Friday, December 31, 2010

Skype Versus The Eastern APA

There's a funny thread going on at Leiter the past few days about the prospect of Skype interviews replacing in-person interviews at the APA. The advantages of Skype are obvious and obviously decisive: they are less costly; do not require candidates or interviewers to travel across state lines; do not require people to cram all 12 interviews into a two-day period; are better for the environment; provide for greater flexibility in holiday travel plans; reduce the likelihood that you will be stranded by a blizzard or that you will be involved in a hotel fire; et cetera.

The advantages of interviewing at the Eastern APA meeting are more difficult to state in a precise and fair manner. There's no substitute for meeting face-to-face, and we've been doing it this way for as long as anyone can remember. One guy seems to think that we should keep doing the APA thing because when his wife tried to find a job in the "private sector," it was costly and stressful--she had to buy new clothes, print out and mail application materials, stuff like that. Another guy seems to think that the proponents of Skype interviews don't like the E-APA because they are too chicken to attend philosophy conferences at all. Another guy says he doesn't see what the big deal is because our line of work is flexible and so you can see your family lots of times of year besides the holidays. (Maybe some of these are the same guy. Too lazy to look it up.)

These are, of course, really stupid reasons. I think the analogy with "private sector" jobs is instructive, actually. Suppose you live in Omaha and you're applying for a job with a firm in Salt Lake City. Suppose the holidays are coming up, and you were hoping to take your spouse and your offspring to spend a holiday traditionally and typically regarded by Americans as extremely important with your parents in Charlotte. Suppose the Salt Lake City people call you up and say that they want to interview you, but they want you and the other candidates to spend your own money to fly to Boston, stay at the Marriott in Copley Square where they've reserved a block of rooms, and that they're interviewing only on the 28th, 29th, and 30th of December so they hope you didn't make any firm holiday plans. Suppose they say, other firms will be holding interviews in Boston, too, so maybe, if you're lucky, you'll be flying to Boston for more than just this one interview. Suppose that they also say that although they realize that Boston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in America, they want you to keep your evenings free because a crucial and mandatory part of the interview process is a reception they're holding in a weird crowded bar where Bud Lights cost $11 and where you will be required to wander around, waiting for an opportunity to sit down with them and maybe some of your competitors to schmooze and bullshit for a while.

I think this arrangement sounds fucking crazy. I think that when I tell non-philosophers about how the job market works, they think it sounds fucking crazy. And that's because it is fucking crazy. It is fucking crazy. I realize that the APA interview has been the standard thing, but we live in the future and we have video phones like in the Jetsons.

Obviously, Skype is not perfect. Things can go wrong. But come on. Things can go wrong with anything--even flying to Boston in the dead of fucking winter. And are you really so worried about the technical difficulties involved with Skype that you'd rather avoid them by spending your own money to fly to Boston the day after Christmas so you can meet the Salt Lake City people face-to-face in a crowded ballroom in the Marriott Hotel in Copley Square? No, you're not.

--Mr. Zero

P.S. Happy New Year!

Seen at the APA book fair


-- Jaded Dissertator

p.s. The APA is over. That's good. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Man Who Wasn't There

I mentioned that I've been fortunate enough to have had a couple of nibbles this job market season. However, and I'm not sure whether this is unfortunate or fortunate, none of the nibbles required me to go to Boston. So I did not go to Boston. So I am not in Boston.

Once I realized that my presence in Boston would not be required, it occurred to me that it might be more pleasant to take an actual vacation with Mrs. Zero, and not spend any time thinking about how fucked up the situation in Boston is. Or writing about it. So that's what I did. It was fun.

But anyway. If you were going to Boston, I hope you got there safely and that your interviews have gone well. And if you tried to go to Boston but didn't make it, I hope you're still safe, that your interviewing departments do the right thing and make arrangements to interview you via Skype or phone or something, and that the APA does the right thing and refunds your registration fee. And if you weren't going to Boston at all, like me, I hope you're enjoying the break and not feeling too bad about the fact that your presence was not required in Boston. At least you avoided the Boxing Day Blizzard APA Clusterfuck of 2010.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kudos, APA updates, etc.

Quickly, because preparation calls.

Again, Spiros is right; or, at least the spirit of his post. There's no denying that Professor Leiter's recent posts have been invaluable for many job seekers, search committees, and the philosophical community at large. In the end, despite any differences of opinion the Reports and the Smoker may have, they can sometimes obfuscate our mutual desire to try to do good by the profession. Kudos.

On another note: Boston is cold, windy, and slushy. I should've brought some getting around shoes and/or boots. My feet are cold. I was miserable this morning, but, my spirits have been lifted by my friends' reports of successful interviews (and beers).

I'm a veritable ray of sunshine now; or, at least will be for another 2 hours. Then, the smoker. Yay. I just hope this impending sickness strikes after tomorrow, rather than tonight.

This isn't to say that things don't still seem fucked up, but, I'm here, so, whatevs. We'll save the complaining for the post-mortem.

Best to all.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm coming out of hibernation because as one of the lucky few - and sitting across from another - who has a real reason to go to Boston, I think it's a bit odd - to put it mildly - that search committees haven't e-mailed me or anyone that I know of and that the APA can't even be bothered to wake somebody up, mildly inconvenience them - and I do understand it would be an inconvenience and I also realize how much this sounds like a student bitching about how it took me three days to get back to them - and have them put up a note at least saying:
'Hey, bros. Sorry, but the APA is still on. We have encouraged search committees to set up Skype or telephone interviews to accommodate those who will be unable to travel safely to Boston, e.g., everyone who doesn't live in or isn't already in Boston.

We also hope that you won't hold it against us that we have yet to reconsider this whole having the APA in a cold weather city on the East Coast after a major holiday. We're working on it, but even the first few Super Bowls were played in cold weather cities - and some still are - so, we weren't the only organization to completely punt the ball on the biggest event of our profession repeatedly. We hope our weather control machine prototype will be out of R&D next year for the next APA and we won't run into these issues again.

So, we're still cool, right, dawgs? See you at the smoker; let's get fucked up on free beer again this year (just try to not throw up all over your interviewers! HAHAHAHA, j/k; but you were wasted, bro!)!


The Eastern APA

p.s. Sorry about putting the conference in Times Square last year. I thought it would be sweeter than it was.'
Barring this note being put up, I think Spiros is right.

--Jaded Dissertator

Monday, December 20, 2010

Even When It's Good It's Bad

I've been having a pretty decent year on the market for the first time this year (my fourth year on the market). I've got a couple of nibbles, one of which I'm extremely excited about and the other of which is very close to my Platonic ideal. I'm really happy about these developments and I would love--LOVE--to have either one of these jobs.

But in spite of that, my overall experience over the last month or so has been decidedly negative. Part of that is that there is a moment where the elation that comes from having snagged an interview turns to dread that I will now have to convince these people to hire me. Another is that for every interview I've been granted, there are at least 15 I've missed. Getting one or two interviews and then seeing 15 or 30 jobs go down the drain has a way of taking the wind out of my sails. And then I start to think about how an interview isn't a job, it's a 1 in 4 chance of getting a campus visit. And a campus visit isn't a job, it's a 1 in 3 chance of getting an offer. And then I think, fuck.

To be clear, I am not trying to complain about my interviews. I am making an observation complaining about my own fucked up emotions. Even when I'm doing well, I can't make myself feel good about it. I'm stressed about my interviews, stressed about getting campus visits, and stressed about how I don't have more interviews.

Gotta love the job market.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Are Interviews Like?

In comments, Fulci asks,

I had a mock interview today that was like my dissertation defense but vastly more aggressive. I was shocked and responded VERY badly. Is this what interviews are really like? As soon as it started my thought was: I wouldn't want to work with jerks like this anyway. Are liberal arts interviews like this? If they are, I'm canceling mine. I'm terrified now...

I've had just a few interviews, but I've never had a real one that was close to as aggressive as the mock interview I was given before I went on the market for the first time. My mock interviewers told me that they would be far more aggressive than any real interview situation I was likely to encounter, so that I'd find my actual interviews relatively tame. (Also, my interviewers said this ahead of time, so I knew it was coming.)

It has been my experience that the less "research" oriented a department, the less aggressive the questioning. I had an interview with a highly teaching oriented department that did not touch on my research at all, although I think that's pretty unusual.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the call..

It's a number not in my phone book. What's that area code.. can't recognize it. Ok good. take a deep breath. be cool, be cool..


"Hi, I'm calling to ask if you're willing to donate to help ki.."


Come on man, don't play me like that.

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How To Tell Someone to Please Fuck Off

I've received a handful of competent PFOs over the years. Here are a couple of examples. The first is from Pitt:

Dear [Mr. Zero],

I am sorry to inform you that the Junior Appointments Committee has decided not to pursue your candidacy further at this point. We received nearly two hundred responses to our advertisement, including a great many from highly talented and accomplished applicants. Obviously there are many different considerations on which our decisions are based, and I hope you will appreciate that I cannot go into specifics about individual cases. We will keep your dossier on file until next year, when we shall probably be advertising a junior position again.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your credentials, and let me wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Sincerely yours,
John McDowell

Or this one, from UChicago, which I received in the spring of '08:

Thank you very much for your application to our advertised position. After a long and careful process, I regret to say that we are not furthering your candidacy. I wish you the very best in your further endeavors, and look forward to many years as colleagues in our common profession.

"Yours very warmly, ...

In comments here, Zombie mentions another, from UDelaware, that isn't bad:

Dear applicant,

Thank you very much for applying for the position of assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Delaware. I am sorry to have to tell you that we are only able to interview twelve of the four hundred candidates who applied and you were not among those selected.

I hope you will excuse the impersonal nature of this email and accept our best wishes for success in your search of a suitable position.
Search Committee Chair

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Job I Won't Be Applying For

From Higher Ed Jobs comes this doozy at Harper College of Palatine, IL:

Job Description: Teach 30 contact hours of introductory foundational philosophy courses each academic year.

Duties of Position: Teach 30 contact hours each academic year according to the full-time faculty contract in a student-centered environment. Hold 10 office hours each week. Serve on departmental, divisional, and college committees and pursue professional development in discipline-related field.

I've never heard the expression 'contact hour' before, but it has to be synonymous with the more standard "credit hour." I checked, and they're on the semester system and their standard philosophy course is three credits. So, what we're dealing with is a non-tenure-track [edit: the job is tenure track] job with a 5-5 load, mandatory 10 office hours a week, extensive administrative committee assignments, and pursuit of professional development (is that admin code for publishing?). Fuck that. [edit: discussion in comments has led me to soften my view about this job. I still don't think I'm going to apply for it, but it doesn't seem to be the monster I initially thought].

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rocking the Passive Voice II

I just got a nice PFO, which reads:

Dear applicant,

The [...] search committee has narrowed down the finalists. We received over one hundred applications for this position. The selection process was very competitive. Unfortunately, your application was not among them.

We wish you the best in your academic endeavors,


[some guy]

This is truly wonderful. My application was not among them. What was it not among? The competitive selection process? That doesn't make sense. The one hundred applications? No, it was; otherwise I wouldn't be receiving this PFO. The finalists. Yes. So you have to go three sentences back to find the antecedent for this pronoun. Nice writing.

And, naturally, this situation is something that has just happened to us. They didn't do anything, or anything. They were just sitting around, looking at the piles, and they noticed that my application was not among the finalists. And this is something they regard as unfortunate. That's good, at least.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 10, 2010

Progress on the Wiki

It seems that listings on the wiki are turning yellow at a furious pace now. I did a quick count about an hour ago, and 60 entries had turned yellow or orange, and 127 were still green. So there's a long way to go. But I'm having a pretty brutal day.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Funniest Thing To Have Come Out of the Job Market Wiki So Far This Year

From the job listing at University of Houston-Victoria (TX) (Asst. Prof.). Someone changed the status to "Offer Made" on December 6 at 13:56 GMT. This exchange followed in comments.

Posted on 6 Dec 2010 at 2:03 pm from IP x



Posted on 6 Dec 2010 at 3:30 pm from IP y

People messing with the wiki

I changed this back, since whoever posted this also posted that the Siena search was canceled. Someone is obviously messing with the wiki.

[This last is untrue. The IP of the person who posted the UHV news was different from that of the person who (falsely) posted that the Sienna search was canceled. That IP reported that first-round interviews had been scheduled the minute before it reported the cancellation. Probably an accident.]

Posted on 6 Dec 2010 at 6:33 pm from IP [=the one that changed the UHV status]

Fine, don't believe me

I don't know who canceled the Siena posting (it wasn't me), but I did get the job offered to me. They had phone interviews a few weeks ago and on-campus interviews last week. This job is moving super fast. They want an answer within days.

The best part is the way the person says, "Fine, don't believe me." I love that. When someone doesn't believe you, say "fine." I'm going to start doing that in class.

But in all seriousness, what do you think about this hiring strategy? It's clearly designed to prevent the candidate to whom they offered the job from considering other offers. I'm not saying this is deeply immoral or something, but it makes me a little uneasy. In such a depressed market, of course, the strategy is unlikely to have any genuine negative effect on the candidate; how likely is it, after all, for even the best candidate to get two offers this year? And I guess a person could accept the one offer and back out if a better one were to materialize (although the morality of that strategy is questionable, too). But still.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview Rehash3

I'm moving this to the front from 11/19, in honor of "if we're lucky we'll get interviews this week" week.

I thought we could do this a little earlier than usual this year, since there seems to be a not-insignificant number of search committees scheduling first-round interviews already. So let's start thinking about what questions interviewers will be asking at the APA, should you be so fortunate.

Here's the list from three years ago, with some additions from comment threads from last year and the year before:

Course content

1. What kind of intro do you teach and why? As Anon. 1:58 puts it, "What do you cover in Intro and why? Do you give a historical or problems course? Do you emphasize methods or content? Primary sources or textbook?"

2. Inside the Philosophy Factory's got a broader take on the same idea. She asks, what's your "vision for 'normal' philosophy courses and your methods for teaching logic? Here you'll want to explain the kinds of exercises you'll do to keep students engaged. You'll also want to explain your assessment methods for those courses."

Interdisciplinary and cross-department teaching

3. What would you teach if you got to design your own course integrating material from other disciplines?

4. From Sisyphus, "How would you teach our cross-listed courses with gen ed./the Core Curriculum/some other department/the writing program?"

Engaging students

5. How would you engage students that are required to take philosophy courses but who otherwise would not have?

6. Here's a variation from Anon. 1:58: "How would you get students at our school interested in your class X? Why would our students want to take it?"

7. John Turri's talking engagement too, but he's going a different direction: "What techniques would you use to engage students, in the same class, of very different levels of ability and interest?"


8. Back to Sisyphus: "How would you work with our students as opposed to the ones at your current institution" (i.e., differences in diversity, age, college prep, money, types of feeder schools, a religious mission, they are all huge b-ball fans, etc.)"

9. Here's Inside the Philosophy Factory: What are "your methods for adjusting to different preparation levels in the classroom? Here is where you'll have to explain how you'll deal with the kid who can't read and the kid who had to come home from Princeton sitting next to one another in your freshman Ethics course."

Teaching practices

10. How does your research inform your teaching?

11. From Anon. 1:58: "What is your strength/weakness as a teacher? What is special about your classes? What do you feel you need to work on?"

12. John T again: "What incentives do you build into the course to encourage your students to actually do the reading?"

13. What technology do you use in teaching? Besides chalk, I guess.

14. From Inside the Philosophy Factory: How would you "deal with a few students who are doing badly in the class -- and how you would deal with a significant portion of the class that is doing badly? She recommends, "The key with the student is to offer more help and to understand what resources are available to help students who need more assistance. With the class who is doing badly, discuss how you'd do some review to reinforce some important concepts AND to do classroom assessment techniques like asking about the 'muddiest point' etc."


15. From Sisyphus, "what sorts of limitations do you see yourself working around in your research here (i.e., how will you deal with our heavy teaching load and research requirements at the same time?)?"

16. And Michael Cholbi underlines the point: "Be ready to talk about how you'd teach large courses (50+) on your own."

Michael C. also recommends having a handful of memorable points to make about your teaching. Now, nothing makes a talking point go down smooth like a charming little anecdote. . . .

Regarding Faculty Interaction (from "Use"; in comments 2 years ago.)

17. How do you plan to deal/how have you dealt in the past with disagreements with other faculty members?

18. How do you think you would fit in with our current faculty?

19. If you were on a search committee within our department, what would the three most important qualities of a candidate be?

20. What is the most exciting prospect about working with our current faculty?


21. From Anon. 1:58: "What was your worst/best moment as a philosophy teacher and why? How did you react/respond?"

22. Sisyphus again: "Describe a time you had to deal with a problem student."

23. And back to Inside the Philosophy Factory: Describe "your most challenging teaching situation and your most rewarding experience. Here is where you tell the story about little Jimmy who was sure he couldn't do logic -- who had talked himself out of being able to pass the class and who finally ended up passing the class"

24. Anon. 1:58: "From a religious school: How would you get along with our students?"

25. Inside the Philosophy Factory Again: Talk about "your professional development. Here is where you'll want to talk about the teaching seminars you're attending via your grad university, how you are a member of APT etc... This is not where you give details about conference papers, publications etc -- unless there is a research element to your position. Then you make it about 50/50."

26. "Suppose someone (perhaps a community member, and not necessarily a student) came to you and asked how to resolve moral problem X. What would you tell them to do?"

27. "Which do you see as you primary focus--teaching or research?"


28. As far as research questions go, be prepared to discuss the most basic, foundational issues related to your work. You have probably spent 90% of your recent efforts defending what to those outside of your specialty may look like very minor points. Be prepared to engage in the big picture stuff. (From anon 12:46 in comments last year.)


29 What is philosophy? (from R. Kevin Hill, in comments 2 years ago)

30 Prepare for questions about grants and other outside funding. It's not something that philosophers usually consider, but it is becoming an important factor at some institutions. (from anon 2:20, in comments last year.)

31 “In these financially challenging times what skills or talents can contribute to the university as a whole?” (from anon 2:02, in comments last year.)

You might also want to read the comments on this post, this post, this post, this post, and also this, this, and this article in IHE.

Any additions? Any resources I've overlooked?

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mental Health Break

As the weeks in which most departments will be contacting candidates for APA interviews approach, it is especially important to take a few moments to calm down, take a few deep breaths, and watch a video of a kitten riding on a small tortoise while Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" plays.

You're welcome.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thom Brooks's Advice for Referees

The Smokers are probably familiar with the guide to publishing that Thom Brooks wrote a few years ago and revised last year. (If not, here it is.) What you might not know is that he has recently written a guide to refereeing papers for journals. (Or maybe you do, if you read his blog or Leiter.) It contains a brief overview of the academic publishing industry, a guide to selecting the right standard for acceptance, and a guide to writing your report. It's good, and it's here. Thanks to Professor Brooks for putting it together.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Of Us Has Missed The Point

In a recent thread at Leiter, in which Thom Brooks posed some questions about referee guidelines, an anonymous graduate student comments:

All the comments so far seem to forget that blind review goes in two directions. A senior faculty member in my department likes to point out that she very often knows who wrote the articles she reviews, but the important thing is that the authors don't know she's the one reviewing them -- which means she can be fully honest in her assessments of their work.

That said, given what we know about unconscious bias, it is important for reviewers at least to be self-reflective about this. Which I understand some are not very inclined to do.

It seems to me that this faculty member has it all wrong. (I'm not sure exactly how much of this the anonymous commenter believes, and how much s/he is merely attributing to the faculty member.) Blind review goes in two directions, and this means that the referee is not supposed to know whose paper it is. Because, as the anonymous commenter notes, there are loads of unconscious biases, and blind review is supposed to control for them. But it is not enough to be "self-reflective" about this. If the biases are unconscious, it is literally not possible to correct them via self-reflection. The way to correct them is to eliminate the bits of knowledge they operate on. And so the effective way to be self-reflective about latent biases is to acknowledge that they are there, and to realize that blind review procedures are the only way to protect against them, and to observe those procedures.

Or am I missing something?

--Mr. Zero

P.S. The faculty member is right about how the author shouldn't know who the referee is.