Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Which I Grow Increasingly Frustrated With My Online Applications

About half the schools I'm applying to have online applications this year. Most schools that accept online applications use the same crappy online application web interface. Here are my gripes.

1. It takes a long time. I'm spending 10 minutes or more on some of them, typing in all these little details that are on my CV. Unless the application is by email (the few of those I had went smoothly), it would take less time to stuff an envelope and snailmail this shit.

2. You attach something, and then it says, "confirm attachment," but it doesn't tell you the filename of the document your confirming. I mean, how can I confirm that this is indeed the right document if I can't see what document it is?

3. You gotta confirm a lot of stuff twice without seeing it either time.

4. The interface often doesn't permit flexibility with respect to application materials. So, for example, if you have a syllabus for each AOC listed in the ad, you won't be able to upload them all and maybe you won't be able to upload any of them.

5. Seriously. I am retyping my CV over and over again. Why not just, you know, use my actual CV, which I have carefully and meticulously prepared for just this sort of occasion?


7. And if everyone's going to use the same lame software, why can't there just be a central website where you upload all your materials and tell them where to send the electrons?

8. Ok, I've come across a school that makes use of a clearinghouse website. But it's really involved, so it's a lot more of a pain in the ass than the one-time websites. Its built-in PDF maker ignores font sizes, making them larger, but honors page breaks, which doubles the page count on every document. And since only one school I'm applying to uses it, it's not worth it. At all.

9. It took me around three hours to do my online applications last night. I wrote most of this in real time, then polished it for the printer this morning. I believe in online applications, but this system is stupid. We can do better than this. We can take men we've put on the moon and safely bring them back from the moon.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

3 4 is the magic number

In comments, Applicantus asks:
How many 'projects' should one list there? 2, 4, 6? How many are too many? How many are too few? If I list and explain 2, would the SC think I'm serious, and truly have 2 I will actually embark on right away -- or that I don't have a clear program of research? If I list and explain 5, will I be perceived as creative, or unrealistic? etc etc. Any insight welcome!
This is a tough one. So, taking the usual approach people take when they have no actual answers to a tough question, I'll appeal to personal experience. On my statement, I list two areas of broad research interests corresponding to different parts of my AOS. And underneath each one of those, I list two different projects. If I'm counting right, that's four different projects right there. That might be a bit unrealistic or come off as slightly ambitious to search committees. I mean, I probably can't write four whole papers in a year, but I probably can over two years, and that's what they're looking for, right?

But, setting aside issues of what is realistic and what isn't, here's the thing. I think that I do a pretty good job of making clear that there is a guiding thread that is common to all these projects. Articulating this clearly before listing and explaining my four projects, at least makes it conceivable that when working on one of the projects, I'm setting myself up nicely for, or at least kinda/sorta working on the other projects. So, I think being able to articulate clearly the guiding thread of your research, rather than the number of papers/projects you list, demonstrates that you have your shit together and aren't just pulling projects out of your ass.

That said, if you need an arbitrary number, don't list more than four, cause that's what I'm doing.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Update: Seems in the past that similar issues about broadness/ narrowness of research statements were addressed by Mr. Z here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Okay; Here's the Situation...

So far, including web ads, I am applying for somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty jobs. This is about half what I applied for last year, though I have no idea how many of those were ultimately canceled. (Because, why would I go through and find out how many canceled searches I applied to when I could just slit my wrists instead?)

I am also applying to several jobs for which I am probably a "poser applicant." Although Spiros's correspondent might get pissed off and send me a nasty email, that's a chance I'm comfortable taking. Even in good economic times, it makes sense to apply as widely as possible. Furthermore, given the obvious influence of deans and other administration officials over the text of job ads, it seems pretty rational to take everything in the ad with a grain of salt. If the dean wants someone who specializes in X, and the department just needs somebody who can cover courses in X, the department might well wait to have that fight until they've got a particular candidate to fight for--I've seen it more than once. And anyways, if I got a nasty email from a search committee chair about how I was a poser applicant and how annoyed he was about having to consider my application even though I'm not exactly what he was looking for, I guess I'd just be grateful that I didn't have to take that job. Because, you'd have to be a real dickhead to do that.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Comics

(Click the pic to... Ah, whatevs. It doesn't matter.)

--Jaded Dissertator

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I generally have to come up with around four or five paper ideas before I hit upon one that can be developed/is worth developing into an actual paper. Is that normal?

Marist College isn't advertising ten adjunct positions. Small victories.

I was recently offered the opportunity to buy a poster of the cover of a journal who published a paper I wrote. It would cost almost $70. Do people buy these things?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Lot of Discussion About Women in Philosophy Lately

There has been a bunch of discussion about the dearth of women in philosophy on the blogs the last few weeks. This piece at The Philosophers' Magazine appears to have started us off, followed up by the NY Times and Leiter. Regan Penaluna, writing at the Chronicle, kept us going. She argues that the problem is the lack of feminine role models in the canon, coupled with clear sexism and misogyny from canoncial dudes such as Aristotle and Rousseau. Leiter follows up here. There are a few must-read posts at Feminist Philosophers here, here, here and here.

I have two main thoughts to add. The first regards Penaluna's point that women are not attracted to philosophy because of its dominance by men and the misogyny in the canon. I see how that might explain, to some extent, the fact that we don't have many women. But I don't see how it explains the fact that we lag behind other disciplines in the humanities and sciences with which we are most continuous (I'm thinking of literature and psychology, though I realize this claim is contentious). I am more impressed by the suggestion that a large part of the problem is that we haven't made much of an effort to attract women, but off the top of my head I can't think of ways to attract women that wouldn't seem ham-fisted and condescending. I am open to suggestion.

Second, Leiter and Jender suggest that the APA ought to do a study like the one the Australian Association of Philosophy did. Leiter says, "Surely the American Philosophical Association could manage something similar."

I completely disagree. The APA obviously could never manage anything remotely like that.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sample Syllabi for Courses You Ain't Taught

Anon 10:05 asks,
I assume that it is OK just to make shit up in the case that one has not actually taught the courses that one wants to indicate readiness for, right?
The advice I have received is, you totally ought to include sample syllabi for courses you haven't taught but are prepared to teach. Two caveats: 1. The syllabus should not make the false suggestion that you have taught the course. It shouldn't have the semester, room number, meeting times, and stuff. 2. The syllabus should be detailed--possibly more detailed than would be normal for an actual class. You don't want to give the impression that you just cracked open the standard book for that topic and decided to go through it at the rate of a chapter a week, for example. You want it to look like you put a lot of thought into how the course will be structured and what material you will cover. You probably shouldn't just make shit up. You should probably try to make sure that they are good, too. Unless you're applying for jobs I'm applying for. Then, make shit up that sucks.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Three Letters: At Least 3, or Only 3?

This issue came up in a side conversation in a previous thread, but I thought it warranted its own discussion. Anon 12:55 asks,
Letters of recommendation: they ask for 3. Sending 4 instead: always a bad idea, always a good idea, something in between? Elaboration appreciated.
And I said,
I always thought that the rule for letters is "as many as possible." I did a little research, and I don't think I know anybody who sends just 3. I was told that getting more and better letters, particularly from people who are not directly invested in your success, was one of the best things a candidate can do to improve her chances of nailing a job.
But anon 3:28 says,
I also heard the opposite advice -- they ask for 2, they want the strongest 2, and anything further would be diluting. that said, I always send (what I assume to be) the strongest x (2 or 3 have been small numbers I encountered recently) plus a teaching letter which I note in my cover letter is sent with that intent.
But I've never heard of that. Plus, I don't have any idea how to rank my letters from strongest to weakest. I've never read my letters. Plus, I'm not the one who sends them out. Plus, I don't even think there is even any provision in my Ph.D.-granting program's placement procedures for this sort of thing. And as if that wasn't enough, it would make the department secretary whose job it is to put these files together that much more involved. So I say, as many letters as possible is the right strategy.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Diff'rent Strokes for Diff'rent Folks?

Popkin asks:
different schools request different materials from applicants. For instance, I notice that Northwestern only asks you to send them a "complete CV along with list of references." In such cases, will the committee be annoyed if you send them more than they've requested? Is it a bad idea to send your letters or your teaching portfolio or whatever to a department that hasn't specifically requested those materials?
My first year out I sent everything to everyone with little in the way of results. Last year I sent each department only what they specifically asked for, but didn't do any better. So I don't really know.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, October 12, 2009

Miscellaneous Gripes about Job Ads

What's the deal with ads that say "AOC: open," and then immediately list a bunch of areas in which the successful candidates will be expected to teach courses on a regular basis? Maybe I don't know what an AOC is supposed to be, but that seems like it.

What's the deal with ads where you have to create an account on the school's "jobs" website in order to see the AOS? Why not just put that information in the first sentence of the ad, where it belongs?

What's the deal with ads that don't mention the courseload? Fuck that.

I know I've complained about this before, but there has got to be a way to ensure that each ad gets identified by just one ad number, even though it might be duplicated in later editions of the JFP. We can put a man on the moon.

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, October 10, 2009

VAPping versus the tenure track

In comments, anon 2:51 asks an interesting question:
I've got a very good VAP in a good city. I get to teach a variety of courses, largely of my own choosing. I have lots of good students. And I could likely extend the VAP for several more years if I keep up the good work, etc. . . . (Others will likely find themselves in such a situation. I figure that there will be many more semi-permanent or long term VAPs in the coming years. . . .)

The thing is that there are several TT jobs in places where I'm not sure I could live. The trade off--job security for terrible city--doesn't seem worth it. In fact, a job for life in some of these places sounds like a life sentence in an ultra-minimal security prison.

I'm trying to figure out what risks one runs in staying in a VAP and not taking a TT job. (Put aside the fact that I likely won't face this choice this year.) If VAPing was like any other kind of job, one where you don't get laid off every year, then I don't think it would be so bad given the alternatives. . . .
On the one hand, you might end up with a TT job in a place you hate. On the other hand, you might not end up with a TT job at all. I guess, without really knowing the details, I'd take the TT job in the unappealing location. You might end up liking it, and you can always go back on the market when you're up for tenure or something. (by the way, are there any statistics on going on the market when you're up for tenure?)

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Once More Unto the Breach

It's up! 140 ads.

[edited to remove link - I think we assumed you'd have to log in to access it]


For Reference, last year the number was just shy of 270 (before cancellations)

-- SS

Update: When you look at the web-onlies, there are 256 ads total.

Later Update: last year there were 507 ads published on October 10th. Fuck.

Even More Later Update: Seriously, APA, what's with the same ad appearing with different ad numbers all over the place?

-- Mr. Zero

Latest Update: I realize the naïveté is at work when I found it strangely exciting to look at the JFP seriously for the first time.

I wait for the panic. The above comparisons are making it creep slowly. Full on anxiety attacks to happen soon. For now, I'll stick to taking deep breaths and marking down the numbers to the jobs that have earned the privilege of second looks and applications from yours truly...and everyone else. Fuck indeed.

Latest of the late updates: Anon. 4:00 p.m. has already called dibs on the Wisconsin job. Damn it. We should have gone to an auction for this year's job draft format, not a dibs system.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Everything's Cool

Whew... ok.. ok.. We're cool.. Everyone can just calm down.. the APA's making sure that we can all get the JFP online tomorrow.

Try to save some freak-out energy for then.

Thanks APA!

-- Second Suitor

APA Don't Transition the Website until AFTER the JFP comes out!

Anyone else get an automatically generated e-mail talking about how the APA website may be down for a few days as it transitions to a new hosting facility?

Ok, practical jokers...ha ha...that was funny.

They're not seriously going to have the website go down the weekend the JFP comes out...right?

-- Second Suitor

Update: Spiros, in all his usual correctness, has this to say:
As if it were not already utterly plain to anyone who's not an idiot, this goes to show that the APA does not give a shit about jobseekers. This is ridiculous. Stop paying your dues.
-- JD

Bring on the major leagues

Waiting to get officially baptized into what will be my first full foray onto the job market. Most assuredly it won't be my last given all the doom-y prognostications. 120; really? For how many candidates? Let's get an over/under on this shits in the comments.

Nonetheless, I'm feeling a bit manic. I'm ready to blow this motherfucker's windows out with my sheer attractiveness as a talented philosopher.

I mean, at least I *think* I am ready and talented. I'm not just kidding myself, right?.


Who am I kidding? I'm not ready.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Philosophy Jobs Wiki

Via PFS, we learn of, a new philosophy jobs wiki.

Gird your loins. T-minus 2 days. Shit.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Financial Crisis and the Decay of Public Universities

Bob Herbert has a nice (if that's a word that can appropriately be applied given the subject matter) op-ed column in Saturday's New York Time about the effect the economy is having on UC Berkeley. And, of course, the same things are happening in schools all over the country, public and private.

I understand that state governments are getting hammered. Most of them are constitutionally prohibited from running a deficit, unlike the federal government. I'm in a much better position to see this now that I'm a faculty member, although I have no real administrative responsibilities. But, obviously, it is of absolutely vital importance to keep public universities flourishing, and they're the most vulnerable.

The ironic thing is that there appears to be an inverse relationship between the general quality of state governance and the degree to which the financial crisis is causing problems for the states in general and public universities in particular. States who collect a lot of taxes, spend a lot of money, and do a lot for their residents are being hit hardest; states who don't do much are having an easier time skating by. (Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed column about this a few weeks ago, and, of course, drew the exactly wrong conclusion.) Bummer, dude.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Moral intuitions and cultural relativism

When I teach introduction to ethics I spend some time on cultural relativism. I present several objections to the view, mostly based on counterintuitive consequences involving certain moral behaviors, such as criticizing one's own society's moral code. I've noticed that in the context of discussions of cultural relativism, students become hesitant to trust their own moral intuitions. "Who are we to say," they say.

But this hesitation completely disappears the next day when we move on to discussion of utilitarianism. I present standard criticisms of this view, most of which are based on the idea that it misclassifies certain actions--it classifies certain wrong actions as right or obligatory. Now the students are unhesitating. "Yeah, you absolutely can't perform the organ harvest. No way," they say.

Although I realize this is not scientific, I guess I think it's pretty weird. Maybe contemplating cultural relativism gets people in a more tolerant mood. But the harms contained in the counterexamples to utilitarianism (organ harvesting; free-riding; etc.) pale in comparison to the harms we discuss in connection with relativism (Jim Crow; slavery; the holocaust; etc.). Maybe just introducing the prospect of relativism primes them to regard morality as relative. Does this happen to other people?

--Mr. Zero