Monday, September 28, 2009

You gotta spend money to make money

So, I'm looking at some grandiose humanities post docs. Might as well start big before we all try to figure out what to do in the spring. Thing is, a few of these post docs have an application fee. I understand there's probably big time administrative costs (and clearly a market of people willing to spend who are looking for work next year) but come on. I want to work for you! At $30 a pop these things are really going to run up my tab.

Ballpark, how much do ya'll usually spend on apps?

-- Second Suitor

p.s. T-minus 2 weekish for the 'no-jobs-sky-is-falling' edition of the Smoker.


Second Year TT guy said...

I spent about $1,000 on application related fees when I was on the market including interfolio fees, postage, copying, envelopes, clips, etc.

I wouldn't have spent an extra $30 to apply to a post-doc unless I was convinced it was 'perfect' for me. (I bet one of their goals is to discourage applicants who are 'applying for everything' the way I did)

Mr. Zero said...

I deliberately don't keep track of how much I spend applying for jobs. However, I do know that last year my bill to my Ph.D-granting department came out to just under $150, and my post-office bill was over $100. I do my own photocopying at no charge, so that cuts costs. Your time is worth something, too, though. I try not to think about it too much.

The expected utility of paying that $30 application fee would have to be way below zero. I wouldn't do it unless I thought they thought I'd be perfect for it.

(On the other hand, the EU of applying for any individual job is low--you have to apply for a lot of them in order for it to be worth your while. Nevertheless, I suspect that a $30 application fee makes it irrational to apply unless they mention your name in the ad.)

Xenophon said...

Who's charging a fee to apply for a postdoc? That's insane. I think you should call them out, name some names. (Unless you're hoping nobody else has heard of them and don't want to add to the competition.)

If they're charging a fee, either they don't have a line for administrative costs in the university budget or the faculty involved don't see the value in spending the time to find a good candidate. In either case, sounds like evidence this is a crappy job. Maybe these are glorified VAPs? A lot of schools have found that people are more willing to apply for non-TT jobs if they're called postdocs. Expected utility aside, I say don't bother.

By the way, what's up with Brooklyn College? "Annual reappointment proceeds towards a Certificate of Continuous Employment. B.A. and prior teaching experience required." BA required? After the publicity surrounding the CUNY search last year, are they aiming for a record with 1,000 applications?

zombie said...

I applied for a few postdocs last year -- no application fees for any of them. I call bogus.

As for what I spent -- no idea. But I applied for about 40 jobs, and paid about $6 each for the dossier letters, and probably that much again in paper and postage. I've switched to Interfolio this year (yeah, I got all crazy optimistic there might be some jobs this year). Definitely hope more schools are switching to e-applications.

So if there are, like, ten jobs this year, will there be 8,000 applicants for each one? I like those odds!

Anonymous said...

I just found out from a friend of mine that he is receiving a 60-70k fellowship at Rutgers next year. He did not submit a writing sample, no interview, and he has not published anything. His advisor just knows someone at Rutgers and that's how it went down.

You're an idiot if you pay any money to apply to any of these positions. I wouldn't be surprised if most of these spots are filled this way.

Asstro said...

Maybe I'm out of the loop, but $60-$70K fellowship seems mighty high for philosophy. That's higher than many (most?) incoming assistant professorships. Is this with an institute at Rutgers, or is it through the philosophy department? It's also the exception, not the rule, in more ways than one. There's no accounting for nepotism, but I'd wager that a good number of fellowships are fairly competitive; by which I mean, they're competitive and decided fairly.

As for your applications: definitely use Interfolio (or some other file aggregator). It's expensive, but it's a real time and sanity saver, particularly for sending out official transcripts and letters of recommendation. Basically, it puts all of the control in your hands. You don't have to go to the dept secretary and ask, over and over again, if he'll mail more letters out for you; and nobody ever has to know that you're trying to pass yourself off as an anarcho-epistemologist to a military school in Quadraline.

Your cover letters? Yeah, sorry. Gotta tailor each one to the school. It would be nice if you could just write: "I'm looking for a job in philosophy. You have one. I want it. My application is enclosed." But I'm afraid that we want to see what you can do for us.

(Having said that, there are several schools of thought on how to write the best cover letter. I'm of the tailor-written school. A very successful colleague of mine is from the one-liner school. We both have tenure-track jobs. Go figure.

One might think that this should count as definitive evidence that it doesn't matter what one puts in a cover letter. I'm not convinced. If your CV screams out your stunning credentials (as it certainly did in his case), maybe the one-liner route is best suited for you. But in my case, and I daresay in most of the cases I've seen, the cover letter acts as an nice little introduction to the rest of the dossier.)

Plato Potatoe said...

This is a bit of a side note. But could someone please say more about Interfolio? Will most departments accept apps transmitted over this mysterious entity Interfolio? Is it worth paying the big bucks for this service?

I also think that paying money to apply for a post-doc position is weird and a possible red-flag.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure what's being discussed here are the various `societies of fellows' - princeton, michigan, columbia etc. They all charge, and the subject area isn't in any way restricted to philosophy. The odds are seriusly long, but if you think you have the superstar clout to get a second glance, $30 isn't really that much in the scheme of things...

Anonymous said...


I am the previous Anon who posted about the Rutgers fellowship. This was one of the open poli sci/pol philosophy fellowships. This friend of mine is in the political science program at Yale. However, philosophers have and do get these fellowships. (60-70k for a fellowship is not high. All of the NIH ones are in this range, as are the other top fellowships you see advertised on the Chronicle and other places.)

A side note. Anyone else find the APA increasingly worthless? We all know about the 20-30 job posts that have already come out, most with early October deadlines. Those can't get into the JFP because it is published so late. Why don't they just trickled the ads out as they come in.

Will Philosophize For Food said...

"This is a bit of a side note. But could someone please say more about Interfolio?"

Absolutely. It's an online dossier service which automatically sends out your application packets for you.

"Will most departments accept apps transmitted over this mysterious entity Interfolio?"

Yes. The result is not as 'polished' as hand photocopying and sorting; but I have never heard of a job 'throw out' interfolio applications.

"Is it worth paying the big bucks for this service?"

Opinions on this are mixed. I think the time it saves is worth the cash. But they charge by the page (except for electronic delivery). So if your application packet is large (25 page writing sample + 15 page teaching portfolio + 4 page CV + 2 page cover letter + 2 page diss abstract, etc.) x 100 applications, it can become very costly very quickly.

I can remember spending hours in the office 2-3 times a week by hand doing my applications--photocopying, collating, addressing and sending. Now I only spend a few hours once a week sending the same number of applications. That leaves me lots more time to sit and wait for the phone to ring.

Asstro said...

Okay, maybe that's true for fellowships. Don't know. (NIH fellowships don't count. There are a lot of PhD/MDs who get those. Nor do fellowships in molecular biology, plasma physics, or economics.)

If it is true for philosophy fellowships, the recipients are in for a shockerooski when they land their first TT job at $50K. Salaries vary, obviously, but they tend to hover around this range, give or take $10K.

Anonymous said...

The NIH bioethics fellowship only pays about $55K, and is not negotiable because it follows a federal standard. Other fellowships seem to vary from about $45K to about $70K, with more toward the lower end.

Anonymous said...

"We all know about the 20-30 job posts that have already come out, most with early October deadlines."

Wait, what? I don't know about that many job posts. Where are they? Do you just mean what's on the summer job ads for the APA? Looks like there are some others posted on the CPA website as well.

This whole process seems designed to make me cry.

Job Prospector said...

Since someone else mentioned the irrelevance of the APA, I'll take this time to repeat with so many others here and elsewhere have said.

The APA website is worse than useless. Really.

I needed to vent.

zombie said...

70K for a fellowship would be really high. Most are in the mid-40s.

I don't find Interfolio to be "big bucks." Although I plan to use it mainly for my letters rather than for my entire package. I had to pay my school $6 for every set of letters last year, and that was a huge inconvenience and time-waster -- they would only accept requests by mail or fax (no emails), and I had to prepay by check for the service. Since the office was an hour away for me, this added a lot of wasted time to the process. I sent the rest of my dossier out myself, and will do that this year too, since I customize every cover letter and have a few versions of my CV, depending on the emphasis of the job.

Will Philosophize For Food said...

Ithaca is running the same ad that they've been running for the last two years (and which, I've already applied for twice):

As far as I can tell, they haven't hired on this ad twice already. Is it me, or do they have their heads firmly up their proverbial asses?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know they haven't hired for it. Can anyone confirm whether or not they even interviewed for it last year?

zombie said...

The Ithaca position was withdrawn last year, for budgetary reasons. I know someone who teaches at Ithaca -- that's what she told me. (Don't know about previous years)

Xenophon said...

I think Ithaca has run the same ad for like 5 or 6 years, actually. There was a discussion about this on the old job market blog a couple of years ago. Does anyone know how to search that? I tried and got no results. Someone wrote in who allegedly knew something. I think they said that Ithaca hires every philosophers every year, then feeds them to the volcano god, so they always are in need of new virgins. But my recollection of details might not be perfect. Anyway, I think you need to search for "not-Cornell" or something like that to find the thread.

Anonymous said...

I've heard nothing but horror stories about Ithaca. They teach you to death and burden you will all sorts of nonsense and the department has more political problems than usual. I've also heard complaints about the chair. I know a few people who know people who have taught there and they all say the same thing: Stay away! I don't know what to make of the rumors, but the faculty are almost all assistant. Either they just hired them, no one gets tenured, or they all flee, confirming the rumors.

Anonymous said...

I am teaching with a colleague currently who fled Ithaca. He gave up a T-T position for a 2-year fellowship. That might give you some idea of how bad that situation is.

Anonymous said...

We have a fellowship that's funded off our endowment - the salary was mid 40's, since we are drawing less off the the endowment (from 4.5% to 3%), the salary has gone down, the last person we hired had a starting salary of 46K, the new next one will be offered at $38K - we do not require an application fee.

Anonymous said...

Stay away from Ithaca, indeed. It, Ithaca (Cornell), is lucky to have kept its young Kant scholar (Chignell) from pulling an Odysseus and seek a newer world, i.e., from bolting to Notre Dame. Moody-Adams bounced to Columbia, and the department has a reputation (deserved or not) for being self-enclosed, alienating, and philosophically monistic.

Jaded Dissertator said...

I'm just going to chime in here on the Ithaca rumors and hearsay: Stop it or take it elsewhere.

I have half a mind to delete the comments, but don't want them to magically disappear and reignite *that* debate. So, let me just distance the Smoker itself from the comments.

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 7:23,

Ithaca ≠ Cornell. Ithaca = Ithaca College, which is in the same town as Cornell.

This anonymous Ithaca bashing is getting pretty stupid. People can't even keep straight which department they're supposed to be bashing.

And look. If you get just one TT offer this spring and it's from Ithaca, you're not going to turn it down and try your luck on the VAP market. You're going to take it.


Typing "" and then the search terms into google will do the job. This allows you to search comment threads, which for some reason the blogger "search blog" function doesn't do.

Xenophon said...

Mr. Z: thanks, that's a neat trick. Still couldn't find the post I remembered, but it does work where the blogspot search fails.

Also, sorry if I inadvertently instigated the Ithaca bashing. I too was surprised by the third- and fourth-hand rumors utterly lacking in substance. Hopefully it's just a sign of fall stress.

But I'll disagree with the view that any TT position is better than any VAP. A lot of people turn down TT offers for VAPs. That makes more sense early in a career, since people can be on the market 4-5 years these days without landing someplace where they're a good fit (or without even getting a TT offer). If you're going to take a job and then go right back on the market, there are good reasons to pick a lower teaching load or fewer preps, or one that requires courses in your AOS/AOC (thus reducing prep time); similarly, there's an advantage in picking a school where you'll get a good letter from your chair and good student evaluations. In a TT job you can't really advertise that you don't want to stay, but in a good VAP you might be able to expect a lot of help from your colleagues. Of course, a bad TT job is probably better than a bad VAP because being employed but miserable is better than being unemployed and miserable.

Of course, people who are 4-5 years out will probably take any TT offer they get, publish and wait for tenure, and then maybe look to move.

For what it's worth, all I know personally about Ithaca COLLEGE is that they seem to advertise a lot, and I got ignored the one time I applied there. But, it's a beautiful part of the country, it's a reasonably large school (>6,000 students) with a decent endowment ($163 million), and there's a rich philosophical scene around Cornell.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a significant difference between comments where the poster does not recognize the difference between Cornell and Ithaca College and the posters who have knowledge of the Ithaca situation. As someone going on the job market, if I am going to pack my family up and move them to the middle of nowhere (i.e., Ithaca), I want to have as much information as possible about that situation (especially the information that the College will not provide).

If a college (any college) is posting the same ad year after year and is either (1) not hiring for it or (2) the people they do hire leave immediately due to some type of problem with the department, then this is something very relevant to the interests of those who read your blog and you are doing a service to those individuals. Now, the problem is that perhaps (for whatever reason) there are people posting a bunch of bullshit. That's obviously a problem. However, unless you have a tenured professor posting, no one is going to feel comfortable enough to attach his/her name to the posts calling out a department that is experiencing significant problems. Thus, it seems the most reasonable thing to do is to screen the posts from people who have no idea what they are talking about (e.g., confusing two schools), and let the others be.

Personally, I do not have a tenure-track position but I have a position that is very stable. If I am going to uproot my family, I want to make damn sure that I'm not going to be entering a work environment that is miserable. If this board isn't a proper forum for discussing things of this nature, than what is? All of us have quite a bit invested in these jobs searches, and so if there are schools that have dysfunctional departments or administrations and people on this board have first or second-hand experience of this dysfunction, aren't they doing a service to us all to make us aware of what they have experienced or heard? Perhaps it isn't all true. Perhaps none of it is true. However, when it seems likely that some of it is true, isn't the best policy to all people to be informed about the situation so that, if the job is offered to them, they can properly investigate things before making a significant life decision that they will regret in a year?

Anonymous said...

"As far as I know they haven't hired for it. Can anyone confirm whether or not they even interviewed for it last year?"

Yes, I ran into someone I knew from grad school who gleefully told me that he had an interview with Ithaca. It was one of his six that year. I had one for a job that a vastly more qualified friend was also interviewing for. Good times, good times.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I do not have a tenure-track position but I have a position that is very stable. If I am going to uproot my family, I want to make damn sure that I'm not going to be entering a work environment that is miserable. If this board isn't a proper forum for discussing things of this nature, than what is?"

Agreed, and I wish I knew this about a certain department that nearly ruined my life, about three years ago. Still mentally traumatized from that experience; the place is corrupt and should be shut down. That department's faculty are some of the most evil and terrible human beings that I've ever met. Because I'm on the market I can't pull the trigger to sink that ship (I've plenty of evidence to do so), but its so bad that there are graduate students who are unable to leave and really are suffering. It is tragic because they are intimidated and afraid, and cannot say anything. Posts about this horror department would clue potential job candidates to stay away from that place.

Anyway, I enjoy the warning posts--if they are within reason. Wouldn't this be the place to anonymously discuss such matters?

Anonymous said...

Departments aren't people. Prohibitions on anonymous defamation of individuals shouldn't automatically carry over to complaints about departments.

Fallacy of composition, anyone?

Brendan said...

I want to straighten out the record on Ithaca College a little. I’m currently TT, after having first VAPed here for two years. Yes, our ad this year is identical to last year’s, and yes, we interviewed for it last year. The search was terminated by the administration due to fears about the economy. No, the ad is not identical to that of prior years. We have had several searches in the last 5 years. Those openings are not the result of a mass exodus, or a revolving door, or people being denied tenure. Two senior members retired, a third was scooped up by a Leiter top-50 dept, and the fourth line is a non-TT 3-year position. I do know of two early-stage TT junior faculty who have left the dept in the last five years; I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to divulge what I know about their reasons (that strikes me as a breach of their privacy), but I have absolutely no reason to think that in either case the individual found IC unsatisfactory. I can say that there are three of us who are currently TT here, and we are all quite happy.

I’m deeply puzzled by these rumors suggesting that IC is a hellhole. I teach a 4-3 load (though the administration is talking seriously about moving to 3-3); perhaps you have your heart set on a 2-2. But our classes are capped at 25 students at the lower level, 15 students at the upper level, and in 8 semesters I have never had more than one new prep. In that light, I think the teaching load is pretty reasonable. My colleagues are all congenial, the administration hasn’t given me any complaints, Ithaca is beautiful, Cornell is 5 minutes away, our students are enthusiastic … I love my job and feel grateful to have it. I strongly encourage you to take secondhand anonymous rumors with *many* grains of salt.

As for whether it’s ok to anonymously bash departments … I’d be worried that if the anonymous bashing of an individual exhibits wrong-making feature X, perhaps the anonymous bashing of a department exhibits feature X as well. You could question whether there is such a common feature X, but I don’t see any fallacy of composition in the reasoning.

Good luck with your applications!

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:32am: What the heck are you talking about? Ithaca College doesn't have a graduate program. Are you the same person confusing Cornell and Ithaca College? Why wasn't this post screened?

Jaded Dissertator said...

I'm going to parse [parsing in brackets] a particular comment that I think starts out fine then starts verging on dangerous territory [I don't think it necessarily does, but it demonstrates a slope of fineness]:

"They teach you to death [Fine. Teaching loads are quantifiable. This is good information to have.] and burden you will all sorts of nonsense [Ok. This might also be good information to have. But, what are the burdens and why are they nonsense?] and the department has more political problems than usual [Again, perhaps this is good information to have. But, right now it sounds like conjecture. What sort of political problems?]. I've also heard complaints about the chair [Errrrr! Stop right there. Figuring out who the chair is easy and I'm not sure we should sully someone's name because others have had complaints. Shit, I have complaints about a lot of people, but airing them anonymously and without any evidence backing them up, but still using easily identifiable tags is kinda, ummm, not kosher]."

Generally, I think the rule should be: don't use your anonymity as a mask to say things you wouldn't otherwise say about particular people, whether with name or through easily identifiable information. Blind items usually ain't so blind.

I felt the thread was going in a certain direction, so I said something.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:40pm wrote:
Anon 5:32am: What the heck are you talking about? Ithaca College doesn't have a graduate program. Are you the same person confusing Cornell and Ithaca College? Why wasn't this post screened?

I don't think you read Anon 5:32am's comment carefully enough. There was no indication (that I could see) that she was talking about either Ithaca College or Cornell.

Thanks to Brendan for speaking up. The second-hand rumors are junk. C'mon people.

Anonymous said...

Brendan writes:

"As for whether it’s ok to anonymously bash departments … I’d be worried that if the anonymous bashing of an individual exhibits wrong-making feature X, perhaps the anonymous bashing of a department exhibits feature X as well. You could question whether there is such a common feature X, but I don’t see any fallacy of composition in the reasoning."

Let's play a little burden tennis. So far on this blog and its predecessor, the ONLY anonymous complaints deemed unacceptable have been those leveled at identified persons.

Now, sometimes complaints which are nominally leveled at something other than indentified persons have implications of complaints against identified persons (a bald example being complaints about a particular department's chair). It is obvious enough why such complaints should be treated the same way.

But most complaints about departments are not like this, and it is far from obvious that we "should be worried" that they have the same wrong-making feature X.

Prof J said...

I'm with Brendan. The reason not to lob anonymous gossip grenades at particular philosophers must be (something to do with) an unfair harm to the philosophers. It seems pretty likely that anonymous swipes at departments are apt to produce similar unfair harms to the departments. (What I really think is that they'll also produce unfair harms to individual people, but I don't want to be accused of committing some Named Fallacy!)

Anonymous said...

Gee, well lets all stop anonymously complaining about the APA's dysfunction then. After all.... it's composed of philosophers!

Don't harm it!!!!!

Jaded Dissertator said...

Anon. 3:38,

Ahhhhh. You almost had me there! But, I don't take well to giving up complaining that easily: I pay dues to the APA and it's an organization built to serve our interests as philosophers. Individual departments are not.

And besides, we aren't spreading hearsay about the APA, but highlighting shortcomings most of us are familiar with.

I just hope that my fancy footwork in this situation adds up. :)

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Jaded Diss.; though I don't think the bit about the dues is the important part.

If people were writing in things like "I hear that the Delaware office is falling apart due to sexual misconduct," that would be ugly and unacceptable, too. And if someone wrote in with a specific, independently verifiable complaint about, say, the distribution requirements at Northwestern's philosophy PhD program, that would be completely unobjectionable.

I'm kind of surprised that some commenters don't agree. It seems so obvious. Maybe it's true that philosophers are socially tone deaf.

Anonymous said...

It's not about being socially tone deaf. There are lots of academic departments in this country that are entirely dysfunctional for a variety of reasons. How do you find this out before accepting a job at one of these places? Don't you want to find out, before leaving a stable job and uprooting your family, whether or not the situation you are entering into is problematic? Do you think the members of the department or administration will tell you? Of course not.

At least if I hear a rumor about a place I can then go and find a colleague with first-hand knowledge to either verify or dismiss that rumor. Perhaps more importantly, why should poorly run academic departments be immune from criticism? I suppose the problem is that all of the comments are anonymous, kind of like posts. After a while, however, if you see a trend of posts over time, even if those posts are anonymous, it usually gives one a reasonably good indication of what can be expected.

So, 3:58am Anon, why are those of us unopposed to discussions of this nature so obviously misguided and socially tone deaf? Is there an argument? I'm open to considering the other side, but given how nasty this process is from our end as applicants, I don't care one bit if some department gets its feelings hurt because it has a reputation of mistreating its professors, running searches that they never hire for, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

There are lots of academic departments in this country that are entirely dysfunctional for a variety of reasons. How do you find this out before accepting a job at one of these places?

There are lots of dysfunctional professors in philosophy; I thought the premise here, though, was that vague rumors about Prof. X. having something badly wrong with him were uncool and out of bounds.

Perhaps more importantly, why should poorly run academic departments be immune from criticism?

They shouldn't, any more than asshole philosophers should be. But, again, I thought we were in agreement (at least arguendo) that anonymous gripes about particular philosophers were uncool.

I'm only saying they're on a par. I don't particularly want to defend (though I do believe) the view that we shouldn't be going in for anonymous, vague, negative gossip about philosophers or departments.

Anonymous said...

There is a significant difference between anonymous gripes about departments and those about individual professors. Nothing positive can come from the latter. We have already had a number of observations of why the former can be useful.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 5:47,
So you are making the bold empirical conjecture that nothing positive can come from gripes about particular philosophers?
That takes real chutzpah!

Brendan said...

I’m not convinced that the putative absence of benefit is the wrongmaking feature of anonymous attacks on an individual. But I’ll grant for the sake of argument that we should use cost-benefit analysis in deciding whether it’s appropriate to post negative rumors about a department. I’d still suggest three points:

(1) secondhand rumors do not corroborate each other. If ten people post a secondhand rumor that University X is a terrible place, there’s no way for anyone to tell whether there are ten independent bad experiences, or whether there is a single bad experience that ten people have heard about. If the rumors were all posted *first*hand, this objection would no longer apply, but that’s not what we’re seeing.

(2) vague rumors have little value. Even if you find it helpful to know that the chair of a department is an ogre, you’d need to know that it’s the *current* chair who is the ogre. There’s a big difference between a 1-year-old bad experience and a 10-year old experience; maybe the department has fixed its problems. And maybe it’s helpful to know that someone left a TT position at X, but only if we also know about that person’s *reasons* for leaving.

Taking these two points together, I think there’s practically no benefit in the rumors that were posted above. Perhaps I would have fewer qualms about a posting that said “I had a terrible experience at X in the last five years; I had four preps a semester, and there are two people in the department (who are still there) who made my life a living hell.” As for costs: bad data about department X hurts the job candidates, not just the people affiliated with X. If bad information leads you to avoid X, when X would have been a great fit for you, that’s a cost to you. I think some people are seriously miscalculating the cost/benefit of posting vague secondhand rumors.

Finally, a third principle I find tempting:
(3) one shouldn’t post negative rumors about a department if one nevertheless expects to apply for that department’s position. This feels to me like a conflict of interest – it’s no longer clear whether you are helping candidates by giving them information, or trying to discourage them from pursuing a job you’re seeking.