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04/19/2016

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recent grad

Thanks for sharing, Basil.

Just askin

So are you a season pass holder?

Basil Smith

Ha yes... I'm season ticket holder. Hmmm, meetings with the Dean or Disney? Easy choice, methinks. There's nothing more relaxing than taking the day off, strolling round Disney, eating a Churro (or two), and just being silly for a few hours.

Philosophy Adjunct

"Actually, I seem to have more time to myself than do many philosophers in VAP positions, as well as some TT positions. - See more at: http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2016/04/real-jobs-in-philosophy-part-6-basil-smith-saddleback-college.html#more"

and from Leigh Johnson in part 5 of this thread (http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2016/03/real-jobs-in-philosophy-part-5-leigh-m-johnson-christian-brothers-university.html)

"I am slowly realizing that I have exponentially more time for research, broadly-speaking, than I did at my previous [VAP] position."


I would really like to hear more from people about this; how true is it? If this is true, then it sounds like a community college job is a better research option than some/many/most (?) tenure-track jobs. Not only might you actually have more time for research (as opposed to the time you have on paper) from week to week, but also more time to develop a project since you won't perish if you're not constantly `producing knowledge'.

But (say the values inculcated in me by my graduate department) only losers and idiots work at community colleges, you may have more time for research, but no one will take it seriously. What chance is there to publish with OUP or in a journal like Synthese, let alone Phil Review or Mind, given we know reviewing is neither blind nor fair, and most professional philosophers have similar beliefs?

Derek Bowman

Full-time community colleges are often great jobs if you can get them, but they're not substantially less competitive than any other tenure-track job. Decades of underfunding force community colleges to rely heavily on adjuncts.

Just askin

Glad to hear another philosopher is a Disneyland fan:) Too often I get hostile reactions from socal buddies who lack the appropriate gratitude of their surroundings!

Basil Smith

Hi there, Philosophy Adjunct. Good questions! Well, about your first point: In my experience, if you teach 5/5, your time depends on how you manage it. You could easily lose much of your extra time, say, in self imposed grading or by choosing the wrong committees to be on.

But as I hinted in my blog, I think that teaching in a community college is only a good research option under certain conditions. Alas, there is a danger. Many of us are motivated (even if we do not admit it to ourselves) not by our grand theories and contributions, but by our career needs. When some of us do not have such needs, we stop producing.

So the research question is: if you did not have to publish, would you still do so? Again, if you think that you would, how sure are you of this? Personally, I think that community college is only a good research option for you if you are careful about your time and if you really value your research enough to do it when you do not have to.

About your second point. Gosh, pardon repeating your language, but it sounds like whoever is setting the "values of your graduate department" is the loser and idiot. Consider three points.

First, have your advisors said (i.e. out loud) that community college philosophers aren't any good? Do people really still believe such drivel? Many community college philosophers- Gregg Caruso and Richard Brown come to mind- are taken seriously, and for good reason. Now in saying this, I don't deny that some people are biased (e.g. against women philosophers, or people who teach in certain places). Still, as Linda Alcoff notes in her APA Presidential address, the philosophy world is more inclusive than it once was, and it is getting more inclusive still.

Second, because of the conceit of philosophers, there is bias in philosophy publishing. Perhaps, as you say, OUP, Mind, and Phil Review are difficult to crack. Still, as I say, the philosophy world is different and changing. Indeed, even if some journals and publishers are reserved for the famous and their chosen minions, many are not. Just look, say, at the table of contents of a few dozen journals. What you'll is is that many community college professors publish, albeit not everywhere.

Third, perhaps most practically, whoever is setting the values in your department seems to have little interest the job market. Do your advisors seriously suggest that, in this market, merely on the hope of being taken seriously, you must avoid half of that market? Perhaps this advice made sense when Led Zeppelin last toured America (i.e. when philosophers were hired more often) but not now. Personally, I would ignore said values or advice, and apply wherever you can.

Gradjunct

Basil, as far as producing research from a Community College position is concerned, I am curious if you had more success publishing at Saddleback College than at John Tyler Community College? I am curious whether having "Community College" in the name of one's institution limits one's chances at publication or inclusion in peer reviewed conferences etc...

Philosophy Adjunct

Basil, thank you very much for taking the time to answer.

"Do your advisors seriously suggest that, in this market, merely on the hope of being taken seriously, you must avoid half of that market?" Yes. And you nailed it: the people giving the advice were last on the market when Zeppelin last toured America. Community college jobs are simply not on their radar; it has never crossed their minds that anyone would consider such jobs. In my first round on the market our placement director was asked if their advice about applications applied to community college jobs and they admitted it had never occurred to them to give it any thought.

I admit I never heard someone utter the words `idiots' referring to community college professors. I have been told that one would be better off turning down such a job and waiting for the next market cycle to try for something better, because it would be "career suicide" on account of being perceived as "not good enough (i.e. intelligent) to get a proper job". From the way it was said it was clear they held this sentiment.

Just to be clear, not only do I not agree with their opinions, I think these people should be politely shunned out of the academy. They are the ones who built the culture of exclusiveness and unprofessionalism we have now, so the sooner they are put out to pasture the better.

You make a good point about time management and being internally motivated to do research. But the latter should be true everywhere, not just community colleges. Being motivated by career needs might lead to more production, but how valuable is such production? The publish or perish imperative can only have a negative effect on the quality of research. I have yet to meet anyone who would not like to be free of it. If you have nothing you are compelled to say then why should you be forced to contribute to the publication bubble (chances are no one will read it anyway, to boot)? Winning your daily bread by teaching strikes me as more honest and worthwhile than churning out another article on X's reply to Y's take of Z's reinterpretation of W.

@Gradjunct: I'm interested in this question too. I'm sure you can tell what my bet is.

KP Maroufkhani

Hi Basil, this is the first "Real Jobs" post I've read--and very helpful. I began studying philosophy about 10 years after you, but, likewise, I took a considerable professional hiatus (between my MA and PhD). In that time, I've seen the landscape change considerably. There is so much more we need to bring to the table in terms of teaching experience (for CC) and publishing prior to finishing our dissertations for Research institutions. One thing seems clearer to me--there is ample talent in the CC systems. Your experience helps me recognize how much trench work I'm going to have to do to "monetize" this incessant habit of mine--and it makes me respect how much groundwork philosophers like you have done to get where you are. I've been on track for Research jobs through my mentors, but recently have pondered the same question you raised--if I did not need to publish at break-neck speed, would I still strive to do so? Another question I have is how one breaks into the system: I have taught considerably challenging University courses, but have devoted most of my recent time to finishing the last bits of my dissertation, and traveling to conferences (and independent contracting as a consultant and blogger to put food in my belly). It seems that my University experience is meaningless, since, as you said, working with CC students may require different sensitivities and approaches than working with University Phil. majors. Finally, I have been pursuing "fusion philosophy" (which is not another name for bad eclecticism, or stale comparative work). I have devoted considerable years to studying Sanskrit, and studying Buddhist logic and deconstruction, and Indian metaphysics and analytics. There is so much work to be done in drawing together problems in analytic philosophy (which I studied at Berkeley in the late 90's) and Indian thought. I hoped that diverse interests--like experience in Confucian ethics and Indian philosophy of mind--might help rather than hinder my attractiveness in the CC teaching pool. I have a strong grounding in analytic and continental work due to my time learning from Searle, Dreyfus, and Bernard Williams at Berkeley, and my foray into the Berkeley rhetoric department, where I was lucky to sit in classes with Judith Butler and other inspiring professors. So I thought my hybrid interests would help me--but it may appear like I'm less serious, or all over the maps. That has been part of the challenge of my PhD, and why I've taken so much time and care with my dissertation--I've been trying to very responsibly draw together several strains of thought. But I'm starting to think that a more traditional track--which, of course, I have had, both at Berkeley and with my MA work--is more attractive on paper: true or false? Anyway, thank you for sharing! --Kevin Perry Maroufkhani

Sam Duncan

Philosophy adjunct,

I agree with your worries; the peer review system is neither blind nor fair. But.... there are some journals where reviewing is truly double blind. Ergo, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Philosophers' Imprint, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research all come to mind. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Also, I think that for most of the less meritocratic journals they're going to be just as dismissive of you if you teach at a SLAC or a teaching heavy public university as they would be if you teach at a community college.

I'd add something to what Basil Smith says too: If we would neglect our research if it wasn't vital for career advancement, I wonder if that isn't a sign that that research should be neglected? I think if I had a CC job I'd put aside some of my research, but I'd make time for the stuff I find most interesting and important (or so I hope). It's a real shame that we have such pressures to do research even if in our heart of hearts we might have doubts about the importance of some of that research. The current system in academia is just riddled with perverse incentives.

Marcus Arvan

Gradjunct and Sam: Although I don't work at a CC, I will say that I have found it incredibly nice to be able to work in an environment [at a mid-sized liberal arts university] that is not so "publish or perish." Although I am expected to publish, the pressure is much less than at an R1. This has enabled me to publish on things I truly find interesting, and provided me the time to be patient and develop large research projects that I probably wouldn't have at an R1.

Derek Bowman

To be clear, anybody should be impressed with a candidate who has managed to get a full-time position at a community college.

But please don't assume that just because you want a full-time CC job you can get one. Based on the experiences of folks I know, together with various publicly available advice and testimonials, it seems clear that adjuncting part-time at a CC is pretty close to a necessary condition of getting a full-time job at one. But it's far from sufficient, precisely because they will almost certainly already be multiple long-serving adjuncts in the department already.

So the people who tell you that you'd be one would be better off turning down such a job are doubly wrong - not only are they wrong to denigrate community colleges, but they're wrong to assume that you can easily get such a job offer in the first place.

Derek Bowman

See for example this piece of quit-lit in today's IHE:
"Overall, this [community college] paid me a measly $24,125 per year for nigh a decade of sustained service to the community college, with minor fluctuations."
https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/04/21/adjunct-explains-why-she-has-quit-her-job-essay

Basil Smith

Well, I must say, I'm really pleased that so many people commented here. Just a few things...

First, as Derek Bowman rightly says, CC jobs really are competitive. I've always asked my former committee members things such as: "How many people applied?" or "Why Me?" Such jobs typically garner 100 applicants or more. When we hired at Saddleback recently, it was the same. Given this, I know that if my graduate advisor was deluded enough to tell me to turn down a CC job, I'd want to respond: "Tell you what. Let's trade positions. Then you turn it down." I can't imagine he or she would value or take his or her own advice.

Philosophy Adjunct, again, good points! One thing I wanted to add. In your response to me, you mentioned that you were told that you would be better "waiting for the next cycle" to apply. Although it wasn't your focus, I wanted to mention that this advice is misleading for CC's. Community colleges don't care about the APA/Jobs for Philosophers timeline. Sure, CC's want to hire in the Fall for many reasons. But when you look at the Chronicle, HigherEdJobs, and Academic360 (the geographical listings are gold, giving you access to every HR Department) frequently, you see jobs offered at different times. Sometimes, moreover, you see a job only in one place. I wanted to mention this because as soon as candidates limit themselves to one source and cycle, they can stop looking in other places.

Kevin, I like your strategy. After all, CC hiring committees will always ask: "Can he or she teach what we want him or her to?" Now, if, on your C.V., you say you're really keen on relationalism about color (as though anyone but a philosopher would care) and nothing else, they'd probably answer: "No." So a fusion is better. Just be careful how you represent it. But please don't think that your research university experience is a waste. When I was in Philadelphia, teaching American Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, and Epistemology, it all helped. Still, CC committees will ask: "Has he or she taught at a CC?," and this is a real dividing line for them. I hope that you can get some CC teaching under your belt.

Anthony Carreras

I'm late to the party but thought I would chime in on how conducive the community college environment is to doing research. I've been full time at a community college for four years now.

As Basil notes, prep work for CC jobs can be minimal. Once you get used to teaching the same three intro courses, you reach a point where you don't have to spend too much time on prep. This makes the 5/5 load easier, and it can free up time to read and write. The difficulty I have found with this, however, is that teaching for three hours straight takes a lot out of me. Reading and writing philosophy is the sort of cognitively demanding task that I simply find difficult to do after three hours of teaching. But as Basil said, you do have your evenings and your long weekends. Although on this point, I think if you have a family - particularly if you have young children, as I do, it will be very hard to get stuff done in the evenings or on the weekends. I have to say in my own experience, between the teaching load, service requirements, and devoting time to family, there is not much time at all for research (with the exception of the weeks off one has between semesters and during the summer). But someone with more drive and motivation than I might be able to pull it off, and I think it is definitely doable if you are single or don't have children.

I have done some writing here and there. FWIW, I have never gotten a desk rejection and have always gotten very thorough referee reports from reputable journals. I think this is some indication that I haven't been screened out, as it were, for being a CC philosopher.

There's another thing worth mentioning here. Teaching courses online is pretty common at community colleges. At my school, most faculty members teach some portion of their teaching load online. I haven't taught online, but my impression is that those who do have more flexibility and generally more time. This is something to consider when considering a community college job.

Others have mentioned the importance of being intrinsically motivated to read and write at a community college since there won't be any external pressures on you to do so. In my experience, this is a big deal. It's not just that there are no external pressures on you. It's also that pretty much no one else around you is trying to publish either. You're in a starkly different environment than the one you were used to in graduate school. I think it's impossible for this to not have an impact on you. In this respect, the community college environment is a real test of how much you really desire to publish.

Let me echo something already mentioned: CC jobs are great jobs! They offer a chance to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged students, they give you outstanding work-life balance, and often (though certainly not in all cases) they pay better than some four-year colleges and universities. Let me emphasize the work-life balance. Compared to what I see in my friends in other professions like law, medicine, and business, and compared to my friends in tenure-track positions at four-year colleges and universities, the work-life balance as a professor at a community college is beyond-your-wildest-dreams-good. You do lose in prestige and in your capacity to publish. But, for me anyway, this is a more than acceptable trade-off.

Derek Bowman

"CC jobs are great jobs!"

At the risk of belaboring the point: this applies only to *full-time* CC jobs. Most CC jobs are not full-time. They do not pay well, and, because of this, they do not offer good work-life balance. Unless you are independently wealthy, can live primarily off the income of your spouse, and/or don't have dependents or special medical needs these are not good jobs.

And, from what I've seen, the only way to get one of the small number of full-time jobs, you will have to work one of the bad jobs for years in a gamble that may never pay off.

Anthony Carreras

"At the risk of belaboring the point: this applies only to *full-time* CC jobs. Most CC jobs are not full-time."

Undoubtedly true. I did not mean to suggest otherwise.

I would advise any graduate student interested in a full-time job at a community college to try to adjunct at a nearby CC while in graduate school. *Ideally*, this would be money that would compliment your stipend. In my experience at my college at any rate, for what that is worth, if there is a necessary condition for getting hired full time - it has having community college teaching experience. We've hired people full time who have not worked in one of the bad jobs for years, and more often than not outside candidates have been hired over existing adjuncts. But I don't know how this compares to the hiring practices of community colleges more generally.

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