Colleagues in other fields are often impressed by how much information about job placement philosophy departments now make available on their web sites. It was not always that way, alas. About six years ago, I used the Update Service to the PGR--which reached several thousand philosophers--to suggest that departments be more forthcoming about this information, citing some models and indicating that in future editions of the PGR I would call attention to departments that were not providing such information, since that should surely be a warning to prospective students. Departments, for the most part, reacted constructively and did the right thing, posting information about recent job placement on the web. (One philosopher--a Kantian moral philosopher no less--objected to my "bullying" departments that perhaps preferred to keep the information secret. There are, I suspect, many lessons to be learned about Kantian ethics from this example, but I'll save that for another day.)
Of course, the quality of information departments provide varies quite a bit in quality, reliability and informativeness. I have mentioned, in the past, that the Michigan site is a real model of disclosure and detail, while the Texas site, among many others, is at the opposite end of the spectrum (even though, I should add, Texas job placement has improved markedly in recent years, but the site is both relatively uninformative and not entirely accurate). It is in this context that I wanted to share an e-mail from philosopher Miriam Solomon at Temple University:
Recently, I compiled my department's placement statistics.
In doing so, I consulted the placement statistics that other departments have posted, and found considerable variability in reporting, which may lead to misleading comparisons.
For example, some departments just list those PhD graduates who have gone on to academic jobs and leave off the ones who dropped out; some departments omit those PhD graduates who "did not seek a job" or "went on the job market with geographic restrictions"; some departments list only the first placement, which may be temporary; some departments list job offers received and others job offers accepted; one department actually counts MD/PhDs as having "tenure-track"
jobs if they have a medical residency. In my opinion, the best information comes from those departments that list all their PhDs (by dissertation title) with full employment records.
May I propose that we have some standardization in compiling statistics here? If, as we recommend, students should take placement record into account in selecting graduate programs, we should provide them with the most usable, impartial, data as we can.
So what do readers think are model placement sites? What information should be standard? What presentation is most conducive to informing students while respecting the legitimate privacy interests of, for example, unsuccessful job seekers? No anonymous postings; post only once.