Posted by Brian Leiter on May 23, 2013 at 10:27 AM in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor), The Academy | Permalink
A reader writes with a useful question:
What are the criteria for co-authorship in philosophy? What level of contribution to a philosophy paper merits being named co-author,and what level of contribution do you assume named authors on philosophical papers to have made?
A prospective PhD student writes:
My own advice was that if the financial aid packages were comparable (a really key question, in my view), and if the student was fairly confident about his interests, then going to the "top 25" program would make good sense (esp. since it wasn't clear to me the "top 10" program was actually as good in some of the areas the student was interested in--to protect anonymity, I can't disclose those; just to be clear, Chicago is not one of the programs the student is considering). If others have thoughts on this kind of question, comments are open. Signed comments will be preferred, though students may post anonymously, but must include a valid e-mail address, that will not appear.
I had a question for you about choosing a graduate program in philosophy, once one has received offers. I thought this might foster a good discussion on your blog, but of course I would like to get your input as well. If you do post this on your blog for discussion, I would like to remain anonymous.
I've received two offers thus far that are competing for my top choice of program. The first is a top-10 program at a top-quality research institution (which will of course manifest itself with the nebulous "prestige" factor, generous funding, light teaching load, better travel opportunities, etc) with strengths broadly similar to mine, while the second is a top-25 program at a strong research institution (second-tier, perhaps) and is an undisputed leader in a couple of pretty specialized fields that are of interest to me. Moreover, the second program is reputed to have a very productive learning environment and great student/faculty relations (jury is out on the first program until I visit soon). In terms of job placement, the former of course has a strong placement record, while the latter has a strong placement record for those who remain within its specialization and work with the program's top philosophers. Given that my interests may change during graduate school (as I hear they often do), what additional considerations should I be making, and can you offer any advice?
So with almost 550 votes cast, and voting have slowed dramatically, here are the results of our latest poll.
First, there are the "big seven" who dominate all others on the list:
|1. Oxford University Press (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)|
|2. Cambridge University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 384–81|
|3. Harvard University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 428–39, loses to Cambridge University Press by 388–78|
|4. Routledge (Taylor & Francis) loses to Oxford University Press by 455–30, loses to Harvard University Press by 243–211|
|5. Princeton University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 445–29, loses to Routledge (Taylor & Francis) by 229–217|
|6. MIT Press loses to Oxford University Press by 452–26, loses to Princeton University Press by 223–197|
7. Wiley-Blackwell loses to Oxford University Press by 461–19, loses to MIT Press by 221–199
After these seven, there's a big gap before University of Chicago Press and the rest of the "top 20"
|8. University of Chicago Press loses to Oxford University Press by 455–25, loses to Wiley-Blackwell by 303–121|
|9. Hackett Publishing loses to Oxford University Press by 447–17, loses to University of Chicago Press by 196–159|
|10. Yale University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 454–11, loses to Hackett Publishing by 180–143|
|11. Cornell University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 450–15, loses to Yale University Press by 153–147|
|12. Columbia University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 446–14, loses to Cornell University Press by 151–140|
|13. Palgrave Macmillan loses to Oxford University Press by 455–12, loses to Columbia University Press by 167–154|
|14. Springer loses to Oxford University Press by 453–11, loses to Palgrave Macmillan by 168–141|
|15. Continuum loses to Oxford University Press by 449–17, loses to Springer by 171–151|
|16. Rowman & Littlefield loses to Oxford University Press by 445–8, loses to Continuum by 159–128|
|17. Polity Press loses to Oxford University Press by 427–10, loses to Rowman & Littlefield by 139–110|
|18. Ashgate loses to Oxford University Press by 435–5, loses to Polity Press by 118–110|
|19. Edinburgh University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 431–9, loses to Ashgate by 113–109|
|20. McGill-Queen's University Press loses to Oxford University Press by 422–5, loses to Edinburgh University Press by 115–77|
Top twenty is an artifical cut-off, since Broadview Press lost to McGill-Queen's by only 100 to 97, and Indiana University Press lost to Broadview by only 106 to 101. And as readers pointed out, some presses inadvertently omitted, like Brill and Open Court, might well have been in the top 20 as well. (By the way, Continuum has now been acquired by Bloomsbury, but I imagine most readers would not have known that.)
Finally, at the very bottom of the list of 34 were Peter Lang, which lost to Oxford 412-3 (and lost to Rodopi by 63-52), and then Edwin Mellen Press, which lost to Oxford 407-1, and to Peter Lang by 73-39. I don't know much about either, but both do publish a significant number of philosophy titles.
Thoughts from readers? Signed comments strongly preferred.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM THIS MORNING TO ENCOURAGE MORE COMMENTS
A graduate student in philosophy writes:
It seems like there are vast differences in the ways and amounts that students, especially graduate students, are involved in the process of hiring. I thought it might be something interesting to discuss on your blog.
I am a PhD student, and my department is in the midst of hires this year. Last year, we also hired more than one person. It was not the policy of the department to allow graduate students to attend the job talks, but when the graduate students asked, the department changed its policy and allowed us to attend.
The undergraduate institution that I attended not only allowed graduate and undergraduate students to attend, but there were representatives for undergraduates and graduate students on the hiring committees, from writing the job call to selecting the on campus candidates. They even got to vote on the final decisions.
As I see it, some involvement is good, allowing graduate students to see the process of hiring first hand before they go on the market. On the other hand, involving graduate students to be central in decisions could be problematic for several reasons. They are not long term members of the department; they might see more of the underbelly of the department in the hiring process; and they might hear discussions highlighting the faults of a candidate that will, the next year, be their professor.
I raise this issue as I have heard of different graduate students lobbying for more involvement in the process (up to voting), but I have my reservations about the practical implications of such a move. It would be interesting to hear what you and your readers have to say on the topic.
Thoughts from readers? What are practices at your departments? I have to say I had never heard before of a department that excluded graduate students from a job talk, but I'm curious to hear whether other places have such an approach and the reasons for it.
A philosopher at a university presently hiring writes:
One of the best ways for candidates to display their interest in a department's program and especially their graduate program (if it has one) is to be sure to talk to the students themselves about their interests and research plans, and to find opportunities to pay attention to them during the visit. Many departments take student opinions about visiting candidates very seriously (especially graduate students), and may well solicit their input on hiring. Most candidates know this, or have heard this, or indeed may have thought this themselves during a candidate visit to the program they are in. But it is worth being reminded of it, since it is easy to forget during the visit itself. One doesn't want unintentionally to create the wrong impression.
Some sobering charts here.
(Thanks to Blake Taylor for the pointer.)
Philosopher Charles Pigden (Otago) suggested a thread on this topic would be useful, both to other philosophers on search committees and to job candidates. He suggested addressing such questions as: "What are the criteria that search committees employ and what traits are they looking for (or at least what traits do they suppose themselves to be looking for) when making junior hires?" Signed comments will be strongly preferred, though as long as there is a valid e-mail address, making clear institutional identification, those comments will also be approved.
This is from a philosopher with considerable experience interviewing junior candidates for a top liberal arts college; although it's too late for those who interviewed at this year's Eastern, it will hopefully be helpful to others going forward:
Candidates should not be nervous about being nervous during interviews. We expect that candidates will be nervous, and we take this into account in our evaluation of their performance. Indeed, sometimes a visibly anxious candidate will impress us very much because of the form and content of what he or she says. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being cool and collected either, but it's the exception rather than the rule. So if nervousness is not a problem, what is? One of my colleagues has a lovely phrase to describe a key virtue in a candidate: "She accepted the question I offered." What this means is that, if an interviewer poses a question to you, don't dismiss it, ignore it, or try to shut the dialogue down. This does not mean that you have to agree with the premise of the question or even have a ready answer. It is perfectly fine to argue that the question reveals a misunderstanding, or to acknowledge that you had not thought about it before, and then think out loud about how you might respond. But "accepting the question" shows that you are willing to be a good philosophical interlocutor with both colleagues and students. Finally, candidates should keep in mind that they might not be advanced to the next interview stage for reasons that do not reflect poorly on them as a scholar or potential colleague. For example, prior to the interview, we might have concerns about the fit between a candidate's interests and the needs of our department. A face-to-face interview might reassure us on that score, or it might confirm our suspicion that they're merely "not right for us."
A philosophy graduate student writes:
I'm writing to ask for your opinion on the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), and if you see fit, to suggest that you solicit opinions from readers of Leiter Reports.
The IHS offers generous funding to grad students and others who are "pursuing liberty-advancing careers." I've been receiving solicitations like the one below for years now, and I've never responded. To be blunt, they appear to be a bunch of libertarian wingnuts, and I've been writing them off as such.
Am I being unfair? Are they only interested in funding research that vindicates the overwhelming normative weight of "economic freedom," or might they be interested in other sorts of "liberty"? Have they ever funded anything that questions or criticizes the Smith-Hayek-Posner-Rand line of wealth-celebration, or are they, you know, partisan hacks?
I ask because my research concerns liberty, and although I'm not an all-around wealth-celebrator, I could use some cash like any other grad student. So what do you think? Would ideally informed, caring friends permit their academic friends to apply for and/or accept IHS funding?
I'd be grateful for any feedback from you, e.g., "Yes, they are crackpots," or "No, ever heard of the principle of charity? Ad hominem much?" But I think it might also be a useful topic for comments on Leiter Reports, as I'm sure many other grad students receive similar messages from the IHS and wonder whether or not they'd be tainted by Rand cooties if they had anything to do with them.
Signed comments preferred, but all comments MUST include a valid e-mail address (which will not appear).
We've touched on this issue in the past, but it's worth revisiting in light of this e-mail from a job seeker:
I'm on the job market (not for the first time) and I worry I'll be perceived as "stale". From what I hear, lots of philosophers think it looks very bad that, after a few years out of a Ph.D. program, there's no tenure-track position on my CV. I have a few questions that I hope you or your readers might be able to answer: i. Do people have a sense of how much "staleness" continues to matter even for candidates who are in other ways attractive -- some good publications, lots of teaching experience? ii. If you continue to publish (or publish decent stuff) does that make you any less "stale", or are you still considered obsolete or defective simply in virtue of your defence date? iii. Is "staleness" less of an issue these days than in the recent past, in light of the terrible job markets and overall economy since 2008? iv. Do people have any tips about what a "stale" candidate might do to compensate?
The "staleness" issue, as I think about it, is this: the more years since the PhD that the candidate does not have a tenure-track job, the more likely hiring departments are to draw negative inferences from that fact. Prior to the economic collapse, my sense was that staleness worries kicked in after 4 or 5 years; I would hope that hiring departments are allowing that strong candidates may take considerably longer these days to find a tenure-track position. As to the other questions, I'll make just one comment now, and open comments for thoughts for readers; my one comment is that the longer out from the PhD you are, the better it would be if one or more of your letter writers might speak to that and make clear why this does not support any negative inferences about your candidacy. Signed comments preferred, but job seekers may post anonymously.
Posted by Brian Leiter on December 14, 2012 at 08:06 AM in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor) | Permalink
Earlier today I wrote about tenure, but many of the philosophers working today do not have tenure, and a good number of these philosophers may never get tenure. In this post, I’ll be talking about the situation for non-tenure track (NTT) faculty. Note that here I’m including not just visiting assistant professors and other similar short-term appointments but—importantly and perhaps primarily—adjunct faculty. There are arguments to be made about discussing these separately, but for the purposes of this conversation, I’m going to set those aside.
There is, unfortunately, a real lack of tenure track jobs for philosophers right now. In light of that fact and the changing face of the academic workforce, what can we do to support NTT faculty in philosophy and throughout academia?
Of the nearly 1.8 million faculty members and instructors who made up the 2009 instructional workforce in degree-granting two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the United States, more than 1.3 million (75.5%) were employed in contingent positions off the tenure track, either as part-time or adjunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate student teaching assistants.
The median pay per course, standardized to a three-credit course, was $2,700 in fall 2010 and ranged in the aggregate from a low of $2,235 at two-year colleges to a high of $3,400 at four-year doctoral or research universities. While compensation levels varied most consistently by type of institution, part-time faculty respondents report low compensation rates per course across all institutional categories.
Further, “Over 80% of respondents reported teaching part-time for more than three years, and over half for more than six years,” so non-tenure track positions are not, by and large, temporary employment. Whether NTT faculty think of their employment as temporary—or whether they realize upon taking NTT positions that the arrangement will end up being a long term one—is another question.
(Members of the coalition are now conducting a survey on online teaching working conditions. And the Academic Workforce Data Center has a survey on workforce conditions along with data on NTT faculty at individual institutions. I strongly encourage readers to participate in these data-gathering efforts.)
Some CAW member organizations have issued recommendations on standards for contingent faculty, and the APA teaching statement includes a bit on the non-tenure track faculty as well. The MLA, for example,
recommends minimum compensation for 2012–13 of $6,920 for a standard 3-credit-hour semester course or $4,610 for a standard 3-credit-hour quarter or trimester course. These recommendations are based on a full-time load of 3 courses per semester (6 per year) or 3 courses per quarter or trimester (9 per year); annual full-time equivalent thus falls in a range of $41,490 to $41,520.
These recommended compensation levels are virtually unheard of, which means that most tenure track faculty are being underpaid, sometimes below a living wage.
But perhaps even worse than the pay rate is the lack of job security for non-tenure track faculty. When faculty can’t plan more than a few months ahead because their employers can simply decline to renew their contracts each semester without notice, how can they be expected to put their energy into educating students rather than worrying about how they’ll pay their bills?
It’s also important, in light of all this data, for the philosophical community to consider whether, if the majority of college classes are going to be taught by people without tenure, we want those classes taught by struggling young professionals without resources or support, or whether it’s time to consider solutions for sustainable non-tenure track teaching careers.
The APA, as part of CAW, advocates for contingent faculty rights and improved working conditions, including longer term contracts, more professional support and resources, and better compensation. And our Committee on the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers can also provide assistance in individual cases where professional rights are at stake. But beyond this, we want to do more for our NTT members directly. What do you think needs to change to support NTT faculty, and what would you like to see the APA do in that regard?
And there’s yet another issue for those not on the tenure track: what are the opportunities outside academia? We know, anecdotally, that many with philosophy degrees—from baccalaureate to doctoral—end up in non-academic careers, whether by actively choosing an alternate path or as a result of the lack of opportunities within academia. There is little data on this demographic (we are exploring ways to get such data), but there is certainly more the APA can do to offer support—whether by providing resources to those exploring non-academic career options or providing those already working outside academia with avenues to maintain a connection to the philosophical community. The APA, and in particular our committee on non-academic careers, is eager to know what kinds of resources might be helpful to those philosophers considering leaving academia and those who have already left.Please share your thoughts in the comments. As is standard practice on this blog, signed comments only: valid e-mail address required, full name preferred.
Searching for a job, especially in this economy, isn’t a picnic for anyone. But the academic job market is unique, and uniquely challenging. Academic jobs for philosophers, especially tenure-track positions, have become scarcer, yet the number of philosophy degree-earners has not similarly dropped. As a result, the jobs that are available—even those that might have been less desirable in years past—are more competitive. And this is to say nothing of the stresses that have always come with the philosophy job market (building a placement file, interviewing for positions, and so on).
The APA has long served an important role in the job market, and as times change and the job market evolves, we are committed to continuing to provide value and resources to our members and the profession.
We’ve already put in significant effort in building the new, more fully featured, online-only Jobs for Philosophers, and we will continue to take user feedback into account as we develop it further. We also this year partnered with Interfolio to offer complimentary free trials of their Dossier service for candidates and ByCommittee service for hiring committees to all APA members. We’re reexamining the APA’s placement service at divisional meetings, looking for ways to improve the experience for candidates. And as you know, in response to member feedback, the Eastern Division meeting will soon be held in early January rather than the last week of December.
The APA task force on membership and member services last year made a number of recommendations related to the job market, including studying the relative merits of in-person and electronic (i.e., Skype) interviews and clarifying the role of the meeting receptions to the effect that these receptions are not to be used for supplementary or additional interviewing. Michael Bratman, chair of the board of officers, has been tasked with assigning these recommendations to APA committees for review and implementation as part of our efforts to improve the job market experience for all involved.
We at the APA are thinking carefully right now about how to sustain our important relationship to the job market—that is, how we can continue to provide safeguards for candidates, such as our non-discrimination policy and prohibitions against inappropriate interviewing practices, and a comprehensive clearinghouse for jobs that makes the application process easier—in light of the ways the job market is evolving. We strongly believe that the APA can and should continue to serve this important role; we believe we have a duty to the profession to do so.The job market in philosophy is complex and changing rapidly. And while we don’t have all the answers, we’re working hard to make a difficult process at least a little bit easier for all involved.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM NOV. 27 IN THE HOPE THAT MORE READERS WILL CONTRIBUTE
Philosopher Corey Dyck at the University of Western Ontario writes:
Thoughts/advice from readers?
In light of this recent article in the Washington Post (the spouse of the author is a philosopher in Hong Kong) I wonder whether you might open a thread seeking advice from philosophers employed overseas for job-seekers who might be considering such a position in the months to come? I would be particularly interested in hearing feedback--what should candidates take into consideration before accepting those positions? what institutional differences might they expect?--regarding positions in the relatively fast-growing Middle Eastern (Egypt, UAE, Lebanon) and Asian (Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong) markets.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM NOV. 7
If you've studied philosophy at the undergraduate or graduate level, and are thinking about law school, I would like to urge you to consider the University of Chicago Law School. The Law School trails only Yale in per capita placement in law teaching, and graduates are also hugely successful in the private firm market, and in clerkships. Although we have a relatively small faculty (35 full-time academic faculty), we have two philosophers full-time in the Law School (myself and Martha Nussbaum), and a large number of colleagues with philosophical interests. There is an annual Law & Philosophy Workshop (this year's theme is "Freedom and Responsibility," speakers include Derk Pereboom, Gary Watson, Pamela Hieryonmi, John Martin Fischer, and others; last year's was "Global Justice"), and regular offerings in the Law School in jurisprudence, feminist philosophy, political philosophy and other areas. Each year we have both a Law & Philosophy Fellow in residence, and a week-long Visiting Political Philosopher in residence (this year it is T.M. Scanlon). In addition, there are usually one or more conferences each year in the Law School related to philosophical topics, and there is now a large and lively group of philosophically-minded students here. Of all the law schools in the U.S., the Chicago experience is also probably most like that of a graduate program in a PhD field, in terms of the intellectual engagement of both faculty and students.
Chicago currently has substantial merit aid to offer to very strong students (the best-known are the Rubenstein Scholarships, but there are other sources of aid, including for students interested in a JD/PhD). Philosophy students, both those with undergraduate majors and those with advanced degrees, have been very successful in getting this aid, and have performed very well at the Law School; as a result philosophy students receive favorable consideration here. Excellent numerical credentials are very important, of course, but even within that pool, applicants with philosophy backgrounds stand out. Students with philosophy backgrounds have recently turned down Yale, Harvard, and other peer law schools to come to Chicago. If you have questions about law study at Chicago, feel free to e-mail me at bleiter-at-uchicago-dot-edu.
A reader in China writes:
Thoughts from readers--e.g., students from China now studying in North America, or faculty who have done admissions and admitted students from China to their PhD programs? Also, of course, any information about exchange programs for undergraduates from China would be welcome.
I am a Chinese undergraduate philosophy major who wants to pursue a PhD degree in North America. For 2012-2013 I have a chance to study philosophy at a U.S. department as an exchange student. My experience in the States so far has made me realize how unlikely it will be for a Chinese student to be admitted to a good program.
As there are more any more students who enjoy analytic philosophy (China has been greatly influenced by continental philosophy) want to get their degrees abroad, especially in North America, I believe my situation is not particular. On behalf of them, and of course me myself, I want to get to know whether US professors can provide some advice. Further, will they accept students from another country whose english isn't perfect and who in their college education analytic philosophy isn't emphasized, though they try very hard on their own to study analytic philosophy?
Can you post my concerns on your blog so people can talk about it and more students from China may benefit?
MOVING TO FRONT WITH SOME CORRECTIONS/ADDITIONS--BEAR IN MIND THAT THE DIRECTORY LISTING MAY NOT HAVE CORRESPONDED PERFECTLY TO THE ACTUAL FACULTY ROSTERS FOR 1990-91
We did this once before, but I recently found my old Directory of American Philosophers for 1990-91. Here are the assistant professors at roughly "the top 15" programs 20-odd years ago, and where they are now. In parentheses following the school name I list five representative senior faculty there at the time. Perhaps this will be instructive about the many professional trajectories that philosophers follow. Bear in mind, of course, that the junior faculty here moved for all kinds of reasons--some were denied tenure, some left before tenure for personal or professional reasons, some left after tenure for personal or professional reasons, and so on.
University of Arizona (J Annas, J Feinberg, A Goldman, K Lehrer, J Pollock)
Vann McGee (PhD, Berkeley): Professor, MIT
David W D Owen (DPhil, Oxford): Associate Professor, Arizona
Stanford University (J Barwise, N Cartwright, D Follesdal, J Perry, P Suppes)
Rachel Cohon (PhD, UCLA): Professor, SUNY-Albany
Eckart Forster (DPhil, Oxford): Professor, Johns Hopkins
Marleen Rozemond (PhD, UCLA): Professor, Toronto
Debra Satz (PhD, MIT): Professor, Stanford
University of California, Berkeley (D Davidson, J Searle, B Stroud, B Williams, R Wollheim)
Hannah Ginsborg (PhD, Harvard): Professor, Berkeley
Elisabeth Lloyd (PhD, Princeton): Professor, Indiana/Bloomington
Kwong-Loi Shun (PhD, Stanford): Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong
University of California, Los Angeles (R Adams, R Albritton, T Burge, P Foot, D Kaplan)
Joseph Almog (DPhil, Oxford): Professor, UCLA
Gavin Lawrence (DPhil, Oxford): Professor, UCLA
University of Southern California (M Cohen, H Field, B Herman, B Loar, E McCann)
Frank Arntzenius (PhD, London): Professor, Oxford
Zlatan Damnjanovic (PhD, Princeton): Associate Professor, USC
Sharon Lloyd (PhD, Harvard): Professor, USC
Yale University (R Bittner, SW Broadie, H Frankfurt, J Lear, RB Marcus)
Phillip Bricker (PhD, Princeton): Professor, U Mass/Amherst
Ivan Fox (PhD, Harvard): left philosophy (worked for ETS), now deceased
Ken Gemes (PhD, Pittsburgh): Professor, Birkbeck, London
Randall Havas (PhD, Harvard): Professor, Willamette
Susan Neiman (PhD, Harvard): Director, Einstein Forum, Germany
Carol Rovane (PhD, Chicago): Professor, Columbia
David Schmidtz (PhD, Arizona): Professor, Arizona
Nancy Sherman (PhD, Harvard): Professor, Georgetown
Georgia Warnke (PhD, BU): Professor, UC Riverside
University of Chicago (D Garber, C Korsgaard, D Malament, I Mueller, H Stein)
Daniel Brudney (PhD, Harvard): Professor, U of Chicago
Michael Forster (PhD, Princeton): Professor, U of Chicago
Ronald McClamrock (PhD, MIT): Professor, SUNY-Albany
Josef Stern (PhD, Columbia): Professor, U of Chicago
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JANUARY 21, 2010, SINCE IT'S LETTER-WRITING SEASON.
A young philosopher writes:
We all know how important letters of reference are and how much weight they have in the decision who to interview at the APA or at least for making the first cut. There were comments in an earlier thread on this blog that seem to suggest that at some point of the decision process this is the most important factor and many of my colleagues share this view.
The problem is the following: not every letter writer seems to be playing the same game. And I am not referring to the notorious US/UK difference in this respect. Some professors are very explicit about giving comparative statements about their student, e.g., “she is among the best three students I have ever had” and then if this professor does not make such a statement in the case of another student, it is to be assumed that this student is not so great. But there are professors who do not follow the same rules in their letters: they just never make comparative statements. And this is true of some excellent philosophers from some excellent departments. So how are we supposed to assess these letters? Are we, letter readers, supposed to know the idiosyncratic habits of all letter writers?
Part of the problem with these letters--besides their uniform inflation and hyperbole--is that the code is hard to interpret. For example, letters will frequently conclude with one of the following recommendations:
I recommend X warmly/highly.
I generally assume that this is a weaker recommendation than:
I give X my highest recommendation.
But maybe not: it could depend on the writer?
And how does "highest recommendation" compare to:
I recommend X without reservation.
The same? Stronger? Does it depend on the author again?
And how does the warmly/highly recommendation compare with,
I recommend X with enthusiasm.
And does one writer who says the latter necessarily mean to convey less enthusiasm than a different writer who says,
I recommend X with great enthusiasm
I'm not always sure. Nor am I always sure whether "warmly" means the same as "highly" or whether "warmly" is really code for "not enthusiastically," and so on.
I have chatted with others, here and elsewhere, about this subject, and if there is a consensus among readers of such letters it is this: what is most meaningful in a letter of recommendation are explicit comparisons with other graduates of the program or other philosophers working in the same area. All the "warmlys," "highlys" etc. just don't help. Philosophers ought to drop them, and say, "X is the best student since Y and Z that we've had" or "X's work is comparable to the work of A and B," where A and B are employed philosophers working in that area. Such comparisons are slightly distasteful, and there's no guarantee that Y and Z, or A and B, won't see the comparisons; but there's no question they are MUCH MORE informative than the code words.
Thoughts from readers on these issues? Signed comments preferred, as usual; submit the comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.
MOVING TO FRONT GIVEN IMPORTANCE OF DISCUSSION
Philosopher Elizabeth Harman (Princeton) writes with a timely message, which I hope all departments will heed:
Please take note that academicjobsonline.org 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.)
There's more here (we linked to this previously, but please read it again!). The APA, to its credit, has waived the membership fee for Interfolio for APA members, but not (as I understand it) the cost per application, which can still add up to hundreds of dollars (more than a thousand even). Faculty: ask yourself how you would feel about having to spend 5-10% of your gross income in a given year on job applications? And given the diminishing marginal utility of income to middle- and upper-class income earner, that percentage is not really adequate to describe the financial hardship for job seekers.
UPDATE: Christopher Morris (Maryland) writes: "It might be helpful were you to open your posting to comments and invite those who have used the new service to say something about its reliability. Like most depts we are setting up our placement system for the fall and have only a little time to reorganize it. Hearing something from Duke, et al. would be very helpful to most doctoral programs."
Comments are now open; faculty, please sign your comments; students who have used the service can simply include a valid e-mail address (which won't appear), but need not sign their full name.
Details here. My impression is that trends in philosophy have been similar, and I expect will continue that way in 2012-13. Obviously getting back to pre-financial collapse levels will not be enough to ease the fierce competition resulting from several tight years and a large number of highly qualified, but underemployed (or unemployed) job seekers.
My colleague Michael Kremer calls my attention to this CHE story about a U.S. Court of Appeals decision (for the Sixth Circuit, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky) affirming a lower court's decision (in a bench-trial, i.e., the judge was the trier of fact) against a tenured professor who had been fired by Thomas Cooley Law School, an independent law school in Michigan. The main takeaway from the opinion is that one should take a look at how your school defines tenure!
The court declined, quite unsurprisingly, to adopt the fired professor's view that "tenure" means "lifetime employment," holding instead that "tenure" meant what it meant in the faculty member's contract with the school. Cooley, perhaps unsurprisingly, set a very low bar for termination of tenured faculty, though it did include some procedural requirements (amazingly, Cooley failed to satisfy them initially, but, during the first iteration of this lawsuit, it went back and followed the rules, but reached the same outcome). Curious, I looked at the University of Chicago rules, and they define tenure as "indefinite tenure" (unlike Cooley) and specify "adequate cause" as the standard for termination, thus making clear that the employment relationship is not "at will" (the latter is the norm in the reactionary United States, though not in other Western nations, which is one reason there is so much resentment towards tenure). "At will" employees can be terminated for almost any reason whatsoever (though not ones that involve prohibited forms of discrimination, e.g., based on race or age or disability).
In the Cooley case, the professor had declined to teach the classes she was asked to teach. To be fired required only a vote of the faculty as well as certain advance notice of the proposed action. That procedure was, in fact, specified in the terms of employment. That procedure is extraordinariily weak, and should certainly give any prospective faculty member pause. But faculty might want to examine their faculty handbooks to see what "tenure" means at their institution. (Many institutions, though not all, explicitly incorporate the AAUP interpretation of tenure--their website is down, or I would have added a link.)
ADDENDUM: A medical school professor at a major research university writes with a striking anecdote about "tenure":
In regard to the meaning of tenure, as a Vice Dean whose portfolio included faculty affairs, I had the usual experience of being the interpreter of what “tenure” meant for my School in a larger University. The answer from the General Counsel’s office was very clear: we don’t definetenure. While it was not defined, I was instructed to apply that “’tenure’ means a promise of continued employment absent malfeasance.“ We had an interesting case where the expectations began to matter. A relatively junior faculty member in a basic science department (where salary comes through the university. In clinical departments the faculty comes through the university and the practice plan) achieved tenure, then immediately became a tenure slug. He/she did not apply for grants, taught so badly that no one in good conscience could allow him/her to lead a class, and came to the office sporadically. In order to provide some incentives, we froze the faculty person’s salary for several years. No effect. We threatened to reduce their salary by a few percent, but before we did we ran it by our faculty council. The council said they would rather fire a faculty person than reduce their salary. Regardless, the good news is that whatever the threat, my understanding is that the individual is now a model faculty member – back to being the person who earned tenure in the first place.
And for what it’s worth, in schools with a formal practice plan, despite tenure the presence of two committed pay points means that neither is obligated to provide the full salary unless there is an explicit contractual arrangement. So for practitioners, “salaries” go up and down with a flexible university base and an incentive plan for the practice elements.
A young philosopher currently in a post-doc writes:
This fall I'll be teaching my first graduate-level seminar, and although I'm very secure in undergraduate teaching, I find that I'm extremely nervous about teaching this seminar, because I don't really know how to approach it. It seems like planning a good discussion is a whole different animal from planning a good lecture. I was hoping you might ask your readers if they have suggestions or advice for how to teach an effective and enjoyable seminar?
Thoughts from readers welcome, both teachers and grad students who have advice about particularly good seminars they have taken.
Reader Nicholas Rebol writes:
My question, that I was hoping you could post to your readers, is how the job market in Philosophy in the USA compares to any other nations. Are there places where the field is growing? I understand that this may be way too simplistic a question for how complicated the job market situation is. I can't help but ask; I am considering my future in Philosophy and am not necessarily limiting it by location.
I hope the far-flung readerhsip can weigh in about how the academic job market for philosophers is looking in their part of the world. And also, within the U.S., are there states where there are signs of growth, additional funding for higher education, etc.?
A philosophy graduate student writes:
As a graduate student preparing for the academic job market, I've noticed that a significant number of my peers maintain personal webpages, where others can view their CV's, teaching portfolio documents, and perhaps even draft copies of their publications. I've also noticed that some people include family photos and other personal anecdotes, which strikes me as unnecessary, and perhaps a bad idea to boot. My questions about this, for your blog readers if possible, are:
-How helpful or important are personal websites to job market success?
-What sort of content should be on one's personal website?
-What sort of content should be avoided, aside from the obvious?
Building and maintaining a personal website is quite a bit of work, so it would be helpful for me, and I imagine other graduate students who are about to enter the market, to know how to approach the question of whether to have a personal website, and especially how much energy to devote to it.
Thoughts from readers welcome--both students/job seekers with experience, and faculty who have been involved in searches and perhaps had occasion to look at student homepages?
MOVING TO THE FRONT FROM MAY 18 GIVEN THE LIVELY AND INFORMATIVE DISCUSSION
This week I've gotten questions from three different graduate students (not here at Chicago) related to publications, so I thought I'd bundle them for discussion. Here they are:
(1) I am a doctoral student in a top-25 ranked program and it has been made extremely clear to us grads that publications are one of the strongest predictors of job market success. Recently, I have written several very short papers (around 1,000 words) that I am proud of. I think it would be a waste of space to flesh them out to a standard article length, but I have also been told there are several journals that will publish short "notes" in these cases. However, it's been hard for me to find a list of such journals in my area (besides, say, Analysis). I'm interested in journals that would publish notes in history, religion, and ethics, although I'm sure your readers would also be interested in publishing notes in other fields. Is there any chance you could create an open thread to solicit recommendations from the brain trust for journals that publish shorter papers?
(2) Recently I have received conflicting advice on best strategies for publishing papers as a PhD student if one plans to seek academic employment. On the one hand, I have been told that having one or two strong full-length publications in good journals is better than having the same plus one of two solid, but shorter and less exciting, reply pieces. On the other hand, I have also been told that additional reply pieces will only add value. I (and I expect others) would be interested to hear what your readers think about this issue in particular, and the broader issue of just what publishing strategies are optimal for graduate students (e.g. is it better to try to get multiple good, but not great, articles out there, or is it better to try for one standout piece?)
(3) I hope that you might publish my question anonymously on your blog. I am wondering how wise it is for graduate students to submit to new journals? I was particularly curious about Thought. The editorial board is impressive and a journal that competes with Analysis is long overdue, but I fear that submitting here will be at best a wasted paper and meaningless line on my CV, and at worst a wasted paper and a stain on my CV.
On (1), I'm not sure, but hopefully readers will have ideas. On (2), I have a few thoughts: first, don't spend time on publications that could be spent on the dissertation; second, publications generally help the vast majority of candidates for the vast majority of jobs; third, a reply piece in J.Phil., say, is, all else being equal, going to be worth more than a full-length article in a relatively weak journal; fourth, when things aren't equal, go with the real article, not the reply piece. On (3), one certainly gets more mileage out of publishing in established fora over new ones, but a journal that has a distinguished editorial board is likely to get off the ground quickly--Philosopher's Imprint, for example, in a decade has managed to crack roughly the "top ten" in the polls we've run here in the past. The distinguished editorial board helped bring in high-quality contributions, and those in turn have turned the journal into a desirable place to publish for both junior and senior scholars. PI, to be sure, had two advantages: being on-line, thus guaranteeing wide visibility for its publications, and also publishing across a wide range of sub-fields, including history. Thought enters a field already overloaded with journals publishing in what appear to be its main areas, though as I understand it much or all of the content will be free on-line initially.
Comments welcome--faculty must sign their name, students may post anonymous, but have to include a valid e-mail address (which will not appear).
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MAY 9--I HOPE MORE READERS MIGHT COMMENT ON THESE QUESTIONS
Philosopher Peter Vallentyne (Missouri) writes:
How important do hiring departments treat the following:
(1) solid evidence that the dissertation completed by December,
(2) solid evidence that the dissertation will be completed by May 15,
(3) solid evidence that the dissertation will be completed by Aug. 15?
I’ve tended to assume that Aug. 15 was good enough for most departments, but some have suggested that earlier completion is important for many departments. The most useful information would be from people reporting the hiring practices in their own departments, ideally identifying what the highest degree they offer in philosophy (B.A., MA, Ph.D.)
I suspect the answer may vary depending on how many years the student has been in graduate school: my impression is that a candidate who has been in grad school for eight or more years ought to be on track to defend by December of the year on the market at the latest. But comments are open, and must be signed. I am sure this information will be very useful for both job seekers and their advisors, so I encourage as many readers with hiring experience to report the local norms where they work.
A PhD student writes:
I am an ABD who will be going on the job market in the fall. Like many graduate students I began my graduate studies in a well-regarded terminal MA program. Two of my current letter writers are professors who are members of my dissertation committee, and the third is a well known philosopher who was the director of my master's thesis committee. I am curious whether this is sort of thing is normal or whether search committees might see it as a strike against me (perhaps because someone might wonder why I couldn't get three letters from my current institution).
Any advice would be helpful.
My instinct is that the only scenario in which this could seem odd is if the MA faculty member really has no expertise in the area of the PhD thesis *and* there are other faculty at the PhD program with expertise in the area who aren't writing--then, I suppose, someone might draw an adverse inference. But even then, it seems to me a remote worry. Apart from that, it seems to me perfectly fine. What do readers think?
Richard Rowland, President of the British Postgraduate Philosophy Association, writes:
[A]ll the talks from the careers day are now up as podcasts on our website. These include an absolutely fascinating roundtable discussion on philosophy in culture and the public sphere with Sean Kelly and John Cottingham, among others, in discussion, Brad Hooker and Helen Beebee talking about preparing for the job market, Thom Brooks giving an extremely charismatic lecture on publishing, and a roundtable discussion on equality in philosophy hosted by SWIP.
We also recently put many resources up online for postgraduate philosophers, including written advice from young philosophers who have just gotten permanent jobs in the UK.
Here. Some schools will continue to schedule job interviews well into next week. My first year on the job market (1992-93), I got my best interview (UCLA) on Dec. 22 or 23. Good luck to all those on the market!
There's useful links and advice here, and some additional helpful advice in the comments (see esp. Laurie Paul's comment), though the comment thread degenerates a bit after that. It is a shame they do not moderate the comments more aggresively to prevent petty pissing matches from breaking out.
A graduate student writes:
I have a question about the impact on one's job prospects from taking a year out from philosophy, for example to work on charitable projects. I understand that years out from philosophy don't have an effect if they are taken before one starts postgraduate study. But what's the effect if one takes a year (or more) out:
a) during one's phd?
b) after one's phd?
In each of these cases, would the time away be interpreted as a lack of commitment to philosophy, and therefore harm one's job prospects? If so, how much harm would be done?
Thoughts from readers? My sense is that doing so after the PhD can be very damaging, and will be interpreted as failure to get a job and/or lack of serious commitment to philosophy. During the PhD is a different matter, I imagine. But I'm honestly not sure. Please submit your comment just once, they may take awhile to appear.
A young philosopher writes:
Recently, I have been commenting on a number of papers (from students as well as some professionals), and often the quality of writing is disappointing. I have encountered the kinds of errors that Professor Boghossian mentioned in his reply to Fish: “the sloppiness to which people not trained in philosophy are sometimes prone, [e.g.,] giving non-equivalent formulations of what they take to be the same view” (see fn. 1). Other such errors include, e.g., failing to explain key terms, using imprecise language (such as “x involves y,” where it just means something vacuous like “x bears some relation or other to y”), etc.
It seems it could save time if there were a shared list of such infelicities, which students could be directed to, and manuscripts could be (partly) evaluated by. Yet since I am clearly not the sole authority here, perhaps your readers could contribute other examples of such errors? (It might be a start at articulating what the professional standards are for philosophical writing.)
Thoughts, links etc. from readers?
A grad student in Europe writes:
Now that I'm sitting down to put together some applications for philosophy job positions, it occurs to me that I don't know how to write a cover letter for the American job market. For example, for PhD positions it was natural to state the people I'd like to work with. But now that I have a PhD, is this still the norm? Because while I really would like to work with, and learn from, AAA and YYY, since I'm applying for a tenure track position, aren't I supposed to be something approximating to a finished article - ready to stand on my own and complement my colleagues? In this case, would it not be better just to state why my research would complement the research profile of the department? And if so, would I benefit or harm my case by observing that my research would fill a gap in the department's teaching profile? What would be the right combination of flattery and self-confidence?
Thoughts from readers?
MOVING TO FRONT FROM NOV. 18 2009, SINCE THE QUESTION IS ARISING AGAIN
A philosophy graduate student writes:
I was hoping you might be able to help me with a follow-up question I had regarding your blog-post on leiterreports regarding the merits of getting a J.D. and a Ph.D. in philosophy. I'm now in my second-to-last year of my Ph.D....working predominantly in political philosophy....My interests have been, over the last year or so, drawing me towards the philosophy of law and I have been considering pursuing my J.D. after I finish my degree, particularly if the academic job market in philosophy is not substantially improved by the time I finish.
My question is this: how much does it matter where I get my J.D. if my aim is to stay in academia and teach (whether predominantly in the law-program or the philosophy department)? I'm sure going to a more prestigious law school helps, but since the more prestigious the school (often) the more expensive it is, if the potential academic job-benefits are not significant it may not be worth the extra expense.
The answer is: it matters a lot if your goal is to get into law teaching (otherwise it matters less). Law school hiring is very pedigree-sensitive, much more so than philosophy hiring, and also without excellence in a specialization compensating for a program that is not overall highly regarded. One need only look at data on where law professors earned their degrees (e.g., here or here) to see that the academic market in law is overwhelmingly dominated by a very small number of schools: Yale, Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford at the very top; Columbia, Michigan, Berkeley, maybe NYU a notch below; Virginia and Penn a notch below those; and then some mix of Northwestern, Duke, Texas, Georgetown, maybe Cornell, maybe Minnesota, maybe UCLA, maybe one or two others.
It is true that scholarly writing is now much more important in law school hiring than it was even twenty years ago--hardly anyone gets hired anymore without having at least one publication post- law school graduation--but before hiring schools even start reading the scholarship, pedigree is used to narrow the pool dramatically. That, I'm afraid, is the reality that anyone thinking about law teaching needs to be aware of.
Law school is expensive, but even the top law schools give 'merit' aid, and those with PhDs or those with potential for academic careers are often viable candidates for that. Should a JD/PhD hopeful pay full price at Harvard over a full ride at Penn? Probably not, and especially given that Harvard Law School is a bit of a wasteland for someone with a serious interest in philosophy, while Penn has a serious commitment to law and philosophy. But should one pay full price at Penn over a full ride at George Washington or Vanderbilt or Emory? There, I think, the answer is probably yes. The latter are all quite good law schools, but in terms of law teaching, the pedigree drop off is probably too great.
ADDENDUM: A more recent study on placement in law teaching, though no significant differences from the earlier ones.