Saturday, May 2, 2015

Academic Saints

Jason Brennan's (Georgetown) continued punching down of adjuncts, including a post in which he and others fisk the CV of the subject of a Huffington Post piece about adjuncts (see her response here), has me thinking about the ideal of the "Academic Saint." This is in part because Susan Wolf's "Moral Saints" is one of my favorite philosophy articles, and also because Brennan invokes Peter Singer's Greater Moral Evil Principle in a blog post in which he combs over the career decisions of someone he doesn't know and with whom he doesn't share a field.

I guess this is what speaking truth to power looks like these days.

Anyway. Back to the idea of the academic saint. I've adapted the first paragraph of Wolf (1982) for my purposes here:
I don't know whether there are any [academic saints]. But if there are, I am glad that neither I nor those about whom I care most are among them. By [academic saint] I mean a person whose every action is as [academically inclined] as possible, that is, who is as [tenure-track or tenure worthy] as can be. Though I shall in a moment acknowledge the variety of types of person that might be thought to satisfy this description, it seems to me that none of these types serve as unequivocally compelling personal ideals. In other words, I believe that [academic perfection], in the sense of [academic saintliness], does not constitute a model of personal well-being toward which it would be particularly rational or good or desirable for a human being to strive.
Admittedly, my borrowing from Wolf is a bit out of place. She's concerned with the ways in which a life dominated by particularly moral ideals is a life that fails to recognize non-moral sources of value and non-moral sources of reasons for acting. This ideal leaves out non-moral motivations--and in her later work, non-self-interested motivations--that are part of a life with meaning. We find something troublesome, she argues, with the person who, in contemplating any possible action, always applies for permission from morality before undertaking that action. Moral reasons for action are not just seen as one set of reasons among many, but as a higher set of reasons to which all non-moral reasons are subordinate.

So, for example, given that social justice issues other than those related to adjuncts/contingents appear more pressing from the point of view of the moral saint, we are, in the words of the bleeding-heart Brennan:
quite literally yanking resources away from deeper concerns of social justice when they didn’t have to. They may talk the hard leftist talk, but their actions indicate they care more about themselves than they care about social justice.
A moral saint committed to such unsubtle comparison, such dispassionate ranking of their projects, and such submission to morality, can be seen as "missing a piece of perceptual machinery" or as committed to "an extreme form of self-hatred that interferes with…ability to enjoy life."

Wolf, though, has less of a problem with the ways in which commitments other than those to morality may come to dominate a life. A commitment, say, to developing a nasty crossover, is less problematic than organizing one's life around a moral ideal if that commitment is seen as winning out in a fair competition among other possible commitments, rather than being considered a type of ur-commitment to which all other reasons for acting must submit.

Is the academic saint more like the moral saint, or more like the person who has devoted themselves to lighting up the NBA?

I guess it's pretty obvious what I think. I see a problematic commitment to academic saintliness implicit in Brennan's posts--and the philosophy-blogosphere's own predilection for CV fisking. Here's what I have in mind (n.b.: I won't raise questions about another problem I see with this activity, namely, The Underdetermination of One's Academic Pursuits and Commitments by the CV; though such concerns are in the background too).

Brennan sees a (possible) lack of research or a (possible) commitment to teaching over research or a (possible) commitment to obscure or hard-to-market research or a (possible) commitment to a certain geographic region as academic mistakes. To see these commitments or actions as academic mistakes is to assume that one's field of research or commitment to teaching or preferences about where to live must be approved by the tribunal of reasons in favor of being as tenure-track or tenure worthy as possible. So long as we act for reasons other than those suggested by a commitment to getting a tenure-track job, we are making academic mistakes (or, in one of Brennan's colorful analogies: willfully eating poopburgers).

More strongly, it seems to me that the only reasons for action in academia that Brennan and others are able to make sense of issue from the reasons provided by getting a tenure-track job or getting tenure. They are, it seems to me, "missing some piece of perceptual machinery."

Apparently, in Brennan's view, the only person who deserves a secure, well-paying academic job with benefits is a person that strives to satisfy the ideal of academic saintliness. It is the academic saint, who doesn't just see their desire for a tenure-track job or tenure as one desire among many, but who sees that desire as the only possible source of reasons, who shall inherit the promised land. (And, insofar as they fail to do this, yet continue to stay in academia, so Brennan's reasoning implies, they are simply irrational. Note that another important ideal that Brennan would have us strive to is provided by a different, but no less problematic type of saint: Homo-Economicus.)

This is why the complaints of adjuncts/contingents are so baffling to people like Brennan. They don't understand that adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they have failed to win the academic lottery.

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because many people think the only reason they don't have tenure-track jobs are because of their "academic mistakes."

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because their commitment to teaching is seen, not as something positive, but as a sign that they are unable or unwilling or too stupid to do research.

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they are subsidizing the research of tenure-track and tenured faculty.

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they teach twice as many students or twice as many classes with less support and for less money than the anointed academic saints.

And, adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they are seen as unworthy of permanent positions according to the standards decided upon, in retrospect, by the people who won the academic lottery and are now looking to rationalize their own luck.

I mean, adjuncts/contingents are pissed off about all of these things, of course.

But, speaking for myself, I'm pissed off because all of these things are signs that an ideal of academic saintliness that reduces all reasons for acting in academia to getting another line on the CV is at the center of a system that (I think) once made room for acting for other types of reasons (like curiosity, or, if you're old-fashioned, truth, or, even more old-fashioned, wisdom).

I'm pissed off because this ideal is uncritically accepted. And the people in positions to push back against it (i.e., hiring committees and people like Brennan) lack the moral imagination to come up with new ideals that will accommodate different ways of being in the academic world.

I'm pissed off that there are people like Brennan who think that because adjuncts/contingents failed to win the academic lottery (because of their academic mistakes, natch), their small part of the academic world should be without offices, benefits, and other forms of institutional support.

Brennan's wrong. I'm not pissed off because I don't have a tenure-track job, and that's not what we're asking for. I'm pissed off because people shouldn't have to be academic saints in order to get just a little more moral consideration than what they've been given in the past.

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

77 comments:

spink007 said...

No wonder this person can't get a tenure-track job. What an awful, whiny, set of remarks.

EA Middleton said...

The elimination of personal agency that comes with calling the hiring process a "lottery" aside, consider that the job of an academic is to engage the academy with your ideas. Yes, you may teach those same ideas to your class, but a career of teaching other people's ideas isn't the career of an academic. Curiosity, truth-seeking, wisdom: all of these are necessary for any kind of academic pursuit, but the payoff comes when you expose the results of your curiosity to the criticism of your peers; the payoff comes when you publish. Do that, and people will impute the curiosity etc. required to produce publishable material.

"I'm pissed off because people shouldn't have to be academic saints in order to get just a little more moral consideration than what they've been given in the past."

Moral consideration? Tenure isn't a reward for being a good person; it's a reward for contributing to the academic discussion. Not contributing doesn't make you a bad person any more than not being able to hit a 95mph fastball makes you a bad person; but you won't see many MLB players who can't, nor academics who haven't.

Anonymous said...

How morally corrupted must a person's soul be for them to think that they have a **bleeding heart** when all they do is coldly 'hold people responsible' for their choices and argue in print that people are so stupid that they shouldn't even be permitted to vote?

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

EA Middleton: I'm not denying that an important part of the academic process is publishing papers. I try to do it too!

The "academic lottery" remark was also not supposed to deny personal agency (I thought I saw Brennan use something like that expression somewhere, but maybe I was just thinking of his poopburger analogy and the percentages he often points out; maybe he called it a game or something with really bad odds?). I take full responsibility for the position I'm currently in while still acknowledging that had certain structural features been different that I might be in a cushier position.

I also think you've misunderstood my "moral consideration" remark. No one here is asking for "tenure" (as I remark immediately before the sentence you quote). And I didn't mean it as indicating that adjuncts/contingents are good people in virtue of being adjuncts/contingents.

I simply meant: Adjuncts have certain legitimate complaints and they deserve to see those complaints taken seriously (rather than dismissed as morally unimportant) by those in a position to help address those complaints even if they've made "academic mistakes" or have personal, non-economic or non-academic reasons for wanting to be part of a university or college.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this. I think it's shameful when tenured or TTs try to victim-blame adjuncts for their situation. I am *SO* sick of the free-wheelin capitalist's "If you hate it so much, then leave!" response.

This is beside the point. Academic workers should be valued and fairly compensated, however they got to be in that position.

and no, I'm not even an adjunct myself (I don't think...? I have a temporary but full-time position with decent pay and benefits).

Anonymous said...

Brennan doesn't use the term "academic mistakes", does he?

Maybe he could be more sympathetic to the plight of adjuncts, but the 'mistakes' he refers to mainly are indeed mistakes, I think. (It's a little weird to count "She tried to get a Ph.D. in English" as a mistake, in this case, so I can't go along with Brennan on that one.)

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

Anon. 5:22.

Here's the type of analogy that I wanted to draw:

In the mind of the moral saint, it's a "mistake" to eat a fancy dinner because that money you're donating could go to a charity that could relieve suffering. But this perspective leaves out other possible sources of motivation, other possible reasons for acting that are non-moral.

Or, here's, perhaps a starker way to put it: From a certain moral perspective, it's a "mistake" to privilege the happiness your child would get from throwing them a birthday party over and above the happiness that you could create for another, suffering child by donating to charity. But again, this perspective leaves out what Wolf calls in her later work reasons of love, which are neither self-interested nor moral reasons for acting.

Thus, (and aside from the problems related to the underdetermination of evidence from the CV), I think that the "mistakes" pointed out by Brennan are "mistakes" when we can conceive of the only possible source of motivations for acting in academia being those related to getting a tenure-track job.

Or, put differently, they are mistakes when we conceive of the only possible metric of academic or personal success as getting a tenure-track job.

There's also a related, possible worry about what we currently think *should* be required to get a job or what that job should actually entail. For example, I think that even if I don't share my ideas with anybody but students, I'm still leading an academic life, contra EA Middleton. Or, I think that time invested in my students and lecturing is not a mistake that is keeping me from my real work, but part of being a successful member of the academy.

So, I guess what I want to say is that I don't see these things obviously as mistakes, though I think there's a perspective, one I would want to reject, in which they are mistakes.

Anonymous said...

What's really at issue is my opinion is the exploitation of people by the academic system. People take all kinds of abuse including laughable wages with the hopes that it'll pay off one day.

Anonymous said...

Jaded

I think your analogy is apt, and I think you are articulating something that about the profession that I haven't seen explicitly articulated before. I'm a VAP who is being told by the department I work in something along these lines as the excuse for why THEY WILL NEVER HIRE ME. I'm well-regarded, respected (even liked), but the bottom line is that they are not going to hire me when they can get an academic saint.

I am not an academic saint by any stretch. I started my education at a junior college as a first generation college student and fought my way up through graduate school. None of my degrees are from ranked programs. I have multiple publications, but none of them are in top journals. I have a ton of teaching experience, including curriculum development. I have a ton of professional and university service as well. I have been at my department for more than five years (unranked non PhD granting institution in the middle of nowhere). I have literally done the following in addition to all of the above for senior faculty: house sitting, baby sitting, dog sitting, cat sitting, moving, gardening, and taking over courses in the middle of the semester when someone quit. Does all of this make me an academic whore?

Most of the list is from an earlier time at this institution when they were actively saying, "We'll hire you TT as soon as a position comes up!" Four positions have come up, and each time I get "invited" to apply for the position. (I even have letters, good ones, from senior faculty.) I have been the inside applicant four times (I was a finalist once, even), but I am inevitably and usually passed over in favor of the academic saint. Or, at least, someone who is more saintly (by the criteria Brennan articulates). The one time that this was not the case, I was passed over in favor of a spousal hire.

One of the things that angers me the most about the situation is that only a few department members now (newly hired, untenured) are academic saints. Senior faculty, themselves, are not academic saints. None of them published within the first 3-5 years after the PhD. Some of them went to unranked institutions. Some of them haven't published in 10 years. Some of them haven't set foot in a conference in 15 years.

I realize that my case is extreme. But, what you are articulating applies to me and many of my adjunct friends in the profession. The lack of moral consideration is demoralizing. We made decisions for non academic reasons because we have non academic interests. We had children, we moved to a city that we liked, we practiced our hobbies, we took care of sick spouses, and more. In addition, for myself and others I know, factors like race, gender, sexual orientation, and class causally influenced some of those decisions we made, and let's be honest, they certainly influence the decisions made regarding hiring. It seems like the academic underclass (adjuncts, etc.) mirrors the social underclass in more ways than one.

Anonymous said...

"I'm pissed off because this ideal is uncritically accepted. And the people in positions to push back against it (i.e., hiring committees and people like Brennan) lack the moral imagination to come up with new ideals that will accommodate different ways of being in the academic world."

Next year, when we go through another round of commenters complaining that "someone with a weaker CV than mine got hired, the world is unfair," please re-post this comment.

There are a great many of us who - for years - have been looking for (and rewarding) people who present different ways of being in the academic world. And what do we get for our efforts?
1. We get dismissed as not being serious programs, because we don't employ top researchers.
2. We listen to people at conferences openly mock our programs as (at best) back-up/starter jobs, and (at worst) places not even worth applying to.
3. Our colleagues are mocked for not being Real Philosophers, because we either don't publish much, or what we do publish is in "lesser" venues.

Honestly, we are also fine with this. Because once the market season is over, most people in the field go on ignoring us and forgetting we are here. But we do exist. And sometimes, we are great places to work at.

Anonymous said...

This debate gets so tiresome especially on the side of full time faculty trying to find some way to justify their positions. In this market it is obvious that there are many adjunct and non-tenure track faculty that do all the right things and still don't get a job. I also frankly find the chest-puffing about publications to be sort of ridiculous anyway now that we know that only a small percentage of these publications are ever cited or frankly even read by anyone else. If someone wanted to hone their teaching skills at a school that is primarily teaching orientated--heaven forbid--I could think of worse things to do. I know three people off the top of my head who are awesome teachers and pretty good scholars who have suffered considerably from this caste-system mentality. I'm starting to think that it is not just academic sainthood that is required; you probably also have to be a dick a well.

Anonymous said...

I nominate 6:57 for the consummate 21st century Stoical attitude. Not cynically mind you--just kudos for real wisdom. Sometimes that is its own reward. Like that guy Socrates. Maybe the profession will kill 6:57, but s/he's the philosophical bomb.

Derek Bowman said...

Good post, Jaded.

I don't understand why Brennan is so proud of his success in what is, by his own account, a corrupt and irrational academic system. But I think your post points to a bigger problem than Brennan or his particular vision of academic success.

Under current hiring conditions, one does have to be an exceptional to secure an academic job with minimally decent terms of employment. Now you might think this is a good thing - after all don't we want the best people doing philosophy?

But even leaving aside the serious problems with defining and reliably tracking 'the best,' this attitude remains a serious problem for philosophy (and for the humanities more generally).

Suppose we had a hiring system that effectively identified and hired the best, most deserving candidates. That would still leave behind lots of good (probably even very good, possibly even quite excellent) scholars, teachers, and thinkers.

Again, maybe that's fine. Nobody is owed their dream career, even if they're very good at it. But if you want to promote the value of the humanities to the wider public, shouldn't these people be your ambassadors to the rest of the world? How do you expect the rest of the public to believe in the value of the humanities when you send the signal in so many ways that these people were foolish to devote their time to it?

Anonymous said...

Derek--your comment "Nobody is owed their dream career, even if they're very good at it. But if you want to promote the value of the humanities to the wider public, shouldn't these people be your ambassadors to the rest of the world?" articulates what I have been thinking the last couple of years.

Yes, those of us who are certainly good enough to be hired in TT positions are suffering from an unjust situation when we have to find other careers. Unjust not because good people are "entitled" to jobs, but because they are good at what they do. The field of philosophy as a whole, however, will suffer more, I think, by losing these potential sources of insight. Unless we think that all breakthroughs come from orthodox thinkers working squarely in the contemporary context, we should recognize that some really interesting work is, NOW, being successfully quashed. It is a sad situation, but I think those who have already secured their jobs are not quite seeing how sad it really is--not just for us, but for them as well.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:06am "I also frankly find the chest-puffing about publications to be sort of ridiculous anyway now that we know that only a small percentage of these publications are ever cited or frankly even read by anyone else."

This is something that I think isn't emphasized enough. Most of the research that these "academic saints" are doing is not valuable. These people are deluding themselves to the actual value of what they are doing. What they are doing is filling out their CVs, not "contributing to the academic discussion" in any meaningful sense. These trivial "discussions" we're having now are ones that nobody will care about 50 years from now, just like nobody cares about all the ins and outs of the discussion about intuitionism nowadays.

Irfan Khawaja said...

I'm surprised that no one seems to be asking the most obvious questions about Brennan's or Magness's CVs, or about their autobiographical claims.

https://irfankhawajaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/jason-brennan-and-phillip-magness-a-request-for-disclosure/

I also don't think it's productive to comment on Brennan et al at BHL. Does it really make sense to have an argument with someone who reserves the right to edit his own responses in the middle of the argument and delete yours at will? We're dealing with a conception of discourse so debased that it deserves to be boycotted, not fed.

Tactical advice from a fellow traveler: attack them from your own turf, not on theirs.

Anonymous said...

I find it strange no one discusses the class element in this. Surely a significant majority of the underemployed come from lower tier grad programs, in turn filled with grads from lower tier undergrad programs, in turn with higher numbers of first generation, working class and lower middle class students from worse high schools in disadvantaged areas.

The "bad decision making" at issue may have much to do with the contextual nature of reasoning.

This article on the psychology of scarcity in poverty may be relevant: http://harvardmagazine.com/2015/05/the-science-of-scarcity

Anonymous said...

One thing that always seems lost in this debate is that the underpaid adjunct pool is how universities are able to still give fairly cushy positions to tenure track professors. So if the argument is something like: "if you don't like being an adjunct you can always quit and go work at Geico" then it seems that you should be carefully what you wish for. If all the "pathetic" adjuncts really did quit then everybody in academics would be fucked. Or perhaps serious reform would finally get on the table.

Justin Kalef said...

Hi, Jaded.

For me, the moral saints / 'academic saints' comparison doesn't work that well.

If I call people moral saints, I admit that their actions are bringing about a better world and furthering good goals, but I maintain at the same time that the saints are defective in some way.

But our feeling (well, mine at least) about philosophy instructors who never make a teaching or research choice without asking, "What's in it for me?" are different.

Not only are these people defective, but their actions are also making the world a worse place. The social function of a professional philosopher is to make people more careful writers, listeners and thinkers, and to help the world see and appreciate the complexity of the world around us and the issues we face. The students, taxpayers, politicians, and administrators who support us in promoting those goals through our teaching, research and service have given us considerable latitude to do that job well, and those of us who have any kind of work in today's environment tend to recognize the privilege of serving in that role. If we didn't, then we probably *could* do something more remunerative. But the reason we stick with it is that we genuinely value the profession and its goals, and put in the time we do because we understand the importance of the work we are doing.

The fact that we're not doing most of our work in open offices with the boss looking over our shoulders and getting us to punch in and out, and the fact that we're not evaluated very often or effectively on our teaching, leave the question of how much work we put in as a matter of conscience. If some people respond to that by doing the absolute bare minimum amount of time they need to get their work renewed under these lax conditions, and at the same time sneer at others for being 'incompetent' enough to care about doing the job right, I don't see any sense in which these people are saints. And they are not making the world a better place or pursuing a laudable goal: they are cynically taking on an important job which many dedicated qualified applicants would love to do and take seriously, and they are betraying the public trust and undermining the value of the profession while laughing at the idealism of the less crass and egotistical people around them.

When you think of it, the philosopher they ought to mock more than anyone is Socrates. Not only did he put in more hours than he needed to, but he didn't even bother to charge a fee for decades! I guess that makes him even more 'incompetent' than today's adjuncts.

What an upside-down picture of the world these people have, in which the adjuncts who toil away for a pittance because they can't bear to teach a substandard course are the sinners while the self-serving teachers who won't do anything for their students that doesn't have a price tag on it are the saints. Let's not buy into that crazy nomenclature.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the comment, Justin.

I agree with most of what you say here and also a lot of the comments you made at Leiter.

The "saints" bit is just to draw attention to the fact that from a particular perspective--one that I want to reject and that you also seem to want to reject--devoting time to teaching or mentoring students as opposed to researching is a mistake. It's from this perspective, also, that people who devote time to doing more public philosophy as opposed to writing "real articles" are seen as making mistakes.

Those folks who eschew these "mistakes" in order to devote themselves to their research are "saints" only in the very limited sense that they are held up as exemplars, by some, for what being a real academic is. They have TT-jobs, so the story goes, because they weren't dumb enough to make the "mistakes" adjuncts make.

Anyway. You're totally right that the analogy breaks down in the sense that at least the moral saint is making the world a better place (I was more interested in the ways that one concern or project can come to dominate a life). Nice point!

Justin Kalef said...

Thanks, Jaded. I think your analysis was very good, too. I can see that there's a sense (purely prudential) in which these people ought to do what they are doing, given their mercenary ends.

It's a curious logic, though. Suppose there are two small businesses, law firms, or what have you. Call them A and B. The members of A do the least amount of work possible to get promoted and not get fired. On paper, they're doing good work, but they'd be damned if they'd ever take a minute longer than they need to unless they thought it would get them somewhere personally. The members of B actually care about the quality of the work they're doing in itself. B will be a more successful organization than A, though by the standard Brennan is invoking, all the members ought to act as the members of A act and the the members of B are incompetent and blameworthy. But then, in a crunch time, organization A will fold while organization B survives. So who's incompetent, in the end?

I suspect the response to this is that what one really ought to do in their sense of 'ought' is to free ride: join organization B to capitalize on the conscientious work of others, while putting in the least amount of work on every project that allows one to advance in the organization by keeping up the right appearances.

Beneath all the hype about personal responsibility, libertarians always seem to want something for nothing.

Derek Bowman said...

Justin says:

"What an upside-down picture of the world these people have, in which the adjuncts who toil away for a pittance because they can't bear to teach a substandard course are the sinners while the self-serving teachers who won't do anything for their students that doesn't have a price tag on it are the saints."

But let's not be too uncritical in evaluating the toiling adjunct. We too are paid teachers, and at least the 'adjunct' part of our teaching remains subservient to the academic institutions which exploit us. The whole idea of a "substandard course" only makes sense within the confines of a university education.

So the question for the kind of committed adjunct you describe is not how committed to be to philosophy, or to your students. It's how committed to be to the very institutions that are exploiting you. If you want to give your time away doing more teaching than you're compensated for, why make that donation in the name of your employer, and why restrict it to those students your employer is paid for?

Anonymous said...

My only complaint about Kalef's 5:47 comment is that there is no "like" button on which I can click to express my deep sense of "Hell yes!".

zombie said...

On the time pressures created by the ever raising bar of academic success.

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/04/07/life-in-the-accelerated-academy-carrigan/

Anonymous said...

"The social function of a professional philosopher is to make people more careful writers, listeners and thinkers, and to help the world see and appreciate the complexity of the world around us and the issues we face."

Really? At what point does this function kick in? Because from what I've seen, it's not developed during course work, preparing for exams, or the dissertation (either in the writing or in the defense). That is, at what point in their training are philosophers explicitly groomed for this kind of work? Or is this an implicit function that is so obvious it never needs to be made explicit?

Justin Kalef said...

Agreed, 5:34. We're very badly groomed to perform that function by the form our training takes at present. But if we don't perform that function, then it's hard to see why anyone should keep supporting us in our work. And when push comes to shove and we need to justify the existence of the discipline, it's what we say. What else could we say?

Anonymous said...

"We're very badly groomed to perform that function by the form our training takes at present."

So what function *are* we groomed for, and why is that not a worthy function?

"But if we don't perform that function, then it's hard to see why anyone should keep supporting us in our work."

And maybe that's why they don't? Every place I've worked, the funding keeps drying up.

"And when push comes to shove and we need to justify the existence of the discipline, it's what we say. What else could we say?"

The truth? That we love examining the minutiae of concepts most people don't care about, refining arguments that most people aren't having, and making ourselves feel important by noting how much better trained and smarter we are than hoi polloi?

-5:34

Anonymous said...

"We're very badly groomed to perform that function by the form our training takes at present."

Isn't this function found in teaching? Some of us, at least, come out of grad school well-trained to teach students how to write and think clearly, but many, many search committees appear to be uninterested in that kind of training. So, Justin, your original point applies, I think.

Anonymous said...

12:23,

I've served on multiple search committees (at a teaching-focused college), and in my experience, "many, many [applicants] appear to be uninterested in that kind of training."

Most applicants, in fact, spend most of their time (either in applications or in interviews) trying to avoid talking about teaching. That said, the people we have hired have all turned out to be great colleagues and wonderful people.

-5:34

Anonymous said...

"I've served on multiple search committees (at a teaching-focused college), and in my experience, "many, many [applicants] appear to be uninterested in that kind of training."

That may be--I am in no position to dispute it. But I have put my credentials in front of multiple search committees (around 200?) having taught eleven courses over fifteen terms (before leaving grad school no less), taught full-time in a VAP gig, published a paper on how to teach philosophy effectively (among peer-reviewed research papers as well), with solid teaching references and solid student eval numbers (average 4.7/5). Three years on the market .... one TT interview. In my limited experience, most committees want the bare minimum in teaching, if that. Pay attention to the new TT hires this year--you'll find a large number of them with very little teaching experience. Of course, they may be stellar in those few terms teaching, but the safe bet is that they really haven't shown much in the way of teaching. (I will grant all the usual restrictions about our limited epistemic access and all that.)

Anonymous said...

9:25,

What you describe, sadly, seems typical. There are a great many people with similar qualifications that will not get hired. Part of it, certainly, is because some programs don't care about hiring good teachers (or, at least, quality teaching is low on their list of priorities). Part of it, however, is that those of us who *do* value teaching highly can only hire so many people. And this number is shrinking, as many schools like mine cannot replace TT lines with anything other than adjunct labor. So we are still hiring quality teachers, but we can only hire them to really shitty jobs. (Yes, some of us are trying to fix this.) Sadly, from what I can tell, many of those TT positions that would have gone to applicants such as yourself are now forever lost, and the schools that can afford TT hires are those that can also afford (and seek) strong researchers. (That is to say, we should not see all jobs as equal. Many places want top researchers, narrow specialists, and there's no reason they shouldn't seek what they want.)

Sadly, it's also true that not all experience is equal. In my relatively small department, we value breadth of teaching experience. We may hire someone who has taught fewer total sections than other applicants, if he has also taught a wider variety of sections. Or we may hire someone based (in part) on the quality of those teaching materials, regardless of the number of courses that have been taught. (Or a deciding factor may be the pedagogical approach. That you have published in philosophy pedagogy may actually have hurt you, if the hiring committee does not agree with your pedagogical views.)

The evaluation of applications is imprecise, and thus frustrating to those who are not privy to the committee meetings. (And let's also not discount the various kinds of bias that exist. And in some cases, some applicants are tossed for a variety of reasons they might find unfair, were they to learn about them.)

-5:34

Anonymous said...

5:34--Your comments make me wonder--if the social function of philosophers is to "make people more careful writers, listeners and thinkers" and you're correct that this is how search committee members--TT and tenured philosophers--reason and behave, then as a profession we are surely failing to fulfill our social function. How can we make people more careful thinkers when those who already have power and authority are such dismal thinkers?

And, if I am correct that those best-placed to fulfill the social function are teachers, and you're correct that departments that once sought out the best teachers are now seeking instead the best researchers--some of whom will turn out to be ineffective teachers--then I would say we are watching the slow decline of the profession. Every year we hear of universities considering downsizing or eliminating philosophy departments and the best defense of these departments is that they exist to make students better critical thinkers. But this job market--and I really don't think this is an exaggeration--is driving the best and even many of the merely adequate--teachers of philosophy away. I believe that, if the job market keeps devolving and well-trained teachers keep abandoning the field, in ten years' time, it's very likely that the defense that keeps philosophy departments open will no longer work. In short, if someone were to write a story detailing the downfall of an academic discipline, this is how it would look.

-9:25

Anonymous said...

9:25,

"if the social function of philosophers is to "make people more careful writers, listeners and thinkers""

That's a pretty big if, and one I don't claim to agree with. In fact, I think I questioned it when it was raised.

"and you're correct that this is how search committee members--TT and tenured philosophers--reason and behave"

I don't recall making that claim, either. I claimed that the evaluations of SCs are imprecise.

"then as a profession we are surely failing to fulfill our social function. How can we make people more careful thinkers when those who already have power and authority are such dismal thinkers?"

That's a third premise I can't agree with. I can't lump together "those who already have power" into one group that we can demonstrate are "dismal thinkers."

"And, if I am correct that those best-placed to fulfill the social function are teachers"

That's one premise I can agree with.

"and you're correct that departments that once sought out the best teachers are now seeking instead the best researchers"

Again, that's not what I claimed. I claimed that many such departments are now not hiring anybody, or if they are, they are only hiring adjuncts. Research schools and elite SLACs can still hire top researchers, but many "teaching colleges" are quickly losing funding and are not able to hire TT any longer.

"I would say we are watching the slow decline of the profession."

I could agree with that, too.

"Every year we hear of universities considering downsizing or eliminating philosophy departments and the best defense of these departments is that they exist to make students better critical thinkers."

That's bad advice. Upper administration does not care about making students critical thinkers (or if they do, it's only after they care about increasing enrollment numbers). The best way to save Philosophy departments is to make them popular. Fill the classes. Better yet, make some Philosophy courses required in other majors (like an Ethics course for Business students, or Aesthetics for students in the arts). English programs learned this lesson long ago. Granted, Philosophy often disdains English, but do they care? When Taylor Swift cleans up at the Grammy's, does she care what conservatories think about her work?

"But this job market--and I really don't think this is an exaggeration--is driving the best and even many of the merely adequate--teachers of philosophy away."

It's also driving away many good researchers. It's driving away many good people.

"I believe that, if the job market keeps devolving and well-trained teachers keep abandoning the field, in ten years' time, it's very likely that the defense that keeps philosophy departments open will no longer work."

It's barely working now.

"In short, if someone were to write a story detailing the downfall of an academic discipline, this is how it would look."

We don't need such a story; we have one: Classics. Their market has been the canary in the tunnel for years, and Philosophy refuses to pay attention. Can we argue the merits of Classics on its face? Absolutely. Why did those arguments fail? Because of enrollment numbers. SUNY Albany never would have closed is Classics department if it has thriving numbers. Now, their remaining Classicists serve other departments.

Philosophy programs can reason until they are blue in the face, and it won't do any good. Asses in seats is what saves programs. Does anyone really think that Business programs survive because of the social function they serve? Has any college ever invested heavily in STEM education based on the social function of such programs?

Philosophy will fail as a field because it insists on winning the wrong argument. It's not even like bringing a knife to a gun fight; it's like bringing a 10-point plan to a gun fight.

-5:34

Anonymous said...

It is entirely an accident that any teaching happens at universities. Research is, whether you like it or not, the purpose of the university. The production, retention, analysis, criticism, etc. of research is the purpose of the university.

But these things are expensive. So we teach to have an excuse for taking people's money.

So, you want a job in such an institution? Be good at research. Find ways to get money. And teach well enough to not take away from your boss' ability to do those things. Teaching better than that might make you feel better. But it won't in general make you more hirable. Or, no more so than, say, being a really good speller or having great handwriting would.

Justin Kalef said...

*If* the purpose of universities can be read off of the form that major American universities suddenly began to take on in the post-Civil war era, *then* the purpose of a university is to conduct research.

*If* we assume for some reason that the higher education system is not going through a radical transformation, and that the next fifty years of higher education will resemble the past fifty years, *then* someone seeking only to advance in the profession should focus on research and spend as little time as possible becoming an effective teacher.

And anyone who believes that universities have always been the way they are today, or are likely to stay this way for even another decade, should read the following books in order: Kevin Carey's _The End of College_, and Anya Kamenetz's _DIY U_.

Anonymous said...

So I've never read The End of College. Maybe it's great. But I've read DIY U. The problem again is that she begins with the students -- that the major benefit of the university is what it does for students.

But that's total bullshit. Let me be perfectly blunt: fuck the motherfucking students. They're there mostly *for us*, not the other way around. We need their money, and we need the opportunity to test our ideas in the most unforgiving possible crucible: the crucible of those who give not one fuck about and have no idea about what you're talking about. So we bring in 18 year-olds to serve both these ends. They work well for the latter aim for obvious reasons, and for the former because they can mortgage their future to get us the money we need.

Bright undergrads figure out how to exploit us in return in ways that end up working out for them. Dumb undergrads don't. And that, quite frankly, is their problem, not ours.

Now, to get the sanctimonious off: I like teaching. But I like teaching because I use it for its intended purpose: making myself better at what I do. And since I'm unconcerned about their futures, I don't spend a lot of time on things like grading and being perfectly fair and whatnot. A semi-arbitrary better-than-deserved-across-the-board grading system works well enough to keep administrators off my back and keep me from having to put effort into the idiocy that is grading.

A final thing: in the university, as in most things in life, if you don't put yourself first and do what's good for you before all else, someone will take advantage of you. So everything you do, do for you. Or you'll get fucked.

Anonymous said...

Oh 9:36,

Let me guess: you spent your lonely formative years curled up with an Ayn Rand novel or two.

Anonymous said...

Yes, clearly I'm a libertarian. Because if you've realized everyone else is just trying to use you, the appropriate response is to whine about it, not use them right back.

Anonymous said...

"fuck the motherfucking students"

I'll amend that to fuck the motherfucking graduate students. I've never met an undergrad half so needy as even the most apathetic graduate student.

Anonymous said...

"Let me be perfectly blunt: fuck the motherfucking students."

I see this position in almost every school's mission statement. And if I didn't, if I found every mission statement including something about central aims being to teach students, the above claim would almost certainly be false, right?

Anonymous said...

@ 9:36

Something tells me that, behind all the bootstrapping bravado, this poster is in fact someone who feels immensely threatened in the world, and is immensely fearful of others usurping his place in it. To pacify these feelings, the poster tries to show absolutely no vulnerability whatsoever, as vulnerability is interpreted as weakness, and weakness as disadvantage.

I'm still a scared child too, the difference is that I believe I'll find comfort in connection and integrity, not invective and deception.

Justin Kalef said...

9:36,

A major reason you're able to make a living doing philosophical research at your university while saying "Fuck the students" is that the current university system takes in a huge amount of research money and allocated a bunch to your department. And why? Because of major efforts over the past century-and-a-bit to fund science and tech research, which happened to be done at institutions where teaching in the humanities was also being done. So philosophy instructors were able to rebrand themselves as professional researchers and become the beneficiaries of a huge and well-funded infrastructure that works never have arisen if the humanities had had to go it alone.

The professional philosophy research industry did not really exist before that. Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Bacon, Leibniz, Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Berkeley, Hume, Bentham, Mill, and many others worked outside the university system. Even Kant earned most of his living from teaching, not research.

The development of the current system was not historically inevitable. It's a contingent system that seems to be nearing its end. Few of the likely next phases will allow you to keep doing the work you seem to think you will always be compensated for with a liveable salary. Quite likely, philosophy departments will soon have to argue for their inclusion in whatever organizations continue to get research funding. I don't think "Fuck the students, give us research money because that's what you people used to do" will open any wallets.

Anonymous said...

"the current university system takes in a huge amount of research money and allocated a bunch to your department."

Let's not forget the money that athletic programs take in.

And every time one is tempted to complain about how much money they spend, one should remember that they take in so much more. And yes, some of that money makes its way to the academic wing. (Not to mention the fact that many students choose their college based, in some part, on the athletics.)

Justin Kalef said...

True, 5:38. But I'm not defending the budgetary practices of universities. I'm merely making the point that 9:36 is naively relying on the assumption that he will be supported forever by the present, contingent structure of the university system.

9:36 is saying,"fuck the motherfucking students. They're there mostly *for us*, not the other way around. We need their money..." But this is a bizarre position for a libertarian like 9:36 to adopt, since libertarians are supposed to think of proper social relations arising from a series of rational and mutually beneficial exchanges between private individuals or corporations. So if the students have something (money) that we need on an ongoing basis, then 9:36, being a libertarian, has to take seriously the need to offer students something that students will have good reason to pursue throughout 9:36's career, and to make those reasons clear to the students and potential students.

Marcus Arvan said...

This idea that research is the purpose of universities is very, very silly.

The purpose of universities is--for all intents and purposes--what the people who run those universities *say* it is.

The purpose of universities is what they will *fund*.

This used to be primarily research. Now, increasingly, it is "student experience."

QED

Anonymous said...

Look, whether you like it or not, whether you think it's meant to last or not, whether you think it's just or not, the gist of 9:36's comments is right. You will mostly be hired on the basis of your research because that's what universities see is important about you. That and your ability to teach exactly well enough to not cause problems.

It's all well and good (and *very* fun) to call such folks libertarians, or to accuse them of lonely existences reading Ayn Rand. Ad hominem is, after all, a very ancient argument form. But the point is this: you can focus all you want on your teaching and get all self-righteous about how you should be employed for this but that's as sensible as (as 9:36 rather clumsily points out) focusing on having great handwriting and getting pissed about that not getting you hired. It's simply not relevant. You need some ability to write by hand in order to get hired (for writing on boards, general getting about in life, etc.), but getting better at it than is required or expecting to be given a *job* on that basis is just silly.

The analogy is that this is the same with teaching and getting a tenure-track gig. The purpose of tenure track gigs is to do research. To do this, one must teach well enough to bring in enough money to keep doing research. Doing better at teaching than this is simply *un*important.

A final, further point: when it comes to hiring, even if someone *were* to hire you just on the basis of your teaching, it would matter little how good a teacher you *actually are*, what would matter is how good a teacher you *appear to be* in the application. And there is almost nothing you can do in the classroom that will show up in a meaningful way there. So again, spending time doing really well in the classroom is wasting time.

But then again, so is posting rants to blogs...

Anonymous said...

"Look, whether you like it or not, whether you think it's meant to last or not, whether you think it's just or not, the gist of 9:36's comments is right. You will mostly be hired on the basis of your research because that's what universities see is important about you. That and your ability to teach exactly well enough to not cause problems."

I think what you mean to write is that most jobs will hire you for your researching skills. But as we all know, this is not how all SCs proceed. Some do, in fact, want excellent teachers, who can publish just well enough to keep their names in print somewhere.

"But the point is this: you can focus all you want on your teaching and get all self-righteous about how you should be employed for this but that's as sensible as (as 9:36 rather clumsily points out) focusing on having great handwriting and getting pissed about that not getting you hired. It's simply not relevant."

Is this akin to the yearly complaints from people who how, no matter how strong their publication records, they can't get interviews, much less jobs?

"The analogy is that this is the same with teaching and getting a tenure-track gig. The purpose of tenure track gigs is to do research."

The purpose of some - maybe even a great many - tenure track gigs is to do research. But to characterize the entire job market this way shows how little you know of the great many schools that are not research-focused. (Granted, nobody ever does their graduate work at such institutions, so it's easy to understand why they are off your radar.)

"To do this, one must teach well enough to bring in enough money to keep doing research."

If one has a research-focused job that depends on grants, yes. But again, there are a great many jobs that are not like this. There are a great many jobs where one must teach well enough to keep students enrolled, because when enrollments drop, so too does funding.

"A final, further point: when it comes to hiring, even if someone *were* to hire you just on the basis of your teaching, it would matter little how good a teacher you *actually are*, what would matter is how good a teacher you *appear to be* in the application. And there is almost nothing you can do in the classroom that will show up in a meaningful way there. So again, spending time doing really well in the classroom is wasting time."

Please don't ever apply to my university. I'd hate to have you working with my students.

Anonymous said...

Unless we're being trolled by someone mimicking a wacky libertarian (in which case, nice work), I don't understand what people like 10:03 are finding so difficult in understanding Justin's critique of 9:36.

Justin's thesis is clear: the present university system that rewards research above all else is contingent and changing, and that we ought not rely on it staying the same. To defend 9:36 against that thesis by insisting that the university system does in fact reward research at present is as clear an indication as one could wish for that the writer isn't reading before responding and doesn't know what's being discussed.

Also, 9:36 admits to being a libertarian (May 18, 12:15).

Anonymous said...

"So again, spending time doing really well in the classroom is wasting time."

I could imagine someone saying the same thing about trying to become a morally better person. "Hey, being a good person is going to make you feel worse about the world and won't ever result in personal advantage. So trying to become a morally better person is wasting time."

Of course, an obvious response here is that we're not talking about anything other than procuring employment opportunities, but I for one don't want to be the kind of person that excludes personal improvement simply because it doesn't give me an advantage. And some of us are not in academia simply for personal advancement, but to do best for our students as well. Sadly, many of us will not find employment, so more and more of these jobs are going to people like 9:04. Again, just sit back and watch the discipline self-implode in ten years' time.

Anonymous said...

"[T]he present university system" doesn't exist. There are a variety of kinds of institutions of higher education, some of which fall into research-focused institutions, many of which do not.

Yes, some non-research-focused institutions act as if they were (by looking to hire research-focused faculty), but this is not universally true.

To make claims such claims is to betray the same ignorance about the field as most commenters on higher education, who support and/or critique the system based on top-brand institutions.

Anonymous said...

There are a variety of institutions. If I'm understanding this chart, using the Carnegie Classifications, research universities account for 6.3% of all colleges/universities. The enrollment at these RUs accounts for 27.9% the total enrollment across the US. (These are 2010 figures.)

http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/summary/basic.php

I have no idea how philosophy courses are distributed across these types of schools.

FWIW, the "research" universities on the chart are classified RU/VH: Research Universities (very high research activity), RU/H: Research Universities (high research activity), and DRU: Doctoral/Research Universities.

Justin Kalef said...

In talking about the current university system, I was employing the principle of charity by limiting the discussion to research universities with philosophy departments. The best case for the 'fuck the students, our only real job is to do research' position comes from limiting consideration to those schools. I was arguing that it fails even when limited to them. I agree that there are many other universities as well, but the "fuck the students" line I was opposing fares even worse with those universities, so that only strengthens the case against this view.

It appears the 'fuck the students' people have run out of arguments at this point and that the discussion has run its course.

Anonymous said...

9:36 here.

No the FTS (Fuck the Students) crowd hasn't run out of arguments, but have found the discussion alarmingly unhelpful. The general argument seems to be ``well you might be right, but I speculate based on blah blah blah that the university system is about to change and boy will you be wrong then!''

Ok.

You can speculate and read tea leaves and do whatever along those lines makes you feel better about not having a job. Maybe you're right about the future of the university. My crystal ball must be working more poorly than yours, and until it's up and running I'm going to do what's best for me now, do the type of work likely to land me a job now, and if some students happen to get educated along the way, good for them.

Anonymous said...

The Fuck the Students crowd has lost the debate for several independent reasons. Here are a few.

a. They've fallaciously inferred the purpose of the university from the minimum work that keeps them getting a paycheck.

b. They're speculatively banking on the future of the university resembling its current state despite good evidence that it won't and clear evidence that its current state is not satisfying the interests of those who support it.

c. They're factually mistaken about the number of hours it takes to do a good job.

d. They're psychopathically insensitive to their genuine obligations to students, and their argument only works on other psychopaths.

e. By broadcasting their FTS attitude, they're signalling to those who would benefit from taking philosophy courses and degrees that we don't care about them, when it's really just some libertarian fuckups who don't care about them. Many of the rest of us are doing some serious work.

But libertarians don't need to be moral, effective, right, or intelligent to succeed. The reason is that libertarian think tanks are very happy to throw money at anyone willing to whore for them. You don't need to be smart, you just need to sound impressive when you mouth the right words. So why should libertarian scumsuckers care if they contribute to the destruction of the universities that pay their salaries? They've got other jobs they can do, and no conscience to hold them back.

Fuck the libertarians who say fuck the students.

Anonymous said...

I guess I didn't know there was a FTS (Fuck the Students) crowd. I thought it was just one person making a bad argument. Presumably, you must be thankful that when you were an undergraduate your own teachers were not part of that crowd.

Anonymous said...

7:21,

I'm sure that either:

1. FTS's profs had nothing to do with his education. FTS pulled himself up by his own intellectual bootstraps, and succeeded as all such types do: without the help of anyone.

or,

2. FTS had FTS professors, whim he found inspiring. He is now doing his best to emulate them, now that he is in a position to fuck students of his own.

Anonymous said...

Jaded:
Your sentiments are both rational and not silly. My wish is that universities and departments would stop using adjuncts and transition to infinitely renewable nonTT visiting faculty positions that are two prep 4/4, 5/4, or 4/5 loads that pay in the mid 30s and offer benefits and retirement.

This way departments would still have work mules, but not destitute work mules. Making 35-38K a year (assuming you don't live in NYC or San Fran, etc) with benefits is livable. In return for the high teaching load with no help, nonTT visiting positions would have the summers and, once the preps are automatic, year round to do research and slowly build a CV to parlay into a TT job or at least have income enough to live on while figuring out an alternative future.

The downside of this is that there will be less teaching to go around. But, then with less adjuncting, there will be less abuse of adjuncts.

Anonymous said...

"5/4, or 4/5 loads that pay in the mid 30s"

Sorry, but fuck you. That's an incredibly shitty gig. Maybe less shitty than what some people have, btu still shitty.

And if were really possible to have such a load and still "do research" in any meaningful sense, why not ask all TT faculty to carry such a load? Sure, less teaching to go around, but less adjunct abuse, too.

Sure, one might "slowly build a CV," but nobody ever wins these races by moving at a slower pace.

Derek Bowman said...

@5:44: Exactly. If that's the best we do, why bother trying to keep philosophy and other humanities disciplines in academia at all.

My spouse makes about that with a BA in a job that doesn't require the BA, and has more time and energy to pursue other interests than I do working as a "part-time" adjunct.

Anonymous said...

At a 5/4 load, I can make mid 40s adjuncting. So this would actually be taking a pay *cut*

Anonymous said...

Derek,

The problem (or at least a *major* problem) is that too many people are invested in the idea that there should be a 2-tier professional track in academia: those who get low teaching loads in order to do research, and those who should sacrifice a vigorous research agenda in order to focus on teaching. The 2nd tier exists in order to support the 1st tier. And far too many people are so invested in that 1st tier that - even if they work on the second tier already - want to preserve the 1st tier in the hopes of someday leveling up.

We know why those in the 1st tier are so invested in this system. What gets me is how many grad students are invested in this system as well. I understand that nobody pursues a PhD with the goal of a 2nd tier job. (Even those who want to focus on teaching often imagine an elite SLAC with a lighter load.) But nobody ever goes to grad school in the hopes of landing a jobs with a 4/4+ teaching load and the hope of maybe getting a little work done in the summer.

Here's a modest proposal. Instead of 1st tier faculty who teach 2/2 loads, and 2nd tier faculty who teach 4/4+ loads, how about one tier, and everybody teaches 3/3? Make this universal at every accredited institution of higher education. All full-time faculty teach 3/3, all start at the same salary, and all get the same benefits/retirement package.

Of course, 1st tier faculty will never go for it, as it would mean agreeing to a higher teaching load for no extra pay (or maybe even a pay cut, if the new salary were set at the average of current salaries). So of course, it will never happen.

But anyone who even breathes support for a 2-tier faculty system - anyone who supports any model that allows for one group to reap the benefits earned by another's abuse - deserves to die in a fire.

-5:44

Anonymous said...

I currently work in a 2-tier department, and I have to say it isn't all bad. I am on the bottom tier, so my teaching relieves the top tier from their duties to focus on research, and some of the top tier actually do research. But, not all actually do research. Many of them already have tenure, and tenure review here is a formality. I have a 4/4 load and am able to do minimal research. (The load for the top tier is 1/2 or 2/2, depending on that which I do not know...prestige?) Many in my cohort from graduate school did not get this lucky-they are living the adjunct horror story, being barely able to make it.

5:44's suggestion is a good one, but it will never fly. The top will never go for it, and neither will the administration. Having a "top" tier attracts certain types that make the University (and the department) look better than it actually is.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous May 22, 2015 at 10:19 AM here.

OK, so 5 courses is crazy and also dumb. Forgive my impetuousness. I certainly wouldn't do it (thanks, Rawls). This will be of the TLDR variety.

An infinitely renewable, or say minimum 3 year contract with chance for further renewal given performance, 2 prep 4/4 is not crazy. Some TT jobs are now, unfortunately (to say the least) 4/4. If you would rather adjunct for the same or slightly more money, but (1) without benefits, (2) without job security, (3) without retirement, (4) likely without an office, and (5) without the ability to get paid in the summer and winter breaks without having to teach, then by all means, carry on.

My championing of getting rid of the adjunct model for the visiting faculty model was so that people would have retirement and benefits and some sense of security, and the ability to get more research done than as a year round adjunct, not so that they could get a *shit ton* of research done. And the visiting model where people would be paid during semester breaks certainly offers a better opportunity to get research done. Slowly building a CV is better than not building one at all. If you think slowly building a CV is the same not building one at all, ok. I revert to points 1-4 in any case.

6:53 PM writes: "I have a 4/4 load and am able to do minimal research. (The load for the top tier is 1/2 or 2/2, depending on that which I do not know...prestige?) Many in my cohort from graduate school did not get this lucky-they are living the adjunct horror story, being barely able to make it."
BINGO. I don't think there should be two tier system. I rather doubt the majority of permanent 2/2 loaders think this, either.

We cannot forget what we all already know: what stands in the way of improvement are ALSO university admins, not JUST callous, elitist humanities departments with Brennanesque mindsets. I wish to think that the latter is a minority attitude and it does not fit my (limited) experience. Universities require more courses than department faculty can teach. In many cases, all permanent faculty could switch to 4/4 and there would still be a major short fall. This is the case for every liberal arts university where any amount of philosophy is a core requirement. For non-liberal arts universities, mileage will vary. Now the uni admins have these options to make up the short fall in faculty:

1. Allocate money for new 3/3 or 2/2, 2/3, whatever, TT lines with retirement, benefits, etc. $$$$ and will teach the least.
2. Allocate money for renewable visiting faculty 4/4 lines with retirement, benefits, etc. $$$
3. Allocate money for nonrenewable visiting faculty 4/4 lines with retirement, benefits, etc. $$
4. Allocate money for adjuncts with no security, no retirement, no benefits. $

Shockingly, 4 is the norm. Is there a two tier system primarily because of people like Brennan or because of university CFOs? It is a depressing situation. But many of those callous top tier 2/2 loaders are the same people marching with adjuncts for unionization and petitioning admin for better treatment, even if those 2/2 aren't interested in switching to 3/3. And aren't the majority of SLACs 3/3 loads for TT and principle faculty already?

Anonymous said...

8:37,

I would actually be fine with a two-track system, where one track focuses on research and the second on teaching. Faculty on the first track would be evaluated for tenure and promotion based largely on their research records, with some consideration giving to teaching. Those on the second track, the reverse. The first track would require more publishing; the second track would require faculty teach more courses. But these tracks would need to even in terms of pay, benefits, etc. I'm all for recognizing that departments need to run classes, and so someone needs to teach them. However, the problem lies with the fact that those faculty already (presumably) on (a version of) track two are also being paid less money (as well as having fewer options for other resources).

I also don't care if these position are tenure-track or not. Given the looming death of tenure anyway (and the ease with which many faculty are finding themselves separated from their jobs despite tenure*), tenure-able/not is less important than living wage/not.

And just as those faculty on the teaching track would have to continually demonstrate their quality in the classroom, research track faculty would have to keep publishing. Or, we'd have to accept that, once tenured, we no longer care about the quality of the work being done, regardless of track. Because it's insulting when we find someone tenured on the strength of their researching record who can rest on his laurels, but those faculty doing the bulk of the teaching are in a system whereby there is no resting on one's laurels, because those faculty are continually up for review (and often being reviewed by people who have vastly different jobs, as they are on a different track).

My PhD program floated an idea similar to this, whereby "research faculty" could keep their 2/2 loads, but "teaching faculty" (there defined as those who have not published within the past 5 years) would have to take on a 3/3 load. It was amusing to watch a small group of tenured faculty suddenly start asking about conferences and journals, and frantically trying to get something into print, all to avoid an extra course/semester. (Eventually, the union killed the plan.)

-5:44

*In many systems, "budgetary shortfalls" is a valid reason to break tenure and lay off faculty.

Anonymous said...

I just want a job in philosophy that starts between $45,000-$50,000, includes benefits, and is "renewable" in the same damn sense that every ordinary job outside outside academia is renewable. I'll teach 4/4, 4/4/1, or even up to 4/4/2, since publishing one-two decent papers a years is do-able on any of these schedules. I don't care whether I get to call myself a "tenured" faculty member. Hell, I'd be fine if "tenured" was reserved for faculty that published more frequently and made twice as much as I did for doing so. All I want is to do the job I was trained to do and get a fair wage to do it, like anyone else outside academia.

Someone tell me: What is the primary obstacle to making this a reality for adjuncts? Do schools really not have enough money to pay them decent wages?

Anonymous said...

"What is the primary obstacle to making this a reality for adjuncts?"

The spiraling costs of administrative oversight.

"Do schools really not have enough money to pay them decent wages?"

Not after they pay a variety of upper-level administrators their CEO salaries.

Anonymous said...

If you're right, 6:56, then the solution is clear: unionize and strike on a massive scale.

Why hasn't this happened yet?

Anonymous said...

10:21,

Many faculty bodies *are* unionized, and this still happens. And there are several reasons why faculty don't strike:

1. Striking directly affects students by depriving them of their education, but it does nothing to administration. Not being in the classroom - even organizing outside in a large demonstration - does not in any way affect the working conditions of management, whose daily job does not require them to interact with students (and even, for the most part, with faculty). A strike might draw attention to an issue, but it doesn't create any hardships for those at whom the strike is aimed. (That is, where factory strikes actually cause a work slow-down, and product cannot be produces - and thus money cannot be made - an academic strike does not in any way affect the university's ability to make money. In fact, the university was paid before any of the product was delivered.)

2. Because of the above, many faculty won;t strike because a strike has no effect on the management, but does have a negative effect on the body the faculty wish to see as allies: the students.

3. I can only speak to my own university and my own union, but in more cases than should happen, the unions support the management (and in this regard, some unions are little more than their own administrative bodies). The union, as a body, has nothing to gain by supporting a strike. They don't need the support of the faculty, who must join in order to be employed. (That is, one cannot threaten to leave the union, if one is displeased with the union's work on one's behalf.) And the union has a great deal to gain by currying favor with administration. (When faculty at my university called for a strike, our union sternly told us that they would not support a strike, and anyone who participated in a strike would forfeit any union protections.)

4. Fear. Faculty who strike run the risk of losing any good will administration may have for them. (And in my case, can also lose union protection, if the union will not support a strike.) As a result, they could find themselves out of work. Even tenure is not a measure of protection, as there are many ways to justify firing an employee for cause. (In some cases, some version of "actively working against the interest of the university" is found in faculty contracts. Participating in an unsanctioned strike can thus be seen as grounds for termination for cause.)

For many - perhaps most - academics, employment is tenuous, and only becoming more so. Faculty will work to preserve what they have, and do their best to not risk their future employment. Maybe a strike would work. Maybe. But without the support of the untenured faculty, or the various kinds of contingent faculty (non-TT, post-docs, adjuncts, grad students), it would be a very small and ineffectual strike. And I would understand completely why the at-risk groups would never participate.

6:56

Anonymous said...

@ 5:44 and pertaining to the two-tier model:

I work at Michigan State University, which has a two-tier system done the RIGHT way. If anyone ends up in conversation with an administrator who asks for an example of this working, point to Michigan State.

I belong to the second tier. I am not tenure track - my title is "academic specialist." This is a position that focuses on teaching rather than research. My job is full-time and has the permanence equivalent to tenure (there's a probationary period, and upon passing it's hard to fire me). Yes, my pay is lower (roughly 15-20K lower than tenure track), but my base salary is in the mid-40's for teaching a 3-2 load. There are extra courses I can voluntarily pick up to bring my salary to around 60K. I am evaluated on my teaching, and not my research (a plus for me, someone who does not particularly enjoy research anyway). I feel respected by my department, my colleagues, and my administration. I recognize this makes me VERY lucky. I hope this doesn't sound like gloating. But I wanted people to know that these positions exist (though perhaps the huge size of MSU makes it easier to afford them), and they can be wonderful.

Anonymous said...

9:54,

Sorry, but I just don't see that as done "the RIGHT way." Why is it "RIGHT" that you deserve to be paid less money than your colleagues, simply because your position focuses on teaching rather than research? And why is it "RIGHT" that you not be tenure track?

This sounds like a good situation, and perhaps even one that should be respected. But I fail to see why it's "RIGHT" that your work is less deserving of the same material rewards as your colleagues.

5:44

zombie said...

I believe UBC also has teaching faculty and research faculty.

Anonymous said...

This is anon 9:54.

I see why some desire a system that's totally egalitarian. Universities should provide good quality teaching, and it's a shame that so often the incentives and market forces result in universities that undervalue teaching. Maybe we can imagine a utopian world where those forces aren't in play. But in our world, I don't see them going away, and so in this world I think the MSU-style two-tier system is about as good as we're going to get. Here are the forces I have in mind. Universities must pull in a certain amount of money and departments want a certain amount of prestige. Faculty who do top-quality research bring prestige for the department and dollars for the university (either directly, through grants, or indirectly, through prestige). A great teacher is of some value to the department and the university, but will bring it minimal prestige at best (even if there are rankings and teaching awards, etc) and no grant money. Therefore, In a system where these rewards and incentives exist, it's unavoidable for primarily-researchers to make more money than primarily-teachers. Changing the rewards and incentives is just not feasible and so that's why I shrug off the egalitarian fantasy.

Therefore, a payment hierarchy is unavoidable. Given that, what I'd like to see is a hierarchy where the second tier is granted some job security and paid a respectful (if not equal) wage. Market forces may force teacher salaries lower than researcher salaries, but departments can and should counter-act that by developing a culture where teachers and researchers work together under conditions that are respectful, etc. That's what MSU provides, and for that I"m grateful.

anon 9:54

Anonymous said...

"A great teacher is of some value to the department and the university, but will bring it minimal prestige at best (even if there are rankings and teaching awards, etc) and no grant money."

If only there were some way to monetize student enrollments. Some day, universities will learn how to make money off of students, and then maybe consider paying teachers out of that pool of money.

Anonymous said...

There are many problems with Brennan's argument some of which have already been stated by others. My main concern is how he approaches teaching. I am deeply sorry for our profession and I am deeply sorry for Georgetown students because they have a professor who has little idea about what it means to be a good teacher and the goals of university education. When you reduce teaching to reciting some information from slides you get a Brennan and the like who question the efficiency of each minute one spends in class and with her students. Then you see students as a problem because they stand between you and your research; you become an efficient teacher by using slides and giving multiple choice tests; and skip all the 'nonsense' about the ideals of liberal arts teaching. Then the question is why don't you simply tape all your lectures, put on youtube, and enjoy your research time-it does not get more efficient than this. Brennan would probably do it if he could, but that does not sound right, does it? Something seems to be missing here, what do you think that is?

What bothers me most is the unfortunate fact that Brennan is a philosopher (I would expect this approach to teaching from a professor in Business School-this is how they understand teaching) and a philosopher teaching at a Jesuit university. Brennan should read Georgetown's mission statement and its teaching philosophy. He has a lot to learn from what that document says about teaching, but I doubt he would do it since it is not a document that would speak to him. But, wait, he is an Assistant Professor, so he will read it because he is up for tenure soon. This means that he will use all the information he could find on liberal arts teaching and then his tenure dossier will explain how his classes have contributed to the mission his university and that he will 'sell' himself as a caring professor!

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but did you happen to notice that Brian Leiter is really bitter about the Daily Nous?

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but did you happen to notice that Brian Leiter is really bitter?

Anonymous said...

off-topic, but Umea University (Sweden) is hiring: http://www.umu.se/english/about-umu/open-positions?languageId=1

the position is 'senior' but this requires just a Ph.D., so it's really... junior? May be worth looking into.