Monday, July 30, 2012

Job Market and Letter Inflation

I had a discussion over lunch with a colleague about the likelihood of this year's job market being at least as bad as it has been for the previous few years.  It seems to me that even if the country's overall economic situation shows signs of recovery, the academic job market will lag many years behind.  Doom, I know.

But then a question arose concerning whether the awful market gives us reason to write (more heavily) inflated recommendation letters.  As everyone knows, it's common practice in the US to inflate recommendation letters.  The rationale, insofar as there is one, is that colleagues from other institutions are inflating recommendation letters they write for their students, and one should do what one can to maximize one's students' chances at getting the jobs they are qualified for; so one owes it to one's own students to fall in line with the inflation.  Does this entail that one should further inflate one's recommendation letters when the job market is especially tight?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Important Query

On the thread of an earlier post, a reader queries:

Hey assholes: I just started my first sabbatical. People(faculty, administrators and students) keep asking me to do things. Is it OK to tell people to fuck off?

Yes.   And if you're tenured already, you should most certainly take that kind of tone, too.  If you're not tenured, be more polite, but no less firm.

This principle holds a fortiori for those in post-docs, one-years, three-years, VAPs, and any other kind of non-tenure track position.  Whereas under such conditions it may not be wise to tell colleagues to fuck off exactly, you should certainly refuse to do any service beyond what's contractually required. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Self-Proclaimed Pluralist Nonsense

Leiter is already on this, but he surprisingly does not comment on the new material added (anonymously!) to the so-called Pluralist Guide (PGP) about "Climate Advice." Here's the opening paragraph:
In the first iteration of the Pluralist Guide in 2011, we sent out three separate surveys to our advisory boards, asking if they could assess the climate for graduate students who are women, persons of color, and/or LGBTQ students. The feedback we received on the latter two groups was insufficient for meaningful assessment, since the national numbers for these groups are fairly small, but we did receive significant feedback on women and so reported our findings. This was the same sort of national reputational survey as we have done for the various areas of philosophy, intended to provide prima facie evidence that prospective students can then follow up with further research.

How convenient that this statement neglects to mention that their surveys did not require anyone to... you know... actually speak to any of the women in the departments being assessed.  And it also fails to mention that, accordingly, the "findings" that resulted were utterly absurd: departments with persistent and ongoing harassment issues were positively rated, while departments with exceptional records of inclusiveness and gender equality were deemed "in need of improvement."  And in the case of the latter, a significant number of women-- students and faculty-- actually from the departments in question stood up to challenge the pluralists' assessment; but this amazingly had absolutely no effect on the report!  As a "reputational survey" among people who have no special expertise and none of the requisite information about the climates for women in departments other than their own, the PGP simply reproduces the entrenched biases prevalent among self-professed pluralists: analytic philosophy bad, SPEP good, more feminist philosophy necessarily means better climate for women, and other ridiculousness.

That they call what they have provided "research" (that can be supplemented with "further research") and "prima facie evidence" is an additional insult to everyone's good sense.

The REAL Pluralist guide is here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Somehow Try to Smile

I was out this afternoon in an unfamiliar coffee shop playing especially atrocious music.  Just noticed this line from Styx:

Babe, I'm leaving / I'll say is once again /  And somehow try to smile

"Somehow try to smile"!!  How awful is that?  Whoever wrote that takes himself of have a kind of dominion over the inner life of another that no one should claim to have. 

Worst lyric ever?  Surely it rivals "You don't have to read my mind / to know what I have in mind / honey you oughta know."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rare Serious Query

Suppose you thought that one good way to help grad students to learn how to write papers like a professional philosopher (and not like a grad student in philosophy writing a term paper) was to have them read good articles written by professional philosophers.  What are some articles that you'd have them read?  There are of course several exemplary essays in ethics that come to mind (e.g. JJT's defense of abortion).  Are there others that are more recent and in areas other than ethics?