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In grad school, a fellow grad student at my institution called the department chair a white supremacist and made it widely known that they believed so, going so far as to email the chancellor and president to let them know of such views.
That person now has a TT position.

Take that for what it's worth.

Tenured now

Unfortunately I think it depends on the type of controversy. I am a woman in philosophy and my supervisor was widely outed a few years ago as having inappropriate relationships and placing pressure on female grad students to sleep with him. I'm afraid that lots of people in the profession would have thought that I was only accepted to work with him because I'm a fairly pretty woman, and that some people would have held it against me to have a letter from him in my application and others would have held it against me NOT to have one. I am deeply, deeply glad that I got a TT job which started several months before the news broke.

no shoes

Well ... I think things are not so simple. When there is a nasty controversy brewing on a campus, and a department is hiring, I think many departments would be inclined to not want to touch anyone associated with such a place. The trouble is that until the dust settled an outsider does not know the truth. So, the risk-averse thing to do is hire someone from somewhere else. If this has not happened an awful lot I will eat my shoes!

Worried Grad

I am a grad student at a department that is in the wake of a publicly exposed controversy. My letter writers are all in the middle of this controversy. Despite your assurance that search committees will think of graduate students as innocent bystanders in their home department's dysfunctionalities, I'm worried that when search committees read my letters, see where I'm from and especially who is vouching for me, that will have a negative implicit effect on how they evaluate me. Perhaps I should try my hardest to get different letter writers?

Overseas Tenured

Here’s my 2 cents: overseas almost nobody follows this stuff. I’ve seen a number of searches, and I can say confidently that this has never come up. Nobody cares, and very often often nobody has even heard of the scandal.

no shoes

In fact, I think you should be worried. It is disgraceful that departments let themselves fall into such disorder. I am glad to hear that Tenured Now got a job before they were affected by their irresponsible supervisor. But you can see why a hiring department would not want to go near anyone from a department ablaze!


Anecdotal, of course, but in favour of Marcus' take:
I graduated from a department which was the home of what was already becoming a very public controversy, with a great deal in the way of grievances both inside and outside the university. And it continued to get a lot of attention for several years after I left. During that time I've been bouncing around between postdocs and fixed-term teaching positions. My career so far hasn't been stellar, but it's going alright, all things considered. I have never had the impression that my job applications, successful and unsuccessful, have been affected by people's views of the ongoing scandal at my alma mater.

Mike Titelbaum

As someone who's run some searches and been on some search committees, I'd say that there are two different things here. If you simply come from a *department* that has had some problems, I don't think hiring committees will hold that against you. (Heck, they might even feel bad that you had to deal with all that, and impressed that you managed to succeed despite it.) The suggestion made by "no shoes" that "many departments would be inclined to not want to touch anyone associated with such a place" just hasn't been my experience.

However, if you're related in particular ways to *individuals* within the department thought to be problematic, that could become an issue. Unfortunately, I think the concern expressed above by "Tenured now" is very plausible. Also, the practice of letter-writing is based on trust; those of us reading recommendation letters have to believe that the writer means what they say. If a letter-writer has been characterized in public as someone who has little regard for the truth and will say anything to get what they want, I could see that eroding the effectiveness of a letter from that person.

Assistant Professor

I agree with the distinction suggested by Mike Titelbaum above and also find the comments by Tenured Now relatable. There was a Title IX investigation in my department while I was relatively early in grad school and I had been working on projects with the professor under investigation. I learned how many faculty assumed that I had been part of inappropriate behavior (I hadn't, but was aware of others who had been and supported their complaints). So this stuff can really impact individuals and the perceptions of and assumptions made about individuals. It was early on enough for me and I was able to distance myself well enough - but I have chosen to put none of the work I did with this person on my CV. Association with individual scandal can, in my experience, have an impact while in school and potentially beyond, which is distinct from being in a department more generally embroiled in faculty scandal or infighting. Though it is worth noting that department infighting might not harm your job prospects but can be a real challenge to getting your work done and getting your committee to function together.

You'll Probably Be Okay*

*Moderator's note: I have removed names of individuals and institutions from this comment. This is not to protect perpetrators of wrongs, but instead because other details given in the comment could be potentially used by readers to investigate serious allegations about other individuals involved in the case--allegations that I am not only in no position to substantiate, but which (by potentially identifying individuals) would I think run a serious risk of violating this blog's safe and supportive mission.


I was at the University [X] during the [Y] stuff - in fact it was my girlfriend (at the time) that [Z] sexually harassed. I publicly defended her at the time (in various venues [...]) and in the dept. and university, and booted one of his defenders off of my dissertation committee. I was not quiet... This was within a year or so of my going on the job market. At the time it really sucked and was super stressful (but absolutely the right thing to do). I am currently well-employed in Philosophy and (to my knowledge) all of the stuff didn't negative effect my during interviews, etc.

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