Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy MLK Day

I know it's a day off, but I find that the nicest thing about holidays is that there are no college students hanging around outside my office. Although I do take the opportunity to sleep in, I am convinced that the best way to use this time is to take a free research day.

And I think this is especially true for those of us without a tenure-track job. And for those of us who did not snag an on-campus interview this year. One of the most frustrating things about the academic job market is that it's on this annual cycle. If things don't work out this time around, it's going to be October before another tenure-line job ad comes out.

The only constructive way to handle it is to use the year to your advantage. We've got until the middle of October to put ourselves in position to do better.

Also, God damn it.

--Mr. Zero

39 comments:

zombie said...

There there, Mr. Zero. There are still some schools doing first round interviews.

There was an NPR report on All Things Considered tonight about the glut of PhDs in the humanities, and how long it takes people to get degrees considering how few jobs there are. I don't have a url as it hasn't yet posted to npr.org

So, if it helps, it sucks for lots of other people too. Like English majors. To quote Kent Brockman, "Unemployment isn't just for philosophy majors anymore. Useful people are being affected too!"

Anonymous said...

and how long it takes people to get degrees considering how few jobs there are.

Some people take longer to degree precisely because of how few jobs there are. Which is why this report of one search committee's method is so frustrating.

Anonymous said...

if it helps, it sucks for lots of other people too. Like English majors.

I appreciate the good intention behind zombie's comment. However, I wish people would stop conflating the situations of undergraduate majors (who have devoted, what, four semesters of college to their respective subjects) with those of ABDs and recent PhDs in the humanities. Most of the latter, of course, have devoted anywhere between 5 and 10 years to graduate coursework, dissertation research, and acquiring pedagogical proficiency in the classroom.

The undergraduate can major in philosophy, graduate, and then do something else, often fairing pretty well, economically. The PhD candidate, by contrast, is someone who has made a significantly greater commitment, sometimes amid misleading information about future job prospects. Moreover, it's not obviously clear how easy the transition is from philosophy PhD to rewarding non-academic employment.

None of that's meant to cast doubt on the worthwhile nature of pursuing a PhD in philosophy or, for the matter, the intellectual skills one acquires through doing so. It is however a reminder that the current ABD/recent PhD job market crowd is coping with a dismal market against the backdrop of a much greater commitment to their discipline than that undertaken by the undergraduate major.

The economic situation is such that some job market candidates will eventually have to leave the academic side of our profession. Of course, others have had to do that in the past, and some of those have become famous.

zombie said...

Anon 4:36: I was talking about English PhDs there, not undergrads. I guess there's a distinction between an English major and an English major with a degree, but I thought it was clear I was talking about PhDs. If not, my bad. The NPR report was on PhDs in the humanities generally, not just philosophy. And the trend is that it's taking longer for all PhDs to complete degrees (compared to, say, 20 years ago). The upshot of the report was that there are a lot of universities training a lot of PhDs for jobs in research institutions -- jobs they'll never have because there aren't enough of those jobs to go around. And that it just shouldn't take that long to train for those jobs to begin with, considering most of us are already teaching undergrad courses as grad students, and are (presumably) qualified to do so.

Polacrilex said...

Just curious: What do all of you do for money while you are waiting for October to arrive (assuming you have completed the degree and are not receiving GA dollars)? Adjunct work does not typically pay enough to cover bills, and it offers no health insurance of any kind, so unless you are covered through a spouse, I am guessing that many of us are simply going without health insurance. The school in which I am currently teaching is 'kind' enough to label me an Assistant Professor (even though it's really part-time and semester-to-semester contract), but does not have the heart to pay me a living wage or give me any benefits. Of course, if I was not teaching, the other part-time job I have would be a full-time job, which DOES offer benefits, but it is non-academic. Of course, doing both makes it nearly impossible to get any research done, so, at least for right now, the teaching gig is the only thing keeping me in academia. In sum, this situation totally sucks, and I am curious about what other PhD's (not ABD's) are doing to make a living while they 'wait out' the next 10 months.

Anonymous said...

"What do all of you do for money while you are waiting for October to arrive?"

I made coffee on nights and weekends for a few years during my stint as a full time lecturer. I also dated women who would let me live with them for free or for significantly reduced rent. If I wasn't making coffee, I would adjunct at other universities. It sucked.

Anonymous said...

"What do all of you do for money while you are waiting for October to arrive?"

In college, I used to pay for some of my expenses by selling my plasma. (The recovery time's much faster than if you donate blood, so you can sell every three or four days. I recommend alternating arms so as to minimize "the heroin look"). One month, between jobs, that's how I paid my rent.

I can't see myself doing that now. But, then again, I hadn't really thought about it until whomever raised the finance issue. And they did show us movies while the plasma machine worked its magic...

Anonymous said...

Is prostituting oneself for room and board morally justified under non-ideal conditions (i.e. a crappy job market)?

Filosofer said...

Here's the URL for the story zombie mentioned:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122702647

zombie said...

This year, I have a fellowship that pays decent money, and I have a PT gig as a newspaper columnist. I'm also married, with a young child, and a spouse who has a good-paying job. Last year, I was adjuncting, writing for the paper, and working a third PT job (which I had during the entire 14 years I was in grad school).

I consider myself really lucky in that my fellowship is focused entirely on writing and getting published. I'm expected to publish 4 papers and get accepted at a conference each year. The PI is cool, and understands that a postdoc needs to position him/herself for employment.

m.a. program faculty member said...

Even if you haven't gotten an on-campus interview, it's a little early to assume that you'll be adjuncting and working at the local coffee shop for the next year.

First off, it's not terribly uncommon for institutions to have to move past their first 3 or so on-campus interviewees. (It's happened to us twice fairly recently.) Candidates accept offers elsewhere or arrive on campus and promptly auto-destruct. So some people will be getting on-campus interview calls mid-Feb-early March.

Secondly, the VAP hiring season is going to be starting up soon (although it too will probably suck). A decent full-time VAP usually comes with benefits.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the insurance part of Polacrilex's question, is it not normal for a TA to get insurance through his or her school? When I was a TA, I received free treatment from my university's health center, and a nice insurance plan to cover outside treatment (a better plan was available at a reasonable, additional cost). The plan also covered spouses and dependants for a modest fee.

Is this kind of arrangement unusual? I thought it would be the norm.

Anonymous said...

Going to graduate school in philosophy sometimes seems to me to be the single biggest mistake I have ever made.

Anonymous said...

Several people have commented that schools may not have made decisions about on campus visits. Does anyone actually have knowledge of schools that haven't called?

I'm skeptical, as I imagine that the wiki is less likely to show whether on campus interviews have been scheduled,. Fewer people are called, and the odds of any one of them updating the wiki are therefore lower.

In addition to knowledge, I'd be interested in wild speculation, as long as it's noted as such. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Well, I have "actual knowledge" that a school at which I interviewed (APA) intended to contact fly-out candidates in "early to mid-February." I guess I don't really KNOW that they haven't called anyone yet, but I'm going to take their word for it. A second school said they'd contact fly-outs "around" this week.

Asstro said...

I'm moderately optimistic that the VAP market this year will prove to be better than in years past. At least, that's what I'm telling my grad students.

My suspicion (which is really just speculative) is that because few deans are in a position to hire this year, chairs of departments will be looking more aggressively to fill teaching obligations with adjuncts and VAPs. If there has been a retirement, or if someone has left for greener pastures, it's not like the teaching needs of the department go away. For schools without large adjunct pools, this could mean that departments open a few more term-restricted appointments than usual.

Having said this, at my own institution we're looking for ways to cut our regular adjuncts so that we can give our current grad students a little more support in these times of woe. But we have a regular pool of graduate instructors (and it in this job climate, it looks like they'll be here for a bit longer), so I suspect that things may be different for us.

Will Philosophize For Food said...

I have a similar question to that asked by Polacrilex, but for those of us that are marginally less fucked. I'm on a one-year gig at a state university that is experiencing huge budget difficulties this year. Due to this, I expect not to be renewed next year. But my teaching load is so high in my current position, I have a tough time writing. This is my second one-year job (at different institutions) and my PhD is growing "stale," as they say. To add insult to injury, I had a good number of first-round interviews this year (3), but have received two post-interview PFO's and reliable anecdotal evidence that candidates have been called for the third.

Exactly how many one-years can a candidate do before one is considered undesirable for a TT position?

I've also considered also going back to school for an MA in another field that might make me more marketable on the philosophy job market. Is this a wise move?

Amidst all the discussion of what candidates should/should not do on a teaching demo or should/shouldn't wear for a flyout, it would be good to get more conversation going also about those of us who find ourselves without flyouts.

Message in a Bottle said...

Thanks, zombie and filosofer for pointing out this interview. Now I don't feel so bad about myself when I hear that the avg time to degree is 9 years! Is anyone else finding this system of awarding so many phds highly unethical?

Anonymous said...

re: health insurance: if you are in the states and a graduate student, you are eligible for membership in the national association of graduate and professional students, which offers a health insurance plan through united health. not ideal, but much less expensive than the health insurance i had been purchasing through my university. because a job with benefits is a mythical creature, like the griffin, or the tenured.

Anonymous said...

"Exactly how many one-years can a candidate do before one is considered undesirable for a TT position?"

I had four until I landed a TT job that started this term. I still wish I had headed straight into law school after my PhD or instead of graduate school.

"I've also considered also going back to school for an MA in another field that might make me more marketable on the philosophy job market. Is this a wise move?"

I can't think of any way an MA will make you more marketable on the philosophy job market, but you might have some creative idea in mind. What do you plan to get an MA in to help land a job?

Anonymous said...

There is something to be said for asking yourself whether you really want an academic career, now that you know what it's like. There is a lot more money in other professions and you get to live where you want. Two or three years years to get a Master's in something practical (social work? MBA?) or a J.D. is not a poor choice. Compare it to another year postponing the defense and a year or more working as an adjunct, serving coffee, selling your blood, etc., all to be followed by the brutal realization down the line in three years that you will never get a TT job. Wouldn't you rather take your life into your own hands and make a positive decision to change careers now, instead of waiting until an alternative career is no longer a positive choice, but a brutal necessity? Now is the time to start prepping for the LSAT, applying for Master's programs, etc. After you land a full-time high paying job in another field, you can always teach a philosophy course as an adjunct just for fun on the side.

Anonymous said...

There is much wisdom in Anon 1:55's words. If one's chances at a job are not good, might as well retool now - the time will pass anyway.

Xenophon said...

Will Philosophize for Food: I think PhDs go stale more slowly than they used to. When I started grad school, the rule was 3 years and then you're fucked. Now I think it's 5 going on 6. So that's good news of a sort.

As for another MA, I think it could be a big advantage at a community college, or a small, poor liberal arts college because of the rule most accreditors have that you need 18 hours in a field to teach undergrad courses. If the degree was in something desirable like economics, it might help at these schools, but if it's in something that's already got way too many PhDs like English, probably not.

If you're doing it to improve your research credentials, I think there's only value if you'd learn useful skills. But useful skills like computer programming, stats, or foreign languages either aren't available for graduate credit at the elementary level, or take more than a year to learn. If your undergrad degree was in something like Econ or Biology or German or Classics, and you're still targeting research jobs, an MA might make more sense, because then you'd have better credentials to teach PhD students in your AOS.

Of course, if your goal is to keep health insurance and get access to a university library, a terminal MA might make sense. Of course, you'd have to do full-time coursework in addition to your philosophy research. Conceivably teaching during a second MA could be helpful, particularly if you taught little during your PhD.

If you have any hope of getting a job at an R1 school, another MA is probably a very bad idea unless it is closely related to your main AOS. A lot of people will see breadth as a sign that you're not "serious."

If you're thinking about the MA route, you should look at deadlines right away, so that you don't miss any. Also, you may have to retake the GRE, and you probably should study for it if you do.

Anonymous said...

Depending on your area, then already having an MA in another field might help you (maybe an MA in linguistics, say, if you're in phil language). But doing an MA after your PhD is unlikely to help. Once you're in the philosophy game, people want to see that you can stay in the game, so to speak. If you could do an MA while maintaining a strong presence in philosophy, then that might work out -- but that sounds pretty tough.

Anonymous said...

There is a blog post/thread over at Leiter's philosophy blog about whether Phd Admissions Committees "google" applicants. I can maybe believe the people chiming in about they do not "google" applicants to grad school. However, it is a very different matter when it comes to job hiring/search committees, editors of journals, and even allegedly blind journal referees. I personally know many people who google under such circumstances (including referees who try to break the blind referee process by googling variations on the title of the paper that they are reviewing). It would be nice if people made decisions on the relevant merits. Presumably one can find out some relevant info from "googling" sometimes under some circumstances. However, I believe most of the relevant info is in the application / dossier / submitted manuscript and that most things beyond that found by googling are not relevant as far as the "merits" are concerned.

SLAC Prof said...

A few things here.

First, if you need to re-tool and switch careers, probably the last thing you want to do is go to law school. That will involve more time and, crucially, a heck of a lot more money, in order to find a terrible job market. The legal profession is in crisis. It is nothing like what we experience, but it is no picnic.

You want a different career? Go to trade school and become a master plumber or electrician. Do something that can't be sent through a wire.

Second, on the VAP market. This year, if my institution is any measure, is going to suck. Be prepared. The dean here is refusing to grant sabbatical replacement hires for 80% of those departments who need them. STEM fields, they're fine. Humanities, we're fucked. My colleagues and I will be teaching overloads in order to cover those who will be on leave. Normally these would be covered by a 1-year VAP, or multi-year in some cases, which paid well and came with full benefits. This year, nada. We are a top-10 SLAC with a ginormous endowment, so if we are cutting back I can only suspect most others are as well.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and data is not the plural of anecdote and all that, but I figured more info is better.

Seriously, don't get sucked into the adjunct trap. It is better to find a stable, decently paying job and try your best to put out an article or two in your free time. Being healthy and sane will ultimately give you a better chance to land a TT in the future than being Poor, Hungry, and Destitute while adjuncting.

SLAC Prof said...

Forgot the third point!

On prostitution and the PhD: there is precedent

Anonymous said...

Speaking of switching careers: Does anyone have knowledge of how hard it is to switch to a high school gig, whether philosophy or not (I understand some high schools actually teach philosophy)? Middle-class income plus benefits plus summers off plus a good retirement plan sounds a heck of a lot better to me than all the other options mentioned so far, but that's probably just me.

Polacrilex said...

SLAC Prof:

That's unfortunate about the VAP market, although it does help alleviate hope for some in a pretty hopeless situation.

I have also realized that a FT non-academic job with benefits is preferable to the PT adjunct position without benefits, which is one of the reasons this is the last semester I am bothering with being an adjunct, taking a FT "professional" position after the semester is finished. Ironically, I find more inspiration to write philosophy when I am in the "professional, non-academic" world than I do when surrounded by academics who only want to protect their reputations (whether or not they actually have reputations is another matter completely; IMHO I think most of them are fairly delusional when it comes to anyone actually caring about what they do or their work).

Xenophon: With regard to your very likely accurate statement, "If you have any hope of getting a job at an R1 school, another MA is probably a very bad idea unless it is closely related to your main AOS. A lot of people will see breadth as a sign that you're not "serious."," I think that this is very sad for philosophy as a whole. Most of the history of philosophy is filled with thinkers who were brilliant in both depth and breadth. I think we still read them and discuss them because of both aspects of their thought. The specialization of philosophy has most likely left us with many people who tinker with one tiny element of the machine, leaving very little of timeless worth outside of the respective specialty of each group of tinkerer.

Anonymous said...

SLAC Prof: Thanks for the post! Here's my favorite sentence from it:

"Magnanti was 34 years of age at the time she disclosed her identity and had blonde hair."

I imagine that there might be some significance to the "blonde hair" bit (or at least more to the story), but I can't imagine what it is.

zombie said...

I had health benefits available as an adjunct and a grad student. There was also a retirement plan for adjuncts. (My retirement plan is still to get tenure and never retire...)

I can't see how getting an MA will help much, unless it is in a related field. There are some pretty wacky job ads out there, so if you landed on a combo that someone is looking for, it might help. U. of Hawaii always wants Japanese speaking profs -- could you do that? Actually, foreign languages might be beneficial. One of my profs in grad school told me that she got a job offer to teach Jewish philosophy, even though it wasn't in her AOS/AOC, because she knew Hebrew.
Obviously, you have to weigh the possible benefits against the burdens of going back to school.

Bottom line, the economy sucks pretty bad in almost every field right now.

Anonymous said...

2:46 raises some serious points about googling. For some job candidates, the first thing coming up in a search of their name will be Rateyourprofessor on which any disgruntled student (or competitive grad school colleague) can post multiple fantastical negative reviews, e.g., "Prof. X is ultra right wing, she complained about the other profs, and she bragged about having sex with her students." My question is whether, even if "critical thinking" philosophers know that not everything on the web is true, there is any psychological effect on SC members who just cannot help but want to read those reviews.

BunnyHugger said...

I'm in my fifth year of a one-year gig, and the year before that I adjuncted, so I'm almost six years out of grad school now. I'm pretty sure I'm screwed. I'm also not sure I care anymore.

Budget cuts mean that all the one-year people at my current school might get cut by one class next year, making us no-longer-quite-full-time. I can't wait.

Anonymous said...

If you do not keep an eye on your ratemyprofessor reviews, you deserve to be punished. Just flag the negative reviews and write "Libelous, see my lawyer: she wins every case" and the review will disappear within days. Solved.

thinking about high school... said...

if you want to teach high school, you'll have the best luck if you can teach science, math, or a foreign language. independent schools don't require certification, but they probably won't pay as much. public schools require certification (takes about a year and requires a semester of non-paid student teaching). you may be able to get "alternative" certification while you're teaching your first year, although, again, it will be hard to find such a job unless you can teach a high-demand subject. finally, there is teach for america and similar fellow programs (DC fellows, NYC fellows, etc). these applications are due soon!

i'm thinking about this seriously, but i have a comp sci major and math minor. no one needs english teachers, and i don't think many independent schools need exclusively philosophy teachers. i do have a friend who taught physics at a great private school and was able to teach philosophy as well.

unfortunately, it's all very complicated and varies from state to state, but you can always get info from certification programs at local colleges while they try to sell you their program...

Anonymous said...

People, especially, BunnyHugger -- I know someone, a real live philosophy prof, who was on the market for 10 years. 10 years of 1- or 2-year gigs, I think there may have been one 3-year gig somewhere in there, going on the market every year, and then got a TT job, was tenured, and is now the chair of a department. And he had a family through that, too. I have no idea how he made it sane. But there. Anecdotal and all, but one can take some solace in such a story.

Applicantus said...

In Socrates Wake had a few threads about highschool philosophy teaching. Here's what I found:

http://insocrateswake.blogspot.com/2009/03/teaching-pre-college-philosophy.html

http://insocrateswake.blogspot.com/2009/12/another-look-at-teaching-pre-college_03.html

An ex-colleague of mine - bright, with pedigree - left the adjunct life last year for high school teaching for precisely those reasons - job security, salary, etc.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:23,
This was lovely: "And he had a family through that, too. I have no idea how he made it sane. ...One can take some solace in such a story."
Somehow I don't find that story uplifting at all. In the end, with a TT job ten years down the road, was the struggle worth it? Kids and spouse changing schools/jobs every couple of years or so for ten years?

Anonymous said...

4:51, it's 11:23 again. I know it sounds insane. I think maybe the kids were very young, just babies if they'd been born then at all, and the spouse had a flexible kind of job, and yeah, apparently was ok with that. But the guy is convinced it was worth it, since things turned out very well for him in the end. I don't know - not my own story. I don't think I will be able to last as long (it's just my first year out...).