Friday, January 18, 2008

Havin' Fun (Aight?), Eatin' Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Good news today. One of my office mates--one of the one's I've shared an office with for half a decade, one of the ones who sat through the same white-knuckled, rage-inducing placement meetings with the Old World Septuagenarian and Evil Columbo--defended her dissertation today. Unlike me and most people from my department last year, she actually got a job. And I'd say both a PhD and a job makes her a full-on grown-up philosopher.

When all this shit goes badly for you, it's a real relief to see it going well for people you like.

Alright. It's time, in an academic tradition stretching back through the centuries to Europe's oldest universities, to go drink brut out of little plastic cups. The whiskey'll come later. Woo!


Anonymous said...

Congrats to your officemate for her success!

However, I have just received a PFO letter that made me laugh. St. Norbert College wrote...

"Dear Mr. X,

I'm sorry to inform you that the purpose of this letter is to inform you that you are no longer under consideration for the position in Philosophy at St. Norbert College. . . . "

Great, this letter is a 'second-order informer' of bad news. At least it made me laugh.

Bobcat said...

I wonder if there's one problem with the philosophy wiki. Imagine you have multiple fly-outs. Now, imagine that the departments with whom you have multiple fly-outs know you have multiple fly-outs. This seems to me that it at least *could* improve your position. Maybe it will make places give you an offer more quickly than they otherwise would have, or maybe it will make them want to catch you before you get scooped up by another department.

If this is true, then it seems to me that it's problematic for the philosophy wiki to have an "offers made/accepted" section. After all, if the universities with whom you're dealing know where you're getting fly-outs, and they know that one of those places made an offer, and they know that that offer was accepted, and they know that you're still going to their campus ... well, then that seems to me to worsen your bargaining position.

Maybe this is crazy talk, but if the above has anything going for it, then perhaps there's reason to remove section IV of the wiki--not as a kind of guerilla tactic, but if there's enough of a movement in support of it. What do people think?

Anonymous said...


Why would the other places know which other places you are doing flyouts. I would that would information that I would feel uncomfortable sharing. Sure, they may know that you have other flyouts (because of scheduling issues), but that does not relate to the value of the wiki in any way.

Anonymous said...


i was under the impression that it would be extremely bad form to go to an on-campus interview when you had already _accepted_ a position elsewhere. i would think one would avoid doing so just to avoid pissing off the department where one had accepted the job. so why erase the section?

Anonymous said...


That section of the wiki seems to have sufficient utility for others competing for the job that's posted, even if it somewhat hurts the bargaining position of those vying for yet a different job, right?


I'm visiting campus X. They know I also have a fly-out at Y. They see on the wiki that Y has offered a job and job has been accepted. They then think I have no options and have a weaker bargaining position. As has been noted this depends on X knowing the identity of Y.

However, if this section of the wiki were removed, then all of the other candidates for Y -- who would benefit from knowing job Y is now gone, and who could care less about school X, me, or my bargaining position with respect to X -- would be hurt from having that section of the wiki gone.

Is that what you mean?

Bobcat said...

You might accidentally let that information slip. I suppose you're right, though, if you do that, that's your own problem.

Bobcat said...

anon 3:45 pm

yeah, i didn't mean interviewing for a job when you had already accepted a job elsewhere.

anon 3:57 pm

yeah, that's what I meant. In response to your claim, though, that "if this section of the wiki were removed, then all of the other candidates for Y -- who would benefit from knowing job Y is now gone, and who could care less about school X, me, or my bargaining position with respect to X -- would be hurt from having that section of the wiki gone"; well, doesn't that suppose that the other people who had fly-outs for Y aren't informed when Y is no longer on the table? Is that really how departments usually operate -- that if they have three fly-backs and they give the job to one of them, they just don't tell the other two?

I suppose they should also tell the other people who got interviews, not just the other fly-outs. Perhaps departments don't usually do that.

Anonymous said...

It's not just bad form to accept and offer and then go to a campus interview somewhere else. It's thoroughly immoral. It wastes the money of the school paying for the flyout. It wastes their time when they could be interviewing people who are actually considering the job. It slows down the process of getting people to campus who might take it, which is bad both for the department interviewing and the candidates. In some cases it might even lead a department to cancel their search when someone who gets no job might otherwise have been offered it. It's pretty despicable.

So if the Wiki in any way prevents someone from doing something so contrary to basic human decency, then more power to it.

happy advisor said...

about the good news in the main post--your office mate finishing the diss, and getting a job.

as an old-timer in the field, can i just say that a lot of us faculty really rejoice at this,too?

so that, for all the jerks like your colombo and septuagenarian, there really are some faculty who get a lot of pleasure out of events like this.

almost like: this is the point of our efforts, to help students earn a degree and get a job?

so anyhow--congratulations to your classmate, and have a great party.

Prof. J. said...


No, you're right about this. It can be very easy for, say, Penn State to learn that the other place you have a fly-out is St. Cloud. For one thing, they might ask you, and you might feel uncomfortable refusing to tell them. For another, they might buy you your plane ticket and maybe you're going to want it to be from Minneapolis to Philadelphia, which will tip them off because you live in Austin. Or maybe St. Cloud lists their 'guest speakers' for Jan. and Feb. on their web site. And I can think of a couple of other ways.

So, yes, that section of the Wiki has some costs to job candidates. But the benefits on the whole might outweigh the costs.

Timeless Anon said...

Although the problem with posting when comments are moderated is that you sometimes feel sure someone else has said this by now, I will still give it a go:

Anon 5:19,

That's not at all what Bobcat meant. He's interested in the question where you are going on a fly-out with a school that has used the wiki to determine you are desperate. The offer of the other school you were interviewing with has been accepted by Someone Else. So, the school you are currently interviewing with knows they are your last chance and now they know they don't have to give you a sweet deal. (I personally think at this point of negotiations, we all should just be honest and either we have negotiating power or we don't, but the schools could find this out without the wiki since so many people in philosophy know each other anyway.)

Also, 5:19, the reason someone would do what you rightly point out is thoroughly immoral is not what you seem to think it would be. Someone who has accepted an offer would go on another fly-out if they heard back from a better school that had previously made them a second choice.

And of course, there is a fear of this happening. We've all said we wanted to know where we stood. Now we are hearing back from schools telling us we are still on the list if the first fly-outs go awry. Now, for many of us, those are our better schools: they are the ones who are currently rejecting us, but that we secretly covet.

So, what if your current fly-out goes well, you get an offer, and then you accept that offer only to hear you finally got a fly-out from dream school?

Morally, you are clearly obligated, but legally, you might not feel that contract is legally binding since you could just be seen as quiting your new job (before you start) for a better job.

Although Bobcat was NOT talking about this, it is an interesting discussion maybe we could have. From the older (experienced) people: does it happen? How often? How pissed do people get? I mean, it is clearly immoral, but has any school tried to sue over it?

SC Member said...

How would you feel if you were offered a job, accepted it, declined other offers, and then the offer was rescinded because the top candidate for the job (not you) had a change of heart? Would you be ok with the thought that it wasn't a "real" contract, or that you should just look at it as if you were hired and then quickly laid off? I don't think so.

An offer is an offer and an acceptance is an acceptance!

Train yourself to say the following line if offered a job: "When do you need a decision?". Say it no matter how happy you are to get the offer. You may not be thinking straight on the phone. Thank them, let them know you're flattered and excited by the offer, and hang up.

When you get off the phone, call the SC for any job for which you interviewed and haven't been explicitly ruled out that you might consider more or as desirable as the one for which you have been made an offer. Tell them the truth: you have an offer in hand with such and such a deadline. Are they still interested in you?

If they still have interest, there may be a somewhat awkward tug of war between the deadline set by the dpt that made the offer and the one that still professes some interest. Don't be shy about asking for some more time if you have a _specific_, practical reason for doing so. But also don't be surprised if you meet some resistance with extending the offer window. This is all quite normal and expected. The important things to covey if asking for more time is that a)you are seriously interested, and b) you have a specific reason for asking, and aren't just dragging your feet hoping something better comes along.

Anonymous said...

This happened to one of my professors. He accepted an offer somewhere he was ok with, but not a dream school. Then the dream school called to say that their first 3 candidates had refused, and that they would like to make him an offer. He then rescinded his acceptance from the other school and accepted the dream school. A certain famous Kantian criticized him for "breaking his promise," and the dissed school was very rude about it. However, I definitely think he made the right decision. We (the job-seekers) are in such a weak position as compared to the schools in so many ways. And it would be one thing to renig if schools coordinated and made their offers at the same time, but given that things go down so higgely-piggely, we can't be bound by what I see as our intention to join a certain faculty. After a certain period of time has elapsed, of course (meaning, by the beginning of the summer) reniging becomes more problematic since at the point, less-desirable-school X might really be in a bad position since *everyone* on their list has accepted other offers. Normally though, if you cancel early, it shouldn't be a big deal for the school, since it can just look a little further down it's list.

Anonymous said...

Dear anon 9:39 (or anyone else who wants to comment),

Did this person you were talking about receive an offer without a flyout? This has been known to happen, but I am sure so irregular.

Also, good advice from the post just above anon 9:39. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Is there a better hiring process here? Should be a draft for new TT philosophers, just like in the NFL or NBA? At least then you know better where you stand, etc., and it cuts through the long waiting times.

Or maybe there should be an auction at the APA, which could drive up one's salary if there's a bidding war. The campus visits would then need to be conducted en mass (like campus visits by prospective students) and prior to the APA.

Or forget about this whole APA meeting thing (which sounds anti-competitive to being with) and let universities hire as their needs arise, just like any other company or industry. Let the invisible hand of the free market do its job.

Any better suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Nothing better: I like the draft idea. Would departments get to pick in reverse Leiter order? Seems fair -- then maybe a five year period until free agency.

jim said...

In response to Anon. 11:27 on alternative hiring procedures, Kenny Easwaran over at TAR has put forward a suggestion and got a discussion going here.

Anonymous said...

I think that we need to decentralize. Schools should hire from their local universities. Then, there should be an emphasis on distinguished visiting chairs.

Anonymous said...

If we go with the draft, then we should be able to include trades:

Dept A: I'll give you a senior prof in M&E for a junior in ethics and next year's #6 pick.

Dept : Deal, but throw in a 2-year VAP.

Anonymous said...

I have a random question for those with appointments:

how much of your time is spent on administrative wrangling or administrative work in general? I've been struck on on-campus visits by how quickly the discussion moves to 1) how much money the department is getting from the school, and the politics of this, 2) various personality disputes within departments, and how they have been dealt with, 3) the various committees or special institutes that people are part of or are organizing via writing grant proposals, etc. I think I might just be doing a bad job of bringing the discussion back to philosophy, but perhaps this is actually indicative of what professors talk about, or something? If so, it looks like I might actually want to stay in graduate school after all!

Anonymous said...

Someone more technically inclined than me should set up some kind of ranking system, like for a sports tournament. We could take bets whether the #1-ranked new PhD would get an offer or take a job from MIT, for instance. Or we could rank the univesity instead, etc.

Anyway, there has to be a better way than how it's done now...

juniorperson said...

To anon. 1.47:

I'm afraid that the answer to this in my experience is: It depends!

In my first TT job (at a SLAC) I had only a few administrative duties, but they were starting to creep up. In my second--at Pure Hell R1--I was required to run single-handed a Center, including liasing with local interested bodies, fund-raising, conference organizing, and so on. This took at least 30 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and sometimes up to 100 or so hours a week. This was supposed to be a "regular" TT line, so I had a full teaching load and normal publishing expectations on top of this. (This is one--but only one of many!--of the reasons this place is known to me and my wife as Pure Hell R1!)

At my current position--Sheer Bliss College--I spend around 5 hours or so a week on admin.. But then, this is a place that has a very high research profile, and superlative undergraduate teaching (both significantly superior to those at PHR1) so I actually get to spend time doing what I love!

My suspicion is that the smaller the place is, and the less active its faculty are in research in general (and maybe just how controlling they are!) the higher the admin. load, as people what to think that they're accomplishing something, even if it's just organizing a Committee For The Rearranging Of Book On Ghosts in What Passes As The Departmental Library.

(I'm sorry to say that was a real committee! Yes, that R1 was Pure Hell...)

In general I think that 10-20% of time expected to be spent on admin. is about right.

Anonymous said...

Thanks juniorperson!

-anon. 1:47

Anonymous said...

Instead of a draft, or maybe in combination, how about a lottery? Random lottery? Or one that accounts for preferences? That'll be an interesting way to shake things up...

Bobcat said...

prof. j wrote (on January 19 at 12:13 am):

"So, yes, that section of the Wiki has some costs to job candidates. But the benefits on the whole might outweigh the costs."

Could someone tell me the benefits again? I've lost track of what they are.

Anonymous said...

"How would you feel if you were offered a job, accepted it, declined other offers, and then the offer was rescinded because the top candidate for the job (not you) had a change of heart?"

The right atty could win you a lot of money in a lawsuit if you had the offer in writing

Anonymous said...


Good question. It seems that the benefit to candidates is mainly to alleviate anxiety from the general lack of information throughout the whole process. Of course, the news will tend to be bad, i.e., someone else got an offer or fly-out. But at least the bandage can now be ripped off.

Whether that benefit outweighs the risk of employers using such information for their own negotiating advantage, that depends on your tolerance for anxiety and whether employers even look at the wiki in the first place. Also we're assuming that info posted on the wiki is accurate. Or maybe this is a poor assumption if posting erroneous info can work to one's advantage, whether employer or candidate.

In some cases, the benefit to candidates could be to rule out employers that you were waiting on. Again, though, this assumes accurate information, and using a wiki to make such important decisions is perhaps unwise.

James said...

bobcat, the benefit is that in a world where schools don't tell you that you have lost a job, you can use the wiki to find that information out. This will make a big difference if you are wondering whether you ought to take another job or if you need to know when to start your drinking binge...

James said...

Oh, and I'd like to add, we get useful information at each stage. When you learn an offer has been accepted (which can also be learned on Leiter's blog if he posts that again this year), you know you need to move on.

When you learn an offer has been made, but not yet accepted, you know you are in a waiting game and you learn that you weren't the schools first choice, which might affect your decision of whether to take being their second choice versus being someone else's first choice.

But perhaps the best piece of information is learning an offer has been made and rejected. You clearly won't learn this from Leiter's blog, and it lets you know exactly when you should get your hopes up that a school will be moving on to their second choice. And, you'll also know if it takes too long, you probably weren't the second choice and they may even be doing further fly-outs rather than calling you. And, although this is really negative, then you would find out that you really f-ed up your fly-out and you know you need to change a lot of things for next year since you apparently didn't even get a job after the other fly-outs rejected the job. Maybe some people wouldn't want to know this, but I hate the idea that I might get rejected and have to wonder: did someone beat me out or did I suck?

Bobcat said...

Okay, those are pretty persuasive reasons, James.

Anonymous said...

I like anonymous 2:09's general approach, but I think we could go even further on some kind of sports ranking thing. Even when we are fantasizing here about how to make hiring better, we are still leaving the candidates, no matter how good, in the disadvantaged position.

So: all the hiring depts. in a year let it be known that they are hiring. There;s a list. At APA, instead of interviews, there is a series of talk "play-off's", where candidates are matched in pairs, each presents their best work, the collected philosophers (anyone who wants to go to go to the conference, randomly assigned to candidate-matches to prevent bias) decide whose work is better, and this is used to rank the candidates. At the end, the really good, high-stakes playoffs, you have the top four, then the top 2, face off.

We end up with a fully ordered list of all the candidates. You start with number 1: they pick which job they will take. Then number 2 takes their pick, then 3, and so on. Departments have to vie for the privilege of getting picked by a good candidate early on.

This would naturally sort out the good candidates with good jobs in, maybe not a perfect way, but a vastly better way than is currently done. And the higher-ranked candidates could better accommodate outside factors like areas of the country they would like to live in, and the lower-ranked candidates wouldn't really have less choice than they already do.

And then we could run a betting pool on the side.

James said...

Anon 1:13, freakin' brilliant!

And it can be organized in brackets based on the candidates AOS and the jobs that want those AOS's.

And those brave enough to list an open job via for those brave enough to list an "Open" AOS.

That's my AOS, by the way. And my AOC.

My CV says at the top:

I noticed a lot of good jobs were advertised that way and those were the jobs I wanted!

It didn't work out so well for me though. Don't know why.