Friday, March 21, 2008


Recently "the ethicist" commented on whether it's ok for a professor to take videos of his 8:00a lectures offline to get students to come to class. The answer? It's fine if the teacher thinks there is some pedagogical reason for encouraging students to actually be present during lectures. Then the ethicist defends the plausibility of the worth of going to class. But, not posting the videos is wrong if the teacher is doing it for some self-regarding reason.

Now I know sometimes I may act like a prison guard in the Stanford prison experiments, but I do try to get my students to express a certain regard for whatever I’m teaching. Not showing up to class or (even worse) coming late does not express that regard. For the most part it hasn’t been a problem since I’m such an engaging teacher ;). But, I recognize that my efforts to get my kids to come to class largely stem from the fact it makes me feel good when they act like they care. That may well fall into the ‘self-regarding’ category. Fuck!

-- Second Suitor


Mr. Zero said...

1. Randy Cohen is a tool.

2. He should have said that it's wrong to prohibit posting the videos if it's done only for a self-regarding reason. If there's a mixture of self- and other-regarding reasons, it's OK.

3. He should also have come down harder on the lazy pieces of shit who can't or won't make it to their 8 AM classes. If the class had been held at 4 in the morning, then they'd have a case. 8 AM is a completely reasonable time to hold class.

akratic Irishman said...

mr. zero said: "8 AM is a completely reasonable time to hold class."

No it's not.

Anonymous said...

When I teach an 8 a.m. (or, *gasp*, earlier class), I tell the students: "Hey don't blame me --- the university wouldn't offer them if there weren't people like you who sign up for them."

Whether 8 a.m. is reasonable or not, if the students sign up, they ought to come. If they just want to sleep in and watch the video, then offer a video-only class and let the lecturer record the videos when convenient for him/her. If 8 a.m. isn't a reasonable time to hold class, it isn't a reasonable time to expect instructors to teach, either. If it *is* a reasonable time to expect instructors to teach, then it's reasonable to expect students to come. Either way, Cohen should have come down harder on someone who wasn't the instructor.

Mr. Zero said...

Akratic Irishman,

I'm sorry, I disagree with you. I think that there are certain times of day when it is reasonable to expect adults--particularly adults who are in training to become medical doctors--to be up and at 'em. 8 AM counts. I don't like getting up that early either, but I have a good coffeemaker with an automatic alarm-clock-timer apparatus.

The more I think about the Ethicist's advice, the more wrong I think it is. Even if the reason is purely personal, I don't see why this professor should be obligated to have videos of himself posted to the internet, especially if it has the effect that sleepyheads think they can skip class without missing anything. If you don't want videos of yourself on the internet, you shouldn't have to have them there.

PGR Inquisitor said...

I need input on the PGR. It looks like the
Leiter Report's list of recent TT hires
is drawing to a close. Northwestern University (currently ranked #53 on the PGR) seems to have done very well, with five students by my count getting plum positions: two at top liberal arts colleges (Wesleyan and Bucknell) and three at good research universities (Fordham, Miami and Michigan State).

Since I'm thinking about PhD programs myself right now, I'm wondering what this suggests about using the PGR to assess my job prospects down the line. I know many caution against attending schools ranked in the bowels of the PGR, but surely this is evidence to the contrary?

Mr. Zero said...

PGR inquisitor:

1. The thing is not winding down. Just looking at last year's thread, there were something like 85 hires reported after March 22. There were regular updates all through April and into May. Rutgers posted barely any information until May 5, but they placed 11 people.

2. You should not use the PGR in the manner you describe. Correlations between Leiter rankings and job prospects are roughly OK, but are not precise. Some ranked programs have placement problems; some unranked programs net good results. You should take a careful look at the actual placement records of the institutions, paying attention to specialties and and advisors.

Anonymous said...

PGR Inquisitor:

The PGR measures the reputation of faculty quality (in a rather incestuous way). It's not uncorrelated with job success (especially at the "high" end), but it's by no means the full story (or even the most important part).

As many have noted, it's important to look at placement records over time. The number of students on the market from any given school can fluctuate wildly from year to year, and there is of course a lot of short term variance in success.

To take an example, Rutgers had a tiny number on the market this year, and only two are taking TT jobs (Leeds, a very good but non-elite research U, and Augustana, a very good but non-elite LAC with a strong regional reputation). Next year, however, Rutgers will have many strong candidates. If one were to look at this year alone, one wouldn't conclude that Rutgers is a good place to go, which is of course crazy.

So look at the placement records, and try to make sure they include students who _didn't_ get jobs (so you don't unreasonably favor programs with many students), and the number of students who never make it out of the program and thus never count against it on the placement page (I'm looking at you, Harvard).

Anonymous said...

The Leiter hire list is not drawing to a close. Most of the primo jobs have yet to be posted.

Anonymous said...

While my case is hardly parallel since I don't have an established practice of posting lecture notes, does Cohen's argument imply that unless I have a good pedagogical reason NOT to begin posting my lectures notes, I should immediately begin to do so? The early classtime is simply is a sample case.

wonderboy said...

If/when all PhD-granting departments have lots of solid placement record information on their web sites, will the overall Leiter Rankings become obsolete? What further purpose would they have?

Anonymous said...

The fresh market near my house normally carries rabbit. I wanted to make a nice Easter Bunny stew this weekend, but they were all out. Now I'm pissed.

ttassprof said...

In reply to Wonderboy and PGR Inquisitor:

To the extent that the PGR assists prospective grads in selecting programs, I don't see what purpose the overall rankings would serve if all programs started providing more comprehensive placement information. To the extent that the PGR allows established faculty to pass judgment on their peers and keep track of professional prestige, I can see the overall rankings still serving a function.

I suspect that rankings based on the objective data found in placement records would differ significantly from those based on the nebulous measure of "faculty quality." It's really a travesty that schools like Northwestern are ranked as low as they are. Even if this hiring season isn't over yet, we're at least past the halfway mark, and Northwestern's placement record this year is clearly better than a cursory look at the PGR would suggest.

The PGR's specialty rankings are a different matter, though even here Mr. Zero's advice of paying attention to specialties along with the advisors who get students jobs would serve prospective grads better than attending to specialty rankings alone.

Anonymous said...

The PGR's specialty rankings are a different matter, though even here Mr. Zero's advice of paying attention to specialties along with the advisors who get students jobs would serve prospective grads better than attending to specialty rankings alone.

I don't think there should be too much readily available information on who the advisors are of the students who got good jobs. I feel like this perpetuates the myth that getting a job is about your advisor, not your work -- and, more importantly, it could incentivize advisors to only work with promising students, which would be really bad!

Anonymous said...

Can we get some data on whether good jobs correlate more with institution or advisor? My guess is that institutions that have really good placement procedures (and attract the top students in the first place) do a good job with most students, independent of who advises who.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, placement depends on at least all of the following: quality of the overall program, quality of the student's advisor/committee, quality of the student's work, and dumb luck.

If you are the least impressive student ever to graduate from Princeton working with the least respected members of their department, you'll probably still get a job somewhere (unless your committee pans you in their rec. letters) but it won't be anything special.

If you are a great student coming out of an unranked university working with their best faculty, you will probably get a good job... probably better than the 'worst' student at princeton.

One interesting thing about this thread is that some of the comments seem to assume that there is universal agreement on what constitutes a good job. But, it is not at all clear to me that there is such a consensus. Is quality of the job based mainly upon: courseload? Size of the university? Size of the department? Selectivity of the University? Reputation of the department? Collegiality of the department? Number of majors? Geographic location? Quality of life that the job's salary can purchase in that school's area? Probability of the new hire attaining tenure? Something else?

I guess part of this answer is up to the individual. But I'd rather teach more classes in a location I liked with colleagues I enjoyed, than less classes with more prestigious people that I couldn't stand.

Anonymous said...

If you are the least impressive student ever to graduate from Princeton working with the least respected members of their department, you'll probably still get a job somewhere (unless your committee pans you in their rec. letters) but it won't be anything special.

This is flat out false. Plenty of students from Princeton, Rutgers, etc. have struggled to find TT jobs.

inquiring mind said...

As one who went through the market for the first time this year -- despite *thinking* I knew all there was to know both about the process and about my own preferences -- I suspect that, in the discussions that take place in this forum, there's a significant discrepancy between the perspective informing the views expressed by those who haven't been through this yet, and the perspective informing the views of those who have. (To wit, my suspicion is that Anon 12:02PM has been through the gauntlet -- and I think his/her comments bear a weight that some others don't.) So, even if folks wish to remain anonymous (certainly understandable), it'd be useful if they preface, sign, or otherwise couch their comments with(in) a brief self-description.