Friday, November 30, 2007
Thanks to people who've chipped in with thoughts on teaching questions. In the next couple of days I'll try to put together some sort of summary of what people have been saying.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I've talked about how last year the Old World Septuagenarian and Evil Columbo were precisely no help at all in prepping us for interviews with teaching schools. The problem is, faculty in a department like mine are pretty much totally out of touch with what rural branch campuses or even some liberal arts colleges are looking for in a philosopher. The junior faculty are better on this stuff only in the sense that they're dimly aware there might be something here they don't know about. After all, it's not like most of them even applied to the kinds of jobs me and office mates might actually get interviews for.
So last year I got killed in the interview I had with a teaching school. (Tune in next week for a grisly account of the bloody carnage.) I don't want to killed again this year. I want to be prepped for those interviews. I want to be starting my prep for those interviews now. But how the hell am I going to do that?
Well, right now my plan is this: abjectly begging for help. If anyone with experience on a teaching school's search committee wants to tell us in comments what sorts of teaching questions you like to ask, please, please do. If anyone remembers getting hard teaching questions as a candidate, leave those too. And if we ask nicely, maybe we could get Inside the Philosophy Factory to put her grading down long enough to weigh in over at her place?
One more thing. I'm especially interested in questions that aren't "How would you teach such-and-such a course?" questions. Those are the teaching questions that research schools ask, so they're the ones even my faculty knows about. What I don't know is, well, anything else about any other kind of teaching question. Little help please? Please?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I have to admit, I'm sort of torn about them. I've complained before about how philosophy's a snowy-white sausage party. I think that's a really bad thing, and I think schools' efforts to change it are really good things.
On the other hand, some--not all, but some--of those forms take a significant chunk of time, and when all's said and done I'll be looking at over 80 of those forms to fill out. And--how best to put this?--I'm fucking busy right now. Last year, I spent maybe an hour doing them before I threw in the towel and just chucked the rest in the garbage. What's more, they can cost more than time. PJMB reader T alerts me to the fact that Memphis' form doesn't even come with the return postage paid. Sweet Jesus, that's cheap.
So the real question is, what happens if we don't fill them out? The consensus in this Chronicle thread seems to be, probably nothing. But some people think a search can get canceled if not enough of the forms get returned. And, you know, there is that thing where I'm actually committed to making philosophy look a little less like a boys-only Donnie Osmond fan club.
So fuck it. I guess that means I have fill out the fucking forms, doesn't it? How about this? I'll fill out the forms if they don't take more than 30 second each and they don't cost me anything.
Oh, and they might end up smelling like Jim Beam too, since filling them out isn't a job that needs to get done sober.
Monday, November 26, 2007
This must be one of those things civilians find bizarre about the academic job market. By the time we're interviewing for jobs, we don't even know how to dress ourselves. And then, instead of just figuring it out like sane human beings, we go bat-shit crazy.
But the bat-shitiness doesn't just come out of nowhere. I can feel myself seizing on the clothes issue because it's one of the only god-damned things I can control about this process. Everything I've worked towards for years, everything I want for my professional life--everything--comes down to a process that seems as indifferent to my efforts as the tide to a king's order that it not rise. So I freak out about what font to use on my CV and what to wear for interviews.
That, and I start prepping for interviews like a motherfucker.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I just used priceline to book a hotel for the APA, and it turns out that I got the official APA spillover hotel, the Renaissance Harborplace, with a bid price of $75 (rather than the $120 or whatever the APA rate is for a single). Note also that while priceline only guarantees one bed, nothing should stop someone booking a room through priceline from putting two, three or four people in a room.
A couple things to note for first time priceline users: bid for a four star in the Baltimore Waterfront zone. Start low, around 60 or 65 bucks. If your bid is rejected, add one other Baltimore zone at a time to get the chance to rebid, and up your bid $5 or so. So long as you're only bidding on a four star, you needn't worry about getting stuck in another area of the city, since no other area of the city has a four star hotel that has a contract with Priceline. There is no guarantee you'll get the Renaissance Harborplace, but whatever you get will be a four star in the area. (A friend of mine just followed this advice however and got the Renaissance for a $75 bid.) Finally, a very important note: You have to pay up front with priceline, can't cancel, and have to show up in person with ID and a credit card. That means if you get no APA interviews or whatever you're stuck with the room.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Now I need to start prepping for the interviews I might very well not have.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Since PGOAT's been talking about what women have to wear for interviews, I figure I should pass along the best advice I got last year about how to dress. Committee Member #3 told me two things. First, you need to be comfortable. But second--and this is the really important thing--your outfit has to be completely forgettable. A search committee shouldn't be able to remember a single thing about what you were wearing when they're talking over your interview afterwards.
So how do you dress forgettably? My sense last year was, a suit's not going to cut it. They're way too dressy for guys. (Not so for women, who can wear a suit with an open-collared shirt and no tie.) The guys in suits at the APA stick out like they're wearing Hallowe'en costumes. Actually, it's worse than that, because they're wearing costumes, but it's not even Hallowe'en. They're wearing Hallowe'en costumes to job interviews, for god's sake.
So it's got to be a sport coat and tie. Anything less than that and you'll be the under-dressed guy.
So what kind of sport coat and tie? It can't be the awesome vintage ultra-suede coat you picked up at the Goodwill for $15. I know, I hear you--that's a really sweet coat. But it's not going to be to completely forgettable, is it? Seriously. Think about how philosophers dress. If you wear something that's actually cool, you might as well get a tattoo on your forehead that says, "Do not hire me to be a philosopher, because I am plainly not one."
What says, "I'm a philosopher! Hire me!"? Well, obviously you could get the job done with a shitty old sport coat that's two sizes too big because it was fitted when Reality Bites was still in theaters, jauntily paired with your alma mater's tie. And if you want to really trick that look out, you can wear huge glasses too. Because they make you look like an owl. Which makes you look wise. Which philosophers should be.
But even at the APA, we have to cling to some small measure of dignity, don't we? So put on a nice but understated sport coat and a nice but understated tie, and you'll blend right in. Which is exactly what you want to do.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
True. But the philosophy job wiki says a couple of schools have contacted people about interviews already, and that's not helping me keep my shit together. Is it already time to start checking the wiki every fifteen minutes, every hour of every god damned day?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
So this one time a few years ago a colleague of mine was observing my teaching. Debriefing over beers later on, I'd thought the class had gone fairly well. He had a few minor tweaks to suggest. Making sure to call on people from both sides of the classroom. Some tips on how to get that guy to STFU. That sort of thing. Nothing big. But then he said, "Oh, and every time you turn your back to write on the board the entire class can see your thong."
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
And it cost me money. A lot of money. $24 for two sets of transcripts printed while I waited, and then $28.50 to get them sent overnight to the exotic foreign post-doc locale to make a hard deadline. So today's costs put me at $449.48 for the year.
God damn, that's really starting to hurt.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Anon. #1 says,
My undergrad did not have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, so I had no opportunity to enter the PBK guild. I did however, previously work at BK. That is, I was previously a Burger King employee. So I am somewhat PBK. But I doubt that makes me PBK enough for Mississippi philosophy.To which Liberal Arts Prof. adds,
I, too, am PBK! Post Burger King. God, I hated that job. My last day I spilled the the old fryer grease all over the floor because my bozo of a manager left the plug undone. I think I quit rather than spend my break cleaning it up. My god, what hellish memories you bring back. Starkville would be much better.But the final word goes to Anon #2:
I feel a little sorry for them if it's true that they're being strong-armed by the university administration, but I also think that they deserve to get a good deal of Burger King-related prank mail, just to remind them of how retarded their job advertisement is.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I can't remember the last time I had that much fun spending $76.61.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
My success rate was about 50% for the rejection letters on my first TT search. I was a post-doc at the time, and made a 'wall of shame' in my office on which I stapled all the letters.
To be clear, when this guy says "success rate" he means he actually got a rejection letter from a school, instead of getting nothing at all.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Jesus. I haven't even paid for my share of an APA hotel room yet.
Friday, November 16, 2007
, MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY , MS. Contingent upon funding. Asst. or Assoc. Prof., tenure-track. 3 courses per semester, usual non-teaching duties, research and publication expected. AOS: Open, but the department has special interests in aesthetics, bioethics, philosophy of religion or history and philosophy of science. AOC: History of philosophy. Applicant must be a member of PBK, able to teach full range of introductory-- Starkville
Wait. What? Applicants must be a member of Phi Beta Kappa? You might think, what the fuck for?
In fact, that's exactly what I did think when I read that ad. Now, via a trusted friend of PJMB comes word that, yes, applicants must be members of PBK. Apparently
Now get a load of PBK, with real class, bragging about how exclusive they are:
Only about 10 percent of the nation's institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters.
Only about 10 percent of the arts and sciences graduates of these distinguished institutions are selected for Phi Beta Kappa membership.
What does this mean for
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Now imagine a fifth of Yale's med school grads never got jobs as doctors. Imagine a quarter of Chicago's law school grads never got jobs as lawyers. How do you think people would talk about those job markets? How do you think med and law students outside the top-10 would think about that market? Even at good schools, say, Minnesota and North Carolina? Why, I bet those students would be losing their shit pretty much all the time, wouldn't they? I bet it'd take a couple of ounces of Ballantine's and an hour of Brian Eno every night to keep their hands from shaking and their eyes from losing focus.
But in philosophy we don't need to imagine. That's our job market for real.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
And so. What to wear on the job market? We'll start with the shoes.
If you ever find yourself needing something to do during a particularly dry APA conference session--having already counted all the ceiling tiles, perhaps--try counting the Danksos on women's feet. You'd think we got a SWIP discount on these puppies. They're everywhere. It makes me happy. I kind of can't make myself wear anything else. They're seriously comfortable, but still shoes you can get by wearing with a suit. (Or so I try to convince myself.)
Don't get me wrong--I know it's important to present a professional-looking image when we're trying to convince the old boys that maybe a lady colleague won't spell the end of the world as they know it. (Heh. Little do they know... .) I really should wear proper dress shoes. But I'll have enough on my plate in Baltimore trying to avert the fantods; the last thing I'll need is sore feet.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
First, there seems to be some confusion about Inside Man's pseudonymity, and me and PGOAT have to take the blame for that. To be clear, me and PGOAT know him personally from philosophy circles we all run in. So we both know the rank of his program. More to the point, we both know he's heartbreakingly honest when it comes to telling grad students about how the market works, and his honesty has everything to do with him looking out for our best interests. But now that I think of it, there's a reason reporters tell you a little information about their anonymous sources, and if we'd done the same here, that probably could have headed off a lot of confusion. So mea culpa.
Of course, PGOAT and me are pseudonymous, so maybe us giving Inside Man our cred doesn't mean much to you. Fair enough. I can't say much to that. Lucky for me though, Leiter's been good enough to confirm pretty much everything Inside Man's said about how search committees use writing samples early on in the search process. I.e., if they get looked at all, they don't get looked at much. (Leiter also wants to deny some things Inside Man didn't say, but whatever. Didn't Bertrand Russell say no great philosopher has ever really understood anything written by another great philosopher? Maybe. Who's Bertrand Russell again?)
As for our pseudonymity, and the anonymity in comments, we're going to keep that. There are some things the profession won't let us say out loud. But just because we can't say them, that doesn't mean they're not true. Yes, there's a place for moderated discussion in moderate tones. It can be useful. But moderated discussion in moderate tones isn't so good at capturing the irrationality--both comic and emotionally brutal--of the job market. This shit isn't all like a day at the Lyceum. Good days are like an Ionesco play, and bad ones are like Kafka. So if people want to talk about the absurdity, the bad faith and the bullshit, this is the place for that.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Let me give you some background. When people in my department send out applications, we have to give the department secretary a stack of addressed envelopes, so she doesn't have to do anything besides photocopy our letters, put them in the envelopes, and drop everything in campus mail. If we don't give her an envelope with an address on it, she doesn't send letters.
Fine. But this weekend, one of my officemates told me this story. The secretary cornered her last week, showed her an envelope, and asked her if it was hers. The secretary figured it might be, because it was addressed to a school doing a search for something my officemate does. My officemate didn't think it was hers and, thank god, realized it was probably mine, since we're applying for jobs in some of the same areas.
But then my officemate asked the secretary where the envelope came from. Apparently, it came from behind the fridge in the department kitchen. Yes, behind the fucking fridge.
How the fuck did my envelope get back there? The kitchen's nowhere near the office. Was the secretary taking my envelopes for a walk when she was looking for a snack? I mean, I guess that envelope got found, so those letters are going to go out. But are there more of my envelopes lost around the department? Do I need to start looking under the microwave to find more? Or behind the toilet in the women's can, in case the secretary decided to take a pile in there for god knows what reason?
I swear to fucking god, this is not what I need to be worrying about right now.
You’re an excellent undergraduate. You apply to lots of departments and get in everywhere. Your advisors tell you about the Leiter rankings, and you choose to go to a highly ranked department. If students tend to act like you, higher-ranked departments will have better incoming graduate students. In addition, one learns a great deal in graduate school from one’s peers, and graduate students at higher-ranked departments will generally get more out of their peers (since their peers were better coming in). So one would expect graduate students coming out of higher-ranked departments to be better—even if there is no correlation between the Leiter rankings and how good the faculty are at training graduate students. This is why I tell prospective graduate students to look at the Leiter rankings, and it’s why I take them into account in assessing applications. It’s not about prestige: it’s that I think that there’s reason to think that, other things being equal, students coming out of higher-ranked departments will be better. (This is a pretty weak claim and doesn’t justify chucking the file of someone from a non-Leiterrific department with three publications in Phil Studies in favor of the file of someone from a Leiterrific department with no publications. Not that I would do that.)
(PGOAT reminds me that, given my reasons for taking the Leiter rankings into account, I should pay attention to a department’s ranking over time, including when the student was deciding. But that’s a pain, so I tend to just assume that the rankings are more or less stable over time.)
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I bet that's going to work out great. Because everybody in HPS is going to scramble for a job at a school named for the Vatican enforcer who told Galileo, "The sun revolves around the earth--or else."
What's particularly annoying about the contingent faculty experience is the yearly ritual of meeting the new kids coming straight out of fancy programs with no teaching ability and no publishing record being interviewed for the job you've been fighting to get and will never have an interview for. I have nothing against them, but inevitably one or more of them will get the tenure track job, life will seem easy, and inevitably they'll start treating the contingent faculty as if they suffer from some sort of mild mental handicap. Because, you know, if you weren't mentally handicapped, you'd have a tenure track job or something.
Update at 12:54: Okay, it looks like the APA's server hamsters are back in their wheels and running at a decent pace. Maybe someone could get them some carrots or something?
Friday, November 9, 2007
But academia doesn't work that way. Yeah, it's not like an inside hire's never happened. But this, from the Chronicle forums, is dead on:
My favorite metaphor for this scenario is old whore/wife comparison. As an adjunct for these years, you have been their whore. They like you, they like the "service" you provide them, but they will never commit to you. They can't see you as "wife" material.
But my friend has got a good paper out, and his students and colleagues do like him. And yeah, he's worked himself into the ground for their department. So it's hard not to keep my hopes for the guy in check.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
So I’ve been reading PGS and friends gripe, in a sympathy-eliciting sort of way, about how hard it is to get hired. I’m not trying to get hired this year. (I already have a job, thank you very much.) But my department is trying to hire this year, and I’m on the M&E search committee. So I thought it was time for someone to gripe, in a sympathy-eliciting sort of way, about how hard it is to hire. But I realize that it will be well-nigh impossible to elicit sympathy, from those who are trying to get hired, for those who are trying to hire. So I won’t try to elicit sympathy. Instead, I thought I would do something else: namely, induce panic, despair, angst, ennui, etc. by telling those who are trying to get hired what those who are trying to hire actually do.
I’m at a Leiterespectable department that has aspirations of being Leiterrific. Our deadline was last week, and we’ve received hundreds of applications. We’ll be holding a series of meetings over the next month to come up with a list of a dozen or so candidates that we want to interview at the APA. The first step is to rule out all but 50 or so of the applications. Each file will get looked at by more than one committee member. We’re responsible like that. But on what basis do you think that we will rule out all but 50 or so of the applications? I’ll give you a clue: it doesn’t involve reading any writing samples. It’s not that we’re not required to read any writing samples. Nor is it that some irresponsible committee members won’t read writing samples. It’s that we’re all encouraged not to read any part of any candidate's writing sample at this stage.
That’s right, boys and girls. I know you’ve been slaving away at your writing samples for months now. I just wanted to tell you that, if other departments are anything like ours, chances are that most of the departments that reject you will reject you without reading your work. (Whether this is better, or worse, than being rejected by someone who has read your work, I don’t know.) You may get indignant if you like. I’m just here to tell you how things actually work.
Don’t shoot the messenger. If you shoot the messenger, I won’t come back and tell you about all the other horrible things that we do.
Update: Heh. Whoops. I totally just outed myself for thinking today was Friday, not Thursday. I'm so awesome. I can't believe how awesome I am. Frazzled, much?
Keep movin' folks. Nothing to see here. It's not polite to point and laugh at the crazy philosopher lady who's making an ass of herself in front of her esteemed colleagues.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
One minute I'm convinced I'm a philosophical fraud: I'm a total retard and my dossier is a piece of shit and I'm utterly unqualified for these jobs and I'm not going to get even a single interview. And then the next minute I look at the addresses on the envelopes and freak out because I don't even want most of these jobs: I don't want to live in Assfuck, Nowhere and I don't want to teach a 5-5 to hordes of mouth-breathing douchebags whose deepest philosophical conviction is that thinking deep thoughts probably makes you a faggot.
The best part is how talking myself down from one tends to bring on a fit of the other.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
But this e-mail, which was sent to PJMB friend (and non-philosopher) D, makes me think grade-school dating metaphors might be better. . . .
Hello! [Seriously. An exclamation point. --PGS]Let me introduce myself; I'm [Weirdly Non-committal Prof] and I Chair this year's search at the [Better Than Decent State University]. We are very interested in your application. . . . If you were offered an interview, what's your availability between [such and such date and such and such date]?
[Weirdly Non-committal Prof.]
Monday, November 5, 2007
At this point, I'm not even sure what I want to say exactly. I guess the first thing is, what Sisyphus said. In my program, like hers, it's taken for granted that we take whatever job we can get. And then, it's taken for granted that at least some of us are going to start looking around for something that fits a little a better--somewhere with better support for teaching and research, somewhere closer to family, a solution to a two-body problem, whatever.
But there's something else that's been bugging me about this, and I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is. I have no idea if what follows is going to make any fucking sense.
The thing is, last year's market kicked the shit out me. Getting rejected blithely, casually, without even enough fucking consideration to put my name on a god-damned PFO, over and over and over again--that was profoundly dehumanizing. And after that, I just don't have a lot of sympathy for senior faculty saying it's wrong for junior hires to move up when the senior faculty were perfectly happy to use that dehumanizing process to get the best hire they could.
No, I'm not blaming individual departments for the way the job market works. It is what it is. But we all take the good with the bad.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Total spent so far this year: $365.66.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Holy fucking shit.
The problem is that it isn't always clear how we should interpret a teaching portfolio, nor is it easy to sort out many of the portfolios I've seen.
So, the letter could say something like,
"As my enclosed teaching portfolio explains in detail, I have 3 years teaching experience, 2 of them at XX College the most diverse community college in the state. I also fulfil X, Y and Z stated requirement, as my CV and requested transcrips can verify" --
The thing is, the committees I've been on have worked very hard at writing an ad that actually states what we need to see from a candidate. Due to the number of applications, the initial review is very quick... if it isn't clear that you meet our minimum qualifications (and you'd be suprised at who thinks they can teach philosophy... ), and then if it isn't clear how you meet our preferred qualifications, we aren't going to go reading the tea leaves to figure it out.
The purpose of the letter is to give a hint as to why you are qualified -- and if the hint is "see page 4, paragraph 2" [i.e. of the teaching portfolio --PGS] -- that is sufficient.
[. . .]
When answering the diversity question, remember that there are a variety of ways it can be successfully negotiated... while still being a white male :).
1) I taught X population at my school.
2) I went to y school, which is very diverse
3) I cover a, b, c (religious, cultural, gender, age) diversity issues in my class
4) I have taught both older and younger students.
5) I have taught recent immigrants
6) I was an immigrant
7) My experience living abroad was...
8) I was a non-traditional student during x period.
9) I speak 3 languages
10) I was involved in X student activity/committee/public event, which was involved in diversity issues on my campus.
I'll be writing cover letters today and tomorrow and this is going to be a huge help. Inside the Philosophy Factory--massive thanks from me, and no doubt from others too.
Okay, now I have to get ready to hole up in the photocopy room and kill me some trees.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Putting aside issues of mission statements and department character and all that crap, this is something else I just don't get. I have a teaching portfolio--one I put a fuck of a lot of effort into--that says pretty much everything I can think of saying about my teaching experience, abilities and interests. It's got my teaching philosophy, descriptions of the courses I've taught and some of the courses I want to teach, a few student comments on my courses and abilities, and (I think) a very readable chart summarizing all my student evals. What else can I put in the letter? What else is there to say?
So a department asking me to talk about my teaching in my letter is going to have a choice to make when they get my application. They can get what they're looking for out of my teaching portfolio. Or, like the departments A Guy on Hiring Committees was talking about, they can toss my application because it has a generic cover letter that doesn't fit their exact specifications. If they think a good way to gauge candidates' interest is by insisting they jump through exactly the hoops they say, it's probably not a place I want to work anyway. I eat enough of that shit as a grad student.
ItPF, am I out of line here?