Tuesday, September 4, 2007

This One's Optimistic

A couple of months ago I ran across a philosophy department claiming:
the Philosophy job market is just now beginning to change from conditions of severe shortage of jobs to ones where, in a few years, there will likely be a shortage of candidates.

At the time I asked, "where the fuck does anyone get the idea there's ever going to be a shortage of candidates?" Well, maybe this is part of the answer. This piece in the Chronicle points to a 1989 report by William G. Bowen and Julie Ann Sosa. The Chronicle's original article about the report opened with this lede:

The arts and sciences face severe faculty shortages in the future, especially in the humanities and social sciences, a new study has found.

"Severe faculty shortages"? Wow. And that's under a headline that says, "Big Faculty Shortages Seen in Humanities and Social Sciences." Apparently Bowen and Sosa's big idea was that lots of faculty were due to retire in the late '90s, leaving buckets of jobs for everybody. I guess it didn't work out that way.

Was this a common thing to think in the late '80s? It's hard for me to understand where that kind of optimism could come from.


Himself said...

Why would white, male undergraduates be interested in the problems of women and minorities? Much easier for them to get into philosophical problems that have nothing to do with the problems faced by less privileged people in real life.

Jon Cogburn said...

Oops, himself, you meant to post that in reference to the next article.

When I was an undergraduate in the late 1980's I remember hearing alternately that there was about to be a big wave of retirements and that the number of undergraduates was about to go up.

I don't know if those demographic pressures were real. If they were, they've more than been made up by: (1) increase in non-tenure track professors (at this point less than half of all college teachers are tenured or tenure track, (2) getting rid of the mandatory retirement age in universities (which I think happened in the late 80's), (3) the slow assault on the traditional humanities (in the 1970's there were nine hundred something Philosophy B.A. granting departments, and by the 1990's there were six hundred something). I don't know how much philosophy got killed by colleges becoming more less about a balanced education and more about career training (something that's destroyed the humanities as demonstrably useless professional schools like MBA programs and communications departments have sucked up tons of money), and how much philosophy has gotten squeezed by the growth of interdisciplinary programs that now grant undergraduate degrees (at my university the biggest major in the humanities is something horrible called "general studies," and they keep making new majors such as "international studies"). I suspect much more the former.

Philosopher for hire said...

This is probably the worst advice ever for philosophy grad students. Kudos SFU, kudos.

Anonymous said...

"Apparently Bowen and Sosa's big idea was that lots of faculty were due to retire in the late '90s, leaving buckets of jobs for everybody. I guess it didn't work out that way."

The Chronicle article you point to says that as a consequence of this report, grad schools boosted enrollment considerably, and so the shortage never materialized. I don't know if this is true, of course.

DR said...

I don't know about the '80s, but it was fairly common in the mid-90s. A friend of mine kept thinking (several years running) that next year would be the one when the job market really opened up. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Initially the argument for mandatory retirement was the "new blood" line (advanced by the boomers pushing their way in).

Now that depts simply see it as losing a position (since no replacements are automatic), and the baby-boomers contine to make institutions bend to their wills, mandatory retirement has no backing. An English prof of my acquaintance mentioned how there was "few anticipated problems" in his dept when their Shakespearian retire. "Few anticipated problems", meaning an ENGLISH dept didn't want to (or couldn't) assume an automatic line for SHAKESPEARE any more!

Thus ends any desire from the boomers to "make way" for the young crowd...

--New Scotland