Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dispatch from the APA

An anonymous Smoker writes with the following stories:

Here were my first two hours at the APA:

1) As I approach the registration desk, the first thing I see is a prominent philosopher whose book is the subject of an author meets critics session telling the person at the desk that the program has the title of her book wrong.  She tells the person at the desk that the mistake is "embarassing".

2) In front of me is a philosopher who pre-registered on November 11th.  His credit card was set to expire on 12/1.  The APA waited until December to run his credit card and thus was not able to proces his payment.  The woman at registration tells him "Just because you submitted your registration on November 11 does not mean that we ran your credit card on November 11."  Okay, fair enough, but it really took you (at least) three weeks?  What is more, this philosopher, realizing that there might be a problem actuallly e-mailed the APA to let them know that his credit card was set to expire in December.  Apparently, they sent him back an e-mail saying that everything was fine, even though it was not.

3) Having registered for the conference, I headed down to placement services to register there.  There were three men sitting in front of computers registering people.  Two of them were only serving candidates who had pre-registered and one was there for candidates who were registering on site.  Virtually no one in line had pre-registered.  Now I understand setting aside a couple computers for those who pre-registered but if there was no one there who had pre-registered, you would think they would help those of us who were registering on site until someone who pre-registered showed up.   But no.  These two men sat there engaging in idle chit chat while the line for on-site registration stretched around the corner.  Only one of three terminals was being used.  The visual was so comical that I thought about taking a picture and sending it to fail blog.

4) After I registered with placement services, I headed to a session, which was scheduled for 6:30.  Someone (presumably from the APA) put a sign on the door saying that the session would start at 7:15.  This resulted in one of the speakers showing up 45 minutes late.

By themselves, any one of these errors are the kinds of things you expect at any large event.  But how could I witness all of these things in my first two horus at the conference and not conclude that the APA is incompetent?


--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If you are successful at the APA, I fear that you'll land a job, be happy, and then I won't have these hilarious/appalling dispatches from the trenches to read anymore. I wish that this blog had existed when I was on the market a few years ago--it would have been both informative and therapeutic.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, it very well may not have been the APA that was to blame for the last problem (even though it probably was...).

I attended an APA-sized event about two months ago (it was a conference in a different field), and most of the problems were actually caused by the inadequate hotel staff. That said, the other field's officials are far better than the APA's.

zombie said...

There is always a long line for on-site registration. Year after year. The APA is punishing you for your slackerly, miserly ways, and for actually thinking it is prudent to not register in advance for an event you might not attend. Wrong! It is not prudent! The APA thinks your uncharitable attitude towards making arm-twisted donations to their conference warrants making you wait in line until you learn your lesson!

Do you feel like a better person now?

Or just better than APA?

Anonymous said...

Actually, there were three men there sitting in front of three computers, each devoted to a separate task. One task (and one man) was registering people who had not pre-registered. Another was setting up people who had pre-registered. The middle computer (and middle worker) was for telling people where their interviews were. There may well be an argument here about how they were dividing their resources, but it was not the case that they had devoted two of three computers to setting up pre-registered candidates.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I waited in a huge line there a couple years ago to find out where my interviews were. There was one room where SC members were relaying information like suite numbers to one APA rep. At the end of my long line, someone was supposedly telling us those suite numbers or ballroom table numbers. Except that there was no means of communication between them - none of the info in room A made it to room B.

I got to the front of the line about 7PM, and of a good number of interviews (some x>8), the first one at 9AM the next morning, they could give me exactly ZERO suite numbers or ballroom table numbers. And the person working the computer was miffed at me for thinking this was incompetent on their part.

These were not hotel staffers. They were University of Delaware people. It was astonishing. During the entire conference, I got literally no helpful information of any sort from placement services. Why we continue to let them be in charge of our hiring practices is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Where and when is the infamous Smoker taking place? I don't see any signs and it's not in the rooms for sessions either.

Anonymous said...

I just heard from someone of influence (someone regularly derided in these parts, as it happens) that they are looking to hire someone for the executive director position who knows something about IT and that they are looking to hire a full-time IT person to do the web page right. They know there are problems, and at least some are insisting that they be dealt with. They see the fact that interviewers are seeking other venues as a sign that they need to change how they do things. We'll see if anything results, but I take that as a good sign.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't blame national office staff for (1). As a former program committee member, we were sent draft programs for sessions we had organized (e.g., author/critic sessions) and asked to proofread and send to the division program chair. I usually forwarded the draft to the participants on the program to proof along with me, although not all program committee members did that. It's most likely the glitch happened somewhere along that chain of review.

The divisions each print a corrections sheet distributed at the meetings. If you see a problem in the original Proceedings/on-line program, rush the correction to the program committee chair so it will be included in that.

(4) might be the fault of the hotel. Many that APA uses post signs outside session rooms, using their room reservation schedule. But it's really unfortunate that nobody noticed the inconsistency (including that speaker) and double-checked to see which time was correct.

machine for brains said...

The APA doesn't merely suck; and the complaints we often hear aren't just the complaints of entitled academics or disgruntled job seekers.

I was recently describing the general character and conduct of philosophy's primary professional organization to some of my university colleagues (all in different departments, all (or most) of them tenured). To make my point, I just showed them the APA website. As everyone belted out their astonished, horrified laughter, I laughed along. But deep down, I was mostly embarrassed and angry. Fucking APA.

Elizabeth said...

machine for brains's comment made me want to look at the APA website with fresh eyes, to imagine seeing it for the first time. Imagine my surprise: as I write this, the website is down.

Anonymous said...

I was chairing a session when I was junior faculty. It was the only thing I was doing at the APA. Chair, as a service, then drive back home. One reason why I wasn't going to talks was because I wasn't registered, and I wasn't registered because I had $19 to my name and couldn't afford it. I walked in to chair the session and was stopped and told I had to register. I explained I had $19 in my checking account and that I couldn't pay. APA person said I had to pay to enter. Considered blowing off my chairing but that didn't feel right. So I wrote the check, it overdrew me, and I'll never ever join that effing organization again.

Anonymous said...

still down. this is our national representative organization folks. THIS is what we are.

Anonymous said...

Still down! Over/under on when it gets back up?

Peter Ludlow said...

Don't get me started.

As you all know, the program doesn't have room assignments, so the procedure is to find the event you are interested in on the program, then look on the green sheet that has the room assignments, and then go back to the program to find the location of the room on the hard to read maps in the back of the program. But what if you lose the green sheet. Well you could flag someone down, or this could happen..

I lose my green sheet and am looking for a group event that begins at 7:30. I walk to the APA desk at 7:30. The desk is closed, but there are three APA employees standing in front of the desk telling people that the desk is close. I notice I huge stack of green sheets on a table at the desk. "I just want one of those", I say. An APA employee steps in front of me. "I'm sorry sir, the desk is closed until 8:00." So *I* say, "the session I'm going to starts at 7:30, I don't need help, I just need one of those green sheets." Then *he* says, "Sir, you were given one of those when you registered." And then I am like "dude I am soooo sorry I lost my green sheet please don't kick me out of the APA. Now all three APA employees are standing between me and the table. I decide to go borrow a green sheet from someone who isn't power tripping.

So I go up to two philosophers and yes they have a green sheet and I tell them about what happened, and the were like "those people were so rude, some older philosopher needed to find where his talk was so he reached over and grabbed a green sheet from the APA table and they called hotel security on him."

What happens next year. Will the APA staffers bring pepper spray to keep us in line?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure nearly everyone has a story like this:

Show up to register, wait in the line for a half hour only to find out that I haven't "paid my dues". I said that I had tried to pay my dues online (but couldn't). I had filled out the form and mailed it with my credit card information (they never processed it). I emailed them to confirm that they had processed it (they never replied).

Can I just pay now? No, I must wait in another line for a half hour (the longest line in the place, with only one computer). When I arrive at the line, I fill out the *same form* I had mailed earlier. And this line doesn't even have a credit card machine to actually take payment. She just gives me a slip to say she's received my form (which they now have two copies of!).

Now I'm told I have to wait back in the registration line for a half an hour to pay my registration fee. Can't I just pay it here? No, because they don't have credit card machines in this line!

I wait another half hour and pay my registration. I'm then told I can't have a program since they already mailed me one. (They hadn't, since apparently I hadn't paid my dues).

I felt so much better when they said, "We're sorry for any inconvenience."

Anonymous said...

Peter Ludlow's story is outrageous (the calling of hotel security). It is time to quit the APA (I did so years ago) and wash their hands of the whole thing. No one should remain complicit with an organization that has crossed the line from incompetent to unethical.

Ed Engelmann said...

Take the time to pre-register, and remember not lose a list on a piece of green paper? How could you demand that of me, a great philosopher?? Which room is the smoker, anyway?

Anonymous said...

My story repeats the themes of several others. When I arrived Wed. morning, I decided to do the virtuous thing and register as a non-member (I had let my membership lapse several years ago because I would like to get something of value in exchange for my dues). There was virtually no line, which cheered me considerably, and when it was my turn at the desk, the little functionary told me that I needed to fill out the registration form. Could you give me one?, I said. No, she replied, gesturing, they are over there, as the signs indicate. Well, the signs were located where you could see them if but only if you were standing in a long line, and they were nowhere near the table with the forms. Nonetheless, I went over to the table, retrieved some forms, and brought them back to the functionary. I filled out one form and gave the others to her, so she could have some to hand out to people in my circumstance. Oh no, she said, the forms belong on the table over there. But it would save time and be more efficient if you have forms to give to people when they arrive sans form at your desk. An older functionary rushed over, horrified that I was disrupting her procedure and took the offensively relocated forms back to the designated table.

After I filled out my registration form and started writing my check for non-member registration, the functionary told me that the charge was $90---the membership registration rate. But I am not a member, I said. Oh yes you are, she replied, and you have been for three years. Actually, I said, I have not been a member for three years, but she was so insistent I registered at the reduced rate, figuring the savings would pay for my parking and lunch (well, it paid for parking anyway).

I then asked the functionary for a copy of the proceedings. No, she said, members were mailed a copy. The pile of proceedings we have behind the desk are for non-members only. But I didn't get a copy in the mail (naturally enough, since my membership was only newly reinvented that morning), so since I was copyless, I asked again for one. No dice. I asked another functionary behind the desk, and was also rebuffed. She helpfully told me that I could view the schedule online.

At one point, I had asked the first functionary whether she was embarrassed by the APA inefficiencies and user unfriendliness, and she cheerfully replied that they were very efficient because they had been using this system for years.

I now count myself lucky not to have had security called on me.

Anonymous said...

I've had a smooth and easy experience with every part of the process - I faxed in registration (but I had a session here and so I knew I needed to come) and membership, got an emailed acknowledgment when they processed my payment, and when I arrived (Tuesday night) at the conference there was a very short line and a competent person who found my name tag and gave me the little green sheets. This morning when I realized that I'd forgotten to get the room number for my 9am interview and arrived in the placement services room at 8:45 they registered me quickly and gave me the room number easily. So there's also some competency going on amidst the mess.

Anonymous said...

Peter Ludlow's story is astounding and completely in character with APA fuck-upedness. Unbelievable what we put up with.

BunnyHugger said...

Dispatch [...] the APA

I fixed the title for you.

Anonymous said...

The story about colleagues in another field laughing at the APA website reminds me of a time I was talking with a colleague in poli-sci. We were discussing the flagship journals in our fields. I mentioned phil-review and j-phil among others, and hauled out a copy of j-phil: 30 sheets of paper with two staples. I could have made that with the laser printer I had at the time and a stapler! His eyes widened and we both have a good laugh. I dont' really care about production quality as long as I can read the stuff comfortably, but it was pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic question about Skype interview etiquette:

Are most candidates using headsets, or should a candidate procure a microphone?

Also, are there any potential technical problems of which one should be especially mindful?

(FWIW, a separate thread for Skype interviews might be helpful).

Anonymous said...

Well, it's true enough that the APA is a dysfunctional, outmoded organization. It definitely needs to be reformed. But actually there are lots of people devoted to doing just that. News hasn't spread widely yet, but the national board has, as I understand it, convened several tasks forces. appointed chairs to at least a few, and is busily recruiting members for them. They are empowered to rethink the entire structure and operation of the APA -- from member services, to funding, and everything else between. Also remember that we are getting a new executive director soon. He/she will be the beneficiary of all this rethinking and reformulating. And will be empowered to implement the changes the task forces recommend (to the extent they are approved by the membership, I would assume.)

So take heart, things will change and in reasonably short order.

On that score, it would be helpful if people adopted less complaining and dismissive attitude in forums like this and starting thinking hard about how the APA might improve and reform itself.

Tweedydon said...

I'm a member of the APA, and I have to say that my experience is utterly at odds with the stories posted here.

The organization is run professionally, albeit staffed entirely by people who work for it voluntarily just because they love the subject, the meetings run like clockwork, and everyone is helpful and friendly. The website's well designed and easy to navigate, too, and orders (yup, including online orders!) are processed in a day or so and items dispatched immediately. If you don't believe me, you can see for yourself:

(PS: I've just returned from the *other* APA--of which I'm no longer a member--and the differences between the two really are striking. One gives me very good value for $25pa fees... One gave me pretty much nothing for four times that.)

Anonymous said...

I am going to attempt to hijack this thread, with the hope of sparking some illuminating discussion.

So I applied for a job at a moderately sized state school with no graduate program in philosophy. I have personal connections with some of the people there, so when I saw it show up on the job wiki I emailed them to double check whether I actually didn't get an interview. I of course had my hopes dashed (this was, for me, the most attractive job in the last three years, and was probably my ideal job in terms of location, teaching load, etc.) and was told that the problem was that I replicated what the chair of the department did to too great an extent.

Now I get why that can be a problem. For small departments replication of teaching competencies is an issue, because you have to cover all the major areas of philosophy and with overlap that gets harder. But what I do not get is why some overlap in research interests is a problem.

Let us say that two people both do research in epistemology, but one does Bayesian epistemology and one works on virtue epistemology. The Bayesian epistemologist can of course teach epistemology, but also logic and let us suppose the philosophy of science (that seems like a reasonably plausible cluster of teaching interests given the research background). The virtue epistemologist can teach epistemology, but also philosophy of mind, ethics and history of ancient (again, that seems plausible to me).

This case parallels my own, but the areas of research and teaching involved are different. Why should the moderately sized undergrad only state school care about the overlap in research interests given that the two of them manage to teach a wide range of courses with overlap in only one course? Why does research overlap matter when your duties to students consist of undergraduate education?

I get that if you had a graduate program you want a diverse range of research interests, because the people mentoring and advising grad students better be experts in the areas they are working in. In my little made up story it is not plausible that the virtue epistemologist could supervise dissertations on Aristotle's account of practical wisdom and dissertations on the problem of consciousness (I know that is no longer an en vogue phil of mind issue). So the coverage the two of them provide is not adequate for graduate level instruction.

But my dream job was undergraduate only. Why care that while I can teach an undergraduate seminar in X I am not enough of an expert in X to supervise a dissertation? I still provide the coverage you need. So why should smaller undergrad only departments care about overlap in research?

Anonymous said...

you all really need to get lives . . . seriously.

machine for brains said...

I am definitely a member of the "let's all get along" and "let's be nice" parties, to a fault. So what I am going to say is actually a bit uncomfortable. But here goes...

Concerning the discussion about the APA, there are two moves in one or more of the comments above that worry me. Those making the first move counter complaints by noting that they've never had bad experiences. I'm not sure what conclusion we're supposed to draw from this. I took it as given that it's not the case that everyone, all the time, has bad experiences. My own experience with the APA has been relatively painless. But I can't ignore how poorly and unprofessionally it is run. Of course many, perhaps most, of us don't end up on the receiving end of its flaws. But too many do for the rest of us to ignore those failings.

The second move is made by 4:00 above: "it would be helpful if people adopted less complaining and dismissive attitude in forums like this..." I disagree. In fact I suspect that it is exactly the vehemence and volume of complaining and dismissive attitudes that will have any chance of effecting real change. The situation is so lousy, so embarrassing, and too many of us know it. Hopefully, this makes it too difficult for any of us to rest comfortably with the status quo.

machine for brains said...

8:57 asks: "Why does research overlap matter when your duties to students consist of undergraduate education?"

People strongly tend to want to teach undergraduate courses closely related to their areas of research and scholarship. Suppose your area of scholarship is epistemology. Your target department already has an epistemologist, but the department needs someone to teach courses in applied and normative ethics. You might think you'd be perfectly happy doing that indefinitely. (I mean after all, it's a job! Who wouldn't rather have a job teaching outside their area of scholarship than no job at all?)

But those of us who have spend long years in small departments know this is an unstable and untenable situation. Turf wars over courses are miserable. And despite what anyone would have you believe, members of small department want, most of all, to work in happy departments. Unhappy departments suck. They suck horribly. Like 'slit your wrists' horrible.

I think there's more to be said. (For example, I think that effective undergraduate teaching draws from sound scholarship. And so one might make the case that it's not fair to the undergraduates to have an epistemologist teaching their ethics courses.) But I think the reasons I articulated in the paragraph above are likely what's at the heart of the sorts of decisions you are questioning.

Anonymous said...

I'm a member of the APA, and I have to say that my experience is utterly at odds with the stories posted here...The website's well designed and easy to navigate...

The website?!

Anonymous said...


That seems like a good reason. How would you respond to someone who, as I did, indicated that they intended to, in the not so long term, shift their research to exactly the AOS area requested? To stick to my example, someone who worked on virtue epistemology as a grad student but who indicates that she just wants to work on virtue ethics after she finishes up publishing the best parts of her dissertation.

Anonymous said...

"I still provide the coverage you need."

Yes, sure, but this is what you don't understand about the market. Many, many applicants will provide that coverage. So the question is, who provides that coverage *and* gives the department more range, more flexibility, more possibilities? If your area of research overlaps with someone else, you don't give the department as much flexibility as someone else might. Or, perhaps, someone else does it much better than you do.

It seems like so many graduate students misunderstand how SCs work. It seems like many grad students think, "wow, how could the SC have eliminated *me*, considering how closely I come to almost being exactly what they want." A good thing to keep in mind is that if you can provide everything they ask for in the ad, complement the curent faculty in interesting ways, and can demonstrate potential for both teaching and researching strengths, then you *might* make the short list for an interview.

Anonymous said...

It's because of the turf war issue that I've been marketing myself as a teaching generalist. I actually use that expression in many of my cover letters. I've been assuming this is a good idea for small departments and at non-graduate institutions. It helps that I've taught a variety of courses as a graduate student and as an adjunct (and I've brought a variety of issues into the courses that allow for it even when others don't). My worry, however, is that it will backfire, and people will think I expect to have a huge variety in what I teach when they can only offer several introduction to philosophy courses, an ethics course every year, and maybe a history of philosophy class in a rotating sequence and that they'll think I'd never stay somewhere like that.

I'm not sure how to convey both that I'd be happy teaching introductory courses most of the time and that it's true of a wide variety of advanced courses that I'd be happy to teach them and little else as my specialty. I'd teach epistemology every year or metaphysics every year or philosophy of religion every year or early modern every year or ancient every year or contemporary ethical theory every year without any option of ever teaching any of the others in the list. I suppose if I did manage to convey that, no one would believe me, but it's actually true.

Anonymous said...

"How would you respond to someone who, as I did, indicated that they intended to, in the not so long term, shift their research to exactly the AOS area requested?"

How does this make you more qualified than someone already working in that area?

Tweedydon said...

Anon. 10.31--you might like to follow the link I posted to the APA website I was referring to!

Anonymous said...

I had a smooth and easy time registering on-site. However, my nametag said "[First name] [Last Name] / University of [Last Name]" -- LOL!

It was sweet to represent the University of [Last Name] at the APA!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:12 and 3:04 are missing the point of my question. I am not asking why I didn't get the job, or an interview. None of you know the answer to that question. I already asked the person who does know the answer, and the answer I got puzzled me. I was asking if anyone had any good reasons to think that undergraduate only institutions would care about research overlap that didn't correspond to a teaching overlap.

I nowhere stated that because I fit the AOS and AOC requirements that I should have gotten an interview. I nowhere stated that I thought I was better than the other applicants. Responses that say that fit is not sufficient or that I have not shown I am better than other applicants are beside the point. I was asking a question about a general issue. I framed it in terms of the event that prompted my interest in the general issue, but that doesn't mean that I am asking why I didn't get the interview.

It is pretty common on the comments section of this blog for people, especially people with jobs, to simply assume that every question asked by a job seeker is some kind of disguised, petulant whining. It isn't. If the most you can contribute is 'Maybe you just aren't good enough' or 'How does that show you are good for the job?' just save yourself the time it takes to do the word verification. Machines for brains gave an answer that fit the question I asked, and thanks be to him for that.

Anonymous said...

To machine for brains' answer, I'd add that small departments do like generalists, but the flipside of that is that a small department really doesn't have any room for redundancy.

Here'd be my reasoning. You'd likely do a great job at teaching the ethics core courses. But we probably aren't *not* teaching ethics now; so we already have someone who is doing that, probably as a non-AOS stretch. (That's why we begged the dean on bended knee, proving we had the enrollment unto the seventh generation, to let us hire an ethicist.) If we interview you, we get a rockin' virtue epistemologist who will cover our ethics classes and maybe will be able to offer... some upper division things we already have covered in spades since we have an epistemologist. If we hire an ethicist who is also a generalist, we get those classes covered plus... whatever else they might have to offer. Maybe we'll get that cool phil mind course we haven't been able to offer recently, or phil science or feminism or language whatever else is on our Christmas list!

While I don't think you're whining, you also don't know the comparison class. It's reasonably likely that the ethics AOS people they decided to interview had AOCs that the department had on their Christmas list. In this market, they probably had their choice.

If I have only three or four tenure lines, and one new hire gives me the opportunity to add three new courses to attract majors, that's extremely sexy. (So I think your strategy is good; it just didn't play right at this school.)

Anonymous said...


There's another possibility, especially if you noted that you would be willing to move into the AOS they are looking for. First, it comes across as desperate, as if you are willing to do anything to get a job, even change your career path. (I am curious: did you note you desire to move into that AOS in your cover letter, or did you only mention it after you were told there was too much overlap? Was that future move clear in your discussion of your research?) SCs are not generally impressed with applicants who are too willing to change for the job. People hired with this expectation are often very unhappy; it's not just the turf wars that mfb points out, but also the pressure one feels knowing that their own professional development is (or feels) out of their control.

Similarly, when such a person becomes unhappy - turf wars, changed sense of professional identity, etc. - that person may look to leave; if that person leaves, then the department has to go through the process again to hire someone. Schools that focus on teaching - more so than schools that focus on research - want to hire someone that has a chance of being there long-term. Hiring someone who doesn't specifically work in that AOS increases the chances that she will leave sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...


Oh, sorry; my bad. I guess I was so taken aback at the idea that anyone would find the APA website "well-designed and easy to navigate." Touche!

machine for brains said...

8:57/11:42 writes "How would you respond to someone who, as I did, indicated that they intended to, in the not so long term, shift their research to exactly the AOS area requested?"

Unless there were independent, reliable reasons for thinking that this is the case, it would be hard to trust that the candidate, however sincerely intentioned, would actually be able to make this sort of switch. In my own (admittedly limited) experience, candidates who end up in positions where they are obliged to teach outside their areas of primary interest and expertise become unhappy with the situation.

It is important, even at "small departments and at non-graduate institutions" (as 3:14 puts it), that teaching and research interests come into approximate correspondence. This is why, by the way, 3:14's idea of being a "teaching generalist" does not strike me as a particularly promising strategy. Undergraduate-only departments still expect faculty members to get tenure and even here getting tenure requires a focused research program. Most us perform the scholarship we do because we find it interesting and enjoy it (and will continue to find it interesting and enjoy it over the long haul). Accordingly, if teachers' contentment about their teaching responsibilities tracks their teaching what they find interesting, then we should expect even small undergraduate departments to (1) want to hire people with focused scholarly and teaching profiles, and (2) want to hire people whose scholarly interests correspond to the department's teaching needs. I think most SCs are working with this model in mind.

zombie said...

Being a self-avowed "teaching generalist" might be attractive at the community college level. (Although in the interest of full disclosure, I never got anywhere when applying to CCs.)

Most any department will need their faculty to teach intro and GE courses, and to fill in for other faculty on sabbatical, etc. Especially small depts might need this in particular, but I mean depts of, like, two. But even at the very small college I attended as an undergrad, with two philosophy profs, they each had a definite research program and interest, and taught courses related to it.

I think the worry about the generalist for a SLAC or uni might be that the jack/jill of all trades is master of none.

Anonymous said...

As a former member of many search committees, I'm surprised that the SC gave any reason at all to a rejected applicant. We were always under strict orders by administration not to say anything other than a general statement that we had received XXX highly qualified applications and had to make a difficult choice. The administrators always worried that anything we might say, no matter how well-intentioned, might be the basis for a law suit against us by the rejected candidate.

Even if other SCs are not under such strict orders, they might be reluctant to give a complete assessment of the reasons for rejection, perhaps because they realize that could cause real problems for them later. I'd take anything people are told with a grain of salt, in view of these constraints.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, if you are really interested in philosophy, you can make any topic interesting by looking at it from a philosophical perspective. Research interests be damned. I just interviewed for a job in one of my AOCs where I would be expected to regularly teach in an area in which I do not do research, but I would be sure to be well versed in the literature and I could easily engage in the topic philosophically. If you can't do that, you have a problem.


Anonymous said...

Given the references to "turf wars," how should one interpret the following line from a job ad:

"AOC: Open, but the department has teaching and research interests in X, Y, and Z."

Does this mean that, all things being equal, the department would prefer 1) a candidate who has one or more AOCs in those areas or 2) a candidate with AOCs in other areas?

Put differently, is this hiring department looking to create clusters of strength in X,Y, and/or Z? Or is it looking to avoid duplication?

Anonymous said...

I fail to see the difference between (1) claiming that you'd be willing to develop your teaching in the advertised AOS/C with no past teaching experience in this area (in other words, you are pure potential) and (2) claiming that you'd be willing to develop your research agenda in the advertised AOS with no past publication record (once again, pure potential). In both cases, the SC has to make a leap of faith. In both cases, if the SC does make the leap, I'd suspect that there were extraneous reasons (e.g. candidate's advisor is friends with the SC chair or candidate has fabulous pedigree which would make parents and board of trustees happy).

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the criticisms raised regarding the main office's handling of the Eastern meeting, there's a dimension of the problem which falls on the shoulders of the APA (voting) members.

Those who are most disadvantaged by the cost and timing of the Eastern APA are the job market candidates. Before 2008, this may not have been as big of an issue. In earlier days, it may have been that a strong candidate could go on the market once or twice and get a job. By and large, it appears those days are gone. Now, candidates lucky enough to get interviews can nevertheless expect to be on the market for many years. This puts a real strain on candidates who have to choose between 1) spending time with their families during the holidays and 2) preparing for interviews and attending the Eastern APA. As much as I hate the financial cost of attending the Eastern, what I hate most about it is not being able to see my family during the holidays year after year after year.

Anonymous said...

Ever had a first-round interview where the SC tells you they'll be in touch "very soon," only to contact you more than a month or so later after they've completed fly-outs and made an offer to someone else? I fucking hate that shit. One and a half months is not "very soon," assholes. After my interview, you obviously didn't know yet whether you'd be inviting me for a fly-out or not. And if you had no intention of contacting me *unless* you decided to invite me for a fly-out, you had no business telling me you'd be in touch "very soon." That's just straight-up dishonest.

CTS said...

To join in the thread high-jacking discussion, I would note my agreement with several who have responded to the questioner and suggest a summing-up:

1) You do not know who else has applied and what they each offer.
2) Turf-wars and competition in smallish departments is a serious problem.
3) Real concerns about ‘coverage’ in the curriculum and what is best for students are important factors in hiring.
4) While some might argue that they can teach anything at the undergrad level, given some prep time, there is little reason for SCs to select someone who claims they can do that over someone who actually has expertise in an area.
5) Many of us do believe that research interests and teaching interests should coincide to as great an extent as possible. It is best for students and for faculty (note that it allows junior faculty to teach in areas for which they are also trying to carve out research time).

Additionally, I would point out that SCs are not simply doing single hires with no thought about the futures of their programs. Candidates see what the program is looking for now, and might be able to gain a sense of what the program currently seems to do well, but program faculty are always thinking ahead to what they would like to do, to retirements, to possible moves, etc. SO, what might look like a perfect fit, for now, to a candidate may not fit with longer-term plans.

Anonymous said...

I assume there will be a post game thread, but in the spirit of thread hijacking and impatience, I was curious about trends those on the market for several years noticed. It seemed to me that slightly fewer schools did APA interviews, and even even fewer participated in the smoker. (Both nights it seemed like there were very few candidates at tables)

But it was hard for me to get a handle on overall numbers, especially because I didn't have any comparison class.


machine for brains said...

CTS's summary is spot on, in every respect. And her addition -- the final paragraph -- is also exactly correct. Just my two cents.

It may be worth sharing that the first time I sat on a SC, I was truly boggled at how the decision-making process worked -- in particular, what considerations were at play, how other SC members ranked these considerations, and how much disagreement between SC members there was about how to manage the process. In my department, this was, mind you, friendly disagreement. I can't imagine how the process works at unfriendly departments.

This is, by the way, an aspect of the hiring process that hasn't been mentioned in this current thread, but is quite relevant when thinking about how SCs work. Given how heavily the process is determined just by how much SC members struggle to coordinate with each other, it is a fruitless exercise for job candidates to try to second-guess SC's decisions. Sometimes it's merely acquiescing to a colleague's inexplicable insistence that any viable candidate for an ethics position must have an AOC in decision theory. In other cases, it takes the form of choosing the candidate that everybody ranked 10th because -- and I kid you not -- every member of the department is dead set on making sure that some other member of the department does not "win" by getting their first choice. In general, a variation of Tolstoy's remark on families is appropriate here: every department is dysfunctional in its own way.

To 2:53:

You are right of course. I can't argue against the thought that the sort of behavior you describe is agonizing for the candidate and for that reason alone seriously problematic. However, I believe SCs do this for the following reason: (And please, I am absolutely not attempting to provide a justification for this behavior; I'm only trying to offer an explanation.) The members of the SC have a list of 12 people, all of whom they'd be happy to hire. Even after they've selected three (or so) candidates from that list to bring to campus, they realize that none of the three may work out and consequently the SC does not want to burn bridges with other candidates. Of course, the right thing to do is to explain the situation to the candidates who have not been invited on campus. (After all, everybody knows approximately when on-campus visits are taking place and can easily work out that they haven't received a first-round invitation.) But this is an uncomfortable and delicate conversation and most SC chairs don't want to have them. So they just wait until the process is resolved to update the unsuccessful applicants, even those they interviewed at the APA. My impression is that this is the norm. And it is shameful.

Anonymous said...

It seemed to me that slightly fewer schools did APA interviews, and even even fewer participated in the smoker.

It's definitely the case that this year more departments have opted to conduct first-round interviews independently of the APA, whether before or after.

None of the departments with which I interviewed had a table at the smoker, though some of the SC members indicated they would be making a brief appearance.

Anonymous said...

2:44 -- yeah, I get it. But if what you say is true, they should just say, "we'll be in touch" rather than "we'll be in touch soon," or (worse) "we'll be in touch very soon." People should think before they fucking speak.

Anonymous said...

Some evidence that the APA has unethical tendencies: I do not pre-register for the Eastern APA anymore, because I did on a previous occasion and when I arrived I was told that they did not have any record that I had pre-registered. I did not have any way to prove to them that I DID pre-register. So, I paid to register AGAIN. I never followed up on the incident, because it seemed petty. This year at the APA, the same thing happened to one of my friends. Has anyone else had this problem with pre-registration at the Eastern?

Anonymous said...

I have been a paid member of the APA for three decades.

I have not been able to access the site due to a supposed input error for 2 months.

I have submitted four emails about that situation to various parties, and to some I've met in person.

Nada. Not even a rely.

I will not be attending my Divisional meeting. The APA functioned well enough (if also as flawed as any institution of the era) prior to the digital age--but now it is truely clueless. I'll hang in there for old times' sake--and hope we get 21st century competence in the next go-around at the top.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I now have another example of incompetence.

I knew ahead of time that they were not giving out programs at the event anymore. I was waiting for my program to arrive in the mail... Never came. So, when I registered on-site, I pointed out that my program never came and could I please get one? I was told that, no, the programs are mailed, so that's the end of it, and if I didn't receive mine, it must be because I hadn't given them the right address. Being a nice person (read: pushover), I accepted I likely was to blame for not receiving it and walked away.

Then, the day after I got back from the APA, what should I find in the mailbox? Why, Proceedings and Addresses of the APA! Exactly one day after I had absolutely any use of it!

I'm sure glad the APA has made us all responsible for remembering to bring our programs to the event, and then made sure to send them out early enough for us to actually make use of them.

Anonymous said...

um, 10:11, was that the issue that actually had the Eastern program in it? Or was that volume 85 issue 2, which I just received as well. That issue is not relevant to the eastern program.

CTS said...

@machine for brains:

Thanks for the kind words. Also, to your point about negotiating within the SC:

"Sometimes it's merely acquiescing to a colleague's inexplicable insistence" on whatever. I avoid making much of this on blogs frequented by junior job-seekers, because it is hardly good news. However, they probably should know that even happy depts have to do a fair amount of negotiating - even 'trading' - to reach agreements.

machine for brains said...

CTS, again, I agree entirely. My department is (I believe) a relatively happy one. (If half the stories my friends tell me about their departments are true, then it is positively euphoric.) Part of the reason we stay happy is precisely because we negotiate and, for example, acquiesce to demands we privately think are strange. I do share your worry that this will be disheartening for job seekers. But I personally found it somewhat calming to know that, once I'd taken care of the "big" stuff, the hiring process was really not under my control in any significant way.

CTS said...

machine for brains:

"the hiring process was really not under my control in any significant way"

This is a good point, if only for Stoics. :-)