From the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2015, I was a member of the APA’s Status and Future of the Profession Committee. I wrote in a comment to this post that my service was both rewarding and informative.
Like all standing committees of the APA, the Status and Future of the Profession Committee receives charges from the Board of Directors. As far as I know, there are no policies and procedures document for running the committee apart from Board charges; however, during the three years I served, the committee was charged with reviewing grant applications, and we were given clear guidelines for that. There were a few additional issues the interested can read about in the committee reports publically available here.
(1) Create policies and procedures documents that govern the work of each committee. These can be updated and changed through the years as the role of the committee changes, but to get the most out of the committees, they need more operating direction than just charges from the board.
(2) Staff committees with members who are more representative of the profession as a whole. This means the members should not come primarily from Ph.D. granting institutions and elite liberal arts colleges. If fact, I claim it would be best to have assigned, specific representation on each committee as well as at-large spots. Representational make up, of course, would be outlined in a policies and procedures document, but here is my suggestion: At least one member from the following: Ph.D. granting program, M.A. (and no Ph.D.) granting program, B.A. granting program, a community college representative, and four at-large seats. Having representation on these committees from a wide variety of constituency groups offers more buy in for all APA members.
(4) Philosophers need to start taking this kind of service to the discipline more seriously. This doesn’t just mean doing such service, but giving credit to those who do it in tenure, retention, and promotion evaluations. If we take this service more seriously, then universities will as well and may support the release time suggested in (3). The status and future of the profession should be of major interest to everyone. It should interest people on the fringe or people in small departments because we don’t want those positions to go away; it should matter to the folks at big research universities because if their graduates don’t have jobs when they graduate, then there isn’t much justification for a Ph.D. program.
Finally, I want to say that during my three years of service on the Status committee, Professor Julia Driver was the chair, and I have tremendous respect for her work as chair. These comments should not be construed as critical of her committee leadership.
In fact, Professor Driver was well aware of the large number of issues that face the profession. Some of the things she suggested as possible topics include:
- Obtaining reliable data on APA issues (neither cheap nor easy)
- Considering the mission and function of the APA
- Concern for increasing reliance of adjunct faculty in teaching philosophy
- Gender and other population disparities in philosophy
- Lack of funding for philosophy research
- The future of on-line philosophy teaching
The Status and Future of the Profession Committee, in particular, is important, and I believe can do significantly more than it has done in the past. I think all the standing committees can do more given clear procedures, inclusive representation, and appropriate incentives. As a final note, readers may have seen an email from the APA recently suggesting nominations for committee work. I suggest those both interested in making a difference and in a position to give back to the profession, to self nominate here.