The response of the political class to the university's claim to a
special status in relation to the polity has been crude but effectual:
if the university, which, when the chips are down, is simply one among
many players competing for public funds, really believes in the lofty
ideals it proclaims, then it must show it is prepared to starve for its
beliefs. I know of no case in which a university has taken up the
The fact is that the record of universities, over the past 30 years, in
defending themselves against pressure from the state has not been a
proud one. Resistance was weak and ill organised; routed, the professors
beat a retreat to their dugouts, from where they have done little
besides launching the intermittent satirical barb against the managerial
newspeak they are perforce having to acquire....
Philosophers should read this online issue of MLA Profession, since so far MLA > APA on professional issues. (Don't believe me? Check the date on this APA page.) Which doesn't mean it should stay like that; but it does mean we have a good model. Think of the leading folks writing on US HE issues: Bérubé, Massé, Newfield, Bady, Bousquet: they're all English folks. Let's fix that by developing a robust set of philosophers working on HE in general and philosophy work conditions in particular. IMO, these issues require us to drop the near-exclusivity of focus on the TT sector of the employment system, and to see it as one sector only. The last slides of this presentation tries to do that; the earlier slides are a stab at a brief historical survey. A conversation starter rather than a definitive statement.
An email landed in my inbox this morning about widespread non-payment of adjuncts in the CUNY system. I'll reprint it below the fold. IANAL, but those who are might want to comment on this in light of NY's "Wage Theft" law.
Here, though, read how Anthony Galluzo, one of those affected, describes his situation:
I'm supposed to be paid--finally--tomorrow, although classes started the last week of August. The explanation? Well, I was hired late--the week before said classes began--and there is a state mandated pay schedule. Fantastic. A system apparently designed with long term employees in mind, hence the glacial in-processing, even though it now runs on casualized permatemps hired at the last minute. This scenario was compounded by the fact that the secretary in the English department only submitted materials for one of my courses. I am teaching three. A fluke that happens all too often, as I've since learned from other adjuncts. Of the several adjuncts I talk to, I don't know one who was paid on time.
If you've been affected by non-payment, late payment, or partial payment, contact Debbie Bell email@example.com. To offer support of any kind, contact Jonathan Buschbaum. Below the fold, more details:
A "sardonic" tweet by a "Duke sociologist"* about this year's Nobels in economics generates an op-ed response in the New York Times by a MacArthur ('genius') fellow and Harvard economist, Raj Chetty. [HT Matt Zwolinski] It's been a few decades since an elite economist felt the need to notice a sociologist. Chetty reveals what is at stake:
the headline-grabbing differences between the findings of these Nobel laureates are less significant than the profound agreement in their scientific approach to economic questions, which is characterized by formulating and testing precise hypotheses. I’m troubled by the sense among skeptics that disagreements about the answers to certain questions suggest that economics is a confused discipline, a fake science whose findings cannot be a useful basis for making policy decisions.
If economics is not "a useful basis for making policy decisions," its seventy year, lucrative (jobs, funding, prestige, etc.) reign as the the privileged discipline in the policy sciences ends. (The only time I have discussed Chetty's views on the blog, I provided historical context for that claim.) Before I turn to Chetty's argument for why economics is "useful" in the relevant fashion, it is worth noting that he accepts the idea that consensus in methods ("formulating and testing precise hypotheses") and answers ("simple, unassailable finding") is an adequate proxy to a discipline not being a "fake science." Such consensus, need not prevent it being "ideology," too.
AMERICANS WHO WONDER what the heck is happening to their public colleges can find answers in the British case. While American educational and political leaders deny the negative outcomes of the actions they barely admit to be taking, the United Kingdom’s Tory government has offered explicit rationales for the most fundamental restructuring of a university system in modern history. The stakes are very high. Both countries have been downgrading their mass higher education systems by shrinking enrollments, reducing funding for educational quality, increasing inequality between premier and lower-tier universities, or all three at once.
Oddly, policymakers are doing this in the full knowledge that mass access to high-quality public universities remains the cornerstone of high-income economies and complex societies. The public has a right to know what politicians and business leaders are really doing to their higher education systems, why they are doing it, and how to respond.
Neil Levy writes with an aperçu that works, as do all the best ones, on both form and content levels: "What's supposed to be odd about that? Compare: 'Oddly, thieves take what does not belong to them in the full knowledge that the rightful owners might be upset.' "
The article is on Temple University, but I can't believe their financial problems are unique; readers are invited to comment on analogous situations at other shools:
"Poor operating performance and weak cash flow margins" at Temple University Health System will create "operating and liquidity pressures" that will suck up a lot of Theobold's time, writes Moody's analyst Diane Viacava and her team in a report to clients. Temple may end up needing to bail out its hospitals if Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's administration keeps cutting healthcare payments, Viacava adds.
Temple hospitals suffer "deep operating deficits", and Moody's cut their rating to Ba2, and threatened further cuts, in July. Viacava says Temple data shows operating margins in the last fiscal year fell below 2 cents on every dollar, down from more than 4 cents a year earlier, and are still dropping.
Total Temple debt has more than doubled, to $1.26 billion, in the past five years.
The CHE has a story on the placement study released at Philosophy News and commented upon here and at Leiter Reports. Unfortunately, the CHE story frames this as "Study Shows X." A better frame than that provided by CHE would have been
The first draft of an on-going, self-correcting, and in-need-of-improvement study of philosophy placement trends at some well-regarded American PhD programs has been published. The author of the study recognizes all its limitations, and has received incisive feedback from people in the profession, a sign that everyone recognizes the need for better placement studies.
Whatever the framing problems of the story, I want to try to list here the data that would make up an ideal placement study. For each school listed (the ideal study would incorporate the Carson study's initial data base, but would include others not listed there) we would want:
JPMorgan Chase plans to give $17 million to start a doctoral program at the University of Delaware...
As part of the plan, JPMorgan will renovate a building to house the program, put up money to pay program faculty and pay a full ride for students seeking a degree, according to an internal university plan. In addition, JPMorgan employees may sit on dissertation committees and advise the university on which faculty members should teach in the program, according to the planning document and a top university official....
The doctorate would be be in "financial services analytics," which relies on "big data." Bruce Weber, the dean of Delaware's business school, said working closely with industry will help academics prepare students for the real world, something some business school deans feel is not happening enough.
Meena Krishnamurthy has a blog post about the relative absence of political philosophy in the The Philosopher’s Annual since 2002. This surprised me a bit because it seems to me a field that has been very fertile over the last decade. From afar it looks as if the grip of Rawls on the field has been loosened, and there is a lot of important and urgent work on legitimacy, international (and inter-generational) justice, democratic theory, and, of course, the role of religion today. (Of course, a lot of this is pursued in critical discussion with Rawlsian ideals.) Not to mention that the period has seen Libertarian ideals articulated and renewed with remarkable philosophical ability, and ongoing formal work in social choice theory. Anyway, go read her post.
UPDATE: Ryan Muldoon points out that formal work in political theory by Peter Vanderschraaf has been recognized!
Speaking of placement, I can't get behind the paywall to this Chronicle article entitled "Scholarly Groups Chip Away at Taboo of Nonacademic Careers."
(This part should be read in a Troy McClure voice: "and I don't condone people sending me the PDF, because that would evade a key part of their business model.")
The headline seems off though, because for at least ten years now I haven't had any such "taboo" (and I don't think I'm exceptional here); my standard advice has been for grad students to prepare themselves for multiple job markets, academia being only one of them, so that if you don't get a TT offer, you are already prepared for non-academic fields. (To be precise, getting a TT offer only means moving from one sector to another in the political economy of philosophy instruction; TAs are *already* in the "job market.")
In fact, however, even that doesn't seem responsible, so starting this year I tell them that it's *academia* that should be their Plan B, that is, if you get a TT offer, sure that's great, give it some thought, but your primary plan should be the BGN sectors (business, government, non-profits). I also add in academic administration, too, because, hey, that's the growth market, right? No matter what I think of administrative bloat, I think I have an ethical obligation to counsel grad students as to all their career options.
[UPDATE: I have been unable to find any information on Andrew Carson, so I wonder if this is a real person or a pseudonym. I also hope that at one point the data will be released to interested parties, so we can check for accuracy; for all I know this is a hoax.--ES]
The numbers say....go to Yale, UMass, Amherst, or Northwestern! Andrew Carson (the person who crunched the numbers), explans the method here.
I haven't had a chance to look at his approach, so I will just report his bottom line:
If you are applying to graduate schools
in philosophy and are trying to decide which schools you want to apply
to or attend, and if you are concerned about your placement prospects
after graduation, you need to consider (1) how a school ranks in your
chosen specialty and (2) how well that school places students overall. You
cannot just rely on overall faculty rankings, for these bear no
relationship to how well a school places, although many will find these
rankings important for other reasons. What does appear to matter as far as placement is concerned is the school's ranking in your area of specialty. If it ranks well, then you have a much higher chance of getting a tenure track or permanent position in academic philosophy. And some schools just appear to have better placement rankings than others.
For example, both Northwestern University and University of
Massachusetts, Amherst are not ranked above a 3 in any category (except
Continental philosophy and Social and Political Philosophy,
respectively), but they have some of the best placement records.
Why is that? I wish I knew. That is a question worthy of further exploration...[Emphasis in original--ES.]
(1) Denigrate public education, and public institutions in general, as drains on private wealth and “job makers” to the point that no one would dare ask for increased support. This will assure that public universities are relegated to second-rate status with inferior facilities and loads of part-time faculty members, and will forever have a negative stigma placed on them relative to private universities.
(2) Take advantage of economic downturns to instigate “taxpayer outrage” in order to remove support from public universities so that they must either raise tuition or cut back on their programs. Afterward, condemn those institutions for raising tuition in order to support lazy, socialist professors teaching irrelevant subjects like anthropology and philosophy.
(3) As state support recedes, encourage a student-loan system that will create a “market for higher education.” Saddling students with lots of debt will make them enterprising and rational consumers of educational products and will encourage them to safeguard their economic interests. Refer to these changes as “empowering students.”
It goes on. Some of the comments aren't bad either. Emphasis on "some," however.
[I am grateful to
Vasso Kindi for accepting our invitation to contribute her reflections after The Guardian
reported that austerity measures pushed the University of Athens to suspend
Universities suffer from nepotism, political patronage, inertia, and structures
that breed favoritism and unaccountability. They are in desperate need of
reform independently of the current financial crisis. Moreover, most Greek graduates
were, until recently, channeled to the public sector where they were hired
merely by only showing their Universities degrees. This meant that, for a great
number of students, learning mattered less than obtaining the degree itself.
University of Athens (UoA) is currently shut down because there is a strike of
the administrative staff. They are protesting against plans, required by the
memorandum signed by the Greek government and its creditors, to reduce 12,500
employees of the public sector by the end of 2013. The universities, which are
all state-owned, will lose 1349 members of their administrative personnel and
the UoA 498 out of 1375. Those who are on strike have prohibited access to all
university buildings. We cannot have classes, exams, register new students. We
cannot even go to our offices.
Itis the profession of philosophers to question platitudes that others accept without thinking twice. A dangerous profession, since philosophers are more easily
discredited than platitudes, but a useful one.--David Lewis, Convention.
Of course, as philosophers, our commitment to challenging and
questioning norms is real, and important. Far be it from me to claim
that we’d be better off if we all had to be more conventional or
couldn’t play around with taboos. Doing so is essential to both the
philosophical method and the high quality of life we enjoy as
Recently, Rebeca Kukla published an insightful post at Leiter on the significance of the norm of social-norm violation among philosophers, including the one that encourages avoiding the appearance of concern with looks and dress. She argues that the benefits (i.e., "high quality of life") of the norm
of social norm violation are unevenly distributed within philosophy. Her cogent argument against the norm turns on "the cost of the most vulnerable members of the profession." While Kukla does not spell it out entirely, it seems she thinks that if we adjust the internal-to-philosophy norms we could distribute the current benefits to philosophizing more widely within philosophy without "undermining our commitment to challenging and
questioning norms." She, thus, views philosophy as a moral or at least professional community.
Seneca, too, is concerned with the norm of social norm violation and warns against "repellent atire, unkempt hair, slovenly beard..." (Letter 5.) Seneca rejects the excesses now associated with the Cynics, but apparently commonly thought to be the 'philosopher's way' (even if "discretely pursued"). Anticipating Mandeville and Veblen, Seneca treats these instances of social norm-violation as expressing the desire to be conspicuous [conspici]. The "self-display" associated with self-punishing [poenam] norms (or what Hume would label 'monkish virtues') comes at the expense of making a contribution to society [proficere].
One annoying feature of re-reading other people's scholarship, is the possibility of discovering that one's treasured ideas may well be anticipated by others. Memory and self-deception can be funny like that. So, it's probably not uncommon that folk really fail to attribute to others what is due to them without realizing they are in the wrong. Even when the mistakes are honest, they still involve injustices, and these may be quite large given that they may, say, reinforce gender related unfairness, too. Such injustices are not easy to excuse or forgive when one feels that one's work or presence has been silenced or unfairly ignored. Even so, we try to cope with this kind of injustice. Yet, faking data or copying (and pasting) texts without attribution is legitimately an unpardonable sin in the Academy, especially if it is part of a pattern of such (plagiarism/faking) cases. One might be willing to give a student a second chance, but recoil from letting a confirmed fraudulent senior scholar back into the fold. Paradoxically many of us treat such cases as worse sin than many crimes on the 'outside.' (Coetzee's Disgrace reflects on this.)
It is, thus, understandable that the good folk at Retractionwatch react with dismay that prominent scholars, including philosophy's very own Philip Pettit, are willing to endorse Marc Hauser's forthcoming book, Evilicious. What really rankles Retractionwatch is that Hauser has not owned up to his record of misconduct and "only acknowledged “mistakes.”" (As they write: "But we do prefer when those given a second chance acknowledge that they
did something wrong. That might start with noting a retraction, instead
of continuing to list the retracted paperamong your publications.")
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (BBRC), a journal that proudly lists that it is "the fastest submission-to-print journal! Number 1 journal in the Thomson's JCR ranking for Biophysics in terms of Total Cites, Number of Articles and Eigen Factor ™ score." It is a "5-Year Impact Factor: 2.500." Apparently, sometimes speed does not pay because the journal has been victim of a spectacular hoax (recall). Naturereports:
Oddly enough, so far there is no evidence that the hoax was perpetrated to expose the vulnerability of scientific refereeing practices. In fact, Nature quotes a scientists (the one who alerted the editors to the hoax), who "believes that the paper was intended to hurt him and his lab."
Our very own Ed Kazarian writes in Inside Higher Edhere. (Congrats Ed!) He nicely summarizes our earlier discussion here at NewAPPS (here, here, here), and shows with patience how the NBER economists used very misleading rhetoric in their piece. Kazarian calls attention to why their bogus rhetoric (tenure vs non-tenure) matters. I quote his concluding remarks:
[T]here is nothing about teaching-intensive faculty that is incompatible
with their being eligible for tenure — especially if one fully intends
to build long-term relationships with them and keep them around.
Why, one is led to ask, can we not have "efficiency" and tenure? The
answer, if there is one, must have to do with other ways in which
non-tenured faculty differ from those with tenure. The authors mention
academic freedom — an important consideration.
But they otherwise ignore the degree to which non-tenured faculty lack a
secure position from which to question, criticize, or oppose the
actions of university administrators.
And here, indeed, is another sense of "efficiency" that administrators
at many institutions might well wish to cultivate, allowing them to
enjoy a pedagogically effective, but largely vulnerable, and therefore
easily controlled faculty.
United Academics represents tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure track, and adjunct faculty in addition to librarians, research assistants, post-docs, and other academic employees at UO. United Academics is a joint affiliate of the American Association of University Professors (www.aaup.org) and the American Federation of Teachers (www.aft.org). In addition to UO, AAUP and AFT jointly represent faculty at the University of Alaska, the University of Vermont, Wayne State University, and City University New York (CUNY).
A few days ago we published a letter from the American Philosophical Association Committee on the Status of Women to Penn State on Penn State's planned discriminatory violations of privacy rights. The Chronicle reports that "has dropped a controversial plan to levy a $1,200 annual fine on
employees who fail to answer health-related questions that many faculty
members called too invasive." The Chronicle reports that:
In addition, this week the chairwoman of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status of Women wrote a letter*
to Penn State administrators saying questions about female employees'
pregnancy plans were not only invasive but discriminatory.
"Penn State's health-care provider targets women employees by
imposing on them a special burden of disclosure about their sexual
intent," wrote Hilde Lindemann, a professor of philosophy at Michigan
State University. "Are male employees required to disclose their
intended sexual activity over the year?"
One small note: the university has not "dropped" the plan, but only suspended it (as the Chronicle's article makes clear); so vigilance is required. Meanwhile, congratulations to the employees of Penn State! And thank you to the APA and to Prof. Lindemann as well as her whole committee for your efforts.
Meanwhile, I called Adult Protective Services right after talking to Margaret Mary, and I explained the situation. I said that she had just been let go from her job as a professor at Duquesne, that she was given no severance or retirement benefits, and that the reason she was having trouble taking care of herself was because she was living in extreme poverty. The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, "She was a professor?" I said yes. The case- worker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.
Of course, what the case-worker didn't understand was that Margaret Mary was an adjunct professor, meaning that, unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits and with a salary of between $3,000 and just over $3,500 per three-credit course....
[Rachel McKinnon solicited this post from me. She should be blamed for any insights.--ES]
Refereeing a book manuscript for a university press can be a daunting enterprise. If you don't watch out, it can be very time-consuming (some of us should be kept off the streets--you know who you are). Crucially, the norms that apply are not entirely clear. For example, if you find an invalid argument on p. 275, it might, after all, be worth repairing given all the other riches. But what if you find lots of problems (lack of citations, garden path arguments, etc), yet judge that the book will make a major contribution? Now, book-refereeing is rarely masked--referees nearly always know the identity of the author. Is there something to be gained to see the -- let's stipulate, dead-wrong -- views of, say, an influential PhD supervisor in print, rather than propogated in the works of the students?
More subtly, the interests of presses and the discipline do not coincide. Here's a concrete example: whatever you think of the substance of Nagel's Mind and Cosmos, it is undeniable that it could have benefitted from more exacting refereeing. Leaving aside his engagement with the (philosophy of) sciences, it is undeniable that if Nagel had engaged with more recent
analytic metaphysics he could have given a far better and more favorable account of the
nature of the problem-space. But, of course, if it had been seriously revised in light of serious refereeing it would have been almost certainly less readable and, perhaps, less controversial; it might also not have read anymore as Nagel's last will to the profession.
Here follow some de-feasible considerations that might inform book refereeing:
1. [A] Your main job as a referee is to help an editor -- almost never a professional
philosopher -- figure out the significance of the book and anticipate how people
in the field might respond to it. [Bl Your duty to the profession is to uphold scholarly standards (quality, citation practices, etc.).
We sought ways around the gridlock of current debates over the role
of religion in public life by examining the way an early 18th century
philosopher and theologian had responded to similar circumstances by
refashioning the concept of God to accommodate modern ways of thought.
The Australian Research Council’s panel of experts, acting on the advice
of independent specialist assessors, deemed it worth pursuing. On the
basis of its title alone, however, Briggs deems it “ridiculous”.
TO: David Gray, Senior Vice President
for Finance and Busines
Susan Basso, Vice President for
Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
Dear Mr. Gray and Ms. Basso:
According to an article in the 10
September Centre Daily Times and the
15 September New York Times, a health
risk assessment questionnaire that is part of Penn State’s new employee
wellness program asks women employees whether they plan to get pregnant in the
next year. If the employee refuses to disclose this she is penalized $100 for
every month she fails to yield up the information.
By requiring women employees to disclose information about their sex
lives, Penn State violates their privacy rights and likely violates their
rights under federal law (Title VII and The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title
IX, privacy law, and equal protection). Highmark, Penn State’s health care
provider, targets women employees by imposing on them a special burden of
disclosure about their sexual intent. Are male employees required to disclose
their intended sexual activity over the year? To avoid paying a fine, is a
woman employee forced to lie? And if she has no plans but becomes pregnant
accidentally, does that increase her insurance premiums?
In discussion at LGM, this well-known "infographic" (a term I loathe, though not quite as much as "webinar" -- but I digress) about the highest-paid state employees was criticized for implying that big time university athletic coaches get paid directly from state tax monies.
Below the fold I'll discuss that criticism and show what is the true public support to college athletics we need to think about: it's not direct state funds paying salaries of coaches, but it does directly involve faculty labor.
Prompted by Ed's excellent piece, I looked at the NBER working paper that undoubtedly will be used to undermine tenure at a variety of universities. It is worth noting that one of the authors of the piece is the current President of Northwestern University; undoubtedly this helped with gaining access to the data. But it also makes one wonder if, perhaps, there wasn't a directed search in the data. After all, one can get a bit too close to the subject studied. It would be nice if some independent statistician can obtain access to the raw data.
Monday, Inside Higher Ed published an article breathlessly reporting that a "major new study" [summary, pdf] conducted by three Northwestern professors for the National Bureau of Economic Research had shown that "new students at Northwestern University learn more when their instructors are adjuncts than when they are tenure-track professors." Unfortunately, the uptake by IHE and others ignores the one salient fact about Northwestern's 'adjunct' pool that the authors let creep into one of their footnotes: "[a]lmost all classes taught by non-tenure track faculty at Northwestern are taught by those with a longer-term relationship with the university" (p. 9n8 my emphasis).
The study itself is flawed in other ways: 1) the narrow basis upon which these claims are grounded; 2) the authors' failure to consider specific factors about the faculty being studied, their relationship to the courses being taught, or the contracts under they were hired; and 3) the generalizability of the results being presented. Indeed, the authors' provide very little reason to think that 'non-tenure track' faculty at Northwestern are comparable to a similarly named group of faculty at other institutions. As such, the study provides a poor rejoinder to the large body of research that suggests that adjunctification is as bad for students as it demonstrably has been for faculty.