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).
Thomas Baldwin, the editor of Mind, has kindly sent the following reply in response to the petition organized by Jonathan Weisberg:
I thank Professor Baldwin for this judicious and detailed reply to the concerns raised by Professor Weisberg. I have opened comments for further discussion: full name and valid e-mail address required for ALL comments.
Let me begin my response to Professor Weisberg’s petition by acknowledging that in November he contacted me to complain that messages he had sent to firstname.lastname@example.org had not been answered. I immediately replied, apologising for what was certainly a bad mistake on our part. As I explained to Weisberg, we had recognised earlier in the year that we did not have adequate staff resources for dealing with the ever-increasing volume of Mind correspondence, and had brought in and trained an extra person for this task. I thought that this change had dealt with the problem, but Weisberg’s message indicated that there was more to be done. I hope that we have now addressed that issue, although illness, holidays and other work (such as attention to producing the journal) are liable to give rise to occasional delays.
I hope that this response deals with Weisberg’s first demand. His third one concerns the use to be made of the reports which referees provide. This issue came up earlier this year on Brian Leiter’s blog and in response to it I committed us to a policy of forwarding referees’ reports as they stand, which has already been implemented. This policy was endorsed at the meeting of the Mind Association Executive committee on November 5, the only proviso being that we should not forward comments from referees which are identified as being only for the editor. So I believe that Weisberg’s third demand has already been addressed.
Weisberg’s second demand, that ‘decisions are issued within 3 months (4 in exceptional cases)’, is, however, not one that I would be happy to implement. Before explaining why I should acknowledge that Mind has had a poor reputation for taking too long to come to decisions. To judge by reports from my colleagues I do not think that Mind is in fact any worse in this respect than many other journals, but that is no reason for not trying to speed things up, and I will explain below how we intend to achieve this. But first I should explain the current practice.
Although the average decision-time at present is less than three months, in some cases decisions take six months or occasionally longer. The main explanation for the delays which do occur is the time it has taken us to find suitable referees who are willing to report and then to receive reports from them. What especially causes extensive delays are situations in which people agree to provide a report, but then fail to do so (sometimes for understandable reasons, such as illness); so that we have to start again. A further reason is that unlike most philosophy journals Mind does not impose a length limit; as a result we receive a good number of long submissions (over 15000 words), and there is no question but that long papers take longer to evaluate and report on than short ones.
Finally, in many cases in which we are strongly recommended by a referee to accept a paper we are also being recommended by another referee to reject the paper. I gather that in situations of this kind it is standard practice at some journals to treat the recommendation to reject as ‘dominant’ and reject the paper. That is certainly not my practice: instead I read the paper, at least twice, and make up my own mind, though always drawing on the opinions of the referees. That takes time, especially if the paper is a long one; but I cannot conceive of a proper way of coming to a decision about a paper where the recommendations conflict (as they often do) without some procedure of this kind.
In order to implement a three or four month limit the changes required would, I think, be the following: (i) we would have to limit the length of papers to 12000 words; (ii) we would have to simply reject papers for which no reports from referees were received in time; (iii) where time was running out before a conflict in advice could be resolved (e.g. where the reports come in late), we would have to apply the rule that a reject recommendation is dominant. I do not think that these changes would be improvements; indeed I can think of several excellent papers that we have published recently which would have been rejected had these changes been made. We might also need to introduce a moratorium on submissions if the volume of submissions received appeared likely to lead to a breach of the four month limit. I am of course aware that some other journals do have this practice and I am not opposed to it in principle. But we have never implemented it both because it potentially deprives the journal of some excellent papers and because it limits the opportunity of authors to have papers published in Mind.
For all these reasons, therefore, I am opposed to implementing Weisberg’s second demand. Nonetheless I am prepared to commit us to trying to implement the following policy: (i) that the average decision time be (as a present) less than three months; (ii) that the maximum time be six months, unless there are exceptional circumstances which we would communicate to authors. I hope that this policy will satisfy those who have signed Weisberg’s petition even though it falls short of his proposal. Implementing it will be helped by an important change which we have already agreed to make, namely that next year we will introduce the ScholarOne system for web-based submission and review. This should enable us to keep an eye on the time taken since submission, and in particular to expedite the process of gathering reports from referees. Once we are familiar with the system I will publish data on the current decision-times. If the result of all this is a procedure that really enables us in all cases to reach well-considered decisions within four months, then I would be delighted. But at present I cannot in good conscience commit myself to working within that deadline.
All too often, philosophy is seen by the public, the government, and colleges and universities themselves as expendable—easy targets for funding cuts. This belief is misguided and sets us down a troubling path.
For one thing, philosophy and the humanities give schools a lot of bang for their buck. Most philosophy departments do not require the large research funds and expensive equipment that other fields may need, so their budgets can reasonably be significantly smaller than departments needing such resources. And yet with those smaller budgets, philosophy departments make a sizeable impact. Philosophy teaches students the hallmarks of a quality education: critical thinking, problem solving, writing, analysis, and argument construction, to name a few. Philosophy considers the biggest questions there are—and what is the academy for if not for asking big questions? And philosophy students routinely outperform students of nearly all other disciplines on standardized tests for postgraduate education such as the GRE and LSAT. Colleges and universities that see philosophy and the humanities as expendable are sorely mistaken.
Unfortunately, attacks on philosophy and the humanities are sometimes cover for attacks on tenure, when universities see it as more expeditious to eliminate an entire department rather than go through the required process for reducing their number of tenured professors. This too, is dangerous, as it is certainly not expeditious to deprive students of crucial fields of study in the name of purportedly saving a few bucks or taking advantage of an administrative loophole. (And we’ve already discussed the important role of tenure in supporting academic freedom and guaranteeing due process.)
When philosophy departments are threatened, the APA responds, as we did earlier this year when the University of Northern Iowa threatened deep and damaging cuts. Depending on the situation, we can offer public statements of support, connect with those at the department in question to provide resources and assistance, and reach out to those proposing such cuts to advocate for the continuation of these important programs. We will do whatever we know to do to protect philosophy and the humanities against such attacks.
And we also participate in national-level advocacy for philosophy and the humanities. The APA is a member of the National Humanities Alliance and each year sponsors the NHA’s Humanities Advocacy Day in March. NHA is currently planning its advocacy for the new Congress and newly re-elected Obama administration, and I invite you to join the APA in participating in those efforts—you should expect to hear from me with opportunities to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill.
But advocacy has to happen from the bottom up as well. Philosophers must fight for philosophy at the university level, not only for program funding but also to improve the perception of philosophy for students not intending to be philosophy professors. We all know the immense benefits philosophy offers its students—benefits that are applicable and advantageous no matter what career a student pursues. These benefits are sadly lost on many students and their parents—and, unfortunately, sometimes school administrators—which leads to lower demand for philosophy courses. What about public awareness campaigns to demonstrate philosophy’s value? What about marketing philosophy courses more widely? What about educating administrators about the benefits of philosophy before programs are threatened?
What else can we—the APA and the philosophical community—do to advocate for philosophy?
As is standard practice on this blog, signed comments only: full name preferred, valid e-mail address required.
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.
For those looking for academic employment, there are two main options: tenure track and non-tenure track. Check back for the latter in my second post of the day, when I’ll be writing about the issues facing non-tenure track faculty, especially adjuncts. But in this post, I’ll focus on issues related to tenure.
Tenure is a hallmark of the academic profession. It has long existed to provide safeguards for those entrusted to examine the hard issues and research questions that may not be popular or even popularly understood. It guarantees a right to due process before dismissal from employment. And our society would be much worse off without such protections.
But tenure has gotten a bad rap. According to much of public opinion, and unfortunately according to some in power in universities and our nation’s legislatures, tenured professors are paid too much to work too little, and can’t be removed from duty even if they’re doing a terrible job. Little attention is paid to the ways that tenure advances our society, and the public message instead focuses on the myths about the tenure system. As a result, lawmakers and university leaders have, at times, taken to undermining tenure, whether because they believe the myths about it or as a shortsighted financial “solution” in a bad economy.
The APA stands with other academic associations and disciplinary societies in supporting tenure and working to preserve this important practice. For philosophers who feel their tenure rights have been violated, our Committee on the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers can be an excellent resource and ally. The APA, like the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), censures institutions when “conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university”; these institutions are also marked in Jobs for Philosophers so that applicants considering employment with such institutions can be aware of their censured status.Unfortunately, I don’t anticipate that attacks on tenure will go away anytime soon, but so long as we are around to do so, the APA will continue to fight for the institution of tenure and for our tenured members’ rights.
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.
To begin by stating the obvious: philosophy is one of the least diverse humanities fields, and indeed one of the least diverse fields in all of academia, in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. Philosophy has a reputation for not only a lack of diversity but also an often hostile climate for women and minorities. There have been, in recent years, a number of efforts to bring awareness to and address this lack of diversity, including the well-known blogs Feminist Philosophers, What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?, and What We’re Doing About What It’s Like. These efforts have drawn attention to important issues that have often gone unacknowledged, but they alone cannot suffice to transform the discipline of philosophy into the diverse and inclusive field it should be. And of course, these efforts focus on gender, and while efforts to improve the climate for women in philosophy may help the situation for other underrepresented populations, there must be more focus on how to improve the climate specifically for people of color, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and other minority groups.
Increased diversity is needed throughout all levels of philosophy: undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and professional leaders. Increased diversity is needed in publication in philosophy: a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education indicated that philosophy is one of the five fields with the largest gender gaps in publishing, and though publication of women in philosophy is rising, these numbers are increasing at a slower rate than other fields, so philosophy is still losing ground. And more inclusive representation at philosophy conferences is also needed (see the Gendered Conference Campaign).
Now is the time for philosophy to put in the hard work necessary to improve the climate for underrepresented populations and increase the number of women and minority philosophers. There is no one right answer as to how to do so, but there are at least a few key strategies we at the APA see as promising.
Mentoring programs can help people of color, women, and other minorities who are already in philosophy to feel comfortable and supported, to respond to incidents of discrimination and fight bias (including internalized prejudices), and to overcome the often challenging climate with which they are faced. A pilot program for mentoring junior female faculty in philosophy—one that the APA has been proud to support this year and last—is, I hope, just one of many such efforts to come aimed at supporting philosophers from underrepresented communities.
It is also essential that students in philosophy courses see themselves in the discipline—in the instructors and in the authors of the materials taught. Building more inclusive curricula and increasing diversity among teachers of philosophy can go a long way toward helping young minority students continue their study in philosophy.
Improving the climate for women and LGBT people in philosophy also means addressing the very serious problem of sexual harassment. The APA board of officers has recently charged an ad hoc committee on sexual harassment to focus specifically on this issue, and we strongly encourage individual departments to investigate and address sexual harassment as it affects them. One excellent resource for departments will be the APA Committee on the Status of Women’s forthcoming site visit program (loosely modeled on a similar program by the American Physical Society's Committee on the Status of Women in Physics), which will be piloted in 2013.
And perhaps the most powerful tool we have to increase diversity in philosophy is data collection: there are many good ideas about how to make philosophy a more welcoming place for minorities and women, but we have no way of knowing whether our efforts are effective if we cannot measure their impact. And there are minorities about which we have little or no data: the prevalence of LGBT philosophers and disabled philosophers, for example, has rarely been tracked, so it’s very difficult to know how philosophy compares to other fields on inclusiveness in these areas. The APA has already begun collecting data on our members and on philosophy programs (see the just-relaunched Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy) and additional data collection efforts are in the works as well.
We have a long road ahead of us as we work to increase philosophy’s diversity, and we need the full cooperation of philosophy programs and our members to make these efforts as comprehensive as possible, so I hope that you will join with us in these efforts and contribute to their success.
Philosopher Rae Langton (MIT) calls my attention to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics in the U.K., coming on the heels of various scandals involving the tabloids and their intrusive and sometimes illegal techniques for acquiring "information." Interestingly, as Professor Langton pointed out to me, several philosophers and political theorists gave evidence during the Inquiry, including Jeremy Waldron, Onora O'Neill, John Tasioulas, Jennifer Hornsby, Susan Mendus, Rowan Cruft, Neil Manson, John Thompson, as well as Professor Langton. Professor Hornsby comments on some of the issues raised by the Inquiry here.
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.
An employed philosopher who is also a job seeker writes:
"If you are affiliated with a University, you hereby authorize us, and we may disclose your Dossier, related Personal Information and your Dossier's delivery history to your University and its University Users, unless you opt-out of such disclosure in your account settings."
They define “University User” as follows:
"'University User', which means you are an employee, contractor or agent of a University operating in such capacity. A 'University' is a college or university with whom Interfolio has a contractual relationship, generally with the career services department or a specific academic department, to provide services to students, employees and faculty members... "
In practice, it appears that Interfolio only shares your dossier with select individuals at your institution (so called “University Users”). At my department, I know that this includes our placement officer and the department chair. This is alarming. Job applicants who are currently employed at a university may not want their chair or placement officer to know that they are seeking alternative employment or the details of their job search.
Interfolio has a page with what appear to be screenshots of what placement services etc. can see: https://secure.interfolio.com/demo/screenshottour/administrators.cfm
This policy deserves attention for two main reasons. First, Interfolio considers you to be affiliated with a university if you declare it as your affiliation when you sign up. Interfolio does not ask you about the nature of your affiliation. People who are employed at a university are liable to enter their employer as their affiliation. If you declare your current employer as affiliation, your colleagues may have access to your dossier. The placement officer at my institution has told me that they have access to the dossiers of many faculty members at my university, so this is a real concern.
Second, Interfolio does not limit access to individuals in your department. Anyone from your university is equally eligible for access to your dossier. Even for graduate students who don’t have the seeking-other-employment concern, this seems like a serious breach of privacy. For example, I imagine graduate students in ancient philosophy might not want their dossier shared with placement officers in classics departments, whose students might be competing for the same jobs.
This is especially alarming given the sudden widespread usage of Interfolio following the APA’s recent endorsement. For example, my graduate institution is now requiring all job seekers to use Interfolio. People have to know what’s involved in handing over such responsibilities to a private company that, it seems, doesn’t really understand academia.
It’s not clear to me how a “University User” gets to have access to dossiers from their university. But it looks like their university needs to set up a special “University Partner” account with Interfolio. Interfolio has listed a sample of their “University Partners”:
Jason Clark, a postdoc at the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrueck, writes:
It seems clear that philosophers co-author papers far less often than scientists do, but while there has been some discussion on your blog as to the market value of co-authored works, I haven't found any mention of comparative data on co-authorship rates by discipline (not to mention the potential significance of such differences). Do you know of any such research, or could you post this question for comments?
Thoughts/information from readers?
Interesting charts from CHE.
(Thanks to Richard Marshall for the pointer.)
A couple of readers, including some who recently declined to referee for Synthese, asked me to post an update about this matter.
Just to recap: last year, Synthese published a special issue on evolution and its critics--basically, an issue about the public debates over science education in the United States. The editors were lobbied by, among others, Intelligent Design proponents and sympathizers who objected to an article by Barbara Forrest critical of Intelligent Desigh apologist Francis Beckwith (whom long-time readers will remember). (The single most important overview of what transpired is here.) The editors, without warning either the guest editors of the special issue or the contributors, appended an insulting dislcaimer to the entire volume, thus smearing all the contributors. As Hilary Kornblith (U Mass/Amherst) observed at the time:
Authors have a reasonable expectation that their work, if accepted for publication, will not be accompanied by an editorial statement indicating deficiencies of any sort. Editors who believe that there are deficiencies which make publication inappropriate should fail to publish the paper. But if they decide that the paper meets their standards for publication, any remaining doubts they may have should be kept to themselves. Publishing editorial criticism of a paper which has been accepted falls very far outside the bounds of acceptable editorial conduct.
Nearly five hundred philosophers signed a petition in protest, including many leading senior figures in the field. The editors ignored the petition, failing to apologize, retract the disclaimer or even give a decent explanation of what transpired. The whole scandal, and the intransigence of the editors, did substantial damage to the reputation of the journal, with hundreds of philosophers committing to neither submit to nor referee for the journal. (Also here, here, and here.)
Since then, two of the three editors responsible have stepped down. But there has still been no apology for the gross editorial misconduct, or retraction of the disclaimer. I continue to be sent correspondence from philosophers honoring the boycott, and I would encourage all those concerned with this injustice to continue to boycott Synthese.
UPDATE: A job seeker writes: "I'm a long-time lurker on your blog, but I thought this was important enough to comment on: I got a paper accepted in Synthese a couple months before the issue broke, and it still has not appeared in print. So it might help people on the job market to remind search committees that a publication in Synthese - even a 'forthcoming' one - does not mean a publication in a damaged journal. (At least, not yet.)" A fair point.
Posted by Brian Leiter on November 08, 2012 at 11:44 AM in Issues in the Profession, Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
A philosopher writes:
My correspondent is surely right that this would set a very dangerous precedent. One thing faculty can do is to honor a strke by graduate TAs. Other advice from readers elsewhere who have confronted similar issues?
In case you haven't heard about this: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is in negotiations with the Graduate Employees' Organization (http://www.uigeo.org/) over the administrations attempt to reduce and/or remove tuition waivers from graduate students in fine and applied arts. The administration is asserting unilateral control over tuition waivers and claims that incoming graduate teaching assistants are not automatically covered under the GEO contract (which seems absurd to me). For its part, the GEO is preparing to strike if it comes to that. And they have a history of striking: they did so in 2009.
Although the relevance to philosophy might not be immediately obvious, it seems to me that if the university administration wins this fight, then it will eventually be bad news for humanities as well as for fine and applied arts. If the administration can cut funding for graduate students in fine and applied arts, they can surely cut funding for graduate students in lowly programs like philosophy. And especially at UIUC, cutting humanities may seem like a fine thing to do, since science and technology research are what most people think of when they think of UIUC.
Worse, I think, is that other universities are likely to take their cue from UIUC. If the administration successfully cuts tuition waivers, then other universities are, I think, likely to follow suit. It would save a boatload of money at the low, low cost of actually having quality graduate programs (and maybe impoverishing a bunch of people who want to study politically disfavored subjects -- and who cares about them, really?).
Regardless of whether you discuss this on your blog, I wonder if you might make suggest what practical steps faculty might take to support the graduate students.
An aspiring graduate student in philosophy writes:
I'm not really sure what the answers are to these questions, so I thought I would open it for reader feedback--perhaps other foreign students can report on their experiences, or faculty on their views having done admissions. (I haven't done PhD admissions in a good number of years now, and I don't ever recall seeing applicants from distance-learning programs. I do recall seeing applicants from schools in parts of the world we knew little about, and it is fair to say it was rare for those students to get in, since we really couldn't assess the program or the letters.) I'd ask faculty to post with their full name, students may post simply with a valid e-mail address.
I am a student from Bangladesh, and greatly appreciate your effort in making crucial information available to aspiring philosophers. If I was privileged to waste a bit more of your precious time, I would have asked you a question regarding the value of a distance learning degree in philosophy.
I am very passionate about philosophy, but I had a break in my education. Now I want to resume my studies, but am confused about whether to get admitted into a local philosophy program in a Bangladeshi university, or get a distance learning degree such as the BA Philosophy program offered by University of London International Programmes (academically directed by Birkbeck College).
Which option would provide me a better prospect of gaining admission to a PhD or atcleast a terminal MA program in the USA or Canada? I know there is an issue about getting recommendations through distance education but some universities, such as San Francisco State University don't require recommendations for admission to their terminal MA programs. Is a good distance learning program looked upon more favorably than a degree from a top university in a third world country?
MOVING TO FRONT FROM OCT. 31
A couple of readers have queried whether schools on the East Coast affected by the hurricane will be extending November 1 (or thereabout) deadlines for job applications? Please feel free to post pertinent information here. Full name and valid e-mail address required.
UPDATE: In comments, Sandy Goldberg (Northwestern) usefully suggests that it would be good to know if schools not affected by the hurricane will accept late applications from job seekers from schools affected (and many major graduate programs, of course, were in the region affected).
Reader Steffen Lund Jørgensen writes:
I've spent some time trying to find graduate summer schools (and similar courses) within ancient philosophy and philosophy of language, but I have not succeeded in finding any good overview of what's on offer in Europe or in the US. Could you ask your readers for their valuable advice?
I've broadened it to summer schools in other areas of philosophy, besides ancient and philosophy of language, since I imagine others might be interested in offerings in other fields. What do readers recommend? You may include links and, ideally, report your own experiences, indicate what level the summer program is suitable for, and so on. All comments must include a valid e-mail address, which will not be published.
A philosopher elsewhere writes:
Is this right? Have readers heard of this happening? Signed comments preferred, but all comments must include a valid e-mail address at least.
There is something going on that might be worth discussing. I think it might be fairly common--at least, I suspect it is fairly easy to do--to see one's letters of recommendation if you use interfolio. All you have to do is have them sent to a friend or set up a dummy recipient address. Candidates have an interest in seeing their letters, and I would be amazed, unless there are controls I don't know about, if people weren't doing this. *As far as I can tell*, there are no controls on Interfolio of the usual sort that a department would normally impose if it were the entity sending out the letters, ie only sending it out to advertised job addresses, etc.
(Thanks to Bahram Farzady for the pointer.)
(Thanks to Lucas Miotto for the pointer.)
UPDATE: Philosopher P.D. Magnus (SUNY-Albany) writes with several important points:
Your recent blog post rightly decries "The Not-so-High Standards at (at least some) "Open Access" Journals" and describes the case as "Not a great advertisement for the genre".
Importantly, the genre in question is not Open Access journals tout court. The real problem here is OA journals that use an author-pays model. Lots of them are straight forwardly scams to chisel money out of institutions that cover that kind of publishing and out of authors who need a line on their CV.
There are other models of OA. Quality OA journals don't charge author fees. I'm thinking here especially of Philosophers' Imprint, but also of less well-known and less prestigious ones like Logos&Episteme. We can argue about their stature in the field, but their being OA is not a demerit.
There is also the model which is sometimes called "green OA", in which authors' papers are systematically hosted in institutional or disciplinary archives. Although this does not result in OA journals as such, traditional journals can facilitate or thwart the practice depending on how they handle rights.
Qualifying your post with the caveat "at least some" is importantly not enough, because we can state precisely what's wrong here. For-profit publishers have an interest in suspicion being raised about OA in general, when really it's a specific business model that leads to egregious abuses like the one that you point to.
This is a fairly compact summary on themes covered by Professor Saul and others at the Feminist Philosophers blog and in other writings. My sense is that sexual harassment, which seems to still be far more common in philosophy than, say, academic law, has a lot to do with it. The APA really ought to take a leadership role on this issue and there are some indications that it may before too long.
(Thanks to Jean Kazez for the pointer.)
Philosopher Laura Schroeter (Melbourne) writes:
I had not heard of a case like this previously; I thought referee reports, unless content-free, were always sent to authors. What do readers think? What experiences have they had? If you name a particular journal, you'll need to sign your name to the comment; other comments must include a valid e-mail address at least.
In September last year, I submitted a paper to Mind. In March, I discovered by chance that a senior colleague had written a referee report on the paper recommending conditional acceptance but had raised one main concern he thought should be addressed before publication. After many promptings, Mind finally made a decision to reject the paper this September. The editorial administrator attached comments from the editor (who is not a specialist in this area) and comments from one referee (which appear to be redacted). The comments from the colleague I’d spoken to earlier were not included; when I contacted him directly, he sent me a detailed 5pp report. Mind has not responded to an inquiry about whether they have a policy about not forwarding referee reports to authors. Moreover, the official rejection letter included the following proviso:
"Please note that referees' comments are supplied in confidence for the Mind editorial board. They are forwarded to you as confidential reports, in order to provide you with feedback concerning your submission. The Editor asks that you respect the confidentiality of this advice."
To be clear: I respect the right of editors to make the final call on a paper, and to override referees’ verdicts. But it seems to me that a policy of not forwarding reports is a real betrayal of the crucial role journals play in the discipline as intermediaries between authors and critics. When I spend time writing detailed feedback on an argument, I expect my report to be forwarded to the author – I wouldn’t go to all that trouble if it were simply advice to an editor. Personally, I won’t be refereeing for Mind in the future now that I know that they consider reports the confidential property of the editor alone.
A philosophy student with an MA/MPhil degree from a university in Europe writes:
So there's two issues here: are their PhD programs that do not require the GRE? And are there PhD programs that waive the GRE requirement in special circumstances? Readers? Posts can be unsigned if they link to an official website with information, otherwise they should be signed.
Are there PhD programs in the US that wave the GRE requirement for people with a MA or MPhil (apart from MIT)?
After a philosophy-only BA and a two-year MPhil in philosophy, can't conferences, publications and the like be better evidence than the GRE for graduate-level work in philosophy??
Apart from the cost, I think the time spent "studying" for the GRE (i) could be better used studying and doing philosophy or related matters; (b) could discourage (at least some) European applicants.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM SEPT. 26--see FINAL UPDATE
...courtesy of Jenny Saul (Sheffield) and colleagues involved with the GCC. This seems to me not to involve the problematic features of the other petition, to clearly present the core objectives of the GCC, and thus to warrant a strong showing of support from the philosophical community. I encourage all philosophy readers to sign. (Please note that to sign, you will have to hit the "sign now" key two times--the first time will take you to a page with your signatory information that you've just entered, and then you hit "sign now" again to confirm.)
UPDATE: 48 hours and almost 650 signatures. If you have not yet signed, please consider doing so, and joining your colleagues endorsing the GCC, including Helen Beebee, Ned Block, Roger White, Susan Brison, Michael Rea, Ian Proops, Galen Strawson, Scott Sturgeon, Adam Elga, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, Debra Satz, Donald Rutherford, Peter Carruthers, David Estlund, Ted Sider, David Chalmers, Anthony Appiah, Elisabeth Lloyd, Rae Langton, Stephen Darwall, David Papineau, Thomas Hurka, Michael Bergmann, Lynne Rudder Baker, Gideon Rosen, Elizabeth Harman, Kenny Easwaran, C.D.C. Reeve, Daniel Garber, Duncan Pritchard, Rebecca Kukla, Mark Richard, Andy Egan, Matti Eklund, Ursula Coope, Benjamin Morison, Victor Caston, Peter Vallentyne, Adam Pautz, Hilary Kornblith, Kieran Setiya, Margaret Atherton, David Brink, David Rosenthal, and David Copp, among many others!
ANOTHER (9/26): Another hundred signatures over the last seven hours, including Stephen Yablo, Juliet Floyd, John Dupre, Huw Price, Elisabeth Camp, Ned Hall, Aldo Antonelli, and many others!
A FINAL UPDATE (10/2): Almost 900 now, but the goal is a thousand, so please help us get there by adding your name. Since the last update Crispin Wright, Hannah Ginsborg, Robert Batterman, Hartry Field, and Jenann Ismael, among other distinguished philosophers, signed. Please join them. And more importantly, make an affirmative effort to avoid organizing all-male conferences and edited volumes, and so contribute to gender equity in the profession.
Thoughts from readers? Signed comments strongly preferred.
The other day I had to decline another refereeing request from a journal where I earlier published, citing "being too busy." Then I felt some pangs of conscience. But I wonder if I should feel that way. Some of us referee a lot of papers, others very few, others not at all. Is there a minimal number N of submissions one should feel obligated to referee for a journal (i) where one published, and (ii) where one's own submission was rejected? I think in the second case the answer is clearly N=2 (assuming the journal sends all submissions to two referees). What about (i)? Suppose this is a top journal that rejects 19 submissions out of 20. Its editors may be disinclined to approach many or most authors of rejected submissions for refereeing. Of course the editors could approach any number of other people who have never published in or submitted to their journal. But it seems fair that the authors of published papers could be morally expected to do more work than others. How much? I would say that refereeing five submissions would probably fulfill one's moral obligations in such a case, and refereeing ten would be supererogation. But I'd be curious to know what others think.
IHE has a story, though this strikes me as an easy case: it's outrageous, and anyone who live-tweets a conference should be immediately disinvited from the event, and any future ones.
UPDATE: So I guess even at 6:30 in the morning I should have realized someone would ask why this is my view, so let me explain briefly. The medium of twitter is not suited to discursive reasoning or extended analysis or argument. But philosophy presentations contain discursive reasoning and extended analysis and argument. Therefore a twitter version of a talk will necessarily mutilate it. Since mutilation of someone's work has no value, people who attend a conference should have the courtesy not to try to tweet the talks. If they do not have that courtesy, they should be thrown out. There may be fields where presentations lend themselves to tweeting; on that issue, I'm agnostic. But philosophy isn't one of them.
ANOTHER: Turns out if you diss tweeting, the twitter-sphere goes crazy! (Thanks to Peter A. for the pointer.)