Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tales of terror, chagrin, hilarity, schadenfreude, etc... APA edition

Past or present. Dish.

My reporter at APA tells me of Kent State interview shenanigans in Atlanta this year. Perhaps someone would care to elaborate.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Soliciting Smoker Advice

A Smoker writes in with a question:
How should applicants approach the Smoker, particularly women? Should we be actively trying to seek out hiring committee members for positions we interviewed for? Is there a way to do this that doesn't seem pandering?
I'd offer some advice if I thought I had anything to special to say. But, I don't really. So, what say y'all?

(And don't forget to give those people who will be attending the APA in Atlanta some hot tips below on what to do in Atlanta in whatever spare time you manage to have.)

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

Things to do in Atlanta?

I've been to Atlanta a couple of times, but unfortunately I don't have much advice about what fun things there are to do there. Just the usual: CNN world headquarters, the Georgia Aquarium, and the "World of Coca-Cola" Museum are all walkable from the conference hotel. If you like baseball, which you should, you could take a tour of Turner Field (which all right-thinking people think of as Hank Aaron Stadium), but that's not at all close to the hotel. And the Falcons will be playing the Buccaneers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. But other than that, I'm not sure what to suggest. I'm not aware of any attractions of any real historical or cultural significance. And as I understand it, the "Downtown" area shuts down pretty early and doesn't have any kind of nightlife--though I'd be happy to hear that I'm wrong about this.

What say you, Smokers? What should conference-goers not miss while in ATL?

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to do Interviews...

I'm a little late with this post this year, but here's the annual "APA Interview Prep" post. Last year, Zombie wrote the following: 

This is advice from an historian, but it's quite useful and applicable to APA: 
This from last year's week of dread Smoker [Which is a compendium of advice going back to the early years of the Old Job Market Blog]: 
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.
A while back, in comments somewhere, Carolyn Dicey-Jennings posted a link to this helpful website.(So long ago, in fact, that I have no idea where this happened, and I'm only 80% that my memory that it was CD-J is accurate.)

Further suggestions are appreciated, as always. I hope things are going better for you than they are for me. So far I'm drawing a fat goose egg. I've been following the recent discussion on Leiter about "degree staleness" with a mixture of deep and familiar anxiety, horror, worry, and more anxiety. But for those of you who will be in Atlanta, knock 'em dead. (But not all of them, because then nobody will be left alive to hire you.)

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Open Thread

There has been a request for an open thread in which to brag and bitch about the market, gossip about jobs, complain about the profession, ask questions, etc. Good idea. So let it be written; so let it be done. --Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dealing With "Illegal" Interview Questions

There have been several recent discussions concerning concerning the best way for interviewees to deal with interviewers who ask so-called "illegal" questions. (Although my understanding is that Glaucon, writing here, is basically correct: though it is illegal for search committees to use the information as a basis for hiring decisions, it is not literally illegal for them to ask the questions. But whatever. I'm not a lawyer, and its not as though there's no relationship between the information the search committee attempts to collect in the interviews and the information the search committee might use as the basis for its decision.) A discussion at Feminist Philosophers is here; a discussion at NewAPPS is here.

As I read through the suggestions, I find myself thinking the same thing over and over and over: this won't work. It seems to me that all such suggestions are basically misguided, in that they are based on the premise that there is some reliable way to diffuse the situation without harming your chances of getting the job. I don't think there is any reliable strategy here.

As I see it, there are four main ways of responding to the situation:

1. Answer the question honestly. There's always the chance that they just want to let you know how great their department/school/community is for people in your situation, or how open and welcoming they are, and that they won't use the information in their deliberations, after all. Maybe. Probably, even. But I guess I wouldn't count on it.

2. Answer the question dishonestly. After all, at this point in the process, it really isn't any of their business. Of course, it'll be somewhere in the range between difficult and impossible to maintain the lie if you get the job, and it'll be awkward when the truth comes out. AWK. WARD.

3. Decline to answer the question in a way that draws attention to its inappropriateness. You can do this in a way that conveys some negative emotion, such as anger, frustration, disappointment, or sadness, but doing so is not going to be good for your chances however you do it. Letting your interviewers know you're not happy with them isn't a good interview strategy.

You could try to do it in jokey, laughy way, but any way you frame the joke, it's a joke about how the interviewer has asked you a question you find inappropriate and/or legally problematic. It won't work if joke is at the interviewer's expense; you have to bring him into the joke with you, but in a way that still makes it clear that the question was not appropriate and you're declining to answer it. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's going to be hard. This is not a beginner-level joke.

4. Decline to answer using stealth, without drawing attention to the inappropriateness of the question. Maybe by changing the subject or something, or by telling an unrelated joke. There's a lot of potential for weirdness here. They asked you a question; you didn't answer it. It's not like they're not going to notice.

If I had to pick, I'd say #1 and #4 are the best of a bad bunch. This has happened to me only a couple of times, and both times it was fairly clear that they were just trying to let me know that their area had a lot to offer. At least, that's how I read the situation at the time. I adopted strategy #1, and answered honestly while trying to thread the needle between seeming open and forthcoming while revealing as little as possible and trying to move on quickly. The alternatives seemed much riskier. But I felt really awkward, and the awkwardness was not alleviated when, on one occasion, one of the other interviewers pointed out that the question was out-of-bounds. I wasn't at all confident that I was handling it right. And it goes without saying that I didn't get the job (not that I have any reason to suspect that there's any direct connection).

And so it seems to me that once a question like this comes up, there are no good alternatives. There's no reliable way to maneuver oneself out of the situation. It's possible to pull off, of course. There are things that will work here and there. But I can't see any general piece of advice that would be widely applicable and effective in a risk-free way. Which bums me out.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 3, 2012

Online Applications As Always

Here it's December already and I haven't posted this year's installment of our annual "Mr. Zero Complains About On-Line Applications" series. Sorry for the delay; here it is.

The trend for the past several years has been for increasing numbers of search committees to accept applications online. Things seem to have stalled out this year, though. At least, for me they did. This year, like last year, approximately three quarters of my applications involved submitting some material online; most of these were all-online applications. Only a couple wanted me to send any hard copies of anything.

However, this year was unlike last year in that there were a lot of online delivery-systems represented. Normally there's this one software package that every college and university's HR department subscribes to, and is terrible. This year, I would say that only about half of my online apps utilized this software, and the rest was split between Interfolio and Academic Jobs Online, with Interfolio prevailing slightly. In prior years, I'd had at most one or two online applications that utilized some other software (per year, that is).

What I have always hated about that HR-BS-ware is that it's so redundant. You have to make a new account for every school, type in your name and address every time (though your browser's auto-fill makes this go a little easier), enter all the email addresses of all your letter-writers every time, and then upload all your documents again, every time. It gets extremely tedious. (Although there were a number of places where I didn't have to do most of that because I'd applied for a job there before. Which means that they could have saved us both a bunch of time and effort by just hiring me back then.)

I didn't realize it, but I had used Academic Jobs Online before--I was surprised when logging in to discover that I already had an account. I thought it was pretty ok. It doesn't have a very nice user-interface--it has the kind of UI that someone who does math for a living might design--but it did the job fine and I didn't have any trouble using it. And I liked that it saved most of the data I had entered, including my address, qualifications, degree dates, AOS & AOCs, etc, so I didn't have to keep re-entering it. It also saves the documents you uploaded for earlier applications, so you don't have to keep re-uploading them, too. That's a nice time-saver. No major complaints.

I had never used Interfolio before, for real this time. My impression was that it was the best of the three. It saved the basic data so I didn't have to keep re-entering it. It saved the documents so I didn't have to keep uploading them, either. It has a nice, user-friendly UI. But the thing that I really, really, really like about it is this: it saves your letters of recommendation, so your letter-writers don't have to keep getting emails every single time you apply for a job. They won't be bothered. They won't forget to respond. They won't miss them when they get caught by the spam filter.

This makes Interfolio the winner. It is my hope that Interfolio catches on amongst hiring departments. Of course, I will never pay for a membership to Interfolio. If search committees want me to use Academic Jobs Online or their HR-departments bullshit software, I'll use it. Whatever. And if they want a hard copy of the application, I'll mail it myself. But of the three major online systems, I prefer Interfolio because it's tied for easiest on my, and is the hands-down winner for easiest on letter writers.

--Mr. Zero

That's racist

Do you want to feel angry (-ier) at academia today? If yes, then read the comments section to this article  in the Chronicle: "Black Dandies Fashion New Academic Identities."

Now, it might be the case that the commenters on the article aren't all academics, but, good god, holy fuck. Why the hell would any underrepresented minority want to enter a field into which their desire to dress REALLY FUCKING SHARP is taken to indicate that they have fallen under:
the spell of "the bling" over "the books" [and that this] has captured [sic] may of our "colleagues" in the hypnotic rapture of their closets[?]
How can someone's immediate reaction to this article be to rush to the comments to remark:
"clothes horse" is not an intellectual compliment. And I suppose this is black male sexuality, assuming your role model is a pimp[,]
rather than to want to step up your sartorial game and stop shopping at the GAP outlet?

In light of these comments, is it any wonder that the number of minority faculty members are so terrible? Look:
Humanities faculty: 82.3% White, 5% Black, 5.8% Asian Pacific Islander, .8% Native American, and 5.1% Hispanic. Philosophy faculty: 88.9 % white (around 16.6% of whom are women; compared to about 35% in the Humanities at large), 4.6% Asian Pacific Islander (.6% women), 3% Native American (1% women), 2.4% Blacks (.1 % women), and 1.1% Hispanics (.1 % women) (Table 245 in Snyder, T.D., Dillow, S.A., and Hoffman, C.M. (2008). Digest of Education Statistics 2007 (NCES 2008-022)).
And, to those other commenters on the article wondering why this deserves mention in the Chronicle at all, pull your head out of your ass and think about some work Paul D. Umbach (2006) summarizes:
[F]aculty of color create a comfortable environment and provide support and mentoring for students of color (Cole and Barber, 2003; Smith, 1989). Students of color look to faculty who they believe will be able to understand them. Faculty of color are best able to understand their special problems and provide them with the encouragement they need to succeed (Cole and Barber, 2003). Academic performance and career aspirations are enhanced when students of color have minority faculty who serve as role models for them (Cole and Barber, 2003; Hurtado et al., 1999; Smith, 1989).
We don't talk much about race, ethnicity, or class on this blog. We should.


Update 2: That purple sweater and those shoes? Yeah.

Click to embiggen.
Update 3: I included more numbers from the table I mentioned. And here's a screen grab (there might be more recent reports out there): 

 -- Jaded, Ph.D.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interviewing while female

I recently underwent diversity training at my university. Good times. Part of the course materials included a paper on gender bias in hiring, which contained a list of recommendations for institutions (for avoiding bias in hiring decisions), but also included the following evidence-based recommendations for women seeking employment (to help them counteract bias and implicit bias in hiring decisions). As we often get questions on the blog about things like interview attire, family status issues, etc., this seemed pretty relevant as we approach the interview season. (My posting of these recommendations should not be construed as an endorsement of any of them. I can't say that I ever did any of these things, at least not consciously. If you're interested in the reasons for the recs, read the article.)
Recommendations for female applicants
● Provide some evidence of communal job-relevant behaviors (e.g., being helpful and sensitive to the needs of subordinates)
● Indicate clear evidence of competency (e.g., resume, third-party endorsements) but avoid appearing self-promoting in an interview
● Do not show anger or discuss previous job-related situations that made you angry
● Best to avoid feminine-scented perfume, but wearing masculine-scented perfume may be beneficial (although you would need to pretest the scent to ensure that it is considered “masculine”)
● Avoid revealing parenthood status until job and salary are secured
● In your initial application, if you have a female-gendered first name, consider using initials only, and if you have a gender-ambiguous name, consider removing gender-identifying information
● Strive for an “attractive” but neutral appearance for interviews or application photographs. Avoid interviewing in overly feminine clothing (more masculine clothing and facial features may be beneficial)
● If you are visibly pregnant, it might be wise to obscure it with your clothing
● Avoid tentative speech patterns (e.g., use of intensifiers such as “really” and “definitely,” hedges such as “I guess” or “sort of,” and hesitations such as “well” or “let’s see”)
("Interventions That Affect Gender Bias in Hiring: A Systematic Review." Carol Isaac, PhD, PT, Barbara Lee, PhD, and Molly Carnes, MD, MS Academic Medicine, Vol. 84, No. 10 / October 2009)

These are basically about countering implicit and unconscious bias -- bias the discriminator doesn't even recognize as bias -- and many of them are common sense. Probably best to avoid ranting about your previous scumbag employer, although apparently, that goes double for women. The issue of self-promotion, and avoiding it if you're a woman, clearly points to a double standard. Talking about your work in a non-self-promoting way in a job interview is going to require some real verbal finesse. Hiding an advanced pregnancy would be pretty hard for a lot of women. Some of this advice seems, on the face of it, kind of offensive. You might well ask yourself why women should have to hide a pregnancy or wear "masculine" perfume (AXE body spray anyone?). (Although if you ask me, just don't wear perfume. That goes for you guys too.) But again, this is about getting past implicit bias.

And I'll tell ya. The interactions with others in the diversity workshop revealed a level of ignorance about gender bias, and what constitutes bias, and what is legally permitted in interviews that was pretty eye-opening. You might think that people actually taking a workshop on diversity would not publicly say crazy shit that is discriminatory, sexist, and racist, but they do, and I'm going to guess that it's because -- despite efforts to re-educate them -- they just don't know better. Which is just to say that sexism is alive and well in academe, and forewarned is forearmed. Some of this advice probably applies equally well to minority candidates (use initials if you have an "ethnic-sounding" name, don't show anger, etc.). I have not been able to find comparable practical recommendations for countering racial bias, but I'll post it if I do.


Mental Health Break

"Waiting Season" is in full swing, and those of us on the job market are in prime stress-out time, so let's take a little break and collect ourselves.

This one's a classic, obviously:

And if you don't like that one, maybe you'll like this one:

And if you don't like that one, maybe you'll like this one:

And if you don't any of those, this is your last chance:

Stay warm and get interviews, Smokers!

--Mr. Zero

Monday, November 26, 2012

A new thread

Anonymous requests:
Report where people have been getting 'intriguing' Google searches to their website. Or how often we have been checking to see whether that has been occurring (*sigh*).
Or anything else. Please dear God, anything other than what this thread has deteriorated into.
Sure. Open thread. Newbie questions about APA, interview scheduling, or whatever. Have at it, girls and boys.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview Miscellany

Some interesting things emerging from this thread. 10:41 writes,
A few years ago (maybe 4, I don't recall), we had an applicant come straight from the airport. He was a mess. He admitted to us that he tried to minimize how much time he'd be on site, so flew in the morning of his interview with us, and was flying out the next day after another interview.

We asked if he'd rather reschedule for the next day (that's when he told us about his plans to fly out the following afternoon after an interview), and then offered to give him a few hours to get himself in order (we offered to interview him at the end of the day). He refused, and said he'd rather just get it over with.

He failed miserably. He couldn't concentrate, and screwed up the answer to every question (including the "tell us about your dissertation" softball). Despite being very strong on paper, we simply couldn't consider bringing him out to campus after such a terrible interview. I wonder what he would have been like with a good night's sleep and a hot meal.

I know this is not really about the original post, but I want to note that you simply cannot overestimate the importance of a good night's sleep and a hot meal. If there is any doubt, try and stay the extra night. Get there the day before your interview, and if you're planning early, get there the day before you might be expected to be available for interviews. Yes, it means spending a little extra money; and maybe because of the realities of grad school/adjuncting, a little extra money is a big deal. Lie, cheat, steal, share rooms with friends, do whatever you have to do. This is your career, and the difference between success and failure just might be a good night's sleep and a hot meal.
This is exactly right. Interviews are hard. You have to be at your best. That means well-rested, well-fed, and not harried from a recent, highly stressful air-travel clusterfuck. Don't take yourself out of the game by not being at your best.

To which 7:03 adds,
10:41's comment underscores the absurdity and injustice of this whole arrangement. It is not only that we must make (very) expensive plans to travel to a city during the holidays when we may or may not have any interviews there. It is also that we must do this in an even less economical way than we might have--staying 3 nights instead of 1, for example--in order to allow for the possibility that schools will want to interview us at any time during that window. And, of course, if that's not true at all, or if we have only one interview, we learn of it too late to make any difference.

This is my 4th year on the market. I have a good VAP job, and know how to navigate the gauntlet that is APA logistics pretty effectively. And even so, I am forced to spend money that I don't have (since my institution's travel funding is limited, due to state budgeting issues). I am, more and more, wary of institutions that--despite all that we know about the financial burden the APA puts on grad students and junior/underemployed philosophers--continue to interview at the APA. There are other options available, and I'm glad to see that more and more departments are choosing them.
This is also true. I realize that not everyone agrees, but there is no reason to hold interviews at the APA anymore. Skype interviews are not at all ideal, but they're a hell of a lot better than $650 to fly to Atlanta and another $100 a night to stay in Atlanta plus food and expenses. And while we're on the topic of a good night's sleep and a hot meal, how about a good night's sleep in your bed and a hot meal that was prepared in your kitchen? Or, like, your favorite restaurant in your town. Or something.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Interview Days?

An anonymous Smoker asks:

I am planning on purchasing flights for the APA in advance in the hopes of avoiding higher prices later. What assumptions are safe to make about when interviews are held during the conference? Should I assume that an interview could be on any of the four days (27-30th), or just the two full days (28-29th)? It would be nice to avoid the expense of unnecessary extra hotel nights.
I've never had an interview at the APA that wasn't on the 28th or the 29th. My sense is that it's fairly unusual for interviews to be scheduled that first day, and maybe a little less so for the last day. But you'd probably be pretty safe if you were to plan to be in town for just those two days.

That said, I wouldn't want to plan to arrive on the 28th for an interview on the 28th. Flights are always late, and you want to be rested and non-harried on the day of the interview. You probably knew that, though.

What say you, Smokers? Am I wrong?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, November 12, 2012

Is the Phylo Wiki Still the One?

In comments here, anon 1:07 asks:

phylo sort of got eclipsed as a job listing, but are people still going to be using the wiki?

My plan was to continue using the Phylo Wiki, unless it was unusable for some reason, or everybody else stopped using it, or there was some better wiki out there. And although it's a little early for the wiki to be in full swing, it seems like it's still pretty usable, people are using it, and there doesn't seem to be any better wiki. (Is there?) Let's extend our continuing gratitude to David Morrow and Chris Alen Sula for letting us use their wiki.

One question, though. I seem to remember that the Phylo wiki had a color-coded interface. Is that not happening anymore?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Auditing Courses?

An anonymous Smoker writes:

How important is course work to SCs? More specifically, does auditing (say) half a dozen courses add any value to one's CV? Does it look bad to a SC if a job candidate specializes in X but hasn't taken a course with a prominent X specialist on X from his or her department? Auditing courses is fun and often helpful for developing one's own ideas, but I'm wondering whether my time is better spent elsewhere.

I could be wrong, by my guess is that auditing courses adds nothing of any value whatsoever to one's CV. At my Ph.D.-granting institution, there were literally no requirements of any kind involved in an audit--you didn't even have to show up. The seminars you actually take for a grade, and for which you must do the reading and the writing and participate in whatever other ways are required, don't count for much of anything on your CV--you wouldn't think that someone was prepared to teach an upper-division undergraduate course on ancient skepticism based on the fact that she'd taken a seminar in grad school (would you?)--and audits are worth even less.

So--and again, I could be wrong--but I would say that auditing a seminar here and there might be good for your personal edification, or good for your dissertation when the topic connects with your research somehow. And some people (and I include myself here) do well with a little added structure in their lives, and having a seminar or two to plan things around can really help them stay organized and on task. But as a line on the CV, I can't see how an audit would be worth anything at all.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shifting deadlines due to Sandy

I just noticed that the deadline for the Chicago Society of Fellows has moved from November 1st to November 15th due to "adverse weather conditions."

This seems like a very solid thing to do; good on the Chicago Society of Fellows. I wonder if any other schools will be more lenient on application deadlines for similar reasons.

If you see any other changes in deadlines that are worth sharing, consider this an open thread to note them.

Another important thing to note: Interfolio seems to be lagging behind because of the weather too. In sending a request today for them to upload letters to HR websites, the response was that they will be uploaded on Monday. Maybe it takes them that long anyway, but something to keep that in mind, folks.

Also, I hope all Smokers affected by Hurricane Sandy are now all safe and sound and warm.

Just remember, if you survived the FRANKENSTORM, you can survive the market.

- Jaded, Ph.D.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Emphases added

Yes. We're still talking about this. From another Chronicle post about women in philosophy:
Changes in the way philosophy is taught may be alienating some women, says Brian R. Leiter [...] 
"Philosophy, in the English-speaking world, has migrated closer to the sciences, and places a high premium on technical skills, logic, and dividing problems into lots of small pieces," Mr. Leiter says. 
And while many science and mathematics disciplines have been working to attract women, "philosophy hasn't been particularly self-conscious in developing measures to counteract the problem," he says. 
Sally Haslanger, a professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the factors that may hold women back include "implicit associations linking philosophy with masculinity, both in the minds of instructors and students," not enough good mentoring, and "cold and alienating environments" in many philosophy departments.
Given the way it was reported, the obvious inference to draw (but keep reading) from BL's quote is: "Women can't do these hard things that philosophy has migrated towards. So, there's a gender problem." Of course, this is the exact inference that SH tries to block by calling our attention to "implicit assumptions linking philosophy with masculinity," which in turn lead to lack of "good mentoring," and "cold and alienating environments."

After noting the somewhat shoddy reporting at the CHE, BL makes efforts to block this inference too. He notes that:
My point also wasn't that changes to how philosophy is taught have driven women away, but rather that as philosophy migrated closer to the sciences in the Anglophone world over the last fifty years, it acquired the same kinds of problems those disciplines have had with gender equity--but unlike many of the science fields, philosophy has not, until recently, been particularly self-conscious about this or pro-active in remedying it. (As Ms. Mangan and I discussed, why the sciences had these problems is a topic unto itself--no doubt sexual harassment, gender stereotyping and other explicit and implicit biases have all played a role. But philosophy would do well to emulate what many science fields have done to try to rectify the inequities.)
BL's parenthetical remark is right, of course, and his story holds just as well for philosophy as it does for the sciences. I just wish he had said it more explicitly.

So let me clear up any confusion for readers of the CHE article who might not read BL's addendum. I'm going to try to be as clear as possible here, hence the caps:
Let's flesh out the story a bit more. I see a threefold problem the parts of which all sustain each other.

First, there has been a campaign or - less conspiratorially - a tendency to delegitimize sub-disciplines of philosophy that do not resemble or use the same tools/concepts as the so-called analytic "core." So, if you do something that's further away from - oh, why not just say it? - metaphysics and epistemology, (like, say, history of philosophy or care ethics or feminist philosophy or philosophy of race) you aren't doing REAL PHILOSOPHY. (To be fair, this isn't anything new. Do a little history and you'll quickly discover that if there's any characteristic definitive of philosophers it's a tendency to tell other people they aren't doing philosophy the right way.)

Second, these fields tend to draw a more diverse pool of philosophers than the "core." Because of this, those who do research at the peripherhy of REAL PHILOSOPHY (which looks like science) are assumed to not have the analytic chops to do REAL PHILOSOPHY. I mean, if they did have the chops, then obviously they'd do REAL PHILOSOPHY rather than whatever pseudo-philosophy they concern themselves with. (Hence comments like, "She does feminist epistemology (or history or ethics), but she's also a really good philosopher.")

Third, these two sociological facts feed our implicit and explicit associations between masculinity and the methods and problems of the so-called "core" of analytic philosophy. They feed the oft-unquestioned stereotype that there are girly (soft) ways of reasoning and girly (soft) problems that women love and men hate and manly (hard) ways of reasoning and manly (hard) problems that women hate and men love. And, it just so happens that the girly ways of reasoning are used in disciplines far away from the core of REAL PHILOSOPHY, which uses manly ways of reasoning.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

To reiterate: philosophy's gender problem is not due to the fact that it employs "technical skills, logic, and dividing problems into lots of pieces." Philosophy's gender problems has to do with "sexual harassment, gender stereotyping, and other explicit and implicit biases."

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

(Unrelated: A few of you have e-mailed me questions in the past week. I haven't forgot about them. I hope to post them soon.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Going stale

An anonymous Smoker writes to ask:

I came from an SLAC and am currently in my last year of the MA program at well-respected graduate department (it's not ranked by Leiter, but given an honorable mention).  The program here requires you to start and finish your MA before you can apply into the PhD program.  I have been having great anxiety about my prospects of getting into a strong PhD program (because of the lack of financial aid here, I will not be staying on at my current school), and then if I do get in, there are of course the well-documented terrors of the job market.

After some long and intense conversations, I decided with my partner's support that it was in our best interests for me to stop (temporarily) at the MA and spend some time gaining experience and other marketable qualities (which is not to say that the skills gained from doing philosophy are not marketable, but are probably not immediately appealing to employers outside of academia) before hopefully one day returning to complete my PhD at another institution. In the meantime, I plan to continue to read, fill in my philosophical gaps, research and write when I can and I would like to make an attempt at publishing while I'm off the academic route.

This brings me to my questions for you and all the other Smokers. Is there a danger of going stale in the eyes of admissions departments if I have a large gap since my MA, especially if my grandiose plans of reading, writing and publishing don't come to fruition (as they often don't)?

My other question has to do with publishing.  Will I not be taken seriously by journals and conferences because I only have a MA and am not currently working toward a PhD, in other words that I have no institutional affiliation?  Blind review theoretically should prevent this, but I guess the editor could reject me on that basis alone, right?  Without the benefit of professors and peers commenting on my work and helping me improve it (although there is nothing preventing them from helping a former student, their efforts and time is and should be focused on their current students), it is unlikely that my work would be at the same caliber of the philosophers who get published in the top journals.  From reading your blog and others, it seems clear that not only does it matter that you publish, but also where you publish, and publishing in un-established or generally unknown journals could hurt your more than help you. Should I not even bother trying to publish in the top journals, is it acceptable to try to publish in lower-tier journals given the circumstances?  Would that be taken into account by institutions I apply to for my PhD and, later down the line, institutions where I try to get a job?  Or should I simply not attempt to publish at all?

My guess is that  a gap after the MA would matter to admissions committees about as much as a gap after the undergraduate degree which--which, as far as I know, is not at all.

That's not to say it won't cause problems. It will. Your writing sample might suffer if there's an extended period of time during which your head's not in philosophy. And if your letter-writers have to think back to the long-ago time when you were in their classes, it'll be harder for them to write helpful letters. But I know lots of people who spent substantial amounts of time away from philosophy after college, and who still managed to produce writing samples and secure helpful letters, and were subsequently admitted to good, Leiter-ranked Ph.D. programs.

Regarding the possibility of publishing while away from academia: it seems to me that it will be very difficult to produce work of publishable quality during this time. For one thing, the benefits of being immersed in philosophy in the manner of a philosophy grad student are enormous. Doing coursework; reading a lot; writing a lot; going to talks; participating in reading groups; talking philosophy with the faculty and the other grad students. It's all very beneficial, and you don't get the benefits if you're not there.

For another thing, and I know you know this, but the fact is that it's hard to write a publishable philosophy paper, and I'm not confident that the level of training you'd have by virtue of completing an MA would be enough. For example, I did a master's degree program and I don't regard anything I wrote during that period to be remotely publishable. And I don't think I'm alone--I don't think anything any of my master's-program classmates produced was publishable, either. I'm pretty certain that none of it was ever published, anyway.

Regarding the possibility that your unaffiliated status will get in the way: It might. Although most refereeing is blind, my understanding is that a good deal of editing is not. So it's possible that your unaffiliated status will hurt you, although it's hard to say what the total effect will be. Probably more in some journals than others.

But I don't think we've reached a point where publishing is necessary for admission to Ph.D. programs. Have we? That would be awful. I think that the upshot is, you'll be fine. Concentrate on keeping your mind on philosophy, producing a good writing sample without worrying about publishing it, and stay in touch with the faculty at your MA-granting department. Let them know what your plans are, and ask them for help.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bad letters

This was posted by Anonymous on the previous thread, and warrants attention:

Wow. So I just read a letter of rec for a job candidate (I'm on a SC). Absolutely brutal. It wasn't just unenthusiastic; it outright insulted the candidate along numerous dimensions. Why would you agree to write a letter if you are going to go out of your way to say that the person is bad? I understand not going in for hyperbolic praise. I read tons of letters like those where it is clear that the letter writer isn't giving full support. But a letter this damning is a rare find.
Obviously, pretty scary.

I have questions:

  • Were the other letters equally bad? Was this just one rotten letter from someone who really did not like the student? (One must wonder, as well, why the student didn't know this person thought so poorly of him/her. Was s/he being set up? Was this a personal vendetta? Sexism/racism/bias?)
  • What moral/legal/professional duties do SC members have in such matters? Are they prohibited from writing to a candidate and saying, e.g. "One of your letters really stinks -- maybe you should ask someone to look into that." Or some such.
  • What moral/legal/professional duties do letter writers have to the persons for whom they write letters? If you are asked for a "letter of recommendation," that seems, to me, to imply that, at minimum, you are going to recommend the subject of the letter. Insulting, demeaning, trashing, and not recommending would seem to be excluded from the mission of the letter of recommendation. Which is not to say that you have to offer a complete and unqualified endorsement of the student, but you have to endorse them to some extent. It would seem that this letter writer engaged in deceit and intentionally undermined the student under the guise of "recommending" them, unless they actually told the student that they could not and would recommend him/her. But then why write the letter at all?

So, this also points to the value of having someone look at your letters before they're sent out. My school/dept did not do this (the placement help was pretty lousy). I was tempted, a few times, to use Interfolio to send my letters to myself or a friend. But I couldn't convince myself that it was ethical to break the confidentiality, so I never did it. I'm curious though, to know from those who have had their letters evaluated by a third party, whether there were bad letters among them, and what happened.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Fall Job Market: Some Impressions

Because of the fact that the JFP doesn't come out in two discrete bunches anymore, it's hard to make a direct, precise comparison between this year's October JFP situation and those from years past. But as of right now, I have between five and ten jobs on my list than I had at this time last year. So, for me, at least, things seem a little better. Not that this means anything.

According to PhilJobs, the JFP had 203 listings, of which 167 are tenured or tenure-track, and 36 are not. (PhilJobs itself claims 351, of which 247 are tenured or tenure-track, and 104 are not.) Whereas last year's JFP day had 194 ads plus another 48 web-onlies (some of which were no-doubt duplicates from the print edition, and who-knows-how-many were non-tenure-track). So, without pretending to be very precise, my sense is that, all things considered, this year is about the same as last year, or maybe a little worse. I don't know. According to last year's October JFP post, which is where I got the information concerning last year's JFP from just now, there were 140 ads in the print edition from October of '09, 267 in '08--just after the econopocalypse but before the devastation had fully manifested itself--and 347 ads in October of '07, the most recent year with a decent economy going in. I did not double-check any of these numbers. Corrections and additional context are welcome.

Leiter has been optimistic the past couple of years, suggesting that rebounds in other disciplines are signs of a rebound in ours. Last year was political science; this year it was sociology. I'll believe it when I see it.

 --Mr. Zero

Friday, October 12, 2012

Through The CC On-Campus Interview Ringer

An anonymous Smoker sent the following story detailing an on-campus interview at a community college somewhere in the American West, which was too long to go as a comment in Zombie's recent CC-related post. Here it is:
I interviewed for a TT CC job on the West Coast in the spring of 2009. I was invited for and had a campus interview (at my own expense), and was one of three finalists, including the incumbent, drawn from a pool of roughly 110 applicants.

The school was heavily unionized, and the entire process was onerous, impersonal, and bureaucratic.

I found it strange, for instance, that from start to finish, all of my correspondence with the CC was with the school's HR department, not with either of the two TT philosophers at the school, or any other faculty.

At any rate, ten days before my campus visit, the HR department informed me by email that my visit would have three parts:

1. A writing exercise;
2. A teaching demonstration;
3. An interview with five people, all of whom were either faculty or administrators.

I was also told that if the president of the college had time, he would meet with me after my interview.

The topic of my teaching demonstration was emailed to me ten days before the interview; it asked me to construct a truth table illustrating DeMorgan's Law.

When the big day finally came, I arrived on campus with only instructions to report to HR at 9:15 am. No one from the CC met me at the airport, or arranged accommodation, or made any effort to ensure my comfort. I didn't even get a campus tour.

At any rate, the HR woman took me into a small office, asked me to leave my materials outside the door, gave me a sheet containing a question to which I was asked to write an answer, and instructed me either to type my answer on a computer, or write it on a legal pad. I chose to use the computer, and was given approximately 20 minutes to compose my answer.

The question asked me to compare and contrast Utilitarianism and Kantianism on the morality of lying.

I finished my answer just as time expired, and was then given fifteen minutes to study a list of three other questions which were to form the basis of my interview with the five people noted above. One of the questions dealt with Hume and induction, another with Plato's Theory of Forms, and a third with pedagogy and the relevance of philosophy to CC students.

When the fifteen minutes expired, the HR lady took me to a large conference room in another part of the building, in which were seated the five representatives (including two philosophers and one English professor) from the school. I should note that this was the first contact I'd had with any of the faculty, including the philosophers. (I suspect, however, that before I arrived in the conference room, the two philosophers had read my answer to the Utilitarianism/Kantianism question.)

I was asked to give my teaching demonstration first, and did so without much fuss.

Next came the interview, which consisted solely of having the interview questions noted above recited verbatim by three of the five interviewers.

I answered the questions in detail and fielded all of their follow-up questions; then the interview ended, and the HR lady led me outside the room while the five interviewers conferred with each other.

Ten minutes later, the HR lady went back into the conference room, and emerged shortly thereafter with word that the CC president would like to meet with me.

It was at this point that I realized that the earlier line about the president meeting with me if he had time was just a ruse; the meeting with him was contingent on my having had a successful interview.

The HR lady escorted me across campus to the president's office, where I met with him and the dean. The interview went well, and I remember being asked, What is the one thing you would change about community colleges?

I gave an answer that I thought they'd like to hear: I said that I'd make it the case that every applicant to a CC be accepted, since CCs' goal (or at least this CC) was to serve taxpayers of the state.

I completed the interview with these two and left feeling like I'd aced not only it, but also the interview with the committee, the teaching demonstration, and the writing test. I was on cloud nine!

Two days later, my hopes rose further when I received calls from two of my references, informing me that they had been contacted by the philosophers on the CC's hiring committee and told that I was an extremely strong candidate. According to my referees, I was one of three shortlisted candidates, and a decision was imminent.

Then, ten days passed with no word from anyone at the CC. I found the wait awkward, especially because I had never been formally given the email addresses or phone numbers of the two philosophers on the hiring committee; I had no one to answer my questions.

Finally, on approximately the twelfth day after my campus visit, I found in my spam mail folder an email from a different HR person than the one who had shepherded me through my visit. It was a rejection letter -- a PFO.

I was devastated.

I should add that I was at that time in my fourth year as a VAP at a SLAC in the Midwest and had previously published a paper in a peer-reviewed (and highly regarded) journal. I had also held an 18-month VAP at a different SLAC prior to the Midwest gig, and held a Ph.D. from a Leiter-ranked school.

In all, I found the whole CC application and interview process dehumanizing, rule-bound, and off-putting.

That said, I would have loved to have got the job, as it was within twenty miles of one of the largest cities on the West Coast, held the promise of good weather, excellent pay and benefits, and a manageable teaching load.

I hope my account of this experience will help some of my fellow smokers.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

[Untitled Post on Narrowing the Applicant Field]

In comments, anon 12:08 asks:
I have an off-topic question for people who have served on search/hiring committees. We hear a lot about how many applications hiring departments get--the numbers are in the hundreds. Of these, how many make it past the initial screening process, and on what basis? What percentage of applications are immediately binned, and why? No doubt the answers to these questions will vary greatly from one search to the next, but I'm just curious about whether the huge numbers we hear about are all (or mostly) coming from applicants who are qualified, or if many of them are on fishing expeditions, applying for every and any job, irrespective of fit.
Anon 5:25 responds:
On the first cut, I remove applications that don't have the relevant AOS/AOC, or no teaching experience or an incomplete file (for example writing sample or letters of recommendation missing or in one case last year, we received just letters of recommendation for one person but nothing else at all). Last year, one-third of the applications were tossed out in the first round for one or more of those reasons. Oh yes and if you have the wrong school in your cover letter or talk lovingly about our grad program when we don't have one, it is unlikely you will survive the first cut.
I'm pretty interested in hearing from more people. What say you, Smoking Search Committee Members?

--Mr. Zero

[Update: I guess I forgot to title this post. Whoops-a-daisy.]

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jobs at Community Colleges

Questions about CC jobs come up periodically, and in the current job climate, some philosophers who previously would not have considered teaching at a CC are probably giving those jobs a good, hard, longing look. My experience with CCs is pretty limited. (I took an art class at a CC once, and I'm a big fan of Community.) I applied for a few CC jobs in my last go-round on the job market, and found the application process to be quite different, and in some ways, quite onerous. I was in contention (early on) for one job, and remember having to respond to a lot of very specific additional questions with fairly lengthy written answers. As I progressed through different levels of the process, it seemed the search committee demanded more and more from me. Still, the particular school was in a desirable city, and I was willing. But I can't say I was heartbroken when I was eventually eliminated. So maybe a CC job wasn't for me.

Here's what I've gleaned about CC jobs from fellow Smokers:

  • The teaching load is relatively high, with the usual expectations of service.You should really, really love to teach.
  • The students are far more diverse socially, economically, educationally, and in every other way, than the typical four year college student.
  • There is generally no research requirement for tenure.
  • The pay is equivalent to (or better than) four year college salaries.
  • Expect a multidisciplinary atmosphere.
  • It is not at all unusual for CC jobs to require a PhD these days.

Those in the know are invited to correct any inaccuracies. This is an open thread for those of you who have questions about CCs, and those who have experience and answers.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The New JFP: Some Suggestions

I've had a chance to sit down and familiarize myself with the new JFP. My overall impression is that it's a decent first draft. If they get some kinks ironed out, there's a lot of potential for this to be good. But right now, there are some problems, most of which seem to me to be related to the fact (I think it's a fact, anyway) that this thing was put together very quickly.

And I don't mean that as a criticism, exactly. Since taking over as ED (just in August, right?), Amy Ferrer seems to have moved extremely quickly to get a new JFP system set up. I think that counts for a lot. After years of being ignored by Schrader, we have an ED who is paying attention to us and trying to help. I cannot begin to imagine David Schrader leaving a comment on this blog, or reading it, or even knowing about it. Let alone implementing a suggestion that was made here or on Philosophers Anonymous or something.

And this is important function of the APA. PhilJobs is great, and the Phylo jobs board and wiki are great. It's great that there are volunteers who do this, and who do a good job. But the profession needs to have an official job market service center. It would not be at all kosher to just leave the JFP exclusively in the hands of volunteers--however good at it they may be.

That said, there are a number of areas for improvement. I don't claim to be the first to have mentioned all of these, but I'm too lazy to go back through yesterday's comments and cite sources. For the same reason, I'm not going to make any attempt to compile a complete list of suggestions. These are just the main things that stood out to me as I was browsing around last night and this morning.

(I'd also like to point out that I strongly agree with Jaded's remarks yesterday regarding constructive criticism. I'm trying not to just complain and stuff. I'm trying to complain constructively.)

  • The AOS/AOC stuff should be displayed on the ad thumbnail. Ok. I see that this has been fixed. But it seems to me that the AOS and the AOC fields are not adequately distinguished.  
  • There should be a way to get all the ads to display on a single page.
  • The AOS/AOC tags don't work very well--I click on the tag for my AOS and I get a lot of stuff not in my AOS. Which makes me worry that I'm also not getting everything in my AOS. 
  • The "open" AOS/AOC tag returns ads that are not open.
  • The AOS/AOC tag thing doesn't seem to distinguish between AOS and AOC.
  • Does using the "filter" function with the checkboxes for "grant/fellowship" etc. negate the AOS/AOC tag filter? There doesn't seem to be any way to confirm or disconfirm this. The UI at PhilJobs is a good model here--you check some boxes in one area, and then you check some more in another area, and the boxes in the first area stay checked. This UI has no boxes for areas of specialization or competence. 
  • When you "star" an ad, it should be marked as starred on the thumbnail.

That's how it seems to me, anyways.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Impressions

A long time ago, in my first teaching assistant training session, I made the mistake of criticizing a teaching demonstration on some minor points. I did this without first noting the positive aspects of what was, by all standards, a pretty good demonstration. I was remonstrated by the group leader and also by the universe: I gave a terrible demonstration the next day on Frank Jackson's knowledge argument. My full-blown incompetence in the teaching arena - since turned into full-blown competence - was on display for all to see. The group leader asked, telling me to be honest, whether I had spent anytime thinking about the demonstration or had just slapped it together. I had, I told him, I just seized in the spotlight. Because it was a three-day training session I didn't have the opportunity to redeem myself. I adopted a conciliatory approach after these missteps and tried to be nice and encouraging to the other new teaching assistants, but my words rightfully fell on deaf ears.

A few points:
  • Constructive criticism should involve "construction:" building up before tearing down or pointing out strong structural features already there. 
  • If you have more than three days after making a terrible first impression to make a better one, then take that chance. 
In that spirit, I like the APA's response to the discontent that has grown over the past few years especially with regards to the job market. I like that the the APA now has a dedicated JFP website. I like that the APA is paying for me to use Interfolio this year and has encouraged search committees to do likewise. I find Interfolio's interface much easier to use and better put together than AcademicJobsOnline and the various generic HR websites universities are using these days; it's sleek, well-functioning, and the problems it encounters are few and far between. And, for some inexplicable reason (especially inexplicable given the success of Chalmers and Bourget at PhilJobs and PhilPapers), I like that the JFP is run by a professional organization with what appear to be dedicated moderators. I like that you can star jobs on the JFP for easier access and so on.

But, as many of you have pointed out in the comments, the APA's new JFP is wanting in certain important respects. First, AOS and AOC should be listed prominently in the title for the job ad rather than in the tags that accompany each post. Tags are notoriously unreliable since the poster may forget to include them after posting the other information; I certainly forget to tag my posts here all the time (or in the heydays of my posting). Second, the search function for AOS and AOC should not simply be the tag cloud on the right of the website, but should resemble something like the interface at PhilJobs. Third, on any given page, you'll only find ten jobs. Fourth, are we able to sort the jobs according to application deadline? I haven't looked closely enough to check, but that'd be useful too.

Admittedly, these might sound like small quibbles. But, these small quibbles with the APA's JFP pile up on top of all the other frustrations that come with being on the market. Sure, I can do what I did today to find the jobs I want to apply to at the new JFP: open up every job, quickly scan the ad for my AOS, then star it. Not too big a deal, but frustrating. And, I can also check Phylo and PhilJobs and the JFP and the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd for other jobs that might not be advertised in one or another venue. Not too big a deal, but frustrating. I can also submit my teaching and research materials to your HR website and then send, under separate cover, my letters of reference via Interfolio. Not too big a deal, but frustrating.

But, if I learned anything my three years on the market it is that success - "success" construed broadly to mean: keeping one's mental health, not yelling at the computer, not being a dick to one's friends, being able to submit more than one job application a day without wanting to tear your hair out while also teaching and doing research - requires a well-oiled machine. These tiny frustrations tend to pile up during job market season and by the end of it, I'm shook. If my file size is too large for an HR department's website, I want to start smoking again. If I missed a job because searching through the tag cloud on the JFP's website is unreliable or because it's hard to navigate their website, I want to immediately stop what I'm doing and get drunk. Etc. Etc.

Of course, I can manage all these frustrations with applying for jobs, because I've been doing this for three, going on four, years now and I also love doing philosophy. It's an amazing gig. Besides, I think I am a well-oiled machine now. But, I sometimes wish these gears didn't require so much lubrication; I'm bound to run out at some point.

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

The New JFP Is Up

I don't have time to dig into it right now, but I'll have a review later today. Immediate reaction: I don't like the way the institution's name is small, inconspicuous, desaturated, and occasionally abbreviated or written in code, while the location is displayed more prominently. The institution's location is somewhat less important to me than its identity.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's That Time of Year Again

Yes. It's that time of year. The time of year where I don't get any writing done for eight or ten weeks while I revise my application materials, enter a bunch of application data into a spreadsheet, customize my cover letters, send out applications, electronically submit a bunch of other applications, study for interviews, wait around to hear from search committees, plan for the possibility of a job talk, and drink.

Even if I had the same amount of teaching, and even if there was committee work and other non-teaching responsibilities on top of that, I still feel like a tenure-track job would leave me with a shit-ton of extra time, just because I wouldn't have to keep looking for a tenure-track job anymore.

So, if it's not too much trouble, I'd really appreciate it if someone would offer me one.

Thanks and best wishes,

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line (As Always)

I haven't ever been excited about the start of job market season. And I've been progressively less excited each year for the past few years. But I was still kind of surprised to discover how much I'm not looking forward to being on the job market again. I started getting my materials together and it just hit me. Like a black rock in my guts. Ugh.

When I finished my dissertation and started teaching on the VAP circuit, I sort of thought that if I was a hard worker and did what I was supposed to do--if I did a good job teaching my classes and published a lot--then I would eventually snag a TT position somewhere. I didn't think it was a guarantee, or anything. But based on what happened to people I went to grad school with, and to people whose degrees are from departments similar to mine, I thought I had a decent chance. I was trying to be realistic about it, but I was also at least a little optimistic, insofar as that's a possible combination. And so, although I wasn't in love with it or anything, I didn't have too much trouble getting myself motivated to go on the market in the fall.

But the past couple of years have been different. Although I believe in what I'm doing, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished, I'm not getting the results I want. It keeps happening, and the job market keeps not bouncing back. It gets harder to get myself moving on all the shit I need to do before the JFP drops. Blah.

Anyways, here's some Cake for your enjoyment. I hope everyone's prowess is potent this year. Especially mine.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, September 14, 2012

Is your PhD nearing its expiration date?

Over on Leiter's blog, he spotlights a couple of job ads (not in philosophy) where a requirement is a recent PhD (in one case, 2009 or later, in another, 2010 or later). Like this one
Applicants must have received the PhD or equivalent degree in the past three years (2009 or later), or show clear evidence of planned receipt of the degree by the beginning of employment.
So there you have it. Don't bother applying, you loser, if your degree is more than three years old. We'd rather hire an ABD. Also, how stupid of you to graduate during a recession. There's nothing in the ad that says something reasonable like "recent PhD and/or evidence of active scholarship." Nope. Fresh PhDs or ABDs only.

An argument for holding out on defending that diss, if you can, until you've got a job. And also, I guess, avoiding those pesky, time-consuming fellowships. This strikes me as nuts. I mean, I know we've all been told a PhD can get stale. But three years? Two years?! I've got food in my pantry that's older than that.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Philosopher's Imprint and Submission Fees

I've been following this discussion at Leiter about how Philosopher's Imprint is charging a $20 submission fee. I didn't have much to say about it, except the obvious--it seems like a really bad idea that would unfairly burden the unemployed, underemployed, non-tenure-track people, and graduate students. I strongly agree with "Third year on the job market," who writes:

I get the sense that people are making nuanced points here whereas it gets ignored (or understated) how TERRIBLE this move is for those of us who don't have a TT job and who are either grad students or doing temp jobs in a bid to secure a TT job (and, arguably, this is the group of philosophers that are the most desperate to have a publication in an excellent journal like PI).

Someone has to say this: Don't do that, Phil Imprint, just don't.

Part of the appeal of Phil Imprint was its democratic vision: everyone can read the papers published in this journal. But this new move cancels out this democratic vision as now not everyone can submit to this journal...*

I strongly disagree with David Wallace, who writes:

Actually, just picking up on Daniel Kaufman's point (which appeared while I was writing my last):

(A) I don't have a problem with the idea that the institution of a contributor to a magazine should pay the magazine to print that contribution.
(B) I don't have a problem with the idea that the institutions of junior faculty should have to pay their journals in order for junior faculty to submit to them.

If your institution isn't meeting your legitimately-incurred work-related expenses, that's a different matter, but it's not clear journals can do much about that.*

What Wallace doesn't seem to understand is that, for those of us not on the tenure track, this is not how it works at all. At all. My job comes with no research requirement or any official expectation that research will be done. If I want to do research, I am free to do so. But obviously I have to do research if I ever want a better job or if I want to stay in this profession long-term. Research is a practical necessity. But if I do research, I have to do it on my own time, and I am on my own. They're not going to pay any submission or contributor's fees for me. And so this idea leaves me and everyone like me completely stranded.

--Mr. Zero

* Emphases added. The ellipsis was in the original.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The PhilPapers Off-Campus Access Proxy Widget is Awesome

Maybe this is old news. I've been using PhilPapers for a few years, but had never bothered to heed its suggestion to configure PhilPapers for off-campus browsing until recently. What in the fuck was I waiting for? It's awesome.

The old way was, look stuff up on PhilPapers (or google scholar or whatever); find the bibliographic data; go to my school's library homepage; log into JSTOR; hope the journal is available on JSTOR; if not, look up the journal in the card catalog thing; log into the journal directly; and then have all the more recent stuff walled off for some reason, even though my school's library subscribes to the journal.

With this, I can just find the paper on PhilPapers and click the link. BOOM. Got it.

(The reason why I didn't bother with this before is, I pretty much used to do all my reading, writing, and research at the office. There were occasional exceptions, but as a general rule, I did not work from home. Since Junior came to stay with us, though, things are different. I have to work around his and Mrs. Zero's schedules, which often means I'm homebound for the day and must squeeze various professional tasks in during naps and junk like that. Having a kid has meant ratcheting up my efficiency level in a way that does not come at all naturally to me.)

Thanks PhilPapers people.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Update on New JFP

In comments, anon 9:19 points out that the APA has provided more information about the forthcoming relaunch of the JFP, here. There are some nice-looking screenshots. It looks like job listings will be color-coded according to type, and ads will include a google map of the location of the school. And I kind of like the "JFP" logo.

According to the update, the new JFP will also include the following features:

  • Post their resume/CV. Employers with active listings will have the ability to browse resumes and contact job seekers directly.
  • Search by keyword or filter by rank, AOS/AOC, location, and duration.
  • Save active job listings and return to them later.
  • Choose to receive an email notification when new jobs are posted.

I think it looks pretty good. One thing I wonder about is, will it be easier than before to export the data from the job ads into a spreadsheet, so I can do a mail-merge without having to enter it all by hand? That would be nice. Not that I'm complaining.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Springer Plus?

A fellow smoker writes in with a question or two:
I recently received a rejection from a Springer Journal and then a few days later got the below email...I'd love to hear if anyone else has done this and/or thoughts on whether it would be beneficial, or not.
The e-mail our friend received:
Recently you submitted your manuscript to a Springer journal. At that time the Editor-in-chief indicated that your manuscript unfortunately could not be published in his journal, but he/she considered it very well suitable for publication in the new Open Access journal SpringerPlus: 
SpringerPlus accepts manuscripts from all disciplines of Science and publishes all that are scientifically sound. SpringerPlus will not reject a manuscript because it is out of scope or for its perceived importance, novelty or ability to attract citations and it will either accept your manuscript for publication or not, you will not be asked for additional research. You can find more information about the journal at 
Benefits of transferring your submission of this manuscript to SpringerPlus may include: 
• easier publication and dissemination of your work, saving time finding and submitting to an alternative publisher • faster publication, we will transfer your manuscript record and reviewer comments to the suggested journal for you; • reaching the right audience for your work. 
Please note: SpringerPlus articles are free to read, an Open Access article processing fee (APC) is charged to cover all the costs associated with the publication of your article. Your institute or funding body may be a member of SpringerOpen or BioMedCentral, covering for the fee entirely or in part. A full list of members can be found on the SpringerOpen website: Ability to pay the this charge does not affect editorial decisions, waivers can be requested and we routinely waive charges for authors who are unable to pay.
I'm not sure what to think about this. As suggested by the website, SpringerPlus does not seem to function like SSRN or Arvix: not just anyone can upload papers and the papers that are published have made it through peer-review. It's also open access (yay!) and there are fee waivers for publishing (ugh on the fee, but yay for the waiver). And, depending on how tenure requirements are interpreted by your institution, a peer-reviewed publication here probably counts towards tenure. You also don't need to complete any more research, which, if you're happy with the paper, is a positive. So far, so good. 

However, I think the downside probably has to do with audience. 16 papers have been published so far, all in the sciences. They do get a decent amount of hits - the most being 2797 Accesses for "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: the dangers of getting 'dinged'" (a paper whose numbers are probably inflated by people interested in the long-term damages of playing football). But, I'm not sure how many professional philosophers are aware of SpringerPlus (I wasn't); so you might not find much of an audience. The audience you do find, because the journal is so new, might not be inclined to take a paper in SpringerPlus seriously (Why there and not somewhere more established? Is it a vanity press? Why are they in a rush to publish?). Though I would worry about perceptions, I resent having such worries. After all, I  hope that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So, maybe if you do publish there and can find a way to spread the word about the paper, it will find an audience. But, I'm skeptical that our fellow philosophers will take the paper as seriously as they would were it published in a "proper" philosophy journal. I reserve the right to be proven wrong on that front.

My not especially considered judgment: if you don't need the paper out immediately, can devote a bit more time to revising it and then waiting for another review, do that. If not, go with SpringerPlus and think about ways to direct people to your paper.

 -- Jaded, Ph.D.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Good News From the APA(!?!?)

As anon 11:41 notes, there's another email out from the APA containing more good news.

Online registration will be available on or about September 15, and will be considerably more flexible than registration (online or not) has been in the past. You will be able to register online up to and including the time of the meeting itself, and advance registration rates will remain in effect up to December 26, the day before the meeting. (Advance registration by fax or mail will have an earlier deadline.)

Holy shit. I, for one, have never registered in advance for an E-APA meeting, because I never commit to going unless I have an interview, and I've never gotten an interview request in time. Because advance registration has always closed way before the lion's share of departments have scheduled interviews.

I can only concur with anon 11:41 when he/she says,

Note how quickly Amy Ferrer made these changes. I just want to say, first, that she rocks.

I don't want to get carried away here, but it really does seem like the new ED has hit the ground running and is doing an awesome job.

--Mr. Zero

Academic Jobs Online dot Org

This came up in comments a couple of days ago (h/t anon 3:42), but I haven't had time to write a main post about it until now. In the meantime, Elizabeth Harman wrote to Leiter, so rather than write my own thing, I'm just going to steal hers:

Please take note that is a great service that makes things *much* easier for job candidates and departments that are trying to place their students. This service is free for job applicants and only requires applicants and letter-writers to upload all their materials once. Then to apply to each of the hiring departments using the service, applicants merely need to tick a few boxes. Several philosophy hiring departments did use the service last year (Duke, Tufts, Yale, Stanford, Tulane, Oregon, and Washington Tacoma), and hopefully more will this year. (All mathematics hiring uses this service. It is much more humane for job candidates.)

Couple of questions: Does anybody have any experience with How does it work? Is it user-friendly for applicants? Is it user-friendly for search committees? Is this the solution we've all been waiting for all this time?

One final note: while I realize that the cost of applications is substantial and represents a financial hardship, people have to realize that conference interviews are a much greater financial hardship. Airfare to Eastern-APA cities is generally in the four- to six-hundred-dollar range, and then there's food and lodging. I would never dream of complaining about a free way to submit applications. But a less costly way of conducting interviews is much, much more important to me.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 27, 2012

This is Kinda Awesome

I got an email this evening from Amy Ferrer, the new executive director of the APA, which reads in part,

...within weeks we will launch a new Jobs for Philosophers site with new search, sort, and bookmarking capabilities. Further, along with the new JFP, we’ll be offering our job-seeking members free access to Interfolio’s dossier service for job candidates, and APA members will also be eligible for one year of free access to Interfolio’s services for hiring committees. You will receive more information on these services very soon.

This is pretty awesome. We have, of course, been clamoring for a searchable JFP for years. And I've already seen a couple of job ads that seem to require applicants to use Interfolio to submit application materials, and I wondered what the deal was. I hadn't looked into it or anything, but I was a little worried I was going to have to shell out for it. This is the sort of thing that makes me happy.

I know it's weird and unprecedented to have two posts in a row in which I say that I approve of something that the APA is doing, but I can't help it. I like what the APA is doing.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The APA Has Changed Its Website for the Better

In comments, anon 5:36 points out a stunning development:

Don't look now, but the APA's website has actually improved.

I had noticed this, too, and I have to say, it's really pretty nice. The menu items are easily distinguishable from one another and are not at all garbled. The drop-down menus work the way they're supposed to, and are not easily actuated by inadvertent mouse behavior. They've also finally implemented a way to pay your dues online (although maybe they did this a while ago and I just didn't notice), and it seems that they're collecting some demographic information about the membership, which I don't recall ever having seen before.

All in all, this is pretty good news.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 20, 2012

There Oughtta be a Law

I was reading this job ad for assistant professor of online teaching at Ashford University of San Diego. The thing that caught my attention was the extremely specific and highly weird set of physical requirements at the end:

Physical Requirements:

Physical Demands: While performing the duties of the job, the employee is regularly required to use hands and arms and talk or hear. The employee requires dexterity in using telephone, computer keyboard, mouse and calculator while seated at a desk. The employee is frequently required to stand, walk and sit. The employee may frequently move to interact with fellow employees and/or clients. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, depth perception and ability to adjust focus.

There were a number of things that seemed weird to me in this section. I mean, (a) I've never seen anything like this; (b) "the employee is regularly required to use hands and arms and talk or hear"; (c) "The employee requires dexterity in [doing stuff] while [specifically] seated at a desk"; (d) depth perception. The weirdest thing about this ad, though, is that they sort of seem to be saying that you would not satisfy the physical requirements of this job if you, for example, needed to use a wheelchair. It seems like there's a bunch of stuff in this ad that would have to be in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

I mean, I guess I see why they might want you to be physically located in San Diego. They're trying to run a college, and they've got meetings and stuff. But I don't see why they'd need you to specifically stand and walk. I don't see why you couldn't just roll to the meetings and stay seated the whole time.

(Also, I had a friend in college whose eyes were pretty messed up, so that she didn't have much in the way of depth perception. This problem of hers made it so that she couldn't really play frisbee very well--we talked her into it once but we quickly realized we were making a bad mistake--but I doubt it would have interfered with her ability to perform the duties of assistant professor of online philosophy.)

The other thing that stood out to me was, I checked their Wikipedia page, and according to it, anyway, Ashford is a for-profit university located in Clinton, Iowa, not San Diego, California. And as for-profit universities go, they seem to be particularly unscrupulous. Wikipedia says that they were audited by the Department of Education; that this education revealed several infelicities concerning their handling of financial aid funds; that they kept financial aid money when they shouldn't have, and that they take their time in disbursing funds to students. Additionally, only 37% of students at Ashford complete their degree program. Now, as I understand it a completion rate like that wouldn't be out of place at a community college. But community colleges are not-for-profit public service institutions, not a strategy to funnel money into the pockets of their owners.

Also, although they're private and for-profit, 86% of their operating budget comes from federal funds. I don't know what the typical number is for private colleges & universities, but that seems awfully high for a school that offers mostly online classes and that seems to have no appreciable research situation. Which makes it seem like Ashford is pretty much of an institution of predation, and not so much of higher learning.

And so the larger thing I started wondering about is, why isn't this illegal? I mean, I've been accused of being naive before, and I can't imagine that those days are over. But I don't see why this is an acceptable approach to education. Especially when these for-profit "universities" adopt the business model they do: get students to borrow money to pay for it, and then have only a third of them finish their degree. It's not a university; it's a racket.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, I don't think I'll be applying for this job.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm just sayin'

If you're not prepping and refining your dossier right now, you should be. And if you have dossier-related questions for the wise Smokers, now would be a good time to ask them.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Late PFOs: Business as Usual

A little while ago, I got a nice but impersonal PFO letter from the HR department of the school that interviewed me at the APA. They wrote to let me know that I didn't get an on-campus interview, that they hired somebody else, and to encourage me to apply for other positions at their institution that might interest me. Of course, I already knew I didn't get the job when I didn't get the on-campus, and I knew I didn't get the on-campus when the wiki said other people were invited to campus and I didn't hear from them. Also, when the hire was announced on the Leiter jobs thread, that was a clue, too.

The thing that made this one stand out is that, at the interview, the lead interviewer specifically said that I would hear from them either way by a certain date. They made a point of saying that this wasn't going to be one of those things where they drop off the face of the earth. I didn't bring it up; they did. They went out of their way to emphasize it. This struck me as unusual. And then they dropped off the face of the earth, and then six or seven months later I got a form letter from their HR department.

I find this really galling, but maybe that's the wrong attitude. Maybe I should lighten up about this. It happens all the time, after all. But that's exactly what's so galling about it. This disregard for job applicants is such a normal thing that if you mention it whenever it happens then you end up mentioning it all the time—so much that you're the one who's annoying. And I don't want to be someone who doesn't find that galling.

But that doesn't mean I don't realize that I'm somewhat of a broken record about this. I realize that I write about it all the time and have been for years. You're probably sick and tired of reading my complaining, whiny posts about it. I feel the same way, frankly. I'm tired of this. I set this post aside several times as I was writing it. Not only have I said this a billion times before, but I can't imagine I'll ever say it better than I did here. What's the point?

Nevertheless, it seems to me that how search committees treat job candidates is a basic issue of some importance. So allow me to just reiterate. If you conducted a search this past season, you really ought to contact the people you interviewed but didn't hire to let them know you appreciate that they took the time to meet with you and to wish them well. You should especially do this if they spent their own money to travel to the interview. You should especially especially do this if you told them you would. You should definitely do this if the interview involved a trip to your campus. If you haven't done this already, you should do it now. If you are only doing it just now, you should probably also apologize for having taken so long to get around to it. And if you're not sure whether you've done it, you should make sure. It's only the decent thing to do.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So you want to pad your dossier

I've been thinking about professional/intellectual fraud of late, particularly in the wake of the Jonah Lehrer kerfuffle. ( (It's really more of a scandal than a kerfuffle, but I just really like the word "kerfuffle.") This being the pre-job season when you are all perfecting your dossiers (you're doing that NOW, right?), it got me to thinking about embellishments in job applications.

One of the things I really needed help with when I was first on the market was constructing my CV. And I found that everyone who advised me had different opinions and preferences about constructing an ideal CV. But one bit of advice was universal:

Do not pad your CV. Don't even do anything that might look like padding.

Often this would come up in the context of things that I wasn't exactly sure how to list. Say, do I put the postdoc under Employment, under Awards, or under Education? (How about all three?) I was advised to be careful about how I listed pubs, distinguishing peer reviewed from non-PR'd, not listing WIPs that might not be very much in progress. That kind of thing.

It's not just the CV that can be padded, of course. The temptation is sore, oh so very sore, to embellish in your cover letter (unless you're the sort who writes the one-sentence cover letter), or teaching statement, or research statement. Pretty much any part of the dossier can be "enhanced" to try to convince the SC that you are indeed the ideal candidate, the one who's got everything they're looking for in one sparkly package.

So, last year, there was a search at my school (in another department). The department was looking for a candidate with very specific experience. They brought a couple of candidates to campus, and during the course of interviews, found one of them to be rather cagey about his experience. So cagey that the department chair pressed him harder on it. And he eventually fessed up, that he didn't actually have the experience they were seeking. Needless to say, the department was not pleased. Furious would be an apt description. They had wasted time and their limited search funds to bring this person to campus, which ultimately made it impossible to bring another, qualified candidate to campus.

So padding your dossier, perhaps not such a good thing. Unethical and imprudent. If you're caught in the lie, you'll make enemies of people in your discipline. You might cost another, legitimately qualified, deserving candidate a shot at a job. Yet some people obviously do it, on the chance that they can fake it well enough to get hired. I would think that SCs would be fairly good at spotting some kinds of padding, but it would probably be hard to spot the competent yet deceptively enhanced letter or TS or RS. I've never personally heard of anyone padding successfully, and getting hired, but that doesn't mean it has never happened. Has it?