Publication Date

October 1, 2002

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

Robert Townsend's survey of employment data (April 2002) is a helpful indicator of the state of the history profession today. It indicates a widely held sense of dissatisfaction with the proportion of women and minorities in the profession. Though Townsend himself deemphasizes its significance, the numbers clearly reveal that in the past decade there has been a growing preference for women and minorities in the job market, especially for tenure-track positions. The problem remains that men still outnumber women in the category of new PhDs, so that even a marked preference for women assistant professors (55 percent of hires as opposed to less than 40 percent of new PhDs) cannot balance the numbers.  The pressure to further increase the preference for women and minorities is apparent in the numbers and in the tone of Townsend’s article.

So, my advice is to the white men in graduate school: consider bailing out. Examine the marketplace, and then ask yourself whether you have anything unique or unusually attractive to offer prospective employers. If you work from a disadvantage, you have more to prove. If you don't have some unique field or special qualities, get one fast or bail out before the ship is too far from dock. Townsend shows the proportion of men dropping over the years as the message gets out, but he also indicates that this is not happening fast enough. The market needs fewer men, and the sooner you know that, the better. This is not a Modest Proposal, but serious and heartfelt advice.

—, Wright State University

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