Canadian candidates are the preferred choice of hiring committees in the sociology departments at some of Canada’s comprehensive universities, according to a panel hosted by the Canadian Sociological Association at this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
“When I am on a search committee, we look at all of the Canadian candidates first, and if we absolutely cannot find anyone qualified enough for the job, then we move on to the U.S. pile,” said Karen Stanbridge, an associate professor of sociology at Memorial University. Her fellow panelists, James Frideres of the University of Calgary and Lori Wilkinson of the University of Manitoba, echoed these sentiments.
“There has to be a really good reason why we are not selecting a Canadian candidate,” said Dr. Wilkinson, an associate professor of sociology at U of M.
The panelists spoke at a workshop for graduate students on how to apply for an academic position. The panelists gave advice on everything from what to wear to the interview on campus to how many slides you should include in your presentation. But it was the discussion about who gets hired that prompted the most debate.
It seemed to come as a shock to many in the audience that Canadian candidates might be preferred over U.S.-trained candidates for faculty positions. Questions flew back and forth about whether it was better for a Canadian to do a PhD in the United States and then look for a job in Canada or whether those with PhDs from Canadian institutes really stood a chance at getting hired in their home country.
“Obviously every department [and institution] is different, but in my experience, Canadian-trained PhDs are given preferential status during the hiring process,” said Dr. Frideres, also a sociology professor.
This is in sharp contrast to some of the commentary that has circulated recently in the academic community about hiring in certain disciplines, including an article that ran in University Affairs suggesting it might be better for Canadian philosophy students to get their PhD in the United States. That 2009 article by two philosophy professors (Wayne Fenske and Louis Groarke) showed that the four most prominent anglophone philosophy departments – at UBC, Toronto, Queen’s and McGill – overwhelmingly hired candidates who had earned their PhDs in the U.S. or abroad; 80 percent of their philosophy faculty members with tenured or tenure-track jobs had non-Canadian PhDs. The article prompted others that took the debate beyond philosophy departments and were based on statistics over decades.
But the sociology panelists refuted all the skepticism coming from audience members and were adamant that they looked at Canadians exclusively unless there was no appropriate candidate from Canada.
This year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences took place at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University from May 26 to June 2. More than 7,400 researchers and students attended the event.