Monday, October 12, 2009

Miscellaneous Gripes about Job Ads

What's the deal with ads that say "AOC: open," and then immediately list a bunch of areas in which the successful candidates will be expected to teach courses on a regular basis? Maybe I don't know what an AOC is supposed to be, but that seems like it.

What's the deal with ads where you have to create an account on the school's "jobs" website in order to see the AOS? Why not just put that information in the first sentence of the ad, where it belongs?

What's the deal with ads that don't mention the courseload? Fuck that.

I know I've complained about this before, but there has got to be a way to ensure that each ad gets identified by just one ad number, even though it might be duplicated in later editions of the JFP. We can put a man on the moon.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

Last year, our department posted one of the 'ads that say "AOC: open," and then immediately list a bunch of areas in which the successful candidates will be expected to teach courses on a regular basis.' The rationale was that somebody might be able to teach a course in something well that is not in their area of specialization and that we may be interested in having their AOS taught as well or having someone with that specialty doing research. For instance, it is not inconceivable that someone whose AOS is utilitarianism can also teach 19th Century philosophy. 19th Century Philosophy is on the books, someone needs to teach it, and many probably can who do not have this as their AOS.

C. Pynes said...

We have a 3/3 load, but our (former) dean wouldn't let us put that in the job ad a few years ago. It is a big selling point, and we weren't allowed to do it. So, sometimes it isn't your philosophy colleagues who are the problem, but some administrator or other. Same goes with listing AOS and other stuff. Some disciplines don't do that, and thus, the admin or HR person giving the okay to the ad just doesn't get it. Trust me, it can be maddening. And saying: "It's standard in our discipline only get one so far..."

Anonymous said...

not to mention ads where you have to read through the whole school's description of something entirely irrelevant (Or at least irrelevant at the moment), like union salary policies, before you see what the AOS is, or that none is listed?
we can put a man on the moon, but not start the ads with a simple AOS: xys AOC: def. not to mention a searchable database, how many times have we asked for that here...

Anonymous said...

Either the first comment confuses AOS with AOC or I don't understand it. Nevertheless, it is the case that I can teach some courses that I do not normally include on my CV under AOC. I could, with just a bit of prep, teach just about anything in the standard undergraduate curriculum. So could most of the readers of this blog, I assume. If I read an ad with an AOC that is not on my standard list, and I want to apply for the job, then I add it to my CV for the purposes of that application. If I were to be called for an interview, I would scramble to get together a rough syllabus (choose texts and topics) so that I could say something reasonably coherent about how I would teach that course. This all seems to me to be perfectly acceptable: the school that places the ad signals their expectations to potential applicants, and the potential applicants can align their expectations and put forward an application tailored to the school. If a school lists multiple courses, the applicant can pick and choose a few, sending sample syllabi, being prepared to talk about how she/he would approach the class. That's all fine.

But don't get me started on ads without AOSs. That's just bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand Anon 8:17's reply. Wouldn't those areas to be taught be AOCs? AOC is not AOS.

More generally, perhaps the ads are worded this way because there may be uncertainty as to what, exactly, constitutes "AOC" and the department doesn't care, they just want someone to teach those classes. For my part, being capable of teaching an upper level undergraduate course on a topic with a few weeks prep is a sufficient condition for AOC.

Anonymous said...

When I was on the market, my advisor gave me this advice:

AOS = either your dissertation topic, or an area in which you have published

AOC = area in which you have teaching experience.

So although you may feel ready to teach a course in a certain area, if you have not, you should not list it as an AOC. But perhaps if a school asks for an open AOC, but then says you must be willing and ready to teach certain classes, then you could apply even if you haver never taught in those areas before.

Anonymous said...

On the criterion for AOC suggested by Anon 10:16's advisor, very few of us would have an AOC fresh out of grad school. Assuming that most of us TA or teach intro-type courses, few of us list any AOC because few of us would have teaching experience in any area. I'm assuming that teaching a 3 week segment on philosophy of mind in the standard intro course does NOT count as having the teaching experience necessary to satisfy this criterion. If that were the case, we could list just about everything as an AOC.

Anonymous said...

In addition to standardizing the information presented in JFP listings, one thing that the APA really should do is promote some standard interpretations of what AOS's and AOC's are. There's no reason not to establish a clear convention on this.

Anonymous said...

There are clear conventions for AOS/AOC. What Anon 10:16 suggests is silly, for just the reasons pointed out in the post that follows that post.

AOS: area (or areas) of dissertation, plus any other field you have done equally rigorous research (common evidence for which is published or publishable work in the area). You should be able to comfortably (ie with limited prep) teach graduate seminars in your AOS.

AOC: Any area you could competently teach at an upper level (senior/junior) undergrad. Typically these are areas you have taken graduate seminars in (more than 1), or have taught previously.

Most fresh PhDs will have 1 or 2 AOSs, and perhaps 3 AOCs. (Folks whom claim to have 7 or 8 AOCs are either daft, lying, clueless about what an AOC is, or some combo of the above. These same folks tend not to realize that the 'A' stands for 'area', and so include specific courses, like Intro to Philosophy).

Xenophon said...

Here's the APA trying to disambiguate the AOS/AOC distinction. They give the following definitions:
AOC Area of Competence
AOS Area of Specialization
Gee, thanks, APA.

It's interesting that people like Anon. 11:14 says there's perfect agreement, then say a lot of people misunderstand it anyway. I'd parse the distinction slightly differently. But instead, let me tell you a story. I was at the History of Science Society meeting a few years ago, and the topic came up what constitutes being qualified to teach a given philosophy course. The grad students tended to be in agreement that any competent PhD in philosophy should be able to teach a first course in Philosophy of X, for any given X (ethics, mind, epistemology, etc., and yes, I know that the common locuation is not "philosophy of epistemology" but you get my point). The professors tended to say, oh no, you need a lot more than that.

Here's my take. AOC is relative, not absolute. If your department needs to teach ancient philosophy, and you can't get a good adjunct and no one's really especially knowledgeable about the topic, well, someone's gonna get assigned the course, and once you assign it to poor Fred, he's suddenly competent to teach it as far as the department is concerned. And after teaching it for five years, he's going to tell everyone he's competent, which can be embarrassing when you finally hire an ancient philosophy expert. But I digress.

I've seen schools (small schools, so not schools that need AOSs in the field) posting ads saying they need someone to teach metaphysics. Now, they've already got someone specializing in philosophy of science, and in my judgment anyone who does philosophy of science should be able to teach metaphysics, if necessary. So I conclude that this person doesn't want to teach it, and one criterion in selecting the new hire is that they want someone who's willing to take it on.

So, in undergraduate teaching institutions particularly, and to some extent in all schools, the main criteria for whether someone is competent to teach a given course is (1) whether there's anyone demonstrably more competent to teach it and (2) whether the person is willing to teach it. That's a characterization by pragmatics, of course, not by strict definition. But I think it generally holds.

Two caveats: First, some schools decide not to teach history of philosophy or logic or something equally crucial for their major because no one wants to do it. But most schools say you've got to teach these, even if no one wants to. And if you agree to teach a course because you need a job, you might be teaching it for the next 30 years, so make sure you're really willing to. Second, I think my characterization of a "first course in philosophy of x" is better than Anon 11:14's use of "upper level" course, because what's lower versus upper level depends on a given school's portfolio of courses.

Anonymous said...

In addition to standardizing the information presented in JFP listings...

This is less easy to do than one might thing. The most important reason is hinted at by an earlier comment, namely, that the content of an add is often set to some degree by someone other than the department. In some universities the form of the add is set by university policy, and at some state schools state law sets limits on what can, what cannot, and what must be said in hiring adds. There's a fair amount of variation between institutions. Some standardization might be possible, but complete standardization isn't really plausible given these constraints. (This is all besides the fact that different departments have different goals and so would want to write different adds for those reasons as well.)

Anonymous said...

I really wonder how hard it would be for the APA to require job advertisers to fill in particular fields to place their ads--fields such as hiring level (e.g. Assistant Professor), duration (e.g. tenure-track, one-year appointment, etc.), AOS, AOC, teaching load...

Anonymous said...

and just to remind everyone of the nice, searchable job wiki:

Anonymous said...

Really, you think it would be possible (institutional considerations aside) for philosophers to agree on the ad-format-greater-than-which-none-can-be-conceived? Or that the APA would not face consistent criticism over the institution of their own format?

Maybe this could be done, but it hardly seems worth it to me. It might also result in departments seeking other venues to advertise positions. This might further weaken the APA. Maybe that's the goal?

Anonymous said...

and just to remind everyone of the nice, searchable job wiki:

Thus far, I haven't found the Phylo wiki so nice. There are a number of mistakes in the ads (e.g. incorrect specifications of AOSs), and, despite the edit option, it doesn't seem possible to correct some of the errors.

Does anyone know how to edit the entry for a job whose ad lists an open AOS but is mistakenly listed on the Phylo wiki as requiring one of several particular AOSs?

Popkin said...

Anon 2:14: the instructions are to leave the AOS boxes unchecked for open jobs (so if some boxes are checked, uncheck them). Does that not work?

Anonymous said...

As I understand it,

AOS = Areas in which you are already competent to, and planning to, write papers and teach graduate courses

AOC = Areas in which YOU ALREADY HAVE SUFFICIENT KNOWLEDGE AND TRAINING to teach both introductory and advanced undergraduate courses, WITHOUT FURTHER BRUSHING UP OR LEARNING ANEW

As some people have already said, it is crazy to list more than, say, 3 AOCs on your CV. You look like you don't understand the conventions, or have too low a bar for what knowledge and training is sufficient to teach well at the undergraduate level.

A job might well want someone who already has genuine training in area X; they might then list X among the AOCs they are looking for.

But a job might just want someone who could teach in area X *after doing some further brushing up / learning anew* and such a person might well not list X as an AOC on his CV.

Many job candidates do not alter their CVs for individual jobs, and cannot, as their departments send out their dossiers for them. -- So some people who could teach in area X will not be in a position to alter their CVs to add this to their AOCs.

Anonymous said...

"As some people have already said, it is crazy to list more than, say, 3 AOCs on your CV"

No. This is not true.

I was on the market two years ago and had 6 AOCs on my CV. I mixed them up for different jobs, but kept the number at 5 or 6.

I went to a low rank school and got good interviews, so it certainly does not seem to hurt you. And one committee, I know, liked all my AOCs - they said as much and were excited to ask about several of them. This should not surprise, esp, if you are applying to a teaching position.

I did have something on my CV to "back up" each AOC - I had taught a relevant class as a TA, taken coursework, or published. The point is that the *committee* looking at your file has to see something to back up the AOC claim, not that you in fact could teach the class without prepping.

If you can justify the list and present it in a clear way, graphically speaking, there is no reason to stop at 3 AOCs.

AOSs - yes that is something to limit.

Anonymous said...

Popkin writes: Anon 2:14: the instructions are to leave the AOS boxes unchecked for open jobs (so if some boxes are checked, uncheck them). Does that not work?

Anon 2:14: No, I already tried that, and multiple times. It looks like once an AOS has been (mistakenly) specified that there's no way to undo that and list the AOS as open.

Anonymous said...

Here is a good discussion of AOS/AOC definition on the Leiter blog from 2007:

Anonymous said...

You can list a dozen areas as AOCs as long as you don't mind being laughed out of the interview once you flub a basic question about one of them.

Anonymous said...

Here is another link to the Leiter report 2007 discussion of AOS/AOC, the previous link came out incomplete.

Just Visiting said...

My nomination for strangest/most awful ad.

201 Keene State lists no AOS. But claims the candidate should have "visual rhetoric as a focus of his/her research". What the fuck does that mean?

Does anybody with a PhD in philosophy work in this area? Do you write about how pictures of boobs make men want to buy beer? Don Draper would totally nail this job.

Anonymous said...

I'd seen some CVs with a line "areas of teaching interest" just below AOS/AOC. What do you all think of putting something like that on a CV? Wouldn't it allow us to say "interested and willing to teach blah-blah, but my AOC is something else." Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I am very suspicious of very specific/bizarre combinations of AOS/AOC -- The job ad seems tailor-made for a specific (inside) candidate. These fake ads just make a bad market worse by making it falsely appear better.

Anonymous said...

Now that I am tenured and on the other side of the fence, let me tell you that weird job ads are not a sign that an inside candidate is already there. For example: our department hired in phil mind, but the dean wanted someone who did environmental ethics to support a new interdisciplinary minor and field station that got a grant. So the add was mind & EE. Tell me that's not an odd combo. Department are beholden to deans, provosts, presidents, and hr offices who care a hell of a lot about equal opportunity and affirmative action.

So, my advice for the odd jobs. If you are close, make your pitch and hope for the best.

Anonymous said...

As another voice from the other side, let me emphasize second the point about the influence of deans on ads.

Deans often need to justify their pool of searches to their provost and at research universities colleges of liberal arts have to compete with more powerful colleges for a finite number of hires.

We have had to include some irrelevant language in our ads as a result of this factor. Don't let it put you off.

m.a. program faculty member said...

I second the idea of putting on one's CV a list of courses one is willing to teach (sorted by lower-division and upper-division). Offer to supply syllabi for any of these classes upon request. Then you don't need to list 6 AOCs.

Popkin said...

I think putting a list of courses one is willing to teach on one's CV sounds like a bad idea. At least I would imagine people at research institutions finding that weird. I believe that sort of information is more commonly included in one's teaching portfolio.

Xenophon said...

OK, you convinced me. I just removed one AOC from my CV.

I've taught a course in the past in that area, so if a school wants someone to teach it I think I'm OK, but after n years on the market it's never done me any good listing it. In contrast, an AOC that I've probably got less justification for has netted me 4 interviews. So I still think the rules about what to include are witchcraft, but if there are people who look askance at too many AOCs, it's probably to my advantage to prune ones that don't help me any.