Job-searches to fill permanent positions bring out the gremlins: long suppressed personal animosities; un-moored from reality-fantasies about the current significance of the department; conflicting aspirations about its future; mutually exclusive, external pressures about the required profile of the winning candidate, etc. Professional philosophers act just like humans during hiring season. Even when the gremlins remain suppressed a department can fail to spot the talent staring in its face; I have seen non-great departments pass up the realistic opportunity of hiring, say, Dave Chalmers or Alva Noë (etc.). Now, one reason why such things occur is that hiring as currently practiced in professional philosophy (and I have been affiliated with seven universities in three different countries, so I am aware of the variety of practices), tends to be largely a projection of a heteronomous soul (the department) onto a thinly covered slate (the candidate). This is why each individual hiring decision is best understood as a (unfair) lottery (and, thus, departments routinely fail to hire the best talent), even though in the aggregate there may well be some collective rationality because the list of explicit and implicit collective heuristics and biases (!) deployed track talent and effort reasonably well.
One might think that the previous paragraph is an argument for 'the inside candidate' (let's call it the 'TIC argument' or 'TIC' for short). For, the slate is then covered with a rich array of data-points. Now, anybody familiar with the long-run damage of 'nepotistic' hiring from within (name your favorite rotten European patronage system) will hesitate to endorse TIC; but, perhaps, the previous paragraph is an argument for TIC-lite: that is, at hiring one should favor ceteribus paribus the visiting adjunct/post-doc (etc.), even granting that personalities change post-tenure/civil servant status. I would endorse good-faith TIC-lite*, in fact, as introducing more sanity into our collective hiring practices, except that (a) IF the gremlins do come out in a TIC-lite situation it can poison an otherwise healthy atmosphere and (b) being a rejected TIC-lite candidate is really just about the worst possible professional experience short of economic exploitation in professional philosophy. (Of course, experiencing harassment, racism, etc. are far worse, but I wouldn't call these "professional.") Below the fold, I describe two first hand experiences to bring out two horrible features of TIC-lite (in my ongoing 'what it's like' for the young series). I name institutions, but (with a single exception) not individuals and I ask commentators to respect the privacy of all involved. (Well, I am a fair target, of course.)
, died in the midst of this idyll, I was given space to grief. When I arrived in Middletown, CT., I knew there was no chance to stay, so I felt at ease all year. Now with me, another VAP was hired; s/he had an Ivy-pedigree, with at least one Leiter top-3 publication. I thought VAP had a terrific, winning personality--kind, considerate, and conscientious. Non-trivially at Wesleyan, the students adored VAP. VAP had an insane amount of interviews at the APA, and remained non-condescendingly supportive of me throughout. Wesleyan had a chance to hire VAP, and did not. Until VAP, who did land a tt job elsewhere, left town, the joy that had characterized the place (for me) was entirely diminished; my fantastic colleagues had become effasive, prickly, and not-fun to be around.
The following year, I moved to WashU, St. Louis, as a two-year post-doc. (Indeed, I have never been exploited.) For all kinds of reasons that was not a happy department at the time--a then recent legacy of conflicts over hiring and philosophical orientation as well as a combustible mix of personalities, including some real (to use a technical term) assholes. (Luckily for all involved, the department has changed considerably since I left.) Moreover, part of my post-doc was housed in another department, so my office was far removed from the philosophy department; I felt isolated, when I did not feel picked upon (by senior asshole colleagues). Of course, WashU, also has many classy characters, and I cherish my ongoing friendships with folk from there (not the least our very own Dennis). To cut a long story short: WashU passed on the opportunity to hire me for a bona fide early-modern tenure-track position--even when their fantastic, top two picks turned them down, they passed on me.
How could they?
That's a rhetorical question.
As a professional academic, I am very used to rejection (recall this post). When I applied to graduate school, twelve out of fifteen schools rejected me; over four years as a junior person on the market, I applied to at least 600 jobs and landed three 3 tt jobs; once I was the last-remaining job candidate, and that department preferred a failed search over hiring me--c'est la vie. During my searching, I also encountered a lot of craziness (and may have caused some myself.)
But the only embittering rejection was this TIC-lite one at WashU; I had, in fact, been rejected by my peers, which included a committee with fantastic historians of philosophy and folk who had gotten to know me personally over eighteen months. I had been evaluated and found wanting by people who were in the position to judge me on my merits. (Luckily for me, the folk at WashU did not torpedo my chances elsewhere, so the bitterness evaporated with time as things have turned out beyond my expectations.) Maybe others would experience such a rejection differently, but I do not wish such an experience on anybody (well, maybe a few assholes). That's my (defeasible) argument against TIC-lite.
*I wrote 'good-faith' to exclude departments that simply exploit TIC-lite to reduce labor costs, infighting, etc.