Saturday, January 10, 2009

What does the APA do?

There's been quite a bit of discussion on the blogs lately about how the APA could make things better for professional philosophers: Standardize job ads; create a searchable database for job ads; move the Eastern division meeting to a suitable location; return the central meeting to a suitable time; implement genuine online registration; run a genuinely helpful and effective placement service; stop charging students to attend the meetings; print session locations on the meeting schedule; liason with reporters so we don't get killed in the press; etc.

This all got me thinking: What does the APA do, anyway? Why do we keep paying our dues? Their consumer satisfaction rate seems to be astonishingly low.

(Also, seriously, why is there no searchable database of job ads? Come on. It would be so easy and so much better. I bet a couple of seniors in the UDel computer science department could set it up in 20 minutes.)

--Mr. Zero


Philosophy Prof said...

I think that a lot of the money goes toward covering the airfare and hotel expenses of individuals who are on APA committees, but of course they don't seem to be doing anything, at least not anything that anyone can see, and so that just pushes the question back. Otherwise it's not clear where the money goes -- presumably the separate conference fees should cover the conferences, and so the $120+ annual membership fee x a lot of members must go toward salary and other expenses at the main office. Actually, the numbers probably add up, even if there are just a few salaries to pay, but again the question is what exactly the organization is doing for the profession. Maybe they don't know what we need and we have to find a way to tell them?

Anonymous said...

standardize job ads, standardize job ads; it's so ridiculously simple.... truly unbelievable

Anonymous said...

Don't get me started (again)...

Anonymous said...

People, there is more to life than the effing job ads, which should be fixed.

Here's the deal. LOOK at the effing BY LAWS!!! I for one think the APA does a good job at what it says it does in the bylaws! From


3.1. Purposes.

A. The purposes of The American Philosophical Association shall be to promote the exchange of ideas among philosophers, to encourage creative and scholarly activity in philosophy, and to facilitate the professional work of teachers of philosophy.

B. The Association is established exclusively for educational and scientific purposes as set forth in the Articles of Incorporation. The Association shall not act so as to impair its eligibility for exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.

C. The purposes the Association shall be served by:

1. The holding of regular meetings at which addresses, symposia, papers, and discussions of philosophical significance are presented;

2. The publication of the Proceedings and Addresses, the presidential addresses, and the membership list of the Association, as well as such additional items as may be germane to the purpose of the Association;

3. The work of the standing and special committees of the Association;

4. Such other means as may be deemed appropriate by the Regular Members and the Board.

Now if people want to argue for more under 3 and 4, fine, but it isn't free and lots of people don't pay the dues!

Anonymous said...

but what do the committees ever do??

yancy said...

For what it's worth, my partner is in archives, and she pays more for membership (about $150) and quite a bit more for their big conference ($300).

And she reminds me that we both get discounts on things like books (no small thing) by being members of our respective organizations . . .

Though to be clear I completely agree about the job ads/database suggestion.

Anonymous said...

First, the caveat that I have plenty of things that ticked me off about the APA: long lines, no free internet (!!), and 9 dollar cheap wine. But, the searchable ads thing isn't quite that big of a deal. Just use the find function on your browser. Now, if they could put together a system that permitted all job seekers to upload their materials for SCs, so that we wouldn't have to send out all the paper--that would be a dream.

Anonymous said...

6:14 is right on about online applications. As an SC member, I can say many of us would deeply appreciate that! It would also diminish, a bit, some of the silliness about materials coming in on deadline. Of course, then there would have to be sufficient support for 200 files on our end, and candidates might be inspired to send even more extra material. However, on the whole I think it's a great idea.
As for the jobs, etc.: it is true that the APA was not created to serve primarily as a job placement service. But, that has certainly become a significant part of its work, so better methods are reasonably called for.
Q for Philosophy Prof: does the APA really pay airfare and board for committee members? Shoot, I should have taken up on that nomination.

Threadjacker said...

So, I had an interview at the APA. It went well, thank you for asking. The search committee said that they want to bring finalists to campus in late January/early February, and then make a decision about who they will hire no later than mid-February. Two questions:

Should I expect an e-mail from them letting me know that I am not a finalist, if I am not a finalist?
If I am a finalist, when can I expect to hear from them? Are there plausible generalizations to be made here, or do things vary wildly from one search committee to another?

Anonymous said...


I had 10+ APA interviews last year, and each search committee got in touch with me with a "yes" or a "no," by around this time (I think I heard from the last place on about the 15th).

another threadjacker said...

I just learned that the California State University (CSU) Chancellor has ordered a mandatory hiring freeze on positions "non-essential" to university operations.

Does anyone know how this affects the searches for CSU campuses, specifically San Francisco State University?

Mr. Zero said...

Ok. The people have spoken. The consensus appears to be this:

1. The APA does not do anything, as per the effing bylaws.

2. Although the APA was not established as a job-placement service, it does function as a de facto job placement service.

3. It is a very poor job-placement service.

4. The costs associated with the APA doing nothing are high. If we want the APA to do stuff, we must expect to pay even more.

5. Nobody knows anything about San Francisco State University.

Xenophon said...

Threadjacker #1,

No, mid-Feburary, and no.

My experience is that SCs are often optimistic about their schedules. Generally administrivia gets in the way, often in the form of deans who are slow or unwilling to approve a list of finalists, which is a necessary step before on-campus interviews can be offered. Also, funding may not be forthcoming or may be delayed (did the jobs you applied for have the little asterisks of death in JFP?).

Things vary wildly from school to school, and search to search. Expect things to only be worse this year, since schools don't know how much money they'll have or whether they should fill positions.

The good news is, you got interviews. Don't sweat the next step until it happens, just like you aren't sweating those many jobs that blew off the APA entirely and haven't told you squat yet.

Kevin Timpe said...

Philosophy Prof,

I've been on an APA committee for 2 years now, and never received any support from the APA for airfare or hotels. I think our collective dues are being used somewhere else, though I'm not sure what for.

Dr. Killjoy said...

I understand that in all the hullaballoo surrounding the job market that folks forget that there are some talks going on during the Eastern. In fact, if you consider the talks alone, the Eastern is a pretty kick-ass philosophy conference, and it costs me about as much to register as the conferences in my specialty (which are not so kick-ass sometimes). If you can wash off the stink of the market, the talks can be pretty first-rate and worth the money.

Anonymous said...

another threadjacker,

I'm not sure what to infer from the CSU hiring freeze. It is perhaps worth noting that the University of Minnesota announced a hiring freeze last November. As a result, it looks like both jobs at Minn-Twin Cities were put on hold. However, Minn-Morris apparently still conducted APA interviews. Perhaps it depends on whether the department can make a case that it's open position fits the criteria of "essential."

Tim O'Keefe said...

Yeah, there are some very good papers, but the stink of the market is pretty strong and makes it hard to properly enjoy them.

Also, I don't much like 50-minute sessions. They're too short to get a good conversation going--often 2 or 3 questions are squeezed in at the end, even with the APA's word limit on papers.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for reading. I recall that you took suggestions on another blog concerning the issues surrounding the APA. I wanted to let you know how much I (we) appreciate it, and I wonder if any progress has been made?

Anonymous said...

Another thing the APA does: It just posted a job advert today with a submission deadline of 11/1/03. Way to go APA!

Jamie Dreier said...

Kevin Timpe (et al.),

The Eastern Division does pay some air fare and hotel bills for its program committee members. The program committee meets two times during the year; once is in September at a hotel where the Division is going to have its meeting, so I imagine the rooms are part of the whole convention package. The other time is most often at the Centrals, because it's a good time to get everyone together and the timing is right (though it won't be right anymore).

Since there are 13 members of the program committee, the travel expenses must be quite large. But it would be difficult to work out the program without meeting.
(I was program committee chair for the 2007 meetings.)

Kevin Timpe said...


I wasn't aware of that. Thanks for sharing that information.

Mr. Zero,

I have taken the suggestions to the other committee members. We haven't met as a committee (something we do via email and conference call) since I've recieved the suggestions, but hopefully we'll be able to make some progress in upcoming months. I'll try to update folks at this blog as I find out more.

Mr. Zero said...


thanks for the update, and for making the effort to improve things. I'm seriously really, really grateful. Good luck, and please let us know how things are progressing.

Anonymous said...

What does the APA do?

The divisions help to offset the travel expenses of graduate student presenters at their meetings. (These used to be "prizes" in all cases, but I think some of the divisions--Pacific?--now do this for all grad students on the main program.)

Anonymous said...

Folks should email suggestions (especially technical) to the APA National Office - my experience is they're pretty receptive to new ideas.

They have a dedicated IT person