Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The JPF Paywall Blues

Edit: Oops. I forgot to fill in the title before I hit publish.

Fritz McDonald writes with the following observation, which has been receiving some deserved attention lately:

As far as I can tell, the only relevant service provided by the APA is to organize conferences, and given that these conferences are just general philosophy conferences with no central focus and some curious choices of topical focus, the only raison d'être of the Eastern APA meeting is the job market. Nobody would willingly choose to spend the time between Christmas and New Years working without the job market at the Eastern and the related conference. In light of this, the most important resource on the APA website is Jobs for Philosophers. Given the desperate state of most graduate students in philosophy, who are generally underpaid and tend to have to live in expensive areas, the JFP information should be freely available right on the front of the website. After all, as far as I can tell, the only real reason we need a print listing of job ads such as JFP is so all searches are publicly available, for affirmative action purposes. I have not heard any other justification for JFP. Yet the APA almost goes out of its way to hide the JFP. You cannot even see the link to the JFP if you are not logged in as a member. You have to first click on the option of "Resources" and then select "Member Resources," an option that can only be seen if you are logged in as a member. Needless to say, this has the effect of making the job search process significantly more difficult for people who cannot afford the APA dues and quite a bit more difficult for people who are not tech savvy. To some degree, making the JFP a hidden resource like this itself leads to some kind of discrimination against the poor and/or the tech un-savvy. So why not put the JFP right on the front of the page and make it available to everyone everywhere, just like the listings on the Chronicle of Higher Education website? Better yet, why don't we all agree that if we are hiring, we will also post our ads to phylo.info/jobs?

It seems to me that the APA uses the JFP to force vulnerable members of the profession to become members. Until recently, I was taking advantage of the fact that although the JFP was in the members-only section of the website, you could easily access it if you knew the URL. And I think it is no coincidence that the one part of the new website that works really quite well is the paywall in front of the JFP. (And I will tell you that when at various times in the past I have been a member of the APA it has been solely to gain access to their various bits of job-market infrastructure.)

And the more I think of it, the more perverse I think this is. The JFP is a list of ads that you have to pay for if you want to see. This abrogates the entire point of advertising. The point of e.g. newspaper and magazine advertising is to defray the production costs of the newspaper or magazine--that is, the costs associated with equipment, rent, paying people to write the articles, etc.--so that it is affordable to the consumer. The JFP cannot possibly involve much in the way of such expenses, so it's hard to imagine that the paywall is driven by a financial necessity. The JFP is more like a third-rate craigslist with a print edition, or those books of car- or real estate ads they have next to the door at the supermarket, than a newspaper. Those things charge the advertisers, not the advertisees. And it's not in the interests of the advertisers to have the JFP behind a paywall, for it is in their interests that their advertisements be disseminated as widely as possible.

So what of it? Why doesn't the APA make the JFP freely available to everyone? (By which I mean to encourage the APA to do this. I guess I think I know why they won't.)

And search committees: please, please, please post your ads to the Phylo Jobs site. Pretty please.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

There might be some slight worry that if the ads are publicly accessible in this way, departments will get increased numbers of applications from odd and unqualified candidates. Of course that worry could be outweighed by other considerations.

Anonymous said...

My understanding was that JFP as a perk of membership was a major factor in restricting access. APA needs the membership revenue to fund the national office. Getting the print newsletters was another perk, but those are now on-line and several are unrestricted.

But how hard is it for a faculty member who is a member of APA to print out each issue from the PDF posting and make it available to the grad students in the department? Faculty members who are members of APA can also still get a print JFP and make that available.

You must be an APA member to register for the job interviews, if you are lucky enough to get one, so you'd likely join then anyway. And your membership must be paid up before your paper will be reviewed for any of the divisional meetings. So there are other incentives to join.

Anonymous said...

God forbid that search committees should have to deal with "odd" candidates.

SL:ACker Prof. said...

With respect to Zero's plea for departments to send their ads to the JFP:

I know this would entail a fair amount of work on the part of the fellows that put together the phylo page, but when the JFP comes out, they might consider contacting the powers-that-be at the departments that have advertised in the JFP, but not on Phylo, to ask them (the powers-that-be) to post their ad on Phylo.

I suspect a number of departments don't know about Phylo.

Again -- a lot of work (for people that have already done a lot of work for the profession). But it's one way to ensure that everyone advertising at least knows about Phylo.

Prof. Kate said...

Amen to SL:ACker Prof.

I emailed the SWIP and FEAST listservs to tell them about Phylo, just to make sure that a few more (less webby but) senior philosophers know about it. If any of you are on professional listservs, do email them and apprise them of phylo.

Has anyone run an ad about this on Philosophy Updates, the google-group-thingy? I'll send something in, the worst they can do is say it's repeated information b/c already done.

Meanwhile, phylo's up to 79 posts! 79!!

Chris Alen Sula said...

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions and help spreading the word on Phylo Jobs.

I have been in touch with most advertisers in other fora to invite them to post ads on Phylo. The yield on this has been pretty good, although most of our now-80 ads were unsolicited (by us).

I've been holding off on an announcement until we got all the features of Jobs up, including the wiki. All that happened yesterday (see http://phylo.info/blog/google-map-social-media-and-new-features-at-phylo-jobs for a recap), so an email to the listservs is overdue; I'll write one up tonight!

Anonymous said...

Someone in an earlier post noted that the pay-wall might violate labor laws and indeed this is how the AHA has interpreted it and so they took down their pay-wall so that there is still a centralized location to find jobs. I am slightly surprised the APA has not done the same. Given the economic climate, I would think someone in the department of labor would enforce the regulations about making job postings freely accessible to potential job seekers, even at a specialized field as philosophy professors

Anonymous said...

"The point of e.g. newspaper and magazine advertising is to defray the production costs of the newspaper or magazine--that is, the costs associated with equipment, rent, paying people to write the articles, etc.--so that it is affordable to the consumer."

The cost of posting the advertisement should be borne by departments looking to advertise, not applicants looking for jobs.

CTS said...

As far as I can tell, the only relevant service provided by the APA is to organize conferences, and given that these conferences are just general philosophy conferences with no central focus and some curious choices of topical focus, the only raison d'être of the Eastern APA meeting is the job market. Nobody would willingly choose to spend the time between Christmas and New Years working without the job market at the Eastern and the related conference

I think this is an overstatement. Many of us would/do attend the Eastern (and other APA meetings) for the sessions and for meeting up with colleagues we would not otherwise see in person for many years.

I realize that young philosophers might not see any value to the meetings other than the job market and that they might not be able to see a future in which APA meetings are much more than tortuous job-seeking events. I think it is important for younger folks to understand why many of us who think the current job ‘services’ of the APA are … dreadful … still believe that it is a good thing to have a national association.

An association that, indeed, provides fora for a diversity of philosophic fields and interests at single conferences. I do not want to attend only those conferences devoted to my areas of specialization. Nor do I want to be restricted, for multi-field conferences, to those my local institutions might host. I can avail myself of these, and I enjoy them. But the APA does provide both national and cross-field conferences that no other group truly provides on a regular basis.

Further, despite its many shortcomings, the APA does give American academic philosophy and philosophers a collective face. In light of the many political and intellectual forces aligned against us, I believe it is good for us to have a national association.

Does the current APA need reform? YES. Will we fare better by giving up a national association? I do not think so.

Anonymous said...

CPA job ads are freely available

Anonymous said...

Would there be legal issues if someone were simply to cut and paste the entire JFP on a different website? (What if they cited the JFP in the post?)

Anonymous said...

I don't think that having job ads publicly accessible is going to increase the number of odd/unqualified applicants primarily because applying for jobs is expensive. Printing and/or Interfolio costs already limit the number of people who can apply for jobs even if job ads were handed out on the street like fliers for nightclubs and car washes. The department address is already publicly available on the website of every department in the country so getting mail from nutjobs is something that may happen whether a department is hiring or not. I can't see any harm to making job ads widely available.

Anonymous said...

God forbid that search committees should have to deal with "odd" candidates.

This comment is idiotic. We had a search for a philosophy of law position, and our Equal Opportunity and Access office placed the ad on one of the non-standard websites -- Blacks in Higher Ed I believe. Well a black man applied who had a law degree. It took SEVEN meetings with the EOAA office to explain why we didn't interview this candidate. He didn't have a Ph.D. in philosophy which is a necessary condition for tenure in our department.

Trust, me there are a lot of forces at work when hiring than just the people reading your CV.

Odd candidates can be a pain for the secretary, but on occasion they can be very bad for the committee.

Bearistotle said...

I don't intend to defend the status quo, because I agree that it is problematic in any number of ways.

That said, I think the APA does a great deal more than people tend to mention in these discussions. For just one example, the APA distributes $25,000 per year in grant funds. (link: http://www.apaonline.org/APAOnline/Resources/Grant_Fund/APAOnline/Resources/Grant_Fund.aspx?hkey=75d84c06-2af4-4630-9066-ccbfb699c97a)

Now this doesn't have a direct impact on members of the profession as broadly as the divisional conferences and the JFP do, but it is something the APA does besides print a listing of job ads and organize three conferences.

As to the claim that the APA is "perverse" in restricting access to the job listings to its dues paying members: I'm not sure what the purported perversion is supposed to be. It may be true that, in general, departments advertising positions want the ad to be seen as widely as possible, and it is definitely true that job-seekers want easy access to as many ads as possible, but it is not at all clear why either of those facts would cause problems when a professional organization sells advertising space to departments which is intended to be accessible only to its dues paying members.

Is it better for hiring departments if there is a centralized resource that does not charge them to advertise their job search? Yes. Is it better for them if that resource is freely accessible to the entire pool of potential candidates? Also yes.

Is it better for job-seekers if there is a centralized resource of job listings that anyone can access? That depends. For those who are members of the APA anyway (for instance, because they wish to present papers at divisional conferences), then it might not make any appreciable difference.* But for some job-seekers at least: yes, this makes a big difference.

So, the existence of a site like Phylo benefits hiring departments and at least some job-seekers. And odds are that those benefits will allow it (or some similar site) to displace the JFP.

I guess my point is that the objection to the status quo shouldn't be some objection to restricting JFP access to members as some sort of in principle perversion of the aims of advertising. There are for-pay web sites that compete with craigslist's housing listings, and some of them do quite well. In order to do so, though, they have to provide additional value beyond what you can get from craigslist (such as quality-control on the listings, ease of searching the listings by various features, etc.).

Anyway, my point is that the objection shouldn't be that the JFP is a perverted model of advertising; its not. The problem is that the JFP isn't administrated well and, now that there are free alternatives, doesn't seem likely to offer any genuine advantages over those free alternatives.

*I am setting aside the fact that the organization, formatting, and administration of JFP and an alternative freely-accessible resource might differ substantially, as seems to be the case with the Phylo jobs listings vs. the JFP).

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Bearistotle,

I see and accept your point about for-pay advertising and the JFP. Thanks.

And I see your point about what, besides having a shitty website, an inconveniently timed job fair, and a poorly organized jobs newsletter, the APA does. However, I think this raises another serious problem with the way the APA is run. And that is, the APA does a terrible job of publicizing its own good works. A person could very easily have no idea that any such thing ever happens. We ran a thread on this topic a couple of years ago, What Does the APA Do?, and the discussion generated bupkis.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

I am with you 100% that the APA is really bad about publicizing the things that it does (as well as with the complaints about the aspects of what they do that have the highest profile, such as the website, the JFP, etc.).

One thing that is fortunate is that the APA doesn't have an enforceable monopoly on the professional representation of academic philosophers. While there is, de facto, no other organization competing to occupy the role the APA currently occupies, there is nothing to prevent academic philosophers from forming another organization that performs these functions better. Normally I'd be an advocate of reform, rather than competition, but it is nearly impossible to figure out how one could even begin to go about making changes to the current organization, or even who to contact in the organization to find that information out.

Anonymous said...

We should just get rid of the APA at this point. Is the only reason why we're members because we're philosophers and we feel like we NEED to belong to some kind of national organization?

What have you done for me lately APA?