In my interview awhile back with Clifford Sosis, I remarked that,
All the best suggestions for improving the PGR have come, without exception, from those who contributed to it over the years. Almost all the other criticisms were on the spectrum from self-serving to silly. The PGR was a fabulous resource, unlike anything else in any field, that let prospective students in on the secret sociology of the hierarchy in the profession. I hope it can continue, but the “slave revolt” in philosophy exacerbated by the Internet is now a real obstacle.
Could you explain the term "slave revolt" for folks unfamiliar with Nietzsche?
By “slave revolt,” I’m alluding to Nietzsche’s idea that our Judeo-Christian morality arose from an inversion of previous values, an inversion that was self-interested, but in the interest of the “slaves,” literal and otherwise. I do think what’s happened in the last few years is that people who aren’t very good at philosophy and/or feel otherwise marginalized in the profession have taken to the Internet, and under various high-minded sounding moralized banners—equality, fairness, inclusiveness and so on—have launched an attack on the idea of philosophical excellence and smarts.
Now along comes the latest example, a presentation on "Prestige: The first and final hurdle for a more inclusive philosophy," though it might just as well have been called, "Excellence: The first and final hurdle for a more inclusive philosophy." The author, philosopher Helen De Cruz, has a PhD from the University of Gronignen, and is, I am guessing, concerned that those, like herself, from non-prestige departments are unfairly excluded from professional opportunities in philosophy. Now she herself is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University (not part of Oxford, but a separate institution in the same town), so she has done well, but might, of course, be doing better were if not for the supposed "prestige" bias.
Since I know nothing about her work, it may well be that Professor De Cruz is someone who has been a victim of pernicious "prestige" bias. Pernicious prestige bias is when someone thinks that because someone got a PhD from Fancy Pants University they must be competent (or, the reverse). That's bullshit and pernicious, of course, and the PGR upset that apple cart a long time ago. But what most cyber-complainers call "prestige bias" is that hiring departments prefer candidates from well-regarded departments. That's plainly true, but perhaps well-regarded departments are so-regarded because they are actually departments with very good faculty and very goods student? Prof. De Cruz never fairly considers that possibility. Non-pernicious prestige bias is simply a rational and time-saving heuristic for identifying candidates with excellent qualifications trained by excellent faculty, attributes that, in the PGR era, are well-tracked by what's now called "prestige." As Prof. De Cruz notes, "prestige" bias is a feature of academic hiring in all disciplines; the difference in philosophy is that it no longer simply tracks "brand name" universities, but now reflects where the strongest clusters of philosophers and students actually are. (In what other academic field does everyone know that two of the very best programs are at NYU and Rutgers? There is none.)
"Excellence" doesn't, in reality, exclude any demographic groups, except the mediocre.