On the Market III: BYU doesn’t deserve my application (or yours).
The conventional wisdom when it comes to the academic job hunt is to apply for every open position, no matter what it is or where it is located. After all, the reasoning goes, beggars can’t afford to be choosers, and you never know what kind of places might actually be a good fit.
This advice is wrong.
Not only is it wrong, it contributes to the disempowerment of early-career scholars on the job market. And I, for one, refuse to follow it. Instead, I am applying only to jobs about which I am genuinely enthused, and for which I think are a good fit for me on both a professional and personal level.
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but the real catalyst in making this decision was a job posting this year from Brigham Young University, which, for those who aren’t familiar, is a private university owned and operated by the Mormon Church. BYU requires its faculty to abide by the same honour code as its students: i.e. no coffee, no beards, and no gays allowed. Well, ok, we’re allowed, as long as we stay celibate for life. How generous.
Now there’s a lot I’d be willing to give up for a job. I’d happily move to another continent for the right programme, and in fact I plan on applying to jobs in both Europe and Oceania this year. But I will under no circumstances beg for a job from an organization that would seek to deny me even basic human rights, and I would hope that any allies would feel the same way. Such a place simply doesn’t deserve to have its reputation enhanced by our hard work and scholarly contributions, no matter how well-funded or or state-of-the-art or otherwise attractive it may be.
The thing I found most disturbing, though, was the fact that other queer people in my field were not only considering applying to the job, but were actually encouraged by their advisors to apply.
This is not acceptable. Advisors have a moral duty to ensure that their career advice takes into account students’ needs beyond the bare minimum of employment in the field, and they should think carefully about what it means to encourage any young scholars to apply to schools like BYU that are clearly discriminatory in one way or another. Schools like BYU might even start to get the message if they start finding it difficult to attract the kind of talent they need to maintain their reputations.
But this is not a message that queer scholars can send alone. Everyone who cares about employment equality needs to stand up and say: “No, I refuse to lend my professional credibility to a school that openly discriminates against minorities and protected classes.”
And if that means another year on the market, so be it.
Featured image: Jaren Wilkey