You have to be a full professor, that’s what it takes. This is an entirely absurd, obsolete system – in particular in view of the fact that many PhD studentships are financed by external funding obtained by researchers who cannot be the official supervisors of these students (and who in practice do all the supervising work). The system is not only unfair; it is also nefarious for the functioning of academia in the Netherlands as a whole. (See a statement (in Dutch) by three philosophers and members of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences – Ingrid Robeyns, Arianna Betti and Peter-Paul Verbeek – with nine objections to the current system.)
Reinhard Muskens, a very distinguished logician-linguist-philosopher at the University of Tilburg, has started a petition asking the board of his university to revise this policy and extend the rights to be the official supervisor of a PhD thesis to non-full professors. Muskens himself has attracted very large amounts of external funding in his long and fruitful career as a researcher, has de facto supervised a number of PhD students, but still does not have what is referred to as ‘promotion rights’ around here.
The following letter was adopted by the Northwestern University Philosophy Graduate Students by way of a vote:
As many in the philosophical community already know, sexual misconduct is a prevalent problem in the discipline. Our department is currently bearing the weight of its own controversy regarding sexual misconduct, and we fear that particular developments in the situation at our institution could have far-reaching consequences for victims elsewhere and going forward. After being accused by two different students of sexual assault, and being found responsible for sexual harassment by the university’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Office in each case, a member of our faculty responded by suing (among others) the university, one of his colleagues, and, most troubling to us, a graduate student.
While some of the legal matters await final resolution, litigation itself raises new practical and ethical considerations. Anyone named as a defendant in a legal complaint will naturally be advised by her* attorney not to discuss the matter with others. The silencing effects for a student who is sued by a professor for alleging sexual misconduct within her university's own reporting procedures must be distressing: she will likely be isolated against her will from educational, professional, and personal support networks by someone who has proven willing to sue not only her, but also those who would support her.
Many instances of sexual misconduct go unreported, in large part because the risks of reporting are many and serious while the potential gains are very slim. The risks of further loss of community, of damaging actual and potential professional relationships, of not being believed, or of being reduced to how one has been treated, rather than being perceived as an intelligent, talented, and valuable individual and member of a community, already deter victims from reporting. Add to these risks the possibility of being named in a lawsuit (and the consequent potential for financial ruin if not indemnified) as well as having personal information and details of a traumatic experience made public, and the hazards are substantially multiplied.**
The pursuit of this legal strategy and its silencing effects should be troubling to the philosophical community. Suing a graduate student for filing an internal, and otherwise confidential, sexual misconduct complaint is intolerable. If the legal strategy implemented by this faculty member is treated as acceptable, it is not only injustice to our fellow graduate student that is at stake--though this is a substantial concern in itself. The implications for victims going forward, within the profession and otherwise, are staggering. Treating such an approach as acceptable effectively amounts to accepting those implications, as well as silence for ourselves. It should be noted that even if a faculty member feels that their due process rights have been infringed upon, and even if no university grievance process is available, there are other courses of action available under, for example, Title VII and Title IX. Consequently, we feel we must vigorously repudiate this legal tactic and provide vocal support to those whose voice would be taken from them.
One necessary step to adequately supporting victims is opening up communication between administrators, faculty, and graduate students, both within departments and across them. We hope that the discipline’s internal conversation regarding sexual misconduct will continue, that it is honest yet sensitive to issues of vulnerability and power dynamics, and that we do not avoid confronting discrimination and exclusion because we are too concerned with privacy to do anything at all. When we act as if privacy concerns cannot be appropriately balanced with substantive communication, we only exacerbate the stigma that victims already feel. The fact that philosophy departments have become a central battleground for rights to non-discrimination in academic settings is a result of a collective failure on the part of our discipline, and as such will require collective action to rectify it. We hope this letter will serve as a small step towards that end.
We admire our fellow graduate student for her strength and bravery and are proud to share an intellectual home with a colleague who is both uncommonly brilliant and courageous. We stand with her, and in support of victims everywhere.
*While we are using the feminine pronoun, this is applicable to persons of any gender.
**Here, we do not mean to claim that personal information need accurately be made public. Unfortunately, whoever initiates a legal complaint has the advantage of being able to make public a narrative of events that indeed need not be accurate, or even approximately accurate, unless it is to prevail in court. When filing a motion to dismiss, a defendant does not have the opportunity to dispute matters of fact. This only underscores our concern about the impact this new precedent may have on victims.
In a forthcoming paper, John Schellenberg forwards the following argument: anatomically humans have been around 200,000 years. That's a very short span of time for any species, and only in the past few thousand years ago have we been reflecting on the world around us. If we our species survives even as long as Homo erectus did, we've only completed a very small part of a potentially long future of thinking about religion, metaphysics and other matters.
At present, philosophy of religion in the analytic tradition is quite narrowly focused:
"in the west – and I expect I am writing mainly for western readers – philosophy of religion has been largely preoccupied with one religious idea, that of theism, and it looks to be moving into a narrower and deeper version of this preoccupation, one focused on specifically Christian ideas, rather than broadening out and coming to grips with its full task."(p. 3).
Theism, in a generic, omni-property sort of way, is one position that philosophers of religion commonly defend. The other is scientific naturalism. These seem to be the only games in town:
"most naturalists too assume that theistic God-centered religion must succeed if any does. Naturalism or theism. These seem to be the only options that many see. The harshest critics of religion, including philosophers such as Daniel Dennett, seem to think their job is done when they have, to their own satisfaction, criticized personalistic, agential conceptions of a divine reality." (pp. 3-4).
At the end of 2013, I conducted a qualitative survey (summary here, but I am writing up the paper presently) among philosophers of religion. Next to a series of open questions, there was a question for open feedback. I was quite surprised to see so many philosophers of religion openly lament the lack of subject diversity in their discipline. Just a few choice examples written by anonymous respondents:
John Protevi, founder and emeritus member of New APPS, has posted an "October Statement." By signing, one states one's opposition to the ranking of philosophy programs, whether in the form of the current PGR or in some other revised form. The statement contains links to those who have offered reasons for taking such a position.
Protevi seems to have found a second statement to be necessary because he thinks that the September Statement implies that ranking systems confer a (net) benefit on the profession. I don't think that it implies any such thing, and in a comment over at the Feminist Philosophers blog, Daniel Elstein nicely sums up why:
I guess what we should try to remember is that it’s really hard to write a statement that pleases everyone. People who support (PGR-style) rankings and people who oppose (PGR-style) rankings can (and should) agree that it is worse if Leiter is PGR editor than if he isn’t. The phraseology in the September Statement that seems to irritate ranking opponents is clearly there to reassure the ranking supporters that signing on is compatible with supporting (PGR-style) rankings. Ranking opponents should recognise that it is a good thing if all those who oppose bullying (including ranking supporters) can sign a unified statement, and so interpret the relevant parts of the statement charitably. The problematic sentence could be read: “With a different leadership structure, the benefits [that some attribute to] the guide might be achieved without detriment to our colleague.” That’s true, right? And it’s all that the authors will have intended.
That being said, I do understand why some might share Protevi's interpretation and for that reason not feel comfortable signing the September statement. I would encourage those who feel similarly to sign the October Statement, while also pointing out that it is consistent to sign both statements (as I have done).
Folks, there is a new initiative underway to 'change the face of philosophy.' (It was brought to my attention by my Brooklyn College colleague, Serene Khader.) I urge all of us to get behind it.
For nine years, PIKSI, or the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute, has been helping students from underrepresented groups develop the skills, confidence, and community needed to pursue graduate study in philosophy. Our students include women, people of color, LGBT individuals, individuals with disabilities, and people from economically disadvantaged communities.
PIKSI aims to change philosophy's status as the least diverse in the humanities. Only 16% of full-time academic philosophers are women. Of the 13,000 professional philosophers in the United States, only 156 are black. The experiences of members of diverse groups can cast new light on traditional philosophical questions as well as raise new ones.
PIKSI needs funding:
PIKSI has traditionally received two sources of funding. The program is housed at the Pennsylvania State University’s Rock Ethics Institute, who together with Pennsylvania State University School of Liberal Arts, have pledged to continue their partial financing of PIKSI, conditional upon funding from a partner organization. Until recently the American Philosophical Association (APA) has co-funded PIKSI, but beginning 2014, this is no longer funding we can count on.
Rarely, if ever, does the term 'intellectual property' add clarity to any debate of substance--very often, this is because it includes the term 'property' and thus offers an invitation to some dubious theorizing. This post by Alex Rosenberg at Daily Nous is a good example of this claim:
Locke famously offered an account of the justification of private property, one that Nozick brought to our attention in Anarchy, State and Utopia. The account worked like this: morally permissible private property begins with original acquisition, and that happens when you mix your labor with nature, and leave as good and as much for others. Alas, this “Lockean” proviso is impossible to satisfy. Or at least it is in every original acquisition other than the case of intellectual property. Here one mixes one mental labor with nature—empirical facts about reality, including social reality. Since there are an infinite number of good ideas, the creator of intellectual property leaves as much and as good for others, and therefore has an unqualified right to what he has created.
Brian Leiter’s ownership of the PGR satisfies the most stringent test of private property I know. It’s his creation and he excluded no one else from mixing his or her labor with nature to produce a substitute for or for that matter a complement to his creation.
In light of this fact, the effort to separate him from his intellectual property owing to disapproval of his emails and posts seems rather preposterous.
It has often been proposed--most notably by Richard Stallman, free software's most fiery proponent-that the term 'intellectual property' be junked in favor of more precise usage. That is, when you are tempted to use the term 'intellectual property' use 'copyright,' 'patents,' 'trademarks,' or 'trade secrets' instead. Doing this would enable immediate grappling with the precise nature of the issue at hand--in each named domain there are separable legal and policy issues at play.
Over the past three years I have collected and reported on placement data for positions in academic philosophy. (Interested readers can find past posts here at New APPS under the "placement data" category, two of which have been updated with the new data, severalpostsatProPhilosophy, or the very first post on placement at the Philosophy Smoker.) This year, placement data will be gathered, organized, and reported on by the following committee of volunteers (listed in alphabetical order):
Over the next academic year, we aim to create a website, which will be parked at placementdata.com. This website will include a form for gathering data, a searchable database, and reports on placement data. Until that time, I am suspending updates to the Excel spreadsheet, which contains much of the data used in the past few years, plus the updates I have received over the past few months. (Many thanks to Justin Lillge for incorporating the bulk of these updates into the spreadsheet!) When the website is ready, departments will be able to update their placement data through an embeddable form. Stay tuned for these links in the coming months!
Marcus Arvan, of The Philosophers' Cocoon, had the idea of running a graduate student survey. This was something that the five of us had already talked about (and Justin Lillge had some preliminary work on this), so we have invited Marcus to join us in this project. He has posted s0me initial ideas here. Please do contribute to the discussion if you have insight!
My association with her goes back some twenty years, when I first began my graduate studies in philosophy as a non-matriculate student at the CUNY Graduate Center [in the fall of 1992]. My first class was ‘Social and Political Philosophy,’ taught by Professor Held. [During our first class meeting] on her reading list, I saw four unfamiliar names: Carole Pateman, Susan Okin, Catherine MacKinnon and Patricia Smith. Who were these, I wondered, and what did they have to do with the ‘public-private distinction’ (the subtitle Virginia had added to ‘Social and Political Philosophy’)? As we were introduced to the syllabus, Professor Held skillfully handled some questions: Why were these readings on the list? Why not the usual suspects? I was impressed, of course, by her deft location of feminist philosophy in our canon and its importance in exploring the public-private distinction, but I was even more impressed by the grace and firmness that she displayed in dealing with contentious student interlocutors.
I want to add a little more detail to this story--as well as a little follow-up; your mileage may vary with regards to your assessment of the topicality or relevance of these embellishments.
There have been lots of discussions on the PGR (e.g., here), especially on its leader, Brian Leiter, including a poll on whether the of 2014 should be produced. Regardless of the outcome of this, I think we can already start considering alternative ways, independent of the PGR, to provide information for prospective philosophy graduate students.
Ideally, such information should should not be primarily about rankings of quality. Quality is a complex concept that is vulnerable to biases and enforcing the status quo. We should rather provide prospective grad students with clear measures of placement rates and places where they could study the topic of their choice. Perhaps any type of ranking will be problematic. We could just provide descriptive info on a wide range of topics, e.g., where are places to study experimental philosophy, continental French etc. One can give that info *without* giving an overall rank of perceived quality.
The methodology by which placement rates are made and by which assessments of strengths within departments are made should be empirically informed by the social sciences e.g., in its selection of experts who make these assessments
Collecting and dessiminating this information shouldn't be in the hands of one individual but shared responsibility. I originally thought it was something the APA, or perhaps a task force consisting of people from the APA, the AAP etc could do, but I am now not so sure whether this is a good idea. PhilPapers+ seems like a good place to host the information, especially given that prospective graduate students will already be familiar with PhilPapers
It would be nice to expand information for prospective graduate students to non-Anglosaxon departments. There are lots of grad students outside the English-speaking world who could benefit from lists of placement records and specializations of faculty members outside the US, UK etc.
It is up to each of us individually to decide what we will volunteer to do. The undersigned members of the philosophical community have decided to decline to volunteer our services to Leiter’s PGR. While we recognise that there are other ways to condemn Professor Leiter’s behaviour and to support our colleague, we think the best choice for us involves publicly declining to assist with the PGR. We cannot continue to volunteer services in support of the PGR in good conscience as long as Brian Leiter continues to behave in this way. We therefore decline to take the PGR survey, we decline to serve on the PGR advisory board, and we decline to send Professor Leiter information to help him compile the survey (e.g. updated faculty lists and corrections). We are only declining to volunteer our services to the PGR while it is under the control of Brian Leiter. With a different leadership structure, the benefits of the guide might be achieved without detriment to our colleague.
We feel that we need to consider very carefully what kind of example we are setting for graduate students, and for philosophers across the whole discipline, when something like this happens. Tolerating this kind of behaviour signals to them that they can expect the same in their own professional lives. We wish to set a clear example of how to respond appropriately but firmly.
In the course of a discussion on Facebook begun by a colleague’s thoughtful and nuanced reflection on the kind of rankings we might want to have in the discipline, I was moved to offer an objection to the idea of ranking departments at all. I think it stands outside that particular discussion, so I’d like to reproduce it here.
I have, basically, two reasons for thinking that the practice of ranking departments is unwise and likely to be harmful:
1) Rankings devalue the work of an awful lot of folks and, perhaps more importantly, provide the various agents of forces within the institution that may be hostile to the discipline (and to the humanities more broadly) a ready excuse to claim that most philosophy departments at US universities (or at least at research universities) aren’t worth the investment they require to maintain. Given the way we have seen some such people abuse metrics of any sort (no matter how questionable said metrics might be), I find it difficult to understand why we insist on producing one ourselves.
2) It should be evident by now that the problem of determining acceptable ranking criteria in a pluralistic discipline is tremendously fraught and has proven to be very resistant to a solution that is broadly acceptable.
Instead of rankings, I think we should be moving towards a model where we collect and maintain as much up to date information about the various programs out there as possible. The discussion I mentioned above had already produced some really wonderful thoughts on what such a ‘database’ of programs might contain, and how it would benefit the various constituencies in the philosophical community. Indeed, as Justin Weinberg notes in one of his early posts at Daily Nous, part of what has been very valuable about Brian Leiter’s effort is that it has facilitated the broad circulation of key information about the profession that had previously been difficult to access for many people, including prospective students. Surely that sort of transparency is something we want, no matter what else happens going forward, to preserve and enhance—and which the various responsible parties in the profession should be working hard to foster.
One may be forgiven for thinking, on reading Brian Leiter's diatribe against identity politics and the danger it poses for academic philosophy, that there is a swell in 'consumer demand' for expanding the philosophy curriculum in questionable directions and for the wrong reasons. To clarify: the 'consumer' in this case is graduate students dissatisfied with the lack on engagement on the part of Anglo-American philosophers with non-Western philosophical traditions. Or so the story goes.
So Leiter asks: "should we really add East Asian philosophers to the curriculum to satisfy the consumer demands of Asian students rather than because these philosophers are interesting and important in their own right?"
The reality is that there is no such large-scale demand, certainly not in top graduate programs, because one could not have gotten in by announcing one's intention of working in Indian or Chinese philosophy. That is not to deny that there hasn't been talk of opening up the discipline to non-Western traditions and perspectives (more on this below). But even the advocates don't think it can be that easily accomplished (not, at least, through curricular reform alone). Rather, the sense is that some change in the demographics of philosophy departments would have to take place for cross-cultural philosophical reflection to become the norm. Alas, we are a long way from that.
How we ought to understand the terms "civility" and "collegiality" and to what extent they can be enforced as professional norms are dominating discussions in academic journalism and the academic blogosphere right now. (So much so, in fact, that it's practically impossible for me to select among the literally hundreds of recent articles/posts and provide for you links to the most representative here.) Of course, the efficient cause of civility/collegiality debates' meteoric rise to prominence is the controversy surrounding Dr. Steven Salaita's firing (or de-hiring, depending on your read of the situation) by the University of Illinois only a month ago, but there are a host of longstanding, deeply contentious and previously seething-just-below-the-surface agendas that have been given just enough air now by the Salaita case to fan their smoldering duff into a blazing fire.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll just note here at the start that I articulated my concerns about (and opposition to) policing norms of civility/collegiality or otherwise instituting "codes" to enforce such norms some months ago (March 2014) in a piece I co-authored with Edward Kazarian on this blog here (and reproduced on the NewAPPS site) entitled "Please do NOT revise your tone." My concern was then, as it remains still today, that instituting or policing norms of civility/collegiality is far more likely to protect objectionable behavior/speech by those who already possess the power to avoid sanction and, more importantly, is likely to further disempower those in vulnerable professional positions by effectively providing a back-door manner of sanctioning what may be their otherwise legitimately critical behaviors/speech. I'm particularly sympathetic to the recent piece "Civility is for Suckers" in Salon by David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford) who retraces the case-history of civility and free speech and concludes, rightly in my view, that "civility is in the eye of the powerful."
It seems apropos to introduce a small point of order: New APPS is a group blog, which means that there are many authors here and we all speak for ourselves--and only ourselves.
A case in point would be my strong disagreement with Jon Cogburn's post below. I find it to trade in a series of unfortunate false dichotomies: 1) between valuing or appreciating ability and seeking to avoid speaking in a way that may be hurtful offensive to people with disabilities, or which marginalizes them; 2) between recognizing that illnesses (mental or physical), injuries, or other afflictions are real sources of suffering and seeking to avoid speaking about people suffering from such conditions in a way that marginalizes, delegitimates, hurts or excludes them; and more generally, 3) between being able to express oneself adequately or take joy in life and seeking to avoid harming others carelessly or thoughtlessly, especially where they may also be subject to various systems of marginalization, delegitimation, or exclusion.
I also disagree with Jon's suggestion that some of our former bloggers were wrong to push as hard as possible for the development in the profession and among those who engaged with us here of a much greater degree of sensitivity and care with respect to how we speak about folks who have historically been marginalized, delegitimated, and excluded by the profession and by the history of 'Western' philosophy.
I expect many readers to be following the ongoing debate, prompted by a poll run by Leiter last week, on the (presumed) effects that blogs have had for professional philosophy, both at the level of content and at the level of ‘issues in the profession’. (Roberta Millistein weights in at NewAPPS, and I agree with pretty much everything she says; another summary at Feminist Philosophers.) Now, there is a sense in which I am personally not in a good position to have an opinion on this, simply because I haven’t been around long enough to know what it was like before, and thus to be able to draw an informed conclusion. But I can say that my very process of becoming a professional philosopher (not so much content-wise perhaps, but in terms of deciding on the kind of professional I wanted to be) was considerably influenced by reading in particular the Feminist Philosophers blog. Also, I won’t deny that my career as a whole has tremendously benefited from my blogging activity at NewAPPS and at M-Phi, both in terms of the opportunity to discuss my ideas with a larger number of people than would otherwise have been possible, and (more pragmatically) simply in terms of increased visibility and reputation.
But obviously, my individual experience (or that of other bloggers) is not what is under discussion presently; rather, the question is whether blogs have been good for the profession as a whole. This, however, is obviously a multi-faceted question; it may for example be read as pertaining to the quality of the scholarship produced, to be measured by some suitably ‘objective’ criterion. (As a matter of fact, I do believe that blogs have been ‘good’ for philosophy in this sense, for reasons outlined here for example.) But it may also pertain to the overall wellbeing of members of the profession, in which case the putative effect blogs will have had could be conceived of in terms of a simple formula: for each member the profession (I is the set of all professional philosophers), estimate the net gain (or loss) in professional wellbeing by comparing their situation before (wb) and after (wa) the advent of blogs; add it all up, and divide the total by the number of members considered.
Here are some reasons I have found philosophy blogs to be beneficial; here I include New APPS (so my bias is obvious), but my comments here are not limited to New APPS, by any means.
First, while I had heard stories here and there of sexism and exclusion of other underrepresented minorities, they seemed like isolated incidents. One could brush them off as the occasional jerk, and think that we didn't need to worry about them as a profession. Because of philosophy blogs, it has now become abundantly clear that we do need to worry about the treatment and the exclusion of women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who are LGBT, etc. And we have started to see changes in the profession to address these longstanding problems.
Second, philosophy blogs have provided a way to share and discuss issues in the profession that aren't directly related to exclusion, but are important to discuss anyway. My recent post on methods for anonymizing papers is a small, if unexciting example of that.
Third, philosophy blogs have provided a way to disseminate news and information (e.g., statistics).
Last but not least, philosophy blogs aren't just about the profession; they are also about philosophy. They have provided a format for wider dispersal and discussion of philosophical issues. This couldn't have come at a better time; philosophy had been becoming increasingly siloed. I think it's still pretty siloed, but blogging has made connections between philosophers that wouldn't have occurred otherwise and let philosophers know about work that they wouldn't have known about otherwise.
Of course, we can all think of postings on philosophy blogs that we found objectionable/harmful or comments that we found objectionable/harmful. On balance, I still think they have done more good than harm.
Google the keywords “academic” and “mother” or “motherhood”, and you will find various websites with discussions about the baby penalty in academia for women. Representative for this literature is an influential Slate article by Mary Ann Mason, who writes “For men, having children is a career advantage; for women, it is a career killer. And women who do advance through the faculty ranks do so at a high price. They are far less likely to be married with children.”
As an untenured mother of two children, I find these reports unsettling. When my second child was born, several women who are junior academics approached me to ask me if it was doable, or how I managed to get anything done. They wanted children but were scared that it would kill their careers. How do children impact one’s work? This got me thinking that it would be good to hear the stories of philosophers who did manage to combine a flourishing academic career with parenthood.
To this end, I interviewed seven tenured professors who are parents. Six of them are mothers, but I decided to also include an involved father. I aimed to include some diversity of circumstance. Some of my interviewees have very young children whereas one respondent has grown children, she had them in a time when being a mother and a professor was even less evident than it is now. One of my interviewees is a single mother, who had her child in graduate school. One went to a first-round APA interview when her son was six weeks old, with a sitter in the hotel room. Two of my interviewees have special needs children, a fact that shaped their academic careers in important ways. I aimed also for geographic diversity—my respondents come from the US, the UK, Canada and The Netherlands—since countries and institutional culture differ in the formal and informal support parents receive, such as paid leave and childcare.
All papers are anonymously reviewed. Author's name, institution, or references pertaining to the identity of the author must be removed from the paper, abstract, notes, and bibliography. Papers containing such identifying references may be rejected.
There are at least two ways that one might remove one's identity:
One might leave in the references to oneself, but refer to oneself in the third person, e.g., "As Millstein (2009) argues, populations are individuals."
One might delete all references to oneself, e.g., "As I have argued elsewhere (reference deleted), populations are individuals."
This is part 3 of a 3-part series of interviews with philosophers who left academia right after grad school or in some cases later. See part 1 to see what jobs they held, and part 2 on how they evaluate their jobs. This part will focus on the transferrable skills of academics.
The burning question of academics who want to leave academia is: What transferrable skills can they bring to the private sector? The responses of the seven people I interviewed clearly indicate that the skills that are transferrable are broad and fairly high-level.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series of interviews I conducted with seven philosophers who went on to a non-academic career after obtaining their PhDs. For more background on these philosophers, the work they currently do, and the reasons they left academia, see part 1: How and Why do they end up there? This part will focus on the realities of having a non-academic job.
One of the main attractions of an academic job, especially one of a tenured academic professor, is the autonomy (intellectual and in terms of time management) it provides. However, there are downsides as well: the increasing pressure to churn out publications (which some of the respondents already alluded to in part 1, lack of support, and isolation lead to mental health problems in some academics. So how do philosophers with experience in academia and outside evaluate the work atmosphere?
This is the first of a three-part series featuring in-depth interviews with philosophers who have left academia. This part (part 1) focuses on their philosophical background, the jobs they have now, and why they left academia. Part 2 examines the realities of having a non-academic job and how it compares to a life in academia. In part 3, finally, the interviewees reflect on the transferable skills of a PhD in philosophy, and offer concrete advice on those who want to consider a job outside of academia.
Does having a PhD in philosophy mean your work opportunities have narrowed down to the academic job market? This assumption seems widespread, for example, a recent Guardian article declares that programs should accept fewer graduate students as there aren’t enough academic jobs for all those PhDs. Yet academic skills are transferrable: philosophy PhDs are independent thinkers who can synthesize and handle large bodies of complex information, write persuasively as they apply for grants, and they can speak for diverse kinds of audiences.
How do those skills translate concretely into the non-academic job market? To get a clearer picture of this, I conducted interviews with 7 philosophers who work outside of academia. They are working as consultant, software engineers, ontologist (not the philosophical sense of ontology), television writer, self-employed counselor, and government statistician. Some were already actively considering non-academic employment as graduate students, for others the decision came later—for one informant, after he received tenure.
These are all success stories. They are not intended to be a balanced representation of the jobs former academics hold. Success stories can provide a counterweight to the steady drizzle of testimonies of academic disappointment, where the inability to land a tenure track position is invariably couched in terms of personal failure, uncertainty, unhappiness and financial precarity. In this first part, I focus on what kinds of jobs the respondents hold, and how they ended up in non-academic jobs in the public and private sector. Why did they leave academia? What steps did they concretely take to get their current position?
I hope this series of posts will empower philosophy PhDs who find their current situation less than ideal, especially—but no only—those in non-tenure track position, to help them take steps to find a nonacademic career that suits them. And even if one’s academic job is as close to a dreamjob as one can conceivable get, it’s still fascinating to see what a PhD in philosophy can do in the wider world.
Every year's end at UC Riverside, the philosophy faculty meet for three hours "to discuss the graduate students". Back in the 1990s when I was a grad student, I seem to recall the Berkeley faculty doing the same thing. The practice appears to be fairly widespread. After years of feeling somewhat uncomfortable with it, I've tentatively decided I'm opposed. I'd be interested to hear from others with positive or negative views about it.
Now, there are some good things about these year-end meetings. Let's start with those.
At UCR, the formal purpose of the meeting is to give general faculty input to the graduate advisor, who can use that input to help her advising. The idea is that if the faculty as a whole think that a student is doing well and on track, the graduate advisor can communicate that encouraging news to the student; and also, when there are opportunities for awards and fellowships, the graduate advisor can consider those highly regarded students as candidates. And if the faculty as a whole think that a student is struggling, the faculty can diagnose the student's weaknesses and help the graduate advisor give the student advice that might help the student improve. Hypothetical examples (not direct quotes): "Some faculty were concerned about your inconsistent attendance at seminar meetings." "The sense of the faculty is that while you have considerable promise, your writing would be improved if you were more charitable toward the views of philosophers you disagree with."
10. You can get an accepted but-not-yet-published paper read right away, without waiting for those sometimes lengthy publication times.
9. You can increase the visibility of your work because a) PhilSci Archive articles score highly in Google searches and b) sites like PhilPapers scan PhilSci Archive and will include links to your papers automatically.
8. You can get feedback on a work-in-progress from a wider audience than just the couple of people you can think to email.
7. Your work can be read, for free, by anyone, even those without institutional library access.
6. Work that was presented, but never published, can be made accessible.
5. Papers in those harder-to-obtain volumes will be more widely accessible.
4. If you are in an underrepresented area of philosophy of science or are an author in an underrepresented group in philosophy of science, you can help to increase the visibility of your area or your group. [Right now, the papers are disproportionately in philosophy of physics – you can help change that].
3. PhilSci Archive is a non-profit organization – like PhilPapers, but unlike, say, Academia.edu or Research Gate. You can feel good about contributing to its flourishing.
2. After posting your articles, you can linger a bit and check out some of the good work that is there already, including conference papers and (in a new venture) open source journals. Or you can sign up for an email subscription, the Twitter feed, or the Facebook page.
1. It's cool, and all the cool kids are doing it. You can be cool, too.
Over at Feminist Philosophers, they've posted the CFP for a conference on Diversity in Philosophy that, I'm proud to say, is being hosted and co-sposored by my alma mater, Villanova University, along with Hypatia and the APA's Committee for the Status of Women.
The conference will be held at Villanova on May 28-30, 2015 and the deadline for submissions of 250-500 word proposals is January 1, 2015.
More info and the full CFP follows after the break.
Awhile back, there was an campaign to show all the different ways that philosophers can look, called "This is what a philosopher looks like." I thought this was a good project, with the goal of making a small dent in implicit bias, but it looks like it hasn't gotten any love in awhile; the last entry was in August, 2013. So, if you haven't sent in your photo and brief description yet, you might want to head on over there and submit your stuff!
Marcus Arvan at the Philosophers' Cocoon posted sample data from the new appointments site at PhilJobs, which is discussed in a great post by Helen de Cruz here at New APPS. In comments at de Cruz's post and in a new post Arvan discusses the impact of Gourmet ranking on women and men seeking tenure-track jobs. I wanted to follow up on Arvan's post by looking at the full set of data currently available at PhilJobs. I did this in part because I knew that the sample Arvan collected was skewed on gender, due to an earlier analysis on gender I performed for a comment on a post at the Philosophy Smoker. With that convoluted introduction aside, here is a summary of the findings, in keeping with the findings by Arvan: the gourmet rank of one's PhD granting institution appears to have a greater impact on men seeking tenure-track jobs than on women seeking tenure-track jobs. Although I cannot yet speak to the source of this discrepancy, I (like Arvan) find the difference troubling. I welcome comments on the source of the difference below, although any comments will be subject to moderation. Let's look more closely at the data (Note: the linked spreadsheet was updated on May 14th):
On the basis of this year’s partial hiring data, Marcus Arvan notes that the majority of tenure track hires (a whopping 88%) are from people of Leiter-ranked programs. Only 12% of hires are from people of unranked programs. Also, 37% of all tenure track hires come from just 5 schools, the Leiter top 5 list - this is amazing if one ponders it, and one may wonder at the direction philosophy is going to, if most of its future tenured workforce comes from just a few select programs.
This has caused a lot of debate: why would people go to grad school in unranked programs at all? Why attend an unranked program if you can’t get into a highly ranked one? But what is often overlooked are the many factors, such as class and ethnic background, may contribute to someone not getting (or, as I will examine in more detail below), even applying to get into top programs. In fact, going for pedigree may be a particularly effective way to screen out people who come from poorer backgrounds and of different ethnicities.
Relatedly, a truly sexist and essentialist view of women's abilities in philosophy has reared its head on the blogosphere, and Showalter seems unable to respond to it effectively. Hope someone here can nip this in the bud. It's in the comments section.
Tara is referring to comments by commenter "Highly Adequate"--comments which include this one:
By Shelley Tremain, draft of a comment that is forthcoming in the April issue of The Philosopher's Magazine.
Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy indicates that the disparity between the labor-participation rates of employable disabled people and employable nondisabled people across all sectors of American society is abysmal: 21% for disabled people compared to 69% for nondisabled people. More specific figures for the disparity between disabled and nondisabled people employed as full-time faculty in academia are even worse, with philosophy boasting the greatest disparity in this regard of all disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, comparable only to the STEM fields. For although disabled people comprise an estimated 20-25% of the North American population, surveys conducted in 2012 and 2013 by the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association (APA) suggest that they comprise less than 4% of full-time faculty in philosophy departments in the U.S. and, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Equity Committee of the Canadian Philosophical Association (CPA), they comprise less than 1% of full-time faculty in philosophy departments in Canada. In other words, nondisabled people comprise an estimated 96-99% of full-time faculty in North American philosophy departments. These figures are shocking, constituting almost complete exclusion of disabled people from professional philosophy.