Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Diff'rent Strokes for Diff'rent Folks?

Popkin asks:
different schools request different materials from applicants. For instance, I notice that Northwestern only asks you to send them a "complete CV along with list of references." In such cases, will the committee be annoyed if you send them more than they've requested? Is it a bad idea to send your letters or your teaching portfolio or whatever to a department that hasn't specifically requested those materials?
My first year out I sent everything to everyone with little in the way of results. Last year I sent each department only what they specifically asked for, but didn't do any better. So I don't really know.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

I think it is best to send only the information asked for with, at most, a note or sidebar in the cover letter saying 'I'd be happy to send X, Y, Z, upon request'. If the hiring committee went through the hassle of considering what exactly they wanted and making sure the add reflected their wants, it seems reasonable that that's what they want. It might not hurt you to include more (though it might be annoying to the hiring committee: "Why can't applicants just send us what we asked for?") but I find it unlikely that it will help. If that's true, then it wouldn't help to send it and it might hurt, which to my reasoning says don't send extra stuff.

Anonymous said...

This is a question I've been asking, with differing advice. Basically, I'm sending everything to teaching schools, and sending only what is requested to research schools.

Anonymous said...

Here's a mostly unrelated question:
Is it ok (or even advisable?) to send a proof of an article as your writing sample?
I've had a professor tell me to do this, and I'd like to get rid of the pile of proofs I've got and save some money on printing, but do people actually do that, or is it always 8.5/11 copies?

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:38: Why would teaching schools be more interested in irrelevant information than research schools?

Anon 9:14: I don't imagine it matters much. Maybe proofs are harder to photocopy, but it would seem odd to have that (or some related issue) be a disqualifying feature.

Anonymous said...

I would send just what they ask for unless you have everything together in an portfolio already. No one (sane) is going to expect you to rip out stuff from your portfolio just to meet their request exactly.

People send paper proofs all the time. I've never heard anyone complain about it.

Gabriele Contessa said...

If they ask only for a cv, send them only a cv. It's more work but it's evidence that you can read, you are able to follow basic instructions, and you care enough about the job to take notice of what they ask for.

In any case, for what they are worth, here are my three cents:

Cent #1. As hard as it may be try to keep magical thinking at bay! Keep always in mind that whether or not you land an interview or a job rarely depends on the sort of details discussed in this thread. If they really really like you, they may offer you a job even if you sent them some stuff they didn't ask for. If they don't really really like you (and remember that this is not the same as saying that they dislike you (see next paragraph)), they won't give you a job, no matter whether your cv was printed on a sheet of pure gold or on a piece of toilet paper.

Cent #2. As hard as it may be, don't let the job-search blues get to you! There are lots of reasons why one may not be getting an interview at some place or other and only rarely the reason is that they actively think you suck.

Cent #3. As hard as it may be, relax! It's likely that the best pieces of advice you could have received are ones you should have received before entering grad school or in your early here there. Unfortunately, there is not much one can do the year they are going on the job market to boost their chances of landing interviews (although once you get interviews of course there is a lot you can do).

Message in a Bottle said...

Best job ad ever: Texas Pan American. "Candidates whose work in Feminism and/or Kant reflects an interest in Chicano or Latin American studies are preferred, but not required."

Asstro said...

One reason not to send everything, but only to send what is asked, is that your dossier may get confusing if you send too much. Obviously, a CV is a CV, and a writing sample is a writing sample, but it's not always clear how a teaching statement, a research statement, a research trajectory, a list of syllabi, and so on, will be interpreted. You don't want someone reading your statement of research when they're looking for your statement on teaching.

Also, there is such a thing as giving too much information. I've definitely seen people get clobbered for information that was offered, but wasn't necessary. You don't have to tell an SC that you're married to another philosopher, for instance. Or, more to the point, you don't want to send mixed messages: that you're both wild about teaching at a small liberal arts college and that you have an extremely aggressive research agenda. Just give them what they need and tease them with an opportunity to get to know you better at the interview.

Anonymous said...

Message in a Bottle,

Often, ads that read like this are conditional lines for diversity hires, but I don't think that's the case here. Texas Pan American is in the Rio Grande Valley and probably has many Latino students. I assume the ad is just targeting areas of student interest.

(BTW, if you're applying for this job and you have any proficiency with Spanish, make that clear.)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it just absurd, though? If it said they want someone who's interested in Kant and/or feminism and in Chicano or Latin American studies, that'd be one thing. But how many people in the world have work on Kant that reflects an interest in those? I could more easily imagine work on those areas that reflects an interest in Kant, but this way it just seems weird (maybe I'm missing the semi-obvious). That one person who fits what they want is like "Holy shit! This job is in the bag."

Xenophon said...

Anon 9:14, I'll accept that this probably isn't a conditional hire. But it still sounds like they have a preference for a Latino/a candidate. This could be ignorance on my part, of course: is there a distinctively Latin American take on Kant? If not, and given that (we're often told) minority candidates want professors who "look like them" and, as you say, TPA is in a largely Latino area, wouldn't the natural implication be that they would prefer a Latino/a candidate?

I'd love to hear more about Latin American philosophy, if anyone knows about it. There's no SEP article in the works, apparently, and PGR doesn't recognize it as a subfield, yet I see it listed in an increasing number of job ads, and I see (mostly Latino) scholars list it as a second or third AOS. Is there any PhD program that specializes in it? Is it a distinctive area, or simply something schools assume exists? There's no such thing as Scandinavian philosophy, for example: most (though clearly not all) Scandinavian scholars work broadly in the continental/German tradition. Is philosophy in Latin America similar to that, that they have a lot of philosophers but not a distinctive approach?

Anonymous said...

"Is philosophy in Latin America similar to that, that they have a lot of philosophers but not a distinctive approach?" ~ Xenophon

You have pinpointed something that has been a central discussion within Latin American philosophy itself: is there a distinctive unity to Latin American philosophy?

There is relatively quite a bit of work being done on Latin American philosophy. See, for example, Jorge J. E. Gracia's stuff. Its interesting.

A Guerrero said...

Serious detour, but Xenophon is looking for answers... For an intro to some of the issues of Latin American Philosophy, check out the APA Newsletter on Hispanic/Latino issues in Philosophy, Fall 2007 Volume 07, Number 1. There you can find some of the articles & syllabi that are used in teaching LAP, in those places where it is taught. You probably have to be an APA member.

The issues in Latin American Philosophy are similar, mutatis mutandis, to those in African Philosophy, African-American Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, Native American Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy, etc., and, arguably, Feminist Philosophy. People who work on any of these topics spend a lot of time answering the question (asked sometimes from within, but mostly in response to outside challenge): what is _______ Philosophy?

The answers are pretty much the same.

_______ Philosophy generally includes:

(1) discussion of neglected 'core' (M&E, Lang, Value Theory, etc.) work of philosophers from _______ category;

(2) critical discussion of 'core' philosophical concepts and conclusions often focusing on the way in which the absence of the _______ perspective on the 'core' issue has affected philosophical theorizing on the issue;

(3) attempts to address the question of whether there is something distinctive about being in the ______ category that shapes experience in non-obvious ways or that shapes philosophical thought of those in ______ category;

(4) philosophical reflection (both normative and conceptual) on the borders and criteria of membership of the _______ category;

(5) ethics and political philosophy focusing on issues that are arguably of particular concern to those who fall under the ______ category; and

(6) asking and addressing the question of whether the results of (1)-(5) are enough to constitute something that is well called ________ Philosophy.

Philosophers are sticklers for conceptual borders, which is why (to my mind) there is hostility to some of these areas where a lot of different issues and questions are lumped together under a single sub-field heading. As the above suggests, ________ Philosophy will span Metaphysics, Epistemology, Lang, Mind, Ethics, Political, History, etc. That makes doing it well difficult. It also makes some people uncomfortable with it (for conceptual reasons, if not others) as a 'subfield' of philosophy. Fair enough. But it's not crazy to think that there's something useful in doing (1)-(5), and that people may well be drawn to work on some or all of those tasks because of their interrelation.

There's an interesting question why some sub-groups end up having a '_______ Philosophy' and others, such as the Scandinavians, do not. (It's kind of a funny case, actually, since there was Scandinavian Legal Realism, though that's a different thing...)

I'd say it has pretty much everything to do with whether the particular sub-group is such that projects (1) and (2) (and perhaps (5)) make sense given the traditional situation of the sub-group in the creation and maintenance of the relevant academic canon.

jimmy said...

Re.: LaAmPhil stuff and people who "look like them"

Yes Gracia.
Mendieta at Stonybrook is doing cool things as well and is in the LaAm Phil mix.
Then there is Manuel Vargas over at Uni of San Francisco and he's extremely relevant and insightful digital footprint re. LaAm Phil (http://www.usfca.edu/fac-staff/mrvargas/home.htm).

And there are folks like me who have an interest in (foundational) Metaphysics, Kant, Feminism, LaAm Phil...and I speak, read, write both German and Spanish...and I'm brown... .

I figure it'll be something like AOS same ole stuff, AOC sexy-fruity stuff.

Now: off to a day of work!

Xenophon said...

Thanks to the last three posters for some useful information. As for A. Guerrero's list, and analogy to the general problems of ____ Philosophy: one of the things I've wondered about when seeing job ads was the assumption on the part of hiring departments that there was a Latino Philosophy to begin with, at least one that extended beyond (1). So I'm less interested in the answers to the question of there's a distinct subfield there than I am in the question why people think there is. (I've got no real interest in the question myself, and I'm not planning to apply for such jobs, much less likely to become a candidate, even if I study up really hard on it.) So it's somewhat idle curiosity, though now that I've got a start on a bibliography I'll put some of these authors on my to-read list.

However, it is of interest to me whether there's a whole body of work I'm ignorant of (whether it exists: there are plenty of subfields I know exist but know far too little about), and it's interesting if there's stuff I could consider including something of, e.g., in my intro course. I guess inasmuch as (1)-(6) are found in any _____ Philosophy subfield, then Latino Philosophy in particular is only of particular interest (as opposed to African American or Native American Philosophy, say) when students have a particular interest in Latino culture and identity. For example, to the extent that identity affects how one views problems in epistemology or ethics, any identity will do at one level (well, maybe not majority identities, since those are already inscribed in the dominant philosophical traditions). And anyone who doesn't include identity issues in an intro course won't be able to make much use of this material.

Of greater interest to me would be contributions to epistemology, ethics, etc. that don't directly come out of identity concerns and which provide alternatives to other work in the field. For example, what if all the good work in deontological ethics had only been written in Moldovan, and since few people outside of Moldova read Moldovan, most people didn't know it existed? Then everyone in ethics would want to hear about Moldovan Philosophy, and translations of it could have a profound impact on the direction of philosophical ethics generally. Then Moldovan Philosophy would be good for me to know about regardless of whether I cared about what life is like for Moldovans, and even regardless of whether it's a "real" subfield.

So . . . I'm inclined to conclude from Guerrero's characterization of Latino/Latin American Philosophy as being like other ____ Philosophies that it's not like the situation of my imaginary Moldovan Philosophy. Or, to take a real example, it's not like Liberation Theology, which was a distinct approach to theology that came largely out of Latin America (theology's not my field, but I think that generalization is kind of true). Is that right?

Anonymous said...

Letters of recommendation: they ask for 3. Sending 4 instead: always a bad idea, always a good idea, something in between? Elaboration appreciated.

Mr. Zero said...

I always thought that the rule for letters is "as many as possible." I did a little research, and I don't think I know anybody who sends just 3. I was told that getting more and better letters, particularly from people who are not directly invested in your success, was one of the best things a candidate can do to improve her chances of nailing a job.

A. Guerrero said...

Just to keep this thread completely hijacked... Well, I will let those who know more about L. American Phil. give their thoughts in response to Xenophon's direct question, but there are definitely many instances like the 'Moldovan Philosophy' example he cites.

For example, there are interesting connections between Confucianism and contemporary virtue ethics. See: http://neh08.wesleyan.edu/

There, you might see two independently developed strands of ethical thought with some points in common, such that those interested in one might benefit from learning about the other.

Or, to take an example from African Philosophy, Kwame Gyekye's book, _An Essay on African Philosophical Thought: The Akan Conceptual Scheme_, might be of interest to someone working on personal identity, the mind/body problem, rationality and emotion, or even Plato's view of rationality and the soul.

In that book, Gyekye 'unpacks' the basic conceptual scheme that he claims is evident in the Akan languages (spoken mostly in Ghana), and suggests that there is a distinctive and interesting view in the philosophy of mind there, having to do with the relationship of what they call the okra (loosely translated as 'soul'), sunsum ('spirit'), and honam ('body'). Of course, the interesting stuff is in the details, since the translations are themselves complicated and involve philosophical and conceptual work.

(Similar work has been done with the epistemological thought of Yoruba-speaking people of western Nigeria.)

I see Gyekye as doing a lot of philosophical work to set out the view, in much the same way as someone 'interpreting' Spinoza or whomever might be doing a lot of philosophical work. It's pretty interesting stuff; it strikes me as interesting and worth discussing in the way that other parts of the classic canon (say, the pre-Socratics, or Spinoza's Ethics, or Aristotle's De Anima, or Leibniz's Monadology, or Meinong's Theory of Objects) are interesting and worth discussing, even if initially a little 'quirky.'

Unfortunately, though lots of Western-educated philosophers learn Greek, German, French, etc., in order to do philosophical work, there aren't a lot of people with similar philosophical training who know or learn African languages, and so there isn't a lot of work being done in English-speaking departments in these areas. Most of the work that has been done has come from contemporary African philosophers who get philosophical educations in the US or UK, or in Africa.

There are of course questions about how much of the 'philosophy' is Gyekye (or whomever) doing a certain kind of anthropology of ideas (or something), and how much of it is him presenting his own philosophical view, perhaps informed by his knowledge of the language. The former sometimes gets called 'ethnophilosophy', and some think that it's not the way forward for African Philosophy. People who work in African Philosophy discuss these issues extensively.

I'm inclined to think that this kind of work is very interesting and underappreciated, and that there's a lot of work to do (lots of great 'Moldovan Philosophy' out there).

Of course, this blog is mostly about how rough the job market is, and I imagine that landing a job with an AOS in African Phil. or Latin American Phil. is not an easy road.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, about the letter writers. What do you mean by "people who are not invested in your success?'" Are you referring to those who are not on the faculty at one's graduate program?
Just curious.

Anonymous said...


Has anyone gotten good (or bad news from the Pacific APA?)

It would be a nice line on a CV.

Mr. Zero said...

anon 1:29,

Yes, that's what I mean. Since your grad profs have a professional interest your doing well, letters from people with whom you have no such relationship carry more weight, ceteris paribus.

Anonymous said...

Letters: I also heard the opposite advice -- they ask for 2, they want the strongest 2, and anything further would be diluting. that said, I always send (what I assume to be) the strongest x (2 or 3 have been small numbers I encountered recently) plus a teaching letter which I note in my cover letter is sent with that intent. But yeah-- I too, previously believed that if you have 10 letters you should send them all even if the school asks for 3. But what if they only read 3, and the ones they end up reading are not the strongest/most substantial ones? I would like to hear people's thoughts on this issue.

zombie said...

Can I interject here with another question? No? Great!
What qualifies as "under review" in the sense that one might rightly list a publication as "under review"? If one has recently submitted something for publication, does that count? Or does it require some kind of affirmative "we're definitely considering this and the referees have it in their grubby little hands..."

FWIW, I'm sending my teaching evals and sample syllabi for ads that indicate that they really care about commitment to teaching, even if they don't specifically ask for them.
I noticed that some of the online applications (e.g. Ithaca) don't allow you to submit just anything you want. They ask for specific items, and that's all you can submit. That makes it pretty darn clear they only want what they ask for.

Anonymous said...

That one person who fits what they want is like "Holy shit! This job is in the bag."

You obviously didn't see the ad from Calcutta State:

"We are particularly interested in a junior-level scholar whose AOS includes the philosophy of quantum mechanics AND native American ritual healing practices, preferably with an emphasis on visual rhetoric in the Thomistic tradition. Reading knowledge of Sanskrit strongly preferred."

Anonymous said...

Good question, Zombie. On a related note, what, in the ideal world, counts as "evidence of good teaching"? Good idea to submit one's teaching philosophy statement, even if such a statement is not called for specifically? Yeah, that's not exactly "evidence" though. Suggestions? (Alas, alas, alas, I don't have an "observation letter" from a prof who had seen me in the classroom.)

Anonymous said...

"We are particularly interested in a junior-level scholar whose AOS includes the philosophy of quantum mechanics AND native American ritual healing practices, preferably with an emphasis on visual rhetoric in the Thomistic tradition. Reading knowledge of Sanskrit strongly preferred."

Is this a joke, or real?

I once saw an ad for someone who specializes in Medieval Thomism AND Ancient Chinese philosophy. Am I seriously missing something in all of this? WTF?

Xenophon said...

what, in the ideal world, counts as "evidence of good teaching"?

When schools specify what they want relating to teaching, most ask for: statement of teaching philosophy, sample syllabus(-i), and student evaluations. Therefore I assume this is what most schools want when they don't specify. Of course, if you don't have any of these, send what you've got.

Now, is that what they're actually looking for when they don't specify? Who knows? Maybe they don't much care what they get, or maybe they recognize some people won't have, let's say, student evaluations, and they don't want to eliminate otherwise good candidates because of a technicality.

Now, everyone's statement of teaching philosophy is probably pretty much the same, and a lot of people think the whole exercise is BS. I guess you could argue that candidates shouldn't send those unless prompted, but then, it's the only thing everyone should have because you don't need to have taught to have a view on how you'd teach given the chance.

Then there's the question of which is better: numerical or narrative student evaluations, or both. I like the latter, because they might have useful information and always help to interpret the quantitative data, but I've seen schools only ask for the numbers, I guess because it makes comparison of candidates easier.

Anonymous said...

Speeking of sample syllabi, I assume that it is OK just to make shit up in the case that one has not actually taught the courses that one wants to indicate readiness for, right?

zombie said...

Re: numerical vs. narrative student evals. In my last teaching gig, the comments were released for use only if the students signed their names to them, which only about half do. And only about 1/4 of students (if that) write anything in the comments. So my fear would be that submitting narrative evals would look very suspiciously like cherry picking. The only way to avoid that would be to photocopy front and back of every student eval so that it is clear that cherry picking has not occurred, in which case, my teaching portfolio would run into the hundred of pages. So, I only include the numerical summaries, to keep it down to a manageable 20 pages.