Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Note from a Search Committee Member

I received the following earlier today from a friend who teaches as a decent liberal arts college that is conducting a search this year. It's a bit of a rant, but I'm curious to know the answer to the "real question" that is asked.
Do you know what is going on in the graduate departments these days? Our little job got over 400 applications. We expected this. But we didn't expect the large number of applications from people who are ABD. Why would anyone without a degree (or even a defense date) go on the market? Well, that's not the question I want an answer to. The issue isn't really about ABD applicants. The question concerns ABD applicants who are manifestly unready for the job market. Who is advising these students? Who allows a student with only half a dissertation and no defense date in sight to go on the market?

Given [the nature of our ad], there were several instances in which we received applications from several students from the same department. The undercooked ABDs make the department they come from look bad, and this means that they make the other applicants, even the defended ones, from that school look bad. Shouldn't there be some effort to coordinate who is applying to where? I know that back in the Dark Ages departments tended to be brutal when it came to who was applying where. We were told where we may and may not apply. I don't think that was a good practice. But surely some oversight is required. It seems that many departments are exerting no control over these matters anymore. So, I guess the real question I want to ask you is what practices are in place in graduate departments these days for coordinating job seeking efforts?
To be honest, I know of many departments which exercise almost no oversight. And I'm sure that this is bad for the job-seekers. Does anyone know of any departments which do a good job of coordinating the efforts of the job-seekers?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Priest on Paradox

Oh joy... The latest contribution to the NYT's failing and mismanaged enterprise The Stone is a compelling and thoughtful piece by Graham Priest about the Liar Paradox and dialetheism.

There's nothing in it that will come as news to anyone who follows this stuff, even from a great distance. But the idiotic comments from know-nothing-know-it-alls and other morons have already proved highly entertaining. Another triumph of public philosophy!

To repeat: Philosophy is hard. The public likes only what is easy and hates what is hard. Public philosophy is silly.

Professor Leiter recently ran a poll about The Stone. A great majority favored continuing the endeavor with new and less incompetent editorial management. Though I agree with the assessment of the current editorial side of the operation, I think the whole thing should be abolished immediately.

P.S. Isn't it time for a call for abstracts for Glee and Philosophy?????

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen has a posse. But Sammy Hagar is still alive.....

More here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Note to Spouses

Dear Spouse of an Unemployed Philosopher,

As you are no doubt well-aware, we're now creeping into the all-important ten-day period during which hiring departments will be contacting job applicants in order to schedule APA interviews. The whole process is, indeed, every bit as awful as your spouse says it is. In fact it's probably much worse that your spouse realizes. In any case, expect your spouse to begin behaving strangely.

Over the next several days, your spouse will begin incessantly checking his or her voice-mail and email for any signs of hope. Information about which schools have contacted interviewees, some of questionable reliability, will be posted on various blogs and wikis. Rumors about canceled searches, insider candidates, and "courtesy interviews" will abound. Given the horrendous job market, even under the best circumstances, things will look excessively bleak. And they are.

Should your spouse get no invitations to interview, do whatever you can to help soften the blow. You spouse worked extremely hard on his or her PhD. Spending another year adjuncting for slave-wages, or worse, is a terrifying prospect for your spouse. And, indeed, that your spouse has not gotten any interviews does not entail that your spouse is not a highly qualified, well-trained, and promising academic. Most job ads yield hundreds of applications, and departments interview only twelve or so at the APA. The search process at many institutions is nearly blind to all the things that matter in selecting a new faculty member.

Those who get interviews will have but a few hours to feel affirmed and accomplished. Enjoy this all too brief period of satisfaction. Celebrate. The joy will soon give way to a morass of anxiety and self-doubt as your spouse begins to prepare for the interview. Of course, it will quickly dawn on your spouse that the only way to prepare is to practice running a gauntlet of the cruel, the ignorant, the hostile, the maniacal, the stupid, and the clueless. Chances are the some such assemblage will be deciding your spouse's fate. This only compounds the anxiety and self-doubt.

Perhaps your spouse will be among the three or four who survive the APA interview. If so, she or he will be invited to an on campus interview. In some ways, the anxieties of the job-seeking process lift at this point. But they're quickly replaced by a different set of anxieties: what to wear, what paper to give, how to deal with off-the-rails questions at the Q&A, how to interact with the faculty member who behaved like a jerk at the APA interview, and so on. Of course, if your spouse has reached this stage, he or she has already accomplished a great deal. But that makes the prospect of not getting the job all the more depressing. And so it goes.

In short, the next month will be unbelievably trying for your spouse. Resign yourself now to the fact that the entire holiday season will be a drag. Devise ways to cope with the fact that your spouse will be psychologically compromised for several weeks. And, if you can, cut him or her some slack.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Odd Bookcover...

After years of looking for my original copy of John Gray's Mill on Liberty: A Defence, I broke down and bought a new copy. It arrived several months ago, but I only just today had the occasion to take a look at it. I find the cover -- an illustration by one Mark Hudson--really odd.

Is that a castle being built around Mill's gigantic head and torso? Or is that a miniature Mill (drawn for some reason as a Picasso-ish figure) building a castle around the sovereign individual? And why does the structure stop at the shoulders? In any case, the structure being built seems exceedingly constraining. A strange image for a book that aims to defend Mill's views.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Merry Christmas, Slayer-style

Leave it to Slayer. This almost makes Christmas not suck.

Turn the volume on your computer way up....

You're welcome.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Overheard in the Coffee Shop

I made the mistake of thinking that the coffee shop would be free of students this morning. Oh well. There was a pay-off, though, in that I got to overhear the following unbelievable exchange from two twenty-somethings who are apparently vegan. Unfortunately I did not hear the beginning of the conversation. But the statement before the segue is classic enough to warrant inclusion.
Barbie: That's the worst reason to become a vegan! Seriously. What is wrong with Jenny?

Skipper: I know... Anyway, I had to call my parents yesterday to figure out what we're all doing for Thanksgiving....

Barbie: And.....

Skipper: Well. They're insisting on turkey. I know... But how can you argue with people who think that their way is the highway? [sic!]

Barbie: Goddam. I could kill your parents. If I thought I could get away with it, I probably would.

Skipper: Yeah. Let's see how they like it for a change.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mild JFP Amusements

I was reading the latest "web-only" [sic] ads this morning, and found the Rhodes College ad amusing. After describing the position-- which is some kind of Chair in the Humanities-- the ad goes on to say a few things about Rhodes College. Then it says a few things about Memphis:

Memphis has a metropolitan population of over one million and is the nation’s 18th largest metropolitan area. The city provides multiple opportunities for research and for cultural and recreational activities. Read more about Memphis.
Surely the "read more about Memphis" was supposed to include a link to a site about the city. But, in the absence of the link, the sentence reads like a warning. Like I said, mildly amusing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Early Offers

I've just been contacted by a student who did a phone interview this morning for a decent TT job. He was distressed, though, by the interviewing department's claim that they were aiming to have on-campus interviews in early December, and an offer out by Christmas. The student assumed that this would require the person offered the job to respond to the offer before departments interviewing at the APA would have a chance to even invite finalists to campus. Thus, whoever gets the offer from the department doing the phone interview would have to accept (or decline) before getting a sense of the other opportunities he or she may have.

This seems unfair. Does the APA have any policy on this? I'd go look at the APA webshite, but, as everyone knows, it's a dysfunctional mess and utterly useless.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Note from a Search Committee Member

Dear [Spiros],

Consider posting on your blog the following:

Dear Job Seekers,

Your CV should be short and to the point. Your publications should be listed on the first page. Papers and books "in process" should not appear under the heading "Publications." Neither should papers merely submitted to journals -- it takes no philosophical skill to stuff an envelope and address it to Phil Review. A long list of stints as "chair" of sessions at small regional conferences probably should be left off the CV. A two-page dissertation abstract is at least one page too long. Do not make it difficult to discern whether you're fully-degreed yet -- that's something else to be put up front on the first page.

This seems to me to be all good advice. But that this needs to be stated explicitly by a search committee member is a bit discouraging. Don't job seekers get proper advice about this stuff from... you know... their departmental placement officers, or at least their dissertation directors?

Friday, November 5, 2010

30-40 New Jobs in Nov. JFP

I've looked only very quickly, but by my count there's maybe 50 new ads in the November JFP, and more than ten of them are either (1) not TT; (ii); postdocs; or (iii) open rank.

So, it seems that there are 30 to 40 new TT entry-level jobs in the November JFP.

If I'm wrong (in either direction), let me know.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November JFP

The November Jobs for Philosophers (188) publishes on Friday. Any predictions regarding the number of TT jobs that are not already posted on the "web only [sic]" list? My guess is no more than 10.