Monday, April 30, 2007

And Them East Coast Killas Ought to Represent

Let me say a bit more about a point PGOAT made yesterday. I haven't been to the Central or the Pacific APAs, so I'm in no position to compare them to the Eastern, but PGOAT's implication that the Eastern sort of has shitty philosphy is dead on. I mean, I saw a couple of good talks at the Eastern last year, but for the most part everything sucked. Hard.

I was talking about this with a friend, because we were having a really hard time finding talks to go to, and we ended up asking one of our profs about it. The explanation she gave was pretty simple: "All the good philosophers are up in suites doing interviews."

So there it is. The job market makes for bad philosophy.

On a related note, I really need to get my shit together to go to the Central next year.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I drink therefore I am.

I owe you all some tales from the Chicago APA, don't I? Unfortunately, I can't seem to figure out a way to tell you about most of the best anecdotes without jeopardizing my hard-won pseudonymity, so I fear the tales you're gonna get will be a little disappointing. But here goes.

One thing worth mentioning is how much more fun the Central is than the Eastern. Fun? Seriously? Well, maybe "fun" is stretching it a little bit. But things are definitely a lot more relaxed. This is, in large part, a function of hiring. Or, to be more precise, the lack thereof. As we've mentioned, the Eastern is where most of the hiring goes on for tenure-track jobs. The Central, by comparison, is primarily where the hiring for one-year jobs goes down. But it's really kind of peripheral. Most people are actually there to do philosophy. There are a lot more talks given than at the Eastern, and the quality of the work is widely regarded to be a lot higher. (The third APA conference, the Pacific, is supposed to have the best work of all. Very little hiring goes on at the Pacific. It strikes me that these things are not unrelated, but I couldn't articulate to you exactly why this is.)

While you can still catch the odd whiff of abject desperation at the Central, from the poor saps who are looking for one-year scraps to tide them over 'til they hit the Eastern next year (like, um, ME), it's not like every young academic you see looks as if they're about to barf, pass out, or go postal. It's really more of an opportunity to hear some talks, kiss some asses, and get boozy with old friends from other schools who you haven't seen in a while. The commenter at one of the 9am sessions I went to informed us that he hadn't gone to bed until 6:30. I'm pretty sure he was still drunk. The dude didn't really come across as the sort of guy who regularly pulls all-night binges. But despite being totally fucking haggard, he seemed really happy about it. It was really cute.

It's summer camp for nerds, really. It's the sort of thing that makes me look forward to having a career in this damn discipline. I just have to get a job first.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It Took Me Years to Write, Will You Take a Look?

For the past couple of months, I've had this thought sort of drift into the foreground of my mind every week or two: I have no idea what I'm going to use as my writing sample next year. I'd really like to be thinking about it early, since the crunch last fall to get two writing samples done in a few months was punishing. Maybe I'll use them again. But maybe I won't. And if I end up going with that second choice, I want to be thinking soon about what the paper's going to be.

Right now, though, it's late, and the more pressing concerns are the scotch I'm about to drink and the bed I'm about to fall into. So I guess I'll let that thought drift into the background for another week or two.

Friday, April 27, 2007

You've Got to be All Mine, All Mine

I've spent the day running various spyware scans on my laptop trying to get it to run right and making my way through the end of term stack of grading. Not exactly a party. So let me take a break from all that to tell you about something much more fun.

I mentioned a few days ago that the furture Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS had an interview? Well, she did. No news yet, but she seemed pretty happy about how it went. What I'm happy about in the meantime is the suit she got for the interview. You guys should see it. It's this clingy black thing she picked up at Ann Taylor, and it makes her look all grown up in a very, very good way. Don't get me wrong, it looks totally professional. But--what can a boy say?--it's damn sexy too.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

E-mail My Heart and Say Our Love Will Never Die

In today's inbox, both good news and bad.

The good news. The first e-mail sent from next year's placement committee. The good news isn't that it's only April and next year's job market is already demanding my attention. No, that's actually sort of bad news. The good news is who's on the placement committee for next year. There's going to a junior faculty member on the committee. Can you believe it? We're going to get placement advice from someone who did this herself after Clinton left office! This is, for reasons I hope I'll get a chance to tell you about later, a huge improvement over last year.

The bad news. An e-mail from my supervisor asking when the fuck I'm going to give him some new work on my dissertation. (Okay, so he didn't actually say "when the fuck", but he doesn't need to use uncivil language to make his threats understood. He sort of has his own magical way with threatening e-mails.) So, fuck. I need to get some work done.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What Do You Want from Me? Are You Trying to Punish Me?

There were a few jobs last year that I really wanted. I mean, obviously, I wanted any job at a research university or a decent liberal arts college, but there were some jobs I really, really wanted. There was one where I wasn't exactly what they were looking for, but I was close enough. It was in a department with a lot of good philosophers in it. And more importantly, it was a department where people wouldn't look at me like a crazy person for doing work I do. I'd actually fit in pretty well there.

I didn't even get an APA interview with the department, let alone the job. For the most part, my reaction's been anger. As far as I'm concerned, they're a bunch of stupid fucks for not hiring me, because I'm good, I work on stuff that'd be an excellent complement to what they do, and there just aren't that many people who fit that bill. So fuck them. They live in a shit town anyway.

Needless to say, this reaction's a lot easier to process than my usual unbearable, overwhelming sense of inadequacy. So that's been good.

But today I found out the department hired a guy I went to college with. I didn't even know he was still in philosophy. And the realness, the concretenss of the comparison of him and me has brought that sense of inadequcy back hard, like a boot getting laid into my chest. Fuck.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Sorry to have disappeared on you all there. I decided, at the last minute, to take in the Central APA in Chicago. And not just because I effing love Chicago. (Though let’s be clear: it was certainly a consideration. I just can't get enough of that reflect-y ball in Millennium Park.)

I actually had some hardcore schmoozing to do. There are people whose radar screens I need to be on, and I haven’t been as good as I should’ve been at keeping in touch with said people. So the trip was, for the most part, political. (And successfully politically, might I add. Connections reestablished. Yay.) I’ll regale you with more amusing tales of the goings on in the next few days.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Now That You’re Here Boy, All I Want is Just a Chance to Say, Get Out, Leave, Right Now

I was thinking more about this seminar on the "post-acadmic job track" and I realized it's sort of weird that I had no idea my school did these things. I mean, aren't us philosophers supposed to get the e-mails about these things too?

But as soon as I asked myself that question, I realized how silly I was being. Of course we don't get those e-mails. My department doesn't give a flying fuck about our careers except when our careers make their placements stats look good. They have an interest in making sure those of us who try to get tenure track jobs get them. But anything else? As long as you avoid fucking up their stats by not even trying to get a tenure track job, they could care less what you do. They care so little, e.g., that the grad chair won't even bother to forward a fucking e-mail about how not to become homeless after you've failed as an academic.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Maybe a Waste of Words and Time

From an early draft of remarks prepared by William Safire, just discovered in the Nixon library:
The President has chosen to pursue the post-Presidential job track. . . .

We're Cut Adrift, We're Still Floating

So I was out Friday night for Ethiopian with a bunch of musicologists, which happens from time to time. One of them, a decent guy I met a wedding last May, had just been to an afternoon seminar on the “post-academic job track.”

Post-academic. That’s nice, huh? Very value neutral. But I think track is just as important rhetorically, even if it’s less obviously a euphemism. It makes you think of “tenure track.” It’s like there’s just these tracks, and you can take one track, or you can take another track. It’s all about the decision you make about which track to take. (And it’s not at all about failing at the one thing you’ve aimed your entire working life at, or realizing that grad school was a catastrophic waste of n of the most creative years of your life. It’s not about that at all.)

So apparently the university puts on these seminars about how to write a “resume”, as opposed to a CV and similar such useful tidbits of information. It’s sort of nice to know they do that. You see, the school gets n years of cheap, cheap grad student teaching labor from us, and they justify its cheapness by saying it’s apprenticeship for your future in academia. But it’s a bald-faced fucking lie that most people who start grad school in the humanities are going to have a career in academia. A bald-faced fucking lie. Most of them get kicked to the curb at some point along the way. So it’s sort of nice for the school to give you a two hour pep talk about “marketing your highly desirable skills” before your head hits the pavement.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice VII

Okay, as promised, check this out:

Dear [PGS]

Thank you for your interest in the Assistant Professor position in the Philosophy Program at the University of [. . . .]. Our search has been successfully completed, but we thank you for your interest in this position and we wish you the very best.


Dr. [. . . .]

That’s it. That’s the whole PFO. Notice anything missing? It never says they’re rejecting me. I mean, they’ve still got some passive voice, because god knows they can’t take responsibility in print for completing their own search, but they never say anything about rejecting me. They make you read between the fucking lines to get the point of the letter. It’s an exercise in fucking hermeneutics.

The funny thing is, this isn’t that uncommon. It’s Beyond the Passive Voice.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sisters Are Doin' it for Themselves

I know I promised some sweet passive voice, but that's just going to have to wait, because I actually have some good news. I think I've mentioned before than my department got massacred on the job market this year? Almost no one got APA interviews, and of those of us that did, only one got any campus interviews. You have to understand, this sort of showing is unusual for my department, which has a surprisingly good placement record. And it's taken its toll on morale. There's a sort of faith we put in our profs--the faith they know what to do to get us jobs--and this year hit that faith pretty hard.

Well, I found out today that PJMB friend and office mate S has got herself a job. She's excited about it, and I'm really happy for her. But it makes me feel better about the year, too. It's relief, really--relief that people from my department can still get jobs.

From the West Comes Hope and Repair

My apologies for not getting a post up yesyerday. Besides being buried under 42 papers that need grading, there's something afoot on the job market front, and that's made me all work and no play. The future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS will be interviewing for a one-year job next week. It's a job we both really want her to get, so I've been doing some leg-work for her interview prep.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on how that all goes. And later on today, if I get a chance, I want to take Rocking the Passive Voice to untold new heights of passivity. Oh, and also, PGOAT wanted me to pass on that she's currently at the Central APA, and she's promising stories for us all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

So You Better Tell Me No Lies

I'll have more substantive things to say about women and the philosophy job market when I have a bit more time, but right now I want to follow up on yesterday's post.

Philosophy is obviously a man's man's world, but the idea that departments pass over better male candidates in favor of worse female ones is a zombie lie that just won't die. Why? One of Leiter's commentors floats a good idea. There's so much grinding, soul-crushing rejection involved in the job-market that there's a real temptation to soften the blow for someone by telling him that his many, many rejections don't at all reflect on him as a philosopher. If he gets rejected in favor of a woman, then people can say the department was getting pressure from all kinds of deanery, and well, you know how these things go. . . .

This explanation has the ring of truth for me, because it's exactly what happened to me this year. For one job I didn't get, the first thing I heard through the grapevine was that the department decided to go in a different direction, had different needs, blah, blah, blah. When it turned out they hired someone who works on stuff very similar to mine, I knew that was bullshit. So then, because the department hired a woman, the story changed. All of a sudden, the department was looking for a woman, and well, you know how these things go. . . .

But that's bullshit too. I know her work. I've read one of her papers. I've read her dissertation. (Okay, I skimmed it. But still.) Her work's really good. She's a few years ahead of me, and she'd been on the market for a year or two already. She was pretty fucking obviously a better candidate than me. That's why she got hired.

And the guy who looked me in the eye and told me the zombie lie? He should know better than that. Fuck it, he does know better than that. He cares a fuck of a lot more than most about making philosophy a better place for women. But besides being on my committee, he's also my friend. He saw how beat down the endless rejections left me. He saw me working, week after week, to process the totality of my failure. So when I asked him to try to find out what I'd done wrong, what I could do better next time, the easiest thing to say was the zombie lie.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

They Are Night Zombies!!

There's a really interesting thread right now over at Leiter's place. Someone wrote to Leiter with questions about different departments' hiring policies "related to demographic attributes of candidates." First, that's a pretty funny euphemism. We are, of course, talking about the fact that by and large philosophy departments are snowy white sausage parties, and we're trying figure out what departments can do to change that.

As you'd expect with a discussion like this, it didn't take long for some clown to start complaining in the comments about affirmative action hires, with hoary old tales of evil deans sending dictats from their Commintern Offices decreeing that No One Shall Be Hired Who Has A Penis. This results, in these old yarns, in scores of smart, qualified, charming and hard-working young white guys getting passed over in favor of a woman (Or a black woman! Or a lesbian!) who coudn't analyze her way out of a paper bag. Because really, the white man just can't catch a break.

These stories are idiotic, but like zombie lies, they just won't die. So imagine my relief that, for the most part, the commentors in Leiter's thread aren't buying. If there's all this pressure to hire more women in philosphy, why aren't there, you know, more women in philosophy? Of the top 54 philosophy departments in the
US, guess how many have as many women as men on their faculty? Seriously, guess. It's one. One fucking department. Two departments have none. Only six of 54 have much better than a one-to-two ratio of women to men. On the whole, I'd say dudes are doing okay getting jobs in philosophy. And it's nice to see recognition of that reality reflected in Leiter's thread. Makes me think we might kill those zombies yet.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Political Moron

What the hell is wrong with me? Why is it that I’m completely incapable of writing politically delicate emails, when I fancy myself somewhat normal in most other social matters? Heck, by philosopher standards I’m downright gifted. I can schmooze like a motherfucker. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that a big reason it’s so easy for me to make smalltalk with other philosophers is that I’m often the only woman in sight, and the boys like it when the girls are willing to give them the time of day. But whatev. It still counts.)

But despite my social chops in other arenas, for some reason I turn into an dribbling idiot anytime I have to write an email that requires even a modicum of political sensitivity. I have no idea what I’m doing. And I react to situations where the stakes are high by just freezing up completely.

The solution is to make the date proofread anything I send out. He’s a fucking pro. He’s got these tricks for flattering someone without making it sound like you’re flattering them that are absolutely amazing. I have no idea how he does it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice VI

How about this for reassuring?

I can assure you that your application was read with attention and evaluated carefully.

Really? I suppose so, if by “your application was read with attention” you mean “someone glanced briefly at our AOS,” and by “evaluated carefully” you mean “we tossed it in the recycling bin after 45 seconds.”

And just because that wasn’t enough passive voice. . .

In this case, however, you were not among those finalists for the position who were invited to campus.

Um, I know that. Want to know how I know? You didn’t fucking interview me at the APA, assholes.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Back in Black, I Hit the Sack, I've Been Too Long, I'm Glad to be Back

The two Chili's waitresses (Spicealicious!) who live next door to me love nothing more than bringing their friends back to their apartment after the bars close to keep drinking and, more to the point, screaming merrily and knocking over their furniture. Lucky for them, I'm making sure they'll wake up this morning to Nielsen's awesome fifth symphony, loud enough for its snare drum to put cracks in our shared wall. I think it'll be just the thing for a hangover, don't you?

But I also know Nielsen's just the thing to inspire a man to get back to his dissertation after a too-long hiatus. Bring that motherfucker on.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Get Your Act Together We Could Be Just Fine

In comments, PJMB friend and former roommate Anon. offers this alternative take on the eight course teaching load. A tenured faculty member relays that
his first job, where his teaching load was 4-4, provided him FAR MORE time to research than his current job, which is ostensibly geared toward reasearch. All committee work at the 4-4 school was a joke, and there were no colloquia, and he taught essentially the same thing, quarter to quarter. Since he used all multiple choice exams, once prep for a course was done once, there was little else to do.

He always had a 3 day weekend, and summers were totally free.

That's a good point. My experience last year was with a school that wanted significant faculty participation in the academic environment outside the classroom, and it had pretty serious expectations about faculty availablity for students, individual mentoring, etc. But if they don't mind multiple guess tests and a closed office door, that might be a whole 'nother story.

If You Wanna Get with Me, Better Make it Fast, Now Don't Go Wasting my Precious Time

All this talk over the past few days about the teaching treadmill has reminded me of one of the big mistakes I made last year. Let’s go back to the second week of November, when the year’s first issue of the JFP came out. I was terrified about the job market in all the usual ways, but I was also terrified about the fact that my work is pretty obscure. I didn’t think there were going to be any jobs I could apply for. So when I got my hands on a copy of the JFP, I panicked. I read through the 10-point font as fast as I could, and went ape-shit putting blue circles next to every single job I was even a remotely plausible fit for. Obviously, that meant I applied to jobs that were a stretch for my AOSs and AOCs, but that wasn’t the mistake.

No, for the mistake we need to flash forward to mid-December, when I started to hear back from schools who wanted to interview me at the APA. I got one interview from a school I’d never heard of in a town I’d never heard of. Seriously. I barely remembered applying to it. Let’s call it Dim Kids In A Corn Field U. (Go Chipmunks!)

The thing is, as I started to get a better sense of what this school was like, and a better sense of the job they were offering, I realized it was a job I wouldn’t want. It would have put me on the teaching treadmill, and in a big way. Yeah, it was a tenure-track job, but it had an eight course teaching load. I mean, it’d be one thing to take a job in the middle of a corn field if you had a fair shot at moving on to bigger and better things in a few years. But an eight course teaching load? That’s all teaching and no research. And no research means no way out. You take that job, you’re stuck in the corn field for the rest of your sorry, god-damned career. And that’s not going to be me.

So. If I’m not going to take an eight course teaching job, what the fuck did I apply for? Next year I’m going to read that 10-point font a lot more closely. Too much teaching, and I won’t bother.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Where All it Ever Does is Rain

When PGOAT said yesterday that adjuncts have to teach a lot more than regular faculty, she was dead serious. A junior faculty member at a research school can expect a teaching load of four or five courses a year. That’s just about what the university thinks is reasonable for finding a good balance between teaching and research, assuming a 60-70 hour work week. But someone picking up random adjuncting jobs might have to teach as many as seven or eight courses a year just to make ends meet—nearly double the junior faculty’s teaching load. If you’re teaching that much, you just can’t do any research.

But, as PGOAT mentioned, most people in philosophy start out adjuncting. So how does anyone ever get out of it? Well, they can quit philosophy. But for those who stay in, not all adjuncting is created equal. Junior people can find one-year contracts to teach six courses. A department that’s not looking to exploit anyone too viciously might need an extra body to take a few courses for a year or two. This sort of department typically pays a living wage for a six course load. You can teach those courses and still do some of your own work on weekends. That’s exhausting, but doable.

What’s not doable is the position you’re in with a department that always has a bunch of classes taught by adjuncts, and does so to save money. A department, in other words, that builds exploitation into its budget. Those are the jobs where you’ll end up teaching eight classes at two different schools just to pay your rent. And those are the jobs that almost guarantee you’ll never move up. As D’Angelo might put it, philosophy’s like chess and not checkers: ain’t no way for a pawn to get kinged.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Adjunct positions are where philosophers go to die.

That Maclean's article that PGS wrote about a few days ago deserves more comment. The article made it look like the worst thing about adjunct positions is the crappy salary and the meager benefits. These things suck, to be sure. But they're not the worst thing about adjuncting.

The worst thing is that adjunct positions are a trap. When you're an adjunct you usually spend so much time teaching so many of the labor-intensive classes that no one else in the department wants to teach that you have no time to go to conferences or to publish anything. Thus you have no way to improve your CV. Thus no way to get yourself a tenure-track job. Thus the only way to make any money is to keep teaching too many classes. Thus you have no time to go to conferences or to publish anything. Thus ... . It's called the 'teaching treadmill,' and it's exploitative and awful. And once people get on this track, it can be impossible to get off.

The thing is, a lot of people coming out of non-top-10 departments really have no choice but to take an adjunct position for a few years after they finish the PhD. And a lot of these people manage to make the move into a tenure-track job at another school. But it takes a lot of work. You have to publish. A lot. The Maclean's article makes it sound as if all you have to do is be a really good teacher. That, my friends, is utterly, hopelessly misguided.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Things Without Which a Dissertation Would Not be Possible, Part III

Every once in a while, you’ll run across an academic who doesn’t drink coffee. These people are not to be trusted. They're sick and unnatural.

Now, I’m not one of those people who are always jacked up on caffeine or anything. I can actually go a few days without coffee and not even get headaches. (I’m not going to claim that I’m not a grouchy asshole about it, when I have to go without. But I’m pretty sure the addiction isn’t physiological.) I really think I’ve got the coffee thing under control.

And, hell. Around here grad students pop ADD meds like it’s their job. A surprising number of them even have legitimate prescriptions for the stuff. So I refuse to feel guilty about a little coffee. Clean living is for chumps. Yeah, sure. The dissertation isn’t exactly chemical-free. If academia had an anti-doping agency I’d be disqualified for sure. At the very least, there’d be an asterisk after the “PhD” at the end of my name. Whatev.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

Ah, crap. I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't flag that Maclean's piece about the adjuncts for the added reason that it tells a story of a philosopher working in a call center part-time to make ends meet. God damn. That really just means you're in the wrong business.

Am I Good Enough for You to Love Me Too?

Maclean’s, which purports to be a Canadian news weekly, has an interesting piece by Sandy Farran about adjunct teaching. It’s broadly sympathetic to the plight of adjuncts (who Canadians seem to call “sessionals”), and that’s as it should be. As Farran makes clear, universities are relying more and more on adjuncts to teach, and they’re doing so precisely because they can pay adjuncts a lot less than they pay janitors. This trend, for a pile of reasons I’ll come back to if I ever get the chance, is a very bad thing. But for now I want to highlight something else about the piece.

Notice how Farran treats one adjunct’s effort to get a tenure-track job in his department:

Last year [Dube, an adjunct political scientist at the University of Calgary] applied for a tenure-track position in political science and he was shocked to learn that he hadn’t even made the short list. “I put a lot of hope into getting that job,” says Dube. . . Given that Dube earned $26,652 last year, a higher salary would have made a big difference.

Farran passes this story along without comment, implicitly asking us to feel this adjunct’s disappointment and the unfairness of his situation. I mean, it is unfair, right? The guy’s worked hard for that department, he’s good enough at his job, so why shouldn’t that tenure-tack job be his to lose? Suppose he was working on temp contracts as a high school history teacher. He’s a good teacher, a smart and likable guy, and kids respond to his classes. So when the permanent job comes up, it’s his. Fair enough, right?

Wrong. That’s just not the way the job market works. I mean, given that Dube “admits that he has done little research” in nearly 20 years, his reaction is insane. It’s just bat-shit crazy to think he had a shot at that job.

But there’s a bigger point here about the job market, a point this piece misses by a wide, wide margin. Being good enough might get you a job as a high school history teacher, or a junior HR consultant or whatever. But why would an academic department hire someone who was only good enough when they could hire the best available? PhDs from the best universities in the world—PhDs with hyper-active research programs and solid track records in teaching—those PhDs are going to apply for that job. Just being good enough doesn’t even put you in the running. It gets you adjunct work. Which is to say, being good enough gets you sweet fuck all.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


When I started in my department, there were a few senior grad students who went out of their way to make me feel at home. One guy in particular, M, was always willing to shoot the shit with me about philosophy, even though I didn’t really know anything. And he was a guy who could give me good political advice about how to deal with some of the more erratic members of our senior faculty. I really looked up to M.

M’s bounced from one-year to one-year since finishing our program. He’s gone on the market four times now, trying to get something tenure-tracked. One year, he applied to over 100 jobs, and he even got a campus interview for one. But that’s the closest he’s come. This year he didn’t get a single APA interview, but I saw him there anyway, without any hope left, still waiting for a last minute interview that wasn’t going to come.

Now I’m starting to hear that this year was M’s last. He’s done. For more than a decade of his life he aimed at being a philosopher, but that’s done. I haven’t seen him for a couple of months, so I don’t know what he’s going to do. If I were him, I wouldn’t know what I was going to do. What do you do when you come to a dead end in life?

It’s Easter, and a Catholic friend of mine says this is a time to be mindful of rebirth, a time to believe in the possibility of renewal. So M, this Easter I’m thinking of you, and hoping you’re finding a way to build a new life outside of philosophy.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice V

I’m never going to get through these if I don’t pick up the pace.

Thanks you for your interest in the rank open position in our department. I’m sorry to have to tell you the that position has now been filled.

The first thing to notice is the obvious lie involved in this person expressing regret about filling the department’s position. Of course he’s not sorry about that at all.

I know, I know. You’ll say he’s really just expressing regret that he has to tell me about it. But is that any better? It just means that, literally, this sentence expresses the guy’s regret that he happens to have a shitty job to do—namely, telling me that I didn’t get any job at all. Wow, that must be really hard for him, the poor fucker. I’m sure you all feel as sorry for him as I do.

But there’s also something else in this letter. Notice the gibberish in the first sentence. What the fuck is a “rank open position”? It’s nothing, of course. Absolutely nothing. I know what an “open rank position” would be, and I know what a “junior rank, open position” would be. But this neither of those. This is just a meaningless string of words written by a fucktard too lazy to proofread the PFO he’s sending to over 300 losers.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Time to Get on the Internet, Take Stock of What I've Done IV

Okay, time for me to give a few departments their propers for putting together some good on-line application sites. There were a couple of nice sites, and they should be models for others who want to put together on-line applications.

First, the good sites make you enter only a minimal amount of information about your application by hand. It’s all and only the information the department needs to give a quick look over your application—your name, your school, your AOSs and AOCs, and your letter writers. If they want to know what your dissertation’s about, or what you’re presented on or what publications you have, they’re willing to look at your CV. And most importantly, they don’t give you pages and pages of idiotic questions about who your uncles are, or whether or not you’re a serial killer.

Second, the good sites let you attach all the documents in your application on a single page. They just give you a bunch of fields to put attachments in, and let you upload what you want in the order you want to do it. They don’t insist, e.g., that one field has to have a list of your publications, and then not let you attach your writing sample until you’ve done the list of publications. (What? No writing samples allowed until you have at least one publication?)

And finally, when you have all your documents attached on a single page, the good sites let you upload them all with a single click. This one’s so fucking obvious, I really don’t understand why it was so rare. But it was. So for those departments whose applications sites got this one right, nice work. You saved a tree, and you made my life a little easier.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Time to Get on the Internet, Take Stock of What I've Done III

Let me go back to the on-line applications for a moment. In my first two posts on this, I was lamenting the shitty, off the shelf human resources website that most schools with on-line applications seem to use. But what about the departments that don’t use the shitty, off the shelf human resources website? I’ll get to some more general comments later, but for now let me make one complaint.

Most schools ask you to fill in information about who your letter writers are. I mean, that information is already on your CV, but it makes sense to fill it in again. I assume departments want that information in a nice, standardized, readable form, because they’re going to skim it over and look for letters from people they know or respect.

But one department—honestly, I can’t remember which one—asked for my letter writers’ e-mail addresses too. And then, when I submitted my application, it sent each of my letter writers an automatically generated e-mail, telling them to get their letters in. Yes, it spammed my committee.

Look, I’m not accustomed to getting up in people’s faces about the treatment of senior faculty, because on the whole, they’re treated pretty fucking well. But in this case, whoever that department is, you need to cut that shit out. Seriously. My committee has better things to do with their time than clearing your fucking spam out of their inboxes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What the photo fails to capture is the abject fear and desperation in the air.

The Eastern APA—the December conference where most of the hot job market action goes down—is legendarily stressful for job market candidates. But a special kind of APA hell is the smokers. Smokers are nightly cocktail parties held in the conference hotel’s ballroom. (Apparently they used to be really smoky, back in the day. You know. Back when people used to smoke. We’re nothing if not creative with our naming, we philosophers.)

The purpose of the smokers is to give job candidates an opportunity to mingle, in a more informal setting, with people from the departments that are looking to hire them. But the thing is, most philosophers don’t do informal so well. We’re perfectly capable of ripping each other new assholes in formal situations, like when we’re commenting on each other’s work and whatnot. But we're not so good with the mundane chitchat. Especially not when the stakes are so high.

I had to be all surreptitious in taking this photo, so there’s not much in it that’s recognizable. But you can sort of make out the suits and nametags. And the complete lack of women. Imagine, if you will, a room full of thousands of socially retarded academics, sipping warm shitty beer, and trying their very hardest to make small-talk. “Awkward” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Worn me down like a road, I did everything you told

Note to journal editors: If you want me to prepare a manuscript for blind review, you should tell me that. Also, you should absolutely not send me a style guide that tells me explcitly to put my name and contact info in all caps directly under the title of my paper. Because that's not very blind, is it now?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Time to Get on the Internet, Take Stock of What I've Done II

Yesterday, I talked a little about on-line job applications, and about the shitty, off the shelf human resources web-site than most schools use. Let me pick up where I left off.

When you’ve filled out all the various questions about your past criminal dealings, you actually get to submit your application. Super. It ought to be easy, right? You just upload the various pieces of your application package as attachments.

The thing is, this shitty, off the shelf human resources web-site was obviously designed by someone who has some serious OCD issues about on-line communication. You need to imagine our human resources guru sitting in his cubicle and working himself into a nervous fit about sending a spreadsheet to his to boss. “The “attach file” field says the file is attached, but what if it really isn’t? How can you know for sure? Oh, sweet Jesus, there’s no way to know for sure. There’s no way to know for sure.”

So, when our man got the gig designing the shitty, off the shelf human resources web-site, he made damn sure us applicants wouldn’t have to go through the sweaty-palmed horror he knew so well. Consider how files must be attached. You start with your first file, say, your cover letter. Then:

Step 1. You browse for your cover letter and you find it.

Step 2. Like with the crappier webmail applications, even when you have the file in the “attach file” field, you have to click a separate button to attach the file. You click. You think you must be done, but you’re very, very wrong.

Step 3. You get a pop-up window asking you if you really want to attach the file. (Our man thinks this little baby is a nice touch.) Of course you want to attach it, so you click to confirm.

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for every document in your application, going through the process 5 to 7 more times. Now you’re done, right? Oh, no. Not by a long shot. Because this is just where our man really started to work his magic.

Step 4. Click to confirm that you’ve uploaded everything you want to upload. Surely, this has to be the end. But no.

Step 5. Your last click takes you to a page where you're invited to make changes to what you've uploaded. You know, in case you just now realized your file called “CV-Dec 2006.rtf” is in fact one of the more experimental chapters in your erotic autobiography. Of course you don’t want to make any changes. Why the fuck would you? It was hard enough to get this fucking far. So you confirm that you’re application’s complete.

Congratulations, you're half an hour closer to death. Now you just need to do it again for the other five on-line applications you’re doing today.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Time to Get on the Internet, Take Stock of What I've Done I

I've complained at various points about the amount of work that goes into each application. One of the most surprisingly labor-intensive parts of the process for me was endless list of on-line applications. I just had fantod-inducing flashbacks of this as I stared in paralyzed confusion at the 11-page on-line submissions process for a journal I'm sending a paper to.

The thing about on-line applications is, they mean that even when you have your application package complete, an application still isn't a simple matter of stuffing an envelope and getting it in the mail. No, the first thing you need to do is create an account on the application web-site. And--this is one of the really puzzling parts--even though the overwhelming majority of schools use the same shitty, off-the-shelf human resources web-site, you need to create a new account for each school you're applying to.

When you have your user name, the next thing is to answer pages and pages of questions. I mean, there's the stuff you'd expect--name, school, department's address, your e-mail, that sort of thing. But this shitty, off-the-shelf human resouces web-site is pretty clearly what schools use for applications for any and all jobs at the university, which means most of the questions you have to answer are pretty fucking stupid in the context of an application for an academic position.

Here's a couple of examples. Almost all the schools have questions about whether you have any relatives working at the university. Okay, so they're worried about nepotism. Fine, but you know what? I don't think anyone's going to get hired as the new assisstant professor of philosophy because his uncle works for the groundskeeping crew.

The questions about your criminal record are even better. Do you have a criminal record? If so, what's it for? A little light drunk-driving would be fine, they seem to imply. But if you got caught with your pants down in a broom closet with a Sunday-school kid, that's another story.

Next-time: You thought uploading attachements was easy. . . .