Friday, March 21, 2014

Round-up # 2 on W's story, and a few of my own thoughts

Later update: See this Daily Nous post for information about and discussion of a petition started by Chad Kautzer (CU-Denver) calling upon the APA to "condemn" the actions of the search committee--I think I'm with those who think this might be too strong, but see the discussion--and to suggest guidelines in the APA handbook on placement practices covering these sorts of situations--which sounds like a good suggestion to me.

W's story has legs, it seems (see also the first round-up for some of the same stories, but with different excellent commentary). It's been talked about in mainstream circles in the following ways:
(If you're keeping track, the philosophy job market is being talked about (in order) by: Jezebel, Slate, The Guardian, Bloomberg View, Forbes, Slate (again), and the LA Times.)

More measured, informed responses--some quite fantastic--have been appearing in academic circles. In addition to the excellent ones listed here and the nice coverage by Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed, I want to single out two more pieces.

First, is Janet D. Stemwedel's (DocFreeRide) piece on reciprocity and the obligations search committees have to candidates. Among other great observations about W's requests for a lighter teaching load being evidence for her commitment to teaching, she remarks:
A job candidate is not a mere means to fulfill your department’s ends. Buyer’s market or not, a job candidate should not be treated as a supplicant deserving of punishment for asking questions in good faith. A job candidate is your potential colleague. A job candidate to whom an offer of employment has been extended should be treated as your future colleague.
The second piece I want to highlight is David M. Ball's at Inside Higher Ed. Ball's editorial deftly weaves together the many issues and questions that W's case raises: the relationship between search committee and candidate, the mentoring of students at R1s in preparation for teaching jobs, the unique challenges (and harms) women face in academia, the power dynamics in higher education, and the move colleges are making to employ more contingent faculty. If there's one piece on the topic you should read, read Ball's.

With that in mind, I find it hard to pick out a single quote from Ball's editorial, so here are a few:
To presume that an expression of interest in conducting research speaks to the unfitness of a SLAC candidate or that R1 institutions are in no way student-centered is as counterproductive as the persistent stigma against SLACs amongst some graduate advisers. The ones who suffer amidst all of this misinformation are the candidates themselves.... 
To speculate on Nazareth’s complicity in these broader dynamics [e.g., philosophy's gender problem] is just that: speculation (and kudos to them for achieving what must have been a hard-won gender parity amongst their tenured faculty in the department). But driving much of the animus against W’s actions in the comments is a sense that she has overstepped the bounds of propriety in a gendered power dynamic in which she is expected to be compliant and grateful for the terms presented her.... 
As for the argument that the successful candidate in this economic climate, regardless of gender, should shut her mouth: at no other likely juncture will a junior professor have a better opportunity to negotiate the terms of her employment than at the moment of her hiring. The conditions under which she is employed will dramatically shape her chances for promotion and tenure. Negotiated terms matter to future success. Indeed, the tenure track itself doesn’t accede to the logic of the market.
I especially like the point that Ball brings up about the perception problems that exist between R1s and SLACs. A quick anecdote on this topic: When I was on the market, my advisor remarked to me before a mock interview: "I don't know how helpful this will be since, back in my day, we didn't even take interviews at teaching schools."

For some candidates, this represents the pinnacle of job market advice they will receive.

Anyway. One reason that I've been silent on the matter is that these two pieces say what I want to say really well. But I do have a few things to add.

First, we should acknowledge something emphasized to me by my (very perceptive/smart) significant other who has hiring and interviewing experience at a tiny non-profit: Hiring and interviewing is hard, especially if you haven't been explicitly trained to do those sorts of things and don't have much help. Now compound the difficulty of hiring and interviewing with teaching and research duties and throw in a dash of making what must seem a monumental decision (colleague potentially for life!). I don't doubt at all the claims that Nazareth acted rashly in rescinding the offer, but they definitely had a tough job.

Second, I want to echo W's push-back on the attempts to divine her character--"spoiled," "entitled," "millennial who has received trophies just for trying," blah, blah, blah--from the e-mail she sent to Nazareth and also from her response to the commenters.

The thought that we can judge anybody's character--even the characters of the members of the search committee at Nazareth--on the basis of something so slippery as the tone of an e-mail, displays incredible over-confidence in one's ability to read others (a possible sign of narcissism), ignorance of how implicit biases influence judgments like the ones being made about W, and an inability to consider how such judgments might embody well-established cognitive errors. (I think some of these points apply equally well to Nazareth's claim that they could tell from W's e-mail that she was interested more in a research institution than she was in teaching; what happened to all the information they received in the rest of the interview process?)

Third, no one who has discussed this situation responsibly directly attributes the withdrawing of W's offer to her request for maternity leave or to any possible sexism on the part of the search committee. (On a similar point: no serious person has suggested that Nazareth did anything illegal by rescinding the job offer. Did they do something a bit rash? A bit out-of-the-blue? Possibly unjustified from a non-legal, vaguely moral standpoint? Yeah. And for all the various reasons people I've linked to here and previously have mentioned.)

All responsible discussion about the role W's gender might have played in these negotiations, focuses on the cultural or structural realities, academic and otherwise, in which negotiations take place, not the hearts and minds of the members of the search committee (in line with the point above, I think any such speculation about the search committee would be rash and unjustified).

However, negotiations don't take place in a vacuum. The research I've linked to previously shows that women face unique challenges that men do not face when negotiating. So it's a natural topic to consider. And, in any case, I will always be of the opinion that the challenges women and other underrepresented groups face in philosophy is a topic worthy of discussion. I welcome any and all opportunities to talk about this because I think addressing these challenges and making philosophy more inclusive is important for the health--moral and epistemic--of the discipline (for more on the importance of this discussion, see also Zombie's point in the first Inside Higher Ed article).

On the point about sexism having a possible role in W's case, when I was first contacted about the story by a reporter I was asked:
[W]hat do you think of this? Do you think this is particularly prone to happen in a philosophy dept? I'm wondering in particular about the maternity leave request, given some of the stereotypes/reports about misogyny in philosophy.
I was taken aback by the reference to misogyny in philosophy. I responded:
I'm not sure I would be comfortable saying that something like this is more prone in a philosophy department than in a department in a different discipline. The request for maternity leave was couched among a few other requests that, as W acknowledged, might have been more difficult to grant than other requests. Given that Nazareth refused to negotiate, we can't be certain if it was one request in particular, or the requests as a whole that made them wary of W's commitment to the school; we can only go off the reasons that Nazareth gave: They thought W a bad fit for the department.

I think there are good and bad reasons for...thinking someone might be a good or bad fit, but given our meager information, I think it is impossible to divine any deeper motives than those Nazareth gave and, as such, it would be irresponsible to level any accusations about the possible role of misogyny in the decision.

I thought the real story was the refusal to negotiate and withdraw the offer without speaking to W...about the worries they had And this was disheartening especially given the advice job candidates often receive, e.g., that there is no harm in negotiating contracts.
I stand by that. The story is mainly about negotiating and how to go about doing it, but that story also bears importantly on the relationship between R1s and SLACs, about mentoring in graduate school, about how to present oneself to a search committee, about the perception of women in academia, about the communication breakdowns between candidates and search committees, etc, etc.

But this is a job market story, mainly, and it provides more information on a topic that might have not otherwise been available.

This brings me to my last point. We should all thank W for sharing her story with us, especially in light of the unwarranted abuse she has received (far and wide). For those thinking that W was simply crying over spilt milk: First, notice that the story was never pitched in a way that was meant to elicit sympathy for W; nor did her response have any such WOE-IS-ME, WHY-IS-EVERYONE-PICKING-ON-ME 'tone.'

Second, if W wanted sympathy, she had to have known that she wouldn't be getting it from internet commenters or from philosophers, who, on this blog, call each other names while debating the minutiae of dating one's colleagues/students in a thread approaching (exceeding?) 650 comments (seriously, y'all?).

So you should know that when W first contacted me, she mainly noted that she had a story she thought our readers would find interesting.

She obviously thought right.

But she also sold the interest in her story a bit short (we all did!) and undersold its importance. This is crucial information to have for those who might have mentors who are ignorant of the realities on the ground or who might not have much information themselves. Of course, I'd heard about the fears candidates have that a rescinded job offer was a possibility and I'd heard about the lack of information about how to negotiate and the lack of transparency in hiring decisions, but I hadn't heard about anything so stark as having an offer taken away.

Now I've been blogging about and discussing these issues for the past 7 or so years and I hadn't heard any stories about job offers being rescinded. With that in mind, think back to my advisor who never even considered taking an interview at a teaching school. These are the types of people many of us have advising us about negotiations. That's one reason why I think W's story is important.

So while we may have been naive before, we're all a little less naive now.

For those on the market or entering the market, that's a good position to be in.

-- Jaded, Ph.D.


Anonymous said...

Candidates who are very interested in taking a job, and who are operating in what is generally known to be a buyer's market, typically convey enthusiasm for a respectable offer. The obvious said, a few summary points.

1) Implying (whether by email, phone, or in person) that one wouldn't accept an offer until an extensive list of (mostly unrealistic) conditions is addressed runs contrary to conveying enthusiasm for a position.

2) In fact, that approach signals that a candidate is probably playing the department for negotiation leverage elsewhere. Almost anyone who's had much experience on SCs will have seen this happen, and happen to them (even at well-regarded R1 departments--the dynamic is relative).

3) A candidate who gets yet has not accepted a job offer (within the given timeframe) is not owed that job--any more than a department who offers a candidate a job is owed that candidate.

4) A department is not virtually obligated to conduct negotiations with a candidate who makes an extensive counteroffer. In fact, a department might be relieved to have a legal pretext for pulling the offer, in order to make an offer to the candidate next in line--who they might have felt nearly as favorable about and who has signaled enthusiasm for the position.

Based on what is known about W's situation, there was no loss to the profession generally, to the named department, or to W herself. The job offer she had probably went to another overqualified candidate in at least as much need (even if male, in a department that doesn't have a gender balance problem), while W seems at least as content (as she had signaled) with her other options. There appears to be no deep problem here.

Anonymous said...

I think the back and forth has been interesting, though I am a little surprised at the people who think Nazareth's reaction to what frankly was a tone deaf negotiation request was so out of the pale that they can't believe it. Honestly, I think the part that cost her the offer was not the list itself, but rather the statement that agreeing to the demands would "make it easier" for her to choose Nazareth. It really is a buyer's market; the faculty members who sifted through all the applicants probably thought she would be both enthusiastic and grateful for the offer. Considering they then have to tell the other 99 applicants they were rejected, and doing so takes it's toll on a non-sociopathic rejector, the gratitude they expected from W was probably psychologically necessary to a point. Anyway, when W tried flipping the script around, trying to make it sound that Nazareth was the other desperate to get her and only her so they'd better give her a more attractive offer than other applicants would have gotten, does come off as someone who you might not want in a small, tightly-knit department.

While effectively neither W nor Nazareth have come out of this that much worse, I feel bad for whoever actually gets the position and has to deal with the public lens.

Anonymous said...

Implying (whether by email, phone, or in person) that one wouldn't accept an offer until an extensive list of (mostly unrealistic) conditions is addressed runs contrary to conveying enthusiasm for a position.

I didn't see any such implication. That seems to be a misunderstanding, either of the particular email or of how negotiation works in general.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. If it's fair game to shame institutions for operating as Naz has, is it fair game to shame applicants who screw with institutions?

A couple years ago, my university made an offer to someone. She accepted the offer over the phone, and we sent her a contract. After 2 weeks, when we didn't hear back from her, we started calling, and never got hold of her. 1 week later, she emailed us that she accepted another offer, and had to decline ours.

I know that people play one school off another, and that's part of the market. Obviously, applicants with multiple offers should be negotiating for their best interests. However, verbally accepting an offer and asking for a contract, which you then decline 3 weeks later, is a real shit move.

Would it be ok to out her? Should she be shamed for screwing my department? Should she be outed publicly for manipulative negotiation tactics? Or do we only shame institutions? (Are we also pretending that we are not actually naming the individuals at Naz, given how small the department is?)

Anonymous said...

As a member of a school with a profile similar to Nazareth, I would have to agree with the above commenters. Having served on two search committees, if a candidate had asked for all of W's demands at once, we would likely have balked as well. On their own they are fine, but, in their totality, they would likely have made us reticent.

For some context: our faculty make about 20k less than what W was asking for; we teach 4-4 and no one, with the exception of division chairs, gets a course reduction; sabbatical is rare; teaching needs are intense, as we have few faculty. Thus, not only would W's demands be seen as perhaps too demanding, they would have been seen as untenable and out-of-touch with the kind of school she would be working for.

Another issue here is morale. Most faculty work entirely too hard and would likely resent someone asking for special treatment that had not yet earned such treatment. If W had worked for a few years and shown herself to be a strong colleague and teacher, then it wouldn't be a problem. But, when you teach, advise, and meet on committees as much as we do, then you need all the help you can get, and, additionally, those who exclude themselves are often seen in a different light.

As a result, I don't think this is a gender/equity thing. It's a "we're a small college and we're all working hard, so we want a like-minded colleague" thing. I think that others are right to point out, too, that if W is concerned about her productivity, then that might be an issue. The deal at a 4-4 is not to find a way out of your obligations in order to publish; it's to find a way to be a productive scholar while also playing your part.

Anonymous said...


On the one hand, I should point out to you that W did note that some of the requests would be easier to grant than others, implying that she likely did not expect to be granted all of them.

On the other hand, these requests seem to be unranked, and so it's tough to know where to negotiate. If I were on her SC, I'd want to know which were deal-breakers for her, and which were flexible. This is where Naz dropped the ball, because they could easily have found out be negotiating the terms of the contract with her. That said, W could also have done a better job of making clear what she *needed* in order to accept their offer as opposed to what she *wanted* as a sweetener on the deal.

Sure, Naz could have asked. But by the same token, W could have been much clearer. Her email suggested that she needed those accommodations in order to consider their offer, and she gave no indication that even if they were all met, that she would take the job. It stands to reason, then, that if none of them were met (with the exception of the maternity leave), there's an even greater likelihood that she won't accept the offer.

Naz dropped the ball by not finding out where W stood on these issues. But W also dropped the ball by not being clear. Both of them failed in this negotiation, and so those who are picking one side over the other are missing the point.

Applicants who are unclear about their bargaining position, their demands, and their goals, do themselves a disservice. Departments that fail to negotiate do themselves a disservice (given that she was clearly desired by the department).

One final note: do not assume that she was their first choice. Some commenters have suggested that Naz should have done better by the person they identified as their first choice for the position, but we have no evidence that she was the first person offered the job. In fact, it's entirely possible that Naz (for whatever reason) lost their first choice, and W's email may have led them to believe they may also lose their second choice. Small schools have short budgets to fly out applicants, and they may have feared losing all of their finalists; quickly moving on from W to their 3rd choice may have seemed the safest option for filling the position.

Anonymous said...

Most faculty work entirely too hard and would likely resent someone asking for special treatment that had not yet earned such treatment.

Can I ask why this is?
I assume you would accept a temporary course reduction if you were offered one. The reason you don't ask is that you know it's not possible. But, W didn't know it wasn't possible. You could just tell her, and then she'd know, and then she wouldn't ask.

I find it puzzling that your reaction is to rescind the offer out of resentment, rather than to explain the situation to the job candidate.

Anonymous said...


All you do when you refer to to W's list as a list of DEMANDS is prove that you're an idiot and a part of what is wrong with the profession. W was not a terrorist, she was not making a list of demands! What happened to the principle of charity that we supposedly teach to our students?!

zen98 said...

One thing that has puzzled me about this case is procedural. I have not been so lucky as to have a TT job offer, but I have had a few serious interviews with teaching schools, and it was explicitly made clear that any hypothetical offer would come from the Dean/Provost/hr admin, and not from the department, and that negotiation would take place with admin rather than the department. This seemed entirely sensible, and led me to assume that this practice was common. I suppose senior admin might have reacted as the department did in this case, but still... I worry that negotiation is generally in more danger of sullying the waters with a department if undertaken with them directly rather than with admin. Is negotiation with the department more common than I think? Or would negotiation with admin equally undermine the relationship?

zombie said...

5:54 -- dealing directly with the dean, and dealing directly with the dept chair are both common. It is also common that if you are negotiating with the chair, s/he may have to clear requests with the dean.

It is also the case that at some unionized schools, starting salaries may not be especially negotiable.

zombie said...

I think censuring Naz would be extreme, particularly since APA does not have a policy or "best practices" guideline about negotiating/not negotiating/rescinding offers. It would be a good idea for APA to have something on this in its handbook.

Anonymous said...

Her email suggested that she needed those accommodations in order to consider their offer,

I don't think so. I mean, it certainly didn't say that, and I don't see what suggested it to you.

DJ said...

I've seen this happen in cases where the university refuses to send a contract unless the candidate verbally accepts. It's a shit move on the part of the university (bet you weren't expecting that accusation).

In any normal business environment, the prospective employer sends the contract first, before requiring the candidate to accept it. The candidate has the right to compare written offers before deciding. Judging from the timeline of events you described, she had to accept the offer first before your university would put it in writing. If you go public with this story it will not look good for your university.

I don't care if everybody in philosophy does what you describe. It's abusive and unethical to require a candidate to accept an offer before you commit to it in writing. I'm glad your university got taken to the cleaners on this shameful and all too common tactic.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank W for sharing her story. I had no idea anything like this ever happened, and now I am wiser.

Anonymous said...

I propose a new research area: the philosophy of the philosophy job market. Research questions: What is a job candidate? What is a search committee? What are the norms of candidate and search committee behavior? Should a candidate bargain hard in a down economy? How should the community of philosophers respond to job market discrimination? The possibilities abound.

Anonymous said...


1:31 here. Regarding course releases, I would say that, yes, of course, I would take a course release if I could get one. It would be lovely. But I know of no one at my institution that has had a course release for prep or research in the five years I have been here. I don't think we're the exception in this case. At other places where I have taught and adjuncted, course releases are extremely rare. (I know they're more common at institutions with more money, but such is usually not the case with a SLAC with a 4-4 load.) We just have too many classes to teach and not enough people to teach them. Thus, it just wouldn't happen. On its own, its fine to ask for, but it would never be granted.

As for the commenter that resents these being called "demands." Technically, you're right. But, rhetorically, W's letter read and felt demanding. Even if these are "starting points" for a further conversation, they send a message that W doesn't know the kind of school she's getting into.

Another thing to know here: people that teach at schools like Nazareth are chronically over-worked. As a result, a bit of a fraternal mentality develops where people who see themselves as exceptional are not looked upon well. Psychologically, W may have triggered some of those feelings. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

So, why would you resent someone asking for something that you would gladly accept but that you know isn't feasible? Why wouldn't you instead just tell her it isn't feasible?
That's the part that seems so alien to me. It seems like one would just say, "Right, I know some colleges do things like that, but Nazareth doesn't, sorry." Keep in mind that asking for something doesn't in any way imply that you think you're entitled to it. (Sorry, that's obvious, and you've given no reason to think you're unaware of it -- I'm really saying that more for the sake of other readers who don't seem to get it.)

Anonymous said...


The reason people become irate/offended with an abrasive list of demands/requests is that it costs time and money to negotiate a final deal. And frankly, you have no clue where to start negotiating when someone gives you a laundry list. Many lawyers will recommend to their clients to move on to the next possible vendor etc. (if possible).

I'm also baffled by the fawning over the Ball essay, especially when he says the following:

Perhaps most troubling of all, even if merely as a result of the letter’s terseness, is the implication that a request for maternity leave is in some way anathema to the mission of an institution that regards itself as “being both teaching and student centered.”

which Jaded indicate isn't an issue in her book.

Anonymous said...

10:00 am,

1:31 again. Oh gosh, I don't begrudge W asking for a course release. Nor do I begrudge asking for a salary raise. Or a sabbatical. Or a maternity leave. It's those things in their totality that sound tone deaf to me. The overall feel that I got, at least, was that each thing, on its own, is fine (and, in the case of maternity leave, legally defensible). But, when you try to negotiate for all those things at once, it sounds like you're probably pretty scared about the teaching load (as you should be), or, worse, have an ideal of a different school than the one that you're negotiating with.

I would also add that it's not contradictory to find the current status of the profession to be absurd/abhorrent/unjust, but to also recognize that it's a serious buyer's market out there. I'm in the midst of a search for a scientist at my institution, and we could easily hire ten different candidates. It's ridiculous. So deciding upon one candidate or the other is really splitting hairs. That should not vitiate the fact that the job market is terribly unjust and that higher ed needs serious overhaul. In fact, I think that those of us who do make it owe to everyone else to be a part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

The reason people become irate/offended with an abrasive list of demands/requests is that it costs time and money to negotiate a final deal.

It really doesn't. It doesn't cost any money at all, and Naz would not have to extend their deadline.

Anonymous said...

I get that, but I guess it seems to me that when something from a job candidate sounds tone deaf, you might just try factoring out the naivete component, giving her the benefit of the doubt, and just explain that it's, you know, not on.
Remember that Naz had already had interviews with her, and on the basis of those interviews decided they wanted to hire her. Doesn't it seem strange to let an awkward email sent by someone who's understandably not exactly experienced in negotiating overwhelm all the information Nazareth already had?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...


I don't think it's fair to say that Nazareth acted badly when you just said that they are down to two time faculty members for next year and then they get undressed in public like this.

Especially after you noted how inappropriate W's requests were in their situation.

I'm sure they don't have a PR person and were taken aback by (a) W's negotiating, (b) the ensuing media flap, and (c) all the criticisms from people who didn't know the backstory of what Nazareth actually needed.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


Just curious, did you withdraw from the search because of the scandal or because you got an offer elsewhere?

zombie said...

The previous thread on this topic contains hundreds of posts critiquing W's negotiating skills, character, tone, personality, hair color, approach to life, eating habits, etc. Might I suggest that if you haven't yet had your fill of criticizing the candidate, you can post your comments there.

Something important and positive we can take away from this situation is something that I had never really been told about negotiating for an academic job: it doesn't just matter THAT you negotiate. It also matters (sometimes quite a lot, it seems), HOW you negotiate. Perhaps that is something that's painfully obvious to people in other careers, but as has been noted, many in our discipline (maybe in academia generally), are piss-poor at negotiating and haven't been taught how to do it. It's not at all obvious to me that it's something you can figure out on your own (not without perhaps disastrous trial-and-error), so our mentors should do a better job of teaching us (or if they can't, point us to someone who can). My own grad school had pretty shitty placement support, both in my dept and in the university's placement service. I was pretty much on my own when it came to figuring out how the job market works.

W has done us all a service here by subjecting herself to internet humiliation: we ought to take this as the cautionary tale it is, without merely heaping scorn on the messenger.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


A shame. I hope things work out for you somewhere. Hoping the best for everyone caught up in this mess.

Anonymous said...

Why were 9:39's posts deleted? They didn't seem special in any way. I'm not one of these people who cries about censorship on this blog, but that's just strange.

Anonymous said...

"The previous thread on this topic contains hundreds of posts critiquing W's negotiating skills, character, tone, personality, hair color, approach to life, eating habits, etc. Might I suggest that if you haven't yet had your fill of criticizing the candidate, you can post your comments there."

So you're fine with criticizing W, so long as people do it elsewhere?


Anonymous said...

It's not idiotic at all. Anyone who wants to continue to excoriate W can feel free to do so, but this thread is for other things. Makes perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

Jaded, I've nothing to add to the discussion of W's case; at this point I'm not sure there's much that can be added! I want to say thanks so much for keeping up with all this and providing us your summaries. It's a great service.

zombie said...

I'm not fine with criticizing W. I think we can also dispense with criticizing Nazareth at this point. I haven't seen any informative or novel criticism of either in quite a while.

But in the interest of moving on, I suggest that people who still want to flog that dead horse can do it elsewhere, rather than repeat it everywhere.

anon abd said...

This is completely unrelated, but I wasn't sure where to ask it.

On NewAPPS when talking about the trolling behavior, it was pointed out that the abbreviations H.A. and T.N. are significant in some way that most philosophers should understand. I don't get it. Am I not a real philosopher? Can someone help me out here? Googling HA was not particularly helpful.

Anonymous said...

@anon abd

I think you'll find this answers your question.

Anon abd said...

Thanks 5:56. If true then that is effed. I've been following the scandals and have no idea who the accusers are and no interest in knowing. Why on earth would they call more attention to this on newapps?

willard said...

This is not completely unrelated to what has just been considered completely unrelated, it seems that our Laughing Philosopher has chosen to prudently distance himself from some of his or her commenters' position.

To that effect, he reminds his or her readers that he will try to follow Evelyn Beatrice Hall's dictum to defend to the death his or her commenters' right to say whatever they fancy by -censoring- moderating all incoming comments:

A bit before, he or she also defended that right by removing some comments on a previous thread, among which there is one where this quote was posted:


Unquestionably philosophy is among of the most male-dominated disciplines in universities today, but inviting outside review by the American Philosophical Association's (APA) Committee on the Status of Women was guaranteed to produce a finding as predictable as the Salem Committee to Investigate Witchcraft in 1691.


Our emphasis.

It thus seems that our Laughing Philosopher is also distancing himself from what Steven F. Hayward was saying there and which Pr. Tooley decided to publish on his website.

All the removed comments have been archived, it goes without saying, just like all the comments that will be submitted will be.

Best regards,


Jaded, Ph.D. said...

I was asked to remove the removed comments by the poster; so I obliged.

Anonymous said...

As a lawyer who deals with employment, I am surprised at what seems to be naivete on the part of so many professors. Maybe it's just an issue of inexperience--negotiation is what I do as a career--but I am surprised all the same.

After all, as a practical matter every applicant is usually trying to hide all of their bad parts in an interview. (Employers do that as well, but it’s much more difficult for an employer to do so, especially when they’re pretty big–you can find out a lot about working for Nazareth without even letting Nazareth know you’re looking.) The end result is that it’s difficult for employers to grok what a candidate is “really like.”

That is especially true when it comes to things that can’t easily be quantified, can easily be hidden, and can really make a difference. Not all of these are legal, but they make a difference anyway: Are they grumpy at meetings? Rude to staff? Will they always drink the last of the coffee and never make any? Do they religiously take every sick day available to them, even if they just have a runny nose? Will they do precisely what is legally required of them but no more? Will they leave in a year for something better? Are they going to go on pregnancy leave the moment that their FMLA eligibility kicks in? And so on.

Those insights are rare--but important. Yet those insights are almost impossible to get openly (especially in a bad job market) because the vast majority of candidates will lie in order to get hired.

This is no surprise, right? If you tell someone “we are looking for a toilet cleaner who wants to do this for at least two years” and if you're hiring in a depression, you will find that all of your applicants just so happen to hope for a lifetime of toilet cleaning. And so on into law, academia, and everywhere else.

It sounds like Nazareth’s committee believed–rightly or wrongly–that the letter gave them some insight into W which the committee didn’t have before. And based on their response, the insight was apparently a relative deal-breaker for them.

In that respect they probably made a wise decision to move on: it’s always much cheaper to “not hire” than to “fire.” In fact, "slow to hire, quick to fire" is a pretty common advice that we give to our employer clients: if there are alternatives for whom you DON'T have a "bad datapoint," then you should not usually hire someone who makes you nervous in any way.

Was the committee right? Maybe, maybe not. As I said, it’s basically impossible to know. After all, consider these three scenarios:
1) “W” really wants the job at Nazareth and hopes to stay there for life whether or not she gets any of those requests.
2) “W” doesn’t really want to work there, but is smart enough to seize it while she can, until something better opens up; she’ll actively continue the search elsewhere in the hopes of leaving.
3) “W” is planning to go somewhere else that Nazareth; she is negotiating aggressively in the hopes of getting a great offer to play off of her first choice.

In every one of those scenarios, W’s self-interest requires her to convince Nazareth that she is really truly interested in the particular job they have available. (And, given the publicity and the relatively tight field, possibly to make certain statements right now.) Otherwise they won’t hire her, and/or won’t give her what she wants.

Since the answers are basically going to be the same in every instance, this isn't something you can solve. It's not POSSIBLE to "follow up" and find out if someone "really" likes the job--at least, not in the context of an employment interview. (You can find out truth in vigorous cross-examination sometimes, but that tends to make folks hate you.)

All of the folks who suggest Nazareth was "hasty:" how would they solve the information problem? How would you?

Anonymous said...

11:58, thanks for making that point. I had been thinking something similar but hadn't worked it through.

Anonymous said...

Hm, so as you say, there's no way to know from the actual events whether W would make a good colleague. And yet somehow it was rational to make their decision on the basis of those events.

That sounds kind of crazy, actually.

(How to solve the information problem: probably nobody can.)

Anonymous said...

(I'm 11:58)

No, it's not crazy.

I just deleted a much more complex explanation, but suffice to say:

You have an assumption about the average quality of the other candidates, based on your limited data.

You have data about your existing candidate.

If you think that the other candidates are likely to be less bad than what you know about your existing candidate, then you can rationally conclude that your existing candidate isn't worth the risk whether or not you know the real truth about anyone.

Like many other folks, I read W's letter as less than ideal, so it would give ample justification for their move.

Anonymous said...

But the question is whether this letter really provides any new information about the candidate that's relevant. Maybe it shows she doesn't understand your conventions about negotiating, for example.

What seems nuts to me is to allow this one email to overwhelm all the information you already have about all the candidates.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 525.

You searched through, literally, hundreds of candidates. Interview a dozen of them. You fly a three out out. You deicide...ON THAT BASIS, that one candidate is better than all of the others. And yet, despite ALL of that data, you suddenly decide that ALL of that information was wrong? Well...fuck that. Nazareth did wrong and I am glad that they are being shamed. I am glad that other candidates (whose posts have since been erased) decided that they would rather NOT take a job with Nazareth than take a job at all.

If Philosophy is ever going to improve as a discipline then we need MORE shame. Nazareth is not unique. They are, probably, the norm. The more we shame places like them, the better we will ALL be. Remember, we are (as job candidates) all better off if we can make sure that our employers treat us with the respect that we deserve.

Anonymous said...

"And yet, despite ALL of that data, you suddenly decide that ALL of that information was wrong?"

Is that what 11:58 implied? Sounded to me like 11:58 was saying that the reasons Naz had for hiring W were still perfectly valid, just as much as were the reasons for possibly hiring the #2 or #3 candidate. Given the potential red flags raised by W's email exchange (which for all we know, may or may not have validated concerns some had on the SC), #2 now seemed to be a better fit for the job.

We can argue with that decision, but that doesn't sound to me to be a case in which "all the data" was suddenly shown to be wrong. Instead: all the data plus a red flag led to a decision to move to candidate #2.

Pleb said...

I work at a place like Nazareth. I am surprised that no one has asked whether it is rational for Nazareth to hold out for someone who really wants to work there and would not leave for places with more research time and lower teaching loads. I don't think it is rational. Whether you care more about teaching or research a place like Nazareth, or my SLAC, is not ideal. Low pay for 4 courses a semester means, for most people, that you teach a 5/5 with summer courses (for the overloads). This makes finding time to write very difficult and keeping up with the research of others almost completely impossible. It also means that you cannot give to your students the kinds of attention and time they deserve. You know who is also teaching focused? Schools like Dickinson and Swarthmore.

Representing this as a search for someone who is teaching focused, while W revealed that she is someone who is research focused is inaccurate. W shows nothing more than an interest in having a good job (on either a teaching or research standard), an interest she shares with most other people on the market. I understand that some schools, like mine and probably Nazareth, cannot provide a good job. They cannot provide you enough time to adequately develop your courses. They cannot provide you much support for research. They cannot pay you a wage that will allow you to do things like save for retirement or college for your own children. And I am not complaining that these jobs exist. I would not be employed as a professor if they didn't. But I object to people from places like my SLAC or Nazareth who have drunk deep from the Kool-Aid and now think that they their institutions have some indefinable and ineffable virtue that people have to somehow show they appreciate in their cover letters and their emails to the search committee chair.

There is only one plausible reason to want to settle down into a job like Nazareth's, a personal connection to the town. If you can't get that then just figure that the flip side of offering a low paying 4/4 is that you will have to do searches from time to time when people get better jobs and leave.

Anonymous said...

I agree too! I've never been on a search committee and have no idea what it's actually like to have a tenure-track position in a small department, but Nazareth behaved irrationally. That much anyone can see. They had gathered an enormous amount of data -- data that made it reasonably certain that this candidate was clearly the right person to bring aboard as a colleague for the next 20 years. There should have been no question after that. It's completely bizarre for them to factor in any additional considerations and treat those considerations as possible defeaters. Just stupid.

I also second the shaming. It's one reason I enjoy reading anonymous comments online: if you make a mistake, someone will be there to point it out.

Lucky for me, I don't make mistakes.

Anonymous said...

11:58 again.

7:19 said:
You searched through, literally, hundreds of candidates. Interview a dozen of them. You fly a three out out. You decide...ON THAT BASIS, that one candidate is better than all of the others.

Let's stop right there for a second.

"Better" \= "much better" or even "substantially different." In fact, it's at least reasonably likely that W had some things which were better than the competitors and some which were worse. Nazareth probably weighed which ones were important to them, but it may have been incredibly close. Apparently it was. In fact, it may have been as simple as an internal "re-weighting," in which the committee reconsidered the relative importance of some traits.
And yet, despite ALL of that data, you suddenly decide that ALL of that information was wrong?
How on earth would you reach that conclusion? It isn't as if they decided "we're not hiring a professor." Nor did they say "we changed our mind; you stink." Instead they decided to hire someone else, who was (I assume) marginally better in their eyes.

The result is the same as if "W" had been one of the finalists and not gotten an offer.

Well...fuck that. Nazareth did wrong and I am glad that they are being shamed.
Christ on a stick. What's the harm to "W?" Like I noted above,
the result is the same as if "W" had been one of the finalists and not gotten an offer--which I presume would have been just fine. In fact, since "W" apparently has another position and since "W" was by no means going to end up at Nazareth anyway, then it's quite possible that the result is the same as if she HAD gotten the offer. "Wronged," indeed.

Remember, we are (as job candidates) all better off if we can make sure that our employers treat us with the respect that we deserve.
I do not think that "respect" means what you think it means.

Nazareth was not insulting or disrespectful in their response; there is nothing to suggest that they do not respect her requests or her profession. Refusing to give you what you want is not disrespect. Negotiating without compromise is also not disrespect.

Treating a grown PhD-level adult differently and allowing for negotiation errors as you would for a youngster? Perhaps because she's a woman, or "just" a philosophy PhD who doesn't know any better? THAT'S disrespectful.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone,

Would y'all take a look at this job add:,false

It is NOT from philosophy but it does ask for something that we've talked about before:

Teaching Videos

The last time we talked about this, my impression was that this practice is very fishy and that it opens people up to especially pernicious forms of bias (both in terms of race and gender but also in terms of economic class [of both the university and the student population]). WTF is this shit? How can a search committee demand that candidates send videos of teaching demos?

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at how many people take the request for
"No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years." to be a request for a course reduction.

Many faculty teach 4-4 without teaching more than 3 *new* classes a year. Especially after the first year, this would seem a rather easy request to meet (she would have at least 6 classes available to teach in year two and that without any prior teaching experience) I'm less surprised to see that mistake made in the LA Times; I more surprised to see it here, although due to the coverage of this story, perhaps the typical commentor isn't as likely to be a academic?

zombie said...

7:32, since this is a VAP position, the college may not have fly-outs where the candidate would give a live teaching demo. But a VAP position is a teaching position, so they are going to want to know how this person is in the classroom. I suppose, for a foreign language instructor, they also want to assess this person's fluency.

How is this requirement more pernicious somehow (in terms of bias) than a live teaching demo (leaving aside issues of video quality, etc.)? Or are you worried that someone who attempts to hide certain characteristics (that might make one vulnerable to bias) will not be able to do that in the video?

It's odious to ask everyone (and not just, say, the short-listed candidates) to submit a video, especially since many candidates may not have a teaching video ready. Obviously, if they get a lot of applicants, they're not going to watch every video.

Anonymous said...

"It's odious to ask everyone (and not just, say, the short-listed candidates) to submit a video,"

-Meh. Not really. Or at least, not more so than asking all applicants to submit writing samples and letters at the start, even though the committee is unlikely to read them all if the applicants are bounced based on the CV.

"especially since many candidates may not have a teaching video ready."

-Meh. The technology exists to put one together pretty easily. It may not have great production value, but it's only a few mouse clicks more difficult than engaging in a Skype conversation.

"Obviously, if they get a lot of applicants, they're not going to watch every video."

-True, but that's already true of the application process.

-Honestly, I'm surprised this isn't more common already. Given the push (from applicants as well as SCs) to move to Skype, this seems like a similar move. Plus, the applicant has the benefit of working with his/her own class, instead of walking into an unfamiliar situation. In that regard, this is likely far more representative than an on-campus teaching demo.

zombie said...

"Plus, the applicant has the benefit of working with his/her own class, instead of walking into an unfamiliar situation. In that regard, this is likely far more representative than an on-campus teaching demo."

True dat. Doing a teaching demo, for a class not your own, with the SC watching and scribbling notes (and sometimes, they pass around an evaluation form too), is a lot different than working with your own class.

Anonymous said...

I think too many variables are left up for grabs with the teaching video.

1. Do I use one of my real classes or do I do a fake one with friends who will be especially lively and come clearly prepared?

2. Do I zoom out to let the committee see the entire class? That might trigger certain biases about my standing in the class (especially if I'm a woman). Do I zoom in so that only I and the board are visible?

3. How do I handle lighting and sound? If I am from a wealthier or technology savvy university, I might be able to have someone from media services do a professional job.

Although I think that we can all agree that the SLICKNESS of my production values should not matter in the evaluation of my teaching ability, I also think that we can guarantee that it WILL have an impact on our assessment of a candidates teaching. That seems patently unfair to me.

A fairer way to do this would be to set up a Skype interview where the candidate gives a teaching demonstration. At least the quality issues will be leveled.

I think that those of you who are saying 'it just like a writing sample' are kind of missing the point of my criticism. The main problem here is that, at some point, universities can demand TOO MUCH from candidates. The mere fact that they can demand things does not mean that it is fair or good or right. A university can demand all candidates who are interviewed fly out to the university (at his or her own expense). They can certainly require this and there are enough people on the market that I am sure that they would have more than enough applicants to fill a position.

I think it is unfair and onerous to burden a candidate with providing a sui generis teaching video for an application like this. My only though here is that there is an internal candidate and they are trying to put up as many barriers as possible to keep the applicant pool low. That too, I think, is unfair.

Anonymous said...

4:58 Throwing down some mad wisdom.

Anonymous said...


Actually, this is yet another case not of overly demanding SC, but of graduate programs that do slim to nothing to prepare their students for the job markets they will be entering. How tough would it be for a graduate program to assure that each student has a teaching video by the time they enter the market? Not tough at all. This reminds me again of the W issue - how tough would it be for advisors to clue in their students on issues about negotiation at schools that are not R1 or elite SLAC? Not tough at all.

Perhaps requiring these things of graduate advisors and programs is too demanding.

Anonymous said...

I have a very naive question. Are TT jobs the only job where there is any room for negotiation? I can't imagine a VAP asking for more money, for example.

Anonymous said...

I do think many of us could be prepared better for the market and the possible negotiations that ensue. My graduate department seems pleased when somebody gets a job and they shrug their shoulders and seem sad when people don't get jobs. But since it apparently has no impact on the food in their bellies they also don't seem to care that much and most of the graduate students seem woefully unprepared for the market compared to many other institutions.

Anonymous said...

I think many people here (and throughout academia) are making a fundamental mistake, and perhaps we could have a thread devoted to this?

Anyway, the mistake is there is such a thing as "the academic market." One result from the W situation (regardless of if and where one assigns blame) is that the "Teaching Position" market is vastly different from the "Research Position" market. It's not just the that jobs (and the application materials one may be asked for) are different; it's that different market forces, different pressures, and different expectations are in play. One does not, in other words, simply "apply for jobs," because the different jobs are part of very different markets. All of the applicants may come from the same source (Philosophy PhD programs), but the "buyers" are not engaged in the same markets.

So when 5:54 writes "I do think many of us could be prepared better for the market and the possible negotiations that ensue," I don't think that he/she quite understands what that means.

How would someone teaching at a PhD-granting institution help you apply for a job that they have never held, that they have never successfully applied for, in a market they do not understand? I'm all for blaming advisors/institutions for not preparing their students, but how would they do that? My Oxford-educated advisor (hired ABD and never went on the market again) knows fuck-all about what Tiny Regional State College wants from their applicants, and how those applicants can stand out in such a search.

I would love to see PhD programs bring in professional philosophers who teach at such schools, to help advise students on applying to such schools. They could offer advice on expectations, workload, work/life management and, most importantly, the job market. However, knowing the field as I do, I doubt R1 faculty will be calling Tiny Regional State College faculty to help them with anything. So grad students would be well advised to seek out such people on their own. (And before you look down in TRSC faculty, remember they were educated at institutions like yours.)

Anonymous said...

This is 5:54

I think I understood that sentence that I wrote. But I guess I agree with you. Perhaps naively, it would be nice if one's advisor could learn about the different sorts of markets even if they don't match their own pedigree. Surely, many graduate faculty understand the nature of the markets you describe and could be better about giving advice about both teaching and research jobs. My larger point was that many people don't seem to care that much. It is a problem of the will not of knowledge.

Anonymous said...

"I can't imagine a VAP asking for more money, for example."

You might gently mention a previous salary that you had that was more competitive or the fact that you will incur relocation costs. But I wouldn't push it any further.

Anonymous said...

"I think I understood that sentence that I wrote."

My apologies. I didn't mean for that to come off as insulting. I could have worded that better.

"But I guess I agree with you. Perhaps naively, it would be nice if one's advisor could learn about the different sorts of markets even if they don't match their own pedigree."

They could, no doubt, but they won't. I don't see where the incentive is for them to do so. Nothing about their employment is dependent upon our success on the market, so there's no financial motivation. And getting a job at an unremarkable school (as the Nazareth discussion demonstrated) is often seen as a black mark, and not something an advisor would/should take any credit for. I'm sure there are advisors who are doing right by their students; I'm equally sure they are few and far between.

"Surely, many graduate faculty understand the nature of the markets you describe and could be better about giving advice about both teaching and research jobs."

Perhaps. But from my (admittedly limited) experience, those who don't know about the "teaching jobs" market don't care to learn, and those who do are doing their best to help people forget their "ghetto" roots.

"My larger point was that many people don't seem to care that much. It is a problem of the will not of knowledge."

Exactly. Because for all the talk about how it's an advisor's job to help students get jobs, that's not exactly true. It's their job to make us better scholars (and maybe teachers), and many work on the assumption that "better scholar = employment" (a mistake many on this blog tend to make every market season).

Anonymous said...

This is 5:54.

Graduate faculty are not idiots - they are very smart people and are perfectly able to do basic research. If it was important to them to understand the diverse job market that their advisees face, they would seek to understand it (it's hardly rocket science) and use that information to help their students to engage that market more successfully. Graduate advisors are not just scholarly advisors - they are professional mentors (or should be). Do they have financial incentive to do so? Perhaps not - but they have a professional obligation to do so, whether they consider some job opportunities sought by their advisees as "ghettos" or not.

In fact, it's this strange disconnect (or seeing jobs unlike the ones they have as "ghettos") that is in fact a large part of the problem (not to mention stupid and clueless).

Anonymous said...

"but they have a professional obligation to do so, whether they consider some job opportunities sought by their advisees as "ghettos" or not."

I agree that they *should* have a professional obligation to do so, but I really fail to see how they do.

Let me put it this way: what is the fallout for graduate advisors who fail in that obligation? If the answer is "none," then it's not really an obligation, is it?

zombie said...

Perhaps it would be more efficient, and beneficial, if professors from various types of institutions, rather than individually visiting grad programs to educate grads about their job market(s), contributed to that education in a more public way. Because while the wealthier departments could probably afford to bring people out, not all of them could, which would, again, disadvantage people from the non-elite programs.
This strikes me as something the APA could do, perhaps in a newsletter or some such. Or, you know, it could be done in a blog like this one. I've always found it very useful when SC members posted here. Lou Marinoff's infamous column at IHE is quite informative ( If nothing else, it states pretty explicitly that the "Harvard of the proletariat" is not interested in philosophers from the non-Harvards.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps it would be more efficient, and beneficial, if professors from various types of institutions, rather than individually visiting grad programs to educate grads about their job market(s)"

Do you mean, "perhaps people with 4/4 workloads and heavy service requirements could volunteer their ample free time to do work that R1 faculty should be doing"? ;)

I like the idea of there being a forum for people with diverse kinds of experience can share their insights. That said, from what I can tell, there is a very small number of people who want such information: those on the market. R1 faculty don't seem interested. Most grad students don't seem interested...until they are on the market and (hopefully) come to the realization that they likely won't get that R1/elite SLAC job they have been dreaming of and training for.

Anonymous said...

I think some of you are really confused.

If all philosophy professors in all PhD programs spent fifteen hours a week each developing strategies for their students to get jobs at non-PhD philosophy departments, there would be exactly as many jobs as there are now. It would not improve prospects in the profession one jot.
The real problem for you is that as a matter of fact some professors, in other programs (like mine), do spend some time working on how their students can land teaching-oriented jobs, while yours don’t.

Anonymous said...


Then you'd have a system that does not incentivize obligation and that would be a reason to criticize that institution (which many do). You could say that same about any college - the obligation is to educate students, but that doesn't always means that policies or incentives (positive or negative) always line up with that, and that's the basis for criticism.

Again, this is part of the main problem, and it seeps into the thinking of candidates, and the way that some of them think about (large) segments of the market (ghettos, lowly institutions should realize that they are lowly, blah blah blah).

Anonymous said...

"The real problem for you is that as a matter of fact some professors, in other programs (like mine), do spend some time working on how their students can land teaching-oriented jobs, while yours don’t."

This for the win. I'm currently very happy in a TT teaching job. My not-very-elite PhD institution prepared us for the reality that if we got jobs at all it would likely be at non-elite, primarily teaching schools. They still gave us the information we needed in case we actually had a shot at an R1 job, but our placement director had sessions on how to write a teaching statement, how to write a cover letter directed to various sorts of institutions, etc. Personally, I'm glad all the people from more elite programs had no idea how to apply for jobs like the one I have now! Otherwise I may not have been so lucky.

Also, does anyone find the term 'placement' to be somewhat self-congratulatory? If you're successful, then the school 'placed you.' But if you don't get a job, they didn't fail to place you, but rather the fault lies on your own shoulders. This has been bugging me for a while.