Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Crimson and Clover, Over and Over

Talking about Princeton's PFO the other day, I got bogged down looking at trees and I lost sight of the forest, so let me come back to that for a second. The funny thing about the Princeton PFO is, it doesn't really feel like a PFO to me. It feels more like me and Princeton are just playing out our little roles.

Here's some background, at least as I understand it, for the civilians. Princeton advertises a junior job in the JFP every year. They're not necessarily looking to hire anyone. Maybe they really are this year, I don't know. But for the most part, they're just dipping their line in the stream to see what they can catch. Maybe someone coming out of MIT or Berkeley or wherever is obviously the next monster, a 27 year old whose dissertation looks like the first major work in a brand new sub-discipline she just fucking invented. Who knows? Maybe. And Princeton doesn't want to get shut out of the race to grab that candidate just because they don't happen to be doing a search that year. So they just go ahead and do a search every year, regardless of whether or not they really need to hire anyone. It's actually pretty smart, when you think about it.

It also means losers like me are going to apply for the same job over and over again. And we're going to get rejected over and over again too, because it's fucking Princeton. I've got a better shot at getting a job as the Pope of the APA.

But here's the thing. If it's the sort of thing where I know I don't have a chance, and I just apply over and over again anyway, it's not really like a real job application, is it? The meaningless repetition actually makes it more like a little absurdist performance piece. "Total Fucking Loser: a play in n acts." This PFO brings act two to a close. Tune in next year for act three, when me and Princeton do the exact same thing again. That should be interesting!

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It also means losers like me are going to apply for the same job over and over again."

Don't apply more then once, unless you are asked to reapply.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. You complain about postage costs etc., yet you apply to jobs you know you can't get. Me, I applied a simple rule: no applications for completely open positions at institutions in the Leiter top 20 because, obviously, they're going to toss mine in the bin (until such time as I invent that hot new sub-field).

Anonymous said...

And just what hot new sub-fields have been introduced by recent hires there?

Anonymous said...

Jeez, will everybody stop thinking that this Princeton job is for trail-blazing messiah figures, and that such figures are drawn to the beacon.

Fact is, Princeton has had a hard time recruiting of late. They've been turned down by a good number of hotshot ABDs the past few years. (I will not comment on their actual hires, except to say that most over the past few years have had some strong antecedent connection with the institution or department members. That's not to say they aren't top-shelf. They may be; I won't speculate as an anon)

Deserved or not, Princeton's had some pretty bad buzz recently, and is not considered by many to be among the sexiest place to land as junior faculty. Not that I'd turn them down by any stretch. But they're in the muck with everyone else.

Senior female philosopher said...

O please, let's not suppose that the role of "young star" is simply created by philosophical accomplishment.

What's required? Well, charisma and the capacity to be very bright in comments at meetings. Curiously, the latter talent need not be connected at all to the ability to continue to produce significant philosophy.

In the many conversations I've had on this topic over the years, a lot of us have thought the best explanation is a kind of very latent homosexuality in the profession.

Well, you get the idea. It's definitely the case that "the best" departments occasionally elect someone to be "the next really major philosopher." It's almost always a quite vibrant young man, but not always.

Being so elected can be a terrible burden, in fact. You may spend the rest of your life failing to meet those standards. A number of people have.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

"In the many conversations I've had on this topic over the years, a lot of us have thought the best explanation is a kind of very latent homosexuality in the profession."

Do tell!

Peripatetic said...

"Deserved or not, Princeton's had some pretty bad buzz recently, and is not considered by many to be among the sexiest place to land as junior faculty. Not that I'd turn them down by any stretch. But they're in the muck with everyone else."


Wow, what was I thinking. Yeah, you're right. Princeton sucks. I'd never want to end up there. I can't even believe anyone would want to end up there.


...more proof that folks in the Leiterrific departments live in a completely different universe.

Anonymous said...

Paederasty, to be more accurate. In any case, don't you think the model of the older man and the younger man conceiving ideas together is a beautiful one? (Plato, Symposium 209b-c) Breeders have no business doing philosophy.

tamale said...

Latent homosexuality!

WTF? Do you mean "going Greek" in the figurative sense?

Anonymous said...

Senior Female, are you paying attention?
The young Princeton 'stars' are mainly women. I guess Adam Elga has a certain homoerotic appeal, sure, and Mike Fara is pretty cute. But the main stars are surely Mike's wife Delia, S-J Leslie, Liz Harman, and then the new hire Sarah McGrath.
(I hope it's ok to name names in this context. It's all public information. And none of those women is pretending to be a man.) (And Adam, if you're reading, I'm just kidding. You are only attractive to women.)

non-Princeton east coast asst prof said...

The innuendo about certain recent Princeton hires is starting to get nauseating and, frankly, sexist. The two women in question are frighteningly smart and spectacularly good philosophers. Any department would have been thrilled to have them and Princeton was lucky to recruit them.

Anonymous said...

"a lot of us have thought the best explanation is a kind of very latent homosexuality in the profession"

I know I read a lot of ads, particularly those with phrases like they are looking for scholars with "world-class reputations" (generally it's someplace like U of North Texas or Gonzaga that has these aspirations) and I think "Jesus, get your hand our of your pants and write the damn ad". Maybe that's sort of what Anon had in mind, though then it's more autoeroticism.

As to your original post (how have we diverged so far in under 10 comments?), I applied for several pie-in-the-sky open positions my first year out of grad school, and one that was actually in my field (sort of), then gave up when the dean of the college at the last of these sent my advisor a letter thanking him for writing a letter of recommendation for me (he was an alum of said school), but I never even got a PFO.

I think it's good for a year or two to apply to any open job at any school you might like to work at, even if you think it's a long shot, because you never know until you try. But after a couple of years, you learn where you lie in the academic hierarchy and then it's at best worthless applying to Princeton until you've published the prize-winning book or whatever if you've never gotten a top-10 interview.

As Anon 7:39 implies, it might even hurt your reputation to keep going after these, though quite frankly I tend to think a lot of apps get circular-filed after about 10 seconds, and in such cases they probably never both to look at your name enough to remember it. The danger would be if they remember you as the guy who applied six times in a row. Now, if professors learn how to use spreadsheets or databases (mirabile dictu) and track applications over multiple years, then you'd have another reason not to figure three time's a charm.

mickey marketeer said...

"do tell" - my two cents.

it's guy crushes, obviously. older male philosophers see a bright young thing who has more actual social skillz than they did at that age, they feel all warm and fuzzy about this guy being the next great thing (because he subtly reminds said philosophers of themselves as they think they should have been). and voila, manufactured hype.

I have heard some pretty sketchy things about Princeton lately, although because philosophy has no equivalent of the gossip magazine, its hard to tell what's accurate.

But it is not just Princeton who does this. Berkeley ran a search this year that is the same they did last year, Pittsburgh did so, as have a number of other big schools. Its not just Princeton's strategy.

The job market is just so lose-lose. It encourages marketeers to game the system, sometimes withholding information from SC's (such as, I plan to spend exactly 2 years here before leaving you the work of a whole new search). And it then encourages departments to game the marketeers. I'm with PGS, there has to be a better way to do this.

Anonymous said...

"philosophy has no equivalent of the gossip magazine"

WTF?!? You're reading one.

Anonymous said...

What is the "sexiest place for junior faculty to land"?

Anonymous said...

I always wonder why my dissertation advisor hated my gf so much. And why he nicknamed me Bosie.

Anonymous said...

Regarding senior female philosopher's hypothesis:

While some people think that the reason the market is so bad because women and ethnic minorities take all the jobs that should have been open to white men, others seem to think that it's the fault of the gays. Without specific evidence this just seems like idle slander mixed with a bit of homophobia.

mickey marketeer said...

if this is the best gossip site philosophy has to offer, it's weak sauce. Several people have *alluded* to something, which is the something I've heard about but refrain from forming an opinion about until I know what is fact and what exaggeration. No such clarification has been forthcoming here.

I love the idea of a top ten "sexiest places to get a junior spot" list. we should get on that.

Mr. Zero said...

I, for one, have no clue what "latent homosexuality" SFP is talking about. I can think of a couple of literal interpretations and a vast, nebulous grey area of figurative interpretations. Some of these are innocent; some are sinister; none are clearly the intended one. But as an incurable gossip, I'd love to have some details.

Anonymous said...

I know someone posted something about this awhile back, but what is the normal starting salary for assistant profs in philosophy? Is there some site where data has been compiled?

Anonymous said...

Put me out of misery. Has anyone heard anything from St. Cloud State? Have they contacted anyone about oncampus interviews? I don't care how tenuous your information is. Please.

juniorperson said...

I want to hear more about the alluded to something--whatever it is!

Anonymous said...

Sexism, homophobia, gossip, Princeton. Anyone want to talk about good old nepotism? Assuming the unstated that is what I think it is.

former prom queen said...

i took senior female philosopher to be talking, not about actual gay philosophers, but rather about the sort of man-crush phenomenon that you see in political pundits talking about john mccain e.g..

when digby talks about chris matthews going all gooey over fred thompson or giuliani or bush in a flight suit, she's not alleging that he wants to have homosexual sex with them. matthews is straight enough, he's just in the grips of an irrational swoon over their manly macho awesomeness. it's more like wanting a kind of father/f├╝hrer figure, which is why it's more common on the right wing, with authoritarian leaders and the pundits who love them.

here too, i assume that no one is alleging that johnston and van fraassen and so on are gay. the thought is just that they--and their counterparts at other departments--get a little swoony and irrational about certain candidates. they both fall for a specious glamour, and also have a hand in creating that glamour.

nobody's talking about it being "the fault of the gays"--real gay men are probably a bit more discerning, as well as more used to assessing the sources of their own positive feelings towards other men. a fortiori, it is not homophobia.

however, there is some phenomenon here in the neighborhood of man-crush behavior, which, yes, does play too large of a role in the annual pageantry of electing a few kids as prom-kings and prom-queens of the apa, and then lavishing affection on them.

Anonymous said...

I think that Princeton's negative buzz is due only to the fact that in the last 3-4 years, they have made offers to the top ABDs coming out and for the most part have been roundly rejected in favour of programs that are not as stellar but are more cutting edge.

Liberal Arts Prof said...

Top Ten Sexiest Places for Junior Folk to Land:

10) Rice
9) Brown
8) Reed
7) Vermont
6) Western Washington
5) Birkbeck
4) Stanford
5) UCLA
4) Arizona
3) MIT
2) Toronto
1) SUNY Albany

tt asst prof said...

...because if there's one thing about Albany (the town), it's that it's not a godforsaken shithole.

Anonymous said...

"I think that Princeton's negative buzz is due only to the fact that in the last 3-4 years, they have made offers to the top ABDs coming out and for the most part have been roundly rejected in favour of programs that are not as stellar but are more cutting edge."

I don't know where you're getting this idea, but as far as I know the only junior offer Princeton has made that has been turned down in recent years was to Sam Cumming, who went to UCLA. Maybe he preferred UCLA over Princeton anyways, but I think at least part of the reason he went there was that they were able to offer his significant other a job as well.

Why are people so obsessed with (mostly false) gossip about Princeton? It's a little weird.

California Dreaming said...

Good Luck Meg!!!

You'll do great!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the gossip here is truly vicious!

(I think Anon 1:24 has a good point, though.)

Former Prom Queen, look at the recent Princeton hires. Sarah McGrath. Sarah-Jane Leslie. Delia Graff Fara. Elizabeth Harman.

So, does Bas V. F. really have a 'man crush' on one of those young women? Or did you have someone else in mind? Who?

If we're going to get the innuendo, rumors, the dark and sexy but really nasty stuff, let's at least get some information to go with it. You know, for the sake of appearances.

Anonymous said...

Can someone answer the question about starting salaries in philosophy and get off this absurd topic?

Anonymous said...

Esp. if someone could say what starting salary to expect in, e.g., departments of different Leiter rankings or SLACs of different prestige. How much does that affect salary? That's not the kind of info you can get from any of the on-line faculty surveys (e.g. the Chronicle), as far as I can tell.

Prof. J. said...

Anon 6:46,
Well, obviously, starting salaries are going to vary with the obvious factors (wealth the school, for instance). At a research university, you might get $60k. If it's in a very expensive area, probably more to compensate.


Here
is some salary data from 2004-5 (from the APA web site).

Anonymous said...

PLEASE NOTE that Senior Female Philosopher's comment about latent homosexuality in "the profession" was not about Princeton, and did not even mention Princeton. It was about the treatment of young male philosophical stars in general, everywhere. No one is saying that Princeton is full of gays, not even really by inference, so y'all can calm down already. The two themes have merely been forced together in the context of this barbaric comment thread.

Are there any academic gossip sites anywhere? I can hardly believe anyone would bother.

Finally, I like the numbering scheme for that top ten list.

Polyglossia said...

Not since LinguaFranca collapsed has there been a good gossip rag in academia. Too bad. LF was pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

Now I know humor doesn't always come through in a blog comment, but Jesus there are some people around here with atrocious reading skills. Maybe spending too much time parsing sentences and analyzing arguments has caused some of you to lose the ability to understand what people are saying when they speak (write) like normal people?

UAlbany Grad Student said...

Liberal Arts Prof.,

I would love to hear the rationale behind your rankings. Your number one pick is obviously right, though. ;)

Anonymous said...

Why did Lingua Franca collapse? I remember loving that rag years ago ...

former prom queen said...

anonymous 3:56

you really aren't keeping up with the conversation here, are you?

first of all, it was always part of sen.fem.phil's view, as of mine, that sometimes the object of the irrational crush is a woman. that's why i mentioned the election of prom-queens as well as kings. that's why i took the handle 'former prom queen'. you stupid fuck.

furthermore, it was always part of sen.fem.phil's view, as of mine, that the phenomenon in question can be found at many institutions. she didn't mention p.u. at all. i mentioned it mostly because anon. 4:07 suggested that it counted as some sort of counter-example to sen.fem.phil's thesis.

which it doesn't, because her thesis was never restricted to men, nor about literal homosexuality, nor about princeton. you stupid fuck.

still, it is hilarious to see all of the current and former 1879 denizens scurry out of their holes to yelp and whinge about being unfairly picked on. what tigers.

Liberal Arts Prof said...

Finally, I like the numbering scheme for that top ten list.

Heh, heh. I was having so much fun I didn't even notice the retrograde motion until it was too late. Maybe it just means I couldn't really choose between UCLA/London and Stanford/Arizona.

Anonymous said...

So, instead of coming clean and saying who has the homoerotic crush and who is the object, Former Prom Queen will stick with "you stupid fuck" (repeatedly). Excellent.

I guess "vicious gossip" was just too mild. This is a forum for pure bile. Always, of course, behind the wall of anonymity.

Mr. Zero said...

Former Prom Queen,

I'm not sure Anon 3:56 is totally right about the viciousness of the rumors & commentary here. I think I have an idea, but I guess I don't really know what SFP is talking about.

That said, the single most viciously hostile hostile post in this comment thread so far is yours @ 5:25. Chill out, for Christ's sake.

Anonymous said...

Basically, I could care less about this discussion. It's pointless and potentially hurtful.

But surely the only thing worse that NOT "coming clean and saying who has the homoerotic crush and who is the object" from "behind the wall of anonymity" would be divulging such information from behind that wall.

Anonymous said...

9:31

I don't agree that that would be worse. At least if the info was divulged, this discussion would serve the purpose of conveying information, instead of what it is doing, which I won't attempt to characterize.

Anonymous said...

This is Anon. 7:24. OK. If there is some real gossip about Princeton which people are hinting at, but not saying, I don't know anything about that, but clearly the homoeroticism/latent homosexuality discussion is completely separate, as far as I can tell. Anon. 3:56 (and 9:20 am?), I think you may have the wrong idea about how that sort of eroticism works. It isn't really a candidate for gossip. Nor, in my view, is it actually bad: at worst it's unavoidable, and you just try to correct for it, or not. I suppose an analogy would be saying that of course all the senior faculty at university X jerk off -- obviously, I couldn't furnish proof for this claim, but it's neither shocking nor bad.

So again: if that discussion was colliding in an unfortunate way with the mysterious Princeton gossip (see e.g. Anon. 6:47, Anon. 12:42), that's too bad, but no one here is able to "come clean and say who has the homoerotic crush and who is the object." Um, except me: Socrates clearly has the hots for Alcibiades. NO, REALLY, HE DOES. You think Alcibiades got where he got on his philosophical merits? Bah.

Anonymous said...

When you're looking at the salary scales on the Chronicle site, remember that those are averaging assistant profs across all disciplines. So schools with medical or law schools, or with highly ranked b-schools, give far higher average salaries than any humanities prof will get. It would be interesting to know how philosophy salaries average between schools, but of course no one keeps those stats. One trick: at public schools salaries are generally public domain, so if you google for names of particular faculty on the university's site, you sometimes can get a list of the salaries of everyone in a department. I did this for the University of ___ , at which I VAPed recently. Got a nice little spreadsheet, and also historical data going back several years, so I saw when the full profs got bumped up from c. 60k to 90k as part of a university-wide effort to reduce salary compression (I'm assuming). If it doesn't work for one school, try another, and you should have some success.

Anonymous said...

10:24

and that's why it's important for rumours like this to be aired more publicly.

because after we all tried to hush up that business with alcibiades, he just went and did it with lysis, and charmides, and then apollodorus, and god knows whom else.

and god also knows they didn't get where they got because socrates liked their writing samples.

i know, some people say it's how zeno got hired at Eleatic U, that whole thing with Parmenides, but that does not excuse Socrates' behavior one whit.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:24 (=Anon10:24 -- hey, make sure to post only at 24 minutes past the hour!), so, is the idea that there are *NO* examples whatsoever of the causally responsible homoeroticism that keeps being mentioned? If there are examples, why won't anyone give them? Fine, there are no Princeton examples, that's not important -- are there Berkeley examples? Or what is the basis, evidence for the sexy view?

I think it's vicious gossip. To see why, take the alternative hypothesis that Berkeley hired John MacFarlane because his work on relativism is really interesting, novel, and technically brilliant. Hm. I wonder whether that's the explanation, or whether instead (insert famous senior Berkeley philosopher here) had a subconscious homoerotic attraction to JM and so voted in favor of offering him a job.

The utterly unsupported allegation that the second explanation is true is nasty and vicious. It would still be vicious if it didn't mention homosexuality, or any sexuality at all, but it wouldn't be as nasty, for I hope obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

umm, yeah, you go, 11:01.

nothing like self-righteously decrying nasty, vicious innuendos while simultaneously dragging in an individual that *nobody else* had mentioned previous to this.

and using his name and departmental affiliation.

your decency and integrity just shine through, as well as your deep concern over avoiding anonymous rumour-mongering.

Anonymous said...

I guess I missed 11:24. Oh well.

I mean -- I, personally, have no information whatsoever about any hiring decisions anywhere; I'm just a bystander. I do think that regarding causal efficacy, in your example:

I think it's vicious gossip. To see why, take the alternative hypothesis that Berkeley hired John MacFarlane because his work on relativism is really interesting, novel, and technically brilliant. Hm. I wonder whether that's the explanation, or whether instead (insert famous senior Berkeley philosopher here) had a subconscious homoerotic attraction to JM and so voted in favor of offering him a job.

If you read Senior Female Philosopher's comment carefully, you'll see that this isn't really what she's saying. The sort of thing she's talking about applies more to young, superficially brilliant people than to anyone who really is doing significant, pathbreaking philosophical work -- essentially, the claim is that charisma is sometimes (she even says "occasionally") overvalued, and that may (people speculate) have something to do with libido.

So the better claim to evaluate here is whether or not charisma plays a disproportionate role in evaluating young scholars, including during the hiring process. This applies to cases, which are probably fairly infrequent, in which a hire doesn't seem to have been made on philosophical merits. In MacFarlane's case, I presume, his worthiness isn't an open question.

In any case, this is definitely all the commentary I have time for here. I am certainly not holding out for a job offer based mainly on my charisma... :)

Anonymous said...

11:52
Uh. MacFarlane was an EXAMPLE.
I was not actually asserting that somebody hired MacFarlane because he's hot. The implicature, in fact, of my using him as an example is that he is obviously really smart and is obviously doing original and brilliant work.

Did you not get that?

Liberal Arts Prof said...

My #1 pick of the Top Ten Sexiest Places for Junior Folk to Land was based solely upon the fact that The Sexiest Ancient Philosopher of His Generation was recently hired there. His presence alone makes the place Sexy. And not simply Sexy, but The Sexiest in All the Land. Such a hire shows they have Class, and Wit, and Sophistication. All in one potent brew. Incredible, really. Albany will never be the same.

Anonymous said...

Albany has hired Socrates? Awesome. Too bad about the snub nose, though.

Anonymous said...

That's really gonna hurt the Sixth Circle of Hell's graduate program.

Anonymous said...

That's really gonna hurt the Sixth Circle of Hell's graduate program.

Where exactly do you think Albany is?

Anonymous said...

Albany proper is depressed, but it is an easy commute from lovely quirky artistic Hudson river communities, very close to the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Berkshires (less than 2 hours to great VT skiing), and less than 3 hours to NY. You could do a lot worse.