Overheard at AALS

Here are a few thoughts inspired by conversations I participated in or listened to at AALS (it’s not my fault that people persist in having very loud & irritating conversations over coffee, despite my dirty looks):

(1) A hiring committee chair talked about doing Google background checks on candidates for inconvenient facts. The rationale was that students would like come across pictures/stories themselves, and it was better to know than not. This struck me as an inevitable development, though sad.

(2) Many people complained about how the nametag culture at AALS encourages attendees to feel bad about themselves.  One solution offered was color-coded nametags that were keyed to the kind of social interaction you might expect.

Red: Individuals who, if spoken to, will inform you in great detail about a recent political fight on their faculty. Possible crazy. Avoid.  If you are engaged in a conversation with them, nod vigorously and say nothing.

Blue: Individuals who want a job at your school. Will laugh at your jokes and won’t look over your shoulder for at least two minutes. Engage as needed for a boost.  But don’t commit to anything.

Green: Individuals at schools you want to visit or move to. Will try to avoid you. Elevators are their weakness.

Black: Friends. Meet them later.

Orange: People who won’t deign to make eye contact with you.  There is no point in trying to hunt them down, except after they speak at a session, when they may treat you like a particularly dimwitted student.  Flattery will get you everywhere at that moment.

Purple: Members of your blog. Shouldn’t you know who they are?

Silver: Deans. Also known because they wear suits, and because they are looking at your pockets. Be careful. Their social skills are so much better than yours, that simply being near them makes you look more than ordinarily goofy.

Brown: AALS organizers, looking harried.  If you are outraged, consider engaging them at prepaid lunch over terrible food, when they are at a moral disadvantage.

(3)  I heard one professor telling another than she believed we were working “nine month” jobs since that is how the typical professor contract is worded (and since summer writing is rewarded through “grants” or “bonuses”).  I couldn’t disagree more.  Discuss.

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6 Responses

  1. The weirdest sentence I overheard at AALS was “Have you ever been in a short-distance relationship?”

  2. Nate Oman says:

    “Purple: Members of your blog. Shouldn’t you know who they are?”

    Wait! Were you the guy who kept talking to me as I was walking down Canal Street?!?

  3. dave hoffman says:


    I’m sorry, I thought I’d introduced myself. Maybe you were worried I was a red tag?

  4. David Bernstein says:

    Funny. One more: Gold–someone you met once more than ten years ago, but who will treat you like an old friend while you try to remember who the hell he/she is.

  5. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    More like a 3,000 hour per year job than a 9-month job, if you want to perform it reasonably well.

  6. Frank says:

    As for the googlers; they may be interested in these articles:

    Robert Sprague, Googling Job Applicants: Incorporating Personal Information into Hiring Decisions, 23 LAB. LAW. 19, 38 (2007) (stating that Internet searches allow prospective employers to discover candidate information that would be prohibited through traditional pre-screening mediums)

    Robert Sprague, Rethinking Information Privacy in an Age of Online Transparency, 25 HOFSTRA LAB. & EMP. L.J. 395, 399 (2008)