Monday, November 11, 2013

Update the Phylo Wiki, Please. (Updated)

A number of people have recently pointed out that it does not seem that the Phylo Jobs Wiki is currently being updated. (Or, rather, the updates are highly sparse.) Please update it if you can. Please. Thank you.

Update: In Comments immediately below, anon 9:24 writes:

The problem isn't just that folks aren't updating. The problem is that updates aren't being processed. I haven't checked throughly, but I think that if you make a revision/update to a position already in the wiki, it'll be processed immediately, but if you try to add a new position to the wiki it'll require moderator approval. But the moderator approval never comes through, so new listings in the wiki aren't coming through.
Thanks for the correction.

--Mr. Zero

182 comments:

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't just that folks aren't updating. The problem is that updates aren't being processed. I haven't checked throughly, but I think that if you make a revision/update to a position already in the wiki, it'll be processed immediately, but if you try to add a new position to the wiki it'll require moderator approval. But the moderator approval never comes through, so new listings in the wiki aren't coming through.

The exception, I think, is when a job is added to the Phylo job listings by the hiring institution, in which case it is then automatically added to the wiki.

I could be wrong about some of this. But, regardless, there is a problem with adding new positions to the wiki. And unless that gets cleared up, the wiki is useless.

We could create an ad-hoc and publicly editable google doc. It would be very easy to vandalize (since it wouldn't be moderated). I don't know whether that would be better than nothing.

Anonymous said...

Maybe our glorious leaders on this blog should look up and email the creators...

http://www.newmedialab.cuny.edu/phylo/

Anonymous said...

Censorship alert: Do not criticize our glorious leaders. Do not give them extra work. They are already overworked. The show trial is this evening. Don't miss it or you might be the defendant in the next one!

Expat Grad said...

Might I suggest encouraging the Philjobs/JFP people to add such a feature, as that is where most people are looking for advertised positions anyway (at least at first)?

It is probably too late for this year, but I imagine something could be up and running by next season.

Anonymous said...

Expat-Grad: I like your idea, but I don't think it will work. The problem is that philjobs is a site for 'official' information -- information put out by the institutions themselves, and therefore (in theory, at least) completely reliable. But the information gathered by the phylo wiki isn't like this. Most schools don't want to indicate that they've scheduled interviews until the position has been filled, because of the (highly unlikely) chance that they might strike out with all the candidates they interviewed and have to go back to the pool. So the information on phylo has to come from less-than-perfectly-reliable sources, i.e., applicants who have gotten interviews, flyouts, etc. I think it would be a bad idea for philjobs to mix this 'unofficial' information with the 'official' information of the jobs ads themselves, and I'd imagine the people running philjobs would think this, too.

Anonymous said...

This is a change of subject. I heard from the chair of a department that is hiring this year that a number of applicants had been reporting problems with Interfolio's email delivery of letters of recommendation. Despite having received confirmations of delivery from Interfolio, the letters were never received by the SC. I just confirmed that the SC did not receive my letters, though I did get an email from Interfolio confirming that it was sent (my email).

Does this mean that I should assume that Interfolio never delivers the documents they tell me they have? Have others had similar problems? How would we know, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Re: 4:44 Anon:

If true, this is seriously stressful information to learn.

Anonymous said...

5:01

If 444's account is true then I'd imagine that a good search committee (one interested in actually finding the person that best fits in their department) would notice that quite a few of their, otherwise good, applications were incomplete in the exact same way.

I'd *hope* that they would let candidates (or interfolio) know about this. I'd also hope that they would have the foresight to check the Interfolio delivery receipt that describes everything that is meant to be included (and that applicants also can see if they preview their documents before sending). That would clearly note that letters were included and hence point to Interfolio as the problem.

Will departments do this? As with everything else related to the job market...I bet there are no general rules on what department's end up doing with applications left incomplete because of Interfolio.

zombie said...

"Does this mean that I should assume that Interfolio never delivers the documents they tell me they have? Have others had similar problems? How would we know, I guess."

I have received confirmations from some schools that my letters were received, so it is not the case that they are never delivered.

But if they are ever not delivered, that is still distressing.

Anonymous said...

One of the departments I applied to this year sent me an email to notify me that some of the Interfolio documents were not sent, and asked me to re-send them. So some departments do notify applicants of problems with delivery.

Chris Alen Sula said...

Thanks for bringing this problem to our attention. David and I are working on it and we should have everything reviewed by tonight.

Anonymous said...

4:44 here.

After talking with Interfolio this morning, they re-sent my letters (that is all I asked them to send in this case; I uploaded the rest of my dossier directly to the school's HR system) from one of their personal accounts. The customer service person suggested that the institutional Interfolio emails were being caught in the SC's spam filter. He told me he'd contact the SC directly in order to prevent that from happening (with that email address anyway) in the future.

Anonymous said...

Well, if the wiki is going to be up and running, hopefully we can now begin (collectively) adding all of the positions to the database and then updating as appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Question: didn't people last year worry about whether posting about interviews would displease interviewing departments? If this a silly worry or should one pause before posting on the wiki?

Anonymous said...

Also OT: Phijobs.org is down. That's annoying.

zombie said...

9:24: I added a new listing this morning, and it was posted by this afternoon. (I am not representing a hiring institution)

But the number of jobs up there so far is rather small.

Anonymous said...

9:24 here.

It looks like the original problem was fixed. (I think that's what Chris, above, is saying.) About fifteen ads suddenly appeared this afternoon, including the ad that I submitted days ago.

So my guess is that Chris and David are (or have finished) clearing out the backlog of pending additions. Hopefully things will be posted more quickly from here on out.

The difficulty, of course, is that the fact that the site hasn't been working properly may have turned a bunch of people off from submitting. And we're now way behind. I can add some listings tonight, but I'm sure not going to do 200.

clyne said...

I added a listing. If everyone who reads this comment adds one, they'll all be up by Thursday.

Anonymous said...

How can you add jobs to the Phylo wiki? I thought it was restricted to the hiring institutions.

Anonymous said...

Re: how to add a job:

http://phylo.info/jobs/wiki/add

Anonymous said...

I've always hated the fact that the ads posted in August/September and end up on the interview list first are usually fake searches/inside hires. If you look at Hamilton, for instance, the job is clearly an inside hire. And Pacific Lutheran also looks suspiciously like an inside hire.

I am really starting to loathe the legal/HR policies that require universities to publicly post fake national searches. I understand why those policies are in place, but I still feel the need to vent about it.

It's such a disheartening way to kick off the market.

Anonymous said...

Bit off-topic but I was wondering if anyone out there has heard anything on the 2 TT searches at the University of St. Thomas (MN). They are the only school I have applied to that will be interviewing at the Eastern APA. I really don't want to shell out the massive amount of money needed for the APA trip if I am not going to have any interviews. Frankly I think the hiring process ought to begin earlier in the fall so that applicants are not needlessly stuck with paying for travel expenses for a trip they might not end up taking. That, or, you know...Skype/phone.

Anonymous said...

11:00AM - Agreed.

Thankfully, I've suspected this about the Hamilton job all along, so I wasn't surprised or disappointed. There's someone who has been there as a VAP for a few years, whose interests closely match the ad, and who seems talented and productive (just based on her CV). So I figured this was happening. I'm happy for the hire, of course, but less happy to waste my time applying.

I wish we (as a discipline) had a practice of indicating in ads when/if the hiring department is already planning on or leaning toward a particular candidate. I don't know how it would work. But it would be nice.

zombie said...

I know from a reliable (inside) source that Pac Lutheran is not an inside hire.
What makes you think Hamilton is an inside hire? (Because, you know, I'M getting that job.)

Anonymous said...

Hi. 11:00 here. I don't know for a fact that either search is an inside hire. But in many cases (those among them), there's a VAP at the university who clearly fits the position being advertised. There's always the chance that it's a real search, but this scenario is a very common one: university wants to turn the VAP into a TT prof, but is required by university policy to advertise nationally. To minimize the number of applicants (and presumably to minimize the number of people who have to do the dance, so to speak), they advertise early and have a deadline in September or October.

Anonymous said...

People who know nothing about a job really ought to stop passing off their speculations as claims known or with evidence. Innocent folks can get hurt. I understand that some of you are frustrated, but think about the possible consequences, please.

Anonymous said...

1:06 - Here is what I know about the St. Thomas jobs:

(1) It can be verified from publicly available sources that they recently lost Thomas Bogardus (epistemology) to Pepperdine.

(2) A friend of mine who knows someone in the department contacted them to ask how seriously they considered non-Catholic candidates. (The stuff about mission in their ad is more strongly worded than some other Catholic schools, e.g. Notre Dame.) They said they had no objections to hiring non-Catholics who supported the university's mission.

That's all the information I have. Nothing I've heard suggests an inside candidate or anything else suspicious.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, 4:34, stuff the possible consequences. I felt like venting, and I vented. We're all well aware that the phenomenon in question occurs. I intended no sleight against the people who are getting the jobs in question. I'm sure they're well qualified for them. But this is a blog on which issues concerning the job market are bitched about. This is clearly an issue concerning the job market, and I bitched about it.

Anonymous said...

5:56

ps: I sure as shit hope you don't have any non-philosophical friends or family since if you treated them this way you would not only be insufferably pedantic, but an immoral ass. Given your behavior though you've likely already alienated all of these people anyway.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

I added four jobs to the wiki!

Anonymous said...

I've known plenty of people in VAP positions who did not get the TT job in that department.

Has anyone done any kind of survey to see how often it happens that the VAP gets the TT job? I know that it's common for people to believe that the "inside applicant" will likely get the job, but can this be demonstrated as a clear pattern?

Anonymous said...

"5:56

ps: I sure as shit hope you don't have any non-philosophical friends or family since if you treated them this way you would not only be insufferably pedantic, but an immoral ass. Given your behavior though you've likely already alienated all of these people anyway.

YFNA"

Please, please, please keep that kind of post in the other thread that I have now completely stopped looking at. This thread was so pleasant and helpful.

Mr. Zero said...

I'm inclined to agree with anon 4:34. I am inclined to think that the possible benefits of venting one's frustration about the baseless suspicion that some department is hiring from the inside are outweighed. I'm willing to entertain counterarguments, I guess, but until I'm convinced otherwise, I'm going to ask people to cut that shit out.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was "baseless suspicion" that Pacific Lutheran is hiring from the inside. They requested *only* a cover letter and CV, and requested them by October 1, before more applicants have gotten their shit together enough to apply. They posted on philjobs and they're a reasonably large and productive department, so we can assume they aren't clueless as to the normal procedure (request more) or timeframe (Nov 1 or later). So, there must be a reason that they did what they did. While there are many plausible explanations, the best one is that their one current Visiting Assistant Professor is very good, and they want to hire her.

I guess we'll see.

Anonymous said...

I love/hate the wiki. Already five jobs I applied for have scheduled interviews--and I was passed over! Fuck.

Anonymous said...

YFNA, just stop. Really. We're all sick of this bullshit and have been for some time.

Mr. Zero said...

I don't think it was "baseless suspicion" that Pacific Lutheran is hiring from the inside. They requested *only* a cover letter and CV...

That doesn't sound like much to go on.

...and requested them by October 1, before more applicants have gotten their shit together enough to apply.

Yeah, but as you just got through pointing out, they only wanted a cover letter and a CV. I applied for that job no problem.

So, there must be a reason that they did what they did. While there are many plausible explanations...

One of which is, they wanted to do an initial screen based on CVs, and they wanted to get an early start. None of that stuff specifically points to an inside hire.

zombie said...

Here is what I have been told (paraphrasing) by a source close to the search at Pac Lutheran: They want the search to be far along by January because several faculty members will be away next term. Hence the early deadline. Nothing more sinister than that.

Requesting only a CV and letter saves applicants the expense (when there is one) of sending letters. And makes for an efficient intial screen. I've been asked (by another SC) to send additional materials, which, presumably, Pac Luth will do if they have candidates they are interested in.

My initial impression of the job listings this year is that, in the absence of a forced deadline (for inclusion in JFP), departments have opted to tailor their deadlines to suit themselves. What this will mean, ultimately, for the job search "season" remains to be seen. The trickling of jobs is fairly maddening, a slow torture rather than a quick but painful pulling off of the bandaid. And making inferences from application deadlines is dodgier than ever.

Anonymous said...

@4:44 et al

I just received an email from a search chair saying that my letters were not received even though I received a delivery confirmation from Interfolio days ago. The search chair seemed perfectly happy for me to resend the letters and the content of the email indicated that this was a problem that many people using Interfolio were having. I'm super frustrated that Interfolio can't get right the one thing I'm paying them to do but feel at ease that (at least in this one case) it won't count against my application. Hope that helps...

Anonymous said...

I applied to Pacific Lutheran and was asked to submit more information about a month ago. They are doing Skype interviews (which unfortunately I didn't get) and then fly-ins in December so I seriously doubt the hire is fake. For what it's worth, a school that will remain nameless from two years ago had a December deadline. The day after I received a rejection letter and the inside candidate (who I happen to know) got the job.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:44, et al:

I have also received *several* emails saying my letters were not received (they were supposedly sent by Interfolio). Hooray.

Anonymous said...

@4:44 et al,

Just to clarify: are these (1) letters that should have been sent as a regular email delivery,(2) letters that should have been uploaded to an HR website, or (3) both?

Anonymous said...

@ 6:49

(3), Both.

Yeah, it's not good.

VAP in a dept hiring for a TT equivalent said...

When a department loses a tenured professor they will often hire a VAP to replace them temporarily at first.

Then eventually they'll want to replace the original tenured person with another one.

So you'll often see jobs for a TT position that a visitor fills. This does not mean that they will hire the VAP! The VAP is sometimes hired -- they have a sort of foot in the door -- but they have to compete in a serious national search.

Anecdotally, having seen this happen perhaps a dozen times with people that I know, the chances of a VAP being hired are higher than a chances of a random applicant (1 in 200) but still very low (1 in 10 or 20?).

Anonymous said...

1:18 pm here.

In response to 6:49 am - In my case the lost delivery was for letters sent as a regular email delivery not ones uploaded to an HR site. I have only heard from the one school, so I am going to assume that my other deliveries made it through without incident (or that schools have already thrown my application into the "no" pile for being incomplete). Either way not much to be done at this point unless someone else contacts me.

Anonymous said...

6:49 Here.

I suppose this means that we should
question whether Interfolio is actually sending other application materials via regular email delivery. This is especially troubling for someone who uses Interfolio to submit their entire dossier (cover letter, cv, writing sample, teaching portfolio, etc).

In other words, it sounds as though we have reason to believe that entire *applications* are being lost as well. Or, is it the case that *just* the confidential letters being lost,while other materials are making it through?

Anonymous said...

I emailed Interfolio about this a few days ago, when people mentioned it in this thread. This is the response I got:

"Today we've been seeing an huge spike in inquiries about this - can I ask where you heard this?

If you are referring to email deliveries, I can confirm that all of your deliveries were sent to the receiving email addresses, that is what our back-end system indicates. Sometimes it can provide that success message if it did in fact hit a spam filter, or a firewall set up on the domain of the email address.

Anytime that it is brought to our attention that a receiving address is not receiving our emails, we work with them to make sure the domain does not block emails from our servers, and that their inbox has us set as an approved sender.

That's really the most that we can do on our end. Unfortunately we can't ask that every receiving address reply back and confirm that they received the materials, which is the only way we would know with absolute certainty they have your materials on file. You would have to follow up directly with the receiving institution or department if you want absolute confirmation that they received your materials.

Please reply back if I can clarify further on that, and I'd be happy to follow up."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11/13/13 at 11:00 AM and at 1:55 PM: both are mis/un-informed about the Hamilton job.

Departments conduct early searches for any number of reasons. Increasingly, due to the fact that it's a buyer's market, departments want to move quickly to ensure the best chance of securing their preferred candidate. Or they may have faculty on leave in the Spring.

I know it's frustrating to lose out to an inside candidate. I had a fly out last year and knew going into it there was an inside candidate. You just go in and do your best. Turned out to be good practice for the next fly out. Let's not forget that often times the inside candidate doesn't get the position (which really sucks too).

Anonymous said...

"With all due respect, 4:34, stuff the possible consequences. I felt like venting, and I vented. We're all well aware that the phenomenon in question occurs. I intended no sleight against the people who are getting the jobs in question. I'm sure they're well qualified for them. But this is a blog on which issues concerning the job market are bitched about. This is clearly an issue concerning the job market, and I bitched about it."

We can all agree that inside-hire sometimes happen. But that's compatible with it being very hard to identify from the outside which ones are inside hires. FWIW when I was a VAP, I've been told by profession friends that they thought my department's ad is for me, when I was not even invited for an interview.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know why the FAU job disappeared? It was listed under First Round on Monday, On Campus yesterday, and now it's vanished.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have links to lists of questions commonly asked at interviews? I know there was one on here at some point, but I'm having a hard time finding it...

Anonymous said...

Iona College just advertised for a position they hired for two years ago. It looks like the person they hired jumped ship for a better school after only one year. Now those poor schmucks on the committee have to go through the whole tiresome process again. Moral of the story: Don't hire the best applicant. Hire the one you get long with and who will probably stick around for more than 9 months. If you're applying for this position, I'd write in your application letter that you have no intention of using Iona as a stepping stone. You want to stay there until retirement. Poor little Iona.

Anonymous said...

"I know it's frustrating to lose out to an inside candidate."

It's frustrating to lose out to any candidate.

Anonymous said...

Moral of the story: Don't hire the best applicant.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Yes, of course. That is the moral of the story. God forbid a department have to repeat a search. The solution is definitely to settle for suboptimal. It's especially true in the current market where strong candidates are so scarce and all choosing from among the dozens of jobs they are offered.

Anonymous said...

"Moral of the story: Don't hire the best applicant."

1. There's no such thing as "the best applicant."
2. Don't assume they hired who they thought was "the best." Their hire may have been the 3rd person down the list, with #s 1 and 2 taking offers from other schools.
3. Maybe Iona is a shitty place to work. Or for any of a number of reasons was not a good fit for that person.

The moral of the story is that the market is never about just one thing.

Anonymous said...

Hey, isn't that Iona guy the dude in the Scumbag Analytic Philosopher meme?

zombie said...

1:14: Here's the link to last year's post on interviews:

http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2012/12/how-to-do-interviews.html

Anonymous said...

Question about the categories on the Wiki: several jobs that I applied for are listed as "acknowledged applications" yet I have not received any email from any of them. While some schools I have applied to that are not listed under this category have emailed me asking for me to fill out EOE forms and return them asap.

What does "acknowledged applications" mean in this context? Should I take the fact that schools that have acknowledged applications have not been in touch with me as evidence of their disinterest? And furthermore if a school asks you to fill out an EOE form is that an indicator that you have made through their initial round of cuts. I have a hard time believing they are collecting that data on 300 or 400 people they have no intention to consider for the job.

Anonymous said...

"And furthermore if a school asks you to fill out an EOE form is that an indicator that you have made through their initial round of cuts. I have a hard time believing they are collecting that data on 300 or 400 people they have no intention to consider for the job."

No

zombie said...

10:58
The acknowledgement category is kind of a throwback to the time when a lot of apps were done by snailmail. These days a lot of the HR online apps send you an instant acknowledgement, and the EOE request is automated. EVERY applicant gets the EOE request — it's to collect data the school has to give to the federal government. So, it doesn't mean anything about where you stand in the vetting process.
I count an email from the department as acknowledgement. I don't count the automated HR emails/EOE requests as acknowledgement. But in principle, they could be counted, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Hey I just had to share these with you, I have a feeling you will find them hilarious, they are funny takes on the Platonic dialogues:

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-lost-dialogues-plato-part-one-12111073.html?cat=2

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-lost-dialogues-plato-part-two-12113451.html?cat=44

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else checked out the Sacremento State (Ethics) job? Not only do they require that all information be sent via Interfolio, but they REQUIRE applicants to create a personal website that contains the proper documents arranged in prescribed order along videos of classroom teaching demonstrations.

Is it just me, or does that seem like an unreasonable amount of time and work to spend to satisfy one search committee that is not likely going to give me a job anyway (let's face it).

zombie said...

That Sacramento job ad is pretty crazy. Why, in all my years, I've never seen the like! And for a 4/4 no less.

I guess that's one way to winnow down the applicant pool. Also love the portrait-with-baseball-cap on the sample webpage.

Anonymous said...

I'm offended at the CSU Sacramento requirements. That is UTTERLY ridiculous. I'm not Kantian, but JEEBUS, if every job required a different website the system of applications would become self-defeating.

This is batshit.

Anonymous said...

And furthermore if a school asks you to fill out an EOE form is that an indicator that you have made through their initial round of cuts. I have a hard time believing they are collecting that data on 300 or 400 people they have no intention to consider for the job.

HR at my institution is relatively hands off (based on some of the cringe-worthy stories I've read about on blogs like this one). But indeed they wanted EOE information about each and every person who applied for our last TT position.

I don't think it will tell you anything about where you are in the process unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Ludlow's on the move again. Which I guess means it's Thursday.

Anonymous said...

I just looked at the Sacramento ad. That is indeed completely ludicrous. I think it's obviously morally reprehensible to require candidates to create a separate website with their application materials just so that the search committee can save some time/resources/whatever. It's so bad, in fact, that I think the APA should censure them for requiring such. Of course, they won't.

Anonymous said...

The Sacramento ad is moronic. I'm applying, but I'm not creating a fucking webpage. I encourage all other applicants to similarly refuse to create the webpage.

Anonymous said...

Is it just barely possible that the Sacramento thing is for the sake of determining which candidates have the minimal web page creation skills to do the particular job that will be required of them? And yes, by all means, refuse to do it. I am sure those interested in the job will thank you.

zombie said...

Just out of curiosity: since the Sacramento ad says explicitly that applications won't be considered unless instructions are followed, don't you think you're wasting your money to apply? It might be different if Sacramento was footing the Interfolio costs, but it doesn't look like they are (no surprise). (So, if you don't already have an Interfolio account, the job ad also requires that you create one of those.)

Anonymous said...

11:40 PM,

First, web page creation skills are "preferred", not required, for the CSU Sacramento position, according to the advertisement at least. (Reading is hard.)

Second, setting up a crappy personal webpage with Google Sites and slapping some URL links into it does not indicate that one can develop the "high quality online courses" the advertisement refers to.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't see the problem with the Sacramento job. They clearly want someone who can develop online courses, and so the creation of a personal webpage (not a terribly difficult task, particularly for someone with experience in online education) with their really simple guidelines is not a very difficult task.

You don't want to built a simple webpage or adjust your existing webpage? That's fine. But I'm also pretty sure you don't really want that job. Should you get the job and be told to develop an online course in your first semester, then what? Are you going to tell them that you're not interested?

Or take it back a step. Let's say you get the interview, and they ask you about your experience developing online courses. How do you respond? When they ask for how you build your online courses, what do you tell them? When they want evidence, what do you show them?

I get it. They want you to do something you don't want to do. Get over it. Because honestly, you don't want this job.

Feel free to complain if it makes you feel better. But this certainly isn't unfair. Nor is it unexpected, given the push for online education.

zombie said...

11:40 — the ad seems to go beyond assessing whether candidates have minimal webpage creation skills. Lots of people have personal webpages these days, so it would be easy enough to see that. Since anyone with a job-related webpage is likely to have the url on their CV, it would be pretty easy to quickly assess that skill. This ad also has restrictions on, e.g., the order in which your Interfolio documents must appear, and the order in which the documents on your webpage must appear. It seems more like a test of how well you follow orders.

Anonymous said...

@ 3:17

The very fact that the add refers to posting video-form teaching philosophy statements and research statements as well as to posting teaching demonstration videos frames an expectation that each applicant should post such items. They clearly expect the items to be posted by some subset of the applicants or they would not have mentioned them. Their expectation indicates a likelihood that the best applications will be ones that meet their preference for video material. It is short step from there to the conclusion that, really, a serious applicant for the job had better produce the videos the committee expects if they want to compete at all.

Even more troubling, what are those of us who are not gifted with telegenic appearances supposed to do? It is quite hard enough for, frankly, very ugly people like myself to find work in a student-evaluation driven world where we excite no hormonal response to keep students rapt in attention during lecture. It's positively humiliating to be asked to produce more than an hour video material that strangers can ogle and guffaw over at their leisure. and that is to say of the time involved in recording such videos. Worrying over clothes, trying to find venues. arranging for friends, colleagues, or students to sit in on the fake lecture, trying to memorize the lecture to get everything on perfect on tape, and learning a video editing suite in order to gild the lily. It would be a nightmare. Imagine doing all that, only to have your "application" unceremoniously shit-canned by an utterly indifferent search committee.

Anonymous said...

I'm not applying for the Sacramento job, and so I ask the following out of mere curiosity.

Does Sacramento require the URL to be publicly accessible? If so, all but one applicant will have a publicly accessible record that confirms they applied for the job and were not successful. That record will be cached by Google and available for all other potential employers, either this job market season or in the future. I'm not sure if that counts as a violation of personal privacy (as applying for the job is voluntary), but it does strike me as a bit icky.

Anonymous said...

the creation of a personal webpage (not a terribly difficult task, particularly for someone with experience in online education) with their really simple guidelines is not a very difficult task.

Your sentence (not without redundancy) is not without redundancy.

Anonymous said...

3:23, et al:

I'm not annoyed that one be required to show evidence of the ability to create websites, online content, and so on.

I'm annoyed by the silly directions (noted by Zombie) about the order of materials, etc.

If they want evidence of web-design, fine. I can give them that. If they want me to jump through a bunch of stupid hoops, fine. I can do that. But I reserve the right to be annoyed by the stupidity of the relevant hoops.

Anonymous said...

Last year by this time I had already applied to around 25 jobs. This year I have applied to 5. Is it possible that some magical deluge of jobs will fall down in the next month or so and everyone is just taking their time because there is no timeline anymore? Or does this just stink?

zombie said...

12:50 - the complete ad does mention that if you password-protect the webpage, you have to give the committee the password. I guess that means you can have a webpage that has contents that are not accessible. But the existence of the webpage itself would not be something you could hide, since there is no way I know of (short of putting the page on a private internal network) to do that. (But I could be wrong about that.) Of course, you could delete the page as soon as the job season is over.

There is nothing about that required webpage that, to my mind, as someone who has successfully taught online courses, indicates any level of skill at putting together an online course. Creating and posting videos of yourself delivering a lecture is hardly ideal online course content.

Anonymous said...

7:03,

I wasn't on the job market last year, but I imagine you're either being really picky--e.g. applying regionally or only to the super elite--or your AOS is quite narrow. Maybe there's another explanation, but without some context, it's hard to speculate. I've applied to 50+ and I know people in different areas who have applied similarly.

Anonymous said...

@9:49

50 applications? You must be at a Leiter top 10 program. Must of us in the cheap seats cannot afford to be that prodigious. I am at an unranked school. Which means that if a prospective employer is a ranked program, applying is generally a waste of time. Also if 80-100% of a department's junior faculty are from Leiter top 20 schools, applying is a waste of time. Also if the school has a graduate program, applying is a waste of time. Also if a job is outside the AOS of my dissertation, applying is a waste of time. Also if a job is open/open with a 4/3 load or better, applying is a waste of time. Add those things up and there have been about 15 jobs been able to apply for so far. it must be nice to have the pedigree that makes thinking about whether to apply completely unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

I applied to 50+ jobs my first year on the market as well. Then I realized all the things that @1:20 said are true. On the flipside, it is very hard to discern what a committee truly wants from their little bitty ad and if you are on the fence about applying somewhere (and you got the money and the time) then do it.

zombie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think 1:20 and 2:12's comments ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

My PhD is from a school that is near the bottom of the philosophical gourmet. Last year, I was interviewed and/or shortlisted at a few schools (in the United States and elsewhere) that appear on the top 30 of Leiter's world rankings. I admit that most of the other candidates for those jobs came from schools with good pedigree, and I would not contest the existence of academic elitism, snobbery, nepotism in the hiring process. Nonetheless, I think applying to jobs at elite universities is neither a waste of time nor money. If things work out, the payoff is huge. So if you have enough disposable income, you would need to think your chances of success are infinitesimally small in order for an application to be a bad gamble. I admit that this generalization is not true for some young philosophers who have families, extremely low pay, and/or no benefits. However, I applied for over 60 jobs last year ago when my salary was below 20K a year.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 6:43.

How much would you be willing to pay for a tenure track job at school x?

If you'd be willing to shell out $60,000 in order to get the job (which seems reasonable, given what it means for your future), then you should be willing to spend $6 and a little time for at least a 1-in-1000 shot at it.

Of course, if that $6 would be a substantial hardship, then this calculation might go differently.

zombie said...

1:20: If you only apply to 15 jobs, and don't get hired, then you might say that applying to those jobs was a waste of time. If out of 15, you get one job offer, the other 14 were a waste of time.

Or you could say that none of them are a waste of time. You hone your skills, and if you get interviews, you learn about the process, and your potential weaknesses. You meet some people. The money you spend (and I think it unjust that job applicants have to pay anything to apply for jobs) is an investment. Maybe it's a risky investment that will not have a very good return in the majority of cases. But you just need the one job offer to get a decent return.

So maybe don't apply to the top tier jobs if you're not a top tier candidate. But it is actually possible to move up, if you've been a productive scholar and a good teacher.

Anonymous said...

"But it is actually possible to move up, if you've been a productive scholar and a good teacher."

And if you are very, very lucky. Let's not forget how much luck factors into all of this.

But I do agree with you on one point: you can't get the jobs you don't apply for.

To 1:20, if you really think it's a waste of time from someone from your program to apply for many jobs, then why did you apply to that PhD program? Why did you accept their offer to attend? Why are you bothering to finish? Or did you only just now learn about rankings and academic elitism?

Anonymous said...

@8:44

1:20 here...

To answer your needlessly snarky question: (i) I took the offer because it was there and it offered me a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream (of having a Phd), and (ii) like many folks, I took the offer BEFORE the effects of market crash of 2008 were fully understood, at a time when there was an expectation of increased hiring in the future due to retiring faculty that would have offset (to some extent) the problems of pedigree and elitism. of course that expectation turned out to to be false.

Once I had invested in that course it seemed wiser to keep going down the road and hope for the best. I'm literally not qualified for any sort of non-academic work.

Anonymous said...

A question for those who are saying that they've applied to 60+ jobs: do you just apply everywhere with no regard for the AOS/AOC "fit"? Because looking through the JFP Philjobs site, I don't there is any single AOS, even counting Open schools and elite posts, with 60+ jobs. I was under the impression that if your dissertation was not in an area, or if you had not published in an area, calling that area your AOS is dishonest.

Anonymous said...

8:44: I am one who learned about rankings late. I came into my unranked PhD program from a terminal master's program whose faculty didn't (and still don't) have a clue. It's hard to believe, but there are still undergrad and graduate programs out there that think that Leiter rankings and GRE scores don't matter. I was ill advised that it didn't matter where I went to get a PhD, as long as I was happy doing what I was doing. My PhD program's placement director's advice was only marginally better than the advice I previously received. It's hard to believe, but there are unranked PhD programs who don't take Leiter rankings seriously either. Perhaps this is why they are unranked?

With all of that said, I agree with Zombie. You can't get the jobs for which you don't apply. I have had to work ridiculously hard to get what I've got (visiting, indefinitely renewable), and I am the first to admit that I have been lucky. My first year on the market was my wake up call to the reality of rankings, and while I have pared down the number (and type) of jobs to which I apply this (my third) year on the market (35 down from 70), I am still in the game with two interviews so far.

zombie said...

8:44 - I think luck is a significant factor when just about anyone gets hired in this game. The truly exceptional are, by definition, rare.

Anonymous said...

9:55,

I'm one of those who applied to 50+. When you count VAPs, post-docs, and open/opens, it's easy to reach that number. And there were plenty of jobs of could have applied to, but didn't want to, given the location. 60+ is realistic. I have one AOS and I never applied to an AOS other than that. I imagine if someone does something like moral epistemology, they could apply to 100 jobs if they so desired.

Anonymous said...

"I was under the impression that if your dissertation was not in an area, or if you had not published in an area, calling that area your AOS is dishonest."

There is, of course, the possibility of completing a dissertation covering more than one AOS.

Anonymous said...

Regarding 1:20 pm, I was in an even worse position when I was on the market, having done my PhD at a school that is not only unranked but outside North America. I too learned that it was generally a waste of time to apply to prestigious places. My default rule was, if it is Leiter-ranked don't apply unless there is some special consideration (like being in my home town or having a very unusual job description).

Even given this however I found ways to conduct a broad search and during my fourth and final year on the market applied to 66 places (only thee of which were Leiter-ranked). Two things that allowed me to search that broadly were applying to non-US schools and applying to Catholic schools. If my wife had not imposed restrictions on where we could live in the U.S. I would have searched even wider.

I acknowledge that not everyone will be equally interested in foreign or Catholic options, but if it starts to feel like the prestige factor is making your search futile and that is getting you down, those kinds of strategies are a way to keep hope alive, in the sense that they at least are up to the candidate, and not choices already made for him or her.

Anonymous said...

8:44 here again.

"To answer your needlessly snarky question: (i) I took the offer because it was there"

That's a pretty awful reason. What offers id you decline? Why was that school on your radar? What were your reasons for applying? When you researched schools, why did that one rise to the top (compared to all the programs you chose not to apply to)? Was it their placement record? Their funding package? The experts who are doing top work in their respective fields?

"and it offered me a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream (of having a Phd),"

OK then, dream realized.

"and (ii) like many folks, I took the offer BEFORE the effects of market crash of 2008 were fully understood, at a time when there was an expectation of increased hiring in the future due to retiring faculty that would have offset (to some extent) the problems of pedigree and elitism."

OK. That's legit. What was your program's placement rate before 2008? Did you accept their offer because of some vague sense that the market would improve, and you hoped your program would benefit from that vague hope? Or did your program have a strong placement rate that, after 2008, dropped significantly? Yeah, the market got worse. But as we all know, some programs still place better than others. You admitted this above. So what I'm asking is, before 2008, was your program one that had good a placement record? Were people from your program landing jobs at Leiter-ranked institutions before 2008? Because if not, then there's no reason why the new realities of the market are to blame for your decision not to apply to jobs at Leiter-ranked institutions.

(And did you really think that the elitism in the field was getting better before 2008? Was there any evidence to suggest that?)

"of course that expectation turned out to to be false."

That happens when you gamble. And yes, it was a gamble.

"Once I had invested in that course it seemed wiser to keep going down the road and hope for the best."

Hope is of little value, especially on the market. What were you doing to improve your situation? Knowing that you were facing an ever-worsening market, with a degree that you suggest would hold you back, what (other than hope) was your plan for success?

"I'm literally not qualified for any sort of non-academic work."

And soon, we'll have our annual Plan B thread, where people will be giving various bits of advice. And as with every year, I'll contribute some version of the following: not having any other skills is on you. And if you knew the market started to go sour in 2008, what have you been doing over the past 5 years to give yourself a chance in the non-academic or alt-ac markets? 5 years ago, the market started to go to shit, and you knew that your program was "lesser" and that you had no non-academic skills. So what have you been doing over the past 5 years to compensate for these things you knew 5 years ago?

Anonymous said...

8:44/5:25,

You are continuing with needlessly snarky comments. Nothing by the poster to whom you've been replying call for this.

Anonymous said...

5:25, why don't you lay off 1:20?

Anonymous said...

@5:25: hush.

Anonymous said...

8:44/5:25,

I, too, went to a terrible school for my PhD because it was there. You ask this other fellow why (s)he would choose such a school, what his/her research turned up about it and the way the market was shifting, etc.

You're missing the point, I'm afraid. The reason people like that commenter and I attended these PhD programs is simply out of ignorance about the way the system works.

In my case, I attended an out-of-touch undergrad program whose members had joined the department decades earlier and had no idea that certain graduate programs out there would not get you jobs. Nobody gave me any warnings about that. I had personal reasons for needing to stay in a particular geographical area, and there was a program in that area that offered a PhD. I applied and was accepted, so I went.

Why wasn't I worried about going? Because it had never been suggested to me that legitimate, certified universities would be permitted to run programs ostensibly leading to a certain career if people completing those career programs successfully would have more or less no chance whatsoever of landing the career for which they are thereby certified. It may seem entirely natural for us to wonder about that now, but remember that this is a nonobvious a posteriori piece of information.

Anonymous said...

And behold, yet another Smoker discussion is derailed...

Anonymous said...

*8:44 again

"You're missing the point, I'm afraid. The reason people like that commenter and I attended these PhD programs is simply out of ignorance about the way the system works."

That's *exactly* my point. Thank you.

My point is that it's *your* ignorance. Own it. I know you are not speaking on behalf of 1:20, but let's assume that 1:20 was as ignorant as you were when choosing graduate programs. Your complaint, then, is not with the market; it's with your inability to do the proper research. Nobody in a PhD program right now should have applied so long ago that all the needed information wasn't immediately available on the internet. And nobody intelligent enough to be accepted to a PhD program should be lacking in the basic researching skills needed to find this *extremely important* information. Those who want to become professional philosophers but don't do any research into how to go about becoming one have only themselves to blame when they wake up one morning and discover that their program isn't ranked and doesn't have a strong placement rate.

You want to blame the faculty you studied under? Go right ahead. I'll join you. It's a fucking shame that so many faculty are so blind to the realities of the market. It's awful that there are some, for instance, who got their jobs back in the good ol' days when all it took was a phone call and a handshake. (One of my undergrad professors never finished his dissertation; he was graduated ABD, because he already had a job lined up, and never bothered to finish it. I still can't believed that happened, but it did.) But honestly, that blame only goes so far. Because anyone with good enough skills in the field should be smart enough to know how to go find that information, and anyone ambitious enough should know not to just sit back and be told what to do.

"I had personal reasons for needing to stay in a particular geographical area"

And I have no doubt they were legitimate. But when you make such a concession, that's also on you. It's not the market's fault that you made such a choice. You made a choice based on your priorities (and/or necessities), and there are consequences for that choice. This sucks, but that's the way it works. But this also isn't the fault of the shitty market.

"Because it had never been suggested to me that legitimate, certified universities would be permitted to run programs ostensibly leading to a certain career if people completing those career programs successfully would have more or less no chance whatsoever of landing the career for which they are thereby certified."

And did you take it on faith that your PhD program had a good placement record? I find this to be incredibly naive on your part, and shame on you. It never occurred to you that sometimes, people don't get the jobs they train for? Never in your life did you meet someone who trained for a job and failed to work in that field? Did you also grow up believing that service workers all chose those lines of work? Come on. You're not that naive, I am sure of it.

Very likely, you fell into the belief I have seen in almost every philosophy student I have ever met: that you were so good, and so smart, and so deserving, that of course you would get a job. I have no doubt that you were told this by well-meaning faculty, too.

"It may seem entirely natural for us to wonder about that now, but remember that this is a nonobvious a posteriori piece of information."

No, it really isn't. It's very obvious. If you want a job in a field, any field, you should investigate how to get a job in that field, and make the appropriate decisions. (And even then, you likely won't get a job, given the reality of the market.) But it's very, very obvious that if you want a job, you should learn how to get that job. When you applied to and entered into a PhD program, all the relevant information was easily accessible.

Anonymous said...

" When you applied to and entered into a PhD program, all the relevant information was easily accessible."

Just as a factual matter, job placement data from departments have only VERY recently become "easily accessible." In fact, Leiter still posts from time to time urging departments to be more transparent.

Anonymous said...

One wonders how someone with such a refined capacity for informed cost benefit analysis could have settled on "self-righteous troll" and "kicking people when they're down" as his primary occupation.

Anonymous said...

"Just as a factual matter, job placement data from departments have only VERY recently become "easily accessible." In fact, Leiter still posts from time to time urging departments to be more transparent."

And when you ask for that information and a school won't provide it, that also tells you something important.

Anonymous said...

12:48, it's hard for me to wrap my head around what an idiot you are, in addition to your douchebaggery.

Maybe this will get it through to you. Suppose that you visit a different city and, while you are walking down the street, you step on what looks like a regular piece of the sidewalk and it turns out to be a trapdoor. You fall into a pit and are asked for $10,000 to be helped back out (your lower spine seems to be broken by the fall, so you can't do much without help). While you're down there, you take a bite out of some food you had just bought, and find that it's filled with poison materials.

As you're lying down there trapped, broken-backed and poisoned, some locals stand around smirking at you, asking why you didn't do specific research on that particular sidewalk and the particular deli where you bought the sandwich. It turns out that, in that city, everyone researches all these things: they _need_ to! So they demand to know why you didn't bother doing research. You explain that it never dawned on you to research all these things, in response to which these people tell you to "own it" that you're in the situation you're in.

Do you get it now? If not, you're a fucking idiot.

Anonymous said...

"Do you get it now?"

Yes, I get it. I get that rather than discuss the actual issues, you want to invent an analogy to try and prove a point you seem to think is self-evident.

How about this? I agree, I'm an asshole. There.

Now, from you, I'd like an explanation of the issue that isn't shrouded in an idiotic analogy.

Please explain to me why it's not short-sighted and naive to not research the job market before applying to and accepting an offer from PhD programs. Why is it reasonable to expect intelligent people to blindly enter into a field whose market problems have ben publicly documented on the internet for years?

How about this. You have a student. This student wants to do a PhD in philosophy and get a job in the profession. What information do you think he *needs* to know before applying? Now explain to me why it's reasonable for other applicants *not* to have that information.

Anonymous said...

Or, if you want to keep with your childish analogy:

OK, you go to that new city, and it never occurred to you to read the welcome sign on the way in, or look at a map, where you would have learned that the name of the city is called "Our Sidewalks Are Trapdoors." You have that sandwich, but ignored the fact that you bought it at the store "All Our Food Is Poisoned."

You sit and wallow in your misery, wondering why nobody ever told you to read posted signs before going into new cities and new stores.

Anonymous said...

8:58 FTW

Anonymous said...

yeah, see i totally understand being angry at "the market," at universities that choose to replace tenure lines with adjuncts, leaving Ph.D.s with truly grim job expectations. what i don't get is the insistence on telling each other that it is our fault. it took me 8 years to get a ph.d., and in that time the reputation of my department changed considerably relative to other departments in their "peer group," (for the better, but that is irrelevant to this point) - this had nothing to do with me, there was no indication that this would happen when i chose the program, i did not have this information available to me when i made my choice. similarly, i had no way of knowing that the economy would collapse five years after i began training for the ph.d., sinking available job opportunities in the academy to exciting new lows.

so what's going on when we hold job seekers accountable for these kinds of exigencies? there is definitely some shit to be mad about, some of it is railing against bad luck, and some of it is real structural issues, choices being made by people who probably should make different choices, but who currently have no incentive to. being mad at ourselves or each other for not having like total control over all information past and future, is at least just bad faith, and at worst apologetics for the kinds of privileges (getting into this program, because you went to this college, because you went to this high school, because you came from this background, etc., etc.) that are always lurking behind the ideology of meritocracy that props up this shady business.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 7:42/7:47/etc.:

First off, let me make a guess. You read Ayn Rand when you were in high school and thought it was the coolest thing in the world. But unlike your more intelligent peers, you still accept her juvenile rants about everyone being responsible for everything about him/herself. Am I close?

Anyway, here's my story. I went to a local university for my undergrad because my parents (unlike yours, I suspect) didn't have the means to support my going to a big name school. I fell in love with philosophy and my professors encouraged me to go on to grad school. I had very good grades, and talked with a couple of the professors I trusted to see which grad program I should go to. They mentioned a couple of local universities as being great. I talked with them about getting a job, how hard it was, etc. They told me that as long as I was willing to put in my time as an adjunct somewhere and got good teaching reviews, I should be able to get a tenure track position within a few years on the basis of that and one or two publications somewhere. Why did they tell me that? Because they got their jobs in the '80s when the whole scene was radically different, and they hadn't kept up with the field since then (I lived in a kind of backwater area). I got the same impression from both of them, and nothing suggested anything different to me. So I had excellent reasons for taking them at their word.

I applied to the local PhD programs they suggested. The program that I chose was extremely enthusiastic in encouraging me to come. I later found out that their fledgling PhD program was a key in their strategy to move to a lower teaching load. I studied there for two years without having any contact with people from other departments. Nothing whatsoever in any of my experience had given me the slightest reason to think that I would get any different information elsewhere. All the professors in the department had nothing but great things to say about the recently revived PhD program. And I knew for a fact that a couple graduates from their previous PhD program had got tenured positions in the department where I had done my BA.

I attended my first conference in my third year, and heard for the first time that there had been a change in the philosophy job market. At that point, I started investigating it and got really worried. But it would have been extremely difficult to change programs at that point, given my resources and the fact that I'd be burning bridges by attempting to do so. So I stuck with it.

I hope that helps clarify a world you seem not to be able to understand somehow.

Anonymous said...

"First off, let me make a guess. You read Ayn Rand when you were in high school and thought it was the coolest thing in the world."

Nope. Never bothered to read Rand. That's another pitfall I managed to avoid by looking into something before blindly jumping into it.

"But unlike your more intelligent peers, you still accept her juvenile rants about everyone being responsible for everything about him/herself. Am I close?"

Not even a little bit. But I appreciate that you are consistent in making choices based on guesswork rather than information.

"Anyway, here's my story. I went to a local university for my undergrad because my parents (unlike yours, I suspect) didn't have the means to support my going to a big name school."

Wrong again. I did my undergraduate studies at the local branch of the state university system (Western CT State). I lived at home and commuted because I couldn't afford to live on campus. My mother (my father passed) wasn't able to contribute to my education other than allowing me to live at home. I went on to earn my PhD from a "ranked" institution (UConn), though it is ranked 50th.

"I fell in love with philosophy and my professors encouraged me to go on to grad school. I had very good grades, and talked with a couple of the professors I trusted to see which grad program I should go to."

Yup. Sounds very familiar.

"Why did they tell me that? Because they got their jobs in the '80s when the whole scene was radically different, and they hadn't kept up with the field since then (I lived in a kind of backwater area)."

Yup. Which is precisely why, above, I decided that a fair amount of the blame should fall on the shoulders of those who provide shitty advice.

"I later found out that their fledgling PhD program was a key in their strategy to move to a lower teaching load."

Sounds like a good gig for them. And that they should be invested in making that program strong, to ensure its survival.

"I studied there for two years without having any contact with people from other departments."

By choice? Did you not think there was any value in dragging your head out of the sand to look at the wider world around you? Or were you somehow rebuffed, and your attempts to view the field with a more informed lens were rejected? Because this is a key part of my argument: at some point, you decided to sit back and bury your head in the sand. Here is just such a point.

"Nothing whatsoever in any of my experience had given me the slightest reason to think that I would get any different information elsewhere."

That happens when you bury your head in the sand. It is true that when you limit your experience, your experience is limiting.

"All the professors in the department had nothing but great things to say about the recently revived PhD program."

Of course they did. They taught in it. No possible conflict of interest there. Used car salesmen also think every car on the lot is worth buying.

"And I knew for a fact that a couple graduates from their previous PhD program had got tenured positions in the department where I had done my BA."

This is a big deal, and certainly would play in to a sense of where the degree can take you. Where, however, did the other graduates get jobs? I mean, you started to look into the program's placement rate; how far did your investigations go?

"So I stuck with it."

Good on you. But "stuck with it" is a horrible way to look at it. It's too bad you are not happier with your program.

"I hope that helps clarify a world you seem not to be able to understand somehow."

I do understand it. I'd also like for people to understand that their choices have consequences. No, it's not entirely your fault that you got stuck where you are. There are many people to blame, but you are certainly one of them. You are not a helpless victim in the story of your life.

Anonymous said...

That's some serious professional negligence on the part of your undergrad professors, 8:58. And on the part of your grad professors too, come to think of it. You should let them know about it, in no uncertain terms, before they harm their next victim.

JustinfomCanada said...

Let me add to the growing consensus that you are an asshole.

You seem to be missing the big point your most recent interlocutor is making here. The point is that that interlocutor exercised what (s)he reasonably took to be due diligence in investigating whether the PhD program would lead to a career. Perhaps you have no idea that this is the case, but getting credentials and good references from a recognized university has traditionally been adequate grounds for finding a career in that field, absent any defeaters. This is still the case for a great many degrees (engineering, accounting, etc.). Your recent interlocutor describes being advised to take this route by his/her undergraduate advisors, and then given positive reinforcement by people at graduate school. From what I can see, (s)he had been given no reason whatsoever for thinking that there would be something crucial to learn about the state of the profession at a conference. This is obviously not a case of 'burying one's head in the sand'.

Or perhaps you have an extremely weird epistemological view according to which one is never warranted in believing anything whatsoever until one has done skeptical research on it. If so, it's a wonder you have time to do anything but research.

Or, more likely, you for some reason just can't picture yourself in an epistemic position in which your interlocutor found him/herself.

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't quite see what makes 7:42/11:36 an asshole. This individual is certainly not pulling any punches and he/she is not saying something that struggling job market candidates are especially eager to be hearing right now. Still, I'm a bit surprised at others' unwillingness to take a little responsibility for their situation. I finished my PhD over 15 years ago; things appear to be much worse now; but even before the internet, most of my peers asked questions about placement before entering a program. My undergraduate professors had no clue which graduate programs were strong, which were weak, which were able to help their graduates acquire TT jobs, and so on. Yet I was still able to gather enough information on such matter to make a reasonably wise decision. Moreover, I did not (not even 15 years ago) feel that a TT position was the expected outcome of finishing a doctorate. Jobs were hard to land back then and not everyone succeeded. From my first year in my PhD program, and each year after, I watched outgoing students struggle desperately to find University positions. Some did, others didn't.

So, yes, probably none of us would have ended up in a humanities PhD program without getting some bad advice from academic mentors. Yes, the faculty at PhD-granting institutions (even the highly ranked ones) are apt to give wildly optimistic assessments of our chances on the market. But I still find the blame-shifting a bit unseemly and don't see how 7:42/11:36's calling attention to it makes him or her an asshole.

(Also, at the risk of committing a straight-up ad hominem, I refuse to agree with any view endorsed by JustinfromCanada.)

JustinfomCanada said...

6:04,

The person is an asshole because (s)he keeps insisting that those who didn't research their program's placement records, attend professional conferences for alternative views, etc. are either stupid or lazy or have their heads in the sand -- despite the fact that it keeps getting pointed out to him/her that many people have no good reason to think it will be important to check these things.

While it is surely true nowadays that one should do research on one's program and that one shouldn't expect to have a reasonable chance at a career simply because one earns the required degree from a recognized university, these things are not self-evident and in fact they were not typically the case a generation ago. It isn't difficult to imagine people whose parents, teachers, professors, and friends in other professional areas would have no knowledge of this shift in philosophy and a couple of other professions. It seems rather unfair to blame such people for failing to check something they would have had no reason at all to think they needed to check. Why would an accredited university be permitted to run a program and admit n students, one might rightly wonder, if there haven't been deemed to be enough careers for those n people? Of course, there are answers to this question; but why should someone who doesn't know what we know be blamed for not guessing?

There are many things that people never check, even though they're possibly important. For instance, I'll bet more or less none of the people studying chemistry at university check to make sure the claims about chemistry made in their lectures and textbooks and the websites are correct. Why? Because they, like more or less any other reasonable people, take for granted that a university is not in the business of systematically deceiving students. A similar thing is going on here. If the professors in your undergraduate program tell you that you're going to be fine if you go to university X for your PhD, and there is no good reason to think that those professors have a personal interest in recommending the other department for a PhD program, then why should the student question it?

These students are being screwed around by bad undergraduate advisors, and taken advantage of by those in graduate programs who are looking for easy sources of TA labour or a stroking of their collective ego ('Look at us! We have a PhD program now!'). The person who submitted all these comments is calling students who have been screwed over that way 'ignorant', and is asking them to 'own' their ignorance.

Moreover, the commenter's extensions of the analogy provided betray an ongoing lack of comprehension of what is being said. (S)he says that the fact that information about the job market and so on are available online makes people who attend shitty PhD programs akin to those who eat poisoned food despite getting it from a store with a sign that says "Our food is poisoned", though obviously what it's really analogous to is eating poisoned food when there's a sign _at some office across town you've never heard of_ that says to be careful of that food.

People who are systematically incapable of empathizing with victims and abuse them by calling them ignorant and blaming them for their misfortune are assholes. Hence, this person is an asshole.

Anonymous said...

The person is an asshole because (s)he keeps insisting that those who didn't research their program's placement records, attend professional conferences for alternative views, etc. are either stupid or lazy or have their heads in the sand -- despite the fact that it keeps getting pointed out to him/her that many people have no good reason to think it will be important to check these things

It's just not at all obvious to me that a student in a PhD program has no good reason to think a bit more carefully about placement. In fact, the more I think about it, the more mystifying I find it. Each year, most programs will send at least a couple students out on the market. How can one fail to pay some attention to what transpires? Surely I was not alone in keeping track of how my fellow students fared. I had six years of watching cohort after cohort go out on the market. And I have to tell you, it was painfully obvious, very quickly, that landing permanent employment in academia was no easy feat. Moreover, even granting that continuing students may, in some programs, be kept in the dark about much of the process, is it not arguably a case of willful ignorance not to grow at least somewhat concerned when one's program mints PhDs year after year but there is no news of candidates being placed in TT positions?

I think you're dramatically overstating the case to suggest that asking these sorts of questions (even a bit forcefully, as the individual in question does above), as well as thinking it a bit baffling that grad students wouldn't have cultivated more curiosity in such circumstances, amounts to being "systematically incapable of empathizing with victims."

Finally, as a side-note: The whole fell-in-a-trapdoor-on-the-sidewalk-and-ate-poisoned-food scenario struck me as a poor analogy to earning a philosophy PhD and discovering that the market for TT positions is pretty damn awful. Here's a better analogy: I attend a graduate program and receive an advanced degree in music performance. Now I have no idea what the prospects are for finding a job with those credentials. But if jobs are scarce on the other side, my first thought (for my own part, at least) is not to rage against my professors, or against an unfair system that favors pedigrees different from my own. I took this to be the main thrust of 7:42/11:36 comments. Perhaps I'm being too charitable though.

Anonymous said...

11:40, let me fill in some other details about the program I've been describing so that you get some clearer details.

The department from which I earned my PhD had had a graduate program previously. Decades earlier, people graduated from that program and got positions at the school where I did undergraduate work. Then, for reasons I'm not sure of, the department stopped having a graduate program for ten years or so. At that point, the ambitious person who became department chair undertook to reduce the teaching load of the department by one course per year. His strategy for doing that involved increased freshman class sizes, which required TAs, which required a graduate program. So, he managed to get the graduate program fired up again: first an MA, and a year later a PhD. I didn't know about these motivations behind the revived program until years later.

So there was no placement rate of the current program for me to keep up with. Due diligence, therefore, cannot require that I have done so.

It's true that this was an exceptional circumstance, and that most people in PhD programs will have a chance to watch the careers of those more senior in the program. But even then, it seems unfair to blame them for their situation. Consider: a student enters a PhD program, having (let's say) no reason at that point to think it might lead nowhere. Students in that program presumably spend the first year or two on coursework. So the student is likely to interact socially, if at all, with other PhD students beginning in the same year or one year earlier. The students who are going on the job market that year, in most departments, inhabit a different world. Some of them rarely come to the department and avoid socializing because they're in the last crunch of their dissertation. Actually, worse departments probably tend to have fewer opportunities for interaction between PhD students of different years.

But let's suppose that this isn't the case. Suppose Jones is given the false information in her undergrad years that Department X is a good choice for a PhD program. She finds out what it would take to get admitted to Department X, and earns grades and letters of recommendation that meet or exceed that standard (though unbeknownst to Jones, the departments to which she should actually be applying have vastly higher standards). She gets in to Department X, secures student loans, and moves to X. Then, let's say, she finds out within the year that the students who looked for TT jobs that year all fared badly. At that point, it'll probably be far too late for her to transfer to a different program. Leaving aside the minor issues of the stresses of relocation and the fact that she'd probably lose a year of work because the new program would require that most of the courses be taken in that department, the shift to a decent program would at that point be impossible for Jones anyway: her undergrad training and work will just not be sufficient for the programs she'll want to transfer to (though she did all she thought she needed to do, given the department she erroneously believed would be sufficient for a successful PhD). Again, it seems weird to blame her for this.

Anonymous said...

(Continuing)


As for your music school comparison: it still fails to be analogous, and moreover laypeople are much more aware of the difficulty of finding work as a musician than of the difficulty of finding work as a professor (assuming relevant training and degrees in each).

Here's what else you're still missing: speaking personally, I was never in a position of having "no idea what the prospects are for finding a job with those credentials." I knew several people who had jobs with those credentials. In fact, some of them had their credentials from the very department I went to for my PhD. And before deciding to go there, I spoke with many of those people to see whether I would make it if I went to that school. I was told that supposing I did well in the PhD program, I would succeed if, at worst, I was willing to relocate and to put in a couple of years of adjunct work before getting offered a TT position. So I did investigate and was confidently given incorrect information by several people I knew personally who were in the profession, and who encouraged me. What I didn't do was to check on the Philosophy Smoker or the Gourmet Report -- websites I had no idea existed and never imagined had a reason for existing.

Anonymous said...

I think people are bristling at the truth because they really do have a head-in-the-sand attitude. The truth hurts.

Anonymous said...

Justin:

"While it is surely true nowadays that one should do research on one's program and that one shouldn't expect to have a reasonable chance at a career simply because one earns the required degree from a recognized university, these things are not self-evident and in fact they were not typically the case a generation ago. It isn't difficult to imagine people whose parents, teachers, professors, and friends in other professional areas would have no knowledge of this shift in philosophy and a couple of other professions. It seems rather unfair to blame such people for failing to check something they would have had no reason at all to think they needed to check. Why would an accredited university be permitted to run a program and admit n students, one might rightly wonder, if there haven't been deemed to be enough careers for those n people? Of course, there are answers to this question; but why should someone who doesn't know what we know be blamed for not guessing?"

A generation ago is not 30 years. It's been very difficult for over 10 years now (it's been absurdly difficult for over 5 years now). People in the profession ought to have the pulse of the profession, particularly if they're going to be advising students in pursuing academic careers.

In the past few years, the proportion of PhDs who get a TT job after 5 years is something like 30%. That information is now easy to find (it didn't use to exist in an easily accessible form). Getting a Philosophy PhD is *not* a ticket to a job, let alone a TT one in philosophy.

Maybe it's not self-evident that one should check on things like placement rates and reputations of departments, but still, one *ought* to. Starting a PhD is a huge deal, and which school one goes to really matters. If *that* isn't obvious, then someone has serious problems. People can't just go into something as serious as a PhD willy-nilly without a plan or without doing one's research on job prospects.

Anonymous said...

"The person is an asshole because"

I admitted I'm an asshole. Can we move on?

"(s)he keeps insisting that those who didn't research their program's placement records [...] are either stupid or lazy or have their heads in the sand"

I think "head in the sand" is an apt way to describe those who choose not to investigate the field they wish to make their life's work.

"despite the fact that it keeps getting pointed out to him/her that many people have no good reason to think it will be important to check these things."

Then we disagree on what constitutes "good reason." I think "wanting to know about the field one wishes to pursue" is good reason. I find it hard to believe others disagree. Speaking of which...

"While it is surely true nowadays that one should do research on one's program"

Thank you for agreeing with me.

"and in fact they were not typically the case a generation ago."

And again we seem to differ on the finer points. I do not consider 2008 (the year I explicitly mentioned, in response to an earlier poster) to be "a generation ago." If you consider every 5 years to be a generation, so be it. But I don't see how it's "surely true" now, but was not "surely true" 5 years ago.

"It isn't difficult to imagine people whose parents, teachers, professors, and friends in other professional areas would have no knowledge of this shift in philosophy."

I place a large part of the blame on philosophy faculty. But I will not blame parents, or others not engaged in the field.

"It seems rather unfair to blame such people for failing to check something they would have had no reason at all to think they needed to check."

Really? Above, you noted that it is "surely true" that one should do this research. So which is it? Is it "surely true" that people should do this research, or is it "rather unfair" to blame them for not doing it?

"Why would an accredited university be permitted to run a program and admit n students, one might rightly wonder, if there haven't been deemed to be enough careers for those n people?"

Because this has never been true of any career in the history of ever? Unless you think that everyone who has a job has that job because that's the job they trained for. In which case, I'd like to introduce you to a used car salesman I know.

"I'll bet more or less none of the people studying chemistry at university check to make sure the claims about chemistry made in their lectures and textbooks and the websites are correct. Why?"

Because they engage in lab work to demonstrate that the claims are true.

"Because they, like more or less any other reasonable people, take for granted that a university is not in the business of systematically deceiving students."

PhD program are not systematically deceiving students, unless they claim that all students will get jobs when they graduate. In which case, please sue them.

"These students are being screwed around by bad undergraduate advisors"

Agreed.

"and taken advantage of by those in graduate programs who are looking for easy sources of TA labour or a stroking of their collective ego ('Look at us! We have a PhD program now!')."

Again, agreed.

"The person who submitted all these comments is calling students who have been screwed over that way 'ignorant', and is asking them to 'own' their ignorance."

Which you agree with, because you note it is "surely true" that people should be doing this research.

I find it truly baffling that you agree with my claims, and then find fault with me for making them. You may disagree with my tone, but you seem to agree with my argument.

JustinfomCanada said...

Self-described asshole,

Your response depends essentially on a confusion between two different senses of 'should': the objective sense and the subjective sense.

Objectively speaking, anyone going into philosophy today should do research on the placement record of the program he or she is considering. That is to say, the person would be much better off doing that.

However, it does not follow from this that someone who fails to investigate that is thereby responsible for not having done so. This is because the person might not have any subjective reason for doing that investigation: the person might deliberate perfectly rationally on all the evidence before him/her and yet not have any good hints that there is a need to look into those things.

This notion of objective vs. subjective oughts and reasons is pretty rudimentary in epistemology, metaethics, etc. If you're having a hard time with it, I refer you to that literature.

More relevantly, however, 7:13 (both posts) just gave an excellent example of why someone would, despite being reasonable, fail to come across the information you just don't seem able to imagine not knowing (perhaps because of an undeveloped 'theory of mind' module).

Please have a look.

Anonymous said...

I had no external help from family or friends in going to college, yet still worked my way from junior colleges to a prestigious university.

I didn't study philosophy for undergraduate, but, even for the discipline I studied, it was blindingly obvious that the quality of a PhD program strongly effects job placement.

Realizing the above, I went to an MA to make myself competitive for a high-quality PhD since I wanted a job. Most/All of the MAs around for this purpose are no cost or low enough cost to get federal loans. So I did that.

Now I'm in a good PhD program. I still probably won't get a job. But this was obvious from the start. Like anything in life, you get out of a thing what you put in, and so I have no regrets since I went into this endeavor without expecting anything to be given to me without a lot of pain and work.

I am having a *very* hard time seeing where posters denying or minimizing personal responsibility are coming from here. It would be one thing if I thought I had magical foresight or was a genius, but I don't and I'm not. I do think, however, I have a lot more humility about how hard it is to get the things that I want than the whiners above have.

Anonymous said...

"Objectively speaking, anyone going into philosophy today should do research on the placement record of the program he or she is considering. That is to say, the person would be much better off doing that."

Agreed.

"However, it does not follow from this that someone who fails to investigate that is thereby responsible for not having done so. This is because the person might not have any subjective reason for doing that investigation: the person might deliberate perfectly rationally on all the evidence before him/her and yet not have any good hints that there is a need to look into those things."

Yes, what I referred to as "head in the sand." It all depends on what evidence one is basing one's decision on. I will concede that someone can make a decision based on incomplete evidence. One can choose to go to a PhD program without ever once thinking about placement rates for that program. So I'll ask the question differently: Why do you think it is reasonable for someone to want to spend several years training for a career, but never consider what the job prospects in the field look like? I agree that many people *don't* consider it. And that one can make a decision without that information. Why is it reasonable for someone to want to go into a field and *not* consider possible job prospects? If one enters a PhD program for the pure love of studying philosophy and has no interest in a job, that's fine. But when someone specifically thinks, "hey, I want a job in this field," why is it reasonable to accept that such a person would never consider what that job market looks like?

Or how about this. Is this true for all fields, or just philosophy? Am I wrong because it's simply insane for me to expect people to investigate job prospects for their desired careers? Because if it's generally considered unreasonable to expect job seekers to investigate job prospects in their chosen professions, I'll agree that I am in the wrong.

Anonymous said...

To 7:13 (and to JustinfromCanada, who suggested that the self-described asshole (7:41/11:36) read 7:13's posts):

So there was no placement rate of the current program for me to keep up with. Due diligence, therefore, cannot require that I have done so.

Fair enough. These seem to be particularly unique and unusual circumstances. I seriously doubt they fit the experiences had by most philosophy doctoral students over the last decade.

It's true that this was an exceptional circumstance and that most people in PhD programs will have a chance to watch the careers of those more senior in the program.

Yes, exactly. Why is JustinfromCanada describing the circumstances outlined by 7:13 as an "excellent example"? Either it is a representative example or it isn't. If it's not representative, then I assume it is "excellent" only to the extent to which the circumstances nicely explain this particular graduate student's ignorance. But I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Nothing 7:41/11:36 claimed seemed to me to be inconsistent with the possibility of outliers whose unusual and idiosyncratic situations might result in justifiable ignorance. I took 7:41/11:36 to be making a general claim: most doctoral students have no good reason to be surprised when they discover that academic job prospects suck.

But even then, it seems unfair to blame them for their situation.

I find this talk about blame quite odd. I can see that the self-described asshole does use the word 'blame' in comments 12:48 and 11:36 above. (E.g. Those who want to become professional philosophers but don't do any research into how to go about becoming one have only themselves to blame when they wake up one morning and discover that their program isn't ranked and doesn't have a strong placement rate.). I read this (perhaps too charitably) as an exaggerated way of expressing the thought that angrily blaming others for the crappy job market rather than accepting the situation as mostly bad luck is a bit undignified. The job market sucks; no one is disputing that. But it doesn't follow that the full weight of responsibility falls on any particular party or parties. There is indeed elitism. But elitism and classism have always been a part of these sorts of processes. Am I suggesting that this is just the way things are and we should accept it happily? Not at all. Again, it stinks, it's rotten. I just found it curious that anyone is really surprised by any of this. I'm having a very hard time imagining learning more about the job market and indignantly thinking, "But I expected a job! No one told me I might not get a job!" My heart goes out to you. I truly wish you well on the market and hope you land on your feet. But life -- and not just academia -- is cruel.

I've seen a lot of assholish behavior on the Smoker and I get that 7:42/11:36 is wearing the title comfortably. But this individual seems not to fit that mold so much as he or she is merely saying some things many of us don't particularly want to hear. In this respect, I suppose I agree with 9:30 AM above.

JustinfomCanada said...

1:38/Self-Described Asshole:

You're still not getting what's meant by 'rationally subjectively ought to', I'm afraid. It isn't that the deliberator has his or her 'head in the sand' by refusing or neglecting to consider evidence beyond what is immediately presented to him/her. It's that nothing in the evidence to which (s)he has access or in commonsense rationality gives the person any epistemic duty to acquire new information. All our evidence-seeking comes to an end at some point if we have to make a decision. A deliberator who objectively should consider something but subjectively shouldn't consider that thing is, by definition, rationally entitled to stop seeking out new evidence at the point at which (s)he finds him/herself. So by definition, such a person _cannot_ have his/her head in the sand (which is a defect in following subjective rationality).

JustinfomCanada said...

3:06, I don't deny (in case you think I do) that it would be good for people who have taken their PhDs at dead-end programs should try to make the best of their situations and try to get over their bitter feelings toward their departments. Quite possibly, it would help them do this if they considered their own choices in picking the department they did, etc. But it seems to me that there's a much bigger moral matter at stake that I don't want to have papered over.

The bigger moral matter is that it is highly unethical for departments or universities to mint PhDs far in excess of what can reasonably be expected to be absorbed by the profession (unless they make it abundantly clear that their degree program is only intended for those interested in self-edification, and that those who wish to pursue a career in the profession need to go elsewhere).

Perhaps many frequenters of this blog are too young to be aware of this, but it was once taken for granted that a university degree would do this, and a university or department that had doubts about whether its program could offer this would take that as a reason not to offer that degree program, and to limit acceptance rates into their programs if the market were becoming oversaturated.

Why should they do this? Quite simply, because professional ethics should trump narrow, self-interest in professions that aim at the public good. Professional ethics demands that medical specialists not recommend or perform pointless, costly and/or risky operations in order to rake in more money (or even just to stay afloat); it demands that the national mint not produce enough currency to depress the economy simply so that the mint and its employees can maintain their status quo, and that engineers not conspire to misrepresent the level of reinforcements needed on a bridge in order to feather their own nests or stroke their egoes, etc.

The insane problems faced by people on the job market with PhDs from recognized universities -- in fact, the whole reason this blog exists -- would vanish practically overnight if every department offering a PhD were to take a good look at their actual placement record, the number of tenured positions there are now and are likely to be in five years, and other cold, hard realities of the job market and decide on that basis whether to keep running their programs and, if so, how many students they really ought to accept in a given year (i.e. how many they can realistically place, and no more). Moreover, unlike some people applying to PhD programs, departments offering graduate programs have no excuse whatsoever for not having current and accurate information on these things. And yet many of these departments are negligent in this duty and prefer to send tens or hundreds of students into career oblivion after taking their money and cheap TA labour, and all in order to furnish a slightly reduced teaching load or for mere bragging rights connected with having a doctoral program. It's difficult for me to see how that can be anything other than a grievous violation of professional ethics.

Those who participate in widespread violations of business or professional ethics love to blame the victim and trot out the 'buyer beware' maxim as a substitute for action or even for giving the issue at hand serious thought. It's surprising to me that anyone here would want to aid and abet them in doing that.

Anonymous said...

"The bigger moral matter is that it is highly unethical for departments or universities to mint PhDs far in excess of what can reasonably be expected to be absorbed by the profession"

It might be unreasonable, but it is not unethical. But even if I did agree with you, would applicants to PhD programs accept that? If you received a rejection letter from a university that noted how excellent your application was, but you were rejected because it would be unethical to accept you into their program if they cannot promise you a job, would you be satisfied? Or would you argue that they have an obligation to accept you, if they deem your application worthy of acceptance? Do you really believe that worthy applicants to PhD programs should be routinely denied from those programs?

If so, I would fully endorse telling universities they have to reject the vast majority of applicants, and invoke their ethical obligation to the field as their reason. I suggest the following line: "Despite your clear credentials and promise for future development, we have an ethical obligation to the field to reject your application."

"Why should they do this? Quite simply, because professional ethics should trump narrow, self-interest in professions that aim at the public good."

Should the same apply to individuals? If you suspect that you will likely never get a tenure-stream job, do you have an ethical obligation to leave the field? Should an ethical obligation to the field trump individual self-interest? Instead of an annual Plan B thread, should this blog have an annual "this is why you have an ethical obligation to leave the profession" thread?

Also, is "the public good" really the reason why PhD programs in philosophy exist? Is that why people apply to them in droves, to further the public good?

"Professional ethics demands that medical specialists not recommend or perform pointless, costly and/or risky operations in order to rake in more money (or even just to stay afloat)"

Please refrain from analogies, unless they are equivalent. Do professional ethics in the medical field demand that medical schools only produce as many doctors as the field can find work for? Is there any field that accept the ethical obligation you note above?

"all in order to furnish a slightly reduced teaching load or for mere bragging rights connected with having a doctoral program."

Aren't those bragging rights one of the reason why people apply to those programs? This goes to the notion of prestige; applicants choose programs (in large part) because of the prestige of that program. Don't faculty in that program have an obligation to do whatever they can to remain prestigious, in order to attract the best applicants? The slightly reduced teaching load allows the faculty to publish, work with graduate students, and prepare them for the market. It sounds like you are suggesting that PhD programs have an ethical obligation to cease from engaging in practices that make programs worth applying to.

"and trot out the 'buyer beware' maxim as a substitute for action"

I'm not making any such substitution. I suggested above that one could sue PhD programs. I'm also fine blaming faculty for shitty advice. I would also support the idea that PhD programs should admit fewer applicants. Another action could include those in programs resigning their TA positions so that they cannot be used as pawns in a crooked game. I will await your support for that action.

Who will be the first to make such a bold move?

-Asshole

Anonymous said...

"It's that nothing in the evidence to which (s)he has access or in commonsense rationality gives the person any epistemic duty to acquire new information."

I believe that information regarding the state of the profession is easily accessible, and that it is within the bounds of common sense to investigate the state of the field one wishes to pursue work in, especially if one is a college-educated individual with specific training in research skills and logic. But if you disagree, then we are at an impasse.

-Asshole

Anonymous said...

Justin:

"The bigger moral matter is that it is highly unethical for departments or universities to mint PhDs far in excess of what can reasonably be expected to be absorbed by the profession (unless they make it abundantly clear that their degree program is only intended for those interested in self-edification, and that those who wish to pursue a career in the profession need to go elsewhere)."

This is absurd, for so many reasons. Here are just a few.

1) PhDs aren't tickets to higher education TT jobs. People get PhDs for all sorts of reasons. It's not a certification that guarantees one a job in one's field of study. You seem to think that it is. Otherwise, why say that it's immoral for PhD programs to admit more people than there are jobs (in the same field) for these people?

2) Not everyone who starts a PhD program will finish it. The numbers are around 50%. So even assuming, erroneously, that we should only graduate as many people as there are TT jobs in the same field, we'd have to admit double that amount too account for attrition. Otherwise, there'd be a shortage.

3) Putting aside so many problems with theories of micro and macroeconomics, there needs to be a *surplus* of labour: we need 2-5% more people than there are jobs for a more efficient labour market.

Anyone who thinks that a PhD is a ticket to an *academic* job (let alone a job period) in one's field of study is seriously deluded. (Whence the source of that delusion is a different matter.)

Jamie Dreier said...

When I was admitted to grad school in 1983, David Lewis, who was the director of graduate studies, sent all of us admits a letter. Among other things, it said that on average only half of their entering classes ended up with careers in philosophy. And Lewis warned us also that according to his experience, the successful half were not always the best philosophers in the group.

The job market is worse now, but they weren't exactly handing out guarantees thirty years ago.

JustinfomCanada said...

6:04,

In the very passage you quote from me, I make clear that what is immoral is minting PhDs "far in excess" of what can be absorbed by the job market, _unless_ a department has a PhD program that makes it clear that the PhDs it offers are not intended to lead to a career in philosophy.

How you got from that that I think a PhD should be "a ticket to an academic job" is beyond me!

Yes, of course, there are legitimate reasons for minting PhDs _somewhat_ in excess of the available jobs. Some people will drop out of their programs, as you say; some will complete the PhD but will choose for various reasons not to pursue an academic career; some will complete their PhDs and want a career in philosophy but will just not be all that great as teachers and/or researchers and/or colleagues (and these less desirable hires can make up the surplus of labor you mention). I raised no objection to any of that.

But we are far, far beyond that healthy sort of overproduction. Anyone in the profession who hasn't been hiding out under a rock will have met several people who would make very good philosophy professors and are even willing to reolcate to more or less anywhere to get work, yet they have to scrape by with adjunct work for years because there just aren't enough TT jobs out there for them. And every year, more highly qualified people with PhDs who are looking for work -- which does _not_ include those who didn't complete or aren't looking -- are produced than there are new jobs. And that isn't even to count the number of people from previous years who are still hanging on, waiting for their turn.

It doesn't follow from the fact that departments should collectively admit _somewhat_ more candidates to their programs than there are available jobs that there is _no market-related limit whatsoever_ on the number of people they should accept. It is not normal or healthy for there to be several hundred people applying for the same positions out of sheer desperation. It hurts qualified individuals looking for work, and it also hurts the profession as a whole.

JustinfomCanada said...

Asshole,

Thanks -- this is helpfully enlightening. I have to admit that I'm surprised to see you bite these bullets. But now it's clear that I have to argue for things I thought we both took for granted.

Anyway, here's a point-by-point response:

1) You ask whether applicants to university programs who are rejected by them would accept the verdict. I don't really get what you're worried about. People are rejected from programs, jobs, and so on all the time, and the system hasn't collapsed as a result. Let's look at what would be involved: some departments who would previously have admitted, say, ten students now choose only to accept six. They pick the six most promising-looking candidates, and reject the rest. Many other departments now decide on reflection that they have no business producing PhDs, since their graduates tend not to get anywhere in the current market. So they cancel their programs outright. Those people who are dying to have the experience of doing a PhD but have no desire to enter the profession could be accommodated by programs that are explicitly not professionally oriented. Where's the problem? I'm not seeing it.

2) "Do you really believe that worthy applicants to PhD programs should be routinely denied from those programs?"

Do _you_ really believe that worthy applicants to TT positions _who have shelled out a small fortune and devoted years of their lives to getting their PhDs_ should be routinely denied from those positions? Which is worse?


3) On ethical considerations trumping narrow self-interest:

"Should the same apply to individuals? If you suspect that you will likely never get a tenure-stream job, do you have an ethical obligation to leave the field? Should an ethical obligation to the field trump individual self-interest?"

I have no idea where you're getting this, Asshole. Why do you think there's an ethical obligation for people who can't get TT jobs to leave the field? I'm not getting it. If a certain number of people are seeking TT positions in a competitive market, and Jones can only get adjunct positions that aren't as difficult to get, then how is Jones' keeping that non-TT position (or not having any position at all) detrimental to anyone else looking for TT work? Could you please explain?

4) "Also, is "the public good" really the reason why PhD programs in philosophy exist? Is that why people apply to them in droves, to further the public good?"

If you look at the rationales included in departments' applications to start PhD programs, they certainly do (as far as I have seen) press the point that having such a program would promote the public good by giving applicants a way to enter the profession after working under their faculty members (who have such-and-such good and unique properties). So yes, departments ostensibly offer PhDs in order to further the public good: otherwise, they would presumably not be approved. It in no way follows from this, pace your suggestion, that those applying to such programs are also aiming to promote the public good.

JustinfomCanada said...

Continued:

5) "Do professional ethics in the medical field demand that medical schools only produce as many doctors as the field can find work for?"

Yes.

6) "Is there any field that accept the ethical obligation you note above?"

I hope so! But the point I'm making is normative, not descriptive.

7) "...applicants choose programs (in large part) because of the prestige of that program. Don't faculty in that program have an obligation to do whatever they can to remain prestigious, in order to attract the best applicants? The slightly reduced teaching load allows the faculty to publish, work with graduate students, and prepare them for the market. It sounds like you are suggesting that PhD programs have an ethical obligation to cease from engaging in practices that make programs worth applying to."

No. Those programs with a good track record of placing their applicants should keep at it. Those that already have programs that produce students with a very low chance of successful placement should not be in the business of taking in PhD students anyway.

8) "Another action could include those in programs resigning their TA positions so that they cannot be used as pawns in a crooked game. I will await your support for that action. Who will be the first to make such a bold move?"

Why should such a move be made, Asshole? On the one hand, the well-informed departments that aren't placing students successfully could stop admitting new students, at the cost of a slight increase in teaching work. On the other hand, the less-informed and less-organized TAs, who are already living hand to mouth, could resign and lose access to what little source of income they have, and with it abandon more or less all their chances of work in the field through their TA experience. Why do you think that would be an equally good option?

9) "I believe that information regarding the state of the profession is easily accessible, and that it is within the bounds of common sense to investigate the state of the field one wishes to pursue work in, especially if one is a college-educated individual with specific training in research skills and logic. But if you disagree, then we are at an impasse."

Well, I do disagree, but I don't think that means we are at an impasse. I think you are using an unreasonably high standard of epistemic responsibility. One way you might try to defend your position is to explain how 7:13 (on the 25th) would have come to the reasonably conclusion that (s)he needed to get more information, and figured out where to get it, after being told what (s)he was told by his/her professors.

JustinfomCanada said...

Thanks, Jamie. As you say, the job market is far worse now than it was in the 1980s, though in the '80s it was already worse than it was in the '60s. Many of those graduating from top programs in the '60s never even went to job interviews: they were routinely sought out by scouts from hiring departments and tempted with juicy perks (Barry Stroud discussed this in his John Dewey lecture a couple of years ago). And even in the early 1980s, there was one Canadian department that was so worried it would lose its talented adjunct workers to rival schools that it converted all their positions to tenure-track overnight following a meeting. I know several people who earned their PhDs from decent departments in the 1980 and early 1990s who had to settle in the end for a permanent position at a community college, which for them was tantamount to career failure. Nowadays, many people on the job market would be thrilled to be so fortunate, but there just aren't enough jobs to go around.

But it's certainly true that the job market has been steadily worsening since the great postwar university boom began to slow down after the '50s and '60s.

A department's obvious ethical obligation in such an environment is, surely, to run graduate programs and admit students only to the extent that they aren't screwing them over by setting them up for disaster.

The letter you mention from David Lewis only makes sense against the background assumption of that ethical standard. Why else would he have written something that might scare away good TAs? It seems to me, with one reservation, that any department can legitimately admit as many students as it likes, so long as it is absolutely clear with its students about their chances of success in the way that Lewis did. Hence, no-name departments whose graduates would have at best a 1% chance of securing a TT position could -- with one reservation -- legitimately admit people to their program as long as they make these odds clear and also clarify that a better department would significantly affect their odds.

The one reservation I have to all this is that _everyone_ in the profession is threatened by a surplus of qualified applicants who want to stay in the game. In our age of ongoing funding cuts, administrators at more or less all universities and colleges are under considerable pressure to increase the ratio of adjuncts to tenured faculty. Since one can't make a living as a permanent adjunct, there would normally be relatively few qualified people willing to take on that kind of work in any given year. But the immense oversaturation of the market has created enough desperate hangers-on that this is a reality. What's at stake is not only the ongoing availability of TT positions, but also all the things that come with them (most importantly, freedom of speech). The more the market with PhDs year after year by myopic or narrow-minded schools, the more of a threat the all-adjunct university becomes.

Anonymous said...

Just stop talking. Everyone has already lost.

Anonymous said...

"Do _you_ really believe that worthy applicants to TT positions _who have shelled out a small fortune and devoted years of their lives to getting their PhDs_ should be routinely denied from those positions?"

No, nor have I claimed such. But much of that has to do with the move from TT jobs to adjunct work, in addition to a rise in the numbers of newly-minted PhDs. I suppose if I were really an asshole, I'd note that more part-time positions means more PhDs can get work in the field. But I suspect neither of us would find that a cause for celebration.

"Why do you think there's an ethical obligation for people who can't get TT jobs to leave the field?"

I don't. I was asking you if individuals have an ethical obligation to the field, or only departments. You argue that we would have fewer PhDs if programs admitted fewer applicants. We would also have fewer PhDs if fewer people applied to graduate school.

"Do professional ethics in the medical field demand that medical schools only produce as many doctors as the field can find work for? Yes."

Really? That's news to me. Can you point me to the evidence? I'm very curious to read it.

"Those programs with a good track record of placing their applicants should keep at it."

And how do you define "good track record"? 90% of the program's graduates? 70%? 40%? What's the cut-off, ethically-speaking?

"Those that already have programs that produce students with a very low chance of successful placement should not be in the business of taking in PhD students anyway."

Again, what's a "low chance"? If a program can place one student in any given year into a TT job, that clearly shows that such a program *can* place people into jobs. How many jobs should a program place annually to avoid the cut-off?

It's one thing to offer general advice. So now that we are past analogies, let's get to something definitive. What's the average placement rate a school should meet? How many years of not meeting that rate should be allowed before the school has an ethical obligation to shut down the graduate program? Do non-academic jobs feature into this decision, and if so, how?

"On the other hand, the less-informed and less-organized TAs, who are already living hand to mouth, could resign and lose access to what little source of income they have"

This, no doubt, will be addressed by the upcoming Plan B thread. They would, I presume, resign their TAs in favor of non-academic work.

"and with it abandon more or less all their chances of work in the field"

Those chances are already pretty slim, no? Isn't part of the point of this discussion the fact that one has a slim chance of getting a TT job to begin with?

"Why do you think that would be an equally good option?"

Because I think that being employed as a non-philosopher is better than being unemployed as a philosopher.

And you reply to someone else that "it's certainly true that the job market has been steadily worsening since the great postwar university boom began to slow down after the '50s and '60s." But earlier, you noted that "While it is surely true nowadays that one should do research on one's program and that one shouldn't expect to have a reasonable chance at a career simply because one earns the required degree from a recognized university, these things are not self-evident and in fact they were not typically the case a generation ago."

Are you suggesting that the job market has been steadily declining for 60 years but that such a decline has *not* been evident? And how are you defining a generation?

Asshole

JustinfomCanada said...


Asshole,

Your responses on many of these points seem very odd. You repeatedly suggest that there are two equally good ways of solving the problem of too many PhDs on the market: departments could shut down PhD programs or reduce their intake, or else candidates could stop applying to such programs or (worse for them) stop doing TA work when they are halfway through their doctorates.

I still can't for the life of me imagine how you can think those are equally good ways of solving the problem. The whole point I've been making, please keep in mind, is that many of those running these PhD programs are exploiting, and in many cases causing, a serious misunderstanding on the part of applying students regarding their prospects upon earning a PhD there. Now, you think that the departments bear less responsibility in this than I do: fine. But what does not seem to be at issue between us is that a considerable number of students enter PhD programs without any clue (rightly or wrongly) about how dismal their chances are of securing a decent job by their standards. So since these students _don't have this information_ (otherwise, hardly any of them would accept the offers), how on earth could it be a decent solution for them to do something they would have no reason to do given their lack of information? Why isn't it mind-numbingly obvious to you that those who understand the problem, and not those who are completely ignorant of it, are the ones who ought to do something?

You ask me to specify exactly what placement percentages would justify a program continuing, or reducing its acceptance rates, and so on (seemingly because you think that an inability to justify drawing a precise line somewhere implies that there is no basis for drawing a line of any thickness anywhere -- a hackneyed rhetorical dodge). Becko Copenhaver and others have suggested that a simple solution would be for all the departments not in the PGR top 50 to stop accepting new PhD students until the job situation improves, so that's one possibility: those 50 schools produce enough qualified job-seekers each year to take on all the TT positions across the country, and then some. As for full disclosure, it seems fair for any department running a program in which more than a quarter of job-seeking graduates are unable to find work to make a clear statement to that effect, along the lines of the letter Jamie Dreier said he received. The statement should make clear just what the department's placement rates are over the past five years, say. If you know of any reason why departments should not make such a simple statement, please explain what that reason is.

"Can you point me to the evidence [that professional ethics in the medical field demands that medical schools only produce as many doctors as can find work]? I'm very curious to read it."

Asshole, please tell us you're joking and that you know that professional ethics is normative and not descriptive.

Anonymous said...

Some threads of possible interest to job seekers here: http://collegemisery.blogspot.com/2013/11/addendum-to-job-interview-tips-from.html#comment-form

Anonymous said...

"Asshole, please tell us you're joking and that you know that professional ethics is normative and not descriptive. "

Of course I do. It's others - yourself included - who seem to think that because ethics demand that PhD programs not glut the market, then it's reasonable for applicants to assume that they would not.

I'm simply asking if there is anything in our lived experience that would justify such a naive and obviously incorrect assumption.

Yes, some PhD programs consciously glut a market they know they do not contribute usefully toward, in that they produce PhDs far in excess of what they could ever hope to place. This is not disputed, though we disagree on how much blame such programs should take. However, I'm not at all convinced that there is any reason why any applicant (now or in the recent past, depending on how one defines a generation) could in any way reasonably expect PhD programs to only accept what they honestly believe the market can bear.

"You ask me to specify exactly what placement percentages would justify a program continuing, or reducing its acceptance rates, and so on (seemingly because you think that an inability to justify drawing a precise line somewhere implies that there is no basis for drawing a line of any thickness anywhere -- a hackneyed rhetorical dodge)."

Not at all a rhetorical dodge. Simply noting that such decisions have direct consequences on students in those programs. Let's assume we follow Copenhaver's advice. Students in a non-PGR program would suddenly find themselves fucked. Yes, those programs would soon stop producing PhDs. But what of those left behind finishing out those programs? They could suddenly find themselves without any support, as faculty in those programs turn their attention away from their soon-to-be-defunct PhD program (or focus on their own work to try and publish their way into a better program). When those students hit the market, they will be marked as bad goods, as applicants from programs that the field agrees should not be producing PhDs. The field could very well completely ignore them, more so than now. Such an action would only increase the elitism that exists in the field. Sure, in the end, there would be fewer unemployed philosophers. But the field would also be accepting the judgment that only PGR schools should be producing PhDs. Essentially, the field would be collectively passing judgment on those graduates, telling them they made a mistake in even applying to those programs.

Of course, I am also passing such judgment. But at least I will say it aloud. I'm not hiding behind some hoped-for market correction to tell people in second-rate programs that they made a bad decision.

-Asshole

Anonymous said...

Please stop talking about the "overproduction" of PhDs.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/doing-good-science/2013/11/30/careers-not-just-jobs-for-ph-d-s-outside-the-academy/

"And Grossman had lots to say about why we should stop talking about “overproduction of Ph.D.s.”

Ph.D.s, he noted, are earned by people, not produced like widgets on a factory line. Describing the number of new Ph.D.-holders each year as overproduction is claiming that there are too many — but again, this is too many relative to a specific kind of career trajectory assumed implicitly to be the only one worth pursuing. There are many sectors in the career landscape that could benefit from the talents of these Ph.D.-holders, so why are we not describing the current situation as one of “underconsumption of Ph.D.s”? Finally, the “overproduction of Ph.D.s.” locution doesn’t seem helpful in a context where these seems to be no good way to stop departments from “producing” as many Ph.D.s as they want to. If market forces were enough to address this imbalance, we wouldn’t have armies of adjuncts."

Anonymous said...

11:00 AM writes: There are many sectors in the career landscape that could benefit from the talents of these Ph.D.-holders, so why are we not describing the current situation as one of “underconsumption of Ph.D.s”?

-

One issue I have with people talking about ethics is the assumption that the only reason to earn a PhD in Philosophy is to turn around and teach it. If programs have an ethical responsibility to not glut the academic market, this assumes (does it not) that the academic market is the only purpose for PhDs in Philosophy.

Is this really the case? Does anyone really believe this?

I'm sure this has been discussed before, but why are we not having the conversation about what other fields/pursuits would benefit from people with advanced training in Philosophy? Why are we not better about taking our skills outside of academic departments?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this has been discussed before, but why are we not having the conversation about what other fields/pursuits would benefit from people with advanced training in Philosophy? Why are we not better about taking our skills outside of academic departments?

It has been discussed before, ad nauseum. If you have a degree in a STEM field to go with your philosophy PhD, then you may have skills that employers will value. On the other hand, if you are the kind of poor schlub with only humanities degrees (like me), then you have nothing to offer employers, and virtually no chance at a middle-class income. You have to start over at entry level and/or go back to school and take yet another degree and the hope to catch some lucky breaks before moving past "GO."

JustinfomCanada said...

Asshole, I think our discussion has by now run its course. You have made several obvious blunders (including asking for material evidence in favour of a moral principle -- though you claim to understand the difference between descriptive and normative realms), but will not, to use your word, 'own' your mistakes as they become revealed. You just keep reasserting your original claim, no matter how absurd your arguments now need to be. At this point, you require us to accept a hidden assumption that it would be better for a department to continue taking in students with negligible job prospects endlessly, adding to the growing saturation of the market year after year, than to discontinue its program (since discontinuing its program could reinforce the message, already received by all search committees, that graduates from the top 50 departments are more viable than others, and _that_ is morally unacceptable). This is now so ridiculous that you have surely refuted yourself in the eyes of any thoughtful reader, so there is nothing more to say against you.

11:00 and 3:18, you both question whether PhDs in philosophy cannot be used for non-academic careers. That question has been discussed at length many times on this blog: I refer you to the archives. Basically, the answer we've come to each time is no: there do not seem to be any non-academic careers for which a PhD in philosophy tends to give job-seekers an advantage (or if there is such an advantage, it is vastly outweighed by the disadvantage incurred by the money and time invested). Those who have good experiences working on their PhDs may be compensated in non-professional ways for the effort, but there seems to be no alternative career to help drain away the overload of PhDs on the market.

And yes, it is necessary to talk about the overabundance of PhDs on the market. In saying that, we don't deny that each of those PhDs was earned by a person. We simply point out that the profession and its PhD-holding job seekers are very poorly served by the decision to allow there to be vastly more PhDs in the field than there are jobs they can take, particularly when there are no other career options that one can use those PhDs to pursue. Again, if you're not sure about this claim, have a look through the Smoker archives. You'll find plenty on the subject.

Anonymous said...

"One issue I have with people talking about ethics is the assumption that the only reason to earn a PhD in Philosophy is to turn around and teach it. If programs have an ethical responsibility to not glut the academic market, this assumes (does it not) that the academic market is the only purpose for PhDs in Philosophy.

Is this really the case? Does anyone really believe this?"

Sadly, I think a lot of people do :(

It also seems implicit in what Justin is arguing.

Anonymous said...

@8:29

Personally, I believe the only reason to get a PhD in philosophy is to prepare oneself for the occupation of a professional philosopher, namely to teach and research philosophy at the expert level amongst one's likewise suitably prepared peers. The PhD, at least here in the States, is a very expensive, time-consuming, credential to acquire. There is no need to acquire if one does not wish to enter the academic profession. If all I wanted was to study philosophy, I'd have books and the internet for that. Perhaps one might do a PhD in philosophy solely for personal edification if they were already independently wealthy, but most people in academia are not. Most of us, I'd wager, want a place in the professional philosophical community and the PhD is the only way provided for us to get into that community (albeit in ever-dwindling numbers).

It seems to me that anyone who goes into a PhD program in philosophy, in the United States, who does not plan on a career in academia, but simply wants the degree as a boutique item, is either wealthy enough not to care about how the sunken investment in the degree will limit their future income, or they are not reasoning very well.

Anonymous said...

8:29,

I can see why so many people are getting fired up, if they recognize that the only purpose to study Philosophy is to perpetuate the study of Philosophy.

I never realized how pointless the whole exercise was.

Anonymous said...

11:05,

That makes sense, but if we also consider 7:44's claim that there are also no jobs for people with a BA in Philosophy, then what's the point of any of it, except for personal edification for the independently wealthy?

JustinfomCanada said...

11:53,

Many purposes are served by studying philosophy in an elective course or two, as an undergraduate minor, or as a major.

But there is pretty well only one purpose served by a PhD in philosophy, and that is a career in the field.

Anonymous said...

Nobody's saying there aren't good career prospects for those with a BA in philosophy. It's just the philosophy PhD that's the problem. Huge difference!

Anonymous said...

Actually, 7:44 made that claim: "On the other hand, if you are the kind of poor schlub with only humanities degrees (like me), then you have nothing to offer employers"

Anonymous said...

11:53 said

I can see why so many people are getting fired up, if they recognize that the only purpose to study Philosophy is to perpetuate the study of Philosophy.

No one is saying that this is the only reason to study philosophy. What they are saying is that the only reason to study philosophy at the PhD level is to obtain a credential necessary for entrance into the professional community. It is often said that academia is the last of the Medieval guilds. Like in any guild the apprentice studies in order to eventually produce a "meisterwerk", the thesis, and then to be recognized as a master and take their place in the professional community. What other reason is there for pursuing PhD level studies in any subject?

Philosophilous said...

What other reason is there for pursuing PhD level studies in any subject?

Because you love the subject so much.
I know it's trite, sorry. But it's true in my case.

Anonymous said...

Philosophilous

Because you love the subject is a perfectly fine reason to study philosophy. But you can study philosophy privately, at your leisure, and not have to sink 5-7 years of your life, prime income earning years at that, into a PhD program. You can attend lectures by the finest philosophers on the planet, read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, buy their books. None of these things requires a PhD. you can even write and self-publish your philosophical work. That does not require a PhD. To quote an old proverb: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? There are no secrets at the PhD level. Professors teach the same things they write in their books and papers.

I'll reiterate, the only reason anyone should pursue a PhD is to gain admittance into the professional community of philosophers. Perhaps you mean that you love the subject so much that you want admittance into that community so as to study even more. Great, then we're in agreement. But entering that community, fully, means having a job. And it is irrational for anyone to desire a boutique PhD, and yet not want or care about getting a job, unless they are independently wealthy.

8:17

Anonymous said...

>> the only reason to study philosophy at the PhD level is to obtain a credential necessary for entrance into the professional community

Wow. So much of the absurd stupidity of this blog has finally been made clear.

>> What other reason is there for pursuing PhD level studies in any subject?

The list is long, but I think I'm better served by saying simply: because it can be awesome. I can think of nothing sadder or less philosophical than making a decision for 5-8 years of your 20's or 30's based only on what you can do after you are done.

For those who forget how awesome Grad school can be, even those who do so in the inevitable times when Grad school sucks serious ass, I can only feel sorry.

Anonymous said...

I'll reiterate, the only reason anyone should go to high school is to gain a credential for a job.

You can study privately, at your leisure, and not have to sink 4 years of your life into high school. You can attend lectures by the finest thinkers on the planet, read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, buy their books. None of these things requires a high school diploma. You can even write and self-publish your own academic work. That does not require a high school diploma. To quote an old proverb: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? There are no secrets in high school. High school teachers teach the same things that are written in textbooks.

Anonymous said...

I can think of nothing sadder or less philosophical than making a decision for 5-8 years of your 20's or 30's based only on what you can do after you are done.

How is it sad, or less philosophical, to clearly introspect one's reasons for undertaking a course of study? I think things are actually exactly the other way around. It is less philosophical to undertake a arduous and stressful course of study designed to culminate in a professional credential, for no particular reason other than interest in the subject, especially when, given modern technology, you can study the subject to your heart's content w/o risking diminishing your present well-being and future well-being in order to do so.

As for Grad school, medical school, and law school, are probably also awesome experiences, but do people go to medical school because it is awesome per se? No, they go because the want a place in the professional medical community and they need a credential (the m.d.) to earn their place. Same with law. Not to mention, that a part of what is valuable about grad school is being among peers who take the subject as seriously you do, and why do they take it so seriously, because they hope to gain employment and entrance into the professional community at the end of the day. If you took that motivation away from graduate students, and made it clear to them that they would never work in philosophy as a career, I suspect the bonding, and the concomitant pleasure, of the grad school experience would evaporate. Just as if you told everyone in medical school that they would never be doctors regardless of how hard they worked in medical school.

philosophilous said...

Hi 8:17,
That wouldn’t have worked for me, honestly.
Being in seminars, with other graduate students, getting to talk to real, accomplished philosophers who are interested in me and trying to help me learn, that’s what I needed. Your idea would work for satisfying my interest in biology, but I never would have slaked my philosophy thirst just by reading. (I did just read for a couple of years between college and grad school – it only made the yearning stronger.)
I do think the desire to have a professional life in philosophy is closely intertwined with what I’m talking about, but distinct.

JustinfomCanada said...

Going back to what started this dispute:

I said that it was unethical for departments to run PhD programs in philosophy if students completing those programs are unlikely to have a real shot at a successful career in philosophy _and_ if they capitalize on the student's unawareness of this fact.

It may be that some people would be willing to sink years of their lives into PhD work, and probably go into debt, just for the pleasure of being in a PhD program. Fine (though I think we're talking about a very small number of people here). So long as the unranked department is completely clear up front with the potential student that he/she has pretty well zero chance of getting a TT position anywhere, and that those in better programs will have far better (but still not great) chances, that seems OK with me.

What Asshole was maintaining was that even if the student _did_ want a career in the profession, the department wouldn't have the obligation of coming clean with the student about this.

Anonymous said...

Philosophilous,

Perhaps I am misreading you, but are you really suggesting that podcasts and blogs are functionally equivalent to lectures and the dynamic of a graduate seminar?

I've read enough blogs to hope this isn't true. But if it is, I suppose there's no good reason not to turn teaching over to MOOCs and the like.

philosophilous said...

11:21,

No, I'm not.

But rather than misreading me, I think you just got the identities switched -- you thought the person who posted at 6:42 AM and signed off as "8:17" was me, because that person wrote my (pseudo)name at the top (addressing the comment to me).

Anonymous said...

There are ways to attend graduate seminars in most programs without being a PhD student... just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:17 here again,

as 1:56 points out, you don't need to be in a philosophy PhD program to get the benefits of graduate school, every department with a PhD program as far as I know also has an MA program. The MA is a less risky investment (2 as opposed to 5-7 years), that grants equivalent access to faculty and allows the student to partake in departmental life. And what's more, in many cases since MA students often fund themselves, schools like to admit them, which makes the admissions standards less maddeningly difficult. There are the ideal intellectual boutique item. Perfect for the student who wants the full graduate experience, but who (for reasons still mostly vague and ill-defined as far as I can tell) don't care at all about entering the profession. The only reason to undertake a PhD program is to enter the profession.

Anonymous said...

Philosophilous, my apologies.


~11:21

philosophilous said...

I couldn't have afforded an MA program. I didn't have a problem meeting admissions standards.

I think I explained pretty clearly why I wanted to go to graduate school -- don't know why you call it 'vague' and 'ill-defined'. I'm starting to think you're just an asshole, actually.

Anonymous said...

8:17 writes (again and again): The only reason to undertake a PhD program is to enter the profession.

I tried to read you charitably, but your subsequent comments clearly indicate you really mean to put firm emphasis on that "only." This is just false. It may be the primary reason. It may be the driving reason for most graduate students. But it is not the only reason. People do attempt to complete doctoral programs for other reasons. To the extent to which you accept this as descriptively true, you seem to want to claim that it is irrational -- that the only sensible reason to attend a doctoral program is to enter the profession. Again, I agree that it is very likely the central and motivating reason for most individuals. But it isn't the only reason available and there are reasonable people who are not independently wealthy but would continue to pursue their doctorate were they absolutely assured that it would not result in entering the profession. These people have different interests or a different preference ranking than you have. It doesn't make them irrational.

Additionally, it would be absurdly difficult to replicate the doctoral program experience without actually being admitted into a doctoral program. Putting aside, for the moment, the question of whether faculty lectures, online resources, and bookstores are sufficient to replicate the experience, being a graduate student means devoting approximately five to eight years entirely to scholarly pursuits. An analogy: Success as a painter is measured almost entirely by who buys and owns your art. No one needs to go to Art school to achieve this. But Art School is a fucking fantastic opportunity to spend several years to devote yourself to nothing but painting. I get that the analogy breaks down to the extent that art students may not receive stipends. (I have no idea if they do or how that works.) But I do know that as a PhD student in philosophy I had no independent wealth whatsoever and I did not go into debt. TA stipends were sufficient to cover my expenses for nearly a decade. It was time well spent. I really wanted to earn a PhD and study philosophy. I also wanted to teach and write. And to a lesser extent, I wanted to hang out at philosophy conferences with douchey assholes. But I'd have completed the program had I been absolutely assured that I would not subsequently enter the profession. Some of us just don't think like you. Why is that so mystifying?

Anonymous said...

So my bioethicist friend, who could have taken up her job after her Master's, but really wanted to do a PhD because she loves philosophy "isn't reasoning very well" because she flat-out doesn't plan to take up an academic position? She's irrational because she plans to work for a hospital as a bioethicist?

Come off it.

Not everyone gets a PhD in order to go into an academic philosophy job.

Anonymous said...

"I couldn't have afforded an MA program. I didn't have a problem meeting admissions standards."

You couldn't have afforded free? Looking over Leiter's list of MA programs, the only one on there that isn't fully funded is Tufts. These are the best MA programs in the US and probably the world. The only cost is opportunity and, presumably, this kind of cost is one you'd be willing to incur.

Anonymous said...

So my bioethicist friend, who could have taken up her job after her Master's, but really wanted to do a PhD because she loves philosophy "isn't reasoning very well" because she flat-out doesn't plan to take up an academic position?

So much depends on her situation. Does she have an M.D. or J.D. to fall back on (as a viable plan B)? Is she otherwise independently wealthy? If so, then a boutique PhD is fine, she is not risking much. But if she is sinking 5-7 years of her life, prime earning years at that, into a course of study intended to culminate in a professional credential that she has absolutely no intention of ever using, then yeah, that seems terribly irrational.

I should probably be clear that a part of my aversion to the idea of people pursuing a PhD that they have no intention of ever using to advance (or begin) an academic career, stems from the fact that I think the myth that studying philosophy at the graduate level is in and of itself sufficient reward and motivation to undertake a PhD program is part of what perpetuates the current system of adjunct servitude. Incoming students are told that the degree itself is achievement enough and desirable enough in its own right to justify the risk and expense of getting the degree should they not be able to find work afterward. Then when they inevitably fail to get TT jobs they are told that teaching is a calling and they should be happy to have their fancy degree and their meager adjunct work, because teaching is a calling and it pays you in other, non-fiduciary ways.

I say: bullshit. Teaching is a profession, and the degree is intended to increase my chances of gainfully entering that profession. The course of study is not its own reward. It is undertaken for a purpose, a purpose that is denigrated and thwarted by over-reliance on the adjunct pool.

philosophilous said...

7:31,

I looked at MA programs in departments that also have PhD programs. I didn't see any that were free. That may have been a mistake, but after all I did get into a good PhD program and I'm getting a stipend, so it doesn't seem like a big mistake. I don't think I'd be happier and learning more philosophy at, say, Georgia State.

I have no regrets at all, in any case. I came here to do something I really love doing, and to maybe find out the answers to some questions I couldn't get out of my head. When I'm done, maybe I will find an academic career. If I don't, that's okay, I'll go do something else.

Anonymous said...

When I'm done, maybe I will find an academic career. If I don't, that's okay, I'll go do something else.

well, good luck. I hope you are ready to work entry level minimum wage jobs. Because if you don't have a STEM degree, or trust fund, or rich relative, then that is all your philosophy PhD is going to get you. 5-7 years of hard work for your degree, and no one outside academia will give a shit. It just a sunken investment of time, energy, and opportunity. It would be better for most of us to have become plumbers.

philosophilous said...

Thanks, 11:37.
I've already done some entry level work. And that's kind of my point -- I'm not really doing the PhD in order to get a job. (Which isn't to say I don't want one.)
You can still become a plumber!

Anonymous said...

"It would be better for most of us to have become plumbers."

You still can.

Anonymous said...

I should probably be clear that a part of my aversion to the idea of people pursuing a PhD that they have no intention of ever using to advance (or begin) an academic career, stems from the fact that I think the myth that studying philosophy at the graduate level is in and of itself sufficient reward and motivation to undertake a PhD program is part of what perpetuates the current system of adjunct servitude.

This explains a lot. In light of the considerations you raise, it may make moral sense to insist that the only good reason to finish a doctoral program is to enter the profession. But it won't make it true. There are lots of reasons, rational reasons, to earn a PhD, including the love of wisdom.

Nevertheless, it is indeed a shame that many schools use this to increase an oppressed population. Perhaps instead of pushing up against the idea of earning a PhD for non-professional reasons, you should be taking issue with a culture that suggests leaving academia is a greater failure than adjunct servitude.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like we are all working from the assumption that if one does not hold a faculty position at a university, one cannot be a philosopher.

Obviously, a position at a university gives one certain benefits: working through issues in the classroom, summers away from teaching, library access, research funding opportunities, etc. But are they necessary?

Are there examples of philosophers who do not hold teaching positions (and pay the rent by holding down non-academic job) and still manage to contribute meaningfully to the field?

Must one be a professor in order to be a philosopher?

Anonymous said...

Are there examples of philosophers who do not hold teaching positions (and pay the rent by holding down non-academic job) and still manage to contribute meaningfully to the field?

It depends on what you mean by contribution to the field. It is very hard, nearly impossible, to get publications and conference slots without institutional affiliation (though there are occasionally conferences and perhaps even journal issues (albeit in low level journals)aimed at the unaffiliated). In fact all of the conferences and journals I have submitted to have been up front and unabashed about asking the author's institutional affiliation as part of the submission process. While I cannot speak for other subfields (and countries) I can say that in my entire graduate career I never read a single influential or important paper or book in my subfield by a 20th/21st century philosopher that did not have an institutional affiliation (at least at the time of writing).

There are philosophers who make money on business concerns outside academia, Alain de Botton in the UK comes to mind. He does television presenting and owns a philosophical bookstore called the "School of Life". He started off at Cambridge, then did an MA at King's College London, and then began PhD studies at Harvard but never finished. But his success has been outside the world of academic philosophy. So if, by "contribution to the field" you mean contribution to academic philosophy, then de Botton has not contributed much (if anything).

I think the bottom line is that it might not be impossible to contribute without an academic job, but it is damned hard and highly unlikely.

Anonymous said...

"I hope you are ready to work entry level minimum wage jobs. Because if you don't have a STEM degree, or trust fund, or rich relative, then that is all your philosophy PhD is going to get you."

False. I hope people aren't actually buying this kind of BS.

Anonymous said...

"I can say that in my entire graduate career I never read a single influential or important paper or book in my subfield by a 20th/21st century philosopher that did not have an institutional affiliation (at least at the time of writing)."

True, it's rare. But they do exist. A.W. Carus, for example, publishes very important work in history of analytic but has no institutional affiliation. I think he may be independently wealthy, though.

Anonymous said...

False. I hope people aren't actually buying this kind of BS.

Pray tell, what lucrative field(s) where a philosophy PhD is seen as a sufficient qualification for immediate entrance into a better-than-minimum-wage position are we overlooking? I'm really genuinely keen to know because I am looking getting out of philosophy but I have unable to get even a minimum wage entry-level interview anywhere (and that include supermarkets and gas stations).

uncle said...

I really doubt there are too many jobs/careers/etc that will look upon a phd in philosophy as anything but a liability. This is because, for better or worse, non-philosophers (and this includes businesspeople, scientists, managers, etc.) see philosophy as a rather frivolous field. One could forgive getting a BA in something frivolous, but a phd in something frivolous is another thing altogether. Unflattering conclusions are thus drawn about phds in philosophy, i.e. people who have devoted many years of their life to sitting around and talking about the "meaning of life."

uncle said...

Uncle again: I should add that *I* don't think that philosophers sit around and talk about the meaning of life. That is the prevalent attitude, however. I don't endorse it.

Anonymous said...

"Unflattering conclusions are thus drawn about phds in philosophy, i.e. people who have devoted many years of their life to sitting around and talking about the 'meaning of life'."

I think that's as good as it's going to get. I doubt the public perception would be improved if the general population know we were sitting around and talking about "Rational Probabilistic Incoherence" and "Prepunishment and Explanatory Dependence: A New Argument for Incompatibilism about Foreknowledge and Freedom."

Our field does an absolutely shitty job of explaining its value to non-philosophers, and takes a strange pride in doing so.

Then we complain when demonstrated expertise in our field is not useful in finding non-academic work.