Friday, July 4, 2014

On the Recent Leiter/Jennings Dustup

Five years ago, I wondered whether Brian Leiter's contention that a department's PGR rank correlates well with its job placement record was really true. Recently, over at NewAPPs, Carolyn Dicey Jennings attempted to run the numbers and was met with something of a hostile reaction from Leiter. If I'm honest, though, I'm not sure I see why such hostility was necessary. He airs four main criticisms:
First, by her own admission, the data is incomplete (indeed, woefully incomplete in some cases I know about).
Of course, she was up-front about the incompleteness, and the up-front admission of incompleteness was accompanied by a request for additional data, and she has updated her analysis in light of the additional data. It really seems fine to me to run a preliminary analysis on incomplete data, and then publicize it in the hopes of generating more data (and a discussion of your findings). Of course it would be pretty bad to publicize a preliminary analysis without mentioning that it was preliminary, but Jennings didn't do that.
Second, no one would expect a department's reputation in 2011 to have any correlation with its placement prior to 2011, but almost all the placements recorded by Prof. Jennings are from students who would have started graduate school between 2000 and 2005.   I would think philosophers are smart enough to understood that past placement success is a backward-looking measure, and that current faculty reputation, as it correlates with job placement, is a forward-looking measure.
I'm not sure about this. I would expect a departments reputation in 2011 to correlate at least somewhat with its reputation prior to 2011, so I would expect a (potentially indirect) correlation between placement in 2011 and reputation prior to 2011. I'm not sure why it matters when the recently-placed students started grad school. If my department is trying to place me now, I'd think that its current reputation is more important that whatever its reputation was 10 years ago. (I suppose it would be interesting to see whether PGR rank at the time of enrollment correlates with job market success upon graduation, but the suggestion that Jennings should be doing this study rather than the one she did is too strong.)

And I just don't get this "forward-looking/backward-looking" stuff. Correlations are not inherently directional. Obviously the past is the past, and if you're looking to the past you're looking backward. But people look to the past in the hope of learning about the future all the time. It doesn't always work, but it's not nonsense. It seems to me to make perfect sense to investigate whether current "reputation," as the PGR attempts to measure it, correlates with overall placement record.

But maybe I'm all wrong about this. It's not as though I know what I'm talking about. So if I'm wrong, I hope some Smokers will set me right.
Third, her measure of placement success takes no account of the kinds of jobs graduates secure.  2/2 is the same as 4/4, research university is the same as a liberal arts college, a PhD-granting department is the same as a community college.  I know philosophers happy in all kinds of positions, but it's not information, it's misinformation, to equate them all in purporting to measure job placement.
This criticism strikes me as patently unfair. First, the additional data that would be required to control for these factors would be prohibitively difficult to collect and manage. Second, controlling for job type suggests an unnecessary value-judgment about which jobs are best. Of course people are free to make those judgements, but I'd rather not see them reflected in an analysis of the placement data---particularly not at this preliminary stage. If someone were to do a breakdown of the placement data by job type, similar to the PGR breakdown by specialties, that would be fine and even welcome. Knock yourself out. But the idea that not doing so is "misinformation" is, like, not true.
Fourth, the placement rate is calculated nonsensically:  comparing average placement, as incompletely reported on blogs, between 2011-2014 to average yearly graduates between 2009-2013 is equivalent, in most cases, to comparing two randomly chosen numbers, since many (maybe most) of those placed in 2011-2014 will have completed their degrees well before 2009 and well after 2013.  This is so obvious that I'm mystified why anyone would think this is a relevant comparison.
Again, I just don't see how this is nonsense. The average yearly graduate figure tells you the number of job-seekers per year each program has recently produced; the average yearly placement tells you how many job-seekers per year each program has recently placed in a tenure-track job. In effect, it's a comparison of the department's recent graduation rate with its recent placement rate, and I think it makes perfect sense to make that comparison. Taking averages over several years will smooth over outlier years and compensate for the fact that the candidate's hire year might not be her graduation year.

I see why someone might want to see a straight comparison of graduates to tenure-track hires per year, but---as Leiter points out---a person might get their first tenure-track job well before or well after graduation. I see why someone might want to see a metric that strictly follows individual graduates, but doing so will raise problems in data-collection (departments often don't publicize it when their graduates are unsuccessful on the job market), and in indexing placement records to times (since, again, one's graduation year is often not one's year of first TT hire). (Of course, I don't know which comparisons Leiter would find acceptable, or if he had anything in mind at all. He doesn't suggest a better way to do it, so I'm just guessing.)

So, anyways, the comparison doesn't strike me as nonsensical, but maybe that's just because I don't know what I'm talking about. If that's how it is, I hope the Smokers will set me right.

I also don't see how the reference to NYU's placement record is instructive. Leiter complains that although NYU has "one of the best placement records in the world" but ranks only 26th on CDJ's analysis (this ranking was revised to 14th after new data came in), which Leiter thinks is mediocre. In defense of this, Leiter links to NYU's placement page. But, for one thing, the placement page doesn't tell the whole story of NYU's placement record---it shows how many people they placed (and where) without showing how many people they tried to place. But knowing how many people they put on the market every year is crucial to evaluating their placement record. If (And 26th doesn't have to be mediocre; it could be excellent if there was a large but tight group near the front. Which is one reason I don't love ordinal rankings.) And anyways, Jennings' spreadsheet indicates that NYU's placement record isn't as stellar as Leiter claims---most of their graduates get nice tenure-track jobs, obviously, but a substantial minority do not. You don't need a "perverse ingenuity" to generate that result; you just need to compare the rate at which they produce graduates with the rate at which they place those graduates into tenure-track jobs.

Now. I did not find the way the information was originally presented---as a comparison between the (ordinal) PGR rank and an ordinal "placement" rank---to be at all illuminating, and I'm glad she revised the post to present the information in terms of percentages. I think the focus our profession puts on ordinal rankings is pernicious, as is the fact that the PGR is principally organized in terms of them. But I think it is absolutely worth wondering whether whatever it is that the PGR measures is correlated with success on the tenure-track job market---as I indicated at the top of this post, I've been interested in this question for a long time---and I am grateful to Dr. Jennings for her work on this. And I appreciate her willingness to engage with her critics, to explain what she did and how she did it, and to revise her analysis in response to criticisms. To me, it seems like she has responded to her critics in exactly the right way.

So I'm not sure I see the need for such a hostile response on Leiter's part. Doesn't seem helpful. But what do I know? Nothing.

--Mr. Zero



100 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some people have suggested to me that the source of Leiter's hostility is that he's lashing out because he feels threatened. Maybe he thinks that if it becomes widely known that PGR rank doesn't correlate with success on the job market, and people start measuring job market success directly, he might lose his hegemony. I'm agnostic on whether that is the correct interpretation.

Anonymous said...

Leiter should shut his vomit hole.

The only reason we don't have the information we want is because programs refuse to share it. If Leiter really wants transparency, let him use his pulpit to demand that programs do the following:

1. List, by year, the number of people accepted into the PhD program.
1a. Note how many of those students are provided full, partial, or no funding.
2. List, by year, the number of people finishing the program.
3. List, by name and hiring institution, all graduates who have landed a job.
3a. Note whether those jobs are TT, VAP, renewable non-TT, contingent/adjunct, non-academic.
3b. Update that information when graduates get new jobs. (This would allow people to track, to some degree, how long it takes to get a TT job.)

But, of course, this will never happen. And not, as some will claim, because it's too much work, or because some people won't provide the information. (So many people would be happy to provide this information, to help provide a measure of transparency. But even if some don't, they can be listed, and their information post-graduation left blank.) This won't happen because there is not a single school willing to publicly stand behind their "failures." We already have Leiter's List, the "success list." But no program wants to list their failures, or in any way associate themselves with those students who don't secure T jobs or prestigious VAPs.

Anonymous said...

Well said, 8:39. Well said.

zombie said...

I dunno why the dustup, but for folks who like to poke at placement data, there's this:
http://www.philosophynews.com/post/2013/10/02/Will-I-get-a-Job-Graduate-School-Philosophy-Placement-Records.aspx

Anonymous said...

Is the reason for the dustup really not obvious? I ask because I find it obvious, and it seem to me that many others do as well.

Anonymous said...

9:13 doesn't know the facts. If you go back to the early 2000s, you will see that it was LEITER who pushed for public placement pages on department webpages. It was BL who was calling out department to make this placement data public.

You come along more than a decade later and don't know what you are talking about.

Here is a 2003 post for example:
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2003/10/philosophy_job_.html

What were you doing in 2003 to help get this info made public? You might think his tone is a bit much, but there are very few people who have done good for the weak of the profession by pissing off others than Leiter.

Anonymous said...

Mr Zero:

Thank you for one of the best posts I have ever read on this blog. It is important for the discipline that there be more than one ranking of PhD programs. Leiter's outburst at Jennings was an asshole move, and it is nice to see you and other philosophy bloggers push back. I especially admire how, rather than sink to asshole level yourself, you quietly demolish his arguments.

--Random Philosopher

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

"What is it with the philosophy field that lets just morally repugnant people achieve positions of power?"

Yeah! Why can't philosophy be more like politics, the business community, and the media, where the only people who rise to power are the morally sound?

Anonymous said...

First, I want to agree with 1:53 PM. Thank you Zero. This is an excellent post.

Second, as many have pointed out, Leiter is not a particularly agreeable character -- his online persona is beyond abrasive and if he's done the things 3:04 PM accuses him of having done above, then, well, he's got serious issues. However, 12:49 PM is correct in reporting that Leiter has for many years now been strongly encouraging PhD granting departments to make their placement data more available and more complete.

Anonymous said...

"What were you doing in 2003 to help get this info made public?"

Still working through high school. I must have missed Leiter's post somewhere between homeroom and gym. Thanks for the link.

-9:13

Anonymous said...

With regard to NYU's placement: I suspect that Leiter's elitism extends not just to the top programs as a whole, but to the students within them. A program is 'excellent' for him it places the top students in the best jobs.

zombie said...

I have no personal knowledge of any of Leiter's alleged misconduct (and no comment on the accusations above), but I don't think editing your own wikipedia page should count against one. Wikipedia profiles are known to be targets of mischief and trolling, and it's always a good idea to try to keep your online profile positive.

Which extends to those of you on the job market: keep a big, flamin' hot firewall between your personal online doings and your professional presence. But you knew that.

Anonymous said...

Zombie is right. Prudentially speaking, all us smokers should build firewalls, and keep our public online presences positive. Certainly, no one who is not tenure-track should speak out publicly about Leiter, or what he represents. Prudentially, we should all keep their heads down and live in fear.

I can only speak for myself. But that's not what I got into philosophy to do. And I, for one, would rather fail to secure a TT job, or even driven out of the discipline, than to continue to "be careful" (and fearful) one more year.

Anonymous said...

Zombie and 4:45 - this is tangential to the issue but an interesting topic, so I'm wondering what you think about it. I am untenured, and presently, not in a TT position either. I've ignored the advice (that some others have given me) to keep a firewall between your personal online persona and your professional presence. I blog (non-anonymously) on a major philosophy blog, and frequently partake in FB discussions with other philosophers. In my blog posts, I take positions and engage with controversial topics such as intelligent design, vaccinations, religion etc.
I found on the whole that this online activity has not harmed me professionally. Indeed, it has helped me to make useful professional contacts. On conferences and other events, I frequently meet people who only know my work through my blogging.
I am wondering if the current job market situation creates a culture of fear whereby young scholars are advised to be as mainstream and risk-averse as possible (e.g., publish in the top philosophy journals, no coauthoring, no online activity, don't work on unpopular or fringe topics). This is a high price to pay. After all, not all my work fits in top journals, and steering my work to the direction of the narrow range of topics that are considered there is not something I feel like doing. I like co-authoring. Finally, I like the engagement with fellow philosophers and people outside the discipline that blogging provides. All things that are important to me as a philosopher.
We should not wait until tenure to take risks. Also, given the importance of online media, creating a thoughtful online presence can be an important part of one's professional life and, after all, your career starts *before* you get tenured or even on a tenure track position.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, if you're the sort of person waiting for tenure before you take risks, you almost certainly won't after you have tenure: you'll almost certainly find other reasons (say, wanting to be promoted further) for avoiding risks.

Just be yourself now. It'll alienate a few, and endear you to others. I think it's generally a net gain. …unless you're an asshole.

zombie said...

5:14 -- I don't think this is about fear, but about prudence. I don't see anything wrong or worrisome with anything you're doing. I'm thinking more about the kind of stuff that makes you look like a jerk, or immature, or psychotic. Posting racist, drunken rants on Facebook, or publicly posting ad hominem attacks on other philosophers, etc. The kind of stuff that makes you look like a bad colleague. I suppose this could extend to stuff that makes you look like a sloppy, bad philosopher too.

Nothing you describe strikes me as unprofessional or questionable or especially risky. I, too, contribute publicly and non-anonymously to blogs, I interact with philosopher friends on Facebook and Twitter. But I also maintain privacy controls on my Facebook page, to limit who can see it. (Because who the hell REALLY knows how Facebook works? And because stuff my friends post might be dodgy, and I frankly don't really KNOW what shows up on my feed.) I maintain separate (public) Facebook pages that are related to my teaching interests. I treat my Twitter feed, which is much more philosophically-oriented, as a professional extension, but I don't refrain from posting political stuff if I feel like it.

We're all entitled to separate our private and public lives and personas, if we so desire. But it takes more effort to do so when you have an online presence, and I think it would be foolish to think that people don't google your name or look at the online you. And it's difficult to predict how people will "read" or understand what they see of you online. (As, for instance, we saw in the case of W, and varying interpretations of her emails to Nazareth.)

As noted above, even someone like Leiter, who is surely secure in his profession, has to monitor his online presence.

Anonymous said...

Zombie: Thanks for clarifying - I agree with you about this. In fact, I have a long disagreement with some of my co-bloggers about whether snark is permitted or good. The problem is, even if snark is justified (as one could argue about BL's latest attack on CDJ), I feel it does little instrumental good. If one wants a discussion not to escalate and keep the moral high ground, snark is invariably a bad idea. Besides, snarky blogposts lead to even snarkier comments.
It goes indeed without saying that SCs need not be made aware of aspects of one's private life - which can be done by toggling the privacy settings of various social media.

Anonymous said...

4:45 here -- First, let me say that I agree with everything that you and Zombie have said regarding prudent and appropriate online presence. I agree that an appropriate online presence can help as much, or more, than it hurts. And I agree with 5:46 above that it is important to take risks academically, prior to tenure.

However, when I spoke of taking risks and not living “in fear,” I was speaking specifically with regard to whether or not junior people should speak out about Leiter’s conduct, and the culture of hostility he represents. I don’t know if it’s prudent for junior people to speak out about this. My point was merely that -- *speaking strictly for myself* -- I would rather damage my career, or leave the discipline, than remain silent for another year.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of a culture of hostility, this blog is certainly contributing to it. "Leiter should shut his vomit hole," "morally repugnant character," "narcissist," accusations of misconduct based on no evidence. Mr. Zero raises substantive issues, this is just slinging mud.

Anonymous said...

4:45 - I am ambivalent about this - I find it in any case admirable that you want to speak out against this behavior. A while ago, Leiter insulted a friend of mine online by calling her "singularly unhinged" - this was especially problematic as she is not tenured and just started a tenure track position. He then took the post offline after some protests but never issued an apology. There was then an ominous silence in the blogosphere - I thought about writing a blogpost but I was afraid of backlash - what would he call me next?
And then he insulted my co-blogger CDJ, probably because he felt his PGR was under threat. I always thought the PGR was a *terrible* way to rank departments (if we need such a measure, and now I've asked several people I know how they rank, and basically it confirms what someone said on Daily Nous, namely they don't know the work of the person in many cases and just go by whether they've heard the name before. So anyway, I don't know concretely how to stop this behavior. I am happy there is finally some discussion about the usefulness of the PGR, and I hope senior people will seriously consider before collaborating with its creation.

Anonymous said...

Hi 2:04. Thanks for your remarks. I'm familiar with both the cases to which you allude, and I'm deeply troubled by both. Indeed, the cases you mention are two significant data points which have led me, personally, to the conclusion that the situation is intolerable.

For my part, I wish I knew better what to do about it.

Anonymous said...

2:04, I am also familiar with the cases, but perhaps from a different angle, since I know students at one of the programs where "singularly unhinged" spent time, and they agreed with the description pretty strongly. Although I think what provoked Leiter was that singularly unhinged kept insulting him on Facebook and on blogs, I don't think he was too far off the mark on this. I do not know why he even removed the remark.

On CDJ, if you have read Leiter's blog for a long time you know he links to other rankings and metrics all the time, sometimes favorably and sometimes not. CDJ's effort was dubious. As Mr. Zero says, the comparison wasn't "illuminating." Could L have been kinder about it? Yes. But "intolerable" seems melodramatic.

Anonymous said...

Hi 3:05. I'm not sure there's much to say, aside from acknowledging the fact that we clearly disagree. I don't know the individual that BL called "singularly unhinged." But I don't believe I need to. Whether or not the attribution is remotely accurate is irrelevant to my concerns. My concerns begin, and end, with the idea that is is wholly inappropriate (and intolerable) for a prominent figure such as BL to address junior members of the profession in such a manner.

Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

"I think it's generally a net gain. …unless you're an asshole."

And philosophers are never assholes...

Anonymous said...

So....what are the odds that Anon at 1:02 and at 3:50 are posting from the same (U of C) IP address?

Anonymous said...

Let's get back to substance.

BL's comment about forward-looking/backward-looking measures makes some sense if you take CDJ's rankings as a test rather than an independent metric, where the question is: Is placement correlated to faculty research reputation? If that's your question, then it makes sense to compare placement ca. 2010s with Leiter ranking ca. mid-2000s (say, averaging a few PGRs to smooth things out). If you are wondering about how TT placement rates might be used to measure graduate programs independently of faculty research reputation, then comparison in the same time frame makes sense, I.e., if your thought is that TT placement is a measure of the quality of a program right now.

I think graduate students and less established philosophers are more likely to think in the latter terms, while established figures in the field are likely to think in the former, which may explain the dispute. (I'm not wedded at all to this hypothesis.) I think there are reasons to go both ways and to conduct both sorts of comparisons. If you're wondering about the usefulness of the overall rankings of the PGR (I myself think the specialty rankings are far more useful), then the former method seems a better way to go. If you're wondering how hard programs work at placing their students, then the latter might be more illuminating. If you want to use the PGR to apply to schools, then both metrics are useful and the method of comparison irrelevant - current TT placement tells you about the practices of the faculty in getting their students jobs, while current PGR ranking says something about where the department stands in the field overall.

I think it would've been helpful if CDJ had not mentioned the PGR at all. It is a hard enough task to compute rankings from patchy placement records and data. I don't see why it was necessary at the same time to bring in the PGR explicitly and measure underperformers and overperformers, since the precise way to make the comparison between the two rankings is tricky itself and these terms can be reasonably contested. It also doesn't do prospective students many favors, except insofar as it pushes departments to improve their detailed placement data. As with the PGR I don't think the coarse-grained information is that helpful (though the bracketing approach seems reasonable enough). Disaggregating placement by AOS and dissertation advisor is sometimes eye-opening, for instance.

The best advice to prospective students is to learn to read placement records, both for the information they divulge and the information they conceal. This can help you ask questions when it comes time to visit programs, which is the only prudent way to make a choice of doctoral program anyway.

Anonymous said...

8:25,
About the same as the odds that you and 3:09 are posting from the same (College of Charleston) IP address.

Mr. Zero said...

Discussions of who's posting from what IP are unlikely to bear fruit. So cut it out.

Anonymous said...

Can I add how infuriating it is to read comments at NewApps from faculty who call for more transparency and better rankings when their own departments don't provide the sort of data that 9:13 rightly calls for?

Anonymous said...

What is "singularly unhinged" accused of doing at that department that confirms that opinion of her in the grad student's eyes?

Anonymous said...

Question: How are people able to discern the IP addresses of posters? Frightening.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 12:40,

They're not. They're guessing. Which is why there's no point in speculating.

Anonymous said...

5:45 pm yesterday says:

"I don't know the individual that BL called 'singularly unhinged.' But I don't believe I need to. Whether or not the attribution is remotely accurate is irrelevant to my concerns. My concerns begin, and end, with the idea that is is wholly inappropriate (and intolerable) for a prominent figure such as BL to address junior members of the profession in such a manner."

So even if what BL said is true, you think that is irrelevant to whether he should have said it? Why?

Anonymous said...

8:25 (but not 3:09) here.

@Mr. Zero:
Aye aye, I'll be good. I'll even add a substantive comment down below.

@3:29 AM:
I am sure that would have been particularly cutting and witty if I was a philosophy academic and thus knew who at Charlotte I was supposed to be.

Substantive point:
What seems curious to me is the focus on better rankings systems rather than coming up with a better method to evaluate the quality of TT job applicants. Obviously the best method would be to actually read their work, but there's no way a committee is going to do that for 100+ applicants. But relying on rankings just gets into a fairly static looping system: "X went to a highly ranked program, and it's highly ranked because it's highly ranked." Even if you move past a subjective qualifier like reputation, the others end up serving mainly as proxies for reputation anyhow. It seems to me that Leiter's biggest rankings crime ends up being dragging the rankings system into the field in the first place rather than simply perpetuating a flawed one. The obsession with school rankings over the past two decades has nearly destroyed legal academia, and resulted in insane tuition increases at the undergraduate level. Any thoughts for a saner system?

Anonymous said...

"Obviously the best method would be to actually read their work, but there's no way a committee is going to do that for 100+ applicants."

I want our next job ad to ask for a sample of published scholarship instead of just a writing sample. That would weed from the pool anyone who hasn't published.

But I also work in a department that prefers to hire people who have been out of their PhD for a few years (our last 3 hires were VAPs and adjuncts before coming to my department), and have little interested in hiring someone ABD, or even freshly defended.

Mr. Zero said...

I deleted an earlier comment that included personal attacks, allegations of unknown accuracy, and which were irrelevant to the subject of this thread.

Anonymous said...

1:44,

I love how you think your ignorance makes a remark less funny. What power you have! (Also that you don't know the difference between Charlotte and Charleston.)

I doubt that there is any 'obsession' with school rankings. Leiter provided an important service whose useful life may have expired. Good for him.

Anonymous said...

1:39 asks why, on my view, it doesn’t matter whether the characterization “singularly unhinged” is true.

Here’s the short answer: Truth is relevant to the legality of speech, but not necessarily to whether speech is professionally and ethically appropriate. My concern isn’t one of legality. That is, I’m not concerned with whether or not characterizing someone as “singularly unhinged” constitutes defamation (even if it might!). Rather, my concern is with whether characterizing someone as “singularly unhinged” is professionally and ethically appropriate conduct. And on my view, it’s not.

Anonymous said...

"I deleted an earlier comment..."

why? what happened? did Leiter complain?

Anonymous said...

4:33 pm: I understand your distinction, but can you explain why the truth of what someone says is not relevant to its "professional" appropriateness, and in this case in particular?

Anonymous said...

Sure, 5:27. There are probably a number of equally good answers to your question. For my part, I would say that characterizing someone as "singularly unhinged" is fairly hostile, abusive, and vicious. If one genuinely finds it necessary to state that one believes someone to be mentally unbalanced, there are far more appropriate and respectful ways to say that.

Anonymous said...

"deleted"

Which one was it?

Anonymous said...

"Which one was it?"

Looks like it was the one that said he makes up fake names to bolster his reputation, tried to get somebody fired when the person sent him an email he didn't like, and edits his own wikipedia page. I'm agnostic on whether any of that actually happened.

zombie said...

"Singularly unhinged" is a euphemism for "insane," if I know my euphemisms.
Although I don't know the particulars of that case, I doubt it would be true to say that the individual is/was literally insane, so calling said individual "singularly unhinged" strikes me as being defamatory. (But I'm no lawyer...)

But I'm inclined to think that euphemisms don't have truth value, which makes them a dandy little loophole for saying things without fear of liability. OTOH, the things being referred to euphemistically may or may not be true, which may or may not have legal ramifications. Just ask Colin McGinn about his "hands"

Anonymous said...

It does seem that accusing someone of mental instability steps over a line that most gentlemen/gentlewomen do not cross; even in the nastiest of political campaigns, for example, opponents generally stay away from accusations of insanity. It would possibly be defamatory in a way that "asshat" isn't, though it would depend on a factual determination of whether a reasonable listener would assume it to be true. If the target of the statement is a "public figure" then the plaintiff has to show that the defendant either maliciously said something that wasn't true, or was just reckless about it, which makes it an even harder burden -- and "public figure" is a very broad category in the courts.

As for the accusations in the post that was deleted, most seemed based on an unsubstantiated, anonymous post of someone claiming to have hacked what he/she alleged to be Leiter's sockpuppet email account, so not exactly the most reliable evidence and probably quite suitably deleted. However, the accusation that he tried to get a private critic fired is actually based on Leiter's own blog post on his law school blog where he boasted about it and published the letter he sent to the man's employers.

Anonymous said...

2:55 am on July 7 hits the nail on the head about this whole issue.

Anonymous said...

One thing is clear from all of this. Even if you disagree with CDJ and Weinberg, they have carried themselves with class and dignity. They have responded calmly and constructively in a situation that would likely lead those with lesser character to lash out in anger and invective. I think they should be commended for this. I'm not big on policing speech. If someone wants to be an obnoxious jerk, let them. It will be clear for all to see.

Anonymous said...

Well said, 6:45. I agree. For my part, the main issue here isn't policing speech. Rather, the main issue is publicly recognizing the difference between speech acts that are conducted with dignity and class (i.e., speech that is professionally and ethically appropriate) and speech act that aren't.

Anonymous said...

Rendering judgments about speech that is "professionally and ethically" appropriate sounds exactly like policing speech.

Anonymous said...

12:38 - Sorry to hear it sounds that way to you. But there is a difference between recognizing and policing. The difference is that in recognizing we're not going to attempt to stop you from speaking. Rather, we're just going to evaluate your speech acts according to well-established standards of professionally and ethically appropriate conduct.

Anonymous said...

No one thinks "policing speech" means arresting people who speak in ways that are ethically and professionally inappropriate, so I really don't see the distinction. If it were true that there were well-established norms in this domain that might help, but a lot of this discussion sounds more like trying to establish norms that don't exist rather than merely 'enforcing' (but not policing) existing norms.

Look at the Philosophy Metablog. Does discourse there violate professional and ethical norms?

Anonymous said...

By "well-established" norms, I meant "well-established norms in adult society" not "well-established norms among philosophers." I agree that such norms are not well-established among philosophers.

Anonymous said...

Where is the evidence from "adult society" that there is a norm against calling other people stupid or, more relevant to this case, not very smart?

Anonymous said...

even anonymous gamers so say: http://forums.na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=2980363

Anonymous said...

5:14 - "Using intelligence as an insult, eg calling someone [stupid], is an attempt to silence a critic. If someone has a legitimate argument to begin with, then that person wouldn't use insults. - n

Anonymous said...

For the love of all that is holy, Leiter needs to stop with the passive-aggressive blog posts (e.g. today's on "neo-liberal rhetoric"). They're so obvious. He only comes off looking bad by posting them.

Anonymous said...

I thought we had already established that the only people posting here are BL, CDJ and "singularly unhinged." Oh, and Mr. Zero and Zombie.

Anonymous said...

"Narcissists cannot handle criticism they need external validation or they have these kinds of breakdowns. Ironically, their obsession with guarding their own reputation typically destroys it, particularly coupled with a shocking inability to cloak one's sockpuppets."

It's the McGinning of the end of many a philosophical career.

Anonymous said...

I do think that BL's response was an overreaction, but don't think it's based in an unwillingness to give credit where credit's due. This isn't to deny that providing a breakdown of placement data is a valuable thing for students (among others), but I do agree that bereft of other considerations -- the necessity of candidates from some ostensibly "high placement" departments to publish more than others, along with placement types, etc.-- renders some forms of placement data a less than good guide for deciding where to attend grad school.

That said, both parties of the dispute clearly care about providing informative guides about the quality of graduate departments, and though they may disagree in some ways about what this consists in, I think the substance of their respective follow-ups illustrates agreement about the value of Jennings' idea, BL's bravado aside.

Anonymous said...

Leiter cares about *his* providing informative guides about the quality of graduate departments. He needs his name to be attached.

Anonymous said...

CDJ got her PhD at BU and has a big chip on her shoulder about elite departments. PGR stands for elite departments. Hence CDJ is out to undermine PGR.

Anonymous said...

Very persuasive, 12:41 ... very persuasive.

Anonymous said...

About as persuasive as most of the analysis here.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? How hard is it really to see that the issue begins and ends with the extent to which BL is thin-skinned and insecure?

Anonymous said...

Very persuasive, 2:30, very persuasive.

Anonymous said...

not an argument, 3:17 ... just an observation.

Anonymous said...

When Leiter presents his data, does he only count PGR departments as "research universities"?

Anonymous said...

6:02,
No, of course not. (This is pretty clear if you read the first of the two posts.)

Anonymous said...

The email Leiter posted is so silly in its analysis that I almost think Leiter wrote it himself.

Anonymous said...

I once linked, in a thread on Leiter Reports, to a discussion of the very same issue that had recently occurred at another blog. The topic was of great importance to prospective graduate students. Leiter did not approve the comment. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the tone of the comment--it was just a heads up to more input of the sort he was requesting. I take this as evidence that he cares about the most vulnerable only if doing so does not diminish his standing as the person with the most trafficked blog in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Leiter's public attack on CDJ follow the same pattern that he used against Richard Heck some years ago: we find the mix between substantive criticism and insidious suggestions aimed at undermining the moral and intellectual integrity of the target; and there is the regular quote of an appeal to authorities that correspond with him over email, 'authorities' marked as such by labels such as, 'a senior philosopher at a top 5 department writes...', 'as another senior philosopher who graduated from a highly ranked department remarks...'.

Anonymous said...

Anyone catch the last round of blows between CDJ and Leiter before they were removed? That is, Leiter's response to CDJ's "Why I think Brian Leiter is attacking me" (or whatever the title of it was).

Anonymous said...

https://twitter.com/BrianLeiter/status/487704121819283457

https://twitter.com/JadedPhD/status/487735778760331264

Anonymous said...

Also this:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.newappsblog.com/2014/07/why-i-believe-that-brian-leiter-intentionally-attacked-me.html

Though the cached version leaves out a whole bunch of updates CDJ posted accusing BL of defaming her and other stuff.

Anonymous said...

Good point, 5:50am. His appeal to anonymous authority is definitely one of the sleazier Leiterisms (and most are fairly sleazy). Look, for example, at 3:50 am; I'm not saying that's a BL sockpuppet, but the combination of a defense of Leiter and a slur against RM referencing anonymous people who agree with the poster, might lead a logician in the abductive tradition to draw an inference...

I also find another, related Leiterism amusing in his refusal to admit he actually seeks out his (and PGR's) detractors on his own. He always insists it's someone else who has breathlessly brought to his attention something, at which point he grudgingly decides to respond. Like anyone believes that he doesn't incessantly google himself.

Anonymous said...

Google cache of Leiter's now removed "update":

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fleiterreports.typepad.com%2Fblog%2F2014%2F07%2Fmore-thoughts-on-job-placement-in-philosophy.html

Anonymous said...

Leiter writes:

"It is true that Mr. Carson's effort (linked above) was, in its first draft, almost as bad as what Prof. Jennings originally posted, but Mr. Carson was only an MA student (not a tenure-track assistant professor at a research university) and so understandably less well-informed..."

Okay, so now I get why CDJ would want to "clear her name."

Yeesh.

Anonymous said...

If I feel the need to visit LR, I visit it via donotlink.com. I suggest others do so too. The URL it creates works indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

Makes no difference how you visit, the stat counter counts those visits too. And that's what BL is selling to the advertisers, the volume of traffic.

Anonymous said...

anybody knows why has the post "why i believe BL has intentionally attacked me" been taken down?

Anonymous said...

I don't know why the post has been taken down, but its probably because there's more cause for legitimate fear in the profession than recent posts by Arvan and Cogburn allow. Am I the only one who found the timing of their reassurances ... interesting?

Anonymous said...

I also find another, related Leiterism amusing in his refusal to admit he actually seeks out his (and PGR's) detractors on his own. He always insists it's someone else who has breathlessly brought to his attention something, at which point he grudgingly decides to respond. Like anyone believes that he doesn't incessantly google himself.

Well put. I too chuckle when this happens. He's not fooling anybody.

Marcus Arvan said...

@5:23: "there's more cause for legitimate fear in the profession than recent posts by Arvan and Cogburn allow."

I did not deny that there's cause for legitimate fear in the profession. I merely said that living in fear made my career intolerable, and that I decided not to, for better or worse. I also conceded that there are risks in doing so. Finally, I did say that I have been encouraged by how much good will I have encountered since I decided to change. That is all. All I was saying is: if you're living in fear, you might want to think about a change. It has made all the difference in the world, at least in my case.

Anonymous said...

http://philosophymetablog.blogspot.com/2014/07/destroyer.html?showComment=1405224066927&m=0#c1260462193851346411

Anonymous said...

6:47 am and earlier

I once e-mailed BL to ask about his response to a criticism on another blog, and he did discuss it on his blog subsequently. With 10,000 visitors a day, it really isn't surprising that this might happen at least sometimes.

Derek Bowman said...

@5:23: What, exactly, is there to fear? That you won't get a full-time job? That you won't get tenure? Plenty of us are already living that reality anyway.

Anonymous said...

8:13, I think when people are speaking of legitimate cause for fear, they are referring to fear of being on the receiving end of tactics like those employed by Brian Leiter, as recently on display in his "disagreement" with CDJ.

Anonymous said...

7:50,

Leiter is a smug self-important know-it-all, and such people always feel they are justified in telling others what to do and dismissing their detractors.

Thankfully, for the good of the field, philosophy does not have a history of producing smug, self-important know-it-alls.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I do -- I doubt it. How do you think Brian Leiter could ever get anyone fired from a philosophy department? If he tried he would only embarrass himself, and he knows it.

Now Berit Brogaard, on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

The tactics that BL routinely employes are not limited to trying to get people fired. Let's stay focused on what he very publicly does, which is run campaigns of character assassination against other professionals (including junior professionals) in the discipline.

Anonymous said...

This thread seems like a good example of "character assassination," though I do not know if it is a "campaign" yet.

Does anyone have any actual evidence of BL trying to get anyone fired? People are now talking as if this has some basis other than paranoia. Does it?

Jon Cogburn said...

Anon 4:50,

It's not a matter of getting someone fired. It's a matter of: (a) hurting someone's chances to get hired or promoted, and (b) having a certain percentage of the professoriate think you somehow deserve these kinds of sweeping putdowns.

Very few promotions are home runs, and very few are such that the person clearly doesn't deserve it. So the external letters play a big role in convincing the administration that the promotion is merited. In addition, in most cases letters have to be from senior professors at schools ranked higher than your own (some subset of which will almost certainly be Leiterific).

And Leiter does have influence over hiring. This is particularly strong with departments who are not in the top 50. One of the many bad aspects of the PGR is that if you are not in the top 50 your school doesn't get ranked at all. I know one professor from a non-ranked school who told me that Leiter told him that they might be rankable if they just hired a couple of more people in certain areas (it was his impression that he was not the only person that Leiter had this conversation with). This was duly reported to the full faculty during decisions about who to hire.

This wouldn't matter if the market wasn't so bad that there are almost always multiple finalists who are tied in level of excellence. The candidate who causes the least headaches is going to be the one hired, even if it's unfair.

Likewise if you are trying to get a job in a Leiter ranked schools. As Heck and others have long argued, the fact that he picks the advisory committee gives him tremendous power to put his fingers on the scale. Look at the advisory committee for "continental philosophy" and note how few people work in French philosophy. So, if you are in a potential or actual Leiter ranked department and you care about the rankings, there just is pressure to hire a person who is roughly tied with the person he has smeared.

Given all of the serious problems on the job market, this frankly isn't that big a deal for people who already have tenure. But for the non-tenured it could easily be career killing.

Finally, it's a drag to be an acceptable object of public ridicule. At an APA soon, some drunk male will try to debate CDJ, defending what Leiter said about her. Read the comments at philosophy metablog, where people who haven't even looked at the cvs of anyone at newapps use some of the very language of Leiter's posts and confidently declare that the reason Leiter doesn't like us is that we are not philosophers.

Let me make very clear that I'm not ascribing any intentionality to Leiter with respect to how his irresponsible personal attacks harm people. I wish that in cases like this the guy was capable of publicly apologizing and moving on. It's not that big a deal to screw up when you are passionate about something. As someone who used to parrot Leiter's take on continental philosophy, I know from experience that people forgive and forget if you genuinely apologize and try to learn from the situation. But he just keeps peeing in the whiskey.

Anonymous said...

What Jon Cogburn said. But I also want to point out that some people have colleagues in other departments who are mildly interested in philosophy. Some of these people might get most of their philosophy news (or whatever) from that guy's blog, and these people might just take his word for it that so-and-so is a charlatan, fascist, or buffoon.

That, and people will always remember who was involved in some gossipy episode or flame war. You don't want that shit associated with your name. It's bad press.

Anonymous said...

I do know 'singularly unhinged' and I think we need to remember that in history many people who resist forms of discrimination and stand their ground, which as far as I can tell, is really the only thing she does that is different from what anyone else does,are undermined, smeared, and pathologized. Wake up people.

Anonymous said...

The weird thing about Leiter's outrage here is that, according to CDJ's data, PGR rank actually does correlate, at least roughly, to placement data. The correlation isn't exact, but the majority of the best placing schools were relatively high ranked Leiter schools.

It strikes me that the really interesting findings in CDJs study is not that Leitterific schools don't place well (by and large, they do), but that a number of non-Leiterrific schools do place pretty well, comparatively speaking. I'm thinking here of places like SLU, Fordham, Vandy, and Cincinatti (though the latter had a very small sample size and may be an outlier).

That this is the case shouldn't be surprising at all. Leiter ranks schools based solely on the reputation of their faculty. And, while faculty reputations are obviously very important factors on the job market, it would be absurd to think they are the only relevant factors. How much teaching experience students get, what kind of professional development the department provides, what kind of advice students receive in preparing for the market, what sort of networking opportunities the program affords--all of these make a difference in placement. And it's not unthinkable that some departments, though they don't have many rock-star faculty members, work hard on these other areas, and that it pays dividends for their students. CDJ's study offers a way for these departments to get recognition for that, and for prospective students to be made aware of it.

Anonymous said...

@6:47 - I'm the person who said I didn't know 'singularly unhinged', and that I didn't need to know her to know that BL was out of line to call her 'singularly unhinged'.

I agree with everything you just said. My apologies to you, and your friend, if anything I wrote suggested otherwise.

Anonymous said...

One factor that Leiter's rankings ignore - which is very relevant to job placement - is the fact that some programs won't hire applicants *because* they come from a top-ranked Leiter school. For many smaller programs (and I have taught at 2 such institutions), there is a very real fear that hiring such a person will mean re-hiring for that position when that person inevitably leaves for a better job. And should that person not get a better job (a reality in this market), that person may become bitter at being stuck at such a minor program. (And trust me, lots of programs are burdened with faculty who resent being stuck at their "starter job," and often those faculty are insufferable.)

Many programs that don't crack Leiter's list recognize that they will never compete against the Big Boys, so they work with their grad students accordingly: those grad students are not groomed for Leiterrific jobs, are instead groomed for jobs at teaching colleges, and are often groomed well. (This, by the way, is one reason some people on this blog get so bent out of shape during market season. They simply cannot understand why someone from a lesser program with fewer publications would be a better applicant.)

Anonymous said...

The comment # went down. Another threat of litigation, perhaps?

Mr. Zero said...

No, Leiter didn't threaten me. He did ask that a couple of comments be removed, on the grounds that they were purported psychological diagnoses offered anonymously.