It's a satisfyingly comprehensive report, describing the shape of the program and how it's changed over the past 10 or 15 years to address various problems or meet various goals (and recommending new changes going forward). Everything's covered, from funding, recruitment, and matriculation rates to requirements, retention, and job placement. Probably the most interesting parts are those last two, retention and placement, and there's a ton of data--not just numerical summaries (how many people got jobs in which years and at what kinds of institutions), but also detailed, gossipy information in spreadsheet format naming names and tracking professional progress from degree date to the present.
But among the report's many unobjectionable and often quite perceptive remarks is one that made me shriek aloud. The committee observes that, although the department isn't displeased with its placement rates, it would still like to increase the percentage of graduates who get jobs at research universities and decrease the percentage who leave the academy involuntarily. They continue,
Some faculty worry that mid-level graduate students at INRU are not engaged in research that is ambitious enough to win them places at major research universities--although we realize that not all students seek careers that place an emphasis on research. Some faculty are pleased at our success in placing our graduates in liberal arts colleges, and this surely does indicate one of our strengths: that we train our students in the broader field of literary studies rather than producing narrow specialists.*
There, in one paragraph, we have an implied causal link between not having research ambitions and not getting a job at "a major research university"--after all, if you were doing the right kind of research you'd get the right kind of job--followed by the suggestion that only some INRU faculty consider liberal arts colleges to be good jobs (and that although the committee finds this position mildly eccentric, they're dutifully reporting it).
Now, on the one hand, this doesn't surprise me: probably the vast majority of us encountered some version of this attitude at our graduate institutions, wherever we attended. But although I never doubted that many of my professors held such beliefs, my department nevertheless did an excellent job of professionalizing us. My first year I attended a job-market roundtable featuring some recent graduates who were teaching at a wide range of institutions. One of the speakers had only just landed a job after six or seven years on the market--and although he jokingly presented his talk as "everything you should NOT do in your job search," his underlying message was that the job market is a mess and unpredictable, and it might take years to find a job even if you are doing everything right. At the same event I remember one senior faculty member telling us not to rule out community colleges--that they not only had growing student populations, but were at the forefront of pedagogical innovation.
In other words, the fact that the job market is random and terrible (and that, market notwithstanding, people are happy and productive at all kinds of institutions) has finally filtered down to pretty much everyone. But although our advisors and mentors see these proofs and even speak these truths, what they still believe is that there's a single hierarchy, that everyone wishes to scale--and that it's a meritocracy.
*I've altered the wording slightly, but both the sense and tone remain.