Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A flyout tale.

So, I had me a flyout or two this spring.

I'd thought things were going pretty well on one. And then came the teaching demonstration. No sweat, right? I fancy myself to be pretty engaging up there, generally speaking. Sure, you can't captivate every kid every time--oversexed, under-rested students have to sleep off their hangovers somewhere, after all--but I do okay.

As it happens, the kids in this particular class were pretty good. The problem was the chair of the department. He has me out to give a talk and a teaching demo because his department is thinking of hiring me, right? You'd think he'd, maybe, like, pay attention to how I was doing. But not so much. Dude was asleep. He slept through almost the entire demonstration.

Shockingly, I didn't get the job.



Anonymous said...

Ouch! Maybe you should have demonstrated how you would maintain discipline in the classroom by calling on the chair... I had a high school teacher who used to throw erasers at sleeping students.

mr. zero said...

That sucks. What an a-hole.

Anonymous said...

I had a flyout last month and was told that the prof would fall asleep during my teaching demo. And he did - within five minutes of my starting it.

I got an offer (not going). Oh, and they also bragged about how all the tests they gave in their intro courses were scantron. Very depressing.

Anonymous said...

I guess you should have gone with the thong. :(

Sorry, just trying to inject some levity. That guy sounds like a jackass.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about this. I had a faculty member fall asleep during my job talk, if it makes you feel any better. I took off my scarf and flung it across the room in the middle of the presentation, hoping it would get the energy up. It didn't do any good -- the snoring only increased in volume.

Were any of your other fly-outs any more successful??

Anonymous said...

You should have modulated your voice or yelled to wake up a "sleeping student" and the chair.

Sometimes you have to take control of the situation and call bad behavior what it is and do something about it.

Trust me, you will feel much better about it later if you take control of a situation where you typically don't have control.

I had an interview where they gave me the name of the restaurant before I went. Well, it was a steak place. Being a vegetarian, I asked to be taken someplace else before I even flew out.

When I got there and asked where we were going, they said: "Dead Cows and Pig" but they have a salad bar!

I asked the three of them if they liked to eat hot food for dinner and they said they did. I then asked them if they thought I did and told them that "Dead Cows and Pigs" wasn't acceptable and that I would eat at a lot of places but not that one.

I got the offer, but luckily, got a better one someplace else where they faculty were reasonable when I told them I was a vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

Sad story, but I love that we're getting more of the kind of horror stories that many of us come to PJMB for. Keep 'em coming. Other horror stories from interviews from readers?

Anonymous said...

Unrelated, but:

It looks like Mr. Leiter has decided to drop the pretense that he is merely collecting data on professor's opinions, rather that trying to influence that opinion:

Anonymous said...

I had a guy come in late to my job talk, sit in the front, then fall asleep. Later I made a joke about it with some faculty members there and found out that he had a medical condition (or at least that's what they said). Anyway, they didn't think the joke was that funny and I felt like a jackass after that.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a horror story as much as a word of advice for future jobseekers that I wanted to share. I had several interviews at the APA which yielded a few on-campus visits. Without exception, all of the interviews that went well (and from which I got callbacks) were ones in which I could tell that at least one member of the search committee had read my work closely.

In one interview it was clear the committee was simply going through the motions and asking me questions that even a cursory reading of my writing sample would have answered. Several of them were yawning and tuning out while I spoke and tried to engage them. It would have been easy to get flustered or disenchanted with the whole process at this point, but I wasn't bothered so much. I figured from advice given on this blog beforehand that some committees would have a shortlist going into the interviews that I wouldn't be on, and that they'd be less serious about me as a result.

So my advice is to take these sorts of encounters in your stride. I was able to tell in about five minutes of my interviews which committees were serious about me, and those were the ones in which I had good productive conversations about my research. If you find yourself in a similar situation where it's clear no one's read your work (or the chairperson falls asleep during your mock lecture) chances are you're not very high on their pecking order. But don't let it bother you. I found I conducted myself much better once I had a fair idea of where the land lay and realized that there wasn't much I could do to change matters. That sort of nonchalance disarmed a couple of the people I interviewed with, but it proved to be a spine-stiffening exercise for myself in getting through the process.

Anonymous said...

This is funny. I had a friend (in another humanities dept.) who suffered the same experience. After he was passed over for the job, he complained to the university president and provost, suggesting that they contact students in the class to corroborate the candidate's story. The university agreed to a settle the matter for about $100,000 when it looked like lawyers were about to be involved. Bling bling!

Anonymous said...

Damn--the lead story on is anti-philosophy!!! No more CV's turned in with your donations...

"Gwenyth Jackaway picked "Donor X" because he appeared philosophical and intelligent on paper. Her son Dylan, now 5½, already reads at a fourth-grade level, and also happens to be autistic. Jackaway reached out to other women who used the same donor and found another bond between some of them: autism."

Anonymous said...

I taught a "sample class" while on a job talk and had exactly the opposite experience. There were almost as many faculty members in attendance as there were students, and the faculty were *very* attentive. All of a sudden, it seemed to me like the register of my presentation was all wrong (i.e. over-simplified, too slow, condescending). It was a very weird experience.

Anonymous said...

To 4:05(b):

You missed the point. It's pretty clear that Leiter is simply trying to help undergrads make some very important decisions about which graduate schools they pick, as the new rankings aren't out yet. I tend to disagree with the guy a lot, but as much as I hate to say it, you have to give him some credit here.

Sisyphus said...

Ooh ooh! I want to hear horrible reimbursement stories ---- is it late enough for those to come out?

Here's one: someone in my department had a campus flyout, it went ok, they made an offer, but she ended up taking a different job (if only this story were mine!). They were a little pissy about it.

Now that she's submitting all her reimbursement forms to the places she visited, this school is making noises of, "oh, since you turned us down..." and "surely someone taking such a _fancy_ job wouldn't need that petty little reimbursement, especially since you turned us down..."

Anybody else have any horror or funny stories from that part of the trip?

Bobcat said...

My guess is that the chair was oversexed, under-rested, and in dire need of sleeping off that hang-over.

Anonymous said...

Wow - $100,000? I've already said the guy was a jackass, but how exactly is the experience actionable?

Prof. J. said...

Oh, and they also bragged about how all the tests they gave in their intro courses were scantron. Very depressing.

Ah, so I bet one question on one of the tests would be, "Name a city containing a branch of Dunder-Mifflin"?
(I misread the sentence the first time and liked my misreading better.)


I gave a colloquium talk recently at which a professor fell asleep. He snored, loudly. I think this was just as insulting to me as your audience member was to you, PGOAT, but probably a lot less upsetting. There are some contexts in which a person can laugh at being insulted. And I guess it was much more embarrassing to the host department members than it was to me. And similarly, I bet your (PGOAT's) incident has nothing at all to do with why you didn't get the job.

crabby abby said...

Is it just me, or does the new format of Leiter's blog SUUUUUUCK? Pain in the ass to have to click 'next' time and time again ...

tenured philosophy girl said...

"Wow - $100,000? I've already said the guy was a jackass, but how exactly is the experience actionable?"

Presumably the claim was that the candidate was not assessed fairly, since her teaching - an official measure of her performance as a candidate - was not witnessed by the chair who was sent to observe. Perhaps she would have come off as the strongest candidate and gotten the job if he had watched her teach brilliantly rather than taking a nap. If so, then his nap arguably cost her a whole salary, etc., worth much more than $100,000.

A $100,000 settlement, of course, does not say that if she won a lawsuit the damages would be assessed at $100,000. They would be more. It's a settlement, which is an amount of money they were willing to pay to avoid a lawsuit.

This may sound far-fetched but it is indeed the stuff of which lawsuits and settlements are made. I have heard far crazier.

Anonymous said...

Crabby - I agree about the poor new format for Leiter's blog. It's especially annoying when you're trying to view comments in a particularly long thread like the new TT hires. I thought it was some configuration issue with my browser at first, or that the software he's using had changed. Can't understand why he made the change himself.

Anonymous said...

As for the $100k settlement, I believe it never reached the lawsuit staged. And a big part of that decision was that there were many student witnesses that the university didn't want to see paraded on the stand. The university knew it was caught red-handed.

So if anyone does try to fight back, it'll need to be more than your word vs. theirs. But it could be worth it, if you really were treated unfairly (not just poorly).

Anonymous said...

That $100K settlement story reeks of the apocryphal, at least as it's being told. Organizations don't settle with individuals who don't have plausible legal claims. Maybe if the person had a civil rights (discrimination) claim, the story would be believeable. But a suit against a university for failing to assess a job candidate "fairly" based only on the ground that someone fell asleep during the candidate's interview would be dismissed immediately. No incentive for the university to "settle" there. Y'all are a little gullible, or careless with details, I think....

crabby abby said...

Headline News

Anonymous said...

i'm not that chair, and i didn't fall asleep during your teaching demo.

but i did fall asleep during your job-talk, and also the job-talks of your competitors.

also, i fell asleep when derek parfit came to talk, and when philip pettit came to talk, and when barbara hermann came to talk.

so it's not you.

it's me, and my life. i don't get enough sleep. having little kids in your forties will do that to you. plus, i work really hard at my job. i take my duties--teaching, writing, departmental stuff--very seriously, and that's part of why i come to all the talks.

but god i'm tired. i live in a state of near-exhaustion, ready to fall asleep whenever i am not going at fall speed. put me in a dark-ish room, tell me to sit still and be passive for an hour, and i'm going to doze off.

i try to get as much as i can from the talk. i usually only nod off for five minutes here and there.

and i don't pretend that i'm going to doze through it and ask brilliant questions. those myths about aged prof. x who slept through the talk and then asked a brilliant question always omit the nine other times when he asked a really stupid question that the speaker had answered while he was asleep.

look, i'm not proud of it. i had thought by this time in my life i would not still be pulling all-nighters, but between babies and papers to grade and committees and trying to get things written, i'm just chronically sleep-deprived.

so, just to let you know: it's nothing personal.

Rebecca said...

Warning! Thread hijacking to follow -

There was an exceptionally annoying and extended discussion a few months ago on this blog about whether being female gave you some big advantage on the philosophy job market.

With all the obvious caveats, I thought the following might interest PJMB readers. Leiter now has 96 comments on his hiring thread. I went through and counted how many of these jobs went to women and how many to men. I skipped a handful of names that were gender-ambiguous, at least to me. I did not bother to look at how 'good' the jobs were or whether they were postdocs or whatever.

Here are the current results:

85 jobs went to men
20 jobs went to women.
That's 76.5% of the jobs going to men.

There are no good stats on what percentage of philosophy grad students are women but the best figures I have read put it at about 25%.

So unless the original posters are willing to come out and claim that male grad students are just better or more qualified than their female counterparts, that seems to me to be very good evidence that it is no advantage to be female in this market.

mr. zero said...

The new typepad format wouldn't be all that bad if it would actually take you to the actual comment you actually click on. If I click on the most recent comment, it should take me to the most recent comment, especially if the most recent comment is on the second page. It should not take me to the very first comment on the first page. Stupid. (Not that I agree that multiple pages are necessary. It's called broadband. Get it.)

Anonymous said...

I don't care if you are an undergrad or a senior prof, if you think that you may fall asleep during a talk, don't fucking go. Think of it as sleep incontinence, that is, if you knew that there was a good chance that you would shit your pants during a talk, you probably wouldn't attend. Same for sleep. But in these cases, I would be less insulted if you dropped a load in your trousers. Assholes.

Anonymous said...

and there i was hoping nobody noticed the smell.

but--seriously--are you really trying to claim that it is as severe a social gaffe to fall asleep during a talk as to soil your britches?

i believe that's called "hyperbole". and i believe that no one, when not in hyperbolic mode, agrees with you.

falling asleep in a talk is mildly rude to the speaker and mildly embarrassing for the sleeper. it is orders of magnitude less noxious and noteworthy than making cakes in your seat.

the argument that one should avoid going to the talk rather than risk falling asleep may have some merit to it--if the risk is high, predictable, and reliable--but to compare it to crapping your pants just seems silly.

i mean, just imagine if you were teaching one of those monster lectures and ten percent of your two hundred students were squeaking out fecal treacle, engaged in a process of elimination, right there in the auditorium. maybe then you would realize how much preferable sleepers are.

Anonymous said...


Although you used the word 'hyperbole', and appear to understand its meaning, you don't appear to understand its function.

Anonymous said...

Anon. at 10:17AM: that's one of the funniest comments I've read on this blog.

crabby abby said...

I don't really care about this debate, but "making cakes in your seat" is certainly an expression to remember.

Anonymous said...

'squeaking out fecal treacle'!!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any advice about on-campus interviews with the dean or the teaching demonstration?

Anonymous said...

not bad, 10:17, but i think your ear is a little off.

if you want to make a phrase of it, surely it should go "leaking fecal treacle."

superior in every way. not that i'm saying my shit's better than yours, or anything.

a shyster said...

Organizations don't settle with individuals who don't have plausible legal claims.

Sure they do, all the time.

Example 1: It may cost more to litigate. A simple cost-benefit analysis can make that decision.

Example 2: They may have an interest to not have some embarrassing event become public knowledge. If a dept chair falling asleep during an interview is not bad enough, maybe there's something else in his background/personnel folder that officials don't want to come out.

Anyway, $100Gs is not a lot of money for a university to pay for some pesky situation to go away, especially if they were in the wrong.

Further, the legal claims only need to be plausible to a jury of *ordinary* (read: easily manipulated) citizens. Even if university lawyers think there's little legal standing for the suit, it's not their opinion that counts. Silly lawsuits make it too court *all the time*, many of them successful.

So a $100G settlement makes sense, if you want to minimize financial exposure and embarrassment, as well as possibly other legal actions from similarly-situated candidates.

Anonymous said...

Example 1: It may cost more to litigate. A simple cost-benefit analysis can make that decision.

The only potential cost relevant to a cost-benefit analysis in this case is the cost of hiring a lawyer to file a motion to dismiss the case. It would be an easy motion. The case would not even get to discovery (where cases get expensive). It would be far cheaper for the university counsel to let the idiot file the suit and file a motion to dismiss it than to spend 100K to make the "pesky situation go away."

The reason the case would be dismissed, with 100% certainty, is that there is nothing "in the wrong" about some asshole falling asleep at your job talk. Maybe morally, but most definitely not legally, not even in the crazy legal system we live in. You may think our tort system is out of control, but this isn't a tort by any stretch of the imagination. There's just no legal basis for this case at all.

It's true that "silly lawsuits reach the courts *all the time.*" That doesn't mean, however, that any old "silly" thing that irritates you has a chance of making to a jury, much less past a motion to dismiss. Many silly cases make it past motions to dismiss. Many juries even find in favor of plaintiffs on silly claims. It does not follow that any silly claim has a chance of getting to a jury. Many claims laypeople consider "silly" are actually, for better or worse, legitimate legal claims.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, 9:02...BURN!

Anonymous said...

Some of the reasons given why a lawsuit against a university wouldn't work sound plausible....except for the fact that it has happened (or at least the $100k settlement part was right -- I have first-hand knowledge of this, though not a party to it; but I am not privileged to release any details, given that it's a sealed settlement).

So again in philosophy, theory meets reality, and reality wins despite our best reasons otherwise.

Anonymous said...

So again in philosophy, theory meets reality, and reality wins despite our best reasons otherwise.

Hey, look, everybody! The anonymous person who claims his anonymous friend won $100,000 in an implausible settlement from an unnamed university came back to swear, anonymously, that his story is true! After all, "theory meets reality--reality wins." He's right! Case closed!

Anonymous said...

Hey, look, everybody! The anonymous blogger so-called "PGOAT" said s/he had a job talk at some anonymous institution in which some anonymous department chair fell asleep. So it must be true! Case closed!

Anonymous said...

Of course, PGOAT's claim is inherently plausible, and your claim is completely implausible. I don't believe in Jesus (in part) because the testimonials are all anonymous. If the testimonials just said that somebody fell asleep during his lectures, and not that his mom was a virgin and he came back from the dead, I'd be more inclined to accept him.

If you want people to believe you, you've got to provide evidence. Two anonymous posts doesn't suffice. Sorry, douche.

Anonymous said...

Hi 4:37!

Your mom has the evidence. I gave "it" to her last night.

Anonymous said...


So you're the needle-dick dumbfuck my mom was telling me about. She asked me to tell you something: get a new dick, and don't believe everything you hear. Stupid.

Anonymous said...

Your the won whose stoopid;