Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dispatch from the APA

An anonymous Smoker writes with the following stories:

Here were my first two hours at the APA:

1) As I approach the registration desk, the first thing I see is a prominent philosopher whose book is the subject of an author meets critics session telling the person at the desk that the program has the title of her book wrong.  She tells the person at the desk that the mistake is "embarassing".

2) In front of me is a philosopher who pre-registered on November 11th.  His credit card was set to expire on 12/1.  The APA waited until December to run his credit card and thus was not able to proces his payment.  The woman at registration tells him "Just because you submitted your registration on November 11 does not mean that we ran your credit card on November 11."  Okay, fair enough, but it really took you (at least) three weeks?  What is more, this philosopher, realizing that there might be a problem actuallly e-mailed the APA to let them know that his credit card was set to expire in December.  Apparently, they sent him back an e-mail saying that everything was fine, even though it was not.

3) Having registered for the conference, I headed down to placement services to register there.  There were three men sitting in front of computers registering people.  Two of them were only serving candidates who had pre-registered and one was there for candidates who were registering on site.  Virtually no one in line had pre-registered.  Now I understand setting aside a couple computers for those who pre-registered but if there was no one there who had pre-registered, you would think they would help those of us who were registering on site until someone who pre-registered showed up.   But no.  These two men sat there engaging in idle chit chat while the line for on-site registration stretched around the corner.  Only one of three terminals was being used.  The visual was so comical that I thought about taking a picture and sending it to fail blog.

4) After I registered with placement services, I headed to a session, which was scheduled for 6:30.  Someone (presumably from the APA) put a sign on the door saying that the session would start at 7:15.  This resulted in one of the speakers showing up 45 minutes late.

By themselves, any one of these errors are the kinds of things you expect at any large event.  But how could I witness all of these things in my first two horus at the conference and not conclude that the APA is incompetent?


--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 26, 2011

Things to Do in the District

Tips for cool things to see, restaurants, places to avoid, etc? I've been to Washington before, but it was a long time ago and I didn't have much time to spend. My advice would not be useful to anyone who'd so much as looked at a map of the place. What should people do while they're there?

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where's the Tylenol?

Merry "an asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer" Day from all of us at the Philosophy Smoker.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If You Don't Have Interviews, Don't Go

I strongly agree with the advice of anon 9:19, here:

If you have no interviews and are on the market, I _highly_ advise you to avoid the Smoker and the APA. If you've already bought tickets, just let the money go. There is no pain like being interviewless at the APA (if you're on the market).

I may have written about this before, but I went to the E-APA with no interviews my first year out. It was aggressively terrible. I was surrounded by friends who had interviews, who were acutely and intensely stressed out about doing well in their interviews. I, on the other hand, was experiencing a much deeper, existential anxiety. I felt like a ghost. Everything was going on around me, but I couldn't touch it. My friends could at least go some distance toward managing their stress by preparing for their interviews; I had nothing.

Sometimes people say that you should go once just to get a taste of the meat-market atmosphere without the pressure of being involved. That's possible. But I don't think it's worth it, and if you're going to do it, you should do it before you're on the market at all. By the time you're on the market, it's definitely not worth it.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm crying in my... beer?

Seems like it's time to wallow (oh, you have interviews? must be nice...). For anyone else in the same boat, here are the steps I recommend:

Step 1: Pick you poison.

Vodka? What, so you can drink like a freshman, vomit and piss on that car as you're stumbling back home?

Beer? Seems like a better choice - a good variety for any occasion.

Me Tonight: Whiskey. More specifically: Bourbon.

Step 2: Assess your mood.

Need your body to feel the pain emanating from your heart? Visit with your friend Evan Williams (or his slightly more alcoholic neighbor Ezra Brooks). After all, he helped get you through those years of hard work that are not paying off.

Perhaps that hard work should pay off and what you need is consolation. A Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek -- apparently any bourbon with a bottle shaped like an oversized flask. The pain here comes in your wallet, but hey, you don't need to pay for that hotel room at the APA.

Tonight: I don't need pity and I don't need pain. Just a solid, stalwart drink to get proper perspective. Perhaps a Wild Turkey Rye. Or maybe I'll skip the rye and go with the wheated oak-heavy W.L. Weller. Ultimately, I'm actually doing well. It's mainly this whole 'job security' thing that rears it's ugly head every year.. just in time for Christmas!

Step 3: Take you medicine.

Comments on appropriate job market drinks or drinking away your problems are welcome.

-- Second Suitor

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A bunch of questions for y'all that I should have posted a long time ago but didn't because I'm not as good at blogging as I used to be

From Prof. Lurker, about advisors and the APA:
Is it perceived as either (a) a moral norm or (b) an important convention that the supervisors of job seekers be there at the Eastern APA for moral support, networking help etc.? I've done so in the past, but felt completely useless -- so far, no one has ever needed my advice or a shoulder to cry on at that stage, and I'm not very good at the networking-with-strangers stuff. (People I actually know at the hiring schools I will email well before then.) So, what are your experiences and perceptions? As a job seeker, have you found it helpful or reassuring to have your advisor there? Is there a perception that a student whose advisor isn't there is being less enthusiastically supported? On the simplifying assumption that it's otherwise a pointless inconvenience and waste of money, am I still obliged to go?
FemFilosofer on women's interview attire:
I 've always been amused by the conversations on the blog about interview attire, especially those about women's interview attire. What I've learned from these conversations is that 1) I should wear a suit, 2) I should not wear a suit; a) I should wear heels, b) I should not wear heels; *) I should wear makeup, **) I should not wear makeup. In addition, riding in elevators with interviewees (lucky bastards) at the APA while they discuss the merits of the red tie with the sailboats versus the blue tie with the fleur de lis has become somewhat of a spectator sport for me. I'm probably going to turn all of these things into an article someday. But for now, here's a link to a fun article on Jezebel about the Duke Women Law Student Association. It might be heartening to know that even though the Smoker conversations test my mind's ability to handle contradictions, no one has ever (to my knowledge) informed the philosophy dudettes to get proper bra fittings before the APA. Be heartened, philosophers. We're not the craziest of the crazies.

And, for full disclosure, my preferred interview attire is a skirt and a cardigan. But you won't find me in an elevator at the APA squirming about my decision to wear grey tights instead of black ones.
Perhaps too late, but BR asks and my answer is that you should e-mail the department):
Say that in between the time when an application is due (e.g. Nov. 4, Nov. 15, or Dec. 1 etc.) and the time when the committee makes a decision about APA interviews (December?) one gets a paper accepted for publication (or some other significant thing happens). What should one do? Should one email the department and ask to have their dossier updated?
Okay. I'll try to be better. See y'all at the APA.


Friday, December 16, 2011

pdf annotator/organizer

Amidst being stressed or depressed, have any thoughts on the best way to organize your pdfs and take notes? Have a good system?

I'm playing with Mendeley and ReadCube. I like how both let me collect, search, highlight & take notes (I tend to like the note taking on ReadCube better - I don't like the yellow quote bubble that you have to click on to read the notes). Both seem to have some issues as reference managers, though Mendeley seems to win here.

Any decided preferences? Other program suggestions?

--Second Suitor

ps Grahl pdf annotator served me well letting me write on the pdf if you have a tablet pc (but it's not free).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interview Successes

Although I would hate to derail the amusing and enlightening discussion of fucked-up interview experiences that is now ongoing, I do want to start a parallel discussion of interviews that did not go poorly. In this thread, we tell stories about interviews we nailed.*

Unfortunately, I don't have any (true) story about the time I hit it out of the park, but I have had a couple of interviews that went well enough that I didn't think it was crazy to imagine that I'd get the flyout or the offer. One interview with a Ph.D.-granting department focused on my research (of course). They said they wanted to talk about my writing sample, but what they really wanted to talk about were all the deeper issues that didn't specifically come up in my writing sample but which were hiding slightly under the surface. All the assumptions you have to make in order to get to the point where my question comes up. So, if my writing sample was a defense of utilitarianism from the Organ Harvest objection (it wasn't), they wanted to talk about whether there was any such thing as moral permissibility, in the first place, at all. The nice thing about it is that I was familiar with these deeper issues, thought they were really interesting, had thought about them a lot, and had a near-final draft of a paper in which I respond to exactly the arguments they were pushing. And so I was able to present what I considered to be cogent, well-thought-out responses to their questions. (The paper has since come out in a pretty good journal.) I thought the discussion went really well, and I was really bummed when I didn't get the on-campus. I'm still not sure what, if anything, I did wrong there. In all honesty, I'm not sure I have it in me to give a better interview than that.

--Mr. Zero

*I was trying to think of what the opposite of a "fuck-up" is, and it seemed that it would have to be `fuck-down.' But I didn't think that a post called "Interview Fuck-Downs" would attract the kind of attention I was looking for. So I went with the more pedestrian 'successes' as a clearer alternative.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview Fuckups

I thought it might be good to have a thread on the theme of "what not to do in your interviews," where we could share our "here's how I committed a life-altering fuck-up in a job interview" stories.

Here's one of mine: I was once asked a question about what challenges I have faced in my teaching and how I have met those challenges. The answer I was going for had to do with how some of my students are, sadly, not prepared for college-level work, and I have had to develop strategies for getting these people up to speed in a way that will also be valuable to those students who are better prepared. But the answer I gave implied that the main challenge I face is that my students are total dumbasses who suck, and I have dealt with this challenge by treating them as condescendingly as possible. (This is somewhat of an exaggeration. But not that much.) As I was answering this question, I was aware that I was in the process of blowing the interview. I literally had the thought, "because of this answer I am now giving--because of the sentence I am now uttering--I will not get this job." But it was too late; I was already giving the answer. To give a better answer, it seemed to me, I would have had to stop in the middle of what I was saying--in the middle of the then-current sentence--and start over. I considered doing it, but didn't think I could pull it off.

How to avoid this kind of stuff? I don't know, exactly. One thing is to try to anticipate what questions you'll get, and prepare answers to them in advance, and try to get ones that don't make you seem like a racist asshole. Our annual "interview Rehash" has been very helpful to me over the years in this regard. But, for me, anyway, there is no substitute for experience. My interviewing has gotten progressively better over time, as I've gotten more interviews under my belt.

Does anybody have any fuckup stories they wouldn't mind sharing? Does anybody know a better way to get good?

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 9, 2011

Award for Best Ad of the Year

...goes to #120 in JFP #192W, which reads as follows:

120. CONTRACT FACULTY POSITION/PHILOSOPHY. DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES. The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies invites applications for a one-year, non-renewable contract faculty position available August 17, 2012. 4-4 teaching load, usually two preparations per semester. AOS or AOC: Ethics. Responsibilities: teaching Ethics and possibly Introduction to Philosophy and additional upper level courses; providing service to the department as needed. Minimum qualifications: ABD in Philosophy; ability to teach well Introduction to Ethics. Preferred qualifications: earned doctorate in Philosophy prior to start date; competency in one or more of the following: aesthetics, American philosophy, African American philosophy, critical race theory, queer theory, indigenous philosophy, women and gender studies, animal ethics, or other area of study concerning underrepresented populations; experience in mentoring non-majority students, inclusive pedagogy, and diversity policy issues. The department highly values scholarly teachers, so candidates should be prepared to demonstrate a passion for, and innovation in, the classroom. Send curriculum vitae, graduate school transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a writing sample, a brief statement of teaching philosophy, and a brief statement of research interests to: AnnMarie Adams, Dept. Administrator, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306, or via email to: Electronic submission is strongly preferred. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. ( The department of Philosophy and Religious Studies seeks to attract an active, culturally and academically diverse faculty of the highest caliber. Ball State University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and is strongly and actively committed to diversity within its community. Therefore, we especially encourage applications from candidates that would contribute to this commitment. (192W); posted: 12/9/2011

It doesn't identify the school except in passing when it gives the mailing address. They literally forgot to say what school it is--it's only by accident that it includes the information at all.

--Mr Zero

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gentlemen and women, start your engines

I hope that many of you are getting good news about interviews in the coming days. And those of you who haven't done the interview thing before (and perhaps those of you who have) may have some questions about what to expect, how to prepare, how not to ruin ChristmaHannuKwanzaa for your families, etc.

This is advice from an historian, but it's quite useful and applicable to APA:

This from last year's week of dread Smoker:

Mary Sies' extremely useful article at IHE:

And this thread from LR:

What worked for me: create a master list of questions, and write a response. For me, knowing the answer makes it far easier to extemporise on the spot. (I do the same thing prepping for class. I write extensive notes, but only glance at them for prompts.) You can't take your notes with you to an in-person interview (one of the fringes of a phone interview is that you can have all your notes and papers in front of you), so you have to know what you're going to say.

Mundane advice: When you get the call (or email), you will likely be asked to choose among several interview times. It's easier to handle this question by email, but if by phone, you'll need to have your calendar handy to write down the appointment (and to make sure you don't have any scheduling conflicts). This seems obvious, but the first time I got "the call," I had already concluded that I was not getting any interviews, and was completely unprepared and had to run around my house trying to get it together. This is much harder to do when your head is buzzing loudly from that massive adrenaline rush you just experienced. You may be asked if you have any questions. One question you should ask is "Who will I be meeting with?" Get their names. (Later, look them up. Read something they've written that's of interest to you. You'll have time on the plane ride to DC). Ask who you can contact on the SC if you have any questions prior to the interview. Get contact information in case something happens that prevents you from getting to the show on time.

APA is a mob scene. It's stressful. The wi-fi can be really sucky, so don't count on it working. Take snacks (the food is expensive in the hotels). Try to have fun. Silently judge the other philosophers based on irrelevant factors like hair and shoes. Don't get drunk. Few people are as charming as they think they are when drunk.

Take your intervew clothes in your carry-on bag.

Pray to Khione for good weather (the APA can't handle predictable winter storms).

I'll open this up to the floor for questions. And answers, from thems what gots 'em.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Zachary Ernst's Accusation of Sexism

As you may have heard, there has been some discussion of a piece written Zachary Ernst of Missouri, in which he vocalizes his frustration with the fact that his wife has been subject to an unfavorable tenure vote by his department, and in which he suggests that sexism was a major contributing factor in this vote, and which you can find here.

I spent some time poking around the Mizzou philosophy department webpage the other day, and I think 3 things are clear: 1. Prof. Ernst is understandably very frustrated and upset; 2. This is not at all a case in which a denial of tenure was warranted on the basis of insufficient research--her record would have gotten her tenure where I now teach and at every place I've interviewed where they told me what I'd need to do to get tenure; 3. There are a bunch of facts we don't have, such as: the tenure procedures and criteria employed at Mizzou; how tough it is generally to get tenure there; the content of her reference letters; details about teaching; etc. So although the charge of sexism does not seem implausible, neither is it obviously true in light of what we don't know.

This is a sensitive issue, obviously, so let's try harder than usual to stay cool. I'm going to exercise more discretion than usual in comment-moderation in this one.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, November 21, 2011

Online Applications for the Third Year in a Row

After years of complaining about it, I'm finally sold on the online application process. Maybe it's just that I'm getting used to it, but it was not at all terrible this year. Easily three fourths of my applications this year were online, so it might also have just been that I was in "online application" mode from the start. It's still pretty obnoxious how you have to fill out the same contact info/references data in every application, but this year my autofill did a better job of filling out the forms for me, so it wasn't as much of a hassle.

Another nice thing about online apps is this: when I prepare paper applications, I am very bad about knowing how many of each document I will need and I always end up having to print out one or two more of a bunch of documents at the last minute. Obviously CVs and writing samples are easy, since everybody wants those, but I never print out enough research statements or syllabuses for business ethics. Online applications make this a non-issue.

Also, online applications are much, much cheaper. Way cheaper. Vastly cheaper.

And it seems like people are getting better about having "upload" slots for each required document. I only had one unexpected occasion to go into Adobe and make a combination PDF of several required documents.

It's also nice not to have to wait around for all the photocopies to copy. Making 30 or 40 copies of your writing sample is time-consuming and annoying. And I always do my copying in the evenings so I don't tie up the copier during the day, so it was nice not having to do very much of that.

But if I may make a suggestion, please put the application process all online or all offline. No more of this "submit these three documents electronically and then these four documents in hard copy" bullshit. That's the worst. Pick one.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Evidence of excellence in teaching"

Comments on the last post indicate an interest in the teaching portfolio, particularly for applications to those institutions where teaching is "valued." There was much discussion of the value of student evaluations, but I think a more general discussion of the teaching portfolio would be informative for job applicants.

I haven't served on a search committee, so I can only speak for what apparently worked for me as an applicant. My teaching portfolio included: a teaching statement, selected syllabi (tailored to the interests of the hiring dept), and student eval data sheets (with departmental data sheets for context) for every class I ever taught (but not the actual Scantron sheets or the student comments). Additionally, I would send a letter of recommendation from a faculty evaluator at a previous adjunct job. For a job where teaching was emphasized over research, I would send a CV with the teaching experience moved to the top, research further down. All in all, my complete teaching package came to 41 pages, about half of which was the student evals. Sometimes, I did not send the evals, because of file size limitations on e-applications. But in my cover letter I would always offer to send additional materials by request.

Some of my syllabi were for courses I had taught, and some were courses I proposed (but did not teach) or for courses I have an interest in teaching. So, some were "made up," but I can say that I put just as much work into constructing those syllabi as I put into syllabi for courses I have taught. (This is a good summer project for future jobseekers.) Which is to say, if you lack teaching experience, you can still think about teaching and invent syllabi and and a write a teaching statement.

I only ever had to do one teaching demo. It was a weird kind of trial by fire. I was asked to teach part of a class on something completely unrelated to the AOS/AOC of the job, and completely unrelated to my AOS/AOC. It was, so far as I could tell, an opportunistic scheduling -- the prof offered to give up half the class for the teaching demo. So I had to come up with something I knew that I could relate to the topic. At the half way point in the class, the SC filed in to observe from the back of the class. (In retrospect, the entire campus visit was a little odd, and I did not get the job.)

I reckon there must be some variation in what SCs are looking for in a teaching portfolio, and how much weight they give to various elements of the package.

I suppose applicants with less teaching experience might be at a disadvantage for jobs that "value" teaching, if actual teaching experience is a prerequisite. As I understand it, European PhD programs don't routinely (or ever?) include teaching or assisting duties for grads. Do they employ student evals? What should those applicants do about the teaching package (other than explain why they don't have teaching experience or evals)?


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some Things I Have Noticed While Perusing This Year's Job Ads

1. Gettysburg College wants someone whose Area of Specialization is philosophy of peace and nonviolence. That seems pretty specific. Is this something that a lot of people specialize in? Are there enough controversial philosophical issues surrounding peace and nonviolence to make this a worthwhile area of specialization? Why would a philosophy department at such a small school require a philosopher with such a specific, narrow specialization?

2. This year's award for best "is there an echo in here?" ad goes to University of Reading, Reading, Reading. (#61, 192W). Yeah, but where is this university located?

3. Saint Anselm College wants someone who specializes in "contemporary" and whose AOC is the (entire?) history of philosophy. I guess they want a real generalist. Someone with a broad background.

4. I see a couple of one-semester VAPs (e.g. Lyon College, #30, 192W). Why would anyone agree to that? I could see it if you already lived in Batesville, Arkansas, pop. 9,556. But you don't, do you?

5. As Zombie points out, and has been discussed in comments, the Cycorp ad is pretty awesome.

6. I think I picked up exactly one new application in 192/192W. I'll double-check later when I have more time, but that's piss-poor.

7. This sucks.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November JFP up. 105 total ads in the print edition; last year had 145; the year before that had 131; the year before that had 188.

68 more ads in the web-onlies, many of which are not web-only. Hard to say how many new ads total; I'll have to go through and count later on when I get a free moment. Or, some industrious Smoker could do it and post the number in comments; I'm sure we'd all be grateful to anyone who was willing to do it.

This sort of sucks; I don't like it very much.

--Mr. Zero

P.S. I suspect that this post sets a new Philosophy Smoker record for semicolons per paragraph in a post; I like semicolons.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mental Health Break

The great Modern Jazz Quartet with the definitive version its signature piece, "Django." From the European Concernt. If you don't have it, get it.

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Deep Thought

I don't like being on the job market very much and I look forward to a time when I don't have to do it any more.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How Do You Register for the Eastern APA Meeting?

Prof Kate recently asked,

I cannot seem to figure out how to register for the Eastern APA. I log on to apaonline. I click on the bright red "Register" link on the homepage, and it takes me to an 'events' page with this sort of calendar interface, as if I'm searching for flights, you know? So I enter the appropriate date range, and it prompts me for the city, and I type Washington. Then... then what? I click 'filter' but nothing happens. Friends, Smokers, frokers, please tell me what I'm doing wrong. (And DON'T say "you're using apaonline, is what you're doing wrong." Cuz I know, I know... I blame myself.)

Well, how?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, October 31, 2011

Speaking of APA...

I recently received my membership renewal form from APA. It was forwarded, twice (through two countries), because the APA apparently did not make note of my new address after I submitted it to their website before they sent the renewal notice out.

Since I'm not on the job market anymore, I'm having a hard time figuring out why I should pay $100+ per year to be a member of APA. I generally think those association memberships people put on their CVs are a joke. Plus, I'm already a member of the Association of Successful Succeeders Promoting Achievement and Success Successfully! (ASSPASS)

Plus, what Groucho Marx said.

Why do I need to be a member of APA? Anyone?



Not all job market advice is a lie

Update: Bearistotle reminds us that the APA did have a session on best practices recently. I vaguely remember that. My bad:
Fun fact: The APA had a session at the pacific last year on best practices for hiring and placement. It was not well attended, but it is worth acknowledging when the APA is working to provide the very thing you suggest would be ideal.
I also think the name 'Bearistotle' is pretty awesome.

Among the noise at the comments here about cover letters, John Doris provides what seems to me to be good advice:
I'd suggest: write a generic letter that treats both research and teaching, and is long enough to not risk insulting those who might be insulted by perceived cursoriness (1-1.5 pp. ?). Then, tailor pretty selectively, where 1. There's reason to think the institution has retention anxiety ("While the homicide rate in St. Louis is off putting, I just love those plucky Cardinals.") or 2. You are an *especially* good fit ("I'm delighted to see you have an AOC in Philosophy of Baseball; I was a minor league utility infielder for three seasons.") I'd be pretty selective about this selection, and not stretch too much: my cover letter to an appealing SLAC arguing for fit on the grounds my sister went there did not, sad to say, take me very far.
I might add also that if you are a member of an underrepresented population in philosophy, that you mention that also.

Anyways. Many of the other, more detailed comments on the thread are good too. I wish all job market advice looked something like some of the comments on this thread. So, please everyone who writes into these threads, keep writing in; it's a great courtesy and much appreciated.

However, speaking more generally and separate from any particular comments in the thread, I do think that it is time to dispense with personal anecdotes that sound like so much ad hoc reasoning justifying past practices. I also think that job market advice should not be framed in terms of how annoyed one is by reading certain parts of dossiers: "You stupid applicant. You think your stupid cover letter is going to help you get this job. Stupid. I'm so offended by your stupidity that you think you can pull the wool over my eyes with your stupid cover letter. Gah. Stupid applicants. *SIGH*" I find such framing offensive and I'm probably not alone. (YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!!!! I'M JUST TRYING TO GET A JOB!!!!)

Finally, I think something like what Anonymous Job Seeker suggests in the same thread is right:
The simple fact of the matter is that the hiring process is so variegated that nobody has any real idea how it happens outside their own local experience.

What would be *really* useful to job seekers and search committees alike is a compendium of best practices. This would outline profession-wide norms and expectations, against which individual institutions and applicants could then note differences. Everything from what goes into a dossier to timelines and procedures. The short notices in the back of the JFP are as insufficient as they are ignored.
Ugh. Job market.

--Jaded, Ph.D.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Year's October JFP

I have a few observations about this year's October JFP.

1. I kind of like that they stopped organizing the ads by region. I always wondered why the Central district was one thing and the Midwest district was something else. This is not a big deal, I guess, but who says every point has to be significant?

2. I'm still not in love with the way they start the numbers over for the web-only ads, but at least the duplicates are clearly labeled.

3. As in past years, many of the web-only ads paradoxically also appear in the print version.

4. I feel like there are fewer "open" ads than usual, but I'm not sure that's really accurate. I think there were a lot more in '09, and not as many last year.

5. I'll be applying for around 40 jobs from issue 191; that's about 10 more than last October.

6. I'll be applying for around 3 jobs that weren't in the JFP; of those, none were found on the Phylo jobs or PhilJobs websites. Higher Ed Jobs.

7. My guess is that I'll add another 10 applications in November. If so, this will be the best year since before Lehman Brothers. By kind of a lot. It won't be anywhere near pre-economic-catastrophe levels, though.

8. Almost all my applications will be online this year. Three fourths, anyway. That's up from just under half in '09 and '10.

9. But, and I know I'm not the only person to have pointed this out recently, it would be nice if you could save portions of your profile in the system and not have to retype all the info for every online application.

10. I feel pretty good going in. My file is better this year than it was last year. I feel like I'm making the right kind of progress. I've been in the wilderness for a while, but I think it's clear that I have been using this time well. While I would not describe myself as "confident," or anything, I think I have a respectable chance this year. Relatively speaking. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, anyways.

11. Good luck, everyone.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There has to be a better way...

... and it seems there is. Via Leiter, there's a pointer to this post at Philosophy, et cetera asking why philosophy departments don't use, an academic jobs portal that lists jobs and streamlines the online application process while still allowing applicants to customize their dossier package. It is an extension of a service create by the American Mathematical Society.

Why, indeed. The current system is all over the place. Some departments want you to email your dossier package. The downside, often, is that you have to make your files tiny, or they get rejected by the recipient's mail server. Or the recipient's mailbox is full, and then you can't submit at all. You also get no confirmation of receipt, unless you BCC yourself everything (and then you at least know that your email got delivered somewhere), or the recipient is decent enough to confirm. Some departments (or HR offices) require you to upload all your files to their website. They pretty much all use the same (not very good) software, yet applicants are required to create an account and login for each one, and fill in the forms for each one. So, do the same work (20 minutes, on average) times 30. There's 10 hours of your life. is free for applicants. Reference letters can be uploaded to the service, and submitted to jobs for FREE. What the hell?

So, when the question has come up in discussions here as to why the philosophy departments can't get their shit together and standardize the application process, the typical reply is that it is not their fault. It's Human Resources, and university administrations that dictate (with an iron fist, no doubt) how applications are submitted. Let's be charitable and assume that's true. Do they have a separate policy for Math departments? Because last time I checked, a lot of those math departments were operating in the same universities that have philosophy grad programs.

So, to sum up, a system already exists to centralize the job listing and application process, it is completely independent of APA (that paragon of online ineptitude), and it is free for job applicants. In other words, everything we've been clamoring for. The JFP lists three programs (Yale, Duke, and Tufts) who are already using it this year. Someone explain to me why all the others (really, truly) are not using it, too.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Applying to the Same Job Ad More than Once.

There was a discussion last week at Philosophers Anonymous about whether an applicant who applied for a job last year and didn't get an interview should respond to an identical ad in this year's JFP. Spiros says, "obviously no," but the ensuing discussion was more positive. Some people pointed out that search committees can change pretty dramatically from year to year. A few people pointed out that they had done this with success.

It seems to me that re-applying is the right thing. The point about search-committee makeup seems right to me. Not only will different people be on the search committee, but the files will be distributed to committee members differently, so there's every chance that the decision regarding the initial cut will be made by a different person than last year, even assuming some overlap.

For another thing, if your file has improved at all over the past year, you should definitely re-apply.

For another thing, you should re-apply even if it's all the same committee members and your file hasn't improved. The process is capricious. Many of the decisions about which files to consider further are made arbitrarily. The fact that you didn't get an interview doesn't mean you were undeserving. It might just mean that by the time they got to your file they had 20 names for the long list already, so there wasn't room for you.

And even if you weren't good enough then and you aren't any better now, it still makes as much sense to reapply as it did to apply in the first place. It costs you barely anything. And even if they thought you were completely inadequate when they saw your file the first time, and even if they literally laugh at you when they see it again, I still don't think it represents a reason not to apply. It's not like you'd know they were laughing. Nobody is going to tell you that they laughed. They'll just send you the same PFO they send you the year before (if they send them--not everybody does).

So I say, apply widely and often. Even if it's for the same job over and over.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others (Goethe)

Anonymous asks here about potential interview bias/hiring against non-native English speakers:

What are the biases against those candidates for whom English is a second language? How much does one's accent influence her/his epistemic reliability as a scholar, as well as a potential teacher, in the context of the job interviews? Do some accents (e.g., of French speakers) make one sound more sophisticated and knowledgeable than others (e.g., east asian)? What kind of measures, if any, are taken to prevent this sort of bias?
I've known a number of philosophers on the market for whom English was a second language. Some were extremely and comfortably fluent, and it did not seem to affect their prospects (although they faced immigration/visa hurdles instead). So, I would imagine that fluency and how easily you are understood (or perceived to be understood) matter here. Just having a non-American accent (British or Australian, say) does not seem to be an impediment.

(As an aside, I spoke to an insurance agent on the phone the other day, and she had a very, very pronounced Southern accent, and I really struggled to understand her. I wonder if there may be biases against certain regional American accents?)

As American universities admit growing numbers of international students, this becomes a relevant issue for those students if they hope to pursue an academic job in the US. Is the deck stacked against them if they have an accent?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Liberty "University" is Hiring

Unfortunately, it's not tenure track. And it's too bad the ad doesn't say anything about which classes the candidate will be responsible for teaching, or what these classes are like. But when you apply, don't forget: you'll need a letter from your pastor. Somehow I get the feeling that this ad is not in compliance with the APA's nondiscrimination policy.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

JFP is up

194 ads, which is substantially better than last year's 157. There are another 48 web-onlies.

In October of '09, there were 140 in the print version; in October '08, there were 267; in '07, we had 347.

--Mr. Zero

P.S. hat tip to anon 9:21

Situational influences during job interviews

Doing some reading for the class I'm teaching, specifically John Doris' piece on criminal law and the psychology of excuses. This stood out for me:

"...situational influences often appear to do their work with little regard to the character or personality of the person in the situation... social psychologists have repeatedly found that both disappointing omissions and appalling actions are readily induced through seemingly minor situational manipulations."

This strikes me as relevant to the inevitable discussions about interview dress codes that pop up here during the job season. (For the record, I really enjoy those discussions, and how het up some Smokers get about it.) I think it's interesting how often it is stated (or implied) that there must be a character flaw (lack of virtue?) in interviewers who could be negatively influenced by the clothing (or makeup, or lack thereof) worn by the job candidate. This often appears in something resembling a defense of individual liberty in dress, with the implication being that anyone who is influenced by clothing must be petty, stupid, superficial, sexist, classist (choose your pejorative) if they let something like your suit (or lack thereof) influence their opinion of you as a job candidate.

It strikes me, though, that societal dress codes do their work in the background, like situational influences. The fact that I'm a feminist doesn't stop me from seeing some women's clothing as kinda trashy, for instance, even if the wearer is not, in fact, trashy. I can acknowledge your right to express yourself through your clothing without having to concede that, by the fashion norms of the moment, your clothing is kinda trashy. (And if I can see butt crack, I'm offended -- that goes for guys and gals.) There's a female scientist at the university where I teach. She has made some significant research contributions to her field. But before I knew that about her, I only knew what she looked like, and what she looked like to me is someone who, although young, has had a significant amount of plastic surgery, wears a huge amount of makeup, and wears hooker boots, all of which made it hard for me to take her seriously. I'm pretty liberal about clothing (except the aforementioned coin slots, as well as camel toes, and toe cleavage, which, I'll admit, is my personal bugaboo). I really, really like the fact that, as academics, we typically have more sartorial freedom than people in many other professions have, but were I on an SC interviewing such a candidate, I would probably have the same first impression, based only on her appearance. Her CV, of course, might tell a very different story, but given ten job candidates, all well-qualified (which is to say, all else being equal), her appearance might be a liability for me. And given that she's going to get half an hour of my time, there's a relatively small window of opportunity there to alter my impression.

The point is, when you show up for an interview, your appearance will make an impression (conscious or subconscious, good or bad) on the interviewers, and this impression may have nothing to do with their own character flaws, and everything to do with social norms and situational influences. One way to neutralize factors that are beyond your control, at least as far as clothing is concerned, is to (at least minimally) meet the expectations. This doesn't strike me as evil or onerous, nor as a violation of the individual liberty of someone who is on the job market, any more than expecting you not to behave like a complete asshat (even if you are a complete asshat) is too much to ask. By not drawing attention to your appearance (or asshattedness), you leave more attention for you and your work, no? (Actors -- male and female -- who have had too much plastic surgery distract me no end. I can't watch the performance when I'm continually distracted by the weird topography of their faces.)

There are cases, I would argue, where appearance-based biases would be far more troubling and pernicious: assumptions about skin color, sex, nationality, or disability, for example. But clothing is voluntary, and you have choices. My assumptions about your clothing may be wrong, but it is not unreasonable for me to make some assumptions. Is it?

This is, it's worth noting, a discussion other professions have too.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Another consideration for female job-seekers

TSS asked (on another thread):

Since we're talking about female-specific job application worries, this seems like a good place for my slightly thread-jacking question about overseas jobs: When one doesn't have vast experience with foreign travel,how does one find out whether the country in which one is about to apply for a job is a decent place to live as a Western woman? A couple of recent job postings are in Turkey, Singapore, and Bangledesh. Are any of these awful places to be female? If you don't have friends who have lived there, how do you find out? What say you, fellow Smokers?
Good question. One of my criteria when looking for a job has been "Would I want to raise my daughter in this place?" If the answer was no (true of many places in the US), I didn't apply. Secondary question: "Can I take my cats with me?" (This ruled out some overseas positions.) I find it useful to look at department websites -- are there a lot of women on the faculty? I recall looking at the website for a university in Egypt last year and being surprised at the really good representation of female faculty. Doing the same for many US schools, you are more likely than not to see women seriously underrepresented, so I don't know how instructive this strategy would actually be (and it may say nothing about day to day life for Western women in Egypt).

Jump in, Smokers.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Still Waiting...

As I prepare my application materials in advance of Wednesday's JFP-release, it occurs to me that I still haven't heard one way or the other about whether I got the job I on-campus interviewed for this past winter. I hope they let me know soon, because if I'm going to pack up and move across the country in time to start teaching classes for fall term, I need to get on it, like, yesterday.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, October 7, 2011

The APA's JFP Web Page Is Organized Wrong

This is a small point, but worth making. The JFP section of the APA's website contains a list of various editions of web-only ads. These ads are listed in a senseless and arbitrary order, beginning with issue #190, last updated June 16 of this year; followed for some reason by #187, last updated October 20 of last year; then #188, last updated February 4 of this year; then the current "summer" web-onlies, last updated a couple of weeks ago; lastly, issue #189, last updated April 14.

I mean, what is the deal? Why not just put them in goddam chronological order? And if you're not going to do that, why not try numerical order? What's the point of giving them numbers if you're going to turn around and display them in some random bullshit order? Why would the most recent ads be listed second to last?

I mean, I'm not saying I think they should do something right. I'm not crazy. Why can't they do anything in a way that makes any sense at all?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Another New Philosophy Jobs Website

Via Anon 2:53 and Ethics, Etc, we learn that the group responsible for Phil Papers brings us Phil Jobs. Like Phylo Jobs, it's pretty cool.

--Mr. Zero

Request for Advice for Women In Particular About What to Wear for Interviews

An anonymous Smoker writes:

I'll be hitting the American and the European job market this fall. To avoid making a bad impression, I would like to know what conventions there are in academic interviews in the philosophy market. This varies a lot between disciplines (I've been told that in physics or computer sciences, people show up in t-shirt and jeans and successfully land jobs). I don't want to overdress, but I don't want to underdress either. I am especially interested in women's clothes, and also in the accessories (jewelry or not, makeup or not, length of heels, etc). Whenever I inquire about this to my mentors like my advisor, they remain very vague (e.g., just dress nicely), so it would be helpful to get specific information.

I don't really know anything about this, but one thing I have observed from following Mrs. Zero into such stores as Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Macy*s is that women have a lot more options than men when it comes to "dressing up," and not everything that would count as "dressing up" for a woman is the least bit professional, and that all this makes things tougher on women. So what do you say, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Phylo Jobs Announces...

In comments here, Chris Alen Sula of the Phylo Jobs project links to this announcement, which reads:

google map, social media, and new features at phylo jobs

Over the next few days, we’ll be updating you on the latest developments to our job advertisement services, including:

  • live Google map of open positions (
  • additional delivery options (RSS, text-only, mobile, Twitter, Facebook)
  • screencasts on using Phylo Jobs services
  • launch of our registered e-newspaper, Job Openings in Philosophy, to aid institutions with federal compliance
  • streamlined Jobs Wiki design for unofficial status updates (which still includes customized RSS feeds) (

As of October 1, 2011, we also require that each job poster certifies that his/her institution complies with American Philosophical Association’s Non-Discrimination Statement.

I cannot say enough how awesome this is. As of this writing, the Phylo Jobs site has 80 job listings, almost all of which were unsolicited by the editors. This has been really successful so far. Many thanks to Chris Alen Sula and David Morrow for putting this together. Truly wonderful.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The JPF Paywall Blues

Edit: Oops. I forgot to fill in the title before I hit publish.

Fritz McDonald writes with the following observation, which has been receiving some deserved attention lately:

As far as I can tell, the only relevant service provided by the APA is to organize conferences, and given that these conferences are just general philosophy conferences with no central focus and some curious choices of topical focus, the only raison d'ĂȘtre of the Eastern APA meeting is the job market. Nobody would willingly choose to spend the time between Christmas and New Years working without the job market at the Eastern and the related conference. In light of this, the most important resource on the APA website is Jobs for Philosophers. Given the desperate state of most graduate students in philosophy, who are generally underpaid and tend to have to live in expensive areas, the JFP information should be freely available right on the front of the website. After all, as far as I can tell, the only real reason we need a print listing of job ads such as JFP is so all searches are publicly available, for affirmative action purposes. I have not heard any other justification for JFP. Yet the APA almost goes out of its way to hide the JFP. You cannot even see the link to the JFP if you are not logged in as a member. You have to first click on the option of "Resources" and then select "Member Resources," an option that can only be seen if you are logged in as a member. Needless to say, this has the effect of making the job search process significantly more difficult for people who cannot afford the APA dues and quite a bit more difficult for people who are not tech savvy. To some degree, making the JFP a hidden resource like this itself leads to some kind of discrimination against the poor and/or the tech un-savvy. So why not put the JFP right on the front of the page and make it available to everyone everywhere, just like the listings on the Chronicle of Higher Education website? Better yet, why don't we all agree that if we are hiring, we will also post our ads to

It seems to me that the APA uses the JFP to force vulnerable members of the profession to become members. Until recently, I was taking advantage of the fact that although the JFP was in the members-only section of the website, you could easily access it if you knew the URL. And I think it is no coincidence that the one part of the new website that works really quite well is the paywall in front of the JFP. (And I will tell you that when at various times in the past I have been a member of the APA it has been solely to gain access to their various bits of job-market infrastructure.)

And the more I think of it, the more perverse I think this is. The JFP is a list of ads that you have to pay for if you want to see. This abrogates the entire point of advertising. The point of e.g. newspaper and magazine advertising is to defray the production costs of the newspaper or magazine--that is, the costs associated with equipment, rent, paying people to write the articles, etc.--so that it is affordable to the consumer. The JFP cannot possibly involve much in the way of such expenses, so it's hard to imagine that the paywall is driven by a financial necessity. The JFP is more like a third-rate craigslist with a print edition, or those books of car- or real estate ads they have next to the door at the supermarket, than a newspaper. Those things charge the advertisers, not the advertisees. And it's not in the interests of the advertisers to have the JFP behind a paywall, for it is in their interests that their advertisements be disseminated as widely as possible.

So what of it? Why doesn't the APA make the JFP freely available to everyone? (By which I mean to encourage the APA to do this. I guess I think I know why they won't.)

And search committees: please, please, please post your ads to the Phylo Jobs site. Pretty please.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hitchcock on Serving on a Search Committee

In a recent comment here, Christopher Hitchcock says some important things about search committees, how they function, and how they ought to function. I reproduce the comment in full here:

Let me follow up on one thread of this discussion where some unpleasantries were exchanged. Again, I am only drawing on my own experience conducting searches.

When I am involved in a search, I am genuinely interested in finding the best candidate for the position. That involves making as accurate an evaluation as possible of the candidate's research (actual and potential) and other qualities as a colleague. I do not think that it serves this purpose to treat the process like the compulsories of Olympic figure skating. (Oh, she wobbled on the landing, that's a .2 deduction. Oh, the candidate had parsley on her tooth, that's a .3 deduction.) I would be very surprised if most other don't proceed in the same way. (When I was on the job market in the 90's, one of my fellow job-seekers discovered that s/he had submitted a writing sample with "Freeedom" in the title. It did not seem to do any harm. One distinguished senior philosopher sent him/her a funny short essay on the importance of distinguishing true 'freeedom' from mere 'freedom'.)

That said, I think it would help all job seekers to have some sense of what it is like on the other side. Conducting a search is a full-time job for six weeks. Even with all of that, we can afford to read the writing samples of about 25% of the applicants. This means that we have to eliminate the majority of candidates before we even look at the writing samples. So we definitely read the files looking for reasons to throw them on the discard pile.

I have been involved in about 8 searches in past 10 years. During that time, I have read the work of a lot of young philosophers. There are many excellent philosophers whose work I first got to know through this process. I admire and respect them. Unfortunately, even among those whose work I admire and enjoy, the vast majority will not get job offers from us.

That was the lead up to a confession. When I and my colleagues are immersed in files, pretty much every waking moment spent sorting through the pile, it is as natural to talk about them as it is to, e.g. complain about the weather or the republicans in congress. Sometimes we say things that are disrespectful of the candidates or make jokes at their expense. I recognize that this is not ideal behavior, and I would be mortified if any of these got back to the candidates. But it is pretty much impossible to work that hard, become that immersed in the process, and always comport oneself with the utmost seriousness of purpose. (Many of you may be familiar with this from grading stacks of papers.) But I do make every effort not to let such joking affect our treatment of the candidates, or evaluation of their work.

Good luck to those of you applying for jobs, I wish you well.

I think that the phenomenon to which professor Hitchcock alludes is unavoidably human and something to which job-seekers themselves are not immune. We here at the Smoker are, after all, fond of mocking job ads and rejection letters. And I think it is basically harmless if it is successfully compartmentalized in the manner in which Hitchcock suggests.

However, I worry that it is often not successfully compartmentalized. Over the years, people claiming to be search committee members have written in comments on this blog and its immediate ancestor about how such things as typos, copy-and-paste errors, spelling errors, and what they perceive to be the applicant's attitude about the various job-market procedures function for them as criteria for automatic rejection. To take Prof. Hitchcock's grading analogy, it is one thing to complain about a student's spelling errors and to take those spelling errors into account when assigning a grade. But it's something else altogether to say, Anyone who would spell 'catigoracle emparative" that way doesn't care enough about my class to deserve an A.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, September 25, 2011

why you should try to be interesting

Another link with an interesting take by Mark Lance:

If nothing else, worth reading it for the apt baseball analogy.

-- Second Suitor

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brooks Advice on Publishing in Philosophy

Because he's right, it's always a good read:

Side note: Sure my submission got rejected, but I'm happy to recommend the Journal of Moral Philosophy as a quick, professional unit. One of the good ones.

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Assemble a Tenure-Track Job Application

Interesting discussion going on at NewAPPS about how to put together a dossier that will make the first cut. Mohan Matthen asks search committee members how they make the first cut here, and discusses the results of the discussion here.

Important things that applicants can control include cover letters, the research statement, and teaching materials including evals, sample syllabuses, and a letter from someone who has seen you teach.

--Mr. Zero

The New Jobs Site

Sure does look nice and work well, doesn't it?

Thanks again to David Morrow and Chris Sula for setting it up. It really is a wonderful thing you've done.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Worst Defense of APA Interviews In The World

I was rereading the recent comment thread at Leiter about whether or not APA interviews are worth it, and was struck by this comment:

Suppose a dept. moves entirely to video conference interviews or forgoes interviews altogether. Some candidates for the job will likely be at the APA anyhow, and some members of the search cmte. might be too. A candidate might go to a dept.'s table at the Smoker and talk to a member of the search cmte. and get a leg up that way. How could this worry be alleviated? Options:

1. No one from the search cmte goes to the APA. (This might not be possible, and it's an odd result.)
2. No one from the search cmte talk to job candidates at the APA. (This can end up creating some really awkward situations.)
3. All the interviews and the decisions about whom to bring to campus be made before the APA. This is perhaps the best solution, but it might not always be so easy to do, depending on a lot of scheduling factors.

He's saying that we should do interviews at the APA so as to eliminate the possibility of a candidate gaining an unfair advantage over her competitors by going to the APA meeting and chatting with someone from the search committee who also happened to be there. I mean, there are problems, and then there are problems.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, September 19, 2011

New "Supplement" to the JFP

David Morrow, who is awesome, writes:

Chris Sula and I have revamped the Phylo site to create an actual jobs board to (ahem) supplement the JFP. The URL is the same as the old wiki: As of today, we'll start accepting job postings in that space from departmental representatives only. Following Harry Brighouse's advice, we'll also require a link to an external site (e.g., an announcement on the department's web site) to verify each post's authenticity. We're moving the job wiki to People will still be able to post unofficial updates there. We're still in the process of updating the wiki software to play nicely with the jobs board, but it will be up well before anyone needs to post status updates. In the meantime, watch the main jobs board to find out about job openings..

This is super awesome. I'm sure I don't speak only for myself when I say how grateful I am to David and Chris for doing this. Thank you both.

It also seems to me that in order for this to work, it has to be well-publicized. So job-seekers everywhere would appreciate it if Smokers with blogs of their own, or who post to the various philosophy listserves, etc, would help spread the word.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, September 16, 2011

The two-body problem

When I was offered my job last spring, the chair told me that the University had a spousal hiring program, and encouraged me to utilize it, if needed. (I didn't need -- my spouse is not an academic, and has a work-at-home career). At a party recently, someone in the dept mentioned that spousal hiring used to be a really big issue for the department and the University. (This makes sense -- there are few other places nearby where a spouse could get any job, let alone an academic job.) As I get to know my colleagues, I see that there are quite a few couples in the dept, so the likelihood is that there has been a lot of spousal hiring over the years. Which has made me think about the practice.

A little over a third of academics are married to other academics (I don't know if legally unmarried same-sex couples are included in that figure) according to this interesting defense of spousal hires over at the Chronicle. Those couples, just like everyone else, chose their professions, chose whom they married, etc. But if you spend your early adulthood on a university campus pursuing a PhD, chances are good the people you're going to meet and fall in love with will also be academics.

It is also the case that we don't live in a world of single-income families for the most part. Couples have dual careers. Requiring that one half of a dual career couple sacrifice his or her career so the other can get a job doesn't seem like a good way to encourage your new hire to stay put. Likewise, forcing couples and families to live apart, or endure very long commutes, would not encourage your new hire to fully engage with and be a part of the department, college or university community. (I have friends for whom this is a significant issue -- including a couple in philosophy now living thousands of miles apart.) So, spousal hires would seem like a useful tool for faculty recruitment and retention. And since any spouse hired for a TT position would still have to meet the requirements of tenure, the qualifications of the "trailing spouse" puts reasonable constraints on spousal hiring. (Obviously there must be spousal hiring concerns with nonacademic spouses as well.)

As someone fresh off the job market, I know how hard it is to get a TT job, and how scarce those jobs are. I can't help but feel a little resentful of the possibility that someone got a job through some form of spousal "cronyism." But I'm not convinced that spousal hiring is really unfair, or that it has ever disadvantaged me, or that it's bad for academia. The comments to the Chronicle essay, OTOH, are pretty overwhelmingly negative, filled with resentment and invective. They seem largely founded on the belief that a spousal hire takes a job away from some other, more deserving person. Or that trailing spouses are all drunks and scoundrels. There's a less heated and more nuanced discussion here.

One issue that comes up a lot on discussion boards (like here, here and here) is how to approach the issue of spousal hiring if you are a job applicant. Few job ads say anything about spousal hires. Undoubtedly, some schools and departments are more open to them than others. (If I had to guess, I would guess philosophy departments are less open than others. But it's a guess.) With some institutions experiencing severe budgetary restraints, they are probably not even possible in many cases. So, the current economic and job climate in academe (and in general) makes spousal hiring a more urgent problem for job seekers and hiring departments alike, while at the same time, it (perhaps) becomes less likely. (If anyone knows of any recent numbers on spousal hires, I'd like to know about them.)

From a job seeker's perspective, it strikes me that the right time for this issue to be raised is when an offer is made. I can't see a reason for a job applicant to show his or her hand at the application stage, or even at the interview stage. As a job applicant, I didn't apply for jobs in locations that were unacceptable to me and my family. I didn't apply for jobs in places where I wouldn't want to raise my kid. If I was hoping for a job where a spouse could also find meaningful work and make a decent living, that would have put further limits on the jobs I applied for. But it doesn't strike me that it's on me (or my spouse, who may also be on the market) to disclose upfront that I'm looking for a spousal accommodation. The risk for hiring departments at schools that do not or cannot accommodate spousal hires is that they'll make an offer that's turned down. But that's always a risk for them, right? Candidates can turn down jobs (or so the legends say) for any number of reasons.

As the job season is upon us, I'm interested to know what the Smokers think or have experienced, and if you're part of an academic couple, how you're dealing with the two-body problem as a job applicant.


Another Dog on the Pile

I know everyone already knows this, but boy is that new APA website a complete piece of shit.

  • It frequently goes offline. (As anon 4:00AM points out, it is offline right now.)

  • The items on the menu bar are indistinguishable. You can't tell where one item stops and the next starts.

  • There's (still, in 2011) no way to pay your dues online.

  • There's (still, in 2011) no way to register for conferences online. (Right? I'd like to verify this, but, alas, the website is down.)

  • The JFP ad-submission system is fucked up and doesn't function, which has caused the publication of the October JFP to be delayed.

  • The JFP itself is somewhat hidden. And, apparently, some members in good standing are unable to see it at all.

  • The online paper-submission system for the Pacific Division Meeting is so poorly designed that it is nearly impossible to use successfully. I have never seen a submission system with such a counterintuitive set of procedures--you have to press the "back" button before you can press a "submit" button. And, of course, there is no clear set of instructions.

  • The other divisions, of course, do not seem to have online paper-submission systems at all. (I'd like to verify this, but, alas, the website is down.)

  • The administration doesn't respond to emails about this.

What in the fuck? Seriously. What. In. The. Fuck. The incompetence of this organization is simply amazing. It lacks even the most basic abilities required by a professional organization. Can I join and pay my dues online? No. Can I post a job ad online? No. Can I look at the jobs newsletter online? No. Can I submit a paper to one of your meetings online? No. Can we get a navigable website? No. Can I at least look at your website? No. Can I get a reply to my email about what in the fuck is going on? No.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guilty until proven innocent

I'm at a new school this fall. I really like my students. They seem like a great bunch. Lively, engaged, thoughtful. Their first paper is due in a couple of weeks. The university has made Turnitin available. I've never used it before, although I've caught my share of plagiarized papers over the years. I now have a Turnitin account, but I have misgivings about using it. I guess because I feel like I am essentially accusing my students of being (at least) potential plagiarists even though I currently have no reason to think any of them are or would be plagiarists. It strikes me as being like overzealous airport security -- treat everyone like a potential criminal in order to (presumably) catch the rare miscreant. But at what cost?

Compounding my sense of unease (or irony) is that I'm teaching an Ethics class.

So, I'm interested in knowing about your experience using Turnitin. Is it worth the effort? Does it work? Do the benefits outweigh the potential harm? Does it make you feel like a mall cop?


Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line (As Usual)

It's getting to be that time of year again, and I've been busy preparing my application documents for another miserable job-market season. I had a relatively successful year this past year in terms of writing and publishing, and so I was able to move a bunch of stuff out of my "statement of current research projects" and add a bunch of new stuff in, which basically required me to rewrite the entire document from scratch. I've also changed strategy slightly in that I'm trying to sell myself more aggressively this year (not that I would have described my prior strategy as "passive"), and so I've had to rewrite a bunch of other material that could otherwise have stayed basically the same. It seems to me that my file is stronger now than it has ever been. I don't exactly feel great about my chances or anything, given the realities of the job market situation, but I also feel that, given the realities of my (heavy) courseload and (negligible) research support, I have done everything that it is possible to do to make myself into a strong candidate--and that I am a strong candidate. But I suppose we'll see.

How are the Smokers preparing for the job market this year?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, September 1, 2011


An anonymous Smoker writes:

I am a 49-year-old philosopher who has recently successfully defended his PhD at a Western European (non-UK) philosophy department.

My reading committee agreed that the PhD was excellent, worthy to be published as a book. I have a strong publication record of some 15 papers in good general and specialist journals, including PhilStudies, Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, Biology & Philosophy, Dialectica, Synthese, and 6 more in edited book volumes. I am also an enthusiastic and effective teacher.
Yet I find now that I am being turned down for postdocs within my university and for postdocs organized by the national research foundation of my country, in favor of younger candidates whose publication record is at best equivalent to mine, or in many cases, inferior. Even a small travel grant that has a baseline chance of success of 80 % has been rejected, because the committee "have a preference for younger candidates" (a direct translation of their policy, which can be found online). I suspect that few departments would be willing to hire a 49-year-old in a tenure track position, but I am baffled as to why my age should play a role for positions that offer 3 or at most 6 years of postdoc experience (these positions cannot be turned into a TT position and cannot be extended).

Why is ageism still an accepted form of bigotry? There is so much talk of letting people work longer to combat the costs associated with an aging population, but if you decide to go to college again in your late thirties (as I did) you are severely penalized, even if you are a successful PhD student.

Any thoughts from people in the same situation? How do you surmount ageism? How do you deal with it in application materials?

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is a "Behavioral Philosophy Lab Manager"?

The folks at Schreiner University of Kerrville, Texas are advertising for one. Responsibilities include helping set up lab in new facilities; managing large amounts of data; analyzing this data; creating web pages; creating experiments on web-based testing platforms; attending weekly lab meetings; and may include mentoring undergraduate students and teaching classes. Qualifications include "at least a BA or BS degree," and "preference will be given to those in philosophy, psychology, or other behavioral sciences." I don't think they know what philosophy is. Or else the whole thing is a typo.

--Mr. Zero

Writing a Book

I've been enjoying this thread on how junior people should go about writing a book and acquiring a book contract from a reputable publisher. I especially enjoyed these two comments, from David Chalmers, Peter Ohlin of Oxford UP (U.S.), and Peter Momtchiloff of Oxford UP (U.K.).

My only contribution to this discussion is this: somebody told me once that it is a good idea, when drawing up your book proposal, to indicate who you think they could sell your book to, if they let you write it, and why you think those people would buy it.

Also, when I was in college, I was really into Peter Momtchiloff's side project:

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Large Lecture Classes

As I may have mentioned earlier, pretty soon I will be teaching one of those very large lecture hall classes, with no help. I haven't done this before, and I wonder if any of the Smokers with experience with this sort of thing had any tips. What are the pitfalls, and what are the secrets of success?

Thanks, y'all. I hope you're making the most of the last few weeks of summer. Or the first few weeks of the semester, as the case may be.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Inside Higher Ed on The Climate Guide

I've been busy all day and haven't had a chance to read this, but there's a long article on the Climate Guide in Inside Higher Ed today.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Are You Teaching This Fall?

I glanced at this NewAPPS thread this afternoon in which people say what courses they are teaching this fall, and what the enrollment caps for those classes are. And now I notice that In Socrates' Wake was getting in on the action. (Although so far there hasn't been much action.)

What stood out to me was this: a lot of people seem to have pretty favorable course loads, and a lot of these people also teach classes that are capped at low, low levels. I'm teaching a large introductory-level lecture-hall class that's capped at 200, an introductory ethics class that's capped at 55, and an upper-division ethics class that's capped at 35. So I guess I'm kind of jealous of the people who are teaching two classes to a total of under 50 students.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 8, 2011

Worth Repeating (Pluralist's Guide)

Although there is a clear sense in which this is old news, I bring it up because I don't want this discussion to die. It seems to me that it is very important to have good information about departments available for prospective graduate students. It also seems to me that the people who put up websites claiming to provide this information have a responsibility to do a good job, to explain how they came up with the information, and to be willing to respond to criticism and to act on suggestions for improvement. And it seems to me that the editors of the "Pluralist's" Guide are not living up to these responsibilities.

In comments in the Gender, Race and Philosophy post in which Linda Alcoff presented some information concerning and momentariliy defended the methodology behind the Climate Guide, anonymous graduate student writes:

Dear Professors Alcoff, Taylor, and Wilkerson [editors of the Pluralist's Guide]:

The sarcastic last comment here [this one] does not, in my view, dispense you, the authors of the "climate for women" section, from addressing in detail the several very serious questions and worries that were brought to the table by the previous commenters. I am sure that I am not the only one to find it very troublesome that there is neither any attempt on your part to defend the "climate for women" section its current form - which, as the many thoughtful comments above have shown, would be a difficult feat - nor the slightest admisssion of the insufficiency and indeed indefensibility of the section as it stands at this time.

The only conclusion I (and, I imagine, many others) am able to draw from the exasperating refusal by you, the authors of the "pluralist's guide", to engage even in the most rudimentary way with serious criticism is that despite the title of your "report" you are not in fact guided by the concern that informs the comments in this thread - the climate for women in philosophy - but rather by an undisclosed private agenda that abuses this concern as a cover.

I guess I'm not willing to draw any specific conclusions about why the authors of the Climate Guide haven't withdrawn it, or edited it in such a way as to acknowledge its many methodological and factual problems, or explained how it was compiled, or even evinced comprehension of these problems. But I will say that it gets sadder and sadder with each passing day.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Philosophical Conclusions

In what has become a widely-discussed piece in the New York Times (among philosophers, anyway), Stanley Fish says,

In short, the conclusions reached in philosophical disquisitions do not travel. They do not travel into contexts that are not explicitly philosophical (as seminars, academic journals, and conferences are), and they do not even make their way into the non-philosophical lives of those who hold them. The fact that you might give one set of answers rather than another to standard philosophical questions will say nothing about how you will behave when something other than a point of philosophy is in dispute.

For one thing, I think this is somewhat of an overstatement. I've had students tell me that my ethics classes, in particular, have affected their thinking in what they saw as behaviorally significant ways. I've had students tell me that discussions of animal cruelty have caused them to adopt vegetarianism, or at least to moderate their meat-eating or to seek out less cruel alternatives. I've had students tell me that discussions of abortion have caused them to see a complicated (and interesting) set of issues where before they saw an easily-resolved black-and-white issue with a bunch of moral monsters on the other side, and that this would cause them to be more sympathetic and nicer to people with whom they disagree. I've had students tell me that discussions of Rachels & Rachels on cultural relativism or Socrates on the divine command theory have caused them to seriously rethink their initial confidence in these moral outlooks (even if they didn't ultimately reject them).

Now, I don't see it as my role to try to talk people out of stuff like eating meat, conservative positions on abortion, cultural relativism, or divine command theory. I see it as my role to try to talk people into having more thoughtful views on these things. It is one thing, for example, to be pro-life because you believe that life begins at the moment of conception and that anyone who disagrees is depraved and that anyone who would act on that disagreement is a cold-blooded murderer; it is another to believe that abortion is wrong, but whether it is wrong depends on when personhood, not life, begins, and that reasonable people disagree about when that is and whether the status of the fetus is relevant at all. I think that's a significant change; I think that this change is likely to result in behavioral differences where the rubber meets the road; and I think that's a victory for philosophy.

Fish is, of course, addressing Paul Boghossian's recent discussion of cultural relativism. Fish says, "When it’s not the game of philosophy that is being played, but some other — energy policy, trade policy, debt reduction, military strategy, domestic life — grand philosophical theses like “there are no moral absolutes” or “yes there are” will at best be rhetorical flourishes; they will not be genuine currency or do any decisive work. Believing or disbelieving in moral absolutes is a philosophical position, not a recipe for living." In this way he (seems to) argue that there is a clear and important sense in which the results of philosophical reflections (or, at least, those concerning moral absolutes versus moral relativism) do not matter.

My experience in the classroom suggests a different lesson. It seems to me that people who cultural accept relativism typically do this without thinking carefully about what the view says or what its moral implications are. It seems to me that when certain counterintuitive implications are brought to their attention, they typically realize that they do not accept them, and that they did not in fact accept relativism in the first place. They might (initially) describe themselves as cultural relativists and they might claim to accept the central thesis of relativism, but on reflection they don't accept any of its consequences and they think the main argument for the view is badly mistaken. They were just trying to be nice, and they thought that adopting cultural relativism was the nice thing to do. In my experience, it is unusual for people (even people who describe themselves as cultural relativists) to deny that there are moral absolutes (even if, in certain contexts, they would say they do), and this is why you don't normally have to say that there are moral absolutes, and why you don't normally get anywhere when you do. It's not that the conclusion didn't travel; it's that the conclusion traveled without everybody noticing and is there already. Philosophical conclusions travel incognito.

We saw something like this here in the late spring/early summer. In a very long comment thread, a commenter persistently argued that philosophy, unlike empirical science, doesn't generate genuine knowledge (or something like that), but would persistently and at every turn defend this thesis by making reference to what were clearly non-empirical philosophical theses that were essential to the position.

And finally, if Fish is really right that philosophical conclusions don't travel, isn't that more of a criticism of the people in whom they fail to travel than the philosophical conclusions themselves?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, August 4, 2011

LaTeX: 1 Year Later

I've been using LaTeX for a little over a year now. I've written a few papers with it, I've used it for classroom materials, and my job application materials were mostly written in LaTeX last year. Now that I'm a somewhat experienced user, I thought that it might be helpful to collect my thoughts about it. Is it worth the effort to switch?

First, some things I continue to dislike about it:

  • Window proliferation. For every document you're working on, my TeX program (TeXShop for Mac) produces as many as three windows: one for the text document, one for the typeset PDF "output" document, and a "console" window in which the program shows its work as it produces the PDF from the text file. That's fine if you're just working on a paper, or whatever. But if you've got a paper going, and a lecture for your intro class, and a handout to go with that lecture, and a lecture for ethics, and a handout for that lecture, you've got a lot of windows open. I try to be vigilant about closing consoles, but there's another problem in the vicinity...

  • Document proliferation. The process of creating nice-looking PDFs involves the creation of a bunch of auxiliary files. And if you forget to use the console to trash them before you close it, it's a (minor) pain in the ass to get rid of them all. And if your document contains a bibliography, you need those auxiliary files.

  • Certain things take longer, because you have to learn how to do them. Make an abstract; make a numbered list that starts at 5; making a space show up in the PDF after '\textonehalf'; stuff like that. These are all things that I figured out how to do without a huge amount of trouble, but they wouldn't have been any trouble at all in Word.

  • All in all, these are pretty minor annoyances, though.

What do I like about it? Why have I stuck with it?

  • It's not Microsoft Word. Whenever I am asked to open an MS Word document, I whine a little inside. "Do I have to?" I cannot stand MS Word. I particularly hate it now that everything is a "Docx" file and I'm still using Word from '04 or whatever. Word's conversion process makes opening and saving documents take forever. And causes the program to crash. It sucks.

  • It is free. Subsequent software updates have been free. New versions of the software are also free.

  • It makes PDFs, not Word documents. Everybody has at least one free PDF reader. No BS conversion to make my old-ass version of Word read your newfangled "docx" document. Nearly every computer in the world has the software for reading PDFs already installed.

  • The documents do look awfully nice. They do not look like they were made with free software. This isn't such a big deal with paper drafts, but I like to hand out nice, professional-looking handouts in my classes and (especially) at conferences. And I like my application materials to look polished and professional.

  • Bibliographies. I love--love--not worrying about bibliographies. I love not having to remember to add each reference to the bibliography whenever I add one. (Although you do have to keep your bibliography file up-to-date. But that's helpful, too.) I love not having to remember to take the reference out of the bibliography if I delete the reference in the main text. (Although that happens less frequently.) And I really, really love not having to mess with the bibliographic format. Mind wants it one way but Phil Review wants it another? No problem whatsoever. (Not that I've had this exact problem.)

    • A minor problem here is that you have to keep track of your bibliographic entries in a separate program (I use BibTex BibDesk, which comes with the TexShop bundle). But I find that helpful, too. Before LaTeX I was using a spreadsheet to keep track of the bibliographic information and physical locations of my many, many photocopied journal articles. BibTex does the same thing, but better.

  • Symbols really are easier. You might have to google it, but the symbols you want are there and easy to implement. The symbols menu situation in MS Word is really tragic. There are a large number of different "symbols" menu/tables, some of which are very long, and none of which has all the symbols you want. So if you want a "times" symbol, you're looking in one table; if you want a universal quantifier, you're looking in another; and if you want, say, a curly greater-than-or-equal-to, you might just end up copying it out of some webpage.

  • Last year I didn't like way LaTeX handles quotation marks, footnotes, word counts, and the general user interface. I am mostly over these problems now. The TexShop word count application sort of sucks because it counts the words in your preamble and stuff. But if you know how many words there are in your preamble, you can work around this. And it doesn't count the stuff you've "percent signed," so that's nice.

  • Speaking of which, the percent sign thing comes in really handy when you're "conference-izing" a paper. (Quick note of explanation: when you put a '%' in front of some text in LaTeX, the program ignores whatever comes after it until you hit "return." This comes in handy when you want to write a little note to yourself, or block a command in the preamble, or whatever.) In this way, you can cut out large quantities of text from the main PDF document without deleting it altogether. And the word count function ignores it even though it's technically still there. And so you can just as easily put it back.

So, what we've got here is a free, highly functional word-processing program that makes nice-looking pdf documents and makes your bibliographies in whatever style you want for you, by itself, without you having to do anything other than keep track of the stuff you've been reading.

--Mr. Zero