Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Conducting Interviews in Bedrooms

Over at Leiter, there's been some interesting discussion about interviewing in bedrooms. Robert Allen says,

I should have thought that we philosophers were a little more relaxed in our dealings with each other than to fuss over interview settings (or even "stares and worse," i.e., boys being boys). Whatever happened to being of good cheer and leaving the professionalism to the attorneys and politicians?

It has been my experience that "boys will be boys" is shorthand for "men are assholes, and you should put up with it, because they're men and they like having fun at your expense." This is one of the things I hate about being a man.

And I hate this "good cheer" argument more than anything. Why does everyone else have to have good cheer in the face of what an asshole you are? What happened to "good cheer yourself, and don't be an asshole"? You can start by conducting your interviews sitting up, with shoes on like a civilized person, and not in a room dedicated to sleeping and/or fucking.

I see why you'd think philosophers shouldn't adopt the same standards for professionalism as lawyers. But that doesn't mean that just anything goes. You're interviewing someone for a potentially permanent job teaching at the college level. You are not having someone over to your studio apartment to sit on your murphy bed watch a football game.

And let's not forget that we applicants are required to wear (something like) a suit to these interviews. What would happen to an applicant who showed up to the interview without shoes on and in a tee shirt that says "Beards: they grow on you"? That person's failure to present himself in a professional manner would demonstrate a lack of seriousness that would rule him out as a candidate. Why shouldn't the interviewing department hold themselves to some (non-lawyerly) standard of professionalism?

Furthermore, the applicant a lot of money to attend the conference, too, but this money comes out of her own pockets, not her institution's yearly budget. That a search committee would demand that I make myself uncomfortable, in a way that may or may not be sexual in nature, in order to save them a few dollars, what with the high cost of conducting completely unnecessary interviews, makes me feel a range of emotions between incredulity, nausea, and blind rage.

Alex Taylor says,

Setting aside the question of whether it is sexist or heterosexist to suggest that women might feel more vulnerable in such a setting, I am puzzled to see that so few of you have realized that sexual harassment can happen in a suite just as easily as it can in a bedroom. If Dr. Creepy wants to harass a woman interviewee he can do so with or without a bed. If this is a naive view - if sexism and harassment are so prevalent - I would suggest that there is a much deeper problem in the discipline, one that should be addressed but cannot be overcome simply by throwing our money away on expensive suites.

For one thing, nobody says that sexual harassment can happen only in bedrooms. Jesus fuck. The point is they are more likely to happen in a bedroom. Even genuinely innocuous behaviors are much more likely to be seen as nocuous in a room whose dominant feature is a piece of furniture you use for sleeping and fucking on.

For another thing, Mark Lance says he did some empirical research. He asked 100 women who were on or had recently been on the market about bedroom interviews. The splits were not favorable to Taylor's view: it was 98 to 2 against. He says, "the majority regaled me with stories of terrible experiences." Now, this is unscientific and should not be regarded as "proof." But it creates a presumption in favor of the view that bedroom interviews are bad that must be rebutted by actual evidence, not a priori musings which assumptions are sexist or whatever.

Of course, Taylor's is a naive view, and there totally is a deeper problem in the profession. And it cannot be overcome simply by holding interviews in rooms other than bedrooms. But come on. No single thing is going to be sufficient to solve this deep problem with the profession. It's going to take a lot of little things and also some big things. But the "x is one little thing that won't solve the problem by itself; therefore we should not do x" argument is going to rule out every one of those little things, when in fact we should be combating the highly embarrassing lack of a feminine presence in our discipline with every weapon at our disposal. We should not be saying, "Why don't you ladies just have a better attitude about what a bunch of assholes we all are?".

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line

Job Market Season is about to begin, and I am ready:

  • Cover letters; customized across several dimensions. ✓
  • Writing sample. ✓
  • Updated CV. ✓
  • Updated research statement. ✓
  • Updated teaching statement. ✓
  • Sample syllabi, updated. ✓
  • Teaching evaluations, current. ✓
  • Updated letters of recommendation. ✓
  • APA membership, renewed. ✓
  • A vague memory of how I set up a mail-merge last year. ✓
  • Bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse. ✓
  • 1.75L bottle of Bombay Sapphire; 750ml bottle vermouth; bucket of olives; ice. ✓

In addition, I took the time to rewrite my materials in LaTeX; I figured, there's no point in taking the time to learn it without without using to whatever advantage on the job market. Say what you want about the content, my shit looks awesome.

Another thing I spent some time worrying about is the role my dissertation should play in my application materials this time around. Since I've been out for a while now, it seems to me that my dissertation should play a less central role. So now my dissertation is the starting point, but the focus is on what I've accomplished since then.

And although I'm not really excited about it, exactly, I wish the fucking JFP would drop already so I could get on with this fucking thing.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Think Brian Leiter is Mad at Us or Something

Over at Leiter Reports, he's got a thread going about backup plans and alternative options for Ph.D. students who are facing a very bad job market. I left a comment in which I mentioned our thread from a couple weeks ago on this topic, and mentioned some of the backup plans that came up a lot. I guess I thought that since we had such a fruitful discussion, and since way more people read his blog than this one, it would be helpful to let the Leiter Reporters know about it.

Anyways, I thought it was a little weird when he didn't publish the comment. I know he's a pretty serious comment moderator, but I don't think I was being impertinent.

Just thought I'd mention it. No further comment. Nothing more to say.

--Mr. Zero

Update: Professor Leiter sent me an email saying my comment was lost in a spam filter because of the embedded link, and that I should have just asked him what was up.

I guess I should mention that I don't think this is a huge deal. But I thought it was a little odd, so I wrote a quick post it. I'll have some semi-interesting things about the job market and writing philosophy papers soon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The joys of tenure

Presented without comment:
it's nice not to be the only academic blogger who isn't afraid of his own shadow.
(Links added; not part of original post.)

-- Jaded Dissertator

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Instructive" Mistakes

Sometimes, and I don't think I'm the only one who does this, I present what I regard as a clearly mistaken or otherwise flawed formulation of a doctrine or argument in order to demonstrate (or allow the students to demonstrate) what is wrong with it. There are a couple of reasons. For one thing, philosophers can be very persnickety about formulating doctrines and arguments in highly specific ways, and this helps to explain why: if you formulate the doctrine in a careless manner, your doctrine (as formulated) will be susceptible to trivial or insubstantial objections that show the particular sentence to be false without touching the heart of the theory. I often do this to justify a use of a (somewhat) inelegant formulation when there is a clear alternative that is more elegant but which has silly consequences.

It can also serve as an interesting lesson in the history of ideas. If the mistaken formulation is taken from a historical source, it can help the students to get a feel for the history of an idea, and to see how the idea has evolved and changed over time, (hopefully) becoming more sophisticated and awesome.

But I have started to worry that this technique is counterproductive, because some students, once exposed to a mistaken formulation, can never be convinced to let go of it. These students walk away from the discussion thinking that (I have taught them that) principle X or theory Y or argument Z is this garbled or self-contradictory piece of garbage, when the point was supposed to be "it's not that piece of garbage, its this piece of awesome, and here's why." And so the worry is that presenting instructive mistakes is unnecessarily confusing to (some) students, which seems to me to constitute a prima facie reason not to do it.

But it also seems to me that it is unlikely that careful and conscientious students will fall victim to this kind of confusion; and that such a student might well benefit from instructive mistakes; and that if that's true then this sort of thing might make a useful diagnostic tool; and that it is not possible to remove all potential sources of confusion from a philosophy class; and that I am probably overthinking this the way I overthink everything.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


In comments, anon 4:34 says that out of a 180-applicant pool for a search run in 2008, fewer than 20% had publications. As hank points out, this does not square with what I have been lead to believe are the facts on the ground. I have been lead to believe that almost all applicants who are ABD or in their first year out have at least one publication, and that in order to distinguish oneself (in a positive way) from the rest of the applicant pool, it is necessary to have multiple publications in excellent journals.

Can some more search committee members confirm or deny anon's data?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Since I get to post up top

Fuck back-up plans.

When the fuck did 'how to find a job' sessions all turn into 'and hey, that thing you've been working towards for 6 years, you shouldn't plan on that actually working out' sessions?

The fact that even successful grad students really need a back-up plan when going on the market is just completely and totally fucked.

-- Second Suitor

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's Your Back-Up Plan?

On this thread at Leiter, Anon. Grad Student writes,

I agree that "it behooves all job seekers to have back-up plans in place."

However, it would be nice to see a discussion thread devoted simply to this topic on this blog. I am in the middle of finishing my PhD at a strong school, but after watching many friends get ravaged on the job market, I have been forced in to thinking about my back-up plans. But it is tough. One natural back-up plan I always had in the back of my mind was law school. But my research suggests that the law market is pretty bad right now too, so I no longer know how good of a back-up that is. Coming out of my PhD program I won't have any debt, but I have read many horror stories of people coming out of law school, even good ones, with over $100k in debt that can't find a job in this market.

In any event, it would be nice to see a thread started where people could offer up thoughts on backup plans for those finishing up their PhDs, so that those of us in this position can get some fresh ideas for how to think about this tough issue.

I'll be honest with you. I don't have any sort of viable backup plan. I feel like I'm too old to start law school, plus I don't want to be a lawyer at all. You could try to tell me to be a law school professor, but you'd just be playing with my emotions at that point. I've got a few other ideas, but nothing that represents a significant improvement over this line of work.

What's your backup plan, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Latex Questions

I have a couple of Latex-related questions. I could spend a few minutes googling, of course. But I can also post them here, wait go teach class, and find the answers waiting for me when I come back. Plus, maybe some other people are interested in this information. (I know, nobody is.)

1. Is Latex embedding fonts in my PDF file automatically, or is there something I have to do to make it embed them? If so, what?

2. How does one make a template containing various preamble data and formatting boilerplate? I'd like to be able to go to this little dropdown menu, select "philosophy paper" and get everything I've been copy-and-pasting from another document. How do I get this into my dropdown menu?

Thanks, Smokers!

--Mr. Zero

P.S. I'm using TexShop for Mac.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Will It Really Take Longer For Your Ph.D. to Go Stale Now?

The conventional wisdom appears to be that because the super shitty economy has been causing a below-average number of people to get jobs every year for the past several years, it is going to take longer for our Ph.D.s to go stale. That is, future search committees are going to see that we've had trouble getting jobs, but they're not going to hold it against us because they'll understand that we were caught up in the recession. It's not us, it's George Bush, they'll say.

I have found myself wondering (and worrying) whether this is really true. For one thing, it's not as though there are no new Ph.D.s being produced during this time. A lot of these newer Ph.D.s will have less teaching experience and fewer publications than I have, but they'll definitely seem fresher. Not jaded and worn out. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And someone who finishes her dissertation, doesn't defend it, and stays in grad school for a couple of extra years is going to have more time to devote to publishing than me.

And it's not as though nobody is getting jobs right now. There have been people getting hired the last couple of years, just not as many as usual. Maybe future search committees will think that the hot-shots got hired and whoever was left over must be some kind of a cold-shot. Now, a smart, diligent search committee might play moneyball and try to find a talented person who'd been overlooked by an inefficient job market; but a lazy search committee might not. And everyone I know hates being on search committees.

I don't know. This is more doomy-gloomy than I want to be right now. But I've been wondering and worrying about this for a while, and I wonder what the Smokers have to say.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cleaning the inbox, 9/1, part 3

Round 3. Smoker MD writes in to ask if we'll start a thread on transferring programs akin to the one over at Leiter's blog - you can find it by directing your browsers towards his site and skipping over the restaurant reviews and the flaming of random non-philosophers who e-mail mean things to him.

In any case, MD:
I was wondering if someone might start a thread at the Smoker about the issue of transferring programs. It was a recent topic at Leiter's blog and there have been a few interesting replies, especially with regard to the acceptable reasons for doing so (faculty member A, who is the only person working in the AOS of the student, seems to be an acceptable reason...but not much consensus beyond that). I'm not necessarily suggesting piggybacking on the Leiter thread, but something on the perceptions of transferring students would be appreciated.
Emphasis added. So, Smokers, what do you think the perceptions of transfer students are?

-- Jaded Dissertator

Cleaning the inbox, 9/1, part 2

Round 2. JS writes in with the following question:
What would you and your readership think of 'open-source' style peer review (of the kind described in the attached article) for philosophy journals?

I'm curious what flaws/virtues younger philosophers would find with this kind of thing. Here's a link to the piece.
If you haven't read the piece and don't want to read it, here's the basic idea: Journals post submissions online, invite a selected group of experts to post comments on those submissions, and allow others to post comments once they have registered their names. In the process, the authors also seem to be able to respond to the comments.

Doesn't sound like too bad of an idea to me. And, that's the extent of my thoughts on the subject right now. I probably have more to say about it, but I need to schedule more blog posts, get shit out for the PAPA, etc, etc. Stay tuned for Round 3, the final round.

--Jaded Dissertator

Total Bull Shit

As Leiter Reports, the University of Southern Mississippi is firing 29 faculty members, 14 of whom have tenure. Some of them are full professors.

USM is also planning to cut 23 academic departments with an additional four slated for "consolidation."

It's hard out there for a college teacher.

--Mr. Zero

Cleaning the inbox, 9/1, part 1

Hey true believers/fellow smokers. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at y'all, but I've been moving and shaking and ultimately staying put. Long story.

Some questions have been burning a hole in my inbox. I'm going to stagger them out today and get a couple of threads going. Apologies to those who sent in requests a long time ago that I didn't get too. I think they'll still be pertinent sometime.

In any case, Smoker HC writes in and asks:
I have recently landed a 3-year research fellowship, following a grant competition, which allows plenty of research time, a generous benchfee and very limited teaching. I already have a good dossier of papers in peer-reviewed philosophical and cognitive science journals, and have several more in the pipeline. One concern I have is that I heard some people talk about a so-called 'sell by date' for postdocs. At what point (i.e., after how many years of postdoc or teaching assistantships) does the fact that you don't have a TT or faculty job begin to signal to potential employers that you are a less than desirable candidate? I already have 3 years of postdoc experience, and so far my applications for TT and faculty positions have been unsuccessful. I am wondering whether I should immediately begin to apply for those positions, or whether I could afford to wait until 2 years into my present position to further beef up my publication list.
Help out, y'all. Stay tuned for Round 2.

-- Jaded Dissertator