Monday, February 25, 2008

So You Want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star

Shit. I thought I remembered Sisyphus on this beat before. Here it is, and this shit is the truth.
I'll stop and make a snarky side note here to point out that the two-years-ago group who went out was really really large for us, and the vast majority were on second or third job rounds, although our big "coups" were all ABDs out on the market for their first time. The entire department has conveniently forgotten last year's group completely, because we were a smaller group and none of us got any jobs. So conveniently, in fact, that you'll notice that the job placement page on the web site was just never updated and our year's "stats" mentioned (which would bring down our placement rate). Future grad students, assume that your potential departments are "accidentally" and not-so-accidentally lying on their stats pages to look good for you. You'll really have to dig to get an accurate picture of their placement record. Oh yeah, and the two people who got no job offers at all from the two-years-ago group and who have quit academia are counted under "decided not to pursue academia" not "couldn't get an academic job for five years of trying come hell or high water."
"Convenient forgetting." That's exactly right. It's why departments think it makes perfect fucking sense to tell you about all the awesome jobs their grads got fifteen fucking years ago. Because all those rock stars of the nineteen-nineties are just more salient to profs when they're thinking of their own programs' placement records.

Programs aren't necessarily trying to lie. But whatever. Don't get took.


Anonymous said...

Of course philosophy departments (or any other departments) want to "spin" the numbers to present the best face possible. Who doesn't do that, especially in this kind of hiring market?

Instead of bemoaning that fundamental fact, how about a constructive solution?: Let's have grad students at their respective institutions piece together a more accurate picture and post that online (some dedicated wiki site?) to help the entire community?

Anonymous said...

Suggestion/request: would it be possible to tag all 'advice for grad students and prospectives' posts (like the PFO and Sunday Comics are tagged), so that all the precious advice is easily accessible? I truly believe all this advice could make a great diference in people's choices.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant idea, anon 5:50. I'm on it (for my dept); let's spread the word!

Anonymous said...

But why wouldn't grad students also want their own institutions to be perceived in the best possible light?

Anonymous said...

"But why wouldn't grad students also want their own institutions to be perceived in the best possible light?"

That's easy: to punish their institutions for not providing them with a job.

Anonymous said...

Well, only after they get out and fail to find a job. If they are still in and still trying to get a job, then they want to make it seem that their school is as good as possible. Hence grad students don't have the incentive you seem to think.

philo said...

I also like anon 5:50's idea.

A few years ago, when I asked the then chair of my dept about placement history, he just said to me, "I don't know". He was relatively new to the university (he'd been there less than two years), but I was disturbed. Of course, being offered funding had a way of quelling my fears, but now that I'm on the job market, they are back...

The thing is, for the vast majority of us, venturing into a career in academia is going to be an act of faith. Dealing with the uncertainty (economic and otherwise) that this sort of life brings is no easy task, and I have found the multitude of voices sharing similar experiences and anxieties here on this blog to be edifying (mostly, except when they're very much not!).

Anonymous said...

It's a fairly constant refrain on this blog that we should pay more attention to placement records than Leiter rankings, but now you tell us that the placement records posted shouldn't be trusted either. What are we supposed to trust then?

cemetery polka said...

The placement page for my department is a joke. It only lists people who got a job; for every person listed there are one or two who simply dropped off the face of the earth. It's like they never existed. This is clearly lying; it is lying by omission. It's a fucking disgrace.

Sisyphus said...

Aha, I _knew_ I heard kvetching! And not only is there kvetching, but it's my kvetching, because that seems to be what I do best!

To add an interesting twist to my earlier rant, my dept. does _not_ list the numbers of people who end up never finishing because they get tt jobs at our local community colleges --- which is a little strange because we are actually doing quite well in that realm. Perhaps it's because they don't want us to go in aiming for that level. Or perhaps it's hard to tell whether someone is going to finish or not when they take a full-time cc job. (do you write them off right away? do you leave them on the dept. web page forever, optimistically? It's hard to know.)

And related to all this: my contacts at the CA ccs tell me there's no way to get in with just an MA anymore, because there are so many good PhDs who want the jobs. Depts want ABDs, to show that you _can_ do the research, even if they're agnostic about whether you actually ever finish it off. (You do get a salary bump when you finish, if you do.)

And I'd have applied to all those cc jobs where I know people already if the thought of teaching nothing but remedial comp and freshman comp for the rest of my life didn't make me wilt a little inside every time.

Anonymous said...

I will third that motion, Anon 5:50 -- good call!

I'm retarded when it comes to web stuff, and wikis are definitely not an exception. So I will leave that part to someone more able.

As for the format, should we have the following hierachy?:

- Year
- Number of graduates
- Tenure-track placements
- Other placements

Anything else?

Anonymous said...

Sure, grad students want their awarding institution to be thought of highly, so an inflated placement record serves that purpose. And if this is so prevalent a practice, then let's assume that all institutions do this.

In that case, if we can get a true snapshot of these institutions, then our perceptions of them will all be downwardly adjusted. So there's no net disadvantage to present an accurate picture (except during the initial phase when only some/few schools are fully disclosing their placement record, but it should work out fairly in the long run).

Anonymous said...

Leiter should get some serious credit here for his placement records push. About 7 years ago when I was a grad student he started pushing for "placement stats" for department web-pages. I got my department to do it in part because they wanted to be leiterrific. And they give enough accurate data to make it fair to incoming grad students.

Look at the University of Tennessee's placement page. It isn't good, but they should be lauded for being honest.

One thing that should be noted on these pages is the number of students that entered the program, the years in the program, the number that complete, and the number that gets jobs.

Perhaps some excel deity could whip up a form for every department to fill out and let the percentages flow.

Of course no one in positions of power want real data to be known.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 8:14 --

Agreed on giving props to Leiter. This is something he's drawn attention to, and he's not afraid to call out departments with misleading placement websites.

You're also right that he's fighting an uphill battle.

Anonymous said...

So, who's going to go first?

Anonymous said...

Following up on Anon 7:51, I suggest:

- Year
- Number of graduates going on the
1. For the first time
2. Not for the first time
- Tenure-track placements
1. By first-timers
2. Total
- Other placements

Anonymous said...

Yeah, thank heaven for Leiter! What a shitty mess graduate study in philosophy would be without him.

AM said...

In my department, those who finish their dissertations under Prof X or Y get TT jobs at research institutions. Those who finish their dissertations under Prof Z_1 . . . Z _n have a very difficult time securing any job.

Essentially, this means that, from my department, students with AOS X or Y do well and those with AOS Z_1 . . . Z_n do not. [Not surprisingly, my department is only ranked highly in Leiter's specialty rankings in X and Y.]

This is a valuable piece of information left out of many placement record pages (though, not all). Students need to know if graduating from Department A with AOS X has a history of helping a student land a job.

According to Leiter, departments have the most success placing students with AOS's that match that department's specialty ranking. Why? Because students in that AOS benefit from being advised by the best philosophers in that field and because those philosophers' letters mean more to a SC than philosophers who are not recognized in the field. He writes,

With rare exceptions, only philosophers with established reputations in an area of specialization can get students good jobs in that area. Letters of recommendation from philosophers who are not respected researchers in an area are generally not very credible.

If I were just coming into grad school, I would want to know how well students in my AOS did on the job market, not how students do overall in the department because on the one hand, I could get an inaccurate picture of my future placement possibilities because most of the students graduated and were placed in a different AOS than mine (one in which the department is highly rated as a specialty), and, on the other hand, I could get an inaccurate picture because most students didn't specialize in the discipline in which the department is highly ranked.

Anonymous said...

My department, I'm pretty sure, has a graduate now employed as a librarian at a top 10 school listed on their placement page!

At my school (outside the Leiter 50) between 10 and 15 people went on the market last year (2006-2007)--to my knowledge, about half graduates, and half ABD's. Of all these, 2 of them got jobs. This year it looks like we did about the same. Yet imagine you are an undergrad looking at our placement site!

The wiki should include a "hall of shame" for this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe, PGS, you could start a "hall of shame" thread for this? People could provide links so that all info could be fact-checked?

Sisyphus said...

Hey, there isn't an email listing for you all! I thought there was. What's the address for you again?

Anonymous said...

Prospective graduate students should *definitely* be asking and demanding full and accurate placement information before they go to an institution. This includes: dissertation area, adviser, year PhD was awarded, first job, current job (obviously TT status is important).

When I was entering graduate school, I was accepted by three departments. All ranked in the Leiter 25-50 range. All 3 had placement info on the webpage. One department's information was outright fraudulent (i.e. - the grad studies direction was deliberately putting false and misleading information on the site). One department's information was accurate but not very useful - because it only included people who got jobs. The third department's website was useful but still incomplete.

Prof. J. said...

I do think prospective students should ask the graduate director for information about placement. You could look at what data are already on offer, and think of a few questions about it, and then ask when you visit, or over the phone.

But (I'm surprised nobody has pointed this out) the placement data, even supplemented by the answers to your follow-up questions, may not be the information that you think it is. For instance, AM notes that

According to Leiter, departments have the most success placing students with AOS's that match that department's specialty ranking. Why? Because students in that AOS benefit from being advised by the best philosophers in that field and because those philosophers' letters mean more to a SC than philosophers who are not recognized in the field.

Is that really why? It's plausible. But another possibility is that students most interested in that AOS are most interested in going to that program, so the program gets its pick of the best students in that area. Their later success is a function of their ability, not of the recommendation letters or any kind of 'value added'.
It's not very plausible that this is the complete explanation. But I bet it is a big part of the explanation. (Does anyone doubt that the ex ante most promising students in philosophy of mind go to Rutgers, the most promising metaethicists to Michigan, and so on?)

Getting placement info is a very good idea, but keep it in proper context.

Anonymous said...

I think that Bowling Green's account of their placement record is honest. As well as noting the current employment of all of their graduates (as far as I can tell), they also note:

Of the 56 Ph.D. graduates since the program’s inception, 46 (or 82 percent) have found secure (meaning tenured, tenure-track, or similarly secure continuing employment). Of these positions, 35 are in academic settings, 17 are in non-academic settings related to the graduate’s course of study, and 4 are unrelated to the course of study. Thus 92 percent of our Ph.D. graduates have found secure positions doing work related to their area of graduate study. Nine graduates (16 percent) continue to find academic work in their area of doctoral study, but in jobs with less security (e.g. temporary or adjunct positions). Almost all of those with less secure employment or who are still seeking employment have graduated within the past 3 years.

Bear in mind that BGSU's program specializes in applied ethics, so the claim that some of their grads. are in "non-academic settings related to the graduate’s course of study" isn't as disingenuous as it might be coming from other programs.

Anonymous said...

Here's a novel idea for prospective grads choosing between schools: get your nose out of the computer and ask real live human beings about these placement details. Ask grad students at the program: how many people went out on the market last year, how many got jobs? Can you give an explanation for those who didn't get jobs (i.e. they wanted to go into consulting, they didn't work very hard, they had an unmarketable specialty, there's no good explanation except that the system sucks)? Do they feel like there's a good placement procedure in place and that the faculty are helpful in placement? Ask each professor that you're considering working with: who were your students in the last 4 years, and where are they now? (Note: this will also tell you if you are chatting with the unfortunately-not-too-rare professor who somehow gets out of advising grads. Bad if (s)he's in your area.)

"But people might lie," you say. Well, I think they're less likely to lie one-on-one and face-to-face when they're contemplating an actual person making a decision about his/her future than they are on a website's permanent and public record. Also, in my grad school search, I found people quite helpful and honest (and I, in turn, try to be helpful and honest) - keep in mind that grad students, at least, have very little to gain from particular prospective students saying yes (except, of course, the pleasure of your company). Honestly, if you're going to be miserable here, I don't want you to come.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about my cohort, the good ones got tt jobs. The bad ones didn't. Then there were the folks who decided to follow (or stay in place with) an SO into adjunctdom. Are all of these the grad program's fault?

Brendan said...

I'm a reporter working on a story about Princeton. I'd like to talk to Pseudonymous or anyone else about their hiring practices. Call or email. Can be confidential. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"Thinking about my cohort, the good ones got tt jobs. The bad ones didn't."

Demonstrably false for my cohort (I am in a Leiter top 8). But I don't think it's the department's fault, just the crap-shootiness of the system.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Brendan --

Not sure I (or any of the other grad students who post here) are who you want to talk to, since, as grad students, we don't have hiring practices. Except the practice of not getting hired.

But if you'd like some random suggestions about the sorts of people you might want to talk to, send an e-mail to philosophyjobmarket -at- gmail -dot- com.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Brendan said...

I'm a reporter working on a story about Princeton. I'd like to talk to Pseudonymous or anyone else about their hiring practices. Call or email. Can be confidential. Thanks.

Do not talk to this fucker!! If he is who I think he is (i.e. the person calling nearly everyone associated with Princeton philosophy) he is trying to dig up dirt about particular people in a very mean and nasty way.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon 10:02 --

No kidding. Seriously? Huh. Well, if so, he's shit out of luck. It's not like I know anything about that.

Anonymous said...

To help you cause. Maybe it would be a good idea to check Lieter's blog posting of tenure-track jobs, go to the wiki and look at the IP address of the person who said they accepted the job. Then, from their IP address, we can see the other job interviews that they posted. Then we can determine these folks had the majority of the interviews.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:32 is exactly why it is rational to free ride the job wiki.

The reason it lags is b/c for the APA stage there were 15 to 20 people that would list they got an interview.

On campus is down to 3 to 5.

Offers are down to 1.

So, the odds of those people posting at the end is low if they didn't post to begin with.

I know that I was a free rider on the wiki and know of an offer that isn't on the site. Not because I got it, but b/c I was told I was second and still in the running.

Luckily my free riding hasn't causes something to not be on the list other than this now two week old offer.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:32 is the reason why I never post info on the wiki. It's supposed to be anonymous, but those with the time to waste can at least figure out what school you go to (if you're posting from on campus).

akratic Irishman said...

Dear anonymous 10:32 PM,

Jesus Christ, man, get a life!

Anonymous said...

One way to get results for wiki is for everyone who had an APA interview to call those departments and see if where they're at in the hiring process (made offer, offer accepted, still interviewing). I'm not sure what departments are willing disclose at various junctures, but at some point, once a hire is official, they shouldn't have any problem saying such. Assuming 15 APA interviews and 3-5 each who attend to wiki, we can ensure up-to-date information. A less sure strategy is for everyone who had on campus interviews to do the same (it makes more sense as well).

Anonymous said...

Any information that's relevant to you, you can get by calling the schools you still might have a shot at. Info you want out of curiosity, well, why can't you just wait to Leiter publishes it?

juniorperson said...

I suspect that "Brendan" isn't a reporter--or at least, not a very good one. Surely any decent journalist would know that getting info. from anonymous people from a blog isn't exactly credible reporting?

And why bother doing a story on princeton's hiring in philosophy? Not exactly a big seller, is it?

Sounds very, very fishy to me...

Anonymous said...

Of course, one thing that job placement records for departments don't say is how many of its products are CURRENTLY on the market who haven't secured any position. Where do they note those failures?

Anonymous said...

hugh masekela's beautiful trumpet part has been running through my brain the last through days, due to your post title, so i wanted to say "thanks!"

Anonymous said...

Yo, Sisyphus. Teaching comp kicks ass. It's right up there with symbolic logic for teaching students a useful skill. I know a lot of English grads just want to teach literature, but at schools that have good, interdisciplinary comp programs you'll find that some of the best teachers AND best researchers across disciplines teach comp during grad school. The 5-5 load is another problem, and the bureaucracy, and never being able to go back to 4-year schools.

Sisyphus said...

Yo, anon 5:17:

I've taught comp; I teach comp. I'm very likely to get a job (if I ever do) at some nowhere place splitting my course load between comp and lit courses, and I'm cool with that. But my dissertation --- and the reason I went into grad school --- was on literature, and I get sad at the thought of never teaching it again.

I'm almost more willing to go off and teach high school at some shitty school where I could make a difference and teach comp as well as lit than to run exclusively with comp at the CC level teaching all the UCLA kids who want to save some money on their subject A class.

On the other hand, my friend who just got her TT job doing exactly that? Started at 74K. So it's not an easy choice.

Anonymous said...

74k? No shit? Must be Caly-for-nia, where median home prices are 450k. Still good money, though. If you want to teach lit, I won't hold it against you, de gustibus and all. Maybe that's why I didn't go into English, seems pretty dreadful to me.

As for placement records: if you've put out grad school apps and gotten several acceptances, you can generally to the university's library website and get a complete list of dissertations completed in each department. Just pick one graduate and look them up to figure out how the school identifies the subject heading for their own dissertations. This is probably the most complete list of graduates that's publicly available. Though of course it doesn't tell you how many people have bailed, it will tell you how many people have worked with each prof, and then you can google them and get pretty good stats on success rates. People who get the degree but end up outside of academia might be ungoogleable, but it gives you at least the positive data.

For 2-3 schools, you could probably do this in an afternoon, and it would give you useful, if not entirely complete, data.