Thursday, April 30, 2009

Analysis Papers

I was talking with a friend recently about Analysis, which is one of my favorite journals. The reasons should be obvious: short, pithy papers that make a clear, interesting point and then don't hang around. With a 4-4 teaching load, I have less time than I would like to sit around reading monstrously long philosophy papers that arbitrarily ramble from point to point, and so Analysis is ideal for a guy like me. (Of course I'm kidding, but only a little. Since I teach a lot, it takes me like a week to read a 30- or 40-page paper with any degree of care, so a paper like that represents a big investment, and so I have to be conservative about what I'm willing to read. Interestingness isn't usually enough.)

Another thing I like about Analysis is the way they'll accept a discussion piece and invite a reply from the original author--you can often find nice philosophical discussions proceeding in this manner. And another nice thing about Analysis-style papers is that it doesn't take a million years to write one. (Not that you don't have to be careful, but at 3,000 words, you've got a lot less to be careful about.) The problem is that Analysis doesn't accept that many papers, and so it doesn't really pay to write them. If Analysis doesn't take it, you're SOL.

Now, Australasian Journal of Philosophy will accept short discussion pieces, and the online Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy will, too, so Analysis isn't your only option. But it's kind of too bad more journals don't do this. Am I missing any?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For the record

No May JFP this year. Not that you're in a good way if you're relying on the JFP in May.

-- Second Suitor

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In extreme circumstances, the assailants can be stopped by removing the head or destroying the brain

Fellow Smoker, FM, drew my attention to a new study in the most recent APA proceedings from the Committee on the Status of Women. It looks at the tenure-track hires from the 2007-8 job season and lists these key conclusions (and others that are also interesting):
  • Up to 40% of advertised positions in 2007-8 did not fill
  • Women were hired in all categories in proportion to their percentage of PhDs (this includes temporary positions and postdocs, tenure-track positions and positions in Leiter-ranked departments)
  • If women PhDs are regularly being hired in proportion to their numbers, and retained at the same rate as men, we should see a rise in their numbers in the profession to 28% (their numbers are around 21%).
  • The percentage of women in philosophy is at a noteworthy point. The number of women PhD’s is above 25% (which is the “tipping point” for gender schemas, see Valian 1998) but the number of women employed in the profession is below 25%.
A few points and one hope. First, the hope that I have for this study is that it helps score some head shots against those zombie lies (dealt with deftly here, here, and here) that pop up every year about all the cushy jobs that under-qualified women are landing at the expense of poor, over-qualified white men.

Second, the numbers themselves regarding woman hires aren't as bad as you'd expect. Women are being hired in proportion to the number pursuing Ph.Ds. And while there is obviously some work to be done with retaining women so their numbers in the profession catch up to the numbers pursuing Ph.Ds, these findings are encouraging.

Third, as noted in the report, the APA doesn't seem to keep track of any of these numbers. Why not? Why did the authors of the study have to rely on blog posts and other means for their data when this is clearly something the APA should be keeping track of?

As fellow Smoker and longtime friend S points out: "Not keeping track of the data is a sure sign that an organization or institution's not committed to fixing whatever problem you want the data about." Damn straight. No matter how many committees or reports are commissioned, having this data is key to tackling these issues. Gathering and making such data available is something we should expect from a professional organization.

Fourth, what is the significance of the fact that 40% of jobs advertised weren't filled? I mean, you'd figure with all the over-qualified white men with scary CVs getting snubbed for tenure-track positions in favor of less-qualified women or minorities, this figure would be lower. But, less snarkily and more seriously, why is this number so (seemingly) high; is there an obvious explanation, or is it convoluted?


Friday, April 24, 2009

Grading Hell

So, this one time, I'm grading some exams. They're terrible. I'm thinking, "Oh my god. These are awful. This means I am a terrible teacher. I have made these exams far too difficult for these students. They cannot grasp this material. I'm going to give out all Fs for this class. I am doomed."

This other time, I'm grading some other exams. They're terrific. I'm thinking, "Oh my god. These are exactly what I am looking for. This means I am a terrible teacher. I have made these exams far too easy for these students. They are acing this material. I'm going to give out all As for this class. I am doomed."

These times were 2 minutes apart. WTF.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We don't need no education

It seems like we're starting to hear grumblings of various colleges and universities considering whether they should close their philosophy major (most recently at University of Louisiana Layfayette).  This just doesn't make sense to me.  Putting aside how unique our field of study is, UoLL's philosophy department has something like 4 faculty members with 10ish adjunct/associated professors.  Everyone reading this blog knows adjuncts are cheap and those other 4 faculty are giving you an entire department.  For a school with almost 600 standing faculty the philosophy major seems like a lot to sacrifice to free up 4 salaries.  I know that the 'humanities have to justify their worth' but if places are going to start sacking small departments that make up part of the core of humanities for marginal gain, it seems the whole concept of a liberal arts education is under attack.  

Oh, and the board of regents is deciding today.  Maybe we'll all become technical schools and save some money (Note: I like technical schools.  I like community colleges.  I like education of all shapes and sizes.  I just think changing the type of school you are for budgetary reasons is tragic and something we should try to avoid).

-- Second Suitor

update (4/24):
The subcommittee votes to terminate the philosophy major.  The final decision to be made  by the entire board on Thursday.

How bad will things be in the Fall?

In comments, anon 11:18 asks, "Anyone have any clues about how bad it will be next year?"

Obviously, it depends very much on whether the economy improves. What seems less clear is the deadline for improvement. Would an improvement by July, August, or possibly September show up in the Fall JFP? Or, barring that, will the stimulus bill help? I get the feeling that schools can be pretty sensitive to late-stage improvements. My dean appears to have several versions of the budget on his desk at any time: the good, ideal budget, and then a variety of contingency budgets for when there isn't enough money. That way, he (and my chair, and I) can operate on the assumption that the money will be there, and then cut stuff at the absolute last second--it's easier to cut stuff than it is to get it back after you cut it. I get the feeling that my job was saved by the stimulus bill.

Leiter pretty much called it in July last year. I thought he was crazy, but he hit the bullseye. His calculations appear to have been based on the prospects for retirement given a weak stock market last June. Things are not better now than they were last June. And to the extent that retirements affect the job market and the stock market affects retirements, the improvements would probably have to already have taken effect in order to see a bump in the job market by Fall. The late-stage actions I mentioned before wouldn't apply to potentially vacant tenure-lines; they would apply only to already-vacant tenure-lines. The more I think about it, the more I think that in order for the economic improvements to make a difference by Fall, they'd have to have already happened or be happening now. So we're screwed.

--Mr. Zero

I second all that and just to add: two years from now everyone who put off going onto the market next year will be coming out. But, don't worry about that flood because they won't have the teaching experience or pubs that the people fighting with the market now should have by then.  

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Moral Contortions of Anti-Homosexual Discriminators

I’m sorry to keep harping on this, but I cannot believe what I’m reading from David Hoekema. He’s over at Leiter defending Calvin College’s anti-gay discrimination. He says, the policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of homosexuality in hiring practices. He says, I know, I was Executive Director of the APA when the policy was drafted, debated upon, and adopted. He says, Calvin College complies with the policy. We don’t make hiring decisions on the basis of homosexuality. He then says, we do place a much heavier behavioral burden on homosexual faculty than we place on heterosexual faculty, since we permit heterosexual faculty to have sex if they’re married, but we do not permit homosexual faculty to have sex under any circumstances.

There are (at least) three contortions here. One is that it is apparently possible to be fair to homosexual members of the faculty while demanding that they alone abstain from meaningful sexual relationships. It might be fair to demand that of everyone (though it’s far from obvious that it would be), but it is patently unfair to impose such a heavy differential burden on homosexual faculty. To be fair, he is willing to listen to people who say that. To be more fair, who gives a shit, since he won’t actually do anything.

Another contortion (and this came up in the thread on Leiter’s blog) is that the policy absolutely does forbid this kind of shit. While Hoekema is right that the policy forbids discrimination in appointments and is to be admired for adhering to that portion of the policy, he completely ignores the fact that it also explicitly forbids discrimination in retention, tenure & promotion, salary determination, manuscript evaluation, graduate admissions,and other professional activities. Hoekema invokes his authority as Executive Director at the time of the policy’s adoption, and then interprets the policy in a way that ignores almost all of its content. He does the same thing in another comment: “A nondiscrimination policy concerning hiring does not explicitly address issues of retention…”. But the APA’s non-discrimination policy does explicitly address issues of retention. What the fuck? The policy is very simple. It lists a bunch of features that may not be the basis for certain types of decision, and then it lists a bunch of decisions for which the features may not be a basis. Hiring is one type of decision, but there are others. Understood straightforwardly and in good faith, even if Calvin complies with the policy with respect to hiring, it does not comply with respect to other applicable decision-types. There is a controversy in that thread about whether this evinces dishonesty or incomprehension, and Prof. Murphy has admonished us to be charitable, I don’t know which interpretation is the more charitable: either he’s a liar, or he cannot comprehend simple sentences, the drafting, debating, and adoption of which he claims to have presided over.

A final contortion (and I mentioned this earlier) occurs when Hoekema appeals to the general principle diversity is a strength, not a weakness, in defense of his schools discriminatory retention practices. Diversity is important, he says. It is important to have a wide range of types of academic institution. The fact that some schools fire people for having gay sex and others don’t strengthens the academic community as a whole. Hoekema does not believe that this principle applies on an intramural basis—on his view, Calvin College itself would be weakened by diversity and should not adopt a position of tolerance.

Ok. That was the last one. Unless somebody else gets me riled.

--Mr. Zero

Update: this comment from Mark Lance is a must read. Thanks for sharing, Professor Lance.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Funny parody of Hoekema Letter

Leiter has posted a funny parody of David Hoekema's letter to the APA defending Calvin College's discriminatory retention practices.

Joking aside, I find Hoekema's letter to be Orwellian. He employs the principle that diversity is a strength in defense of anti-gay discrimination.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Quick thought

You know that the economic-job situation is bad when one of the new job ads out there states:
Definite one-year visiting faculty position
I mean of course if you're advertising for a one-year now it's definite? Right? ... On second thought thanks for letting us know.

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interview help?

Anonomous wondered this:
I have an interview with a CC and I'm wondering if anyone has had experience interviewing with CCs.  (This will be my first CC interview.)

The HR Lady at the CC in question told me that my interview will have the following components:

1. A 30-minute assessment; I will be given 30 minutes in which to write a response to a question of the hiring committee's choosing.  

2. Upon completion of the writing assessment, I will be presented with a sheet containing some of the questions that will be discussed during my interview.  I will be given five minutes to review the questions, and then I will meet the hiring committee and the interview part of the interview will begin.  This portion of the interview will last roughly 50 minutes.  

3.  During the interview part of my interview, I will be required to give a 10-minute presentation on a topic chosen by the hiring committee and revealed to my several days before the interview.

That's it.  If anyone has any insight into what I should expect at the interview, please reply!
What's that writing assessment about?  Little help anyone?

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If you want to burn yourself, remember that I love you

It's easy to get caught up in things like the horror that will be next year's job market, the open-ended always pressing project that is the dissertation and the  general lack of control over how your life will go for the foreseeable future.  That said, over the last few weeks I've had a couple opportunities to read and listen to some of my friends' developed work.  It's really been a pleasure and not just in a look-how-far-we've-come sort of way.  The work's good and interesting.  Lord knows if it'll yield jobs and publications, but it's satisfying to see people that've worked hard put out some really quality stuff.  I hope that they're taking a step back from all the bullshit so they can enjoy some good old fashioned philosophical accomplishment.

-- Second Suitor

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I like you, I really, really like you!

So much, in fact, that I am giving you all an open thread to talk about non-APA discrimination petition related things (though, I must say, strong work on those threads). For those of you already at home, enjoy the rest of this lazy and/or productive Sunday. For those of you making your ways back from our friendly neighbors to the north, remember, 'Home is where [you] want to be'.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

APA Anti-Discrimination Petition

If any readers are in members of the Pacific Division and are in Vancouver, please seek out Kate Abramson. From comments on Leiter's blog:
As Alastair mentioned in the last thread, from the bylaws of the Pacific it looks likely that what (should) happen next/as a result of the mtg today is that the motion should be put to the membership of the Pacific by mail ballot. I am myself, however, a bit unclear from the Pacific rules as to just how much discretion the EC of the Pacific has in deciding whether to forward the motion to the membership for a vote (I have every confidence the vote will go our way if that does happen).

What does seem clear to me is that if at least 20 members of the Pacific division sign a petition asking that the motion be put to a mail ballot vote, the EC loses such discretion as it has in deciding whether to forward the motion to a mail ballot vote of the membership. (I have no reason to think the EC would of their own accord hesitate in so the motion to the membership-- I do, however, have long and first hand familiarity with the opposition in this territory)

The bylaws of the Pacific include the following:

"Amendments or additions to these by-laws may be proposed only by the Executive Committee, by the national Board of Officers, or by a petition signed by at least twenty members of the Association with voting affiliations with the Pacific Division."

That's where you all come in. I copied and pasted the motion at issue on to a piece of paper with a single line to the effect that "we, the undersigned, ask that the following motion be put to a mail ballot of the membership". I am in Vancouver.If any of you reading this now are members of the Pacific, here at the Pacific APA, and willing to sign your name to the motion (in fact, at this point it's even weaker than that-- it's just signing your name to a petition that says 'put this motion to a vote'!) please come find me in the lobby. I'll be down in the lobby (only got room internet) by 10am Vancouver time, and expect to be there--or in Starbucks-- until at least 11am. Twenty signatures--that's it! C'mon, at least 20 of you are reading this, right? (I'm short, long red hair, enormous ears, and wearing a vaguely purple-ish shirt)

Many thanks.
Also, if any of you attended the meeting and wouldn't mind reporting on what happened, please do so in comments.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, April 6, 2009

Son of the APA's Anti-Discrimination Policy

In comments, anon 5:31 hits the nail on the head:
I think much of this debate is misplaced. The petition isn't about whether or not it is correct for Christian universities with certain beliefs to discriminate on the basis of sexual practice, or whether or not it is legitimate for Christian universities with certain beliefs to require faculty to adhere to a denominational code of ethics. The petition makes no claim about these things.

The issue is whether or not a philosophical organization committed to protecting homosexuals from discrimination should warn job-seekers about such policies. And that's a clear no-brainer. Of course the APA should warn job-seekers about discriminatory policies.
--Mr. Zero

Addendum: So, if you're going to be in Vancouver on Thursday, you should attend the business meeting and lend your support to the petition. Once again, that's 4/9 at 12:00 noon in the President's room.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The APA's Anti-Discrimination Policy

If you're going to the APA meeting in Vancouver this week, you should attend the business meeting, Thursday, April 9th, at 12:00 noon in the President's room, where Alastair Norcross will be presenting the petition asking the APA to enforce or change its anti-discrimination policy. The petition already has 1442 signatures, but the more people who actually show up to support it, the better. So if you'll be in Vancouver, you should go to the meeting. And if you haven't signed the petition yet, you should do that, too.

--Mr. Zero

Addendum: Here's the response to the original petition asking the APA to enforce its anti-discrimination policy, from Mark Murphy of Georgetown University. More or less, he makes the argument that the instances of supposed discrimination the original petition points to are not instances of actual discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As such (?), censuring these universities would be 'beyond the pale'. It's an interesting read, to say the least. My first reaction to it is that a lot of nits are being picked here and the arguments fail to address some of the deeper issues the original petition wanted to address. But, that's an unconsidered assessment, and you all can suss this out in the comments. In the meantime, let me second Mr. Zero's endorsement of the original petition. --STBJD

Extra Addendum: Over at Prosblogion, Keith DeRose has posted a thoughtful open letter to the APA as well. --Mr. Zero

Friday, April 3, 2009

An open letter to the people who commented on my open letter to academic presses

Dear people who commented on my open letter to academic presses,

Thank you for your input. I’ve been giving your comments a lot of thought. I have a couple of general points to make and then I’ll stop talking about this.

1. Although I didn’t really express it this way, my central point is not really about what academic presses have an economic interest in doing. My main point concerns what I have an economic interest in them doing. Like the people who work in publishing, I like books. I’d like to be able to afford more of them. It would be a lot better for me if they would lower their prices.

2. It doesn’t seem to me that academic presses have an economic interest doing anything related to being academic presses. If anybody makes any money in that business, it’s a total fluke, because you can’t make any money publishing books nobody reads. They have an economic incentive to become oil prospectors or something.

3. However, it seems to me that the presses have an interest (economic or otherwise) in me buying their books rather than just getting it from the library and photocopying the parts I want to read or buying a used copy, which is what I mostly do.

4. It also seems to me that no author who publishes with an academic press is in it for the money (if you were in it for the money, you’d write a lurid, simple-minded mystery with the words ‘knights templar’ or ‘code’ in the title). You publish an academic book because you’re a scholar who wants to disseminate your scholarship, and it’s easier to do that under the imprimatur of an academic press. But it gets harder to do if the academic press turns around and charges $100 for the book. If I ever publish a book, I hope it’s priced at an affordable level. (I know a couple of people whose books are so expensive that they’ll just email you a pdf of the whole thing, since that’s the only way anyone will ever read them.)

5. I’m not an economist (though it’s not clear to me that being an economist counts for anything), but I have some Kindle-related economic views. Since the Kindle is a new, emerging technology that hasn’t really caught on yet, there’s a huge incentive for everything associated with it to be cheap (for exactly the same reason your first stay at your time-share, or for that matter your first hit of heroin, has to be cheap). So even if Amazon will eventually start gouging publishers huge licensing fees, it does not now make any sense to do anything that will artificially raise book prices. It makes sense to keep them artificially low. The name of the game right now is, get people to use Kindles however you can.

Yours most sincerely,

Mr. Zero

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If this is paradise, I wish I had a lawnmower

Ugh. I've been blazing through pages lately at a rate that's uncanny for me, reading books I need to in order to be a well-rounded philosopher, getting into conferences, and sitting in on classes that I don't need to be sitting in on, but that I find incredibly interesting. Yet, I feel stupid.

Recently, I've read that, in part, this is how we are supposed to feel. That we should just get used to these feelings. No one less than a cell biologist said it (a cell biologist!) in relation to his getting a Ph.D (presumably in cell sciencey type stuff):
Science makes me feel stupid... It's just that I've gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid. I wouldn't know what to do without that feeling. I even think it's supposed to be this way.
I mean, I think - I hope - that I share some of the author's enthusiasm and optimism about the more liberating aspects of stupidity he mentions in the rest of the article (read it!). Otherwise, I'd just give up right now. But, this stupidity I'm feeling right now isn't the kind of awe-inspiring and humbling 'Ah, man! Look at all these problems I can solve and that are just waiting to be solved by my motherfucking ignorant ass! Yay, for there always being problems!' feelings our cell biologist is talking about.

This stupidity I feel has me feeling unproductive. And, I feel guilty because my feeling stupid and unproductive has me feeling like I should be doing more work no matter how much I've actually already done. All. The. Time.

I'm just hoping this guilt isn't something I have to get used to for as long as I stay in this business. That'd be shitty.