Monday, August 31, 2015

Why I Keep Doing This To Myself

As job market season approaches, I find that it is natural to wonder why I would keep doing this to myself. I'm not from an elite graduate program, and I'm getting old and stale. The odds of success were never all that great, and they're not getting better.

Many years ago, when I first started Smoking, I considered this question. At that time, I said,
I keep doing this to myself because I love my job. Over the summer I snagged a VAP. It's a lot of teaching (only 2 preps, though!), a lot of students, not much money (twice what I made last year, though), and located in a part of the country I would not otherwise have opted for. Nevertheless, I get up in the morning and go to work and it doesn't feel like work. I like being in the classroom. I like introducing people to philosophy and teaching them how to do it. (I do not like grading their initial efforts.) I like thinking about philosophical problems, doing philosophical research, and writing philosophy papers. 
So, one thing I've learned being in this job is that I really like this kind of job. I like being a professor, and I like it when I read a good paper from a student and I can think, I taught this person how to do this. I like the feeling I get when I clearly identify a philosophical problem, work my way through it, and develop a plausible solution. 
All I want is to be able to keep doing this.
I find that this is all still true. Some days feel a little like work, of course. But mostly I feel like the only difference between then and now is that I've learned a lot about teaching, and I've published some stuff I'm proud of, and I've got some other stuff under review that I'm also proud of, and I've attended a bunch of conferences and department colloquia and given a bunch of talks that I've greatly enjoyed, and I've made a lot of friends. And I want to keep doing that.

And, I've discovered that I'm at least a little good at this. And I don't really know how to do anything else. So what else am I going to do? I keep my eyes peeled for other opportunities--non-teaching jobs that I'd be good at and which would make sense in other ways--but nothing has really materialized. One time an opportunity came up in the administration that I think I was well-suited for (though it didn't pay much more), but before I could do anything about it, I had to prep for class and I realized how much I'd miss teaching if I didn't get to do it anymore, so I let it go.

And, I see this as an important job. I see the classes I teach as an important part of a good, well-rounded University education that the students at this institution should have. There's the oft-touted critical thinking skills, of course, but I also address ideas from the past that educated people should know about, and demonstrate how to engage with foundational issues that lie at the bottom of a wide variety of other, otherwise unrelated intellectual endeavors. How to think effectively about weird things.

And it's not like I have absolutely no luck on the job market. I get interviews, and sometimes I get invited to campus. I get no offers, of course. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why not. I don't know why not.

And my current position is pretty okay, as these things go. It's relatively stable, and it's much less exploitative than some of the positions I see advertised. The other members of my family are pretty well-situated. Nothing's ideal, but nothing's terrible.

And my family is supportive. I've known people whose families were not supportive, and it's a difficult bummer. I'm lucky.

And I feel like it would be stupid to sit out, and not go on the job market, even though I hate it and I doubt it will work. It's not that hard for me to go on the market--I've been out here a long time, and I've got it pretty down. Seems like I stand to lose more by not doing it than by doing it.

So, I guess that's why. I feel like I stand to lose more by not doing it.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What to do about the Phylo jobs wiki?

David Morrow, co-founder of the Phylo job wiki with Chris Sula, writes in to ask about whether people would like to continue using the current platform or migrate it elsewhere. He says (emphasis added):
Since someone submitted the first job of the year to the Phylo job wiki, and someone else asked about wikis on the job-info thread, I thought this would be a good time for people to discuss whether they would like to continue using the Phylo wiki or would rather migrate to something else, like I'll continue to maintain the Phylo wiki if people want to use it, but I know that some people would prefer that the community use something else, and such a decision is hard to reverse once the job market is really under way.
What do y'all think?

-- Jaded, Ph.D. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line Again Already

In comments here, Lost points out that "it has begun"--the first tenure-track job ad of the '15/'16 job-market season has been posted.

I find that with each passing year I have a harder time getting myself motivated to tackle the job market. Not that I was ever excited about it. But I used to feel a sense of anticipation and interest in seeing which were going to advertise and which ads I could apply for. Not this year, though. This year I feel a mix of dread and apathy.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I am not ready.

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A NEW Permanent Thread to Talk or Ask or Post Information about Specific Jobs (6/27/15)

[REDUX] A lot of people in the comments seem interested in having space to discuss or request information about specific jobs. If providing information and if possible, please provide the source of your information.

Here's a permanent thread for this. Perhaps we can use the other open threads for people to trade horror or success or weird stories, any hints that they might think are helpful, strategies for dealing with stress of the job market, etc. [I'll try to get an open thread up soon.]

In the future, after this isn't at the top of the page, you can find this thread in the sidebar. Here's a picture, with the place to find this thread in the future.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Academic Saints

Jason Brennan's (Georgetown) continued punching down of adjuncts, including a post in which he and others fisk the CV of the subject of a Huffington Post piece about adjuncts (see her response here), has me thinking about the ideal of the "Academic Saint." This is in part because Susan Wolf's "Moral Saints" is one of my favorite philosophy articles, and also because Brennan invokes Peter Singer's Greater Moral Evil Principle in a blog post in which he combs over the career decisions of someone he doesn't know and with whom he doesn't share a field.

I guess this is what speaking truth to power looks like these days.

Anyway. Back to the idea of the academic saint. I've adapted the first paragraph of Wolf (1982) for my purposes here:
I don't know whether there are any [academic saints]. But if there are, I am glad that neither I nor those about whom I care most are among them. By [academic saint] I mean a person whose every action is as [academically inclined] as possible, that is, who is as [tenure-track or tenure worthy] as can be. Though I shall in a moment acknowledge the variety of types of person that might be thought to satisfy this description, it seems to me that none of these types serve as unequivocally compelling personal ideals. In other words, I believe that [academic perfection], in the sense of [academic saintliness], does not constitute a model of personal well-being toward which it would be particularly rational or good or desirable for a human being to strive.
Admittedly, my borrowing from Wolf is a bit out of place. She's concerned with the ways in which a life dominated by particularly moral ideals is a life that fails to recognize non-moral sources of value and non-moral sources of reasons for acting. This ideal leaves out non-moral motivations--and in her later work, non-self-interested motivations--that are part of a life with meaning. We find something troublesome, she argues, with the person who, in contemplating any possible action, always applies for permission from morality before undertaking that action. Moral reasons for action are not just seen as one set of reasons among many, but as a higher set of reasons to which all non-moral reasons are subordinate.

So, for example, given that social justice issues other than those related to adjuncts/contingents appear more pressing from the point of view of the moral saint, we are, in the words of the bleeding-heart Brennan:
quite literally yanking resources away from deeper concerns of social justice when they didn’t have to. They may talk the hard leftist talk, but their actions indicate they care more about themselves than they care about social justice.
A moral saint committed to such unsubtle comparison, such dispassionate ranking of their projects, and such submission to morality, can be seen as "missing a piece of perceptual machinery" or as committed to "an extreme form of self-hatred that interferes with…ability to enjoy life."

Wolf, though, has less of a problem with the ways in which commitments other than those to morality may come to dominate a life. A commitment, say, to developing a nasty crossover, is less problematic than organizing one's life around a moral ideal if that commitment is seen as winning out in a fair competition among other possible commitments, rather than being considered a type of ur-commitment to which all other reasons for acting must submit.

Is the academic saint more like the moral saint, or more like the person who has devoted themselves to lighting up the NBA?

I guess it's pretty obvious what I think. I see a problematic commitment to academic saintliness implicit in Brennan's posts--and the philosophy-blogosphere's own predilection for CV fisking. Here's what I have in mind (n.b.: I won't raise questions about another problem I see with this activity, namely, The Underdetermination of One's Academic Pursuits and Commitments by the CV; though such concerns are in the background too).

Brennan sees a (possible) lack of research or a (possible) commitment to teaching over research or a (possible) commitment to obscure or hard-to-market research or a (possible) commitment to a certain geographic region as academic mistakes. To see these commitments or actions as academic mistakes is to assume that one's field of research or commitment to teaching or preferences about where to live must be approved by the tribunal of reasons in favor of being as tenure-track or tenure worthy as possible. So long as we act for reasons other than those suggested by a commitment to getting a tenure-track job, we are making academic mistakes (or, in one of Brennan's colorful analogies: willfully eating poopburgers).

More strongly, it seems to me that the only reasons for action in academia that Brennan and others are able to make sense of issue from the reasons provided by getting a tenure-track job or getting tenure. They are, it seems to me, "missing some piece of perceptual machinery."

Apparently, in Brennan's view, the only person who deserves a secure, well-paying academic job with benefits is a person that strives to satisfy the ideal of academic saintliness. It is the academic saint, who doesn't just see their desire for a tenure-track job or tenure as one desire among many, but who sees that desire as the only possible source of reasons, who shall inherit the promised land. (And, insofar as they fail to do this, yet continue to stay in academia, so Brennan's reasoning implies, they are simply irrational. Note that another important ideal that Brennan would have us strive to is provided by a different, but no less problematic type of saint: Homo-Economicus.)

This is why the complaints of adjuncts/contingents are so baffling to people like Brennan. They don't understand that adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they have failed to win the academic lottery.

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because many people think the only reason they don't have tenure-track jobs are because of their "academic mistakes."

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because their commitment to teaching is seen, not as something positive, but as a sign that they are unable or unwilling or too stupid to do research.

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they are subsidizing the research of tenure-track and tenured faculty.

Adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they teach twice as many students or twice as many classes with less support and for less money than the anointed academic saints.

And, adjuncts/contingents aren't pissed off just because they are seen as unworthy of permanent positions according to the standards decided upon, in retrospect, by the people who won the academic lottery and are now looking to rationalize their own luck.

I mean, adjuncts/contingents are pissed off about all of these things, of course.

But, speaking for myself, I'm pissed off because all of these things are signs that an ideal of academic saintliness that reduces all reasons for acting in academia to getting another line on the CV is at the center of a system that (I think) once made room for acting for other types of reasons (like curiosity, or, if you're old-fashioned, truth, or, even more old-fashioned, wisdom).

I'm pissed off because this ideal is uncritically accepted. And the people in positions to push back against it (i.e., hiring committees and people like Brennan) lack the moral imagination to come up with new ideals that will accommodate different ways of being in the academic world.

I'm pissed off that there are people like Brennan who think that because adjuncts/contingents failed to win the academic lottery (because of their academic mistakes, natch), their small part of the academic world should be without offices, benefits, and other forms of institutional support.

Brennan's wrong. I'm not pissed off because I don't have a tenure-track job, and that's not what we're asking for. I'm pissed off because people shouldn't have to be academic saints in order to get just a little more moral consideration than what they've been given in the past.

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

No more half measures

On the previous thread, 8:51 asks:
I wonder if you could start a new thread where those of us who are planning to leave academic philosophy could say a bit about our backgrounds, our reasons for leaving, and our plans (where plans exist). 
For those of us on who are certainly our way out the door, I think it would be interesting and helpful to see who else is leaving, why they're leaving, and where they're headed. And for people who are in the midst of deciding whether to leave, I think it could be comforting.
I am not someone who is definitely planning on leaving, but I'm definitely on my way to being pushed out slowly, so I am developing plans to GTFO. Relevant background info:
  • My Ph.D. is from a school in the middle of the PGR pack.
  • I've applied to jobs for more or less the past 5 or 6 years (but only a handful this year and none last year). I had no business applying for about 2 or 3 of those years.
  • Actively and slowly research; only one publication.
  • 4 - 5 years of active teaching experience (in 3 years, I've taught what TT folks at my department teach in 5 years).
  • A few TT interviews, two on-campus interviews, but no offers. 
  • More than a few VAP and/or post-doc interviews. 1 offer (for my current VAP).
  • Current position was originally for one-year, but I've been lucky enough to have it renewed a few times (always at the last minute because of funding issues).
  • 6 months after moving across the country for my current position, I turned down a 2 year postdoc that would've required me to move back across the country.
It was after turning down the postdoc and spending more and more time with people who don't uproot their lives every few years chasing a job that might potentially land them in a place they never thought they'd live, that I began to seriously think about leaving philosophy. I also feel very strongly about staying in my current city.*

And recently, I was not considered for what was probably the last opportunity at turning my current VAP into something more permanent [details redacted; but I'm not the only person at my current department that's super-pissed about this]. For a while, I thought that I'd be happy adjuncting in my current city, which offers a lot of teaching opportunities. But I'm less convinced I want to do that now (I hope some of y'all participated in National Adjunct Walkout Day!).

I've been trying to lay the groundwork to GTFO in a few ways; though these are more like half-measures than anything else. Through friends, I've been volunteering at a local non-profit, through which I've met people and made connections outside philosophy. These connections have led to editorial work and at least one writing assignment for a local paper. I feel like these connections and also friends get me a toe (at least) in the door at places I might enjoy working. But I haven't followed through yet. I've also been on Twitter a lot lately, which isn't helping me develop GTFO plans.

That's it!

--Jaded, Ph.D.

*One thing that I've found especially helpful are non-academic friends who work and live in one part of the country longer than one or two years and aren't constantly applying to jobs. They are also cool and I don't want to move away from them in the same way that I didn't want to move away from my badass academic friends, but did because that's what academics do. I'm probably not alone in having almost exclusively academic friends during graduate school (or maybe I was?). I found it harder to shake the "I'm a failure" feelings surrounded by my lovely academic friends; but less hard now. (Though I also found it easier to talk philosophy with my academic friends than I do now; trade-offs.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By request: Should I stay or should I go?

Since we seem to be solidly into the post doc/VAP season, and pretty much done with TT jobs, I just ran the numbers at PhilJobs for the season. From Aug 1, 2014 to Mar 2, 2015 there were 186 jobs listed under the criteria "junior faculty" and "tenure track or similar" and "United States." For the same interval 2013-2014 the count was 217. If you include international jobs, it increases to 214 for 2014-15, which is still fewer than the US jobs last year. The Phylo Wiki lists 228 jobs this year, which includes international jobs (and the dates go back further). I make no claims about the accuracy or completeness of these figures. I see some jobs in the search results that are clearly not TT, and a few that are not really junior, so this is a rough estimate. Plus, there might be jobs that were listed elsewhere, but not listed on PhilJobs.

My suspicion earlier in the season was that this was turning out to be a particularly bad one, which I think is more or less confirmed. One would hope that, as 2008-2009 recedes into history, the job market would improve. One would hope, apparently, in vain.

You can see Carolyn Dicey Jennings' placement data report for 2011-2014 here. Her data shows, among other things, that the proportion of men and women being hired basically matches the porportion of men and women who earn doctorates in philosophy.

Jennings estimates 376 521 new graduates each year (2011-2014), of whom about 17% will land TT jobs, on average. It's pretty obvious that if there are ~500 grads per year, and only ~200 TT jobs, more than half of those grads cannot possibly get TT jobs. That snowballs, of course, as many grads each year come up empty-handed. (Hence, we're seeing hundreds of applicants for every job. I recently talked to someone on a SC at an R2 in a fairly desirable area -- they got 360+ applicants for a 3/3 job.)

Helen DeCruz summarizes some prestige bias numbers here.  88% of philosophy TT hires are from Leiter-ranked departments. 31% are from Top 10 departments.

To sum up, it's bad.

Feel free to add more data points, or anecdata, or corrections to the estimates above, in the comments.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

In Which I Despair for the Underemployed Philosophers

Like many of you, I received the PFO from the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy. Like many of you, I was shocked to read that the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy received over six hundred applications. 600. Six-zero-zero. I sent out just over 40 applications this year. How is a person supposed to find a job in this environment?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Game Plan?

Anonymous posted these queries to the permanent job search thread. I'm reposting here for discussion:
Could someone knowledgeable address, perhaps here or in a new thread, what the game plan should be here on out for those of us who did not land a TT job? 
I'm a research type and get little placement help. What should I be looking to do over the next couple of months in order to secure a TT job next year or the one following? 
Postdocs are an obvious choice, but what about VAPs? How do people feel about those? Would it be much better to do a VAP at a pedigreed institution, or just a place that will leave time for research? Etc. 
In general I think it might be helpful to have some thoughts about these matters put down, since it appears that many, many of us are in this boat. 
The answer may simply be that there are no answers, since the process is not a rational one.
A general answer is difficult without knowing specifics about your CV, and how you're doing on the market right now. Are you getting first-round interviews? Fly-outs?  

Have you published? If not, one obvious place to start is to get some papers published or at least in the pipeline. An accepted paper is as good as a published one, but given the time it takes to even get a paper accepted for publication, you need to basically get it to a journal now. Or sooner. Postdocs are a great way to secure time for research and publishing. Mine helped me tremendously on the job market.

Not every place is going to care that you are published in a top journal, although obviously, avoid the really crap pay-to-publish journals.  

Do you have teaching experience? A VAP is a good place to get significant teaching experience. You might be a "research type," but most of the jobs are not "research" jobs, so having some good teaching experience will help you. 

Finding time for both research and teaching is always a problem. Get used to working your ass off. 

And yeah, the market is lousy. So, it might not be you. 


Saturday, January 3, 2015

The annual killin' it on the campus visit prep post

If you're prepping for fly-outs, previous posts containing logistical advice can be found here and hereSpiros has some good advice about job talks over at PhilAnon.

Some tips:
  • The campus visit is a gauntlet of job interviews and social calls, with some potentially harrowing, high pressure philosophy thrown in. You'll meet with various deans, and lots of faculty, and students. You'll be continuously shuttled from one thing to the next, with very little down time in between. You'll be dined (sometimes wined, but many university policies don't permit putting alcohol on the tab) more often than you can bear. If you're not a morning person, or not at your peak before you've had some caffeine, use your hotel room coffee maker to fortify yourself before the breakfast meeting. 
  • Take portable snacks, especially if you have dietary restrictions. The days are really long, and being hungry results in brain fails. 
  •  The campus visit is also an opportunity to learn about the school. You can get a sense of the campus culture, and of the department. Don't think like someone who is desperate to get just any job, but rather like someone who might be sold on this particular job. Ask questions about the students, about campus life, about what it's like to live there. You will need to exhibit at least minimal chit-chat skills, because you'll be doing lots of it while people are walking you around campus, driving you to the airport or restaurants, etc. You'll sometimes get a tour of the area (especially in small towns where they might think you need to be sold on the location). It's reasonable to ask about things like the housing market. 
  • Ask in advance for a detailed schedule of what you'll be doing, when, and with whom. You might give a job talk, you might be asked to do a teaching demo. Or both. Get as much info as you can about the teaching demo (will it be an actual class [with how many students], or an audience, will it be in a classroom, will there be tech available), and about the job talk (how much time will you have, who might be there), etc. 
  • Before you go, look up the people you'll be meeting in the department (all of them), but also the deans and administrators. You never know when some little bit of trivial knowledge (hey, we both went to Peoria U! I also love the poetry of Robert Service! How about those Packers?) might be fodder for a good convo, or at least make you memorable (in a good way)
  • Be very, very nice to the department secretary/admin assistants. They don't work for you, so don't act like they do. S/he is also often the person who is going to handle your travel reimbursements.
  • Have at least two pairs of good pants, especially if you're going to a wintry clime where the odds of getting mud/snow/salt on your pants are high. Take a carry-on so nothing gets lost in transit. 
  • If you require accommodation for particular needs (a lactating mom might need time to pump, or you might have dietary restrictions, or need time for religious observance, or whatever), you're better off saying something in advance than trying to sneak off to TCB. You don't really want to do anything during your visit that will give someone a reason to think you're up to something suspicious (drugs! booze! Satanic rituals!). Better to have the awkward conversation ahead of time than to find yourself trying to compensate for unexplained behavior. Obviously, some departments will be more friendly/understanding about special needs than others, but it's worth remembering that if you're hired, you'll be working with these people for a while, so maybe it's better to know in advance if they don't play well with others.
  • You'll sometimes meet with someone from HR to talk about benefits, so you might think about questions for them. (This might be where you want to inquire about maternity/paternity leave, childcare subsidies, etc.)
  • I went to a meeting with a job candidate a while back and observed that he sometimes deflected questions about "how would you teach X?" by asking questions about whether doing Y would be of interest to the department or the students. He also asked specific questions of faculty, like "How do you integrate Z into courses?" or "Is there support for doing A?" It made him sound thoughtful and interested, rather than like someone just answering standard questions with memorized answers and trying to please. (He was offered the job, too.) On the other hand, if you're interviewing at a place where they really need you to teach specific service courses, offering them a list of exciting new courses you'd like to develop instead of teaching Intro may not go over well. So, you wanna have a good feel for what will be expected of you.
  • Take copies of your dossier, including course syllabi, just in case. They might tell you in advance what courses you'd be expected to teach if hired, and you can think about those and work up spec syllabi if you have time. 
  • Anything critical like your job talk or teaching demo slides should be copied onto a flash drive, copied to the Cloud, copied to Google Drive, tattooed on your hand, emailed to yourself, etc. If you're using a Mac, convert stuff to a PC friendly format. I'm  super paranoid about that kind of thing, but I've had TSA drop my laptop on the floor. Print your lecture notes, etc. I had a teaching demo once where all the tech failed except the document camera, but I had printed out all my Powerpoint slides. Success!
  • Be ready to improvise should technology fail during a talk or teaching demo. (Hence, have printed notes.)
  • If you want to have a handout or some such, ask in advance if that's OK, and ask in advance if you can email it to them to print (or print them yourself and bring with).
Potentional pitfalls:
  • When talking to deans and administrators, keep in mind that many of them are really academics, or ex-academics, and they would like you to know that. I found they often wanted to "talk shop" with me about philosophy, in addition to talking about the nuts and bolts of the school. So speak to them as you would speak to potential colleagues. This is also where you might get questions that are attempts to covertly feel you out about your commitment to the place, to teaching, whether you're a flight risk, etc. So too many questions from you about research support, travel support, etc. might not fly in a teaching-oriented place. Keep in mind that no department makes a hire without approval from higher-ups like deans, so these are interviews you really do need to prep for.
  • Since I'm already in a TT position, I asked last year about policies regarding credit towards tenure for work done (if you've been in a postdoc, some places will let you use that work in your tenure file too), and whether they'd require me to start the tenure clock all over again (which I don't want to do at this point). I got the distinct sense that these questions were not at all favorably received, although I don't really know why they were not favorably received (someone enlighten me, if you know). So, if you're in a similar position, that's probably a discussion to save for when you have an offer.
  • I think the general consensus about spousal accommodation is that talking about it should wait until you have an offer. I suppose that might include not inquiring about policies until then as well, although some schools will volunteer that kind of info as part of their "sales pitch." In my experience, if you want a spousal accommodation, you need to negotiate that with the initial contract. Once you're hired, they don't have much (any) incentive to help you out with that, regardless of how many times they tell you during interviews that they totally support spousal accommodations. (This is something to think about for non-academic spouses too, especially if you're moving to rural or isolated college towns where there are few jobs off-campus. Many, many faculty spouses get hired into administrative positions on my campus -- this is not only a substantial income benefit, but also means you're potentially not paying for health insurance for a spouse.)
  • I guess the conventional wisdom about marriage and/or children is that it is viewed as a liability for women, and a positive for men. Departments are going to vary a lot on this kind of thing, and some will be more family-friendly than others. The people interviewing you are discouraged by HR from asking about marital status or children, but if you want to ask about things like schools or childcare, or maternity/paternity leave, you might want to proceed with caution.
  • Some departments ask their candidates to pay for their flights and accommodations and seek reimbursement after the campus visit. It's a really shitty practice, but it happens. I had two fly-outs last year where I had to buy my own tickets. One reimbursed me within a week of my campus visit. One took three months, and numerous, increasingly irate emails from me to the department chair (they didn't offer me the job, so at that point I had nothing to lose, except my thousand bucks). Some places require that you submit paper tickets for reimbursement, so you might want to get those instead of using your smartphone.
You're one of a very select few, so try to enjoy your moment, without being a pompous jerk. Really, nobody likes a pompous jerk. You'll have many people who are intensely paying attention to you, which is a rare thing. The job talks can be fun and lively, and a chance to have your work taken seriously and discussed at length. Savor it.