MOVING TO FRONT FROM APRIL 14, 2011, SINCE THE ISSUE IS COMING UP AGAIN SOON!
We all know the APA rule is that students can not be asked to decide until April 15 on admissions and financial aid offers. But does that mean they can't be asked to decide before 5 pm? Is there an APA rule on this? A philosopher elsewhere asked about this, because he is confronted with a number of students who have multi-year Fellowship offers, and he is wondering whether he can ask them to notify the department by noon tomorrow--obviously with an eye to being able to offer the Fellowship to others in a timely way, before they are forced to accept other offers. Thoughts from readers? How do departments handle this? Is there a clear APA rule?
CORRECTION:This piece is written by Prof. Knobe's co-author, Jonathan Phillips, who took a PhD in philosophy and psychology at Yale, and is a currently a post-doc at Harvard. (Thanks to Bob Gamboa for the correction.)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR, SINCE TIMELY AGAIN (originally posted two years ago):
Students admitted to graduate school have until April 15 to respond. You can't be made to respond sooner--let me know of schools violating that rule!--but if you can respond sooner that helps a lot of people! Philosopher Kristen Inglis (Pittsburgh), for example, writes:
Because many prospective philosophy graduate programs read this blog, I’d like to reiterate Anthony Laden’s and Keith DeRose’s suggestions that prospective graduate students aim to decline admissions offers in a timely way. As the chair of an Admissions committee, I agree with DeRose that nearly every program appreciates knowing as early as possible that an admitted student is declining an offer. Most importantly, declining an offer early greatly helps waitlisted students who are otherwise in the tricky position of having to decide whether to accept an offer or to wait to get off the waitlist at a better program.
Of course, no one is suggesting that prospective students decline offers before they’ve had the chance to gather the relevant information, think the decision through, and discuss the decision with their advisors. Still, if one knows before April 15 (most schools’ decision deadline) that she will decline an offer from school X, then she can do a good service by declining the offer from X before April 15.
In any case, the new rankings are out, and the 2017 edition includes a "world" ranking for philosophy, based on some meaningless, non-academic factors, but several putatively academic considerations. We noted several years ago the disreputable method by which QS rounded up evaluators, but things appear to have gotten better in the interim. I have filled out these surveys several years running now, including this year. QS still uses a foolish methodology, in which evaluators are to name top programs in the specialty, meaning the ultimate rank is determined by the dumbest evaluator (e.g., the one who forgot to list NYU among the top 10 or 15 programs in the field). The resulting academic reputation scores are a weird artifact of (1) some actual knowledge on the part of evaluators; (2) pure halo effect (e.g., Oxford has an academic reputation score of 90.2, Cambridge 89.0, even though Oxford is dramatically stronger than Cambridge, and Cambridge is not better than, e.g., Princeton [see below]); and (3) the geographic and institutional distribution of evaluators, which QS still does not disclose, which is absurd. Here is the "academic reputation" of the top 20 U.S. programs according to QS:
1. University of Pittsburgh (100)
2. New York University (92.5)
3. Rutgers University, New Brunswick (92.4)
4. Harvard University (88.7)
5. University of California, Berkeley (86.2)
6. Princeton University (85.8)
7. University of Notre Dame (84.0)
8. Stanford University (83.4)
9. Yale University (82.8)
10. University of Chicago (79.7)
11. Columbia University (79.6)
12. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (79.1)
13. University of California, Los Angeles (77.9)
14. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (77.8)
15. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (76.1)
16. City University of New York (71.6)
17. Boston University (70.6)
18. Boston College (69.2)
19. Cornell University (66.5)
20. University of California, San Diego (64.9)
While in the past, NYU and Rutgers did not do well in the academic reputation component, that has changed, correctly. I infer from the results that QS got a high response rate from philosophers in Germany--thus programs with faculty with a strong presence in Germany (like Pittsburgh [e.g., Robert Brandom], Chicago [e.g., Robert Pippin[, and BU [e.g., Manfred Kuehn] did surprisingly well. (German programs also score quite highly, which confirms my suspicion.) Throughout large parts of the world, the local Catholic or "Pontifical" University is often a major center of research excellence, and so I surmise many evalautors are solicited from those schools--which would explain the surprisingly strong showings of Notre Dame and, especially, Boston College. Obviously top and somewhat narrowly "analytic" programs like Michigan and UCLA do not do as well as they should, presumably because they lack visibility in other parts of the world.
Even weirder are the results for "citations per paper":
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--originally posted March 6, 2009)
Applicants to PhD and MA programs are now receiving offers of admission and, if they are lucky, are beginning to weigh choices between different departments. I want to reiterate a point made in the PGR, namely, that students are well-advised to talk to current students at the programs they are considering. There are often things you will want to know that you won't glean from familiarity with the excellence of the faculty's work, even if that remains the most important, if defeasible, reason for choosing a particular department. Here are some examples of information that no ranking, no departmental brochure, and no "official" departmental representive will tell you about; all of these are drawn from stories I've heard from students over the last few years about ranked departments (the departments will remain unnamed, obviously). You can think of them as representing "types" of problems you should be aware of before enrolling. I've tweaked some of the details to protect identities.
The Absent Faculty: Are the faculty who look so good on paper actually around and interested in working with students? I heard a story about a key senior person in one department who is an alcoholic, and who simply ignored his students. In another department, almost all the graduate students had to sign an open letter to the faculty a number of years ago protesting the failure of faculty to return graded papers and their general lack of interest in mentoring the students. In yet another department, a well-known senior member of the faculty spent so much time travelling and lecturing around the world, that he rarely had time to review or discuss work carefully with students.
The Sexual Predator Faculty: Are women treated as young philosophers and aspiring professionals, or do faculty regularly view them as a potential source for dates and sexual liasons? It's a bit shocking to realize that this is still a live issue in some departments, but, sadly, it is. Are faculty-student sexual relations common in the department? What happens when the relations end? Are there repeated cases of sexual harassment complaints against faculty in the department? Do they ever result in discipline? I suppose it is possible this could be an issue for male students, but all the reports I've gotten over the years have been from women victimized by male faculty.
The Nasty Faculty: Talented philosophers and scholars often differ, dramatically, in how pleasant they are personally and professionally. I recall the story of one department where a member of the faculty was known to reduce students to tears in seminar. In another department, a faculty member regularly refuses to work with students, even those interested in his areas; he works only with those he deems "worthy," and there are not many of them! In another department, faculty openly express doubts about the competence of the graduate students and their ability. Make sure the philosophers who seem most interesting to you don't fall into these categories!
The Factionalized Faculty: Many faculties are "factionalized," in the sense that there are sub-groups that rarely see "eye to eye" about departmental issues, from appointments to admissions. Where this becomes worrisome, though, for a prospective student is when certain members of the faculty who share interests and approaches control all the key resources--fellowships, resources for speakers etc.--and use that control to define "in" and "out" groups of faculty and students: students with the "wrong" philosophical interests or who express an interest in the "wrong" faculty members are denied access to important perks and support. This kind of ugly factionalization is less common, but it exists.
I wish it were possible to meaningfuly measure and evaluate faculties along these important dimensions, but, alas, it is not. I have no doubt there are many programs that are really exceptional for how pleasant they are as places to do graduate study, and the way for a prospective student to discover them is to talk to lots of current students.
Luc Bovens (decision theory, epistemology, political philosophy, philosophy of economics), Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics, has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will start January 2018.
UNC has also voted out a senior offer to a moral philosopher, which would also involve directing their Parr Center for Ethics. Students considering Chapel Hill should inquire with the department.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM 2/26/13, SINCE IT IS THAT TIME OF YEAR! (And see this related thread from 2011.)
A prospective PhD student writes:
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?
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.
...when, of course, it is the ACTA report itself that is a threat to academic freedom, including the freedom to advocate for BDS. The report muddies the issue--it has to, of course, given its Orwellian task--by pointing to cases where Israeli speakers were shouted down by protesters who were, indeed, violating free speech norms that should prevail on college campuses. Those who did so should have been arrested or subject to university disciplinary proceedings. But that does not change the fact that academic freedom must protect the right of faculty to advocate for BDS, and principles of free speech must protect the right of students to advocate for BDS on college campuses.
I'm wondering whether anyone in your circle has remarked on the recent overhaul of the venerable journal Analysis. For decades (a century?) this journal's 'brand' was brief rigorous articles dealing with very circumscribed arguments or issues in philosophy. Now they have reduced the number of articles from about 15 per issue to about 5 per issue, in the interest of including a Book Symposium in each issue (a la Phil. and Phenom. Res.) and expanding book reviews and 'state of the art' review articles.
I sent the following note to the editor last August, and received no response:
I've been a subscriber since 2007. I am a lifetime APA member and have had a serious interest in philosophy (primarily analytic) since the late 70s, though I am not a PhD and thus technically not a "philosophical professional". I've recently been involved in some of the editing of Kripke's unpublished work via the CUNY Center. I have submitted a couple of manuscripts to Analysis in the past, and it is one of my favorite journals. I'm sure you've heard this before, but what the hell is going on with the recent dearth of 'short' papers, which has historically been Analysis's calling card? Don't we philosophers have FEW ENOUGH possibilities for publication in well-regarded journals at the present time without this reduction? Are you aiming for the 'canonical' 12 articles a year of The Philosophical Review? I would rate your sections in increasing order of value now thus: Critical Notices (low), Book Reviews, Recent Work, and Articles (high). It's not that the 'back matter' is worthless, but how can we afford to lack the sort of venue that once published Anscombe's 'On Brute Facts', for example (NB: the current learned disputants about 'grounding', including people who should know better like Fine, seem never to have heard of that paper)? (I'm going to assume that you have been under some sort of pressure to go this way, and don't blame you personally.)
Perhaps you could raise this question in the Reports. Does anyone else resent this loss of a unique and historically distinguished publication venue and resource?
I've not been following changes at Analysis, though recall that they proposed to broaden the subject areas covered, which seemed a welcome development. Thoughts from readers on the preceding? (Please submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.)
You may have noticed a number of "community" pages on Facebook, themed around famous contemporary philosophers. There are pages for Kim Sterelny, Fred Dretske, William Lycan, John Searle, Sydney Shoemaker, Jaegwon Kim, and a page on Intentionality (as well as perhaps several others).
The administration of these pages is entirely anonymous, and there are no published standards. One day I wrote, in a mild-mannered comment on Sydney Shoemaker's page and Jaegwon Kim's page, suggesting that more content by the philosophers themselves would be useful. The next day, I found I was banned from making comments on those pages. On another page, I tried to write to the admins, asking for one to get in touch with me on a question. That message (worded as told here) also got me punished.
I can get over the smarting. Though I was a student of Sydney Shoemaker's and it does leave a bitter taste in my mouth. My concerns are more over the idea of community pages for philosophers, and under what rules they ought to be administered, and by whom. Surely this is a matter of some small concern. Anonymous administrators should not be in charge of representing these schools of thought in a way that is outright hostile to other members of the philosophical community.
This is a significant and meaningful way to disseminate knowledge about philosophy, and I would want to enquire further into the who is running the pages and how, for the sake of the community as a whole.
Does anyone have any insight into who owns these pages? Does this strike you as a concern? If you have any suggestions, I'd welcome them.
Comments are open; please submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.
A political and rational choice theorist, his work was of significant interest to many philosophers. At the time of his death, he was emeritus professor of politics at New York University. His NYU page gives a list of his major publications. I will post links to memorial notices as they appear.
I've had a lot to say about Trump, not much about the Trump-Russia sideshow that's been raging in Washington, which has seemed to me either a non-story or a distraction. Trump's admiration for Putin is easy to explain purely in terms of his psychological disturbance, without recourse to any of the tall tales circulating. Of course, the Russia issue may finally turn some Republicans against Trump, which would be salutary, but that's a separate matter.
In any case, philosophy PhD student Philippe Lemoine (Cornell) has undertaken a rather detailed examination of the allegations and the evidence for them; here's his summary with links:
I've not read all of this, but what I have read is interesting and usefully documented. You can comment at Mr. Lemoine's blog on his analysis. Refreshingly, he writes elsewhere on his blog, "I don’t believe that I should be protected from criticism for what I say by the fact that I’m a graduate student."
Some of this ugly and stupid behavior is the pleasure in power of petty tyrants in their little bureaucratic realm, otherwise powerless individuals who now find others at their mercy and whim. But it is surely exacerbated by the signals sent by the Idiot in Chief. One important takeaway: academics on tourist visas in the U.S. can receive honoraria. (Thanks to Benj Helli for one of the pointers.)
I'd be curious to hear what experiences readers may have had coming into the U.S. since Trump took office and began his immigration rampage.
A number of friends and colleagues have been sharing this brief essay from the NYRB. The Nazi horror looms large over any discussion of fascism/authoritarianism for obvious reasons, and the author is right about the role exploitation of terroristic violence can play in authoritarian reversions, as happened in Nazi Germany. The essay omits mention of two rather important points, however, about the Nazi experience. First, the German Constitution had a clause specifically authorizing the suspension of all civil liberties, which was invoked after the Reichstag fire. The American Constitution has no such general clause, though Congress can suspend the right of habeus corpus (in the face of "rebellion" or "invasion" to protect "public safety"), which would be very serious. But Congress can not suspend freedom of speech, assembly and the press. (Note, however, that courts can decide that the state has a compelling reason to violate those individual rights, though it is very rare for them to do so. But this makes it more cumbersome for a would-be authoritarian to violate civil liberties.) Second, and this is also crucial, one can not forget the complicity of the German President, Hindenburg, in all this. For he alone had the stature with the military and the public at large to put a stop to Hitler, yet he aided and abetted Hitler's seizure of power at every turn. There is no one with similar stature in the American system, and there is every indication that the leading military figures, including those serving under Trump, believe in democracy, unlike Trump.
Two of my constitutional law colleagues, Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq, have examined how constitutional democracies slip into authoritarian regimes in comparative perspective (this is a shorter version of a longer academic paper to which they link in their essay).
I (Eleni Manis) conducted these interviews after leaving my job as a philosophy professor to work in government and the political arena. The Phil Skills website was built by Jitendra Subramanyam, a fellow Michigan philosophy PhD who runs his own IT consulting company. Stephanie Wykstra, who works on open science and data-sharing, contributed two interviews.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)