Wednesday, December 3, 2014

[Guest Post] APA interviews are morally impermissible (Again)

The blockquoted material below was originally published August, 5th, 2014. Use the comments as an open thread!

We're full-swing into the job market. Thanks to everyone who has responded to my survey about first-round interviewing practices (which is still going on; now candidates might have information)! Of the approximately 40 schools who have responded to my survey, 35 or so are doing interviews via remote means or skipping first round interviews altogether.

With those results in mind, here, again, is Asst. Prof. at a Canadian School's take on the moral impermissibility of APA interviews:
It’s the middle of the summer, so no one wants to think about searches for new tenure track hires. But now’s the time to talk about something important -- before those searches start. 
APA interviews are really expensive for job candidates. This isn’t news, but it’s worth doing the math again. Flights can easily run to $500 for candidates on the West Coast. If people are coming from the UK or Canada, it’s closer to $800. I don’t even want to think about Australia or Asia. Then there’s hotel costs, which even if you bunk with a bunch of friends in one room, is probably going to run past $100. So we’re talking about $500, $600, or a lot more for candidates to go the APA. 
That price might have been one thing in the olden days, when everyone got ten interviews at their first APA, and then got a job, and never had to deal with the job market ever again. Back then, the APA was a one-time cost. But that’s not the world we live in now. Now people spend three, four, or five years on the market before they get permanent jobs. They go to APAs where they have one interview -- a one-in-12 shot at a job. And then they do it again the next year. And then again the year after that, and the year after that. At that point, they’ve spent $2000 or $3000 just trying to get a job.
That bears repeating: candidates can easily spend well over $2000 going to APAs for interviews. 
For a grad student? For an adjunct? For some postdocs and VAPs? That is way too much money. It’s two or three months’ rent. It’s health insurance. Grad students, adjuncts, and other part-timers are the most economically marginalized, most economically vulnerable members of our discipline. To impose those costs on them is to impose on them a considerable hardship. 
Now, you could argue that in the olden days, there was just no way to avoid APA interviews. Search committees had to get a first look at people before they made up their minds about who to bring out to campus. That would be a bad argument for at least two reasons I can think of, but it’s an argument you could make. 
But now there’s Skype. Really. It’s a real thing and it works. I know, I know, it can be glitchy, and even when it’s not, it’s not the same as an IRL meeting. 
But how much better than a Skype interview is an APA interview? So much better that it justifies forcing some adjunct to spend $500 she could have spent on her kids’ Christmas presents? Or her health insurance? Or her rent? 
To recap: APA interviews impose a considerable economic hardship on the most economically vulnerable members of our discipline. And since there’s Skype, they impose that hardship for no reason at all. But to impose a considerable hardship on the weakest and poorest among us -- for no reason at all -- is an injustice. It is morally impermissible. 
That point deserves to be put in the second person. If your department is hiring this year, and if you let your department do APA interviews, you are committing an injustice. You are forcing economically vulnerable people to spend way more money than they can afford, in order to have a one-in-12 shot at your job. And you’re doing it for no good reason at all. That is a despicable thing to do. 
So what should you do? Easy. Don’t do APA interviews. Just refuse. Don’t wring your hands this year and think maybe you’ll skip the APA next time around. Don’t wait for the APA to come up with some new policy. Don’t wait for a few other departments to start skipping the APA before you do. Just do it yourself. Do it this year.
-- Jaded, Ph.D. 
 

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a spouse going through this for a second year and with a family, I find this particularly depressing. For a second year we have to drop $500+ for what may be one interview or hopefully two. Money that we could have spent on Christmas gifts or outings or simply to not load our credit cards even more. Money that we could have spent to be with family during the holidays. It's not only the money; it's having to explain to family members the irrationality behind having to fly hundreds of miles *during the holiday season* to be interviewed by perhaps one school. As if the market wasn't painful enough, we can't just secretly go about our job search process, we have to share with everybody in our family why we may not join them for the holidays and that it's because once again we're looking for jobs. This is absolute madness and it is encouraging that more schools are moving away from APA interviews.

Anonymous said...

That estimate of West coast flight cost is laughable.If I have to interview at the APA I'll need to spend 1000 bucks - at least - on a plane ticket, and then there's the taxi, hotel, food, etc. I have determined that I will need to request phone or Skype, instead.

Anonymous said...

Huh, my plane ticket from a west coast city to Philadelphia cost $550. I'm getting a ride to the airport and in Philly I'll take the train from the airport rather than a taxi. Sharing a room.
It sounds like I'm going to spend about half of what 2:30 PM will spend.

Still not at all happy about having to be away right after Christmas. I guess this is the last year for that, though, so that's good news.

Anon ca said...

I bought a flight and a hotel room. $1400. I paid a little extra but not much for a flight that I could cancel with no penalty (southwest). If I'm going to be interviewing I want my own room to rest and decompress. So I made a couple choices that increase the price but they seem like reasonable ones that many people will make. That price tag is crazy and a burden.

Anonymous said...

@12:53 - This is the first year of my life I've not lived in a city with a major international airport. One thing I've realized is that lots of things are cheaper in small towns but airfare is not one of them. If you're off the beaten path getting anywhere is expensive, and getting from one coast to the other is really, really expensive. LAX to Philly might be possible for $550, but if you're starting in Eugene or Spokane or somewhere even more out of the way it's likely going to involve several connections and be much, much more expensive.

Anonymous said...

2:30 here: I'm in a West coast city about 5 hours drive from a major city/airport. It is definitely 1000 bucks, and has been for the last month.

Anonymous said...

@11:09 *high fives* fellow spouse. Yes, the fact that the job market coincides with the holidays has always seemed particularly shitty. Especially because you're expected to spend time with family members, who (naturally) want to know how your spouse's job-search is going, when the best answer is "badly".

I'm celebrating Year 3 of fending off well-meaning family members on one side while trying to console my "I really thought I had a chance this year" spouse on the other! yeah! Merry fucking Christmas.

Anonymous said...

A bit of a complaint: I got one interview this year so far, and I know plenty of super-talented people got none yet. So I know I'm luckier than some. But I'm pretty frustrated by this one interview. The job ad fits a lecturer currently at the university to a very specific T. Which is fine! Glad they want to hire this person! However, they are holding APA interviews. Which means I now will change holiday plans I made (since I thought most schools were moving to Skype) and will now will pony up travel expenses and hotel for a job interview that I'm 99.44% sure will amount to nothing. (It's still worth the .56% for me to actually go. I think.) I think all departments should avoid APA interviews. If you're planning an inside hire, then you really shouldn't do APA interviews.

Anonymous said...

@11:10, maybe the job ad looks tailored to the lecturer because they hired the lecturer on a fixed term to teach the courses they need taught. Maybe they are hiring the lecturer, maybe not. I would take the existence of the APA interviews to be evidence that they are not. Most departments wouldn't want to blow their budget on a pointless trip right after Christmas when an easy alternative exists. Unless the school is located in philadelphia, then I might worry.

Anonymous said...

@11:10, I concur with @11:45. Indeed, I think the "inside candidate" worry is typically overblown.

Anonymous said...

@11:45, this is 11:10. Thanks for responding. I hadn't thought about it that way. So on the one hand, you make an excellent point. On the other, the specificity of this ad is really so incredibly specific. I think, however, that I prefer your take, and so I've decided to believe you're right because it makes me happier (after all, it's not an epistemology job).

Anonymous said...

11:10,

Sometimes, departments that find themselves in a position to hire TT will advertise for such a position, and then hire an outside candidate on purpose, even if the inside candidate is a perfect fit.

If they have funding to hire TT, they can find someone qualified, no problem. And then, it's a pretty easy decision (financially) to keep on the lecturer who is already on staff. Administration often won't fight to keep a lecturer on staff another year, if there are courses to be taught.

This might not seem logical, but sometimes if a department hires a lecturer on staff to TT, it's tough to then justify a search for a lecturer once that position has been vacated. This way, the department gets a chance at turning one line into two. (And I wouldn't put it past the department to make the lecturer seem like a perfect fit, to encourage him/her to apply, and hopefully keep them from investing in leaving.)

Anonymous said...

@6:14, this is 11:10 again. Thanks, that's good to know. Although "And I wouldn't put it past the department to make the lecturer seem like a perfect fit, to encourage him/her to apply, and hopefully keep them from investing in leaving." Vey iz mir!

Anonymous said...

What's the protocol for thank-you notes for Skype interviews? One for each person in the room? One for each person who asked a question? One addressed to everyone in the room but sent only to the chair?

Anonymous said...

@11:10 - I wouldn't worry about the inside candidate. I was the inside candidate once (I was a postdoc at the time), for a TT position that fit me well, but they chose to take an external candidate. I wasn't even shortlisted. I was invited to coffee with the SC chair who explained why I was not shortlisted, in spite of a fit with my AOS, good publications, and a track record of getting grants. Apparently, they wanted to specify in the ad that they wanted someone who worked in the continental tradition (I'm an analytic philosopher) in my AOS, but the faculty rejected the more specific ad and wanted a general ad to attract more people. However, they got enough continental folks in my AOS with good pubs so they chose not to shortlist me (or any other analytic candidate, it turned out).
You don't know the dynamics of the inside candidate. S/he may look like a good fit to an outsider, but the search committee might want something else.

Anonymous said...

@12:42, thanks for sharing. That must have totally sucked, but it sounds like they were reasonably nice about it to you.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad someone has raised this issue. I have been on the jib market the last 4 years, and each year I have had only 1-2 APA interviews. So each year I have spent $800 for a 1 hr interview. Then to add insult to injury, several schools don't even have the decency to take 5 min to send you a polite email letting you know they are moving on with other candidates. I mentioned the expense to one faculty member interviewing at the APA this year (because it was a local school), and he was stunned. It had seriously never crossed his mind to consider our expenses. This made it abundantly clear that the move to Skype interviews was not out of consideration for the poor job candidates, but out of consideration for the time ofnthe search committees and the budgets of their departments. Minimally, if a school will be interviewing at the APA, they need to be responsible, list it in the job advertisement and not make decisions at the last minute (so that those trying to book early/decent priced tickets don't have to gamble so much).

Anonymous said...

728

I know you're frustrated but you just inferred something about the behavior of most departments on the basis of your experience with one member of one search committee.

The discussion about immorality of APA interviews has been going on for at least 5 years and, like most moral arguments, has taken time to reach the people in a position of power. I think most search committees at least take into consideration the APA's cost though I admit that many still don't take it seriously and (as your anecdote demonstrates) some still don't take it into consideration at all.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I did not infer something on the basis of one example. I merely listed my most recent example to illustrate my point. I have had numerous conversations and experiences regarding this issue, all of which support my conclusion to some degree (it obviously doesn't hold of every dept). It is even more clearly true since the move to skype interviews was forced by the snowstorm in Boston several years back. The departments realized how much they were saving by not having to send their search committee to the APA, and at a time when their budgets were being severely cut because of the poor economy. So yes, I drew an inference, but I am a good enough philosopher to not make such a stupid and obvious mistake in logic as to assume from one example that a conclusion holds of all. My goal was simply to point out to schools who still choose to do APA interviews to be respectful of the candidates and minimize the risk/expense of plane tickets by posting in the ad that they will be interviewing at the APA.