I should have thought that we philosophers were a little more relaxed in our dealings with each other than to fuss over interview settings (or even "stares and worse," i.e., boys being boys). Whatever happened to being of good cheer and leaving the professionalism to the attorneys and politicians?
It has been my experience that "boys will be boys" is shorthand for "men are assholes, and you should put up with it, because they're men and they like having fun at your expense." This is one of the things I hate about being a man.
And I hate this "good cheer" argument more than anything. Why does everyone else have to have good cheer in the face of what an asshole you are? What happened to "good cheer yourself, and don't be an asshole"? You can start by conducting your interviews sitting up, with shoes on like a civilized person, and not in a room dedicated to sleeping and/or fucking.
I see why you'd think philosophers shouldn't adopt the same standards for professionalism as lawyers. But that doesn't mean that just anything goes. You're interviewing someone for a potentially permanent job teaching at the college level. You are not having someone over to your studio apartment to sit on your murphy bed watch a football game.
And let's not forget that we applicants are required to wear (something like) a suit to these interviews. What would happen to an applicant who showed up to the interview without shoes on and in a tee shirt that says "Beards: they grow on you"? That person's failure to present himself in a professional manner would demonstrate a lack of seriousness that would rule him out as a candidate. Why shouldn't the interviewing department hold themselves to some (non-lawyerly) standard of professionalism?
Furthermore, the applicant a lot of money to attend the conference, too, but this money comes out of her own pockets, not her institution's yearly budget. That a search committee would demand that I make myself uncomfortable, in a way that may or may not be sexual in nature, in order to save them a few dollars, what with the high cost of conducting completely unnecessary interviews, makes me feel a range of emotions between incredulity, nausea, and blind rage.
Alex Taylor says,
Setting aside the question of whether it is sexist or heterosexist to suggest that women might feel more vulnerable in such a setting, I am puzzled to see that so few of you have realized that sexual harassment can happen in a suite just as easily as it can in a bedroom. If Dr. Creepy wants to harass a woman interviewee he can do so with or without a bed. If this is a naive view - if sexism and harassment are so prevalent - I would suggest that there is a much deeper problem in the discipline, one that should be addressed but cannot be overcome simply by throwing our money away on expensive suites.
For one thing, nobody says that sexual harassment can happen only in bedrooms. Jesus fuck. The point is they are more likely to happen in a bedroom. Even genuinely innocuous behaviors are much more likely to be seen as nocuous in a room whose dominant feature is a piece of furniture you use for sleeping and fucking on.
For another thing, Mark Lance says he did some empirical research. He asked 100 women who were on or had recently been on the market about bedroom interviews. The splits were not favorable to Taylor's view: it was 98 to 2 against. He says, "the majority regaled me with stories of terrible experiences." Now, this is unscientific and should not be regarded as "proof." But it creates a presumption in favor of the view that bedroom interviews are bad that must be rebutted by actual evidence, not a priori musings which assumptions are sexist or whatever.
Of course, Taylor's is a naive view, and there totally is a deeper problem in the profession. And it cannot be overcome simply by holding interviews in rooms other than bedrooms. But come on. No single thing is going to be sufficient to solve this deep problem with the profession. It's going to take a lot of little things and also some big things. But the "x is one little thing that won't solve the problem by itself; therefore we should not do x" argument is going to rule out every one of those little things, when in fact we should be combating the highly embarrassing lack of a feminine presence in our discipline with every weapon at our disposal. We should not be saying, "Why don't you ladies just have a better attitude about what a bunch of assholes we all are?".