Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Or Hit the Desk And Fill Out Forms For Days

If you're like me, you've got many, many, affirmative action forms on your desk right now. I'd go so far as to say it's a fuckload of affirmative action forms. For those who don't know, most (all?) schools send out forms or little postcards to all us job applicants. We're supposed to fill them out, specifying whether we're Pacific Island Natives or over 65 or whatever. Then we're supposed to send them back to the university, so they can try to make sure their job ads are attracting a diverse enough applicant pool.

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.


Anonymous said...

I am not filling out the forms that I have to pay for either. I wonder if the institutions that make one pay are really serious about getting the data back.

Sisyphus said...

Yup, the more work they make me do, the less likely I am to send 'em in.

The best ones for me are the emails they send that have a link to some hr webpage and I can just click on it. But if they send me a paper letter, I ain't gonna bother typing in some long web address. Ditto with the forms that get sent without any SASE.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you get 80 of them -- I think only some schools are doing that thing. (Or if every school is, I should be really freaked out about whether the postal service delivered all my applications...)

What amuses me are the forms a few places are apparently required by law to send you about the crime rate on campus and in the local town.

Hopeful Philosopher said...

got to move up in the world. In the spirit of dress for the job you want I think you should drink for the job you want...

Knob Creek my friend...

Anonymous said...

I understand giving them the shaft when they put you out pretty considerably given the circumstances by asking you to buy an envelope and stamps. Just how fucking lazy do you have to be to bitch and moan about "typing in some long web address"? Imagine if they asked you to do it while standing up...the nerve.

Anonymous said...


we are trying to put you out of a job. Please fill out this form so we can exclude more of your type. Kindly put a stamp on it.

Your Local Diversity Professional"

Anonymous said...

They should all be done online. Overseas applicants and those in Canada would probably have to pay $1 each to return those forms, given that even when postage is pre-paid it's pre-paid only from US postal boxes.

Anonymous said...

If BJK would look around himself for even 2 seconds, he'd notice that white males are not now, nor have they ever been, excluded from American philosophy departments.

The thing that kills me about these equal opportunity forms is that I am trying to put the fact that I have half a million job applications sitting on various desks or in various (possibly round) files throughout the country out of my mind. So I won't have to pull out all my hair or swallow poison. But every day there are 3 more EO/AA forms, reminding me to either pull out my hair or swallow poison.

Nate said...

What Doug said!

Anonymous said...

"If BJK would look around himself for even 2 seconds, he'd notice that white males are not now, nor have they ever been, excluded from American philosophy departments."

That's right...Let's go diversity & pluralism over genuine competency and merit any day of the week...and twice on Sundays.

Give'em hell, BJK.

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on with the white male angst. As we all know from personal/anecdotal experience, there is a glut of qualified candidates relative to available jobs. It's not like women or people of color are getting jobs for which they aren't qualified. And as Doug said, it's not like the white men are hurting. I'm a dept that's considered to have a strong female presence because approximately 20% of the faculty (and slightly less of the students) are women. And we are all - every last one of us - white.

Anonymous said...

while discussing the dearth of black philosophers one day, a professor of mine noted (not without humor, mind you):

"black people have historically (a) been ostracized from the general community, (b) not taken seriously at an intellectual level, and (c) been stuck in jobs wherein they make little money...so why in the name of God would they want to enter into a profession wherein they are (a) ostracized from the general community, (b) not take seriously at an intellectual level (by anyone outside of their discipline), and (c) they will make little money!"

trite. but still sorta' funny. as a philosopher myself, i can definitely see his point. just watch non-philosopher's eyes glaze over when you tell them what you do for a living...

Anonymous said...

"It's not like women or people of color are getting jobs for which they aren't qualified."

No. This _never_ happens. Absolutely correct.

Anonymous said...

Hell, its _never_ happened to a white guy either...

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand why anyone would be complicit in their own marginalization. If the powers that be want to exclude you because you're white and male, perhaps you should suck it up and defer to their greater wisdom and authority. I certainly wouldn't cooperate, though. Diversity is fine, as long as it's on your time.

Anonymous said...

BJK and others...

I get around to conferences where you'd expect to meet many of the "people of color" in our profession.

Including me , I know of two other persons of color on the market this year.

I hope we don't steal all your jobs!

Anonymous said...

I was a bit put off by BJK's comment as well, but some of the replies to BJK make an important error, I think.

It does not follow from:

white men get most of the jobs

that individual white men have not lost a job for reasons of affirmative action.

We might take it that an important social end is served by affirmative action and that discriminating against a white man on the basis of his sex and race is justified. That's a reasonable position -- it is at least capable of reasonable defence, even if you don't agree with it. But it is obviously false to say that no particular white man should care about AA on the grounds that white men get most of the jobs.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the point of affirmative action that white men *already* have an advantage. If all racism and sexism were eradicated then there would be no need for affirmative action, would there?

Anonymous said...

What do we mean by "qualified"?

(1) It is either true or false that people of different races and genders have unique perspectives on philosophical issues in virtue of being people of different races and genders.

Assume (1) is true.

(2) It is either true or false that having people of different races and genders in a faculty adds value to the overall quality of the faculty given (1).

Assume (2) is true.

A hiring committee from University X considers two candidates P and Q.

Judging strictly by the preparation expected by the committee members, P ranks higher than Q. Let's quantify the ranks. P gets 235 quality points (based on quality of his GPA, quality of his program, quality of his publications, quality of his letters, etc.). By the same criteria, Q has earned 200 quality points.

P, however, is a white male and University X's philosophy faculty is all white and mostly male.

Q, on the other hand, is a Hispanic female (one of the most underrepresented groups in academia).

Now, if (1) and (2) above are true and this particular department has very little diversity, then, it seems, that more points are to be added in Q's favor. How many points? Who knows? It's pretty subjective, but I would think the value of the differing perspective could warrant a good 40 quality points, thereby making Q the more preferable.

Is this really a bad thing?


Related: A professor in my (very unLeiterrific) department said that our department has a really hard time attracting minorities because any person from a particularly underrepresented group who has any kind of credible qualifications gets snapped up by "better" departments leaving only those who are patently un- or under-qualified for the job. We've done okay with hiring women (4 of 11 are women; all in ethics), but there are no persons of color.

What is a lowly-ranked department to do?

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what affirmative action is and how these EO/AA forms are used. BJK and Anons 7:32 and 7:58, I'm talking to you.

These forms are not used to racially profile applicants in order to ensure that a non-white-male gets the job. They are used by the Equal Opportunity office at the relevant college or university, in compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to ensure that the search committee performed its job in a non-discriminatory manner. This is consistent with hiring the best-qualified candidate, even if it's a white male. You're not in any danger. If you look around yourself for even 2 seconds, you will realize that philosophy departments are permitted to hire as many white males as they please.

Furthermore, even if they were used in that way, even if white males do occasionally get the Affirmative Action shaft, this unfairness--while real--in no way compares to the unfairness of the racism and sexism that is still present in our profession, even in this new millennium. Concrete examples of these prejudices exist on this blog. Take a look around.

Furthermore, I don't consider myself to be participating in my own marginalization. As a white male, I don't consider myself to be marginalized at all. I've had and continue to have access to my fair share of opportunities. As a guy with a high-school diploma from a good school, a bachelor's in philosophy from a good college, and who is ABD in a top-25 philosophy Ph.D. program, I'm doing fine (although I'm pulling out my hair and considering swallowing poison--I cannot take this waiting).

If the fact that there exists a law in this country that forbids discriminatory hiring practices, that there exists a bureaucracy whose function is to check up on hiring committees to verify that their practices are non-discriminatory, and that hiring committees in fact make an effort not to discriminate threatens you, you are far too easily threatened. There is racism in this country, but you are not its target, and neither am I. An attempt by the government to mitigate the racism from which you have already benefitted does not count as discriminating against you. If you don't get hired this year, it will be because there were better applicants than you, not because you're white.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, Doug. The dark (if ass-roaringly funny) humor of this blog notwithstanding, it's comments like these that keep me coming back to this blog.

Anonymous said...

Doug, I'm anon 7:58, whom you accuse of misunderstanding how the forms are used and what AA is. I can't see how anything I said at 7:58 shows, let alone even suggests, I've misunderstood anything. All I was pointing out was that some of the responses to BJK made a basic logical mistake. I didn't say anything about how I thought the forms worked.


on a separate note, you rightly mentioned racism and sexism. I assume you're talking about in the US. They are much less of an issue in other places (and much more of an issue in yet some other places). I am curious to hear what you think of economic class.

This can be done in a comparison mode.

Candidate One: white guy who grew up in a mining town in shitville Alaska and went to State U.

Candidate Two: black guy who grew up in Manhattan attending private prep schools, etc., went to Amherst, etc.

Surely there is at least a reasonable case to be made for the claim that the class disadvantage of candidate one is equal to or greater than the race disadvantage of candidate two.

Anonymous said...

Those forms play absolutely no role in hiring decisions--and say so.

Occasionally some Dean suggests to the Hiring Committe either an AA hire or an AA interview; but Chairs can often get around them. In case of suggested AA interview, the Committee may slap on one or two AA candidates, who are then promptly dismissed.

I've heard of the Chair in one Dept. make the argument that people of East European descent count as ethnic minorities and attempted to satisfy the Dean by trying to hire one. No kidding.

In general, if you're a top candidate and happen to be either a woman or a minority, or both, you certainly do have a leg up. But it's being a top candidate to start with that gets you in, and not being either a woman or a minority. Especially since, in most cases, once the field has been narrowed to the top three finalists there is virtually no difference in qualification between them, to use gender or race as tie-breaker is at least not unfair. It's at least not as arbitrary as using sartorial appearance or level of body odor.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:58/9.29:

I thought your misunderstanding was that you appear to think that the EO/AA forms play an active role in the hiring process. As "tt assprof" (awesome name, btw) points out, they don't and they say so. The hiring committees don't see them. It's illegal for them to consider racial/gender/demographic factors in their deliberations. The EO/AA forms are used by an independent bureaucracy to ensure that the hiring committees comply with this law. But in order to know that, they have to know something about the demographic characteristics of the applicant pool. So they ask.

If I've misunderstood you, and you weren't an appropriate target of my earlier post, I apologize.

Anonymous said...

Since the comments have turned this into an affirmative action posting, let me ask a related question: why is it that so few departments send out rejection letters, after a hire has been made, that names the person hired? I've always liked those in the past when I got them: generally I say, yeah, no wonder I didn't get the job if that person was a candidate, so it makes me feel better than the generic HR claptrap. If you're interested you can always check the websites of departments: by around November they've generally updated them with new faculty.

My guess is that often departments are too lazy, or schools require the short and condescending letters. But I'll bet that sometimes departments are embarrassed by their hires, and don't want to trumpet them. Maybe department politics made them select their consensus fifth choice, but maybe it's the whole race/class/gender thing: either they're embarrassed they selected yet another white male (or a non-white non-male, in any case for questionable reasons).

I know of at least one case where the candidate who got the job looked like a carbon copy of me, except of a different ethnicity and slightly less impressive CV-wise (not as good a school, not as good publications). I didn't even get an interview. Maybe my letters say I'm an SOB, I don't know. I'm not saying there's unfairness here, but I am saying that it makes sense they wouldn't have trumpeted their choice given that doing so could have engenendered bad feelings, whereas using the two-sentence rejection letter just makes them look bureaucratically lazy.

Maybe questionable hiring practices of one sort or another makes departments embarrassed.

Nate said...

Anon 10:18

My sense is that Depts don't care about how we, unemployed ABDs and new PhDs, feel about their hires.

Also Doug again said exactly what was on my mind. Thanks Doug!

On a lighter note, I sent off a AA/EO form yesterday and it came back to me in the mail today. It turns out that the university, which graciously provide a stamped envelope, put my address on it! So I sent the form to myself.

Anonymous said...

Will regard to the anon@10:28. I think one simple explanation for why some schools do not name the successful candidate is that the hire is not official in many places until the President and University Board has signed off. That can happen as late as May (and rejection letters get sent out long before then). There might be some legal liability in disclosing the successful applicants name.

Before people go and get all panicky, the Board's approval is a rubber stamp. Once you get a contract and sign it, you can rest easy. I have never heard of a case of the President and Board overturning a lower level decision about an assistant prof hire (There have been cases in which senior hires have been overturned at the higher admin level -- these typically end up in court and are somewhat tricky; they turn on academic freedom issues). In any case, I don't think not naming the successful hire has anything to do with concerns re AA.

Anonymous said...

"I am curious to hear what you think of economic class."

Hell yeah! I didn't go to Amherst on daddy's trust fund. I worked. So I got B's in college. As a consequence, I got into a not so Leiterific grad school, etc. Why is it that poor white guys like myself don't get a leg up?

Anonymous said...

Some state schools in light of recent litigation have abandoned diversity scholarships in favour of ones based on economic hardship. Maybe this will help you sleep better at night, knowing that some inroads are being made into keeping those blue-blooded Amherstian A-makers from dominating the field. Every cause needs its martyrs.

Anonymous said...

With regard to the affirmative action forms: Sure, they don't cost me anything except about 1-2 minutes of my time (times 70ish), but it's the principle of the matter for me: all I've done is apply for a job. By applying, I've incurred no obligation to send back these damn forms. Of course, there are requirements for applying for a job (CV, letter, etc), but these do not (and cannot) require me to specify my gender, race, age, marital status, etc. With regard to the possibility that some HR departments may cancel a search, all I can say is that my demographic won't affect that decision as I won't contribute any diversity.

While these forms may not be used to profile candidates and pick out the underrepresented candidates, I know for a fact that the college that houses my philosophy department has stipulated that a hire can only happen if the prospect is in anunderrepresented group. I'm sure it's never on paper, of course, but always verbally declared.

Nate said...

"so why in the name of God would they want to enter into a profession wherein they are (a) ostracized from the general community, (b) not take seriously at an intellectual level (by anyone outside of their discipline), and (c) they will make little money!"

I am not sure if those are the reasons why people of color don't pursue careers in philosophy. I am a person of color, and I really can't say that any of these came to mind when weighing the pros and cons of going to grad school. And my friends didn't seem to take these issues into consideration when they decided not to go to grad school.

In fact, I remember thinking that making 50K a year was a pretty good wage. It was more money than my parents made in a year. Now I am concerned about the pay. But this is probably a concern that we all have, regardless of race.

I also think it is interesting how your professor qualified (b)2 as if to imply that we are immune to this bias in philosophy. Are we really?

Another comment, even if your professor is right about the reasons people of color don't pursue careers as academics. It still doesn't explain why philosophy compared to other disciplines in the humanities seems to do a terrible job of attracting them.

What's our problem? I've thought about this a lot over the last few years and I haven't really come up with a good answer.

Anonymous said...

Compare diversity in more continental programs vs. more analytic. Analytic philosophy (especially M&E) is more akin to math and science than the traditional humanties (English, History), and surprise surprise, it also looks to inherit the same problems as math and science when it comes to women and minorities. So whatever social goofiness is going on that pushes women out of science and math will also I suppose push them out of hardline analytic philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Doug at 11-28 9:02 AM for explaining this -- I was curious about exactly how these forms worked.

It seems like the universities are basically trying to make sure people don't just learn of job openings through some kind of old boys' network, with all the bad consequences for diversity that can have.

Whatever problems our discipline has, making sure everybody knows what jobs are out there doesn't seem to be one of them. The JFP puts all that in one central, public location for all to see.

Anonymous said...

if every school is, I should be really freaked out about whether the postal service delivered all my applications.

EO/AA offices work at very different speeds; you'll still be getting these cards in the spring, long after schools have failed to interview you at the APA. So don't freak out. About this.

Anonymous said...


it was meant as a light-hearted joke. i'm quite certain said professor wasn't quite dim enough to think that these were the _actual_ reasons for the dearth of minorities, such that he'd figured it out and eased his conscience about the matter...given the seriousness (and, i might add, self-righteousness) being expressed in relation to AA by some folks here, i figured i'd try to lighten the atmosphere just a little bit...um, i can see that was a dismal failure.

point blank: i don't see it as philosophy's (nor any other discipline's) _job_ to attempt to attract anyone other than those interested in philosophy. the very idea that a group gets together and ponders "ooohhh, we need some latino people" just makes me sick...why? because the assumption is that "latino people" - as a group - think differently and have different interests than other groups. it is, and ought to be, goddamned humiliating to people of color.

not directed at nate: but i do always love the immediate knee-jerk "white male angst" accusations, and then the mini-lectures on the purpose of AA forms...is it possible that persons simply disagree with AA on philosophical principle??? those of us who seem to have problems with it on this blog tend to get lectured as first-graders, as though the assumption is that any fool would think AA a by-godly great thing...

Nate said...

Anon. Nov 19 6:00 AM

I guess I wasn't suggesting that philosophy has an obligation to attract Latinos or Blacks. To put it in your terms, I was just pointing out that currently those that get interested in philosophy are predominantly white men. My next question, then, is Why?

I am curious to know what the reasons are for this. Anon Nov 28 7:17 points out, that whatever the reasons are, they might be similar to the reasons why minorities are underrepresented in Math and Science (although I think some of the sciences are more diverse than philosophy). I don't have any answers. Just an observation and a very big question we can't answer very well in this context.

Anonymous said...

Clearly AA might not be a good thing - there are arguments on both side of the question. But I would take deciding the issue to require more than "I don't like how this might negatively affect *me*", which is how I have interpreted many of the previous comments.

Anonymous said...

"So whatever social goofiness is going on that pushes women out of science and math will also I suppose push them out of hardline analytic philosophy."

But some of the sciences that are closely allied to philosophy - cognitive science, psychology, linguistics, for example - don't have seem to have as much of a problem. (Women are something like 70% in psych. In 2000, 59.5% of the B.A.’s awarded in biology went to women. I don't have data for linguistics and cog sci, but I doubt they're as bad as philosophy).

But you could be right in that the social goofiness that's going on in math and certain sciences such as computer science and engineering is also going on in analytic philosophy.

Anonymous said...

"But some of the sciences that are closely allied to philosophy - cognitive science, psychology, linguistics, for example - don't have seem to have as much of a problem. (Women are something like 70% in psych. In 2000, 59.5% of the B.A.’s awarded in biology went to women. I don't have data for linguistics and cog sci, but I doubt they're as bad as philosophy)."

Where does one get these statistics? I am not doubting you at all. I just want to look them over.

Also do we keep track of these numbers in Philosophy? We should.

Anonymous said...

Here's biology. Here's
. this paper briefly discusses cognitive science and linguistics as compared to philosophy. But i don't know of any studies done in these areas. the paper also contains some data for philosophy.