Amy Ferrer, Executive Director, has an informative post here. They include one Dave Chalmers told me about awhile back, namely, that PhilJobs, which partners with the APA, will soon start collecting systematic hiring data, including demographics on those hired. I've given Dave permission to incorporate the material already here into the new database. Depending on reader interest, and how comprehensive the PhilJobs initiative is, I may or may not continue to run the annual tenure-track hiring thread.
MOVING TO FRONT: COMMENTS ARE NOW OPEN--SIGNED COMMENTS WILL BE PREFERRED
Some excellent advice from philosopher Meghan Sullivan (Notre Dame), who kindly invited me to share it:
It is Prospective Visit season at PhD programs, and I know many prospective students are a bit unclear about how they ought to approach these visits. There are also, unfortunately, lots of rumors floating around about different departments that can have an undue influence on one's decisions. I thought it might be nice to open a thread (as there has been in years past) on particular pieces of advice for students going on these visits. Here are my five, for what they are worth:
(1) Be sure to talk to a broad sample of faculty, graduate students, and even spouses and partners of faculty and graduate students. Get a very broad sample of data. Don't be afraid to email faculty or graduate students to get answers to your questions.
(2) Ask them how they like being a member of the department and how they view social aspects of departmental life. But ALSO be sure to ask them somewhat specific and probing questions about department and the graduate training it provides.
For faculty some questions like this might be: How much time do they spend advising PhD students on a given week? What is the typical structure of dissertation advising with that faculty member? How do they typically get matched with advisees? What graduate courses have they recently taught and what are they planning to teach? What do they see as strengths and weaknesses of the graduate program? How do faculty spend their time when they are not working with graduate students? (What you should look for: faculty who are highly active in the field, but still able to meet regularly with students, provide advice on research topics, and---for dissertation students---provide useful feedback on written work.)
For graduate students the questions might be: How much time do they spend on coursework in a given week? (I think it should, in a good department, closely resemble the workload of a fulltime job). How far does their funding stretch in the city where the grad program is located? If they are at qualifying exam or dissertation phase: how did they pick their advisors/committee? How often do they meet with advisors/committee? What typically happens at a meeting?
(3) Ask about placement. And be a little bit near-biased. In the past five years, how many students have been placed in TT jobs or long-term postdocs? Where were those jobs? What were the AOSes of students placed in those jobs? Who was on their committee? How long did it take them to finish the PhD? What is the department's placement process like? What is their long-term strategy for making sure their PhDs are successful at finding employment? (You should be looking for a program that has a clear plan for getting students through the PhD and good recent track record of placement in the areas of philosophy you anticipate working in. )
(4) Look closely at current and past course offerings in the department. Will this program support and nurture the areas of philosophy that interest you? (Realizing that your interests might change quite a bit in the course of your PhD, and that can be a good thing!)
(5) Be kind, polite, and professional to everyone in the department, but especially the admin assistants, director of graduate studies and the graduate students working to coordinate your visit. People have put a lot of work into the admissions and recruitment process. And one way or another, all of these men and women are going to be your colleagues now that you are entering this field. Treat this visit like your first professional activity.
I'm on the road right now, so can't moderate comments, but I think all of this advice is very good and wanted to get it out there while it is still timely.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--originanlly 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 ignores his students. In another department, almost all the graduate students had to sign an open letter to the faculty a few 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.
Berit Brogaard (philosophy of mind, psychology & language), Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, has been offered a senior position in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Miami. Students thinking about either program will want to keep an eye on what happens; hopefully, it will be resolved before April 15.
UPDATE: Professor Brogaard has accepted the offer from Miami, to start this August. Miami may also be making another senior offer before long. (The Department clearly continues to enjoy strong administrative support.)
Sigrún Svavarsdóttir (ethics, metaethics, moral psychology), Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ohio State University has accepted appointment as Associate Professor of Philosophy (also with tenure) at Tufts University, starting this fall.
This is really quite remarkable ("it's OK, we always new he was a Catholic reactionary bigot"), and especially this:
Modernity is synonymous with subversion, since with its universalist ideologies (liberalism, democracy, communism) it destroys the communitarian and traditional bonds that unite the members of a given people and separates this same people from its territory and history. Inevitably, the critique of modernity ends up also concerning Jews. The black notebooks confirm this: present in many countries and attached to urban rather than rural life, Jews are the incarnation of "rootlessness", "distance from the soil" and thus subversion. And again, this attitude is far from surprising to the Heidegger scholar: the 2 October 1929 letter in which the philosopher emphasises the need to oppose "growing Judaisation within German spiritual life", reinforcing this by rooting it in authentically German forces, is already well-known. [bold added]
"Inevitably"? And then there's this:
The outcry over the black notebooks is thus unjustified, but it would be all the more unjustified to imagine a mythical, eternally irredeemable Germany, ignoring the historical context in which Heidegger's life and work were situated. His Judeophobia came at a moment when across the west as a whole, on both sides of the Atlantic, there was a widespread view that the true culprits for the October Revolution were Jews. Indeed, in 1920 car tycoon Henry Ford wrote that this event had a racial and not political origin, and, though making use of humanitarian and socialist language, it in fact expressed the Jewish race's aspiration for world domination. It is worth noting that it was Ford's picture that had pride of place in Hitler's study and not Heidegger's: the origins of nazism and the ideological motives inspiring it were not exclusively German.
Certainly anti-semitism was more widespread before Hitler than after, but the suggestion that Heidegger's view were simply the norm is false, as this apologist must surely know. Indeed, although his piece concludes with the defamatory association of Nietzsche with Heidegger and Schmitt, any actual reader of Nietzsche knows that his hatred of anti-semitism (and of German nationalism) was decidedly not part of the temper of his times. Great philosophers don't typically need the excuse that car manufacturers shared their petty prejudices.
(Thanks to Michael Swanson for the pointer to this piece.)
Is there more merit to this piece than it appears? I'll permit signed comments only: full name, valid e-mail address.
Douglas Lavin (ethics, history of ethics, philosophy of action), presently an untenured Associate Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, has accepted a permanent post as Lecturer in Philosophy at University College London, to begin this fall.
...for arguing that funding misinformation about climate change should give rise to charges of criminal negligence. That isn't the law at present, and there are a number of reasons why it probably shouldn't be the law, but Professor Torcello's essay raises some interesting points about the harms of misinformation campaigns and whether they are legally cognizable. (If the real target is those who knowingly fund misinformation for private gain, then "negligence" would be the wrong legal standard. The issues here, it seems to me, are closer to those regarding the regulation of "hate speech" and other speech that causes harm.)
Alas, climate change is one of those hot button issues for the far right, which quickly swung into action, starting with misrepresenting Professor Torcello as calling for climate scientists who dispute the consensus to be put in jail. That soon turned into a campaign to get the Rochester Institute of Technology to punish Professor Torcello for his constitutionally protected speech, and speech that falls well within his contractual right to academic freedom. The hysteria and misrepresentations made its way into all the usual far right venues, including Fox News. Professor Torcello made a brief statement in response to the craziness here. RIT made what is, to my mind, a tepid statement about the matter, but one that at least affirms his right to have views of which others disapprove.
I sent the following e-mail to President Destler, cc'ing Provost Haefner and Dean Winebrake; I encourage readers to send the same or similar messages (the e-mail addresses appear below). This kind of organized harassment of faculty by the far right happens too often, and universities should be encouraged to take a stronger stand against this malevolent behavior.
Young people on the job market spend a lot of time worrying about their own behavior, their own performance, their own competitiveness and so on. Having recently come off the job market myself, I feel that there are aspects of the behavior of search committees that also need to be addressed. I recently heard back from a search committee that interviewed me at the APA. This was the first I had heard from them since I walked out of the interview in December. From December until mid-March, I did not hear a word. A second search committee wrote to me in late January with an email that struck me as so close to dishonest that I wasn't sure how I was supposed to reply - a friend received the same email and felt the same way. This particular search committee wrote to me to tell me that, as it turned out, it was all going to be more difficult than they anticipated and that they would not have *any* further information for me until later in the year. What they neglected to mention in that email was that they had, in fact, scheduled campus interviews, but they had not decided to give me one. With websites such as this one - http://phylo.info/jobs - Facebook, and the increasingly international nature of the discipline, it is not hard to find information on who has scheduled interviews and who hasn't.
In my case, I had other possibilities in the pipeline which meant I could just watch this strange behavior and smile. Had I not had other things in the pipeline, however, I would surely have been climbing the walls. I had several friends who were also party to less than transparent emails, or complete silence, throughout this process as well. And those people were climbing the walls because, as is so often the case, their hopes for any kind of academic future were pinned on the tiny number of places that they made it to the interview stage at. I even had one friend who wrote to a department out of desperation for news on the scheduling of campus interviews only to receive a waffly reply about not yet having made any decisions. He found out later that day that not only had that search committee scheduled campus interviews, they had offered the job to someone else.
I understand that the hiring process is complex, and that departments might need to hold their cards close to their chests, as it were, but this process is difficult for *everyone* involved. I don't think it is alright to leave people hanging for months. Nor do I think it is alright to send out emails that, perhaps even subtly, misrepresent the stage of the process a search committee is at. With a timely email to the effect that 'whilst your application is still active, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for a campus interview', everyone can get on with their lives.
This makes it vivid. Part of the problem, unnoted in the linked article, is the ease with which so many U.S. states, including California, grant "exemptions" to supposedly mandatory vaccination schemes based on "religious" or "philosophical" objections. (Having a "philosophical" objection requires checking a box, not giving an argument, in the California system.)
I am sorry to report that my colleague Ted Cohen, a leading figure in the philosophy of art who taught at Chicago since 1967, has passed away. You can find out more about his work here. I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.
UPDATE: There is a memorial website here, with an opportunity for comments from friends, colleagues, and students.
Michael Caie (philosophical logic, philosophy of language, formal epistemology) and Jessica Gelber (ancient Greek and Roman philosophy), both Assistant Professors of Philosophy at Syracuse University have accepted tenure-track offers from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. I usually do not post lateral junior movements, but Caie and Gelber are both advanced junior faculty, and their move will no doubt be of significance to prospective students. (Pitt is also about to make two senior offers to faculty in ancient philosophy.)
Adrienne Martin (moral & political philosophy), Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennslyvania has accepted appointment to the Shankar Professorship of Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Claremont McKenna College, effective fall 2014. She asked me to share that she is "sad to leave behind one completely awesome job, but excited to be moving to another completely awesome job."
Re your post from Meghan Sullivan. Graduate students contemplating a thesis only PhD in either Britain, Continental Europe or Australasia should presumably be asking a slightly different set of questions.
1) You are likely to be heavily dependent on your supervisors. Presumably you are interested in them because of their eminence the field. But are they ALSO conscientious and helpful people who can be relied on to be good mentors? A brilliant research philosopher can be a bad mentor and a less-than-stellar philosopher may shine as a supervisor.
2) Does the department have the depth of talent to support you if you decide to switch topics or if your star supervisor dies, retires or decides to leave?
3) Are there enough graduate students to constitute a viable community of enquiry and the right kind of atmosphere so that you can educate each other by mutual brain-picking?
4) Is the department a sociable place so that you can educate yourself by picking the brains of the faculty? (LaTrobe in the eighties, where I did my PhD, was really excellent in this respect. I did not realize at the time how lucky I was.)
5) Does the department have a strong seminar program with a reasonable number of visiting philosophers either from other cities or from foreign parts?
6) Is the social set up such that it it easy to meet and talk to visiting philosophers? (Again La Trobe in the eighties was outstanding in this respect as was the ANU where I worked for a while as a research assistant. People I got to know quite well included David Lewis, Bill Lycan, Frank Jackson, Michael Devitt and David Armstrong. By the time I got my first proper job I was on terms of easy familiarity with most of the big names in Australasian philosophy as well a number of prominent Americans. It is in my native land, the UK, that I am relatively unknown. )
7) Are there good opportunities and preferably funding for conference travel? And are the conferences they can fund good ones to go to? (This last is, I suspect, quite important. Many department are not made of money and they can't afford to fund you to go just anywhere. I was lucky in that I regularly got to go to the AAP conferences which are, by most accounts, a lot more friendly and indeed useful that some of the APA conferences. I could BOTH strut my stuff and learn a lot from interesting papers often in areas other than my own. Are the conferences you can go to likely to be like that? )
8) Many of Meghan's questions about placement apply just as much to research-only programs as they do to course-based doctorates. (Though this was not such a big deal when I was young.)
9) Ditto her questions about the kind of town or city that you can expect to be living in.
That's all, but I thought a slightly different perspective might be helpful.
[This is a revised, and I hope more constructive, version of what I posted about ten days ago, edited down for relevance. I am grateful to a number of philosophers and students for feedback on these issues.]
There is a sea change afoot in professional philosophy in the Anglophone world, and it is one that is long overdue: sexual harassment is now recognized as a scourge of the profession, and is being openly discussed in a way that wasn't true even ten years ago. The long and shameful period of neglect of the problem of sexual harassment in the academy--as my colleague Martha Nussbaum has described in some detail in her writing, but also in conversation with me--is finally coming to an end, slowly but, I believe, surely. I have given extensive attention over the years to the sexual harassment problems in academic philosophy; I was particularly struck by the strong and supportive reaction when I first warned prospective PhD students in 2009 about the "Sexual Predator Faculty." That was my first tangible indication how much pent-up anger there was about the profession's neglect of these issues. I have been involved since in helping victims of sexual harassment seek remedies or transfer out of abusive programs, and have spent hours on the phone with legal counsel at universities investigating these matters. I will continue to do so, and I encourage colleagues elsewhere to "step up to the plate" and get serious about these issues. Women should be able to study philosophy without being demeaned and harassed based on their gender.
At the same time, I have been disappointed to learn that expressing concern for due process and academic freedom values in the context of the current publicity about the sexual harassment problem in academic philosophy makes one a target for vilification. Perhaps because I also wear a lawyer's hat, I have had a longstanding concern with issues of fair process. (In my very first post about the McGinn case, I noted the due process issues, and then as well some philosophers disagreed with me; a couple of years ago, I defended on academic freedom and due process grounds John Yoo against calls for Berkeley to even "investigate" him.) Last week's survey revealed that 43% of readers believe it is appropriate for student protesters to disrupt the classes of someone found to have violated the sexual harassment policy at the university (and who had been sanctioned but not removed from the classroom), while 34% shared my view that it is not appropriate, with the remainder being unsure. Philosopher Ned Block (NYU) wrote:
[I]t seems that very many of our colleagues have downgraded basic notions of fairness and due process. An inquiry (by the Director of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office), and a review of that inquiry (by the Faculty Committee on Cause, a committee of the Faculty Senate)—both of which had access to information that we don’t have—made a decision, the same decision. 43% of our colleagues who read your blog think they are in a position to know better and endorse vigilante justice. It is depressing.
"Vigilante justice" means securing through extrajudicial means a result that could not be achieved through legal or quasi-legal process; that is how the term is used by lawyers, at least. And that is what appears to have happened at Northwestern. Sometimes vigilante justice is justified, but I do not believe this is such a case, given the evidence available at the time.
Like many, I was surprised, given the findings of the University's Sexual Harrassment Office, that the sanctions were not more severe (e.g., unpaid suspension for some period of time), but as Professor Block notes the sanction was recommended after findings by Ms. Slavin's Office and upheld on appeal by a faculty committee. Perhaps there is more pertinent information that explains the institutional judgment at two different levels of the University? Some, including some student protesters but also some academic philosophers, believe Ludlow should have been fired given the findings. I think that sanction--essentially, a teaching career-ending sanction, as it appears to have been in the McGinn case last year (though he resigned as part of a settlement, rather than being fired through process)--is disproportionate to the University's findings, but there is plenty of room for reasonable disagreement about that. (If, in fact, the student's more serious allegations are vindicated during litigation, then I expect the University will change its position.) The issue I raised is whether, given that the University imposed its own sanction and did not remove Ludlow from the classroom, a student mob (even a "polite" student mob, as I have been assured it is) should be able to achieve that result. Winter Quarter ended not long after Ludlow's withdrawal from the classroom. We now know Ludlow will not teach in the Spring. What role student threats to disrupt the class played in that decision we do not, at present, know.
My former colleague Cass Sunstein presciently remarked more than a dozen years ago on the tendency of the Internet and social media to push people to the most extreme versions of the views they begin with. In the psychological literature, the phenomenon is known as "group polarization", and it is one that clearly takes hold in both real life and on social media where like-minded people congregate. We have seen examples of this in some of the recent on-line discussions.
I just saw the post on visiting prospective graduate students. I think that Prof. Sullivan is right on with her suggestions. I think talking to people who are in the programs that students are considering is eally the best way to find if the program is a good fit.
I wonder, however, as a graduate student who is in a program that I think is deficient in several of the respects that Sullivan mentions, what our obligations to prospective students should be.
For example, I tend to think that my department is bad at placing its students at good jobs and that there is a general dearth of professional training. I also think that my department is not a great place for women, though I think it is getting better.
I have two concerns when talking to prospective graduate students. This has also come up for me when chatting with job candidates who come to campus.
The first is that I am concerned about my own reputation if I am fully honest when people ask how the environment for women is or how well the department takes care of its students. These things tend to get around, and I am worried that I may sully my reputation with my own professors if they realize that I am telling prospective graduate students and faculty about these problems. I also am worried that if it comes off that I am badmouthing my department, that is just bad form. I wouldn't want my reputation in philosophy circles to be linked to complaining about my department.
I am also well known in my own department for raising these issues, and so I think that if professors in the department hear that someone said something negative, they will assume it is me.
Second, I think that the environment for women, at least in my department, will get better if there are more women around. Thus, it seems self-defeating to discourage women from coming to the program because it is not a great place for women. The problem is similar with job candidates. When they ask what the graduate student life is like and how it can be improved, that seems to be a sign that they would better our department in these areas. I don't want to discourage them from accepting an offer by saying that our department as a whole just doesn't seem to care about professional development for grad students (or environment issues for women). They may not want to come if they imagine that they will be the only ones working on such matters. If they are women themselves, they may not want to come because of the climate issues, even though they might be able to do a lot to change the climate.
Of course, I see that misleading people by not mentioning real concerns cannot be fair to them. I just don't know how well graduate students themselves are in a position to offer this kind of information. When asked, I usually find myself changing the subject or mentioning the few things that are good and leaving out the bad.
Anyway, I thought that I cannot be the only graduate student who feels this way, so I thought it might be something worth a mention since you are discussing visiting prospective students.
Thoughts from readers? (Because I am still on the road, comments may take awhile to appear, please be patient.)
Spiros recently touched on this, as did Philospohy Smoker, with a cautionary example (short version: candidate asked SLAC for a bunch of things, and the SLAC simply withdrew the offer). My own view is that if you have other offers, you can negotiate. Otherwise, all you can really do is get clear about policies, and ask about one or two things that might be especially important, in the spirit of "this would very nice, is it possible?" But "negotiation" and "bargaining" is only really a posture to adopt if one has another option in hand and one is prepared to walk away from the offer. Or so it seems to me. (If there's enough interest, I'll open a thread for comments on this next week when I have more regular computer access.)
Gillian Russell (philosophy of language and logic), Associate Professor of Philosophy at Washington University, St. Louis has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she will start in fall 2015.
I am wondering if you could ask readers to contribute any good terminal master's programs in philosophy that are *not* designed primarily for getting people into PhD programs. So as opposed to programs like Tufts, or Wisconsin that are, to my knowledge, primarily not for people who already have a strong undergraduate background from a good institution in philosophy, I have in mind programs such as the U of Amsterdam's ILLC MSc in Logic, or Columbia's M.A. in the Philosophical Foundations of Physics. These are the kind of programs that could be valuable to someone who, despite a solid undergraduate degree in philosophy, wants to expand knowledge or skills required in a particular area of philosophy before starting a PhD. (I for example did mostly ethics and political philosophy in undergrad and am now more interested in language, logic and the philosophy of science, so am considering some programs that might help me supplement my undergraduate training with some of the more formal and technical knowledge required to really excel in these subfields of philosophy before starting a PhD).
Thoughts from readers? Please be patient, comments may take a bit longer than usual to appear.
Curious, I'm not quite sure how this gets attributed, in part, to me. I would agree with a couple of those, but I think much more likely is that we have no idea what philosophical questions will prove important or central fifty years from now (though the professionalization of the discipline perhaps makes it somewhat easier to predict).
This is very clever and amusing. I remember buying the book the week it came out, because it had a lot in it about Nietzsche, and I knew Bloom was a leading Straussian, so I wanted to get a better sense of that reading. It is worth remembering that Bloom conceived the book as a bit of scholarship, not a popular work, and yet the scholarship, including about Nietzsche was so piss poor, it defied belief. Anyway, Wolff's review is very funny.
With the proliferation of philosophy post-doc opportunities, I am curious how this is effecting tenure-track hiring negotiations from the side of the hiring department. Should departments grant/turn down requests for deferment to take up a tenure-track appointment in order to take up a post-doc?
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)