the whims of those contributing—that is to say, all information is . Hopefully nothing is entered maliciously, but . Errors occur, info changes, etc.
The next year’s list has already begun. Way to get a head of the pack University of Delaware! (Perhaps someone from your program can link up a detailed job description.) Congratulations to all of those who gained professorial employment this year – I hope to join you soon!