Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is that Hell freezing over?

Yesterday's post contained a fat envelope from APA. Ordinarily, this would get recycled unopened. Yesterday, I opened it. Buncha ballots on blue and yellow cards, and then...

A white sheet of paper that says: Survey on Meeting Dates.

Well, whaddayaknow.

The Eastern Division Executive Committee plans to conduct a survey on whether to change the dates of the meeting from the traditional December 27-30 slot. It is well known that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the traditional dates; less obvious is whether there are any other specific dates that would be widely favored, although this question has recently been discussed on several blogs. The survey will offer various possible alternative dates... The goal will therefore be to assess not only whether other specific dates are more popular than the traditional dates, but also whether the Eastern division meetings should continue to have in-person job interviews as one of their central functions.

The survey is expected in the second half of 2011, and the letter notes that it will affect future meetings "several years into the future," beyond the ones which have already been booked. It takes a long time to turn around the Titanic.

What say you, Smokers?



Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. I received no such voting information or cards (although I did receive the APA book). Perhaps because I am still a graduate student member, not a faculty member? Would you mind sharing what the voting options are?

Anonymous said...

It's just the usual APA voting packet. You'll get it.

Properly speaking the voting is for positions in your Division, but they all work pretty nearly the same way. You (we) vote for VP of the division, who will then become Pres the following year; for some Nominating Committee members; for some Executive Committee members. And maybe for a representative of your division to the national Board of Officers.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:26.

In fact, you won't get a voting packet.

From the bylaws of the APA section 4.5:

"B. Student Associates are not affiliated with any Division, and may not vote at Meetings of the Members or of the Divisions. In addition, Student Associates cannot hold any position that would require them to have voting rights within the Divisions or the Association. Student Associates may attend and appear on the program of all Regular Meetings and receive all publications of the Association."

The link to the bylaws is here:

Mr. Zero said...

Student Associates are not affiliated with any Division, and may not vote at Meetings of the Members or of the Divisions.

Hey, wait. Why are students regarded as second-class citizens by the APA? They're adults, and the APA's bullshit policies affect them as much as anyone.

Anonymous said...

Classic: grad students who are APA members can't vote on it, even though they're among the most affected by having to attend the Eastern for job interviews.

zombie said...

The survey, however, WILL be open to students members, and all APA members, not just Eastern members.

Anonymous said...

All over the world people are affected by policies they don't get to vote on. Children, immigrants, felons, and others.

So I ask of the students, why do you think just because you are affected by the policies do you think you should get to vote? You aren't full members. I suggest you look at part 4.2 the membership requirements. Not all graduate students actually fill that bill....

Your $10 dues don't really compare to someone who pays $140 for dues. There are lots of reasons the general membership doesn't let students vote. I bet if you think about it a bit, you will be able to figure out some kind of reasonable justification for not allowing student members to vote.

(BTW, I am not trying to be a jerk or come off as one.)

Mr. Zero said...

Come on. Why shouldn't graduate students vote? They are not children, or immigrants, or felons. The dues are on a sliding scale for all of us. $10 does compare to $40. It is 1/4 of $40. Grad students also make 1/4 of the salary of entry-level assprofs, if that. So it seems that they're paying exactly what they should be; if anything, they're overpaying.

Anonymous said...

They don't get to vote b/c they don't ALL satisfy the criteria for being a full member -- look at the requirements for membership.

There is no easy way to determine if a graduate students satisfies the criteria either: say from first years to ABDs. They are different, but first year grad students don't qualify, which ABDs sure seem to or are at least close to.

And a rhetorical question isn't an argument for why they should be eligible to vote. The issue revolves not around the money or about who is affected, but who is eligible for full membership.

Mr. Zero said...

It wasn't a rhetorical question. I was literally asking why they don't vote. I was asking for an argument. There were some possible reasons floated in the comment I was responding to; it seemed to me that either they didn't apply or weren't very good. I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask what the reasons are.

Suppose I'm a grad student who satisfies all the membership criteria. Suppose I am affected by the APA's policies and I would like to vote on them. Are you going to tell me that I can't vote because there are other people who are also graduate students who do not satisfy the membership requirements?

I guess I think the question is about who is affected. I don't see why eligibility for full membership is the central issue. Suppose I am affected by the APA's policies and would like to have a say as to what those policies are. Are you going to tell me that I can't vote on policies that affect me deeply because I am only so far along in my training? Or because I haven't published enough yet? Or because my dissertation isn't done? I don't see why you'd tell a person that she deserves to be treated like a child, a non-citizen, or a felon because her dissertation isn't done, or she hasn't taken her comps yet, and so she's a couple years away from being competent to teach philosophy to college students.

Anonymous said...

I apologize about the rhetorical question comment.

I guess we disagree about who should vote. My view is that eligible members get to vote. You believe people who are affected should get to vote.

Full members who are not current with their dues don't get to vote, and they are affected by the decisions. I just don't see how the "affected argument" works given that only eligible members are allowed to vote. Graduate students aren't allowed to be full members. Thus they don't get to vote.

That's our disagreement, and I just don't see how affected is sufficient to grant voting rights, but I am willing to listen.

zombie said...

In case any wants to see them, some sections of the APA bylaws relevant to the current discussion:

4.2. Qualifications for Regular Membership.

A. Regular Membership in the American Philosophical Association shall be limited to:

1. Persons whose training in philosophy has been advanced and systematic enough to make them competent to teach the subject at the college or university level;

2. Persons whose achievements in philosophy are sufficient to warrant their affiliation with the Association.

C. The annual dues of International Associates, Student Associates, and Teacher Associates shall be fixed at the approximate single-member cost of the production and distribution of the publications of the Association.

4.5. Student Associates.

Persons who are actively engaged in the study of philosophy at accredited colleges or universities shall be eligible for membership as Student Associates.

B. Student Associates are not affiliated with any Division, and may not vote at Meetings of the Members or of the Divisions. In addition, Student Associates cannot hold any position that would require them to have voting rights within the Divisions or the Association. Student Associates may attend and appear on the program of all Regular Meetings and receive all publications of the Association.

It strikes me that some grad students (those who teach) could, if they so choose, become regular members. They would have to pay the same dues as regular members. I know that when I graduated, I had to start paying regular dues (on an income-based sliding scale) rather than the student rate. The student rate, as explained above, covers the costs of subscription to APA publications. By choosing to be a student member who pays less, you choose to be a member without voting rights.

(But some students will not be eligible for regular membership, so Mr Zero's complaint still stands for them.)

zombie said...

Eligibility to vote is, in any system I can think of, to some extent arbitrary. Citizenship, residency, etc. Being affected by rules, laws, policies is neither necessary nor sufficient to make one eligible to vote on said rules, policies, etc. (California's law affect me, but I don't get to vote on them. I'm not a California resident.)

Presumably, there are (possibly arbitrary) reasons APA decided not to permit student associates to vote. Maybe:

1. There are more philosophy students than philosophy "professionals" at any given time. This would skew membership (and voting) towards students.

2. They don't want undergrad philosophy majors to vote. (Presumably they can become student associates, however.)

3. APA is intended to be a professional organization, not a student organization. It is, therefore, intended to address the concerns of phil. pros (which may, at times, coincide and/or collide with the interests of phil students).

4. Serving the interests of the membership is best achieved by limiting membership to individuals with demonstrated stability of interest in phil. as a profession (i.e. those who have advanced at least far enough to be teachers, and therefore, professionals). Permitting student members to vote would allow individuals to vote who have no long term stake in the issues they vote on (perhaps especially true of undergrads). (Something like this is probably the justification for residency requirements for voter eligibility in states.)

To be clear, I'm not offering any of these as a justification or argument for not allowing student members to vote. I don't know that any of these are the actual reasons APA would offer. I'm just suggesting them for the sake of argument. Of all of them, (4) strikes me as plausible and justifiable.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my mistake. I just didn't realize that student members couldn't vote.

I agree, this seems pretty awful. I might try to look into this issue. (I'm 7:25 AM.)

Anonymous said...

I, too, was excited by the announcement of that survey/the freezing over of Hell.

But since the main topic of this thread now appears to be the voting rights of student members, here's one more thing to consider:

It seems to me that there have been some decent reasons offered for why undergraduates and beginning graduate students shouldn't be allowed to vote. I'm not convinced that enough of these reasons apply to advanced graduate students. But in order to enfranchise advanced graduate students, the APA would need a way to distinguish them from other student members. How would such a mechanism work? Would it be reliable? I'm not saying it wouldn't. I'm just fishing for ideas and thoughts.

Mr. Zero said...

It would probably work if you just ask them if they're ABD. I didn't have to show credentials when I advanced toe "real" membership or anything.

Anonymous said...

I simply don't get why this issue is so divisive on this blog - first it was all working stiff this and working stiff that, and now the rule-book is getting around.

If you want the APA to change the dates, you should try to get them to change them; if you want to vote, you should try to get the vote.

If you don't want APA to change the dates, or whatever, petition them them to keep the ones they've got.

What's the problem?

This is a great place for us to debate *whether* the APA should change the dates, the relative merits, etc. - but why some people here would go around telling others who aren't happy with the way things are that they've got no right to try to change things - rule-book or no rule-book - it boggles the mind.

Anonymous said...

For what its worth, my understanding is that any student members can become full members by paying the higher dues.

You might think (justifiably, maybe) that a policy like that is still unfair since us graduate students make so much less than professors who normally pay the full membership dues. But, if such a policy is unjust, then what about adjuncts who make little if any more than us graduate students?

I don't have a view on the issue, just adding some more considerations.

Anonymous said...

One need only be able to teach at colleges (ie MA) and pay the dues. The $10 is for non-voting status. If you want to have full voting status, just cough up the $100 plus dollars.

zombie said...

Annual income less than $30,000
$ 45.00

Annual income $30,000-$34,999
$ 65.00

Annual income $35,000-$39,999
$ 75.00

Annual income $40,000-$44,999
$ 85.00

Annual income $45,000-$49,999
$ 95.00

Annual income $50,000-$54,999
$ 110.00

Annual income $55,000-$64,999
$ 125.00

Annual income $65,000-$74,999
$ 145.00

Annual income $75,000-$84,999
$ 170.00

Annual income $85,000-$100,999
$ 200.00

Annual income $101,000-$120,999
$ 225.00

Annual income $121,000 + over
$ 250.00

Life Membership $2,500.00

Anonymous said...

I think something important has been overlooked in this very interesting discussion. The original issue seemed to be why graduate students wouldn't get to take place in a survey about the possibility of changing of dates for the eastern APA. The dates of the eastern effect grad students, especially advanced ones who are on the job market. What does this have to do with voting for the VP and Committee members? Maybe its true that grad students shouldn't get to vote for these things if they don't pay more; i don't really know. But surely it seems silly to count grad students out of a survey about an event that is for all members, regardless of standing. Especially when the issue will probably not be up for a vote anyway.

Maybe there is an argument to be made about why full members get more of a say than student associates, and in order to prevent the results from being skewed in favor of student members, this group should go without being surveyed. I'm not sure I would buy this argument, but it seems like there is an easily solution. Give a box on the survey that one can tick to indicate what their member status is. If there is a significant difference between results of student members and full members, whatever organizing committee is in charge of all this can take that information into consideration.

zombie said...

Anon 7:44 -- as noted above, student members of APA WILL be able to take part in the survey, according to the APA's letter pre-announcing the survey.

The debate here switched to something else: why student members don't get to vote to elect committee members, or vote on by-laws.

KateNorlock said...

My mail's on forwarding, so I haven't gotten this yet. I'm just floored by this news!

I think zombie just made me consider being religious. Holy cow.

Anonymous said...

I'm taking a moment to go off-topic and vent. I don't know whose placement directors told them to include selected student comments only in the teaching evals. I was told when I went on the market that it is a phenomenally bad idea. And now, on the other end of things, I know why. In a class of 40 students, if you can't find 6 or 7 good comments, you suck scandalously badly. Anyone can find a couple of good comments. Putting in selected student comments gives us NO information about student comments. You may as well leave it blank. You certainly do not distinguish yourself as any kind of good teacher by including only those handpicked comments.

And even putting in a clause that the full set are available on request doesn't help. If they are available, then send them. Multiple people look over these files, sometimes more than a dozen. You expect us each individually to email you about it? Or for us to individually email a couple dozen job candidates who did that? And then keep track of all the extra information that trickles in over days, once we no longer have your file on our desks because someone else is reading it now?

If the comments are selected, rather than full, you may as well have not included any. Put in full sets of comments.

Anonymous said...

Ummm...they want us to do this by snail mail? Doesn't seem very promising that they can't even come up with an online survey.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to disagree with 3:48. Of course having 6 or 7 students say, "Teacher was super-awesome -- really nice and easy to understand!" is meaningless. But for the same reason, having a full class of students say that isn't very useful to me, either. When student comments are useful, it's because of their (non-generic) content. If multiple students are telling me that the candidate spent extra time with them on their papers, made them do such-and-such unusual exercise, which ended up teaching them a difficult concept, and so forth, that's what tells me something, and I can learn that from 6-7 comments/class. I also don't want a full set of comments from every class you've taught. At least in the first rounds, I don't have time to dig through 40 pages of student comments, hunting for useful information. So I guess I'd like selected comments from several of your classes, as well as perhaps one full set of comments -- with the offer to send more comments, when you reach the shortlist.

Anonymous said...

"Ummm...they want us to do this by snail mail? Doesn't seem very promising that they can't even come up with an online survey."

I was recently told that an online survey would be biased. In favor of people who use computers? They didn't say.

Anonymous said...

I don't know whose placement directors told them to include selected student comments only in the teaching evals. I was told when I went on the market that it is a phenomenally bad idea. And now, on the other end of things, I know why.

I disagree, for the following reasons. Every school conducts its teaching evaluations differently. At my present employer, students are required to write brief comments for every single numerical rating. Across multiple classes, that would mean a complete set of evaluations would run about 150 pages. I don't think any committee wants to see that, and so necessarily any student comments I send along are going to be selected. Raw data isn't helpful without context in any case.

Here's what I do instead. I made a table that compared my average numerical evaluation and distribution with the average school-wide numerical evaluation and distribution on the common questions for the past two semesters. I also included a paragraph on how evaluations are typically understood at this institution. And then I included ten or so comments, picking ones that are longer and/or more descriptive. (Other ways people I know handled this: give all comments for one question for one course, etc.)

I am not inclined to think that anything is predictive of job market success, but I do have a t-t job at a school focused on teaching, for what it's worth.

zombie said...

My school didn't require evaluations. Students only wrote them occasionally -- they either loved me or hated me in the comments. But out of a class of 30, I'd get maybe 5-7 evals with comments. Other than photocopying front and back of every eval form, there's no way for me to make that look like I was not cherrypicking comments if I include those handful of comments. But photocopying front and back means 30-60 pages for every class I've taught (including a lot of blank pages, just to prove they were blank). So, several hundred pages total.

The only thing I ever included was the data sheets, including the ones that compared my evals to the rest of the dept. Even that came to 20 pages. The pdf file was HUGE, and caused me problems every time I had to upload it for an online application, because of file size limits.

I don't believe SCs really want to see all the evals. Nobody has time to look at them. I'm not even sure why anyone asks for them. I guess I can see how, if someone is a relatively green teacher, you might want some evidence of teaching effectiveness (not that evals are especially indicative). But for someone who adjuncts or VAPs for several years, it strikes me that continued employment should count as evidence of some level of teaching quality and experience, and a letter from a teaching reference is even better. Honestly, I think a letter from a teaching reference should be all that's required.

zombie said...

Regarding the future APA survey, the letter I received indicated that it would be an online survey. It also indicated that it won't be up until after a "major upgrade" of the APA website, "hopefully in the second half of 2011."

What has been sent out so far is just "the first public announcement on the subject."

Anonymous said...

3:48. You seem to be oblivious to the fact that other schools do course evals different from yours. As mentioned by others, sending unedited comments for many would involve sending 20+ pages per course.

zombie: try using adobe pro (or some equivalent) to shrink the PDF size for you. Most scanners scan the PDFs at high resolution.

Anonymous said...

As long as we are off topic: I think there is a huge variance in the way that different schools compile evaluations. For instance, where I TA, each student fills out online evaluations for each course. They give the TA numerical scores (1-6) in a variety of categories. The TA's performance is then averaged across 5-6 general categories (things like preparedness, enthusiasm, helpfulness, knowledge of the material). There is also a space for comments, but for whatever reason I've never seen a student leave more than 5 sentences of comments (this is true across TAs and departments). Each evaluation is then automatically converted into a single PDF by the university, available for download by each TA. It is all summarized, ready to send off with applications. When the university does this for you, it actually doesn't take up that much space, looks great, and if you've done your job right it is an asset on the job market. So, I would say sending a full record of one's evaluations can be helpful, but it really depends on the format of evaluation your institution uses (and if the position values teaching).

FemFilosofer said...

I am an offender of the "selected student comments" sort ... and some good reasons have already been mentioned here. But here's another: some of the things our students say are rude, disrespectful and sexist.

This has come out in negative and positive evaluations. More than a few times I've gotten "Prof. X is f*ing awesome" or "Prof. X knows her sh*t" or even "I was distracted by Prof. X's *ss" and "Plato has nothing on those t*ts." And yes, I've also gotten "Prof. X is the f*ing worst." I think I have a right to exclude all of those in my own teaching portfolio. I do, by the way, include critical comments that are informative, while I leave out positive comments that are not.

My candidacy shouldn't suffer (and I do believe it would if I included those) because my students are rude and disrespectful, and even if I only excised the sexist ones (and there are many of them) I'd still be violating the all or none dictum--and the SC would have no idea why.

Anonymous said...

Another example of evaluation variance: my university has all students first read a statement regarding the types of comments that are and are not allowed, and then spends several days editing out any inappropriate comments that may have nevertheless gotten through (I assume they also have punitive measures for the students who make such comments; it is all done online after all, so it is in theory possible for U.admin folks to trace comments to student login IDs). I actually didn't properly appreciate the way my school does evaluations until I heard about other people's terrible experiences here. You'd think universities would all be on a uniform, online policy regarding evals in this day and age. It saves a lot of hassle and also helps anyone who is teaching at their institution.

zombie said...

I had a student once say I looked like a character from Battlestar Galactica. True, perhaps (I dunno -- I'm a TNG Trekker myself), but irrelevant as regards my teaching abilities.

In my experience, there are only 3 kinds of comments: (1) "teacher is awesome"; (2) "teacher sucks"; and (3) weird/quirky/creative and utterly beside the point comment/drawing/poem.

Surely SCs get the same kind of crap in their comments, which, again, makes me wonder why they would ever want to see them.

Anonymous said...

I include the sexist comments, positive and negative. my reasoning? to show that it is a full record, and because, sexist or not, they convey pertinent info. i think it's important to make the sexist bias explicit. if a student speaks of me disparagingly because it just cannot be possible that a young woman would know what she's talking about, and the comment also includes a reference to my ass, well then, it should be included, as the ass mention perfectly qualifies the evaluation. same with a positive comment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with FemFilosofer re: student comments, particularly because I, too, have received *multiple* student comments about my ass, which help no one and which will, if anything, unfairly hurt my job prospects (we know from a variety of psychological studies that when people are prompted to think about a woman's physical attractiveness, they rate her as less competent/qualified than when this feature is not mentioned).

Anonymous said...

FemFilosofer, I don't get why you think your candidacy would suffer if you included the childish comments. The SC would see that you once had some dumb jocks (or whatever) in one of your classes. Yeah, we've all had those. Or do you mean the mere presence of words that the NY Times won't print would hurt your candidacy? That seems very implausible.

Maybe your point is that the SC would get distracted by the comments and start thinking about your t*ts and *ss instead of your work?

Anonymous said...

Many institutions, my own included, already edit out such inappropriate comments (and they have policies to deal with students who make them). It seems like the type of thing that is pretty easy to take care.

zombie said...

Anon 12:14 -- would you include racial slurs if they appeared in your evaluations? What if a student said you were a Nazi? Not just a metaphorical Nazi, but an actual Nazi? Would you include that?

There are risks to including such comments in a professional job dossier. They are a distraction, and they invite the reader to think of the candidate in those terms. They are also unprofessional. Yes, they reflect badly on the students, but they may also inadvertantly reflect badly on the candidate, consciously or unconsciously. Even philosophers are susceptible to the power of suggestion.

12:14 said...


Sure. I mean, I'm pretty sure there is very little danger of anyone on a SC thinking I am actually a Nazi. And I would be quoting (or photocopying) racial slurs, which I believe in no way reflects badly on me.
Obviously, these things are unprofessional! I guess the real question is whether it is unprofessional of me to send them unprofessional comments by students, and I don't see why it would be.

FemFilosofer said...

Sorry to keep the tangent going , but ... In a fair world with a more transparent job market, I think including all comments would be warranted. But I do believe these things would hurt my credibility because, in the past, they have. My teaching success (and high evaluations) has easily been explained away because of both my gender and appearance, as they have also been used to denigrate my research (all at my PhD institution). Students' comments confirming such bias is of no help to me professionally.

And as a few commenters have mentioned, these sorts of thoughts and assumptions often fly underneath the conscious radar, and can be therefore damaging to someone's candidacy without the SC being aware of it. It *ought* to reflect poorly on the student and not on me, yes. I doubt that is what happens in the mentally and psychologically taxing selection process.

12:14 said...

FemPhil, okay, I get it. And it's true I was focused (like a philosopher) on the reasons somebody might have to hold the juvenile comments against you, which might be beside the point.