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10/29/2021

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job hunting

I think the issue is that many schools (rightly) discourage holding onto this kind of potentially-sensitive student work. If you write on printed papers, you'd have returned them already. If you use an LMS, you might not have access to them anymore. And so on. If you didn't know far in advance that you might need something like this some day, you should probably have already acted on a prima facie reason to destroy or delete it as soon as you can.

I'd agree that it's a reasonable request as such, but because it's not a typical request, I think it might be asking for something that not every applicant can reasonably supply. For example, suppose an applicant has spent the last year finishing a dissertation, and hasn't been teaching. The most recent work of this sort would be from over a year ago, and it would have been reasonable (perhaps even required) to have destroyed the teacher's copy by this point.

anon

I'm not an ethicist, so I don't have a fancy theoretically grounded answer here, but I'm someone who thinks this sounds wrong. Shouldn't the students get to decide how their work gets used? Shouldn't they expect their work to remain mostly private? Anonymizing the work stops people from associating the work with a name, but it still doesn't resolve the problem of not having their consent and the problem of making something more public that should have been more private.

Students at my institution expect me to see their work, they expect TAs so see their work, they expect the relevant plagiarism review committees to see the work if I judge that they should review the paper, and so on. They expect that if they ask for a regrade from me and they dispute my call then the chair of the department might see their work for the second regrade. I mention all this to flag that they do reasonably expect more people than just me to see their work, if necessary. But I think this use of their work goes very far beyond their reasonable expectations.

I guess you can resolve my concerns through reaching out to students and finding some willing volunteers, and this is where I think the ask starts to involve extra work for candidates, which committees ought to avoid. If they are really teaching focused and really care about this, then maybe they could have their shortlisted candidates reach out to their students about this.

anon 2

With the caveat that I'm based in the UK, and the situation might be different, my understanding is that this would not be possible without the permission of the relevant student.

Here is why I think this: I wanted to provide anonymised student essays as examples of how to write essays within one of my classes a few years ago. I was told that due to various privacy laws, this could only happen if the student that wrote the essay agreed. Anonymisation of the essay did not matter in this regard (though the student might ask for this as a condition of their agreeing). I can't see that this case would be any different.

As anon above says, candidates could reach out to students, but that is more work, and potentially quite an awkward request to make in some situations given that you are likely to want to ask weaker/middle-achieving students as those cases would best show your ability to give good constructive feedback compared to the stronger student essays.

forget the name I used last time

OP here. I was worried about what anon and anon 2 were raising.

I was setting aside the issue of the time involved for applicant for the purpose of the question. (I feel very strongly that the amount of effort involved was an inappropriate thing to ask of candidates. It in fact took me 2.5 hours to comb through old material to find comments that would put me in the best light with the least amount of reading on the part of the committee members. But that wasn’t what I was asking about here. I’m used to search committees having no regard for my well-being.)

My concern here was about issues of student privacy and control of the work they produce. This use of student work just seems inappropriate. It impacts the student’s privacy rights, it seems to me.

anon

I concur with the sentiment that this is objectionable—though I'm not so sure it's unethical per se.

My reasons align with others who have said that it's not something applicants would necessarily have thought to hold onto. I happen to grade digitally, but many do not, and for perfectly acceptable reasons.

Moreover, grading (and the comments therein) are *extremely* context-sensitive. These relate to issues of rapport one might have with students, the specific context of the course, issues that have been raised and emphasized already in class, or in previous edits of the essay, and so on. I worry that this particular way of attempting to learn about a candidate raises more questions than it answers.

An alternative recommendation for the search committee: provide a sample essay to longlisted candidates, and invite them to comment on it as though it were their student's. (Don't make every candidate do it; this is way too time consuming.)

Amanda

I think because some universities and some local jurisdictions prohibit this it is ethically problematic. It puts candidates in a terrible position. This is especially so when the last suggestion by anon makes a lot of sense. By providing the essay themselves. it is also a lot easier to compare apples to apples. I would ask that once the group is dwindled down to no more than 12.

In general I think job searches need a major overhaul in terms of how they are conducted. A lot of things asked of candidates are for the purposes of a very tiny increase in the odds of finding a good colleague and put a huge burden on vulnerable ppl for the sake of this small increase. Honestly, I think asking candidates to fly across the country 3 times in one month while they are teaching a crazy load is just unfair and not necessary. I think instead, committees should offer to pay for a weekend visit for candidates to take on their own, if they want. (To see the city, etc.) All interviews should be by zoom to keep things fair.

Evan

When I was an undergraduate my English professor asked if she may use my paper as a student example for later years. I said “yes” and signed an agreement form. Our transaction then was ethical, mutual, and transparent. Thank goodness for contractualism.

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