Wednesday, June 18, 2008

late nite, good times

If it weren't for tipsy, insomniatic nights I'd never finish the dissertation.

[but I'm a little perturbed by the fact the current song on my ipod is called 'little discouraged']

-- Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

Comic Book Guy says: Worst. Post. Ever.

Anonymous said...

Awww, that's a bit harsh isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Since this post is not likely to spark discussion, might I suggest a topic?

Take a smart, creative, hard working, mentally well-balanced aspiring philosopher and put him or her in a low or unranked graduate program. Let's suppose we're dealing with a white male, so as to make him completely unattractive as a "diversity hire." Now suppose this character does really exemplary work while he is in the program: wows the professors, presents at the good conferences, gets articles published in good journals, writes a strong dissertation, and gets glowing letters.

I suspect that in spite of his demonstrated talents, this person will consistently be beaten out for jobs by less talented philosophers with no publications and less glowing letters, if these philosophers come from top programs. He may be able to land a TT job, but only because the non-awful philosophers from the top programs are not interested in that job.

If I'm right that a really talented philosopher from a not highly ranked program can't hope to beat out a merely non-awful philosopher from a top program for a job, then that suggests that departmental prestige really does play too great a role in determining who gets the good jobs.

Am I right? Any documented cases of people from low ranked programs who made it good?

Daniel Nolan said...

There are some people at the top of the profession who came from departments that are now outside the top twenty: John Hawthorne (Syracuse) and Peter van Inwagen (Rochester) immediately come to mind.

Of course different people have different preferences about what sort of academic job they would like (assuming they want one at all). But regardless of what you would like, a good way to see what is feasible for people from low-ranked programs is to look at placement records for those programs.

When we do that, I think it is pretty clear that people from low-ranked places sometimes are placed in much higher-ranked places, for example. (A job in a high-ranked place is not the only sort of desirable job, let me stress, but to get such jobs you usually have to beat some "non-awful philosophers" from high-ranking places!)

Consider Northwestern for example (Leiter ranks it 53rd in the US). It has placed students in Irvine, Toronto, University of Miami, as well as several very good unrated places (Dartmouth, Wesleyan). Now, maybe Northwestern is an exception, and I'm personally suprised at how low it is rated at the moment. But a quick glance at other low-ranked departments shows they have recently placed students in higher-ranking places as well.

Of course not all low-ranked places have adequate placement pages. But some of them clearly do okay placing people as well. To take an Australian example, Monash (which ranks the equivalent of 44th in the US) currently has graduates working at Rutgers (Brian Weatherson) and at Oxford (Julian Savulescu). Again, I suspect Monash is under-ranked, but the fact is that Monash graduates can beat out "non-awful" candidates from top programs.

That's not to say that people from low-ranked programs always get a fair go - I think they often do not. But there are not impermeable barriers to being hired in high-prestige places, even if you come from a low-ranked program. (I suspect it is harder still if you get your PhD from a Leiter-unranked program - but I do not know much about the Leiter-unranked PhD programs in the US, so I won't comment on that.)

Anonymous said...

11:53, you might have to be more specific than "low ranked program".

Ernie LePore, Martin Bunzl, and Howard McGary all went to Minnesota, and Brian Weatherson went to Monash. (I looked at the Rutgers faculty page.) Are those low enough? Maybe you meant recent hires?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Robert Pippin who is a professor at the University of Chicago. He took is PhD from Pennsylvania State University, which I don't think has a Leiter ranking. (Penn State is not to be confused with the University of Pennsylvania, which does have a Leiter ranking).

Another example at U Chicago might also be Jonathan Lear. Lear took his Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University, although he did take a M.A. from Cambridge so perhaps you would disqualify him as an example.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:17:

You're kidding, right? Rockefeller was a KILLER dept back when Lear was there...

Check it:

Anonymous said...

If the Leiter post that anon 1:31 just referred to isn't proof that Leiter is at least partly into rankings for the purpose of gossip, then I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

Aw, come on, you're just being contrary. Everyone loves gossip!

Anonymous said...

No, I wasn't joking about Rockefeller University and Lear. I had no idea that it had a strong reputation in the 70's. I appreciate the reference to Leiter's page about it and I hope you'll forgive me for not being able to cite Leiter by chapter and verse (cough cough).