Thursday, February 27, 2014

So, you want to be a VAP

A thread on VAPs has been requested. I've never had one. Don't think I ever applied for one. But, you know, I live to serve, dear readers. And 'tis the season for VAP applications.

I would think, but can't verify, that VAPs have gotten pretty competitive, just like TTs and post-docs. And I would think that the dossier is more or less the same as it would be for any other teaching-oriented job. How does the interview process differ? How does the timing differ?

So, questions, comments, advice on VAPs, VAP-seekers, VAP-applying, etc.? Rack 'em up.

~zombie

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Seriously? Seriously?

In light of the 2 major scandals (McGinn and CU) philosophy has faced in the past year and another one developing (Ludlow), a group of commenters at Leiter has decided that the best conversation to be having right now is about the merits of feminist philosophy, how to define feminist philosophy, who falls where within the feminist philosophy sub-discipline, and the political beliefs of feminist philosophers.

If your first reaction to the suggestion that some departmental events outside business hours might place undue burdens on people with families (or just on people in general) and that CU should reconsider those practices is to ask me to explain to you the merits of feminist philosophy, I can say definitively that you are not a serious person. (If you disagree that holding departmental events outside business hours might place undue burdens on certain members of the profession, please give me reason to (a) think that they don't or (b) if they do, why the merits of such events override those burdens. Some people may have done that, but notice they didn't require having a discussion about feminist philosophy.)

In answering these questions, we need only engage in the practice of giving and asking for reasons, not adjudicate long-standing philosophical disputes (note also that to address questions about our behavior and institutional practices we needn't give a coherent, all-encompassing moral theory that will cover all cases; such a demand is a silencing tactic). As I've mentioned earlier, we should remember Hume's dictum.

In any case, these people are trolls and we've been roped into having a conversation that no one needs to have in order to ask if the recommendations by the site visit program can and should be generalized.

As Elanore Stump nicely puts it:
Some of the painful endemic problems regarding the status of women in philosophy can be seen in the very concerns some people have expressed about the Site Visitors Report on the Boulder Department. What kind of attitude is it that takes mandating minimal care for the dignity of one's colleagues and minimal public respect towards their work to be thought control? And what kind of attitude supposes that it is not possible to have good teaching or mentoring of one's students unless one can meet with them after hours and have one's inhibitions towards them loosened by alcohol? 
See also Kate Norlock's post here for a round-up of people who have nicely combated these trolls.

(Comments are closed, take it to Leiter's original post.)

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Education, before re-education

(UPDATE: Absolutely LOVING the comments that are now up at Leiter. I think comments 5 - 9 hit the nail on the head. They say most of what I want to say, and obviously better. Read 'em!)

I wanted to highlight more on the criticisms of site visit program, at Leiter, if only again to call out remarks that I see as wrongheaded. (You can see more of my reactions to the worries that keep coming up about "pluralism," here.) Leiter's correspondent, Jane Brownstein, worries that the visitors to CU were biased because they all have expertise in feminist philosophy (emphasis added):
The CSW website boasts that "Those trained to be site visit team members are diverse with regard to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and other social categories." However, they are clearly not diverse with regard to the most important factors of all: philosophical and political ideology.
Aside from neglecting that diversity in terms of "social categories" will also overlap with (and help foster) diversity in terms of philosophical "ideology," Brownstein fails to note that self-identified feminist philosophers or philosophers with interests in diversity embody a wide array of philosophical approaches and methodologies (a quick and obviously non-exhaustive list; for one, it leaves out moral philosophy): Philosophy of Language (Jennifer Saul), Philosophy of Science (Alison Wylie, Elisabeth Lloyd), Metaphysics (Sally Haslanger). This diversity of philosophical approaches includes the CSW visitors.

We shouldn't understand feminist philosophers as some monolithic entity with a shared methodology and agenda any more than we should understand people working in philosophy of language, epistemology, metaphysics, history of philosophy, and so on as sharing a uniform philosophical and political ideology. Just as epistemology can embody a wide variety of disparate and perhaps competing "philosophical [ideologies]" so can feminist philosophy. Indeed, beyond the fact that the site visitors are committed to diversity, they needn't even necessarily share the same political views. There are many ways to be committed to diversity and many views about the ways to promote it, not all of which overlap with one another.

Brownstein also says:
The CSW Site Visit Program website makes clear that, to become a team member, one needs three days' training, tenure in the profession, and "a demonstrated commitment to diversity through service work and/or research." It's this third condition that must be stricken or clarified, since as it stands it can be used to politicize the site visit teams. There are plenty who wish to end sexual harassment in the profession despite having a very low opinion of 'feminist philosophy': I am one of them. Departments bringing in a CSW team deserve to have at least one team member whose ideological commitments will not be furthered by making a finding against the department.
First, note again that 'feminist philosophy' is not a monolithic entity; Brownstein's blanket dismissal makes no sense in terms of just how many different philosophical approaches are used and explored in the field. Second, I want people who know their shit about diversity - either through service work or research - to be conducting my site visits that are explicitly concerned with those sorts of issues.

Let me draw my own analogy: Suppose we have a big collection of sand out in the desert and we are unsure of whether that big collection constitutes a heap or a pile or whatever. Who will we send to study that heap? We will send people who are interested in, understand, and have been studying the sorites paradox or heaps or vagueness. Why? Because they are experts; because they understand the problem. As experts, they needn't share the same views or approaches, just a commitment to solving the problem they are faced with. Moreover, note that they are experts in the field because they think their field is important; as such, it's only natural for experts to care about demonstrating that importance when it comes to addressing some problem affecting their discipline, in this case, the collection of sand in the desert.

If you don't like my analogy, then Amy Olberding has a definitive takedown of the worries:
The problems they were asked to assess went far beyond what was expected to be typical. It is precisely because of this that the evaluators needed to be those most trained, with the greatest background, and with the longest experience. That this group was constituted by researchers in feminist philosophy should not be that surprising, nor does it indicate a conspiracy of sorts. Where else in philosophy at present does one find people with deep background training on institutional issues, climate, and so forth? In STEM, you might find myriad such folks because the STEM disciplines have simply been addressing this longer, but in philosophy, that’s just not the case. The reluctance to recognize that these site visitors have a relevant expertise – not because they are feminist philosophers, but because the issues in play are ones they (unlike most of the rest of us!) have spent careers investigating – seems very counterproductive.
Suffice to say, I'm not convinced that we there is a vast conspiracy on the part of all feminist philosophers and pluralists to advance their agenda.

(Comments are closed here, you can take it over to Leiter, since it was his post to begin with.)

-- Jaded, Ph.D. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Funny Thing About the Response to Colorado

There are two comments over on a post at NewAPPS on the APA Committee on the Status of Women's site report from CU that are worth highlighting in light of the remarkably tone deaf reactions to the report on other blogs about the profession. (The responses are tone-deaf either partially [note Leiter's reference to "re-education"(?!?!); I reacted here] or fully, [note especially Mohan Matthen's reference to "puritanical lip-pursing;" WTF? (EDIT: SEE THE FULLER QUOTE BELOW)].)

The irony of the concern trolling about the committee's actions and report in light of the committee's description of CU's faculty "[spending] too much time articulating (or trying to articulate) the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior instead of instilling higher expectations for professional behavior" was not lost on me and definitely not on the following commenters (emphases added).

Anon. 10:14:
So many things here are simply so counterproductive. 
I am exceptionally concerned that this post and so many others seek to undermine the usefulness of the APA site visit program. Not to say that the program is beyond critique, but the pattern of critique emerging from Colorado's report is a deeply ironic one: message boards have targeted the APA for not ensuring confidentiality (its transparent policies notwithstanding), and others like this one undermine the APA team by questioning their assessment because the report is too vague for us to make our own--let's be honest here--ill-considered judgments. We have both too much information and not enough, and somehow it is all the APA's fault. 
On the critique that the APA's report is too vague: minimal reflection should reveal that vagueness is necessary to protect victims and those who were willing to speak with the site visit team at all. And, for that matter, to ensure due process for the accused in the event complaints are ongoing. I grow weary of the skepticism based on vagueness in the report, when there are very good reasons for vagueness. I grow weary of skepticism based on faulty arguments (e.g. just because the author and Leiter have never heard of Colorado's problems, does not invalidate the claim that Colorado has a bad reputation.) And I'm am tired of seeing the much needed work that the APA site visit provides being undermined because, for example, the APA did not mention specific countries when they used the term "international". 
With the APA's site visit program we now have a new way to address the profession's very serious climate problems. Let's see what we can do to support this effort instead of sowing distrust and anxiety. We have enough of that.
Anon. 11:00:
I am tempted to say that much of the analysis in this post serves as a good example of the kind of "pseudo-philosophical analyses" the report calls out. The report does not identify individuals and does not recommend punishments (unless training counts as punishment, which it shouldn't). Receivership is a significant step, but does not punish any individual member of the department. (Including, I think, the replaced chair -- administrative positions are shifted around for a variety of reasons.) So why would "forensic expertise" be a requirement on the investigators? What is pseudo-philosophical is the expectation that a real-world attempt to address a problem should meet some arbitrary standard chosen by the critic. If only everyone brought this level of rigor to their personal interactions -- there would surely be much less ogling. 
Members of less powerful group B are being harmed by some members of more powerful group A. A fix is proposed that doesn't punish members of A in any realistic use of the term "punish", but A's hairs will be ruffled. A-folk will have to experience some unpleasant feelings, and maybe even hear some unpleasant things said about them (probably not to their faces, but maybe in blogs, and in comments on blogs). They will have to go to some boring meetings. And A-folk don't like that -- they feel that if anything they have to put up with too much of that stuff already! (After all, A-folk don't see themselves as powerful. They think they have much less power than they should have, given their great merit.) So the fix is rejected by A-folk in favor of some ruffle-free, as-yet-unidentified future fix. And nothing happens, and the harm to members of B continues. Such a shame there's no good fix.
Shorter: Per the committee's report, we need to start thinking about "instilling higher expectations for professional behavior," i.e., taking the report seriously, rather than subjecting it to the very same "pseudo-philosophical analyses" the report criticizes. (For a similar, more nicely put point, see Schliesser, whose presence at NewAPPS I now especially miss, here.)

 -- Jaded, Ph.D.