Candidates from mid- and low-tier universities are not hired at top universities because they are not interviewed. The data in this article demonstrate that professors appointed to positions in the top tiers of US News and World Report and National Research Council rankings tend to be from one small sector of PhD-granting institutions; the enormous preference for elite affiliation in these hiring competitions has stratified the discipline to the point that just 1 percent of faculty at top-ranked English departments are graduates from the so-called bottom 75 percent of PhD-granting universities. This situation amounts to an ethical crisis, not just a labor one. The myth that “competition” is an appropriate mainstay for hiring is a toxic one for the humanities, as the process frequently fails: qualified candidates are unsuccessful not as a result of their own shortcomings but due to the ethically bankrupt nature of the competition itself. In the context of unethical admissions policies at top universities, widespread grade inflation, the slanted politics of recommendation letters, and search committees whom deny (and/or are unconscious of) the biases that dominate candidate valuation —this article poses an argument in favor of structural changes to the hiring process that would democratize faculty bodies at so-called top US institutions as well as throughout the academy.

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