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?