Update on Job Guidelines
by Marc L. Kutner
This is an update on the status of the Job Search Guidelines.
While it was originally hoped that they would be ready for
consideration by the AAS Council this June, some
questions about legal issues have been raised. It will take
time to address these issues, so we are now planning for
adoption at the January 1997(Toronto) meeting.
A revised draft of the Guidelines has been prepared, based
on discussions of Draft 1 at the CSWA sessions in
Pittsburgh (June 1995) and San Antonio (Jan 1996),
contributions to AASWOMEN and comments made directly
to me. Many changes have been made emphasize the
voluntary nature of the Guidelines . The revised draft should
be available soon on the CSWA web page, and I invite your
comments, suggestions and criticisms.
In the remainder of this article, I will briefly address some
general questions that have been raised.
How Is It Intended That The Guidelines Be Used?
Once the Council adopts the Guidelines then they will be
circulated as having the endorsement of the AAS. They
would be available at AAS meetings and on the AAS web
site. In addition, prospective employers and employees
utilizing AAS job search services would receive a printed
The AAS would also compile a data base, based on
questionnaires filled out by employers after each search.
This data base would be made available both on line, and a
printed version would be at the Job Center at each meeting.
Why Do We Need The Guidelines?
For many years our job searches have been loosely guided
by so-called "Affirmative Action" rules. I say "loosely"
because most employers and prospective employees did not
really understand what these rules meant. Also there was no
effective mechanism to ensure that employers were adhering
to the spirit or letter of these rules.
So, "Affirmative Action" never really provided a useable set
of guidelines. Beyond that, "Affirmative Action" has
become equated with "Reverse Discrimination" both in legal
and political forums. Therefore, even as flawed rules, they
are becoming increasingly less effective and may be repealed.
It is important that this vacuum be filled with a clear set of
guidelines that clearly encourage fairness by stating what
constitutes fairness and by suggesting how it can be
Because jobs in astronomy are getting harder to find, the
possibility increases that classes of people will be treated
unfairly. Even a careless search will usually produce an
excellent candidate because there are so many available. In
short, it is a seller’s market. However, if we all agree in
advance what constitutes a fair search, we can stick to those
guidelines even under difficult (for candidates) search
Who Will Use The Guidelines?
Among prospective employers, there is a full spectrum of
intentions, from those who want to conduct a truly open
search, giving careful consideration to a wide range of
applicants, to those who have no particular interest in
making the effort required for a fair search. For those who
want to conduct a fair search, the Guidelines may be telling
them things they already know. However, when time gets
tight, it is helpful to have these Guidelines written down.
Having a definite set of Guidelines, endorsed by the AAS
may help members of search committees persuade
recalcitrant administrators to provide the resources needed for
a fair search.
For those who are not inclined to carry out a fair search,
having a set of Guidelines endorsed by the AAS should give
them some incentive to make their search more open.
The Guidelines will also be useful for job applicants. They
will have a better idea of what to expect. They will know if
certain types of questions (e.g. about a spouse) are proper. If
prospective employers are following the Guidelines then
prospective applicants will be able to get useful information
from the job ad and from members of the search committee.
Such information will help the applicant to, among other
things, more effectively target her application to the needs of
the department. (And then the department will have better
information on which to base their decisions.) There will
also be a data base with statistics of participating employers’
previous searches. Based on this information the applicants
can make decisions on which jobs to give the greatest effort.
How Will The Guidelines Be "Enforced"?
As the name "Guidelines" implies, these are not absolute
rules with strict enforcement. They are suggestions. Each
employment situation is unique. In some cases the
Guidelines can be closely followed; in other cases a loose
adherence will be appropriate.
We ask employers to agree to follow the Guidelines as
closely as is practical in their situation. There would also
be the reporting mechanism, so that employers could submit
their statistics. Reporting statistics is a chance for
employers to show that they have conducted a conscientious
and fair search, this should only benefit their institution.
A Concluding Thought
Some of the criticisms of the Guidelines seem to stem from
misimpressions about what they actually say. It seems that
this arises when people have preconceived ideas about what
is in the Guidelines , or remember things from the first
draft, which have now been deleted or changed. So, in
looking over the current draft, I hope people will realize that
they are a modest set of suggestions, and they require no
policing or judging by the AAS.
Marc Kutner is Visiting Scientist at National Radio
Astronomy Observatory, Campus Building 65, 949 N.
Cherry Ave., Tucson, AZ 85721, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: If you want to see the current draft of the
guidelines, see http://www.earthlink.net/~kmead/ and click
on job guidelines. (If that doesn’t work, send e-mail to
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