[N]otwithstanding the current spin from the Providence College administration, my event is not being rescheduled. It is being replaced with a different event.
In February I agreed that I would come to Providence to give a lecture, which would be followed by a Q&A period. Although Professor Arroyo and I had previously (last Fall) discussed the possibility of a debate, that idea was dropped for budgetary reasons. Then, just last week, I agreed to change the format so that I would have a lecture with an official respondent. Now, finally, I am being invited for a debate. These are three different kinds of academic events, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I have plenty of experience with all three, and (as I’ve long said) I’d be happy to do a debate at Providence College. What I’m not happy to do is to aid the administration in the pretense that “the September 26 event was merely being postponed, not cancelled, until we could be sure that it went forward in the format in which it was originally proposed,” as Provost Lena’s statement said yesterday....
The truth is that it’s difficult not to feel as if the Providence College administration regards me as a sort of virus, which might infect students if not blocked by some administration-approved surgical mask. This feeling is sadly familiar, to me and to any gay person. It is the malaise of the closet, the notion that some features of oneself are unspeakable. I am the Other. And if I feel that way, I can only imagine how young gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Providence College students must feel. It is for them that I remain most concerned.
That’s where “damage control” should be focused right now: the personal harm to LGBT Providence College students, not to mention faculty, staff, and alumni. Pope Francis has called for a “new balance” in the Church’s pastoral ministry, and there is an opportunity—yet unrealized—to implement that balance here.
The Provost's disingenous statement here. Kudos to the Providence College faculty for "raising hell" about this. (I'm waiting for permission to post a strong statement by the President of the Faculty Senate there.) The newly appointed defender of bigotry against gay people is a familiar figure. It is always an occasion for sadness when irrational religious dogma leads intelligent people down the road of moral depravity--at least when they aren't effective (when they are effective, which won't happen here, a different emotion is appropriate).
UPDATE: The letter that no doubt helped the Provost to backtrack:
(Note: I'm putting this under the "academic freedom" category, but without knowing more about Professor Guth's areas of expertise, it's not clear to me this is an academic freedom issue, as distinct from a generic free speech issue.)
UPDATE: Actually, it turns out Kansas is now punishing him for his speech. Prof. Guth would do well to consult a lawyer, since he is pretty clearly being punished for offensive but constitutionally protected speech.
AND ANOTHER: Professor Guth concurs with being put on leave, given the threats he and others have received. The linked article also reports, unsurprisingly, that the local fascists in Kansas want him fired for exercising his free speech rights.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Dusquesne begs to differ with the account by Mr. Kovalik:
Yesterday an op-ed piece appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, purporting to describe certain circumstances preceding the death of adjunct instructor, Margaret Mary Vojtko. This piece was authored by Daniel Kovalik, a United Steelworkers lawyer, and was met with shock and dismay by the many individuals in our community who, with great compassion, attempted to support Margaret Mary during a very difficult time in her life. Margaret Mary taught as an adjunct for over 20 years at Duquesne, and had numerous close relationships on our campus. Despite the assertions made in the op-ed piece, individuals across the University community attempted to help Margaret Mary through her last trying days. Spiritan priests, support staff, and University and McAnulty College administrators reached out to assist Margaret Mary with the challenges she faced. Father Dan Walsh, University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, was personally involved in helping Margaret Mary. The following letter from Fr. Dan, published in today’s Post-Gazette, expresses his feelings about the inaccuracies in the op-ed piece:
I was incredulous after reading Daniel Kovalik's op-ed piece about Margaret Mary Vojtko. I knew Margaret Mary well. When we learned of problems with her home she was invited to live with us in the formation community at Laval House on campus, where she resided for several weeks over the past year. Over the course of Mary's illness I, along with other Spiritan priests, visited her regularly. In addition, the University and the Spiritan priests at Duquesne offered several types of assistance to her. Mr. Kovalik's use of an unfortunate death to serve an alternative agenda is sadly exploitive, and is made worse by his description of the circumstances that bear no resemblance to reality.
Rev. Daniel Walsh, C.S.Sp., University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry
As the administrator responsible for communications, I can describe the feedback we have received in response to Mr. Kovalik's op-ed as falling into two categories. The first category includes individuals who have been intimately involved and familiar with the situation, and who immediately recognized this op-ed as a reckless attempt to use Margaret Mary Votjko's death as a means to further the self-interest of Mr. Kovalik's external organization. These individuals have expressed both outrage and sadness that Margaret Mary has been used in this way. Then there are those with no direct knowledge of the actual circumstances. They have also expressed outrage, using social media to attack Duquesne based on their acceptance of Mr. Kovalik's published mischaracterizations. Our defense is the truth. Mr. Kovalik has tried to frame this as an issue of human resources policy, but he is wrong. The support provided and offered to Margaret Mary Votjko was broad, involving the Spiritan community, student housing, EAP, campus police, facilities management,and her faculty and staff colleagues. It was wholly unrelated to her employment status or classification, or to any issues of adjunct unionization. This was not a case of human resources policy, but one of concern for a human being - the type of concern and care that those in the Duquesne community have shown for each other for generations.
ANOTHER: It is probably worth noting that for all its huffing-and-puffing, the University does not dispute that she was fired after 25 years of adjuncting at wages as low as $10,000 per year. The silly reference to the "self-interest" of Mr. Kovalik's organization is a reference to the attempt by the UAW to unionize the adjuncts at Duquesne--a move that Ms. Vojtko apparently supported.
Alas, articles with titles like this are a sign of the times in the neoliberal order: higher education priced out of reach, parents and students alike anxious about their economic futures, and the old ideal of college as a time for developing the mind and becoming a human being, rather than a reactive brute or mindless vessel through which all the prejudices of society pass, is forgotten. I share the worries of the Wake Forest history professors quoted in the article.
Interesting infographic, courtesy of Jack Kelle. One point to bear in mind is that the less well-regarded the PhD program you attend, the higher the probability of ending up an adjunct.
UPDATE: My colleage Michael Kremer writes:
The page to which you linked on the adjunct crisis overstates things by *a lot* in one crucial respect.
He reports over 140,000 doctorates awarded last year. That seemed incredibly suspicious, so I checked the link he gave for that datum.
The 140,000 figure "Includes Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level. Includes most degrees formerly classified as first-professional, such as M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees." footnote 1 at http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72
So it is more like one "professorship" position (whatever that means; I didn't check further) for every three PhDs rather than one position for every 10 PhDs.
I don't want in any way to diminish the problem with adjuncts making up the majority of the teaching faculty, their poor working conditions, miserable pay,lack of benefits, etc. But I don't think falsehood in the service of laudable goals is a good strategy.
AND ANOTHER: Kathryn Norlock (Trent) writes:
I have heard from students, colleagues, and reporters here in Canada yesterday and today, who wanted me to confirm the number on the infographic to which you recently linked, that the "AVG." salary of tenure-track professors in the USA is $120,000.
I do not find any evidence that this is the case, and rather than continue fielding individual emails myself, I would ask that you clarify on your blog that the data from this table:
suggests that the infographic's "avg" comes closest to reflecting the average salary of Full Professors at doctoral institutions, that is, our most senior colleagues, and the smallest segment of "tenure-track" instructional faculty. I find it shockingly irresponsible of the infographic authors to suggest otherwise.
I agree this is misleading, though full professors are sometimes said to be "tenure-stream," and it may be that an adjunct of comparable seniority (I do not know) might indeed earn an average of 20K. In any case, these two examples suggest that the 'infographic' be approached with some caution.
As an incoming grad student, and reader of your blog, I am cognizant of the generally harsh reality of the academic job market. In light of that, I obviously do not want to do anything that would lessen my chances on the market. I am wondering what the general consensus is -- if there is one -- regarding social media accounts and academic hiring. To use Twitter as an example, there does seem to be a benefit to having a public Twitter account in order to a) control your online presence (whatever that means), and b) participate in public conversations with the philosophical community. A positive instance of the latter that comes to mind is simply a public appeal for resources in a specific area (i.e. "Does anybody know of any articles discussing narrative identity and Nussbaum's capabilities?").
The concern, however, would be that any number of Twitter gaffes could lead to a negative perception of the job candidate by the hiring committee. A candidate might Tweet in support of an unpopular political movement, or express an opinion that they later come to regret, or indicate that they have questionable work/study habits. Ignoring the more obvious of the possible kinds of poor Twitter etiquette -- swearing, racism/sexism, illegal behavior -- is it better to just hide Twitter activity altogether? Or do hiring committees not even look at such things? I would hate to lose out on a great job opportunity because I wrote a tweet three years prior in support of an unpopular/divisive issue (i.e. for/against gay marriage, government surveillance, or a particular Presidential candidate). Still,neither do I like the idea of losing out on the sorts of personal/professional relationships that Twitter might help to foster by making my profile publicly accessible. Any guidance from you or your readers would be fantastic!
My own advice would be to steer clear of any public social media: the evidence is that first impressions are "sticky," and there is way too much risk that a bad first impression will be created by unfortunate or out-of-context remarks on social media, rather than a student's work.
I've opened this for comments from readers; graduate students may post without their name (but use a distinctive handle), but must include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.
UPDATE: The responses on Twitter, or at least the few I've seen, inadvertently make the point about the potential for that medium, perhaps in particular, for embarrassment. One philosopher (who I shall not name, to protect the foolish) reads the preceding and then glosses it, bizarrely, as "Brian Leiter outs himself as a fan of cowardly conformity and surrender to group think, for others anywT telling.” Yes, my whole career has been about “cowardly conformity,” and that was precisely the question my student correspondent was asking: "Dear Prof Leiter, how can I be more cowardly and conformist?" Even more amusingly, someone who tweets pseudonymously (!) declares: “The discipline's archetype Socrates saw no qualms with being held accountable for his opinions and we commend him for it.” So why does this guy hide his identity? You decide. In any case, most commentators and correspondents understood that this was not about whether you should defend controversial views in your philosophical work, but whether you should risk making an ass of yourself in superficial ways on public social media...the way, say, the preceding tweeters have done.
AND FOR A DIFFERENT VIEW: This philosopher sings the praises of Twitter. (Thanks to Andy M. for the pointer.)
Title IX, broadly speaking, prohibits sex discrimination in the educational context. I am grateful to philosopher Heidi Lockwood (So. Conn. State Univ.) for an illuminating recent correspondence about Title IX, which she has given me permission to share.
Kudos on posting the critique of the open letter from concerned philosophers re: the obligation of the University of Miami to protect the student in question. Critical press is often better than no press; you have effectively done far more to promote discussion on the issue than you would have had you simply signed the letter without further comment.
That said, I want to respectfully call attention to an important fact that you've overlooked.
I agree with your point that McGinn's right to free speech doesn't give him the right to violate a student's privacy, particularly given that students' privacy is protected by FERPA. But the university's obligation to protect the student doesn't end with FERPA. Title IX explicitly prohibits conduct that creates a hostile environment if such an environment is severe, objective, and pervasive enough to undermine a student's educational experience. As I understand it, McGinn is still on the faculty. So if U Miami doesn't address the problem (and this most likely means more than just curbing McGinn's hostilities -- it could also mean, e.g., scheduling some discussions between the department and the Title IX coordinator), they may well find themselves with a Title IX suit on their hands.
Anything you can do to increase awareness about the Title IX obligations of universities in this and similar situations would of course be much appreciated. (I have had some recent and significant experience with the OCR's interpretation of said obligations, and would be happy to draft a post if you don't have time to write this up yourself.)
I expressed uncertainty about whether mere blog postings by a faculty member on leave were enough to raise Title IX issues. Professor Lockwood wrote back:
[A]ccording to the OCR office in Boston, blog posts are in fact enough to warrant Title IX action if they: (1) are written by a member of the university (current student, staff, or employee), (2) can be shown to be directly related to a sexual harassment complaint, and (3) can be objectively determined to be negative.
This is actually a very recent development in the DOE's interpretation of Title IX, and was codified in the form of a "Dear Collegue" letter which explicitly discusses retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint (and which carries the same weight as the original act for the purposes of enforcement by the OCR) released on April 24, 2013. Here's the link: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201304.html. Note that this letter contains a link with contact information for the local OCR office, and that the OCR offers "technical assistance."
The release of the previous "Dear Colleague" letter of April 4, 2011 marks the point at which the OCR began requiring that grievance procedures use just a "preponderance of evidence" (the "more likely than not" standard used in civil cases, rather than the stricter "clear and convincing" requirement used in criminal cases). The April 2011 Dear Colleague letter is available online here: http://thefire.org/public/pdfs/0559f332d909e0024ac3bc0d07081e60.pdf?direct
And, as footnote 27 of the original 1997 OCR Sexual Harassment Guidance document indicates, there is a long history of educational institutions being held liable under Title IX for knowing failure to take appropriate actions to remedy a hostile environment.
Frank Richter, a highly-regarded computational linguist at the University of Tuebingen, is at risk of losing his job. Why? Because, like large numbers of middle-rank (non-professorial) academics in Germany, his "time is up." Marion Zepf, a student at Tuebingen, writes:
Frank Richter, an outstanding, internationally renowned researcher in computational linguistics and an excellent lecturer, is about to lose his job at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. This is by no fault on his part, but by federal law - and Frank is by far not the only academic in Germany who has to leave the academic world despite his good work.
In Germany, 85% of middle-rank (i.e. non-professorial) academics are employed under fixed-term contracts. These contracts are usually extended and chained, up to a limit of twelve years, which is mandated by a federal law (called 'Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz'). After that time, the researcher may no longer sign a fixed-term contract at any German University. The only way to stay in academia is to be appointed to a chair - an option that covers only 10% of middle-rank academics, - or to obtain one of the very few other unlimited-term positions. The latter case is extremely rare, as there are not nearly enough such positions available to employ even just the best researchers. Thus, the law has the effect of an academic employment ban for Frank and many others who are not lucky enough to receive an unlimited-term contract.
There is a petition in support of Dr. Richter here. (If you do not read German, there is an English translation of the petition here.)
These authors make fair points, but it is indicative of the depraved circumstances under which we live that the argument has to be made in this form ("studying humanities can make you employable"!). The point of humanistic study is to make students human, that is, to allow individuals to realize some distinctively human abilities, such as having and understanding values, reflecting upon and understanding the past, cultivating aesthetic appreciation or achievement along the many dimensions that the world has offered us, and refining the intellectual tools necessary to understand, interpret, and interact with the broader world as something other than an automaton. Or, to borrow from Nietzsche, the point of disciplined humanistic study is to cultivate everything that "makes life on earth worth living--for instance: virtue, art, music, dance, reason, intellect--something that transfigures, something refined, fantastic, and divine" (Beyond Good and Evil, 188). The real scandal is that purportedly serious universities let students study "business" and "engineering" and other fields that have their uses--they make life livable, but not worth living.
Chattel slavery may be history in most parts of the world, thank goodness, but wage slavery is not, and these defenses of the humanities are, alas, depressingly realistic testimonies to that fact.
IHE has the story. If "conservative students" feel "besieged" because they believe, inter alia, that human activities don't contribute to global warming, God created the world 10,000 years ago, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is "only a theory," or that Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan was a serious attempt to balance the budget--all things that that benighted cohort of American "conservatives" often profess to believe these days--then they should feel besieged because they live in darkness, and it is the job of universities to bring enlightenment. Truth and knowledge is not evenly distributed across the political spectrum, and the modern Republican Party in the U.S. has claim to precious little of either these days. If students are "besieged" because they do not have a fair opportunity to defend their views with arguments and evidence, then they have a legitimate complaint. End of story.
It is surely a great embarrassment to the economics profession that one of their leading journals publishes such a piece. Not only is the standard of argument lamentable, but the failure to reference Nozick might be considered an academic offence if this were an undergraduate essay (and would certainly draw adverse comment from a competent teacher).
UPDATE: Longtime reader Roger Albin (Michigan) writes:
A fairly good example of inconsistency. In his Better Angels book, Pinker celebrates Norbert Elias’ Civilizing Process thesis that increased emphasis on etiquette and formal propriety played an important role in taming the casual violence of European societies. Elias’ arguments (an earlier and much more thoughtful version of James Wilson’s Broken Windows hypothesis about crime prevalence) easily justify rigid standards about sexual harassment. You can’t accept Elias’ arguments as valid and then turn around and excuse McGinn’s behavior. Pretty thoughtless.
I want to bring to your attention, and the broader philosophical community, a scam journal Philosophy Study and predatory publisher David Publishing: http://www.davidpublishing.org/.
In July of 2011, I was contacted by a new journal Philosophy Study to submit a paper I had recently presented at a conference. The paper was under review at another journal, so I didn’t submit it. But the request also included a call for reviewers and board members. The journal wanted to build its editorial board and get a new editor in the near future. Since the journal claimed to be published by an Illinois company and I wanted to do some review work, I sent my CV and said I would be willing. What happened next was shocking to me.
First, let me say that they want ALL reviews done in two weeks. I accepted the first job and rejected the paper. It was bad, it got the philosophical problem it was trying to solve wrong, and I wrote what I thought was a decent report for the journal. I will come back to this paper shortly.
I then received two papers that were not in any condition for review. They were clearly written by non-native English speakers. They had no business being sent to a reviewer, and I said as much to the staff person, Karen Garcia who I no longer believe is a real person, but the name all the people at David Publishing use when they send out emails.
I was then asked to review again the paper I already rejected. The author had made a few changes, but it was still not worth publishing. I then used Google to search for the paper. I found that the paper had been published in an online journal type thing published by an institute run by the author. I alerted Karen Garcia about the fact that the paper had been previously published. She wrote back that Philosophy Study didn’t care and they were going to publish it anyway. I know now this is because they wanted the publishing fees.
I was irritated. I got one more paper to review, and I rejected it as unacceptable. The English was so bad that I couldn’t even make sense of it. I was then taken off the website as part of the editorial board and was only contacted when they said their website had been hacked.
I have since gotten solicitations from them every time I present a paper at a conference: The Society for Exact Philosophy and both the Florida and Illinois Philosophical Association meetings. The most recent of these solicitations said that the journal was indexed in the Philosopher’s Index. This is when I knew I had to act. I submitted two notes via the PI’s website in November of 2012. Here is what I wrote to them:
“I would like to provide some information about the newly indexed journal Philosophy Study. This journal is not reputable, and I believe it should not be indexed in the Philosopher's Index. I don't want to write a long letter here, but I am more than willing to share my story with you. I volunteered as an editor for the journal and was shocked at what I experienced. The journal is basically a vanity press exploiting the open access model. In fact, David Publishing is on Beall's list of predatory publishers, which you can find here: http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/. I am happy to explain even more, but I suggest you look into this publisher and remove them from the index. I should let you know that I have contemplated contacting Dr. Leiter to let him run a story on his blog, the Leiter Reports, on this journal. I didn't learn it was being indexed with the Philosopher's Index until today (12 November 2012). I think it is even more important to let people know that this is not a reputable journal, and they should stay away from it.”
The second note read:
“Here is another story about David Publishing that you might want to read when considering my last note about removing them.”
A few months ago, I got an email from Karen Garcia to review a paper from them. I was a bit surprised since I hadn’t had any contact with them in months. I was able to identify the author through a Google search of the paper title (it was presented at a conference) and warned the author about where they had submitted. I told the author that if they didn’t believe me, they could research the journal to make sure it was where they wanted to publish. This paper was too good to be in this vanity journal. I felt like I had to warn this person. Moreover, other sources suggest that there is a large fee to publish with the journal. I can’t verify the amount, but give the fact that Beall has put David Publishing on his list of predatory publishers, Beall’s List, there should be real concern.
So, I ask that you share this with your readers. I believe that the Philosopher’s Index should not be indexing this journal. It gives it credibility it doesn’t deserve. I know there are lots of people who want to support Open Access, and I think the Philosophers’ Imprint, is awesome, but this isn’t what is going on here. Philosophy Study is some kind of scam, and it needs to be known that papers in it are not what people think they are. It is a vanity press, and the publishers are predatory.
If people want me to explain even more why I know this journal is a scam, I can, but I suggest checking out the other blogs I have linked to above and look at David Publishing’s website. Another oddity is that they have David Publishing email addresses, but they also use a Yahoo address for the journal. All of this should have warned me early on about the unprofessional nature of the journal, but I was willing to give them a chance and help make them better. That was a poor assumption on my part. Everyone in philosophy should be warned of this journal and avoid it. And the Philosopher’s Index should stop indexing it.
UPDATE: Neil Easterbrook, an English professor at Texas Christian University, writes:
I read several of the abstracts for papers in their "Journal of Literature and Art Studies," focusing on literature (my area of competence), and I found all of them seriously flawed. They ranged from uninteresting to incoherent; all were littered with grammatical errors and contained fragmented, incomplete expression of their own arguments. Several did not seem to have an argument.
That the journal is published monthly; that its topic is *everything* in the arts; that the essays all seem to be seven or eight pages long; and that the publication cost of the journal is almost 500 USD a year seems diagnostic: this is a vanity publisher, and not just in philosophy.
This is charming, from Prof. Simon Marginson (Melbourne), a leading critic of the QS rankings:
The THE [Times Higher Education, which also produces rankings] is committed to a free and liberal discussion about ranking, and tolerates differences of opinion. The same has not been true of QS. [Ben] Sowter [of QS] does not mention that his company has twice threatened publications with legal action when publishing my bona fide criticisms of QS. One was The Australian: in that case QS prevented my criticisms from being aired. The other case was University World News, which refused to pull my remarks from its website when threatened by QS with legal action.
If Sowter and QS would address the points of criticism of their ranking and their infamous star system (best described as 'rent a reputation'), rather than attacking their critics, we might all be able to progress towards better rankings. That is my sole goal in this matter. As long as the QS ranking remains deficient in terms of social science, I will continue to criticise it, and I expect others will also continue to do so.
I have not received any legal threats from QS, happily, though I will be sure to publish them if I do. (My guess is they realize that, even under UK libel law, they don't have a case, and, in any case, no British libel judgment would be enforceable in the U.S.)
Also I understand that the "S" from QS -- Matt Symonds -- walked out on the company due to exasperation with the business practices. He has been airbrushed from QS history, but can be foud at: https://twitter.com/SymondsGSB
[I]f the rankings are to be used just to evaluate the quantity or quality of research, they are frankly of little use. They are dominated by the survey of academic opinion, which is not of professional quality.
There are several ways in which people can take part in the survey. They can be nominated by a university, they can sign up themselves, they can be recommended by a previous respondent or they can be asked because they have subscribed to an academic journal or an online database.
Apart from checking that they have a valid academic e-mail address, it is not clear whether QS makes any attempt to check whether the survey respondents are really qualified to make any judgements about research.
The result is that the academic survey and also the employer survey have produced results that do not appear plausible.
In recent years, there have been some odd results from QS surveys. My personal favorite is the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, which set up a branch in Singapore in 2007 and graduated its first batch of students from a three-year Film course in 2010.
In the QS Asian University Rankings of that year, the Singapore branch got zero for the other criteria (presumably the school did not submit data) but it was ranked 149th in Asia for academic reputation and 114th for employer reputation.
Not bad for a school that had yet to produce any graduates when the survey was taken early in the year....
Another example is from Saudi Arabia, where King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals was apparently top for history, even though it does not have a history department or indeed anything where you might expect to find a historian.
I print, in its entirety, a response I received from Simona Bizzozero, the Head of Public Relations at QS. I intersperse her response with some comments and corrections of my own, and then conclude with some questions that are still unanswered:
Dear Professor Leiter,
In response to the concerns that you raise about the QS academic reputation survey, we would like to clarify several serious inaccuracies in the piece. While we respect your right to disagree with the measures we employ to compile our rankings, we feel it is important that you base your conclusions on the correct information.
As we will see, there were no "serious" inaccuracies, just a single minor one, to which we will return shortly. In fact, the main allegations of my correspondents are actually now confirmed by QS.
First, some background: The QS academic reputation survey is one of six indicators used to compile the QS World University Rankings, and also feeds into various other QS research outputs and rankings. In 2012 over 46,000 valid responses worldwide were considered, making it the largest survey of its kind in the world.
QS's conception of a "valid" response will become clear shortly.
In May this year, QS became the first compiler of global and regional rankings to be awarded the “IREG Approved” label for three of its research outputs (including the QS World University Rankings). This followed a comprehensive independent audit of the methodology and all data collection processes (including the academic reputation survey), to which QS voluntarily submitted.
What is IREG, you ask? Here is its Executive Committee; it includes Bob Morse, who produces the notorious U.S. News rankings. Mr. Morse is a journalist turned editor, with no qualifications as an expert on higher education, statistical methods, or anything else one might think relevant. The presence of Mr. Morse on the Executive Committee, and several others involved in the business of world university rankings, raises doubts about the integrity of IREG--doubts made worse when one realizes that U.S. News now reprints the QS rankings under its own brand! In other words, the QS rankings are "approved" by an organization whose executive committee includes an editor who profits off the QS rankings.
The purpose of the audit, conducted by independent experts, was to verify that the rankings are compiled professionally and with a transparent methodology. Successful organisations also need to show that they observe good practices and respond to a need for relevant information from a range of stakeholders, in particular students, higher education institutions, employers and policy makers.
The QS World University Rankings were found to satisfy all of these criteria. We therefore feel justified in querying the use of the term “shady” in relation to our rankings, and also in pointing out that your claim that our rankings are “a fraud upon the public” is contradicted by the established facts.
So far, there are no "established facts" at all. There is an alleged audit by an organization that is not at all "independent" of QS claiming that the QS rankings "are compiled professionally and with a transparent methodology." Until the audit is published, and the independent "experts" named, this is all public relations, and nothing more. In fact, as we consider some examples of the complete lack of relevant transparency in the QS methodology, this will just raise further questions about IREG, which looks to me, at this point, like a front organization for legitimating bogus ranking systems.
An untenured philosopher at a religiously-affiliated university in the American South writes:
I’ve noticed that the (rather shady!) QS rankings have appeared on your blog several times – and thought it might be interesting to briefly share my experience as a QS ‘evaluator’.
One summer not all that long ago, I was short on cash and signed up for a paid survey site. Generally, this involved filling out online surveys about cell phones, toilet paper, and frozen vegetables for a reward of between $1 and $5. One of the stranger surveys that came up was something called the QS Rankings. I assumed that I was selected to participate because of my educational background and employment (PhD in philosophy, employed full time by a university), and completed the survey without much thought.
Here is how the survey went. First, I was asked to choose my discipline from a list of about 10 options as well as my continent and country; I chose ‘Humanities’, ‘North America’, and ‘United States’. Next, I was asked to type in the five best universities in the US for the study of humanities; then I was asked to type in up to 15 top universities for the study of humanities in North America other than the five I put in before. Finally, I was asked about my ‘sub-discipline’; I was asked to type in five top universities in the world for the study of philosophy.
The survey seemed awfully suspicious at the time, and I did not imagine that the results could have any sort of serious impact. Of course – I have not done much investigation into the QS rankings, and I would imagine that they use criteria other than paid surveys – but ranking universities by using a paid survey site seems to be poor methodology, for a number of reasons!
So the QS rankings are being completed by people who happen to sign up to be paid to complete surveys! (At least this individual was actually a philosopher!) I'd be interested to hear from others who may have been surveyed by QS, and if so, how. If they are really doing something as suspect as trolling fee-based survey sites for respondents, then this makes me wonder about the data bases they use for the purportedly 'objective' measures like citations and H-indices. Why doesn't QS disclose the faculty lists they use?
UPDATE: A philosopher in the Middle East writes:
As you mentioned you'd be interested to hear about how the QS company does the surveys, I thought I email you.
I received an email (actually, 12 emails consecutively) on April 16 this year asking me to register and complete the survey. I didn't do it, as it looked dubious. First, it came from a person from a "petroleum and minerals" university in Saudi Arabia, which has nothing to do with humanities whatsoever (it has no such fields of study): http://www.kfupm.edu.sa/default.aspx
Second, I could not find any info about the person who sent me the email. I googled his name, email, affiliation -- no result.
Below is the complete message.
Sub: Requesting your time for participating in the QS World Rankings Survey 2013.
The opinion of academics forms the very core of the QS World University RankingsR - the most widely circulated of the world rankings. As a leading
academic, and someone who has been associated with King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM), I am writing to request a few minutes of your
precious time to have your say in the 2013 Academic Peer Review Survey.
You will receive a message from QS providing you the link to complete the survey. If you have not received the survey, then I would like to request
Thank you for your time and please contact me if you have any questions.
Administrative Assistant to the Rector
King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM)
Dhahran 31261, Saudi Arabia
AND MORE: A law and philosophy scholar, not presently in a tenure-track position, writes:
A while ago (more than a year ago, but I can't remember for sure how long ago) I got an email like the one your correspondent got, about surveys of academic programs. I _think_mine was about philosophy, but it might have been law. I started filling it out, but pretty soon gave up- it was taking too long, and, given the odd way it was set up, I didn't really feel like I could answer well. As in the email you got, it asked for names of departments, didn't give lists of schools (let alone of faculty), and so on. It was obviously going to lean heavily towards names people could easily recall. And, while I think I'm competent to contribute to such surveys in some areas, this one and in this style left me pretty unsure that I was contributing anything, so I didn't finish it. I didn't think much of it at the time, but now I'm pretty sure it was the QS rankings. Apparently they more or less randomly email people and ask them to do a really poorly crafted survey, among other things!
Peter Fosl (Transylvania) posted this item on Facebook with the following apt preface (which he gave me permission to quote):
From rising costs, to post-tenure review, to the eliminating of tenure and the substitution of adjuncts, to hierarchical rankings (by the corporate/non-academic press), to the shift in power from faculty to administrators, to measuring scholarship quantitatively, to measuring teaching quantitatively, to thinking about education and scholarship as a product, to crushing student loan debt--it's all the bloody ravaging by Reagan-Thatcher and their minions of our ancient and hallowed academy.
Sure the schools rich in members got richer, but not as much as in prior years, and it seemed to me there was a wider distribution of academic institutions represented (which is as it should be, given the wide distribution of academic talent over the last thirty years); here are the schools ranked by the number of new Fellows elected in 2013:
1. Harvard University (10)
2. University of California, Berkeley (9)
3. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (8)
3. Princeton University (8)
5. Stanford University (7)
5. Yale University (7)
7. Columbia University (5)
8. Johns Hopkins University (4)
8. Northwestern University (4)
8. University of California, Los Angeles (4)
8. University of Chicago (4)
12. Brown University (3)
12. Cornell University (3)
12. New York University (3)
12. University of California, San Diego (3)
12. University of California, San Francisco (3)
12. University of Pennslyvania (3)
Schools with two faculty elected this year: Michigan/ann Arbor; SUNY-Stony Brook; Colorado/Boulder; UC Davis; Illinois/Urbana-Champaign; Boston Univ; Washington/Seattle; Rice; Rockefeller; Southern California; University of Florida/Gainesville.
Schools with one faculty member elected this year: Bard; UC Santa Barbara; Florida State; UC Irvine; Oregon; Case Western; Minnesota; Temple; Pittsburgh; Purdue; Barnard; Duke; Tufts; City College; Emory; Wash U/St. Louis; UT Southwestern; UT MD Anderson Cancer Center; North Carolina/Chapel Hill; Wisconsin/Madison; Souther Methodist; Georgetown; British Columbia; Baylor College of Medicine.
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)