In English, fall is the season of the job search, culminating in the frenzy that is the MLA conference at the end of December. This year it’s in San Francisco. Many attend to present at the conference, but thousands more attend for the conference’s real purpose: job interviews. Though I couldn’t tell you the names of the conferences, I’m guessing that most other disciplines have similar practices.
There is undoubtedly a significant expense of interviewing institutions and interviewees in undertaking all this travel. The conference call phone interview has long been an alternative. In the past I did a few of these. I can understand why they are less than ideal. It’s hard to get a sense of a person over the phone. Of course you can’t get much of a sense of someone from 30 minutes in a hotel room either, but there is something to the embodied sense you get from physical proximity.
Nowadays, it’s fairly easy to conduct a video conference online between two or three sites. Maybe it’s not as good as face to face, but it’s probably better than a phone interview. However, given our concerns over the campus carbon footprint, I think this might be something to consider.
If the presidents of major universities could get together and say that they were going to conduct all their initial interviews, in every department, in this way, I think others would do so as well. After all, it would save them money! I just think about it from SUNY’s perspective of being able to say to Albany that they saved x dollars and reduced carbon emissions by y tons by instituting this policy.
Maybe there could even be some incentive to departments. For example, at Cortland we can only bring two candidates to campus. If we did online interviews instead of sending people to MLA, maybe we could bring in three. That would still save money and reduce emissions.