Friday, October 3, 2008

Guest Post: Deal-Killers

Mister Philosophyhead is back, with his second guest post.  This dude is definitely growing on me. -- PGOAT

Now that we have settled all the more pressing issues of philosophy job marketeers everywhere, like what that crossed-out date on the APA site meant, or how great my playlist is compared to yours, or anything involving you telling me stuff about the market that I already know or should have known, assuming that I am really enrolled in graduate school and interacting with real faculty members and real other graduate students on a regular basis, rather than someone who just happened to stumble on this blog by accident and who writes posts to fulfill some sort of Chuck Plahniuk or whatever his name is type fantasy of pretending to share in other people's suffering for the sake of personal catharis or just to alleviate boredom (in the movie anyway it was unclear which it was exactly), well, maybe then we can get around to some simpler issues for folks like me.  So here is an unresolved question from my last post which I have been thinking about.
 
Suppose you got hired recently and there is something you now know about your new department or school which would have made you think twice about accepting the job.  But of course, nobody told you before you were hired.  It could be something weird though not necessarily deal-breaking, like that half the department are practicing Wiccans.  Or maybe something not so weird but potentially deal-killing, like [
redacted for the sake of author's and author's friend's anonymity] I have three questions about this, one theoretical, one practical, and one solely for entertainment:
 
(1) Does the head of the search committee have an obligation to tell you these weird or potentially deal-killing facts before your accept an offer?
 
(2) Assuming the head of the search committee does not fulfill such an obligation, how do I go about finding out?
 
(3) Any stories?
 
Thanks again, PJMBers.  I've gotta go update my iPod now!
 
--Mister Philosophyhead

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

First caveat: I only think the chair has a moral obligation to disclose should he or she *recognize* that this is a potential dealbreaker. If the chair, e.g., is one of those many Wiccans, s/he may not think of their particular bent as a problem. But if the chair knows of some obvious disfunction in the department then, yeah, I do think there's a moral duty to let potential colleagues in on it.

But I have no reason to believe any actual chair would do that. Spend all that time and money courting people while simultaneously pushing them away with one arm? Nah. So the question is how we the applicants find out. I think this is just another reason everyone should start to cultivate a good relationship with at least one faculty member who is both reasonably well-connected and a gossip, early on. Can also save you a lot of grief when choosing committee members, dealing with admin staff, dating within the grad population, and so on. So start now, little ones!!

Anonymous said...

Once I had the chair of a department, in full disclosure, tell me why the last TT hire in the department was denied tenure. This was during the in-person interview. I also once had a member of a hiring committee for a VAP position tell me that there was some in-fighting among members of the department (particularly between those who taught religion and those who taught philosophy). This was during a phone interview. However, you cannot take these statements at face value. The first one I suspect was intended to let me down easily. An inside candidate was hand-picked and eventually hired. The second might have been a way of making sure that only serious candidates who were made offers decided to sign on for their tour of duty. I was made an offered but declined, fearing that I would be entering a hornets nest. Transparency, disclosure, publicity--whatever you want to call it--is good, but you want to consider what the motivations behind it are. Failure to disclose or make public certain highly relevant information for you to make an informed decision to join (or not join) a department is just as disconcerting. The moral of the story: Even (perhaps especially) philosophers will behave as strategic actors.

Anonymous said...

This falls under the "stories" section. I am a graduate student at a "top 20" program that was told, some three years ago, by our then non-faculty department manager not to tell prospective new-hires anything bad. Thankfully I did not listen. Since then, out of some sense of graduate student obligation, I told two prospective new-hires my take on the cons of coming to our department, and they both ended up coming. I have no clue what my professors were telling these folks, but I suspect it was not only the rosy.

Anonymous said...

At the time of last year's Eastern I was ABD. I only received one TT offer about a month before I completed my Ph.D. in May. Since nothing else was forthcoming I took it. There probably wouldn't have been many "deal-killers" for me because "beggars can't be choosers", right?

Since taking the offer, however, there are a few things I wish I had known in advance. For example, although I knew that the university had no philosophy department or major, that I was replacing the only philosophy professor, etc., I didn't know that the university had no immediate plans to change that. On the contrary, the search committee had suggested, or at least implied, that the university was planning to 'develop' a philosophy department in the next few years. So either I misunderstood something, or else the search committed twisted the truth. It turns out that my predecessor carried a 4/4 load without interruption for his entire 30+ year career at the university. This is exactly the situation I am facing as his replacement.

So guess who's going on the job market again this winter??

Also, I wish the search committee wouldn't have told me that 'research was important' at this university, that tenure and promotion were determined according to a 'standard 40-40-20 research-teaching-service' criterion, etc. That's bunk. No one (in my College at least) does research as a condition of tenure - not necessarily because they don't want to, but because they don't have the time. The course loads are too high. Tenure is awarded very easily around here, and research is a dummy requirement. It's not really valued at all; in fact, I think the opposite is true. People who concentrate too much on research are looked down upon. Plus, you'd think this university would make more funding available for research if it regarded research as 'important.' There's none! The most I could get out of the entire university for a trip to the Eastern APA this year was $200!!

There are more examples, but I'll give it a rest. The point is, they totally misrepresented themselves to me. The sad thing is, even if they'd told the whole truth I'd still have had to take the lousy job!

Anonymous said...

Anon 9.24 is right: It is quite unlikely that a SC chair, or anyone else for that matter, will recognize a deal-breaker as such, and forget Wiccans - who will ever tell you "we all seem really nice and collegial, but we also checked our intellectual aspirations at the door, 20 years ago"; or "we're all cutthroat assholes"?

Anonymous said...

anon 10:44,

As ABD last year, I interviewed for a very similar position. (I wonder if it was the same?) In this situation, there also were hints of building up a philosophy program from a single tenure line; however, when I asked various people (administrative types, cognate department chair) under what conditions they would add new tenure lines, they replied "high enrollment". Without requiring philosophy classes for most majors, how do they expect enrollment to increase?

It didn't really sound to me like they were serious about having a philosophy program. However, if they had offered me the job, I probably would have taken it (as an ABD with no other offers for the fall).

Best of luck with getting out of Dodge.

Anonymous said...

I was systematically deceived by the chair about the TT job I accepted on things like salary, collegiality, tenure expectations etc. After I signed on the dotted line, the chair quite happily revealed the deception and said that all the lies were told because they were under Affirmative Action pressure to hire a woman in a male-only department. He also sent along hundreds of pages of abusive email messages that had passed between faculty members to give me a "heads up" before I started. I never would have taken the position if I had known the sorry state of the department and feel like a naive dumbass for not picking up on the deception. Of course, I was desperate too: it was my second year on the market, debt was piling up since my VAP didn't pay well and I had a 3-month old baby. I would advise prospective job seekers to be on the lookout for faculty members who appear too enthusiastic around each other. Faculty members who clapped each other on the back and appeared extremely congenial in front of me were actually involved in a bitter tenure-related lawsuit. I often think longingly of the other TT position I turned down and will be on the market again this year.

Anonymous said...

Can I say again how profoundly stupid the timing of the eastern APA is. I mean, I've got to plan two plane flights and hotel reservation from the day after Christmas to New Years Eve, when just about everyone else in the country is traveling to some expensive east coast hotel when I'm not even sure if I'll even get any interviews. I've heard the reasons before for the advantages of scheduling it then, but they don't seem to me to win the day.

Anonymous said...

Re: the APA, besides all of its obvious sucking and taking you away from your loved ones immediately after the holidays (at least for Jews and Christians and atheists who celebrate their holidays), it turns you into an annoying psychopath during the time you do get to spend with them, since you're freaking out about your interviews, or lack of interviews, or generally the bad decisions you've made in life. And of course my ex lives in Philly which will make this particular year just so much more fun. (Hi! If anyone just figured out who I am.)

Anonymous said...

10:44:

I am wondering if I know you--and if we were in the same department (in different capacities)--and if we interviewed for the same job... Did Bea interview you?

Anonymous said...

Talk to junior faculty while on campus. They're reasonably likely to be open about departmental nastiness. If you want to go really nuts, contact former faculty who have moved elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of former dept members, was anyone else intrigued by the exchange with Adrian Piper on the philos listserve? Was she really drummed out of two departments? (I know she's still pretty well respected in the art community.) Anyone have the inside scoop there?

Anonymous said...

Honesty in interviews: I've had several interviews where I was told the salary (it was set in stone, they said) during an initial phone interview. While this clearly could be a dealbreaker for some people, I wouldn't have included this comment here because it's something you're guaranteed to know before you sign the bottom line-until I read Anon 4:14, who apparently didn't know her salary until after she accepted the job.

As for the timing of the APA, I love it. Everyone has off so there's no need to cancel class (if you teach) or take vacation days (if you don't). Plus it's in Philly this year. What could be better than that? Cheesesteaks are the ultimate interview-prep food.

glaucon said...

It's a shame that more schools don't do what one did for a campus interview I had: set aside an hour for an off-the-record chat with profs from other departments so I could ask questions I might be reluctant to ask department members (or might not get frank answers to). It seemed a good faith attempt on the school's part to deal with the fact that the good behavior of potential colleagues (like that of potential in-laws) might be misleading.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:06PM,

yes, relative to the complications arising during the time when school is in session, then, yes, the timing is good in that regard. But as for having the time "off", that's true if that means there's no classes, but there's a whole lot of other things going on during that time that makes traveling then a real pain.

All I'm asking for is at least to move it just a couple of days later. That way I don't have to get on a plane the day after Christmas so I'm sure to arrive at the hotel on the 26th just in case some department wants to interview me first thing on the 27th. Yes, that means the conference includes new year's eve, which I understand tends to be a more expensive time, but trade off seems worth it. And, hey, there's no better way than to spend new year's eve with a bunch of other philosophers. As it stands, I'll be flying out of there on new year's eve. What a bore.

Anyway, I'd rather cancel classes. After all, this is a work-related conference, not a vacation.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of job candidates who are desperate enough for a job that bad information rarely turns into a 'deal breaker'.

One might want to downplay these things, but one shouldn't try to cover them up. Candidates who have been lied to usually (and justifiably) have no compunction about going back on the market right away.

Departments should want to hire someone they can keep, and any candidate who is desirable enough to actually treat the bad information as a deal breaker will be desirable enough to move on the next year, so you don't gain anything (unless you count doing another search as gaining something) by lying to them.

If the candidate isn't strong enough to get a job anywhere else, they probably would have taken your job in spite of the bad news, and just would have been a lot less bitter about it once they arrived.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:05,

I once extended an APA stay over New Years, and found that my room rate almost tripled for that extra night (and was still more than double the non-apa rate for the night before).

Anonymous said...

4:12 Keep in mind, New Years Eve is a huge night for parties and romantic getaways at hotels. In comparison, hotel business is extremely slow the week before New Years (something about people wanting to stay with their families). I suspect this is one of the reasons the APA has the meeting during this window... it is a lot cheaper than most other times.

Anonymous said...

here's a discussion on philosophy of religion and the job market:

http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2008/10/specialization.html

might be of interest to some here...

Anonymous said...

Seems like many schools are doing away with APA interviews anyway. Last year several of mine were just flyouts. And I know of several other schools that cut out the APA interview stage.

But maybe that doesn't help job candidates; unless everyone eliminates them, you'll still have to go to the APA if you have even one school that does them on your list.

But at least it opens up a pointless debate about which practice is better, starting with APA interviews or going straight to flyouts...

Anonymous said...

Last year, I booked a room and flight. Then on the morning I was supposed to leave, I canceled both since I didn't manage to get any interviews. Of course, the airline charges about $100 to rebook a different flight w/n the year, but that pales in comparison to all the cost associated with going to the APA.

Anonymous said...

I'll surely be lambasted for not knowing this, but have they announced the conference hotel yet?

Anonymous said...

This is why you won't get a job. Yes, they have listed the hotel. Go to APAonline.org and look at the Proceedings.

Basic competence people!

Will Philosophize For Food said...

It's in the downtown Marriott, 1201 Market Street

http://www.apaonline.org/documents/divisions/eastern/2008hotelresform.pdf

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:48 here, to anon 2:10:

Wow, what a dick!

Anonymous said...

Ah, wpff, as ever being the scholar and gentleman. I can actually use the APA website, but thanks for helping someone else out!

Believe me folks, I know we're all stressed approaching Friday. I'm barely sleeping or eating (Unfortunately, I think that's a wash on the attractive-candidates-do-better front). But there is just no damned need to be so unpleasant with each other. (And yeah, I'm looking at you 2:10.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:48 again ...

I'm sure I could have found the page that wpff so kindly provided (thanks, wfpp!), if I'd rooted around a bit. But it hardly jumps out at you! There's nothing on the APA's home page indicating the venue for the Eastern. You have to go to Meetings and Divisions/Eastern/Hotel Reservation Form to find it. Then there's this hotlink in the pdf that links you to the hotel and directly inputs the APA promotional discount. That's pretty cool ... but I'll bet some people like me who lack "basic competence" will end up spending more than they have to because they haven't discovered this link.

Anonymous said...

5:53, I am not a dick. What I am is someone with a job that has to deal with a new faculty member that doesn't have basic competency, which means I have more shit to do. If you have trouble with things like: where's the hotel, then you are not someone I want in my department. Good luck making it to airport or getting dressed today.

Tell me this. Is it so hard to find out where the hotel is. And wouldn't you think that they would have listed the hotel 11 weeks before the meeting.

So, I don't think of myself as a dick, but if asking for people to be basically competent makes me a dick, then fine.

Will Philosophize For Food said...

You're welcome, all.

Third year on the market, myself--so I've kinda got things down at this point. Perhaps Anon 2:10 will hire me? ;)

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:10/6:28,

If you're so concerned about having "more shit to do" because someone else "doesn't have basic competency", then why are you wasting your time lurking around here and pouncing on "incompetent" commentators? Isn't that just "more shit to do"? Surely your time is better spent looking over applications and preparing to grill your applicants, assuming that those are what you're worried about. Anonymously urging anonymous people to acquire "basic competency" seems to be a very ineffective way of insuring that your future colleagues will have it. On the other hand, if you're just venting or if it just makes you feel good to be condescending, then you are a dick and we need not pay attention to you.

Anonymous said...

To anon 6:28. Surely we can distinguish between the matter of your expectation and the form in which you expressed it. Of course, it is plausible to expect that people are able to find out for themselves what hotel is hosting the APA (the "matter" if you will). But, you are indeed being a schmuck when you join that expectation to an express insult about someone's competence (the "form.").

As for the matter of your request itself, I frankly fail to see how it goes to competence as a professor of philosophy. Honestly, it sounds like the kind of panicked inability that strikes many of us during such a stressful time. But, I guess that's a separate matter for debate.

Signed,

Someone with a TT job (who thinks its normal to get nervous and confused before the APA)

Anonymous said...

I am the person asking for basic competence. Here is a job market story I saw first hand as a grad student that killed it for the candidate.

We are at dinner and the candidate looks at the chair of the department and says. You know I am interested in teaching X (imagine modern phil), does anyone in the department teach modern?

Chair (a famous modern scholar), says well yes, I do.

Interview over. The candidate gave their talk and all the nice things happened, but guess what. No offer for you. Read the web page and know who you are talking to. Basic competence.

As for the hotels, you only have to click on "Annual Meetings" to find out what city and hotel. Often several years in advance.

This isn't _Metaphysics_ "Zeta" people!

jr TT said...

Now THIS is why I love this blog.

Anonymous said...

You think Einstein knew how to use Google?

Anonymous said...

anon 2:10 --

No, it was more the comment about my not getting a job that struck me as quite penis-like.

Anonymous said...

btw, that link puts in the discount code, but not quite the discount they promise. call the hotel for that full discount. just a little service to the community. hang in there everyone.

Anonymous said...

um. so they just asked where the hotel is, they weren't berating anyone about it, nor whining. just asking.

is it you who doesn't have the basic social competence to deal with normal job stresses without taking it out on an anonymous colleague on a blog? nobody wants your attitude around and nobody wants to hear you whine about how supposedly incompetent your junior colleagues are when your social incompetence is the real issue here and one with which so many of us are already all too familiar.

lucky for you the blog is anonymous; unlucky for you your colleagues already have you pegged for the social gorilla you are and wish you would just go away.

Anonymous said...

Prosblogion. Now, that's funny.

10:24: You don't live in a Southwest-serving city? That sucks. I finally do, well a couple of hours from one, and today I changed my flight to another conference. Cost of change: $0. Sure beats the hell out of USAir.

Anonymous said...

Q: How is my former graduate program like the PJMB comments section?

A: Both are populated by mostly anonymous people getting outraged at each other over nothing.

--Mister Philosophyhead

Prof. J. said...

I have a question about the story of the candidate who didn't know the chair was a famous early modern scholar.

We all know that's a foolish faux pas, and that people who do things like that and disrespect the important folks, and so on, are going to miss out on jobs.
But you've given this as an example of someone who shouldn't get a job. Is that really what you think? Because that seems incorrect to me. It seems to me that the chair should get over himself and decide whether the socially imprudent candidate is the best qualified for the job.

Graduate students will, I bet, almost all have examples of really good philosophers on their faculty who would be likely to say something foolish at an interview.

Anonymous said...

So here's a question given the recent post over at Leiter on working at a Malawian university: how would doing that for a couple of years affect one's career thereafter? The guy who sent in the original post was following his wife with a Fulbright, but assuming one just wants to help a developing nation or live in a foreign country for a bit (as the one undergrad commenter suggested) would this be considered an "acceptable" period of time away from the competitive job market in the US/UK, or taken as a signal that the applicant had been unable to snag a better offer his or her first time out?

Anonymous said...

I'd actually prefer to have as a colleague the one who didn't know where the hotel was or didn't know that one of his/her famous colleagues was famous. That stuff is pointless drivel. If I wanted some corporate professional type, I would have joined the corporate world, where they actually care about such tripe. Didn't someone once say of someone that he "was wild to know about what was up in the sky but failed to see what was in front of him under his feet. ... It is really true that the philosopher fails to see his next-door neighbor; he not only doesn't notice what he is doing; he scarcely knows whether he is a man or some other kind of creature. ...A philosopher [is one] to whom it is no disgrace to appear simple and good-for-nothing when he is confronted with menial tasks, when, for instance, he doesn't know how to make a bed, or how to sweeten a sauce or a flattering speech."

Anonymous said...

To 10/07, 9:25 AM (and others):

As philosophers, can we PLEASE stop mentioning anonymity as some sort of moral issue!? Seriously, it's the "wall street meets main street" of the blog community. We're better than this.

Sometimes people say smart things and sometimes they say stupid things. But signing posts "anonymous" has nothing to do with that. This is a pretty basic philosophical issue that I would think we could all agree on. Like torture or the $700 million bailout. This is meant to be a ladder that you throw away after you see the world aright, so I don't expect a lot of discussion. But to be very clear:

There's nothing unethical about being anonymous when posting on a BLOG.

FIN.

Anonymous said...

...or how to change a tape in a tape recorder (Kripke).

Anonymous said...

To be fair, Kripke was making a joke when that happened!

Though there are other stories that can't be so explained...for example I once saw him eat a salad with a spoon (he had to sccop the lettuce and then hold it on the spoon with a finger until he was able to get it to his mouth) WHILE lecturing!!

He also couldn't figure out how to turn the lights on in the classroom (it was dimmer switch)...Of course his philosophy is just as inept...

Anonymous said...

Can I just say, I think Kripke stories alone would make a great thread?

Anonymous said...

To 10/08, 1:29 AM:

As a philosopher, you should have been able to understand that Anon 9:25's comment implied nothing about the moral status of anonymous posting, here or anywhere.

Maybe you thought this claim had some kind of moral implication: "Anonymously urging anonymous people to acquire 'basic competency' seems to be a very ineffective way of insuring that your future colleagues will have it."

But that claim is clearly about efficacy not morality. I think that's why Anon 9:25 used the word "ineffective" instead of "immoral". That is pretty basic philosophically. But you didn't see it. Hm. Makes one wonder whether you know what "moral" means.

Anonymous said...

Somehow, the 'basically incompetent' person got the requested information from the (implied) competent person, thus achieving the goal of the 'incompetent' person with less effort than clicking away to another website, while simultaneously increasing the irritation level of the 'competent' (and thus presumably more reasonable) person.

I have known a number of philosophers and various academics who were eminently competent at locating information, and stunningly incompetent in conveying that information to others in a thoughtful and urbane manner.

(In short, someone here is a gigantic tool.)

Anonymous said...

Hello, well done. I do agree with your point of view.