Chris Bertram (Bristol) calls my attention to this analysis of the proposal, which does indeed seem worrisome along all the dimensions noted. How will this affect philosophy? Other perspectives? Comments are open, signed comments preferred.
...though the original analysis of the point in Forbeswas sloppy, but the resulting "controversy" tells us more about how little tenure-stream faculty know about what other jobs in the capitalist system are like than about the stresses of being a professor. The crucial facts are that tenure-stream faculty have considerable autonomy and considerable control over when and where they work, even if they are working fifty hours or more per week. The same can not be said for lawyers, most doctors, office workers, business men and women of all stripes, and so on.
...as we've noted before, but also, it turns out, for "quite suspicious," as in you can pay for a result you like. Of the three "world university" rankings, QS is clearly the most idiosyncratic and, it turns out, corrupt as well. THES is probably the best (THES severed its ties with QS a number of years ago, wisely), and the Shanghai rankings are fine, once you understand they are really rankings of schools by strength in the sciences, medicine, and engineering, and little else. All of them are skewed towards strength in the natural sciences, medicine and engineering to some degree by virtue of the use of citation measures.
...this one designed to deflect attention from the real consequences of NRA opposition to meaningful gun control. There is a good statement on the matter, and contact information, here. (I disagree with the statement, however, that there is an issue of academic freedom here, except indirectly; it is, however, very much a First Amendment issue about free speech and the right of state university professors to express controversial views without being hounded out of work by cyber-mobs. As I've noted, this right protects even reprehensible fools like Glenn Reynolds.) The University of Rhode Island President has, so far, handled this terribly, and ought to issue a public apology for carelessly adopting the right-wing lie that Professor Loomis had threatened the head of the NRA with violence.
UPDATE: I commend Professor Protevi's letter to the University administrators as a good model, especially his first paragraph which sounds all the right notes (I agree with the thrust of the second paragraph too, but I think the key message for the University administration to get is that they smeared a faculty member based on a right-wing blogosmear.)
AN ADDENDUM ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM: Some readers asked why I didn't think this implicated "academic freedom," except indirectly, so let me add a few words about this. There is a tendency to use "academic freedom" to mean "the freedom of academics to say anything," an interpretation which finds no support in the law or in AAUP interpretations of academic freedom. What "academic freedom" clearly encompasses is the right of academics to teach and write in their areas of expertise according to their best professional judgment, without sanction. A faculty member's "tweets" about issues of the moment are not protected by academic freedom, unless those issues are rather clearly within his or her area of professional expertise. But any US citizen's "tweets" are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits a state entity, like the University of Rhode Island, from sanctioning the "tweeter," no matter how many NRA fans are offended, for good or (in this case) absurd reasons.
The only "indirect" implication of this affair for academic freedom is this: the irresponsible statement by the Universityy of Rhode Island President might well communicate to faculty whose research relates to issues of gun control, in one way or another, that if their research offends proponents of absolute gun rights, the University will sooner "duck for cover" than stand up for the work. That would be a reasonable inference to draw from the fact that the University has not made a clear statement about the constitutional rights of Professor Loomis to offend partisans of gun rights and the NRA. He has that right, no matter how many right-wing blowhards e-mail the University.
ANOTHER: A nice confirmation of the strategy of the Crooked Timber bloggers is that we now see even brain-dead hacks (this one a clinical law professor) professing their commitment to Professor Loomis's job security. Of course, some of these brain-dead hacks have reason to worry, and not because of inflammatory tweets.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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?
As part of our periodic series of scathing book reviews, from the TLS:
The tragedy of queer studies is that a subject of exceptional importance to humanity is left in the clutches of show-offs who reduce it to self-centred banality. Sexuality and gender are at the heart of understanding human motivation. Treated with intelligence and authorial modesty, the innate differences, indoctrinated codes and enforced disciplines of masculinity and femininity – to say nothing of the sumptuous diversity of sexual inclinations and expressions – should be central to historical understanding. These inspiriting topics underlie many kinds of conduct: aggression, loyalty, fear, altruism, envy, intuition, hatred, creativity. Instead, the subject is dominated by inhumane pedants who pride themselves on meretricious mental perversity and teach their pupils to use words such as virtuous, self-respecting and dignified as pejorative epithets.
...a group of the five dozen leading research universities in North America. IHE has a short piece here. That's a significant milestone for BU. Maybe Silber accomplished something after all? (I have no idea to what extent developments during his reign of terror played a role in this, however.)
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.
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?
Noting this study, Jason Stanley (Rutgers) remarked on Facebook (he gave me permission to quote it): "The two top universities in the United States for illegal downloading of pirated movies are the ones with the two top philosophy departments in the United States. Philosophy encourages thrift!"
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.
Tad Brennan (Cornell), noting Professor Koons's claim that "each professor of the humanities is free to make the classroom into a laboratory of untrammeled fantasy," writes: "Man, have I been doing it wrong...."
"Chicago School" economics has a deservedly bad reputation in the broader intellectual world, but let's remember that Chicago isn't a monolith, and that James Heckman has been doing his important work here for decades--here's a nice overview.
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.
Silber, who began his career as a Kant scholar (!), but was best-known as a serial violator of academic freedom as the tyrannical ruler of Boston University for more than a quarter-century, has passed away. It's curious how gullible journalists repeat the myth that he enhanced BU's academic stature, and cite as evidence a few Nobel Laureates in literature whom he hired in their dotage. Where is the evidence that he helped create and sustain top 20 PhD programs in any fields that didn't have them? I'm not aware of any--maybe economics? Older philosophers will recall the exodus from the Philosophy Department in the late 1970s and early 1980s (including Alasdair MacIntyre), as philosophers fled the autocracy. (The Department today is probably stronger than it was then, I should add, but much of that happened despite or after Silber over the last 15 years.) I imagine similar things happened in other departments. He may well have improved the school's finances (as the linked article claims), but it's not at all clear he improved the academics. That appears to be a self-serving myth he promoted, and which journalists simply repeat.
Brendan Ritchie, a grad student at Maryland, calls my attention to this story. Mr. Ritchie writes:
It is about a site where unemployed professors write papers for students that has recently been created. It is deeply unsettling, especially in light of the "argument" on the part of the site's creators that they have somehow removed the "ethical dimension" on their side. To quote from the article: "This removes the ethical dimension on our side as we have no control over what a client does upon paying for and receiving the project "
Apparently the argument is:
(1) we have nothing in place to make sure students don't use our service to cheat.
(2) Therefore, we bear no moral responsibility if students use our service to cheat.
I find this argument rather unconvincing. But perhaps I am alone in this respect.
I suspect most readers will agree with Mr. Ritchie, as I do. Thoughts from readers? Signed comments strongly preferred.
This one in Comparative Literature at Harvard: “Applicants must have received the PhD or equivalent degree in the past three years (2009 or later), or show clear evidence of planned receipt of the degree by the beginning of employment.”
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)