Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Campus Visits for Post-Docs?

An anonymous commenter (whose comment I can't find right now*) asks about what campus visits for post-docs are like. There were a couple of replies in that thread, but nothing like the sort of lively discussion for which we are known far and wide. So I thought I'd go ahead and post a real post about the question.

There are, of course, (at least) two different kinds of post doctoral fellowship: your teaching post-doc, and your research post-doc, and the two kinds are likely to have different kinds of campus visit. But I don't know about this, since I've never been invited to campus to interview for a post-doc.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

*This was a little while ago, and it was posted in a thread that was mostly over. I meant to post a post about it at the time, but things got away from me. Then the person came back and asked to have a main post about it, and I meant to post about it then, but things got away from me again. Sorry. I hope this isn't too late to be helpful to that person.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The line starts here...

Anon brings to our attention this gem:

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS, DENTON, TX. Lecturer, Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies. The Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies invites applications for the position of lecturer. This is a 1-year position that carries a 4/4 teaching load. Salary competitive. Required qualifications: Earned Ph. D. in philosophy and a minimum of 5 years full-time university teaching experience. AOS: Modern Philosophy. AOC: Ancient Philosophy. Preferred qualifications: experience teaching epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of literature; scholarly record of interest in or support of the department’s long-standing and continuing focus on the history of philosophy; familiarity with some branch of environmental philosophy that complements the department’s strengths in this area.

Wow. That's some wish list. They want to hire you for one year, so they're not looking for someone who is TT. But they also want you to have PhD in hand and a minimum five years of full-time teaching experience. That's far more than most TT jobs require. So, ABDs and many freshly minted PhDs need not apply for this 4/4 delight in scenic Denton, Texas. (To be fair, I've never been to Denton. It might be really nice.) It kinda goes against the conventional wisdom that it's not an asset to be a serial VAP. You'd almost have to be one for this job. (I like the part about "earned PhD" too -- none of those Cracker Jack PhDs they give away, Bub!)



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Distributive justice post

I posted a rough draft of an entry about the principle of charity/impostor syndrome last night. I actually wanted to wait before posting it because I wasn't quite happy with the finished product.

Maybe it'll go up at a later date. So, those two of you who commented, that's why the post is gone.

Thanks especially for the comment that said something like: "No; don't worry. You and everyone else who writes for this blog is an impostor."

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Those Were the Days

I sort of miss the days when you could post little notes and messages on the jobs wiki: asking people how the search committee contacted them for an interview; saying that they contacted you, too; expressing disbelief that the search committee had really contacted the person; etc. The wiki has been a little less fun this year.

But seriously, I do kind of miss additional people being able to say that they were contacted (not for any particular rational reason I can identify). And now that I think of it, the listings used to keep track of the history of the search more clearly. It used to say when the listing was created, when it was switched to "applications acknowledged" or "first-round interviews" or whatever. Now it says when the changes were made, but not what the changes were. (Right?) I liked the old way of doing that better, too.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The View From Your Office

I think this one is going to be easier than the last one.

Taken at 11:00 AM, facing west.

Like last time, the first person to guess which school this is in comments wins the right to brag about it. Signed comments are preferred, although if you want to win without taking credit for it, I guess that's your right. Once somebody gets it, I'll announce the winner, confirm the campus, and credit the submitter.

Thanks again for all the submissions; we've got some nice views lined up—some of which are going to be substantially more difficult to guess than the ones we've seen so far. But it would be horrible to eventually run out, so don't by shy, Smokers. Let us look out your window.

Update: Lee Faber is the winner! The view is Notre Dame, submitted by Bradley Rettler. The toughest part about this one was ringing in first. Thanks for sharing your view, Bradley, and nice work, Lee.

Here's a wider view from the same window:

Thanks again for playing, and let's keep the views coming.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Note to Search Committees

As campus-visit season gets into full swing and decision-making season is about to begin, I'd like to offer a small piece of advice to search committees.

We job candidates know when you interview us that you might not invite us to campus. We know when you invite us to campus that you might not offer us the job. That's fine. You don't have to invite us to campus if you interview us, and you don't have to offer us the job if you invite us to campus. We'd love it if you did, obviously, but we know you don't have to. We know you don't owe us a job.

But that doesn't mean you don't owe us anything. What you owe to us is a nice note that thanks us for our time and wishes us well. You owe it to us to communicate with us one last time after the interview or campus visit. You owe it to us to let us know, from you, that we didn't get the job. You owe it to us even if we already found out, or will eventually.

Because the people you interview are people. And they traveled to Washington, DC to meet with you; or else they took the time to get together with you over Skype or on the phone; they invested time and energy into preparing for the interview, researching your school, your department, and their potential colleagues; maybe they even traveled to your town to meet with you and your colleagues and your administration and attempt to win you over with a presentation or two. And they did this because you invited them to do it—because you contacted them and said you wanted to interview them. Because you expressed to them that you were interested in them. And that goes quadruple for the people you invite to campus.

That means you owe something to the people you interview. You owe them courtesy. You don't owe them a job, but you owe them thanks for doing those things, which they did at your request and invitation. And then you owe it to them to wish them well.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, January 20, 2012

APA Eastern Meeting Dates Changed

You probably already heard about this, but the APA has agreed to try moving the Eastern APA meeting to the end of the first full week in January for the 2015/16 academic year. I think this is good news, whether or not it ultimately works out. It's good to try new things.

One question I have is, what are they going to do for the 2016/17 academic year? Suppose the first full week in January doesn't work out. Suppose that's a really bad time to have the meeting. Since Eastern APA meetings have to be scheduled years in advance, does that mean we'll be stuck with the early January meeting time until 2018 or 2019? Or are they going to try a range of dates over the next several years? I think they should try a range of dates.

In a related note, our old friend Chris Alen Sula sent me an email last night, saying,

You may have seen the recent APA announcement about the Eastern APA date effective 2015/16. When I looked at the crosstab results at http://www.apaonline.org/APAOnline/Eastern_Division/Eastern_Division_Meeting_Survey_Results.aspx, I noticed there was also data about the question of whether in-person interviews should be a primary function of the Eastern APA meeting, with responses broken out between regular, student, and international members. With that question, more than all the others, I noticed a difference in the pattern of responses among these three groups.

I re-expressed the values as percentages for each group and visualized them [in the chart below]:

This is interesting. It seems that a lot of people don't care whether job interviews are a primary function of the Eastern meeting, but you are significantly more likely to think job interviews should be a primary function if you're not a student. Hmmm.

Many thanks to Dr. Sula.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The View From Your Window

Here we have two submissions from the same place. The first was taken last year late in the Fall; the second was taken at 10:30 yesterday morning.

I like the idea of turning it into a contest, so the first person to guess which school this is in comments wins... uh... nothing, other than bragging rights. Signed comments are preferred for this, although I don't know what kind of a sick person would submit a photo in order to then win a contest like this, anonymously. If somebody gets it, I'll announce the winner, and edit the post here to credit the submitters.

Thanks for all the submissions so far; we've got some nice ones coming down the pike. Keep 'em coming, Smokers.

Update: Carissa wins the contest. Nice work, Carissa. The photos are of Simon Fraser University, Burnaby B.C. The first was submitted by Holly Andersen, and is taken from her office. The second was submitted by Endre Begby and is taken from Philosophy Department Seminar Room, 10:30 AM. Thanks!

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The View From Your Window

My favorite thing about Andrew Sullivan's blog, the Daily Dish, is the "view from your window" series. I was thinking it would be a good thing for the Smoker to rip that idea off.

So I'd like to invite Smokers to take pictures from your windows and send 'em in. Submissions should include a photo of the view from your window (obvs.), the name of the school (I'm assuming most submissions will be from windows on campus, though that's not a requirement), the city, state/province (or equivalent), country (if other than US or Canada), and what time it was when the photo was taken. I'll try to post them all, but I'll also try to space them out a little (so don't worry if yours doesn't show up right away). Let's see your views, Smokers.

DOUBLE UPDATE: Oh yeah, send 'em here: "zero.mrr at gmail.com" (In the original update, I put the email address between brackets, because I am dumb. Sorry.

(The photo above is stolen from here, and is the view from a window the Ginkgo Reading Room, Olin Library, Washington University, St. Louis.)'

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Peer Review

I realize that this isn't exactly timely, but who has time to put up posts in a timely manner? Not me. (I hope to have an untimely post on Coyne's hard determinism later in the week, too.) Anyways, via Leiter, I learn of this prediction of the demise of peer-reviewed models of academic publishing. (Or is it an attack? Hard to tell.) According to Aaron J. Barlow, associate professor of English at a CUNY college, "Blind peer review is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet."

Barlow argued that the traditional system of blind peer review -- in which submissions are sent off to reviewers, whose judgments then determine whether papers are accepted, with no direct communication with authors -- had serious problems with fairness. He said that the system rewards "conformity" and allows for considerable bias.

He described a recent experience in which he was recruited by "a prestigious venue" to review a paper that related in some ways to research he had done. Barlow's work wasn't mentioned anywhere in the piece. Barlow said he realized that the journal editor figured Barlow would be annoyed by the omission. And although he was, Barlow said he didn't feel assigning the piece to him was fair to the author. "It was a set-up. The editor didn't want a positive review, so the burden of rejection was passed on to someone the author would not know."

I agree that this sort of thing shouldn't happen, and that the editor was behaving inappropriately. (The editor's behavior is also extremely strange. Correct me if I'm wrong, but editors typically have a lot of discretion concerning submissions, and if the editor thought that the paper wasn't good enough for inclusion in the journal or didn't think it would be a topical or stylistic fit, or just didn't want to devote the pages to it, she has the freedom to reject the paper all by herself. It's not as though she is obligated to ensure that every submission is refereed.)

But I don't agree that this incident is an indictment of anonymous refereeing, or that even reveals any problem of any kind with blind peer-review procedures as such. The only connection between what this editor has done and the institution of blind review is that there has to be such a thing as blind review in order for an unscrupulous editor to employ it in bad faith.

The way I see it, there are at least three important reasons to retain double- (or triple-) anonymous (peer) refereeing in some form:

1. The presence of peer reviewed journals and presses acts as a gatekeeper. There's a huge amount of material out there, and it is helpful to have other people to do the work of figuring out which stuff is worth reading. There would be a lot more material out there if we went to an all self-publish model in which there were no gatekeepers.

Also, this is a great deal of help to us unknowns. The only reason why anybody has ever read my work is because I published it somewhere. (Or because I submitted it to them in a way that caused them to have a professional obligation to read it.) Somebody once cited my work, and I am absolutely positive that this would never have happened if it weren't for the journal I published it in.

2. The work is improved by the editorial process. I've had papers accepted "as is" only a couple of times. The rest of the time the papers were conditionally accepted if I could make certain changes. Sometimes these were suggested by the referees; others they were insisted upon by the editor operating independently of the referees. In each such case, the changes were worthwhile and made the paper much better.

To be fair, Barlow acknowledges this:

"I love the editorial process" when comments result in a piece becoming better, he said, and digital publishing allows this to happen easily. But traditional peer review simply delays publication and leaves decision-making "in the dark."

But Barlow is wrong about the darkness. The darkness is not bad. It is the key to everything:

3. The anonymity of blind review procedures are extremely important. They are the only way to protect authors from all sorts of cognitive biases. Any suggestion that there should be less anonymity than there is now is hopelessly naive. There should be a lot more anonymity, not less.

There's also a strange reference to "guessing about how to handle a 'revise and resubmit' letter." I've had some R&Rs. As a referee, I've handed out some R&Rs. A lot of my friends have had R&Rs. I've never heard of an R&R where you would have to guess about what to do. You get an R&R because the editor believes in the paper and thinks that, with a little work, it would be worth publishing. It doesn't make any sense for an editor to make the author guess about what she should do. And in every case I've ever heard of, the editor has done the sensible thing and just explained what to do.

And even if the editor engaged in the bizarre practice of making the author guess about what revisions she was asking for, it still wouldn't constitute an objection to the practice of anonymous peer review as such. It would constitute an objection to this kooky editor's oddball R&Rs.

Long live anonymous peer review.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, January 13, 2012


Anon 4:18 asks:

Would it be possible to have a thread on adjuncting?


Here are some things I'd like to know [enumerated for ease of reference]:

1. How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job?

2. How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job that's something like fulltime?

3. With health insurance?

4. How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job in one's home town?

5. How does one get such a job? I sort of have the idea that you just email the department chair at a particular institution, but maybe that's wrong.

I know some smokers know something about adjuncting that would be helpful to those of us who know very little, and may need to do adjuncting work in the very near future. Maybe a thread on it would be helpful to some of us.

I'm not an expert, but I have opinions about several of these questions:

1. It depends. They're normally not very competitive, though. Your biggest obstacle is probably availability.

2. Not possible. If it were a full time position, it would not be an adjunct position. In order to adjunct full time, you're going to need to have two or three jobs.

3. No.

4. Depends on the home town.

5. Probably emailing the department chair is the best way. It couldn't hurt.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Flap your wings

Anon 4:12 requested a thread on fly-out advice. Fine idea, as some of you are no doubt preparing for them. The campus visit is a strange beast, a two-day (more or less) gauntlet of job interviews and social calls, with some harrowing, high pressure philosophy thrown in. You'll meet with various deans, and lots of faculty, and students. You'll be continuously shuttled from one thing to the next, with very little down time in between. You'll be dined (not often wined -- many university budgets don't permit putting alcohol on the tab) more often than you can bear. The worst of the meals is breakfast -- to my mind, if you want to know what kind of colleague someone might be, don't evaluate them before they've had caffeine. (Advice: if your hotel room has a coffee maker, use it, even if it makes lousy coffee, just for the medicinal benefits.) You might give a talk, you might be asked to do a teaching demo. Or both.

The campus visit is also an opportunity to learn about the school. You can get a sense of the campus culture, and of the department. Don't think like someone who is desperate to get a job, any job, but rather like someone who might be sold on this particular job. Hopefully, the people you're interacting with are of a mind to sell you. Ask questions about the students, about campus life, about what it's like to live there. You will need to exhibit at least minimal chit-chat skills, because you'll be doing lots of it while people are walking you around campus, driving you to the airport or restaurants, etc. A five minute walk becomes much longer when filled with awkward silence.

Anon asks specifically about the job talk:
Is there any circumstance in which it's appropriate to give your job talk on the paper you gave as a writing sample? I work in a somewhat technical and obscure area, and am interviewing for an open job. And I sent my most accessible paper as a writing sample. And while I'm pretty good at explaining my technical stuff to a non-tech audience, I know the writing sample talk goes down a storm with varied audiences. But I'm a few years post-doc, and I don't want them to think I only have one paper!

You want your job talk to be something you know inside and out, and something you're comfortable presenting. If that's your writing sample, or a variation thereof, I'd say use it. (For one thing, it's likely only the SC read your writing sample, so for most of the audience, it's going to be new.) You certainly don't want to try out new material. (Although as a grad student, I saw a job candidate deflect many, many questions during a job talk by saying he needed to think about the issue, and come back to it. He didn't, of course, come back to those many questions during the talk. He also got the job, although he wasn't the first choice.) If you plan to use powerpoint or some such, ask in advance what tech will be available, and be prepared to not use it, if something fails. You have far more control, in some cases, over the content of your job talk than over the content of a teaching demo. I had one campus visit where I was assigned to teach half of a particular existing class. It was a course that was completely outside my AOS/AOC, and outside the AOS/AOC of the job ad. The SC chose it, so far as I can tell, because it was convenient -- the prof was willing to give up half of his class for the demo. But it was hellish for me, to come in during the second half of a class, try to bring the topic around to something I was able to teach well, and have only about 30 minutes to do it. (I didn't get that job.)

Take granola bars and portable snacks, especially if you have dietary restrictions. The days are really long, and being hungry makes you cranky. Have at least two pairs of good pants, especially if you're going to a wintry clime where the odds of getting mud/snow/salt on your pants are high. It's a short trip, so take a carry-on so nothing gets lost in transit. Be polite. Practice a firm but not crushing handshake -- you'll be shaking lots of hands. Be very nice to the department secretary/admin assistant. They know where the bodies are kept.

Jump in with fly-out questions, advice, or whatever.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scarcity, Gettability, and Resentment

From an anonymous SC member, on the difficulties they also face:
As I read through the comment threads of various posts, I notice an occasional topic that comes up is interviewers at lower ranked school being resentful toward highly qualified candidates. I have on occasion seen this given as an explanation for why some exceptionally well qualified person did not get an interview, on-campus or offer. There is a dimension to this which seems to never be fully appreciated: on-campus interview resources are quite scarce. We cannot bring out more than four people. If we make an offer to someone, and they turn us down, then we have only the remaining three to choose from, then two, then one, then none. And if we do not hire anyone, it means we will probably lose the line, and have a reduced chance of obtaining or retaining lines in the future. This means that we simply cannot afford to fill the short list with the people we want the most; we must have fallbacks that we can be fairly confident will accept an offer. Despite our efforts to rule out people who are utterly impossible for us to get, every search I've participated in since my hire has led to an offer that was refused. Every. Single. One. In each case, we had eliminated even better people on the assumption that they could not be had, and still we overreached. In every case the candidate we made the first offer to made a great show of how excited they were by our job, until they had another offer in hand (or, in one case, used our offer to negotiate for better pay from the place they preferred).

We want excellent people. We want this very much. But we also don't want to lose the line and thereby initiate a slow death-spiral for our department. I don't want to deny that there are occasionally tinges of resentment that some committee members express toward some specific candidates, but my impression is that this is far less the case than one might think. The market will segment itself in any case, and so we make that process more efficient by not wasting people's time on interaction that won't go anywhere in any case, on candidates who do not *need* any help from us.

This year, I tried an experiment. Instead of simply viewing the candidates from the perspective of my own judgments of desirability, I made a mechanical ranking of them according to the Leiter number of their pedigree, and then tried to come up with a comparable ranking for jobs, using Leiter ranking, and when that gives out, US News ranking. All very imprecise of course, but I was merely trying to measure a collective fantasy anyway. Then I paired off candidates to jobs, working from the top down. We had 70 applicants for our position. Once I eliminated both people whose AOS/AOC didn't match what we were looking for anyway, and people who would take better offers elsewhere, the list reduced to six candidates. Since it seemed silly to go to the APA for only six interviews, we added three to the list, but these were therefore people I had already judged to be "ungettable." I should clarify that this procedure did not control our list, but the other members of the committee ended up with almost exactly the same list using non-mechanical criteria. While at the APA, one of these three indicated that she already had stellar on-campus interviews lined up and wasn't really interested in us anymore; another one has already appeared in an online announcement as giving a talk at one of the stellar hiring departments. We knew that interviewing them was a waste of time, and indeed it was. However, I'm sure that some stars we didn't even interview at the APA will conclude that we "resent" them or feel "threatened" by them. Honestly, we don't. We just can't afford to waste the resources on recruiting them. If we have done anything wrong over the years, it is overreach, because hope springs eternal.
Yes. Hope does spring eternal.

-- JD

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Answer to Spiros's Question...

Spiros asks:

I was just getting my APA receipts organized. I'll submit them next week to my University, and in due course I'll get reimbursed for nearly every dollar I spent on the APA Eastern. But I have to say that the grand sum is pretty staggering, considering what one gets in return.

Unless one happens to live close enough to DC to not need to fly, the cost for most of getting to the conference and staying in the conference hotel has to be roughly $1000. How do graduate students and non-TT slave-wage earners who don't live on the East Coast afford it?

What we do is, we scrimp; we find less-expensive alternatives to the conference hotel; we eat as cheaply as we can; and we put up blog posts and comments in which we point out what a bunch of inhumane bullshit the current set of hiring procedures are and in which we propose more humane, less bullshitty alternatives, for which we are then derided as entitled whiners who are unwilling to do what it takes to get a job in philosophy.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to Deal (Or Something Like That)

I spent some time at the APA meeting thinking about whether I would have been enjoying myself if I had been there without any interviews. I continue to think that going to the E-APA without interviews is a waste of time and money, but some people disagreed. Some of these people said that you should go because going will cause you learn to deal with rejection; or else not going means you can't deal with rejection, and if you can't deal with rejection you're some kind of weakling who doesn't belong in this line of work. Or something. I continue to think that, whatever my problem is, it's not that I'm a weakling or that I otherwise can't deal with rejection. I think that anon 12:11 got it exactly right:

Those who are framing the issue in terms of "dealing with rejection" are completely missing the point.

If I send out 100 applications, get 99 PFOs, and 1 job; then I would be ecstatic. As a job market candidate, what I'm most concerned about is not avoiding or minimizing rejection; rather, I'm most concerned about securing the opportunity to do professionally the teaching and research I've been trained to do for the past ten years of my life. That's completely different from the experience of having a paper rejected.

There are candidates who had the misfortune of going on the market for the first time back when things blew up in 2008. These are people who know how to persevere. Every year they publish or otherwise further their research; they design and teach new courses to improve their teaching portfolios; they apply for jobs; sometimes they get interviews, sometimes they don't. These are people who are used to getting knocked down, and they know how to get back up. Telling those candidates that they "need to learn how to deal with rejection" is incredibly fucked-up and condescending.

This resonated with me because I've been on the market since before things blew up in '08. I've consequently been rejected hundreds of times. Almost all the jobs I've ever applied for have declined to interview me; almost all the search committees who did interview me took a pass. Including all the tenure-track ones. In that time I've had a lot of chances to really hone my skills. I don't want to brag, but I have gotten to be a pretty awesome rejection-dealer. I go out every year, get no offers, and I'm ready to try again next time. Dealing with rejection is not my problem.*

And so I feel qualified to say that one thing that I really do find helpful in dealing with rejection is this: don't make things harder on yourself than they need to be. Don't make rejection harder to deal with than it already is. If staying away from the APA makes it easier (or possible) for you to be ready to attack the market again in the spring, then you should stay away without feeling like the desire to do so is evidence of some character flaw. Do whatever you need to do.

Of course, maybe staying away from the APA doesn't help you. Maybe you get energized by the fog of misery, stress, and failure. Maybe it just doesn't matter to you. That's possible. And if that describes you, by all means feel free to ignore my advice. Do what you want. But I find the APA-with-no-interview experience to be intensely miserable, and I don't see the point in putting yourself through an intensely miserable experience just to prove that you can handle it.

--Mr. Zero

*The rejections themselves are.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Post-Game Show

I've got a lot on my plate this week, so I won't have much time to post any of my own interesting thoughts until after some of these Bowl games are over. But I wanted to register my agreement with the observations of anonymous 1:50, who writes:

I assume there will be a post game thread [indeed], but in the spirit of thread hijacking and impatience, I was curious about trends those on the market for several years noticed. It seemed to me that slightly fewer schools did APA interviews, and even even fewer participated in the smoker. (Both nights it seemed like there were very few candidates at tables)

But it was hard for me to get a handle on overall numbers, especially because I didn't have any comparison class.


It did seem to me that there were fewer departments interviewing at the conference this year; the ballroom seemed pretty sparsely populated, at least in comparison to past years. And it also seemed to me that there were a lot fewer departments with tables at the Smoker--and that several of the departments who did have tables were not interviewing. Additionally, it seemed to me that there were comparatively more applicants using the placement service than two years ago (which is the most recent year I know anything about, since I skipped Boston last year). I'm not sure what to make of this last thing.

Also, I wanted to express my gratitude to the Smokers who left suggestions in the "Things to Do" thread. I was able to put together a pretty nice sightseeing day on the basis of your suggestions. Thanks!

--Mr. Zero