Monday, November 3, 2008

Cash rules everything around me

Some commenters, like Anon. 4:26, from the weekend post on academic attire want a different post "to figure more prominently on the webpage" because they hate fun. I don't blame them, if I were on the market, I probably wouldn't be in the mood for unnecessary distractions either.

Others, like Spanky Wants a Job, want to speculate, wildly or otherwise, on more "worthwhile" matters. They ask:
Can someone please post something about how the bad financial markets are affecting this years' Fall job market? I know that Univ. of San Fran, VMI, and Worcester have cancelled their searches. Anywhere else? Might the Spring market be better? Any speculation that the number of VAPs will rise?
We here at the PJMB don't usually negotiate with the fun police in the comments, but I'm going to make an exception in this case. So, in the service of the aforementioned true believers here at the PJMB, I hereby make the prominent post on the webpage one soliciting your informed opinions on the effects of the financial markets on the job market, because, in fact, this does seem worthwhile.

I would say something, but I've wasted most of my time this weekend thinking about ties and need to get back to work.

--STBJD

40 comments:

mickey marketeer said...

I've heard of several hiring freezes now that may or may not affect the jobs beings advertised.

but let's be honest: we are not omniscient. how much of a dumbass would you be if you thought a school wouldn't hire for a job that's in the JFP because of a hiring freeze or something, and then it turns out that that job did get the go-ahead because they took the freeze off in december?

if it's advertised, apply. the worst that can happen is that you waste the postage, but let's be honest, most of our apps are wasted postage anyhow. until they actually post a retraction in JFP webads, assume the job is still there.

and - I think it will take a year or three for the full effects of the current crisis to finish trickling into academia so as to affect the number of jobs. We are lucky that we are on the market this year, and not next year or the year after.

Anonymous said...

Well, I can "post something" and "speculate" with the best of them, so here goes. It will be dismal, a catastrophe. There.

Before we get too worried, there have been canceled searches in the past. Maybe the reasons cited were different than now. I say we wait to see what the bulk of the next JFP looks like MINUS those that have already appeared on the web. And, if we see any more incompetence from the APA (or maybe its just weird advertising regulations), we'll have to be sure to subtract those that appeared in the first JFP print edition, but are put again into the new one.

unbelievable said...

Letter from Xavier University:

"Unfortunately, just as our advertisements were being published in Jobs for Philosophers, Xavier University decided to suspend nearly all its searches due to the current global economic uncertainty. I must therefore report that our department's searches are closed at this time."

Anonymous said...

Xavier in Cincinnati are delaying their searches till next year because of the economy.

m.b. program faculty member said...

Eh, what is there to say? The job market sucks. The number of positions in the JFP is down a lot from last year, and even that number is too high, as many of the advertised positions will be evaporated soon, as schools have to cut back even further because of budget crises. But that's no reason to hold back on applying if you're truly ready, since the downturn is just starting, and next year's market will be even worse.

PhilosopherP said...

Based on prior years, the term "hiring freeze" has a variety of meanings. While it often means 'no new employees -- at all this year', it can also mean 'we aren't hiring right now, but next week may be different' or 'we aren't hiring in expansion positions, but replacement positions will be filled'.

Don't use even an announced (but not clarified) hiring freeze as a reason not to appy for a job that fits you. It is hard to know what the university will actually DO -- and you may be one of the ones who benefits.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that a Princeton Ph.D.-ABD is worth more than a completed Ph.D. from even a Leiterific non-Ivy school? UC Boulder hired a Princeton ABD on a three year temp contract last year over many better qualified applicants with Ph.D. in hand and makes no apologies about it. The problem is not the economic recession. It is the departments where members of hiring committees think that pedigree trumps all other considerations. If we do not stand up and start complaining about these unfair hiring decisions, it will be pointless to earn a Ph.D. in Philosophy from anywhere but an Ivy and realistically hope to get a job.

Anonymous said...

But what exactly is unfair about it? If CU wants to include w/n the criteria of "highly qualified" something like "is working with philosophers like X," and that letters from philosophers like X are stellar, then it simply looks like we've been beat. How do you know that the ABD guy was less qualified than the competition? Did you see all the dossiers?

Anonymous said...

2:15, you're an idiot. you have no idea why colorado hired the person they did. stop whining and get to work.

Anonymous said...

Pedigree this, pedigree that...Zzzzzzzzzz. I'm sure that all that person had to do is write "Gimme!" on a piece of paper with Princeton Philosophy letterhead.

Let's all wail and gnash our teeth at the sheer insanity and wrongness of it all! I am shaking my fists at the heavens just for you (though my fist-shaking may look suspiciously like another sort of hand-oscillation).

chokeuwithyourascot said...

Re: Anon 2:15pm

I am very familiar with a philosophy department that is Leiter-report obsessed, and I would honestly not want to be working in that department. I completely agree that the Ivy-bias is unfounded. There is at least one department I know of (very well, and let's keep it at that) where a hire was made solely on pedigree. In 3 years that hire has had 0 publications, is unpopular with students, and yet the department still thinks that this hire is a plus... in regards to the Leiter Report.
My hope is that the present state of the economy forces departments to start rethinking how they hire people. For instance, hiring on merit might give a department better bang for their buck than hiring based on antiquated snobbery. The notion of any university being prestigious in philosophy seems a bit absurd. There are individuals who have done extremely interesting, good work in highly specialized areas... but departments that are prestigious? That prestige does not seem to bring them much pull when it comes to opening new lines. Perhaps departments should begin taking a much more pragmatic approach to their hiring practices in the same way other fields have.

Anonymous said...

UC Boulder hired a Princeton ABD on a three year temp contract last year over many better qualified applicants with Ph.D. in hand and makes no apologies about it.

WHOA. Not only is this a cowardly anonymous attack, but additionally, the claim that the person was selected "over many better qualified applicants" is totally unsupported by the evidence.

I know the person they hired, and first of all, he is an amazing philosopher and colleague. Any department would be lucky to hire him. You obviously know nothing about the hiring decision.

Second, he has his Ph.D. at this point: as many search committees know, the difference between Ph.D. in hand and ABD can be a matter of months, and if what you're looking for is the best philosopher, it would be silly to place too much weight on that difference. (And by the way, you can't tell everything about a person's qualifications by looking at his CV - presumably that's why SCs ask for more info.)

Third, fuck off.

Anonymous said...

2:15pm's reasoning is embarrassingly bad, for a poster on a philosophy website. The only cited explanandum is that a Princeton ABD was hired, for a non-tt position, out of a set of candidates that included some folks with PhD in hand from other good places. And this is taken to be sufficient evidence for the claim that this is an instance of "members of hiring committees think[ing] that pedigree trumps all other considerations." Such rival explanations as (i) the Princeton ABD was just on balance a better philosopher, or (ii) they better suited the department's needs, was simply not considered by the poster.

There's a very common tendency on these threads to think that the easily-quantifiable elements of a CV should be determinative of a hire. "But I had my PhD already, and they are just ABD!" , or "But I have three publications on my CV, and they don't have any!" But these are just pieces in the larger puzzle of a department's deliberations, and their value is purely whatever indication they may be as to the underlying quality of the candidate as a philosopher and/or as a teacher. If there is other evidence for such quality available, then a spare CV won't matter; and, turning it the other way around, having a completed-but-mediocre diss and 3 publications in meh to so-so places not only won't help someone on the market -- they'll lock them out from the better jobs.

scarlet night panther wolverine said...

Seriously, 2:15 pm, that's embarrassingly stupid. Anybody who thinks having a PhD from "an Ivy" is especially valuable is patently a moron.

Philosophy Prof said...

Over the years we have received applications from individuals with a few publications in mid-tier journals, and/or with a book at a publishing house that will publish anything, and/or with a line on the vita that indicates membership in "Who's Who in University Teachers" (where membership is secured by paying a fee to be included in the annual yearbook), etc. If this is you, and you are complaining that you deserve (but do not get) the same kind of consideration as a Princeton Phd, stop it. There are certainly cases where a person is at a non-Leiterific place and is as good as or better than someone at an Ivy, but in a lot of cases an applicant (like the above) does not have the best perspective on his/her situation. Sometimes though that person just has to show (by publishing) that they were under-placed in graduate school.

Anonymous said...

There's a very common tendency on these threads to think that the easily-quantifiable elements of a CV should be determinative of a hire. "But I had my PhD already, and they are just ABD!" , or "But I have three publications on my CV, and they don't have any!" But these are just pieces in the larger puzzle of a department's deliberations, and their value is purely whatever indication they may be as to the underlying quality of the candidate as a philosopher and/or as a teacher. If there is other evidence for such quality available, then a spare CV won't matter; and, turning it the other way around, having a completed-but-mediocre diss and 3 publications in meh to so-so places not only won't help someone on the market -- they'll lock them out from the better jobs.

Very well put.

I am shaking my fists at the heavens just for you (though my fist-shaking may look suspiciously like another sort of hand-oscillation).

I love you.

Anonymous said...

having a completed-but-mediocre diss and 3 publications in meh to so-so places not only won't help someone on the market -- they'll lock them out from the better jobs.

I followed this post up until this last claim. Why would having 3 publications in medium places _hurt_ your chances, compared w/ someone who has no publications?

Anonymous said...

On the CU Boulder case:

We also hired a one year VAP from UMass Amherst and a one year VAP from UVA. All were vetted through a rigorous search process, and they're all very good.

-- A Boulder fac member.

Anonymous said...

having a completed-but-mediocre diss and 3 publications in meh to so-so places not only won't help someone on the market -- they'll lock them out from the better jobs.

I followed this post up until this last claim. Why would having 3 publications in medium places _hurt_ your chances, compared w/ someone who has no publications?


He did say "meh to so-so." The idea being that not only do we have no evidence that the candidate will do something really great, we actually have evidence that his best work is only so-so (especially in conjunction with the "mediocre dissertation"). I suppose it's up for debate whether this makes him a worse philosopher on average than the person about whom we only have no evidence of his greatness.

Of course, different schools are looking for different things. Research universities and "research" LACs (or whatever the original poster meant by the "best jobs" - not that I agree with him, just trying to flesh out his point) are generally trying to find someone whose abilities are theoretically limitless, while other types of schools may be trying to find someone who's proven he can publish (so that he'll be able to meet their standards of tenure, handle his workload, etc.).

This is an interesting conundrum: you might have thought that there was one best strategy to follow, and that how well you did on the job market would be correlated to your success in following that strategy, but that turns out to be wrong. There are two different strategies (publish whenever you can; hold onto your work until you're sure it's tops) that are mutually exclusive and that will determine your success in two different kinds of jobs. (Does this seem correct to people, or am I way off base here?)

Anonymous said...

"I followed this post up until this last claim. Why would having 3 publications in medium places _hurt_ your chances, compared w/ someone who has no publications?"

Because the top places only want people who publish in the top journals. If you have three articles in so-so places, then the assumption is (and I think that the last poster was working with that assumption) that your work isn't good enough to be published in a top journal.

That may not be particularly fair, but that mindset is certainly out there.

That said, I think that this is only true of a small group of departments, for the vast majority of jobs, having three publications is clearly going to help.

Anonymous said...

(replying to 7:50pm) I think you might have a higher-quality journal in mind by your "medium" than I do with my "meh". I'm (very roughly) thinking of things like the "C" list journals, or maybe lower-end "B" list. But really, on reflection it'd make more sense to do this in terms of the quality of the papers themselves, and not the quality of the journals (which are, after all, positively correlated but way, way, way far from perfectly so, and some pretty bleah stuff gets into some pretty shiny places). In short: a couple-three papers in print that really aren't so hot will, indeed, lock you out of many of the better jobs. One way of thinking about it is that hiring committees tend to treat your published work, if you have it, as representing something like your top game. And if your top game is "well, ok, I guess, but not terrific," then what inferences will they draw about your everyday game? The person with no publications but with the looks-great-even-though-it-isn't-in-the-can-yet dissertation, however, is giving them only strongly positive evidence of philosophical quality, and no evidence against. And committees will (very reasonably) infer that the person will ultimately be able to harvest usable chunks of that looks-great dissertation, and they'll thus be publishing soon enough, and better than the "meh" person we're contrasting them with.

Anonymous said...

"I think you might have a higher-quality journal in mind by your 'medium' than I do with my 'meh'. I'm (very roughly) thinking of things like the 'C' list journals, or maybe lower-end 'B' list. "

What journals should we consider as A, B, and C journals? Category A seems to include, e.g., Phil.Review, Nous, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Journal of Philosophy, and Mind. What about journals like Philosophical Studies, Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophers' Imprint? Would they be A or B? What do you see as clear examples of B and C?

Anonymous said...

Why come the APA hasn't updated (web only) job ads since 10/22/08? Two weeks without anyone submitting an ad? Inconceivable.

Anonymous said...

Anybody who thinks having a PhD from "an Ivy" is especially valuable is patently a moron.

This is called "sour grapes" from a non-Ivy person. I too am not from an Ivy school, but it doesn't take a genuis to figure out where there may be some bias for Ivy candidates.

I'll mention just one here, which is a twist on the familiar business rule: "No one ever got fired for buying an IBM" (as opposed to buying from some upstart/no-name company). The same is true with hiring depts, who are overseen by deans, provosts, et al.: They can't be blamed much, if things go wrong, for hiring an Ivy candidate. Those candidates are "more proven" than others in the sense that there is an extremely rigorous admission process as well as top-notch grad programs at those institutions; so think of this as a time-saving "pre-screening" of qualified applicants.

Pedigree matters in both business in academia, and no argument can change that -- so get over it.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I don't understand about the importance some people seem to place on publishing: the committee has a sample of what is supposed to be your best philosophical work. The people assessing this work are all professional philosophers and, by some reasonable measure, successful (they all have jobs). Presumably many of them are referees for journals. Given how difficult (impossible?) it is to fake good philosophy, why isn't the writing sample more or less sufficient for determining quality?

If the committee thinks that it has something that is very good and very publishable why should it seek external validation (in the form of looking to see if someone else has deemed the work of sufficient quality to b publishable)? This line of reasoning seems to me all the more compelling if the applicant has other writing available for the committee to peruse. Whether the writing has in fact been submitted, and accepted, for publication seems irrelevant so long as the committee trusts its own judgment.

Some may say that committees will not be able to come to agreement about what counts as a good writing sample. But I doubt that. I don't doubt that people might disagree about whether someone is right and perhaps about what counts as a worthwhile project. But it seems to me that it is not very difficult to agree on whether someone has philosophical chops or whether some piece is likely to be accepted by journals in tier A or tier B (or tier C). But perhaps I'm wrong.

Needless to say, I have no pubs. But my adviser was rather clear about this: the writing sample is what really matters. If that's good enough, then the committee will *know* that you'll be able to publish (in good journals): you've just submitted something to them that shows that.

Anonymous said...

I'm a PhD student at an "Ivy," and I can at least say that the hiring freeze isn't affecting everything: we're hiring a new faculty member this year, and planning to hire another next year. I suspect the impact of the recession (depression?) will vary wildly from department to department, and not necessarily in any way that correlates with prestige.

PSA said...

Pedigree has its disadvantages as well. For every place looking to hire someone with top 5 credentials, there are more than a few places that are wary of considering (or that outright refuse to consider) someone with top 5 credentials.

Some committees want to book the Rolling Stones. Some committees never seriously consider booking the Rolling Stones because they think the Stones won't come or that the Stones may flake out after a song or two.

Sure, I'm in the Rolling Stones, and being in the Rolling Stones is awesome, but Madison Square Garden really wants Mick and Keith, and I'm Charlie Watts. Don't get me wrong, Charlie Watts fucking rules and his drumming is rock-solid, but let's face it, he's no Mick or Keith.

So I can't get the MSG gig because I am not Mick or Keith, but I can't get the smaller gigs either because I'm Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones and they think Lou Gramm from Foreigner is the safer choice.

So, yes, sometimes pedigree plays a crucial role in the hiring process. Just don't assume that always favors those with it.

assistantprof said...

To return to the main thread... Against Mickey Marketeer's view (first comment, above), I can tell you that my large state university is being hammered--now. In the arts, humanities, and sciences, all searches this year have been suspended. We were also recently informed that we will have to reduce our reliance on term (visiting) positions. In other words, we have to make do with less faculty all around. More "cost-saving measures" are being planned as I type. I suspect other state institutions are suffering similar fates. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Good luck.

m.a. program faculty member said...

Anon at 8:28 AM asks about why an actual publication record should matter at all--why shouldn't the committee members just rely on their judgment about the writing sample as showing how good the candidate's research potential is?

Well, first off, both matter--if the candidate has a few pubs in good places, that's terrific, but you still look carefully at the writing sample (and those pubs!) to arrive at an independent judgment of how good the work is.

But why rely on publication record at all? At least two obvious reasons stand out:

(1) For candidates in a specialized area, I can gain a general impression of the person's writing ability and argumentative skill, but I may not have enough background to know how good the person's work is in that area, really. For instance, a small school may be hiring in ancient phl, because they have a hole in that area right now--no ancient specialists--and one guy is writing his dissertation on (and has a sample dealing with) Aristotle's physics.

The committee members-- who work mainly on (i) contemporary epistemology, especially contextualism, (ii) Habermas, (iii) Locke and Berkeley, and (iv) contractarian theories in ethics-- may feel a lot more confident in their judgment that the person does good work in the area if he's had pieces accepted in journals specializing in ancient phl.

(2) You're not just looking for the candidate's ability to produce *something* good, but that person can be *productive.* Sure, if a person looks totally brilliant, you can hire him ABD with no pubs., on the basis on glowing letters and a great sample. But there are plenty of people who come out with glowing letters who end up struggling to discipline themselves and establish a consistent record of good publications. Worries that this will happen are a lot less if the person has already demonstrated an ability to get good publications.

Curious said...

"What journals should we consider as A, B, and C journals? Category A seems to include, e.g., Phil.Review, Nous, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Journal of Philosophy, and Mind. What about journals like Philosophical Studies, Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophers' Imprint? Would they be A or B? What do you see as clear examples of B and C?"

Good question! I'd like to see some answers here too. Also, what about publishers? Would the A list here be OUP, CUP, Princeton, Routledge?

Trying not to be bitter said...

Anon 8:28 is right -- whether you've actually published in good places is irrelevant; what matters is your writing sample, which tells SCs whether you can publish in good places. But we all know that SCs don't read all the writing samples. What concerns me is the thought that my application won't get a fair reading -- that it will hit the trash as soon as the SC sees "Ph.D., Blah University," that they won't bother to read my writing sample, and that they won't care that I have in fact published in good places, because a necessary condition for being taken seriously by them is coming from a prestigious program. Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic and this sort of thing doesn't actually go on -- but I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

If the committee thinks that it has something that is very good and very publishable why should it seek external validation (in the form of looking to see if someone else has deemed the work of sufficient quality to b publishable)? This line of reasoning seems to me all the more compelling if the applicant has other writing available for the committee to peruse. Whether the writing has in fact been submitted, and accepted, for publication seems irrelevant so long as the committee trusts its own judgment.

Exactly!! This is how the "better" departments operate: they decide what they think about the writing sample, and that's what matters most. That's why it's still true that people without publications get hired on the basis of their philosophical work, not on the basis of some other feature (pegigree, minority status, etc.). And that's why you cannot tell someone's philosophical abilities from looking at their CV.

Anonymous said...

On the pedigree issue: I have a Phd from a middling Leiter program and have a very good TT job at an attractive MA school. When I was first finishing up the diss and going on the market I resented the Ivy-type folks who were getting more attention than me (after all, I too had some pubs in B+/A- journals). Now that I'm a few years out and have been to many conferences, etc. I have to admit that most of the folks coming out of the best programs are just plain smarting than I am.

Now, I'm pretty good, I think. I'm considerably more personable and more effective as a teacher than many of these highest-tier products. At least this is what I tell myself (as it turns out, many of the smartest people are also frighteningly competent teachers too). So perhaps it would be sensible for non-Leiterized programs to prefer me (and those like me) to the super special people. But if a program is going after the very best philosopher they can get in a certain area, then I can't blame them for gravitating toward the folks who started their graduate careers with higher intelligence and who received their training from the best people in their field.

In any case, the fact that there are some prominent people who have risen to the highest levels from medium programs suggests that the system isn't completely blinded by pedigree.

Suomynona said...

Although I pretty much agree with Anon 8:28's comments (I feel like I am referring to Alcoholics Anonymous), the listed publications are helpful because committees just do not have time to read every writing sample that comes through. If you have 200+ applicants, you are most likely not going to be able to read even 1/2 of the writing samples (remember, this is philosophy, which is not exactly 'easy reading'; it's not like a paperback you read on an airplane), so you need a quick and easy gauge concerning writing. Thus, the publications on the CV.

Anonymous said...

I had in mind the rankings like those discussed here:
http://the-brooks-blog.blogspot.com/2008/09/more-on-journal-rankings-case-of_15.html

though only as a heuristic.

Here's a rule of thumb: check out the cv of the median faculty members of a department. If they have all been publishing _only_ in better places than where the hypothetical three articles have been published... you may be in trouble.

mr zero said...

7:54,

Every journal you mention is clearly an A-level. Maybe phil studies would be A-minus. Google 'philosophy journal rankings' or search leiter's blog, or PEA soup.

AOS:Aaarrgh! said...

I agree with Suomynona--looking to WHERE students have published (if at all) seems a useful heuristic to (loosely) determining quality and/or seriousness of an applicant's writing. Your average committee probably has enough time to read the short-listed candidates' respective writing samples, and that's about it--not to read another five, two, or even one additional paper. So, granted, top journals sometimes publish crap papers, and sometimes turn down great papers, but it's a heuristic, and that is (or should be) about all.

Regarding journal rankings, the Brooks Blog offers a fairly reasonable breakdown of most journals. What it doesn't account for, however, is the breakdown of some subdisciplines in philosophy. For instance, how would Philosophy of Science or the British Journal of the Philosophy of Science rank on this list; or, alternatively in aesthetics, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, the British Journal of Aesthetics, or the Journal of Aesthetic Education. Although the Brooks list doesn't account for these, anyone working in a subfield usually has a fair idea of how the journals rank relative to that topic. Estimating merit based on the details of a candidate's publication record is a messy business (especially when a department is hiring for a specific subfield, and doesn't already have anyone working IN that subfield) but it provides at least a rough, intuitive guide--a first step.

And while a candidate might get short-listed or interviewed on the basis of a sparkling publishing record, they're not going to be hired simply on this basis.

Britney S. said...

Needless to say, I have no pubs. But my adviser was rather clear about this: the writing sample is what really matters. If that's good enough, then the committee will *know* that you'll be able to publish (in good journals): you've just submitted something to them that shows that.

This is true, as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. "Trying not to be bitter" makes the same error. Both should take a look at what m.a. program faculty member said at 11-4-08, 1pm.

Exactly!! This is how the "better" departments operate: they decide what they think about the writing sample, and that's what matters most. That's why it's still true that people without publications get hired on the basis of their philosophical work, not on the basis of some other feature (pegigree, minority status, etc.). And that's why you cannot tell someone's philosophical abilities from looking at their CV.

Again, partly right, but partly wrong. I imagine some faculty members in some programs do this, but I think it's foolish to imagine that they all do, or even that everyone at the top programs chooses like this. Read m.a. program faculty member at above.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Back to the original content of the thread...

Minnesota just announced a "hiring pause" -- which seems to indicate something less than a freeze. All new hires must be performing a key function or essential part of the academic mission and be aproved on an individual basis.

Since Minnesota had at least one philosophy job posted, that might be another one off the table.

wringe said...

'while a candidate might get short-listed or interviewed on the basis of a sparkling publishing record, they're not going to be hired simply on this basis.'

Actually, in the UK, almost all candidates for continuing positions have been hired on precisely this basis for the past few years (going back to the late 1990s)

That may change now the dreaded 'research assessement exercise' is no more. But to someone brought up in that system, US practice can often look deeply irrational, and the arguments in favour of it can seem like rationalisations.