Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Answer to Spiros's Question...

Spiros asks:

I was just getting my APA receipts organized. I'll submit them next week to my University, and in due course I'll get reimbursed for nearly every dollar I spent on the APA Eastern. But I have to say that the grand sum is pretty staggering, considering what one gets in return.

Unless one happens to live close enough to DC to not need to fly, the cost for most of getting to the conference and staying in the conference hotel has to be roughly $1000. How do graduate students and non-TT slave-wage earners who don't live on the East Coast afford it?


What we do is, we scrimp; we find less-expensive alternatives to the conference hotel; we eat as cheaply as we can; and we put up blog posts and comments in which we point out what a bunch of inhumane bullshit the current set of hiring procedures are and in which we propose more humane, less bullshitty alternatives, for which we are then derided as entitled whiners who are unwilling to do what it takes to get a job in philosophy.

--Mr. Zero

47 comments:

CW said...

I flew to NY for one APA interview a year or two ago. The interview lasted 20 minutes. The trip cost $600.

I was working as an adjunct and got no financial support from my school.

Bearistotle said...

Some departments have funds to support their graduate students who are on the job market for APA related travel expenses, but I imagine not many of them have such funds.

Anonymous said...

I think I spent about $1,000 this year and did all the things mentioned to save money. I'm flying from the west coast so the flight alone was over $500.

Anonymous said...

Same here. Last year I had one 20 min interview (no on-campus invite). Price: $800. No reimbursement. And yes, I did stay at the cheapest hotel nearby.

Anonymous said...

Well, like the OP suggested, we spend hours researching cheaper alternatives. I put together a flight from a rather expensive airport and three nights in a nearby hotel. Total cost to me: $800. No reimbursement from my university. Had I been in even poorer financial shape, I would have looked harder and could have possibility trimmed one night off the hotel stay and gotten a cheaper flight. With some time and effort, I probably could have cut it all the way down to $400-500. It sucks.

Anonymous said...

I got one interview this year. It was a great interview, and I'm hopeful. However, the school contacted me less than a week before the APA started.

I'm lucky I was already planning on attending for other reasons. Otherwise, I would've had these options: 1) turn down an interview for an amazing job I really want or 2) book flights from the West Coast and a hotel room at the absolute last minute.

Next year (assuming I don't get this awesome job I'm hoping for), I really don't want to go to the Eastern APA. I can't afford it. I go more in debt every year, in part because of it. I live across the country, I haven't spent Christmas with my family for three years now, and I'm sick of it. But... If I need a job, what's my choice?

zombie said...

I took the bus to NYC, did my interview, and took the bus home (skipped the Smoker). Last year, I drove to Boston. I drove through the blizzard, got stopped by the blizzard, waited out the blizzard in a hotel, then drove some more. Did not stay at the APA hotel.

I had four APA interviews in two years, and probably spent six or seven hundred between them. For which, I never got a second interview. All my flyouts (including the one where I got the job) were with schools that skipped APA.

Anonymous said...

Some of us are listening and not responding by deriding you all as entitled whiners. The possibility of forgoing the APA interviews in favor of some first-round alternative (skyping perhaps) is very much on the table. I believe this wouldn't be the case were it not for discussions that occurred on this blog.

Lloyd Dobler said...

Spiros' question, it should be stressed, is rhetorical. The point isn't to ascertain how people manage to afford the conference but to stress how little it makes sense to insist that they do so.

Things are starting to show some signs of movement, I think, but it looks painfully slow. Maybe this year should have seen an occupy APA rally or two. Especially at the Executive Committee sessions.

Anonymous said...

Another option: mention to the search committee that you'll be unable to make the APA due to [insert good excuse that no reasonable person should not be sympathetic towards here]. If the committee tells you too bad, then you're either not high enough up on their list, they're assholes, or both. If you're high up on their list, then they'll accomodate you and you can do it over the phone or skype. I did this a couple of years ago and got three campus visits. Now, being on a SC, I can tell you that we have people who can't make the APA and we'll interview them over the phone.

Anonymous said...

Well, this doesn't make it suck any less, but at least we're not musicians; my sister is a pianist applying to doctoral programs right now and she has to pay to visit any school that invites her for an interview (and she had to do that for her master's degree, too). So there's another field that has a pretty high barrier to even entering graduate study (and one that usually pays just as poorly or worse than philosophy, too); and I know English isn't too different except that the timing isn't as terrible (I have a friend who left yesterday for Seattle for interviews at MLA). With that said, I agree with the other posters that the cost imposed on the poorest people in the profession is really ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

If the committee tells you too bad, then you're either not high enough up on their list, they're assholes, or both. If you're high up on their list, then they'll accomodate you and you can do it over the phone or skype.

I don't think this is a safe assumption. There may be situations in which the SC has a strong preference for a specific candidate or two. But this is a buyer's market, and departments which are simply looking to make a solid hire can afford to not accommodate a candidate who's unable to attend the APA.

Additionally, many candidates would prefer having a job working with non-accommodating "assholes" over having no job, at all. I suspect SC members who are unwilling to accommodate a job candidate might nevertheless be more accommodating to a colleague whom they hope will stick around.

Anonymous said...

"Spiros' question, it should be stressed, is rhetorical. The point isn't to ascertain how people manage to afford the conference but to stress how little it makes sense to insist that they do so."

As with many of his posts, I assumed his point was to remind people how special he is, and how awesome his job is.

Anonymous said...

We don't have it nearly as bad as 4th year medical students who have to pay their own way to fly around the country for interviews with residencies. And, their medical education is not funded. They pay for it.

Anonymous said...

6:03-but medical students have a FAR easier time securing employment, make a great deal more than philosophers (and so have the means to pay back those hefty loans), typically get to chose what part of the country in which they would like to reside, etc. So I don't have much sympathy for medical students regarding their hardships in the employment process.

Anonymous said...

6:03 - But do medical students compete with hundreds of others just to get *a* job at all? Do they have to spend years making less as doctors than they would as baristas?

I thought not.

The costs associated with a medical degree are certainly high, as is the attrition rate. But making it out the other end leaves you in a far better position than making it out the other end in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Physicians are going broke by the way.

http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/05/smallbusiness/doctors_broke/

Anonymous said...

7:35 & 7:36:

6:03 here. I think you should have more sympathy for medical students. My partner is a second year medical resident and I am a Ph.D. in philosophy currently on the job market. My partner is *150,000 dollars* in debt from paying for medical education. Think about that for a moment. Also, having experienced graduate school in philosophy, and seeing what my partner went through in medical school and in residency, I believe that their day to day routine is much harder, taxing, and debilitating than our day to day routine. Look - philosophers typically don't work 20 hour days, and if they do, most of it is in the comfort of an office with a book and a computer.

Other things to note about the comparison: Residents make jack shit (my partner makes 40k) and work ridiculous hours. Yes, there is the potential to make a lot of money down the road and eventually (eventually!) pay back all that debt. After years in a residency and then possibly more years in a fellowship, working ridiculous hours without sleep, you might get a chance to make a nice salary and be able to pay back those loans. But you know what's nice? - not having that debt to begin with, and actually getting paid to be a graduate student.

Now, it may be true that overall their position is better than ours, given the overall prospects for employment. But let's not make ourselves out to be too special. Because we're really not.

Anonymous said...

Off topic question - what's peak time for schools to arrange fly-outs? Is the wiki reliable at this stage, or are the numbers too small? (I was the first to update, a few days late, for the two jobs I've heard from, so I suspect that it's not reliable evidence that no-one's updated the others...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to note that if 40K is jack shit, I currently make less than jack shit as a VAP at a podunk college. And if I get promoted to TT, I'll only make slightly more than jack shit. I will never, ever, ever make the kind of money that medical doctors do, and neither will the vast majority of us.

In response to the original question, this year I just couldn't afford the APA, even with a full-time academic job. I'm lucky that my interviews have been via skype.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where your 4th year medical residents are working, but around here by their fourth year ours are usually able to afford buying fun things such as houses, cars, boats, motorcycles, etc. None of our 4th year philosophy graduate students are anyway near that.

Anonymous said...

40K in the tri-state area *is*, in fact, jack shit. This is not to deny that you too, 9:25, live on jack shit.

And I said "4th year medical *students*", not residents.

Anonymous said...

Why do you all take a look at household income in the U.S. 40K is about average.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States

Plus, how much should you make teaching philosophy for 9 months a year?

Anonymous said...

And let me ad that if you make 34K after takes you are in the top 1% in the world in wealth. Half of those 1%, live in the U.S.

http://www.nydailynews.com/2.1353/world-richest-people-live-america-34k-a-year-top-1-article-1.1001565?localLinksEnabled=false

Have a little perspective, people. If you are studying philosophy, you are part of the rich, leisure class.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, If I made 40k and my partner made at least 17k, I could pay down a $150 000 debt after about 5 years. We would live as we do now--nothing fancy, but bearable. On a single income, yes, it would be harder, although still very manageable. By contrast, my current salary could only support about a $10 000 debt over the same period of time. And yes, I live in a big city.

The point wasn't to deride medical students or claim that we're in the shittiest of all positions. Rather, the point was that the prospects in the medical profession--steady and immediate employment and a good starting salary--are vastly superior to ours. The debt incurred is manageable, and a fair tradeoff from a risk-assessment perspective. I'm not convinced that philosophy makes nearly as much sense from that same perspective. Certainly, if there was no funding to be had or we started out with debts, it wouldn't be worth it by a long shot. If there was no funding, there'd be no philosophers.

Anonymous said...

1. Everyone should be embarrassed to use wikipedia as a source.

2. The wiki page you link to has data from 2003. It has probably changed since then between inflation (since I am reasonably sure that 40K we are talking about is in nominal dollars and not constant 2003 dollars, I think this is relevant) and economic growth.

3. Here is a source
http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0697.pdf

that is a little more current, and a lot more reliable.

Now if I am reading the chart right 40K is roughly 20K below the national median, and 10-25K below the median for the relevant age groups.

And while I thank my lucky stars that I am not a starving person in Africa, given the context of this debate the facts of their misery are entirely irrelevant. People are pissed because of the costs of applying for jobs relative to how much we make and the fact that it would be so easy to make the costs much less relative to how much we make. What does the fact that we are lucky to be born in American have to do with that?

zombie said...

8:31 -- in my experience, peak time for fly-outs is around late January, early February.

Anonymous said...

My experience (and yes, we are all aware at the folly of generalizations w/r/t such matters) is that fly out decisions will roughly all be made by the 20th of Jan (or thereabouts). Many factors contribute to differences. For example, does the entire faculty have to vote or is it up to the discretion of the SC. If the former, you have to wait until school starts again. And for schools on semesters, such meetings can't occur until roughly the middle of January. But there are usually few reasons for these decisions to be made long after that point.

Anonymous said...

Zombie 12:29, do you mean that late Jan./early Feb. is the peak time for fly-outs to occur or for departments to contact those who receive fly-outs? I took the question to be about the latter. At any rate, I would be curious to know when departments typically contact those they are bringing to campus.

machine for brains said...

In the last search my school conducted, we had contacted all the candidates for on-campus interviews by January 15 and finished bringing them all to campus by the first week of February. We were hoping to move a bit faster than other schools. However I found that most of the candidates we brought out were already very much in the midst of their other on-campus interviews (late January).

Prof. Kate said...

Ach, I can't resist side-conversations about labor and census data. The 40k number keeps floating around because that is near the mean annual wage estimate of $44,410 for all occupations, according to the BLS [http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#00-0000].

Median household income was pegged at $49,445 for 2010, the year for best current data with lower margin of error than the messy estimates for 2011.

I was ticked at airfares this year for the APA. I've flown from my family in Chicago to the APA in DC a dozen times, and it never cost me over $500 until this year. On United! Their effing hub is Chicago, with ten flights a day! Bogus. I tried to find a flight with tons of stops and connections for less, but none of them had more than a fifty buck difference. I shake my tiny fist.

Anonymous said...

"Now if I am reading the chart right 40K is roughly 20K below the national median, and 10-25K below the median for the relevant age groups."

This chart is for family rather than individual incomes, so it's not a helpful comparison.

The comparison by age group seems misleading, too, since these age groups consist mostly of fully employed grown-ups, not overgrown students. No grad student should expect an income comparable to grown-ups, even if those grown-ups are their own age.

The relevant comparison age group for a student is 15-24. By that standard 40k is 10k too much.

Hitching your wagon to a real doctor rather than one of philosophy is good financial sense, but it's not an overnight lottery. You have to pay your dues as well as your soul.

Anonymous said...

One reason among many that associations in other disciplines, from psychology to poultry, are better than the APA:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/members/aps-wikipedia-initiative
Honestly, how can philosophers not have been the ones to spearhead such projects?

Anonymous said...

Funny I think of myself as a grownup. And I don't think that my PhD gives me reason to compare my income to someone fresh out of their BS.

60K is probably too much, but if Prof Kate is to be believed, the number is around 50K. Making 10K less than the median when I am educated at a level well above the median strikes me as something worth being miffed about. I put in 6 years making less than half of what the average person with a bachelors makes. This was an investment made in part because of the quality of the job it was preparing me for. That I am making less now (I also make a little over $40K a year from my position) around $10K less than the median earner when the median earner didn't have to pass up 6 years of decent pay to start making that is a perfectly good reason to complain.

But of course all of this is besides the point. The income of 40k was brought up, I believe, in service of the point that the costs of the job market are too high. If you make $40K in a year, and spend $1K just on the Eastern APA, then the job market costs are burdensome. And I have spent well over $500 on the applications. When this could be done with an entirely online application process, and online first round interviews, that burden becomes infuriating.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I was teasing about being a "grownup." The point is that being an adult full time student is a strange category, and in entering it to it, one must adjust expectations accordingly.

The comparison to new BAs is relevant because they, while lacking in experience, are fully qualified for their jobs and have completed the hurdle of getting one, while grad students--also low in experience in their field--are still earning their credentials and aren't yet fully employed. Why should the latter expect an income equal to or greater than the former, especially given (phil, not med) the low demand in their field?

Prof Kate's number is again household income, so it's her 44k figure that should be compared. This is assuming that we're both talking about the earlier post complaining that med students have it harder than philosophy grad students, since someone's med student partner makes 40k worth of "jack shit."

If you want to compare household income, you'd have to add the poster's graduate stipend to that 40k, so the difference would be a lot smaller. And you'd still have to explain why a household of full time working adults shouldn't make more than part time working students.

"Making 10K less than the median when I am educated at a level well above the median strikes me as something worth being miffed about."

Full time philosophy salaries, especially at the entry level are well worth being miffed about, for exactly the reason you say. But my post was directed at the poor, poor med student forced to live on a 40k jack shit income.

And I don't think phil grad students have anything to be miffed about income-wise. They have many other things to be pissed off about, including, as you say, the cost of the job market. It's absolutely, inexcusably obscene.

But the 40k figure was brought up in service of the opposite point: that you shouldn't complain about the philosophy job market, since at least you're not forced to be a 40k med student and that med student's disappointed-thought-I'd-hit-the-significant-other-goldmine partner.

Anonymous said...

"If you're high up on their list, then they'll accomodate [sic] you and you can do it over the phone or skype."

Many departments have rules against this. They are required to treat (interview) all candidates the same so that no one has an advantage. One school I'm aware of, even insisted that an adjunct at their school fly to the APA to be interviewed by them for the TT position at their school.

Anonymous said...

Again, my partner is not a medical student. He is a medical RESIDENT, in his second year - meaning he has already graduated from medical school. And thank you for calling me a gold-digger - very classy.

What I was pointing out was that medical students *arguably* have it harder than we do. They are not funded and incur debt in the range of 100-200k, their APA equivalent (residency interviews) costs them about three times as much as the APA costs us, and they make very modest incomes for the next 3-7 years of their life as they slog through residencies and fellowships, and they work on average 18 hours per day doing it.

Anonymous said...

All this discussion of med students has left me thinking, Jesus Christ, I wish I'd gone to med school.

Don't get me wrong. I love philosophy. I love teaching philosophy. I'm pretty good at the former, and really good at the latter. I don't think I would have been as good or as happy practicing medicine as I would be as a philosopher. The huge debt, many years of preparation, insanely long hours, and all the rest on the medical career path are ugly.

But no matter how I look at it, the odds are that the 8+ years I've put into graduate training and work in philosophy will never lead me to a career in philosophy. I'm a failure.

Anonymous said...

"One school I'm aware of, even insisted that an adjunct at their school fly to the APA to be interviewed by them for the TT position at their school."

Yep. We had to do just this. It was embarrassing. But Human Resources was adamant. Had we refused, the administration would've happily taken the position away from us.

I don't really get the "who-has-it-worse" discussion. I'm happy to grant that medical students/residents/doctors have it worse than philosophy grad students/job candidates/professors. But I'm not sure what we're supposed to do with this information. Are job seekers supposed to stop complaining? Is this supposed to put something in perspective? No obvious answer is springing to mind. The academic job market for humanities Ph.Ds stinks. There are too few jobs and the process is inhumane -- in particular, the process of first-stage interviews could be dramatically improved. We should do this. And the fact that job seekers in another professor also have it lousy does not seem terribly relevant.

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for 12:35--you're certainly right about the fact that not much hinges on this comparative lousiness.

However, us smokers do love to complain...

But it's not just complaining. Most people care about the truth. It's a legitimate and interesting empirical question as to whether med students/residents/drs have it worse than us in the humanities. And it may matter to those that have yet to decide to enter either of these fields.

My friends from undergrad that became lawyers had similar amounts of debt and work-hours as drs, but they (like many drs) live in places like San Francisco, have ethnic food within walking distance, and enough money to pay off those loans and even to enjoy what little time they have away from work. I may have free time and the privilege of doing what I love, but my time is spent strolling around middle-of-nowhere-middle-USA, avoiding eating at McDonald's (one of five crappy joints in my town) and spending all that "free time" I've got trying to publish to get out of here.

I can see why one might be disgruntled by the charge that drs have it worse than us. It may be true. But it still chafes a little to read those words; especially in the midst of this lovely job-hunting season.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:41,

As far as I can tell, it follows from your post that there are no doctors or lawyers out here with us in flyover country.

Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year's, everybody!
There Are 5,000 Janitors in the U.S. with PhDs

Johannes Climacus said...

The hiring meeting should be

a) A week later so that it doesn't cut into time with families over the holidays.

b) Moved around--let it be in the middle of the US one year, the west coast the next, and the east coast the next, etc.

c) Never held someplace that gets lots of snow in the winter (New England, NY, Chicago).

I think the philosophical content at the meetings I've attended in the last 10 years has been quite good.

I am deeply troubled by the financial toll the job market takes on graduate students. I'm not sure what to do about this, but this can't continue.

(This is a cross-post of my comment at Spiros' blog. Mods, I understand if you want to delete it for this reason.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Zero,

I think that this one needs its own post:
http://edudemic.com/2012/01/phd-job/

Anonymous said...

7:41 here. Just add Chicago, St. Paul, Des Moines, Omaha, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, or any other semi-desirable city/interesting town to the list and my point remains.

My friends (also from middle-of-nowhere-USA) managed to end up living in cool places and are engaging in really awesome activities. I'm admittedly overly green with envy. I should be content with my awesome career and time to spend with friends and family-and I am relatively content. But it's hard to have a great deal of sympathy for the the trials and tribulations that my pals in other vocations "endure."

If we want to find other vocations that have it worse than folks in the humanities, I'm sure we can do better than physicians and lawyers! The point, I realize, is really moot... but it seems like a good point nevertheless. We don't have it very good and some of our friends in other "professional" fields seem to have it better. If I were giving advice to a student contemplating the options before her/him, I'd caution the pursuit of a Ph.D. in philosophy. That's all that I meant to suggest.

Anonymous said...

In case folks haven't seen this yet,

http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/05/smallbusiness/doctors_broke/index.htm?hpt=hp_t3

Anonymous said...

6:53 - Having one's own practice is obviously different from working for a hospital or other healthcare group. The costs and risks associated with it are also vastly different. Going into business for oneself is a difficult and risky venture, but it shouldn't be taken as indicative of the prospects for physicians. Similarly, a philosopher who goes into business for herself (as a philosopher) couldn't and shouldn't be taken as representative of the prospects for philosophers, one way or another (although the chances of success seem rather slim).