Monday, April 7, 2008

I say good day sir (or 'mam as the case may be)

Not too long ago, I flew to a far away city to be on holiday. Being a friendly fellow, I struck up a conversation with someone else waiting for the delayed plane to arrive. When it came out that I was a philosopher-in-training, he indicated that he was familiar with academia and philosophy (but didn't say he was a philosophers so I'm guessing he was a professor in a related field).

All this is to say, he suggested that I set up meetings with a few memebers of the departments in the city I was visiting. I think the idea was just to get face time with some departments to help with things like the job market, and he was convinced it was a good idea. Now, I'm not particularly shy, but something about the suggestion just strikes me as odd. I think it's that I'm not focusing on the work of anyone in those departments so it isn't clear what I'd have to say besides "Hi, I'm a philosopher too!" I mean I don't think unsolicited visits are necessarily bad, but they also don't seem particularly helpful. Needless to say, I didn't visit the departments.

-- Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

"I think it's that I'm focusing on the work of
anyone in those departments so "

maybe you wanted a "not" between "I'm" and "focusing"?

Anonymous said...

I have heard that when people visit other places they contact the department and ask:

(i) Do you have any talks during this time; or
(ii) Would the department be interested in hearing a talk on X.

Since many departments have limited funding for bringing people in. If you are willing to do something on the cheap for them, they might just like it.

It isn't as crazy as it first sounds. I have been in departments where it has happened.

Anonymous said...

A philosopher who has nothing to say. That'll be the day!

The friendly fellow's suggestion is a good one if you know how to approach the situation. Check the department's website for a list of philosophy faculty members and see whose interests are similar to your own. Then, email that person and ask them to meet for tea or coffee. They'll be very interested in talking about their own work and (perhaps) interested in what you have to say about your own work.

If the department's website doesn't reveal the interests of the philosophy faculty members, then check the "Philosopher's Index." The Index allows you to search the database by an author's name. That should clue you in on what their interests are. AND you'll be able to talk a little bit about their publications. Stroking one's ego is a turn on in philosophy.

I don't think the friendly fellow was suggesting for you to go to the department and beg for a job. That would be very bad and not very helpful. I don't see how it wouldn't be helpful for one to show an interest in another's work.

Kalynne Pudner said...

Actually, I got my job from an unsolicited visit. But I was moving to the city, so I did have more justification than just, "Hey! I do philosophy, too!"

Second Suitor said...

Anon 6:50. Thanks. Looks like I should edit posts after I've enjoyed my morning cup of coffee.

Anonymous said...

Unrelated to the post:

Does anyone have a read on how up-to-date the job market wiki is? I keep checking about visiting jobs. So far, I don't have a lot of bad news: I don't see a lot of movement on jobs to which I've applied. On the other hand, I have to believe that people aren't updating it as regularly as they did in the fall.

Anonymous said...

Is the headline by Fez from "That 70's Show"? If so, genius!

Anonymous said...

Check out this article from the NY Times on April 6, 2008. ("In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined). Apparently philosophy is becoming a popular undergraduate major.

Anonymous said...

I've applied for some VAPs, but since I've completely stopped checking the wiki I haven't been adding any info. I just don't care anymore, plus it got so big it's hard to monitor regularly. On the plus side (from your perspective) I haven't gotten any offers yet.

Anonymous said...

I'm a philosopher working outside of academia (with a Leiter-listed Ph.D.; I'm not sure what, exactly, counts as Leiterrific, but I'm probably on the cusp). I have friends on the job market, and I read this blog to commiserate.

I've been relatively active research-wise, presenting papers at APA meetings and getting a couple of publications.

The big frustration of my situation is that I don't have colleagues to share work with. But I live in a large city on the west coast that is full of philosophers. I've e-mailed a few saying, I'm a philospher working on X; I've read your paper on Y-related-to-X; can I buy you lunch to run a couple of ideas by you?

If you think about it, you could tell a lot about a person by the way he or she responds to an e-mail of that sort.

And you can tell something about yourself by thinking about how you would respond to an e-mail like that.

Separate from advancing my own research projects, I've also written to some saying, I read your paper on X and would love to have coffee to talk more about it. It's a great opportunity to learn and find an intellectual colleague.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that it's still a bit early for the VAP decisions, though I would expect things to pick up very soon. Any insiders care to comment?

Anonymous said...

I had an interview for a lecturer position last week. I was told they'll make their decision in a couple of weeks. I stopped looking at the wiki weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to those who responded. It may be that it's still early to hear back about VAP positions. But some schools interview at the APAs for these jobs. There is only one APA left, and it is coming up soon.

Anon 10:16

ttassprof said...

So I've been tracking Leiter's list of TT hires ever since jimmyjimmycocoapuff started crunching the data a while back. The numbers so far by school are below, but I may have been sloppy.

Other caveats:

* The list is still incomplete. Rutgers hasn't made much of a showing and NYU doesn't appear at all. I know of a few lucky souls weighing multiple offers and I suspect there are schools holding on to their numbers till nearer the end of the season.

* Only TT hires are counted. Including postdocs seemed to me to distort the numbers a bit (e.g., Monash has a good crop of postdoc placements this year, but no TT placements). That said, when PDs are included, Toronto's clearly ahead of the pack.

* All TT hires are counted. I haven't made distinctions between jobs on the assumption that a TT job's a TT job. Perhaps some distinctions can be made based on teaching load, prestige, location, etc. but I leave that to others.

* It would be useful to know how many of these hires were fresh out of school and how many were bouncing around on VAPs. Also missing is what proportion of students these hires make up in each department and how many didn't land jobs. Again, I leave that detective work to others.

TT Placement Champs for 2007-2008

Northwestern (6)
Toronto (6)
Harvard (5)
Princeton (5)
Duke (4)
University of Michigan (4)
Purdue (4)
Cornell (3)
Fordham (3)
UC - Irvine (3)
UCLA (3)
University of Hawaii - Manoa (3)
Brown (2)
Georgetown University (2)
MIT (2)
Notre Dame (2)
Rutgers (2)
St. Louis University (2)
SUNY - Buffalo (2)
UC - Berkeley (2)
UC - San Diego (2)
UNC - Chapel Hill (2)
University of Indiana (2)
University of Arizona (2)
University of Leeds (2)
University of Minnesota (2)
University of Oxford (2)
University of Pennsylvania (2)
University of Western Ontario (2)
Vanderbilt (2)
Bielefield University (1)
Boston University (1)
California Institute of Technology (1)
Catholic University of Leuven (1)
Carnegie-Mellon (1)
Columbia (1)
McGill (1)
McMaster University (1)
New South Wales (1)
OSU (1)
Pittsburgh (1)
Rice University (1)
SIU - Carbondale (1)
Stanford (1)
Syracuse (1)
Temple University (1)
UC - Riverside (1)
UMass - Amherst (1)
University of British Columbia (1)
University of Chicago (1)
University of Utah (1)
University of Maryland (1)
University of Missouri - Columbia (1)
University of Sheffield (1)
University of St. Andrews (1)
University of Virginia (1)
University of Wisconsin - Madison (1)
UT - Austin (1)
Washington University - St. Louis (1)
Yale (1)

will philosophize for food said...

Thanks for that, ttassprof. It's interesting to see some not-so-leiteriffic schools doing very well (Purdue, Hawaii, Fordham).

Anonymous said...

The above doesn't really say all that much. We also need to know the number of peeps on the market from each school. If school X has 5 TT jobs lined up, great, but that begins to stink once we find out that they fielded 12 folks, and 3 of the 5 who were hired weren't ABD but coming out of other TT jobs or post-docs.

Anonymous said...

enjoying a few beers tonight and i tracked back to the thread ttassprof linked to re. placement. here's what's haunting me. the final post there is:

One instance of such a person with multiple offers is mentioned in the 2007 job thread:

"Note: Sam Cumming (Rutgers, AOS: philosophy of language) is still undecided; he has offers from Berkley [sic], Harvard, Pittsburgh, Princeton, and UCLA."

It looks like he ended up at UCLA.

you can download his diss via his page at ucla. it's LESS THAN 100 PAGES.

i'm in the history of philosophy, so this just does not translate for me. is it normal for you super-contemporary analytic types out there?

brian lighter said...

Looking ahead to the overall rankings, I suspect these numbers will bode ill for some schools. With the impending departure of their much-reputed Nietzsche scholar, Texas in particular is dangerously close to dropping out of the top 20.

Meanwhile, the University of Hawaii at Manoa can expect to be solidly in the top 40, if not the top 35, by next year.

Anonymous said...

I see 4 hires for UCLA on the Leiter threads.

Anonymous said...

...and Purdue has 3 hires, not 4, once you discount the postdoc.

- Anon. at 4:18AM (man, I'm sure glad it's not that early over here)

Anonymous said...

thanks for doing the math. if you're not including postdocs, purdue only has 3 hires this year. that's still not too shabby for a school unranked on the pgr.

Anonymous said...

Those TT job numbers aren't informative. you need to know how many people from each school were on the market. A few examples, based on my hazy memory of the dossiers I looked at this year for an open job: Pittsburgh's score of 1 looks especially bad when you realize that they had at least 6 people on the market; Harvard may look great with 5, but it had 8 or 9 people applying for jobs; Berkeley apparently did even worse, as it had something like 8 people on the market.

Anonymous said...

Of course knowing how many candidates were on the market from each school would be useful. tassprof says as much. The extra info provided by anon. at 9:17AM, if it's true, certainly aids in assessing job market success; but to claim these numbers aren't informative is crazy. The fact that an unranked school like Purdue is (so far) doing better in their placement than most of the top 20 schools on the PGR is at least significant.

Anonymous said...

Forget Purdue, who ever heard of Vanderbilt?

Anonymous said...

anon 9:17 here--
my point was just that the fact that purdue placed 4, and chicago placed 1, tells us just about nothing. maybe purdue had 10 candidates on the market, and chicago had 1. in other words, my point was just that it's absurd to think that we can note simply that school X placed 4, and school Y placed 1, and conclude that school X is doing better than school Y. of course, if people were just concerned that some schools might not place anyone at all, then the information is interesting -- but who ever thought that?

Anonymous said...

The "informativeness" also depends on whether the number represents people on the market for the first time or junior people who have been out for a while going to a new TT job -- those get posted to. E.g.: if I counted right, 5 of the 6 Northwestern people were coming from VAPs or postdocs, not fresh out of grad school. So while it might look like Northwestern is placing like mad, that appearance may be deceiving: it might be instead that Northwestern's 6 TT placements are out of, oh, who knows, 24 Northwestern Ph.D.s, 6 from each of the last 5 years each applying out again.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of schools not placing anyone at all, where the hell is NYU? Sure the season's not over yet, but can they still pull out an upset this late in the game?

Anonymous said...

you can download his diss via his page at ucla. it's LESS THAN 100 PAGES.

i'm in the history of philosophy, so this just does not translate for me. is it normal for you super-contemporary analytic types out there?

That's maybe on the shorter side of average, but still not abnormal.

cw said...

A colleague had a Baltimore interview with a SLAC. 15 people were interviewed. 10 of those 15 already had TT positions.

Anonymous said...

I've been cross-listing ttassprof's stats with the rankings on the Leiter Report and comparing faculty webpages. Could someone please explain to me how Texas, Irvine, Miami and WashU come to be ranked #13, #20, #32 and #39, while Purdue and Vanderbilt are unranked? I ask out of genuine curiosity and some concern having just been admitted to one of these two schools. I don't mean to imply that they should be ranked higher than the others. My question is rather why they aren't ranked at all.

charlie trotter said...

speaking with firsthand knowledge of the northwestern hires, the 6 with jobs were the only ones on the market this year. of these 6, 3 were abd (1 bagged a visiting gig last year), the others had degrees minted in the last two years (1 had a postdoc, 2 had visiting gigs).

its true all hires weren't fresh on the market, but hopping about for a few years is standard procedure coming out of any program these days and doesn't detract from northwestern's achievements this hiring cycle. toronto's placement record has been more consistently stunning over the years and has a similar 3:3 ratio of newbies to oldies this year.

will philosophize for food said...

"my point was just that the fact that purdue placed 4, and chicago placed 1, tells us just about nothing."

While other factors such as ABD's vs. TT's on the market, and total number of applicants do need to be accounted for, I hardly think that it tells us "just about nothing." It does tell us, in fact, that Leiter rankings are by no means the last word on placement; and that lower-ranked and non-ranked schools can still place people--even if not in the illustrious top-20.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of schools not placing anyone at all, where the hell is NYU?

Someone "superleiterrific" on the earlier thread left the following comment:

"I know for a fact that one department that is tip-top on the Leiter scale is having an absolutely awful time of it this year on the market. Only two candidates have had any job offers at all. The rest are completely empty handed."

I have a feeling this is either NYU or Rutgers.

Anonymous said...

My sense is that Vandy and Purdue are thought of mainly as continental depts. Although, Purdue has recently tried to change this perception by the looks of their recent hiring.

Programs that are mainly continental don't usually make it into the top 50 on the leiter rankings. There is a long list of these Depts that have really good placement.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:57--

Vanderbilt is a great program. Purdue is really good too (maybe not quite as good as Vandy). Both of these are probably just too Continental to be ranked by Leiter. But if you're interested in contemporary Continental, Dan Smith at Purdue is one of the most impressive people publishing right now. Kelly Oliver, Idit Dobbs-Weinstein, and Greg Horwitz (sp?) at Vandy are excellent, and there's also a new aesthetics person at Vandy (from Columbia) who seems really good too. All of these people have published extensively and are highly-regarded. Leiter probably doesn't recognize them because of the presses on which and the journals in which they publish. But anyone who reads these people's work and doesn't have a total prejudice against contemporary Continental phil will be impressed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:57,

Hey, someone has to come in last. I don't think placement record for 2008 is one of the criteria used to rank. So what if they placed people. That's not an indication of the pedigree that the Leiter report is after. It may indicate something else, though, like faculty success in placing. But it could just be a right mixture of openings and candidates. Who knows. It's all a crapshoot.

Anonymous said...

"A colleague had a Baltimore interview with a SLAC. 15 people were interviewed. 10 of those 15 already had TT positions."

According to a notorious troll active here some time ago, those 10people are MORALLY REPREHENSIBlE!!

Anonymous said...

Regarding Vanderbilt and Purdue, its important to note that Purdue was submitted to Leiter's evalutors to be ranked (and came out as unranked), while Vanderbilt, as far as I can tell, wasn't even submitted. L defends leaving some programs out of even being judged, but presumably this is where his own prejudices come in (both against certain kinds of programs, and just the general prejudice of relying on historical precedent). But maybe he submits this decision to "the board".

Anonymous said...

On Vanderbilt and Leiter.

John Capps's American Philosophy Blog had a bit on their relationship (jan 17, 2007). The post is called What Makes a "Good" Philosophy Department?.

For what it's worth, I've met a bunch of the people at Vanderbilt. They don't do what I do, but they seem serious and smart.

Anon 5:57 said...

5:57 here. I read the post by John Capps that 8:14 pointed to. (See here for a better link.) Thanks for that. These kinds of things can slip by the underinformed undergrad traversing her way through the blogosphere.

But to follow up on 8:05's comment, can anyone confirm whether Vanderbilt was indeed not submitted for evaluation on the Leiter Report? The question is relevant to my initial concern, because the lack of rankings for Vanderbilt, Purdue, etc. would then seem to derive, not necessarily from their low pedigree (or "weak faculty" as Leiter puts it), but perhaps a mere prejudice, either Leiter's or his board's.

Either way, I'm now wondering whether the rankings might do a disservice for prospective grads thinking about their long-term job prospects. Just looking at the departments I linked to earlier, there don't seem to be clear differences between the placement successes of UT - Austin (#13), UC - Irvine (#20), Miami (#32), WashU (#39), Purdue and Vanderbilt during the last few years. Am I missing something? I have to make my decisions in a couple of days. Don't know where I'll end up, but this blog has given me another perspective on things at least. Thanks for the replies.

Anonymous said...

Of the schools you mentioned. It really looks like Austin places the best. UCI seems the next best. Purdue looks like it has had some recent success and Wash U and Miami are about even. I think Vandy's placement page doesn't give you enough information to make an assessment.

If I were you, and I was choosing between these depts and all the depts offered me funding (This is a big deal. Don't go in debt for a degree in philosophy or in any humanities field.) My first choice would be Austin. It is not only ranked well and places well, it is a world renowned university. Irvine would be my second choice. They have a diverse dept. There are well know people there doing History, Ehtics, Political, Philosophy of Science and M&E.

If I were only choosing between the others, I would look at factors like the relative strengths and weaknesses of the depts and how they line up with my interests. I would also look at how much funding they are giving me, as well as the cost of living in the area.

For example, If I knew that I wanted to study continental philosophy I would choose Vandy.If I was interested in social and political philosophy or experimental philosophy/ cognitive science I would choose Wash U.

But remember once you get into grad. school you might actually change your interests. So, its sometimes good to go to a place with multiple strengths.

Anyway those are my two cents.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about Anon 5:57's philosophical skillz, but she sure can code. Seriously, though, go with the school you feel will sustain you philosophically and otherwise. One thing you should have been able to tell from this blog is that it's not an easy ride. Staying motivated through the x number of years it takes to finish is 3/4 the battle. If you haven't already, be sure to contact current grads in the programs you're looking at. The PGR may have its flaws, but Leiter's intentions are in the right place and his recent advice about the types of faculty to be aware of is right on the money. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

You don't want to live in Irvine. Trust me. You would much rather live in Austin.

Anonymous said...

Ummm Irvine isn't that bad. You are about 10 mins away from some of the most beautiful beaches in the World! (e.g., Laguna Beach)and 30-40 mins away from LA (without traffic) and the weather is as good as it gets.

Purdue grad (from a while back) said...

A number of folks have referred to Purdue's "recent success," and expressed concerns that perhaps there are many more people on the market than are getting positions. I don't know how many are actually on the market this year, but you can see here ( that over the last decade, 50 of the 55 Ph.D.'s went on the market, some in restricted ways (e.g. family), and all but one got a position, usually one that if not immediately then within a few years turned into a TT position. Many Purdue grads are now tenured at fine institutions, some grad-producing, and often on 2-2 or 2-3 loads with substantial research support.

The Department has special strengths in Continental philosophy (along with Smith, there's Bill McBride and Martin Matustik, with pragmatist support from Charlene Seigfried and Leonard Harris), but if you look at the dissertation titles, you'll see a range of issues in the history of philosophy and ethics, supported by a range of faculty in the department.

Sorry if this sounds like a plug, but this is a track record that in my opinion is deeply under-estimated in the profession as a whole. As a last comment, in the past there were usually about 10 Purdue grads on the market, but most were able to extend a year on fellowship if they didn't place, which accounts for the overall track record, and eliminates any misplaced concern that some Purdue grads were left high and dry.

Leiter rankings, we know, tell one important story about philosophy, and maybe two or three, but there are other stories to be told as well.

purdue grad said...

We had 6 ABDs on the market this year. So far 2 of us got TT positions and 1 got a post-doc. (The other Purdue guy who got a TT position was a VAP last year.) So, as of right now half of our ABD candidates have landed positions (1/3 have landed TT positions, 1 has landed a postdoc).

Leiter can fuck off. With few exceptions none of us care about the PGR.

Anonymous said...

Do you attribute some of Purdue's placement success on its combined degrees. I can see how this might help one in an age where people are looking for interdisciplinary scholar/teachers.

Also, with these degrees it looks like one can be involved in two academic markets. For example the Duquense (spelling ?) placement was in the Communication Dept and it looks like a couple of placements were in Literature Depts.

purdue grad said...

Purdue's phil/lit program is especially esteemed in Continental circles, so phil/lit students have an unusually good placement record. (Most end up in phil depts; once in awhile someone will go into lit). I can't speak for phil/com. In the 4 years I've been at Purdue (I'm graduating in May) there have only been 2 students in that program, one of whom landed a com job at Duquesne. The other guy is going on the job market next year, but I'm not sure if he's aiming for phil or com. Anyway it's not a very big program...

The general phil program at Purdue has a great placement record as well. No one who's graduated since 2004 has failed to get a job of some kind or another their first time at out. Not sure what the VAP to TT ratio is on that...

Purdue has a strong Continental program, but they're starting to make inroads into analytic phil of religion/epistemology under the leadership of Mike Bergmann and Paul Draper (the first of whom studied under Plantinga at ND, the latter of whom is a big name in phil of religion and replaced Bill Rowe when he retired 2 years ago).
Most of the new graduate students have come specifically to study that sort of stuff... everyone else (the Continental folks) comes to study under Matustik, McBride, and Smith...

Point is, we're a massively underrated program. Again, Leiter can go poop in his pants.

Purdue grad (from a while back) said...

Good question, anon 6:23, hard to answer. My view is that the two combined programs are amazing (Phil & Lit, Phil and Comm), and they are also very demanding, requiring you to pass comps in both areas. There have been very few folks in the Phil & Comm program, typically. And, folks from both combined programs are often discriminated against (in the non-pejorative sense) during the job process from both sides, since hiring committees are always looking for ways to get rid of good candidates in order to try to pare the competitive pool somewhat. "Too much lit, not enough philosophy," says one. "Too much philosophy, not enough lit," says the other. And so it goes...

So, my considered judgment is that these folks are not availing themselves of a hiring advantage, but rather overcoming additional odds, and still being successful.

(There's a side issue here, too, which is that folks in the program are usually "associated" more with one discipline than the other, and will for instance teach more in that discipline than the other. So, there are folks from the Phil & Lit program whose career has been in Literature only, and they are not necessarily included in the stats. This just goes to show how good a philosopher would have to be to get a job in a Literature program!)

purdue grad said...

Purdue grad (from awhile back):

Most of what you say about Phil/Lit, etc., is true. Note, however, that students admitted to this program must already have an M.A. in either English or Philosophy, which in turn determines their "home department." In other words, if you have an M.A. in phil your home department is phil, and if you have an M.A. in English your home department is English. That said, phil/lit students almost always spend at least one year teaching ENGL 106 (introductory composition); most end up teaching ENGL classes exclusively. One option a lot of phil/lit folks pursue is adjuncting at local community colleges - extra pay and more experience teaching philosophy.

Also, most of the English courses that phil students in phil/lit take are basically Continental philosophy courses offered through the English department. Very few of us take courses in literature proper. Consequently, the issue of "too much lit, not enough philosophy" seldom comes up in job searches. I'm graduating through phil/lit this year and the TT job I landed explicitly noted that phil/lit students tend to have an edge on regular phil students in Continental philosophy. This isn't surprising considering how much "lit" people like Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Sartre, Gadamer, Heidegger, Nietzsche, etc. etc. discuss in their philosophy oeuvres.

I don't know about phil/lit folks who go on the job market in English. My guess is that they have a better chance of finding a job if their English courses were in literature rather than theory (the idea being that they got the theory through the philosophy courses).

Anyway, we don't have problems finding awesome jobs at all - especially nowadays, when interdisciplinarity is becoming "hot" in (certain) philosophical circles.