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This is a tough one. I might try to to casually put something like this in the cover letter, "Although I am not much of a religious person, my experience at College X was valuable for such and such reasons..." I admit that this might not be good enough given how fast applications are reviewed, but it might help.


Here are my thoughts. I went to a college in the Southern part of the US that would certainly have given people the impression that I was a "very conservative religious person." (as it turns out, I haven't been for a long time.) The school that I attended is deeply conservative and very open about being religious, requiring a very strict and far-reaching "code of conduct" to be signed by both students and faculty. If one did a google search for this school it would be very obvious.

I was very worried that this would count as a mark against me in job apps, especially since I didn't even major in philosophy there (there wasn't a phil major available!). I took classes for a philosophy minor and then did an MA at a state school in philosophy before my Ph.D. But I must say that in the more than a decade now since I began that MA, finished my Ph.D., and got a TT job no one has ever once made a single comment about my undergraduate institution, and I've never felt slighted (at least not for that reason). I will say that my Ph.D. pedigree was very good, so that likely helped me overcome what *might* have been harmful, but my advice (supported only by my own experience) is not to worry about this too much. My two cents -- don't mention it in your cover letter or draw attention to it.

I once asked my advisor if I'd be viewed negatively for having this association, and he/she said that I probably wouldn't really want to work at a place where I would be viewed in this way for having simply been or being religious. I never really agreed with that, since I just wanted a job at the time. In retrospect, I think that this was his/her way of saying that most wouldn't hold that against someone. I guess I'd probably say the same thing today, especially since there are so many other stresses related to the job market.


I recommend that you do not hide your background. If you went to such a school, so be it. If you try to hide it, and it is discovered during a job search, no school will want to touch you because you are deceptive (not because you went to such and such a school). Further, I do not think that all people (even most people) on search committees are as wicked as you are assuming.
One general lesson for everyone is that there are consequences - many unforeseen, because in the distant future - for the choices we make. You chose to go to college where you did, and that is that.
Good luck on the market (and that I mean sincerely)

Joshua Mugg

I would not worry about it too much, especially at the interview stage. I went to Missouri Baptist University, and did not major in philosophy (there was and is not a philosophy major there). My undergrad location did not come up in any of my interviews last year (my first real year on the market). I think most folks understand that people's views change from the time that they make the choice about where to go for undergrad (17/18 years old) to the time that they finish their PhD.


Like others, my first intuition was that a degree from a religious school will not matter much. I think most committee members will either not notice anything, or not care. Indeed, at my graduate institution many professors are openly 'anti-religious', and nonetheless, we commonly admit graduate students who have undergrad degrees from very conservative religious schools.(not sure about hiring, though)

The above being said, the article linked below suggests a different possibility. My first comment was written after just reading the disturbing anecdote.(scroll about half way down. Subtitle, "Bias against Christian College Students?):


Let us hope that things are generally much different with philosophy. Also, the article is about graduate admissions, not hiring. I would think things would matter even less in hiring, since your undergrad degree was so long ago.


This post is very troubling. Not that the person who wrote the original question said anythig improper, but the fact that there is 1) a clear assumption that there are expected views one must have to get a job in philosophy and 2) the fact that so far, all the comments take the assumption as correct, are both very troubling to my (apparently naive) conception of our profession. Is there an assumed ideological test one must pass to get a job in philosophy these days? Are we merely worried about standard psychological biases? If so, should philosophers of color and women similarly try to hide their race and sex? Am I missing something?

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