Sunday, May 9, 2010

Power in numbers

(Via Leiter)

Over at The Splintered Mind, Professor Schwitzgebel, scans the bibliographies on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (minus the historical entries), and gives us the top 40 most cited contemporary authors.

Longtime friend of the Smoker, S (as does commenter Hans), points out that, on the list, there are 39 men and 1 woman. 39-1. Once Professor Schwitzgebel expands the list to 200, on a quick, non-scientific count, the number of women shoots up to 17. 17 out of 200.

We've talked about the issue of women and philosophy a few times before, but, what also stood out to me about the list was the lack of non-White dudes, or more technically underrepresented minorities, on the list. Maybe someone would care to do the counting a bit more rigorously than I can (I'd appreciate the help), but by my super-scientific method of name analysis, I count approximately 1 (Amartya Sen) in the list of 200 (excluding those women included in the number above). 1 in 200. Maybe there's more, so let's bump up the number, generously, to 10 out of 200, regardless: HOLY SHIT.

What to make of the numbers? Well, as friend, S, has snarked to me:
You can rest assured that philosophy is the way it is only because people who aren't white dudes aren't as good at being rigorous and analytical as white dudes are. That's why disciplines with more women and non-white people are morasses of confusion, where no progress ever happens. You know, like biology and cognitive psych.
Maybe I (and my friend) only half-believe this snark, but after lobbing that bomb, let's put it aside. These numbers are disheartening and, shittily and more importantly, map onto recent experiences that I've had at conferences: workshops, dinners, and/or drinks where only or mostly White Dudes were in attendance (present company and a few women excluded), noticing women after talks and at dinners (when they felt comfortable enough to attend) having a more difficult time than men in having conversations started with them, and, more personally, being referred (harmlessly, I suppose) by a much more ethnic name than my given name by a prominent philosopher I had met before.

I'm not going to pretend like I have anything profound to say about this subject. Thinking about these numbers and recent experiences mostly just make me wince, question just why I would want to keep doing philosophy given its culture, find solace in snark, and wonder if I should just suck it up. After all, it's not a real problem since all the women and minorities are stealing the cushy jobs from super-qualified white dudes.

--Jaded Dissertator


Anonymous said...

'A much more ethnic name'? Is 'ethnic' acting as a euphemism for 'non-Western-sounding'?

zombie said...

I graduated from a dept with two women (now 3), and no non-whites. In looking at the faculty at the various schools where I applied for jobs this year, I saw that women were pretty well underrepresented. At my campus interview, the dept, while not entirely white, was all male save for one woman. I really thought they would hire a woman. As it turns out, they didn't -- and strangely, hired a man whose AOS they did not even advertise for. I happen to be in a specialty (bioethics) where there are a lot of women, and despite the fact that they were hiring for a (partly) bioethics job, they hired someone who doesn't do bioethics. I don't know what to make of that. Wrong AOS/AOC, but white male got the job anyway.

Nope, I don't believe minority women are taking all the cushy jobs. Nor the noncushy jobs.

Jaegwon Kim and Amartya Sen are the only two nonwhites I can think of off the top of my head. Hard to believe Kim isn't in the top 100.

Anonymous said...

This is really depressing shit. Thanks for posting this.
Here is another similarly disheartening fact as reported last week on the Feminist Philosophers blog. Routledge Companion to Ethics (forthcoming in June, 2010) lists 68 contributors. Guess, how many of them are women? FOUR! Again, this is not M & E we are talking about, but Ethics, where plenty of women are writing really good, important stuff.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

You might be interested in another post of mine on women in philosophy, "On Being Good at Seeming Smart"

Anonymous said...

I don't think the demographic numbers should be too surprising. Most of the folks on that list were graduate students in the 1940s, '50s, or '60s, and made names for themselves in the 1960s, '70s, or '80s. If I recall correctly, the first Equal Opportunity Act didn't get signed into law until 1964. I don't know the numbers, but I'd be willing to bet that 50 years ago there weren't many non-white, non-male philosophers who were either grads or faculty members at top schools.

By contrast, I can think of several prominent young philosophers who are either not white (e.g., Yujin Nagasawa, Nadeem Hussain, Kieran Setiya, Augustin Rayo...) or not male (Tamar Szabo-Gendler, Elizabeth Harman, Sharon Street, Nomy Arpaly, Carrie Jenkins, Karen Bennett...). With that in mind, let's see what the "who's who" list looks like in another 20-30 years.

not a white man said...

One thing I really appreciate about this blog (and its predecessor the Philosophy Job Market Blog) is the bloggers' consistent lack of tolerance for sexist and racist bullshit. Thank you guys.

As for the actual subject matter, yeah, depressing. I believe Jaegwon Kim is not white, but Korean. Still, two out of 100, eugh.

Jaded Dissertator said...

I must have missed Kim in my scan through the list; definitely not white. Thanks for pointing it out, y'all.

Anonymous said...

I take this discussion greatly to heart: thus, I propose that any and all of you that are white and male without TT jobs drop out of academia altogether. You are the problem! I don't think that this is too much to ask; we need to ask ourselves what we can do to make this better.

Now, I am a white male with a TT job. But I need to stay on at my job because I am part of the institution and can help to change it internally.

Anonymous said...

While serving on a search committee that received nearly 300 applications this year at my CC, my non-philosophy colleagues seemed shocked at the number of women who applied for the job. (It was >20.) Trying to explain the state of the discipline to people from disciplines that have managed to become more inclusive and diverse through active policy-making and culture-changing, I realized just how bad our situation really is. (The disciplines represented on the committee were Communications, Art History, Architecture, and Biology.)

Anonymous said...

Just for accuracy purposes, a few more 'non-white' guys (at least by some measure of 'non-white'):

Ernest Sosa (Cuban-American): #103.

Paul Boghossian (Armenian-American): #137.

Sahorta Sarkar (Indian-American): #156.

Still, pretty bad.

Anonymous said...

I love Anon 8:11's plan. It sums up the field's general response to this problem. "Let's wait 20-30 years, and see if there is still a problem. And, if there is still a discrepancy, we'll know that it was in fact a problem 20-30 years ago."

Gotta have all the facts before we do anything rash.

Anon 9:38: if your reading and reasoning skills are really shitty enough that you genuinely reached your stated conclusion from what was posted, then yes, you should do us all a favor and drop out of philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Woah, 10:35. I'm pretty sure 9:38 was kidding. No need to get nasty about it.

You're right, though, about the proposal to wait 20-30 years. It belongs in the same bin with "Maybe the women and minorities should just work harder."

Still, 8:11 makes a good point about the time lag in the data being discussed in this post. If we want to assess the climate for women and minorities in the field now or in the recent past, we need to look at younger people (rising stars at the assitant/associate professor level, fresh PhDs, and newly admitted PhDs). I'm not saying that the data for those categories are much cheerier, and I'm certainly not denying that there's a big problem here, but the recent data might not be quite as depressing as the data from the previous generation.

zombie said...

Re: Anon 202 -- I can only speak anecdotally because I don't know what the overall state of the field is right now. Does anyone? But being on the job market, and looking at faculty pages for every job I applied for, I can say that the women and minorities in the departments, pretty much across the board, would count as tokens. The situation is even worse for minorities than for women, I'd say. So if there's any improvement, it's pretty minor. This is a discipline really, really, overwhelmingly dominated by white men. When you consider that the majority of college students and college graduates are now women, I think we can safely say that philosophy has a problem if it cannot keep a representational proportion of those women in the discipline.

Verification word: RADUCTIO !

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:45am: I can see why you'd read my comment that way, but it wasn't a normative suggestion or a way of implying that everything is fine. I was expressing interest about what the future holds for philosophy, given the demographic changes that have occurred in the past 40 or so years.

Bat said...

It would be interesting to learn the unemployment figures for philosophers (that is, those actively seeking employment as academic philosophers) broken down by sex and race. My guess would be that the unemployment rate would be much lower for women and minorities than for white men. That doesn't mean that there isn't sexism and racism at some places in hiring, or more widespread problems further upstream in the process. But if true, it would mean that if you are a woman or a minority on the market now you should probably not worry about not getting hired because of your sex or race.

My department (an R1 with a non-Leiterrific PhD program) has too few women and minorities, but attempts to correct this have largely been unsuccessful. Most of our first choice candidates over the past few years have been women, but they have turned down our offers to go elsewhere.

Jaded Dissertator said...

I just want to break down (Fire Joe Morgan style) what Bat says, to try to understand what they are getting at. I'll probs be unfair in the process:

It would be interesting to learn the unemployment figures for philosophers (that is, those actively seeking employment as academic philosophers) broken down by sex and race. That would be interesting - too bad we aren't part of an organization that cares to keep track of that information.

My guess would be that the unemployment rate would be much lower for women and minorities than for white men. Why is that your guess? (Uncharitably) is that a dog whistle I hear?

That doesn't mean that there isn't sexism and racism at some places in hiring, or more widespread problems further upstream in the process. Oh, okay. Phew.

But if true, it would mean that if you are a woman or a minority on the market now you should probably not worry about not getting hired because of your sex or race. Huh? I thought you just said that even if the unemployment rate was lower that doesn't necessarily mean the process isn't possibly sexist/racist. And, if it is, then wouldn't us underrepresented minorities and women have to worry about not getting hired because of our sex or race? /Puzzled

My department (an R1 with a non-Leiterrific PhD program) has too few women and minorities Because they are all employed elsewhere.

but attempts to correct this have largely been unsuccessful. Not that there's anything to correct since, at large, most minorities and women are already jobbed (in the good way); but, we've tried anyway.

Most of our first choice candidates over the past few years have been women, but they have turned down our offers to go elsewhere. We've tried, we've really tried! But, because women and minorities have lower unemployment rates (but, remember, this doesn't necessarily mean the process isn't racist/sexist) it must mean they have jobs falling on them like manna from heaven!

Bat said...

"I'll probs be unfair in the process."

I agree.

You appear to have misinterpreted my post as some kind of lament about how unfair the job market is for the persecuted white man. Not what I was going for.

Maybe I should try a different tack.

The low supply of and high demand for women and minorities makes it difficult for some departments to remedy their existing sex and race imbalances, even when they are making long-term, good faith, efforts to do so. Our university even has an extra fund that allows us to make higher offers to women and minority candidates (and has instituted various programs and polices aimed at attracting and retaining women and minorities), but that has not helped us make the hires we want to.

One worry some of us have is that for any group, G, from which we are trying to recruit, our current paucity of G-members are taken as a discouraging sign by job candidates who are G-members, contributing to their taking jobs elsewhere. I'm not blaming the candidates for reading the situation that way. But so long as the macro situation stays the same, our current numbers means that our department seems stuck with a kind of self-perpetuating problem.

(And to guard against further misinterpretation, we haven't decided to give up.)

zombie said...

Speaking as a minority woman, I can assure you that jobs are not falling on me. Nor even near me. But that must be because all those plentiful jobs are falling on different women.

Or maybe I'm just horribly incompetent. Probably because of being a minority woman. And since I've got years of teaching experience as an adjunct, and have had three pubs and three conferences in the last six months, and a decent research fellowship, it must mean that my utter incompetence is only apparent to search committees "upstream." There's no other explanation.

I feel better now.

Jaded Dissertator said...


I didn't think you were lamenting the plight of the white man ('the dog whistle' quip was probably the most unfair thing I said and I apologize for that misplaced righteous indignation; I simply have a surplus these days), but I still saw some minor inconsistencies between things you said. So, my misrepresentation was less about painting you as worried about white males, and more about being uncharitable in the service of snark.

In any case, I appreciate the clarification and I do think this point you make is worth thinking about: One worry some of us have is that for any group, G, from which we are trying to recruit, our current paucity of G-members are taken as a discouraging sign by job candidates who are G-members, contributing to their taking jobs elsewhere. I'm not blaming the candidates for reading the situation that way. But so long as the macro situation stays the same, our current numbers means that our department seems stuck with a kind of self-perpetuating problem.

Of course, we would have to know why those G-members chose jobs at other institutions over yours. My sense is that, for a lot of people, the paucity of diversity might be a consideration, but with the job market the way it has been, I'm not sure many people have that luxury.

I could be wrong, and despite your institution's lack of success in attracting more diverse TT profs, I think it's awesome y'all are committed to it.

Anonymous said...

It might be easier to get a job if you are a very qualified woman coming from a prestigious program, with a well-known diss advisor and so on. Fine, the pressure from the deans to hire women and minorities is real.
But problems for women and minorities come in well before they get their PhD. Finding oneself a mentor among those famous established philosophers (mostly, aging white man) is often difficult. Finding an advisor who will support a project on some non-mainstream issue (say, that touches on ethics on care) is difficult. Networking is more limited. Isolation, on multiple levels, esp. if the program is filled with white males, is inevitable. All of these factors make it more challenging for women/minorities to acquire a competitive edge ones they get on the job market.

Anonymous said...

Let's just be real: White males prefer to hire white males, especially those who are from the same social-economic class as them. Period. End of story.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 12:52pm- that seems right.

Unfortunately, I think it generally applies across the board: people want to hire folks more or less like themselves. I can't imagine the faculty at, say, a historically black college saying, "you know, it would be great if we could draw more white talent," or the faculty at, say, Arizona or San Diego saying, "we could really use some evangelical Christians on the faculty," or most of the analytic R1 schools pressuring the administration to open up new tenure lines for a few good continental philosophers.

Food for thought: you're on a search committee looking for someone to teach courses in X. Among your applicants are people who teach on X, but it's clear from their CVs that they approach X from a radically different perspective from those currently in your department who teach on X. Assuming that the publication and teaching records of these applicants are otherwise comparable to those of the applicants who approach X from the same perspective as the members your department, will you include a few of these "outsiders" in your interview list? If you've been on a search committee before, *did* you do this? What was the result?

Ev said...

12:52, that "Period. End of Story." thing is awesome! I'm going to use it in my papers. It's so much easier than that whole "making an argument" thing.

Anonymous said...

Anon May 11, 2010 12:52 PM:

It's even simpler than that. People prefer to hire other people who are like them.

And there's no way to hire philosophers who are part of the same "social-economic class" as you. By definition, anyone who has a college degree is high-SES, and a person with a PhD is about as high-SES as one can get. I find it fascinating how people (not people on this thread--this is just an observation about people at large) who have or are on their way to getting PhDs, and are therefore super-privileged, manage to convince themselves that they are somehow not at the top of the class hierarchy just because they're not making a ton of money. Let's face it: we're all of the same class; if we weren't born into it, we were socialized into it well before we decided we wanted to get academic jobs. It's conceptually necessary that if you're part of our profession, then you're part of our class. You may think that it's a good idea to hire people whose parents weren't part of our class, but it's impossible to hire people who themselves are not.

And which class do I mean? Roughly, the so-called coordinator class. Qua members of the coordinator class, we are unusually privileged in that, if we manage to get jobs, we can expect -- abusrdly, we feel entitled to -- a lifetime guarantee of employment, during which we can be as lazy and incompetent as we please, as long as we publish often enough that we can't be charged with gross dereliction of duty (so, one 20-page paper every decade or so?), and we answer directly to no higher-ups, but (in utopian anarcho-syndicalist workplace democracy style) only to a committee of our colleagues; we can defend any views we like in our teaching and publications, many of us have TAs who take over the drudgery, and so on. We are not merely privileged; we are probably (along with academics in other fields) the freest people there are in state-capitalist societies.

Should we be working to make it easier for people to enter the coordinator class? Sure, why not. But there's just about nothing we can do when we're hiring people who already have or are about to get PhDs to make that happen, and there's very little we can do when deciding who to admit to a graduate program. When you look at grad school applications, for the most part you have no way of knowing what the applicant's class background is. A Harvard undergrad is somewhat more likely to come from a coordinator or capitalist background than a state university undergrad, but that's about all you can tell.

Ever met a successful philosopher who claims to be from a "working class" background -- and then it turns out their parents were academics or teachers? I've lost count of the times. False consciousness comes in many flavors.

/rant off

Anonymous said...

It's a lot harder for those who are not white males to get classed as talented or as an up and coming "star." Hence they get discouraged or at least not encouraged, often implicitly, at pretty much every stage of the process from going to grad school to making it to the top of the profession.

This is a major reason why so few non-white-males get profiled and supported throughout their student careers in the way needed to eventually make it to the top of the tt-jobs pile.

Hence the "we can't find any qualified women/minorities who want to come to us" line.

And by the way, even of those who do make it into a tt-job, none or almost none of these get tenure at top 5 leiter departments or get cited intensively, etc.

zombie said...

Quick, unscientific, unrigorous survey. I looked at the Leiter Reports listing of new hires in philosophy this year:

I count 74 males and 30 females who got jobs (both TTs and postdocs) this year.

I did not count the names which were not gender-specific (to me). Some of the names from page two may have been repeats of postings on page one, and I did not remove those (but, unscientifically, the names that struck me as familiar were mostly female names, so the female count may appear higher than it actually is.)

I'm no mathemagician, but it looks to me like men outnumber women by more than 2:1 in the new hires.

Anonymous said...

10:44, Haven't you noticed that even at historically black colleges, the philosophy faculty tend to be white and male. Sure, they'll hire a token female or minority. But the person in control is always white and male. Once they've hired the tokens, they hire their own. Take Morgan State University, a historically black institution in Baltimore, just hired a white male from Illinois. Surprise, surprise.

Anonymous said...

One thing I'm very happy to be able to say about Sen is that he has repeatedly written about India and Indian thought. In my view, racial/ethnic diversity in philosophy matters both in terms of the participants and in terms of the content of contributions. From that perspective, I'm also happy to give people like Sally Haslanger props for bringing issues of race to the table in their work.

But going back to the problem of present or absent bodies, as a black philosopher I freely admit my sadness that among the 3-5 nonwhite philosophers we've been able to find in the list, there is no one of recent African descent.

Anonymous said...

@Anon !0:44

I think the questions you ask regarding taking seriously folks who approach philosophy from a different perspective misses the insidiousness of hiring biases.

How many of us seriously consider someone who has a radically different sense of humor (not sexist or racist) that no one on the committee finds amusing but, otherwise, would be a very good hire?

Anonymous said...

"Ever met a successful philosopher who claims to be from a "working class" background -- and then it turns out their parents were academics or teachers? I've lost count of the times. False consciousness comes in many flavors."

I guess that depends on what you mean by "successful philosopher." I have a PhD. I am published. I present at conferences. I have a fellowship. I'm not rolling in dough however, and I don't have a TT position (but hope springs eternal). My parents were both working class. In fact, they both worked themselves out of sheer, crushing (and in my mother's case near-starvation) poverty. I was the first (and only) member of my family to go to college. The only PhD (to my knowledge) in my entire extended family.

So, yeah, I think I can accurately claim to be from a working class family. And I also recognize that I am very lucky to have moved up as much as I have.

Anonymous said...

There are all sorts of reasons why women and non-whites might be underrepresented in SEP citations. But if one of them is the rather late-in-the-process reason that SEP authors are unaware of good work by women/non-whites on their topics, then here's a (very partial) solution: write to those authors, and bring this work to their attention. SEP entries are often revised -- sometimes even more than once. You might even include a sentence or two about where a piece of work fits in to the broader literature: "Introduces a theory on X of this type; differs from S's theory in this way; T's in this way, etc." I think the entry-writers should be made aware of good but underacknowledged contributions generally, but my suspicion is that a disproportionate number of such contributions are by women and non-whites.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:50, this is a good observation. I've seen this happen at my program. I never understood why a couple of really astute women in my cohort are never treated as "stars," not even close. Yet, a few assertive white dudes, who are not all that brilliant (but yes, very competent) are definitely on the "star" list.

Zombie, 30/74 is not a bad ratio, given that there are not very many women applying for jobs. At any rate, it is an improvement over the current number. Women holding tt jobs in philo is close to 21%. Am I right about that? Some such number...

Anonymous said...

About race and gender with respect to the content of philosophical work:

In a moment of distraction, I decided to take a look at the subject matter of articles in The Philosophical Review, which is often ranked as one of the best journals in the field (for example, it took the #1 spot in Leiter's poll concerning the highest quality "general" journals).

I looked, in particular, at the last decade. In the 40 issues of The Philosophical Review from the years 2000-2009, I counted 130 articles and discussions.

Among these I found not a single article dealing specifically with issues of race or gender.

(it is only now that I am remembering that Sally Haslanger looked into this in her celebrated article on "Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy"... she looked at 2002-2007, so I guess all I did was confirm that things weren't any better the rest of the decade)

Daniel said...


First off, thank you for posting these tallyings and estimates and charts -- they make for interesting reading.

Just out of curiosity, I noticed in going back to your blog that most of these studies you've been doing have excluded historical entries and history of philosophy journals.

What is the rationale behind that, exactly?

Anonymous said...

Do minorities receive special consideration when departments determine whether a grad student can stay in excess of the max time to complete a Ph.D. program? The reason I ask is that an Asian grad student at Harvard was allowed to stay on in excess of 10 years and to finish the Ph.D. in the 18th year! Is this practice widespread? I assume that if Harvard did it, then it must be done elsewhere too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:44, are you for real?

Mark said...

I think there's been some demographically correlated self-selection when it comes to doing philosophy that is labeled "philosophy" versus doing something that, in a previous era, would've been seen as philosophy, but has now been filed elsewhere. For example, Donna Haraway is a highly cited female philosopher, but she works in areas the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tends to give relatively little coverage to.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:20,

Google and read the article "The Thinker" in the New York'll find the reference to the grad student from Harvard who took 18 years to finish. Auburn U was so desperate for a token Asian with a Ph.D. from Harvard, they hired him...

Anonymous said...

I know, total thread jack, but Leiter is such a jackass. As if editing *one* book on continental philosophy gives him the expertise to say what constitutes good continental philosophy. For God's sake Critchley is a tenured professor at a major university with multiple books out on a wide variety of CP topics. The *only* reason that Leiter trashes him is because Critchley dared to say that Leiter's remarks about Derrida were horrendous--which they were. And Leiter isn't even saying that Critchley's a poor choice for the Times, he's saying the man is a fraud and a hack.

adeimantus said...

10:23's libelous comment is one of the costs of having an anonymous commenting forum like this one. I agree with our moderators that on the whole it's worth the cost, but only because the really caustic stuff is pretty rare.

Anonymous said...

Two graduates students from my former department (both white males) just finished up after 20 years! (in one case, I think it was 21 or 22 years). Neither is bothering to seek academic jobs in philosophy, though. But that they were able to and allowed to finish after that much time is remarkable, I think.

Anonymous said...

Why is being allowed to finish a PhD after 15-20 years particularly remarkable? Am I missing some crucial point about the amount of time it takes to get one's dissertation done? If it's PhD quality work, why is it important that it took so long to get it done?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but Critchley is a fraud and a hack. I sat through one of his talks, and it was utter bullshit. He's also sort of creepy. Fwiw. But, he really likes himself and that should count for something.

Anonymous said...

Harvard's Ph.D. program in philosophy had a good reputation.

Most if not all state schools (not Ivy Leagues) kick you out of the Ph.D. program after 10 years.

Maybe the guy at Auburn was not hired because he is Asian.

However, it's clear to me that if Harvard wanted to keep its good reputation it should have kicked him out of the program at or near the 10 year mark.

If Harvard had kicked him out, then we wouldn't be having this discussion. Why?

Because the dude wouldn't be teaching at Auburn University.

And if you look at his publications since being hired by Auburn, you quickly see that the quantity/quality reflect the work ethic of someone who takes 18 years to finish a Ph.D. ... even at Harvard.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6;54, I join you in hijacking this threat (sorry). I also thought that Leiter's bull-dog attack on Critchley was vicious and nasty. My opinion of Leiter has gone way done as a result. What weird shit. I'm in no way a big fan of Critchley, but this tenured well-respected (in some circles) professor is not an obvious hack who should be thrown to the wolfs for writing a newspaper article about the subject of philosophy. Ok, perhaps he was not the best person to write the NYT piece, but nothing warrants attacking Critchley the way Leiter did, asking others (as well as the APA) to "protest," write letters and so on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:37, your cowardly, mean attack on the Auburn professor's repute and quality of work is fucked up on so many levels. Wow. Anonymity is really good, huh?

Socrates said...

Zombie at 9.11 counts 74 males and 30 females were reported on Leiter to have got jobs this year. To get a rough guide on whether sexism might have been in play, we need to know how many candidates of each sex were on the market. If there were a higher ratio of men to women on the market than 74 – 30 then that would indicate sexism favouring females. If lower, then sexism favouring men.

Anyone know?

Though of course at the end of the day there is no substitute for looking at some men and women who were hired, along with those who they were taken in preference to, in trying to evaluate whether sexism has taken place.

Anonymous said...

However, it's clear to me that if Harvard wanted to keep its good reputation it should have kicked him out of the program at or near the 10 year mark.

How do you know he wasn't? Being permitted to defend after no longer being permitted to register isn't uncommon, and with such a long time to degree I rather suspect something like that is the case.

Schools like Harvard tend to have shorter clocks than comparable programs at public universities (fewer TA/teaching opportunities than at a large state school, so no need to keep them hanging on.)

I realize the level of reasoning here required to make the claims that a) someone Asian with an unusual resume got a job so b) therefore Harvard favors Asians so c) therefore the practice must be widespread etc, etc. isn't terribly high, but it seemed relevant to point out that finishing a PhD 18 years after one started doesn't entail continuous registration and rather suggests a break away from the academy.

Anonymous said...

I went to Harvard and overlapped with the 18-year phd guy. As others have speculated, he wasn't active in the department for most of that time. He was working independently. In fact, I think I saw him on campus exactly once during my six years at Harvard. But. he apparently wrote an 800 page dissertation on Kant that was judged to be of high quality.

The Harvard grad program stops giving students financial support after 10 years. But they never kick people out after that; they just stop suporting them.

I know of several cases in which students took much longer than 10 years to finish. I know of a 15 year case, and a couple of 12 year cases. I don't know of any cases in which people have been kicked out of the program for spending such long amounts of time on the PhD. So the Auburn guy is not unique, and the idea that he somehow got special treatment for being asian is absurd.

Anonymous said...

...then Harvard has lower standards than most state schools b/c most state schools not only stop funding you after 10 years, but also tell you to pack your bags...your grad career and any hopes of getting a Ph.D. are over. At state schools, leaves of absence are counted toward the 10 year time limit. The clock does not stop ticking because you decided to take a 6 year hiatus to find yourself (sorry, do independent research). Otherwise, too many people would be stopping the clock and the back-log of ABDs would be outrageous! I know from talking to professors in the Harvard Phil department that it is a bit of an embarrassment that they let him through, of course they were happy to get rid of him and glad that he secured a faculty position...still, this does not tell us why some people who perform below expectations in grad school secure jobs in this tight job market...obvious conclusion: the job market is no meritocracy!

Mr. Zero said...

anon 8:55,

The state school I attended for the Ph.D. did not employ the policies you claim are typical of state schools. At my school, the statute of limitations was 7 years but extensions were extremely easy to come by. All you had to do was ask. It was not normally possible to get funding after the 7th year, but if you wanted to keep paying your program fee every semester, nobody was going to tell you to pack your bags. Though it was unusual, I know of several people who took upwards of 10 years. Even after all that time, the only bar to scheduling a defense was whether you could get your committee to agree that you were ready for it. And if you pass, you pass.

Anonymous said...

I have no stake in this time-to-degree issue except as someone who has friends who have taken longer than the norm to finish their degrees (these friends and I are all either t-track or recently tenured). But I must register my contempt for those who judge the job-worthiness of another philosopher without having any real basis for judging the value of that philosopher's work. That's just despicable -- there's no other word for it. Even leaving aside the racism, you -- apparently, several of you -- are presuming to know that a named philosopher does not deserve the job he has, and maybe doesn't even deserve the degree he was granted, without having any direct knowledge of his work.

I mean, if you'd read the dissertation, or parts of it, and wanted to make the argument you're making, it would still be wrong to do so here -- but you might have an opinion that was defensible in other conversational settings. Nevertheless, that's not what you're saying. You're saying you don't know anything about this guy except his race and his time-to-degree and, voila, you are now entitled to judge his job-worthiness and even his degree-worthiness.


zombie said...

I can't speak for every state school. Maybe some give you the boot, I dunno. I went to a state school, and I was granted one extension on my degree. The max was 6 years, but extensions were granted when asked for, if you could reasonably show that you were making progress on the diss. You don't get funded after a certain point, which means you have to get another job, which makes it harder to do your diss, etc. And my school required continuous registration, which meant paying for one non-load credit of diss every semester. So there were certainly benefits to graduating faster, if you could.

Not every PhD goes straight from BA to grad school. And not every grad student can afford to devote themselves 100% to grad school. I never held fewer than 3 jobs simultaneously during my time in grad school. It took me a while to finish. But the time it took was not relevant to the quality of scholarship. I wasn't "finding myself." I did not have a questionable "work ethic." I worked my ass off, supported a family, and had a life beyond grad school.

Could be the Auburn professor is a really excellent teacher. Could be he's a philosopher who produces great work, but not very fast. Doesn't matter. There is absolutely no justification for the ignorant, bigoted slurs against him.

I would respectfully submit that perhaps his name should be removed from my previous post to avoid dragging his name through the mud any more. I am sorry I posted it in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I really wish the part of this thread that purports to assess the qualifications and job-worthiness of a named person (who's already been attacked, again identifiably, with racism) could be deleted. I know the horse is out of the barn, but someone corral it back in and stop this pony show of egregious and uninformed "assessment." Please don't just delete his name, but all the identifying markers that point to him.

Anonymous said...

I've already posted on this once, but the more I think about it, the more awful this thread seems. Somehow it went from some racist troll to what seems to be a more widely endorsed "discussion" of this professor's merits. And based on what? On an NYTimes article in which his chair is profiled as someone who looks beyond the simplistic indications of merit to make opportunistic hires of folks who might escape notice under the usual standards. I.e., his chair is being touted, it seems to me, as exactly what people here seem to want: someone who won't run only on the most obvious ways of reading a dossier. Yet faced with someone who made what might well be a commendably creative hire, so many posters here are suggesting the same tired standards are better. If you despise, e.g., reliance on pedigree, why would you not also despise reliance on time-to-completion as a measure of worth?

Apart from that seeming inconsistency, this guy has somehow morphed from someone his chair publicly prizes to a foot-dragging, insufficiently-publishing, turgid dissertation writing, token Asian. Gah!

zombie said...

I see my post has been deleted. Thanks. Just to cross all the T's, the professor in question is also named in Anon 9:02's post.

Socrates said...

Take two people beginning PhDs in 1992. One does a ‘good enough’ PhD in 6 years, and then publishes a few standard type articles discussing variations on standard positions in middle of the road journals in order to get tenure, and carries on doing similar stuff, not setting the world alight. The other is a bit of a perfectionist, gets deep into his subject, looses track of time a bit, gets a bit distracted by having to earn money other than through a cushy TT job, and eventually completes an exceptional piece of work. Who do you hire?

I know who *I* would like to have as a colleague.

Anonymous said...

Good God. The comment further up about this being despicable is spot on.

Early on in the job season there was so much whining and complaining about imagined superficiality on the side of search committees, who only care about pedigree and never take the time to read each candidate's dossier and judge them on the quality of their work. Everyone is oh so fucking special and it could never have been that they weren't getting interviews because they weren't good enough compared to others on the market. No, it was because search committees were lazy and misguided, starstuck by big names.

And now it's come to this, insane judgments proclaiming without the least hesitation that someone is undeserving of a job because of the single fact of the time they took to complete. That's it. Nothing more. No knowledge of anything that is relevant.

I hope to high heaven those making these judgments never ever get a job, and are never in a position to evaluate anyone - students, job candidates, junior colleagues for tenure... You people think you're intelligent? Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

In the last 5 years Harvard has hired at least two grads who took well over 10 years. I think in one case, the individual took 14. Both are white by the way. Taking a long time is not at all a big deal.

anonymous 9:02 said...

I can't imagine this racist person who has been commenting is actually a philosophy grad student, or rather a grad student of any kind, since s/he seems very confused about how Ph.D candidacy works. This confusion underlies the racist assumption about how Harvard treated [that person] and why. Add the racist assumption about why Auburn hired him and you get a heaping mound of bigoted idiocy.

Anonymous said...


By what you've said I'm stumped--should one infer something about collegiality or something from that? Does work-track trump all other considerations about an acceptable colleague? Nothing about teaching? My experience says otherwise. . .