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04/20/2018

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Insight

Marcus,
I am not sure what sort of reaction you are expecting. But I concur. The best sign that someone can handle the pressures of a job with high (even a 3-3) teaching demands is that they have taught such a load or at least taught a variety of courses. Many teaching places, typical state colleges, have no time to train you. They need you to hit the ground running.
This is the same with research. If we hire you at a state college, we need to know you will get tenure. There are research expectations, and the best indicator that someone will meet them in a timely fashion is that they already have publications. They already know how to do it.
I worked at a place where the productivity of scholars was inversely ordered by the rank of the university where they got their PhD. It was not just quantitatively so, but qualitatively so. The person from the Ivy League school almost did not get tenure. And they struggled with teaching as well.

Non-teaching grad

Is there a post somewhere discussing how students at PhD programs that do not provide many solo teaching opportunities can get this experience? Particularly, how should we go about getting these adjuncting opportunities that Amanda mentions? Does this necessarily involve applying for an official adjunct position that might require teaching multiple classes during the semester, or are there less formal and demanding opportunities available? For example, I'd be quite interesting in teaching summer courses at community colleges or other institutions. Who would one go about approaching to do something like that?

Amanda

In general, summer/winter break courses are very hard to get. They go to people with seniority. What is not hard to get is courses during the year. In my experience, those who get hired do not go through any official process. You go talk to the chair in office hours, bring your CV, and tell them you want to adjunct. Another option is to send your CV to a chair in an email, although this is less effective and may take longer. Lastly, you can get your adviser or other faculty member to write to the chair of the department and recommend you. Those who are sitting around and waiting for the adjunct job to be advertised somewhere are not going to get in the game. And yes, there are official rules about advertising positions, that in my experience, are often violated.

Amanda

Also, with most adjunct gigs you can teach as little as one course.

Sam Duncan

Non-teaching grad, Most places are only too happy to let you adjunct one class. Sadly, a lot prefer that since they like to have spares in case someone quits. Also, the application process for adjuncting jobs is often undemanding to say the least. At the two I had I think I had a shore conference call interview at one and a phone call interview that was really just a short chat with the chair at another. I doubt you're going to have much luck getting summer classes at a CC, or most other places. There's a lot of competition for those classes among full-time faculty and the established adjuncts. My recommendation would be just phone up or email a nearby community college or other teaching institution and see if they need an adjunct for a class. In my experience you won't have to try too hard. You might also ask people in your department to keep an ear open for any adjuncting opportunities. One thing to note is that CC's tend to schedule classes at all times of the day to meet student needs so you can probably find something that fits into your schedule.

Marcus Arvan

Non-teaching grad: No, I don’t think there are less formal or less-demanding ways to get the relevant experience. As ‘Insight’ points out, people at teaching schools are looking for formal solo-teaching experience, the more the better. I’m curious though: why are you hoping for less formal or demanding options?

Amanda

Marcus I think Non-teaching grad meant that one can, for example, teach only 1 course as opposed to multiple courses. This is very possible, as Sam notes. And I agree with Sam that the application process is easy. I never applied for anything. I talked to the chair and was hired. In most cases it is nothing more than giving a CV, and maybe a brief conversation. So the hiring process isn't formal, and you can teach as little as 1 course a year, and (sadly) as many as 22!

It is because it is so easy to get solo teaching experience (in the US) that, if I were to serve on a teaching school search committee, a lack of solo teaching would be a huge mark against someone, possibly a disqualifying one.

Michel

FWIW, it seems like it's a lot harder to get adjuncting gigs in Canada (and it obviously makes little sense to move to the US to get them!). Partly it's because we don't have the same density of universities and community colleges, so you have to look further afield than in much of the US. Partly, it's because a lot of these jobs are unionized, and there's a pretty strict points-based priority system that's hard to break into. Partly, it's because a lot of these gigs are folded into full-time (but still contingent!) lecturer positions. And partly, as I've discovered, it's because you need to already have a fair bit of teaching experience to be seriously considered for them. On the plus side, the per-course pay is *a lot* higher than in the US.

I imagine the same is true in the UK, though for different reasons.

Anon International GS

As an international student, I'm curious what ideas folks have for how international students should get such teaching experience.

This is because, if it is indeed harder for grad students to get summer courses, then that's going to be a lot harder for international students in the US to adjunct while in grad school. International students, as far as I gather (and as is definitely the case at my institution) aren't allowed to work while receiving a (normal / full) stipend, because there's a fixed number of hours they can work per week, and they are officially deemed to be working that number of hours when they get a full stipend from their university, at least during the school year (but not, or at least not necessarily, over the summer).

Some ideas I have had: volunteer to teach in prison / high schools / YMCA / etc; or teaching online at places like Udemy. The former might be a good enough substitute, but I'd be interested to see what other ideas folks might have.

Amanda

Not sure if enforcing things is different according to institution and circumstance, but I know persons who have worked when technically they weren't supposed to do this. And really, PhD institutions support student work because they want to turn their students into good scholars. If you can't get a job, then you will never become a scholar of the sort your institution wants. Hence, I see nothing ethically wrong with breaking the rules, if you can get away with it.

Teaching in prisons is great. When it comes alongside teaching experience, I believe it gives you a huge boost. But without also having teaching experience in regular classrooms, I am not so sure. Teaching in a prison is obviously very different than teaching a regular university classroom.

The difficulty of getting teaching experience for international students points to a frustrating truth about the job market. Those hiring are hiring for the good of their institution. They are not giving out a merit or effort award. Hence while one can't "blame", say, a Canadian who could not get to teach his/her own classes, that lack of blame won't at all help one get hired. In the end, if you lack teaching experience, that is one serious reason a teaching school will put your application behind those who have it. This is not to say you cannot overcome this with other experiences, but it will be hard. I would say go to a lot of teaching workshops, teach in prisons or wherever you can, have great teaching materials ready like syllabi, etc. Would be curious if anyone else has suggestions?

Immigrant

Anon International,
PLEASE do not take Amanda's advice on this one. You can be deported. Do not work illegally in the USA. If you put it on your c.v. - which you will want to do to benefit from it - it will be seen by HR offices at every place you apply. Any of these people can then alert authorities to your violation of the law.

Michel

Amanda: I don't think anyone is too worried about the ethics. Rather, I think they're worried about losing their study permits and being deported if they're found out (e.g. by the IRS).


Speaking more generally, I just want to voice a worry that I have about the increasing demand for teaching experience. We spend a lot of time grousing about the problems that the emphasis on publications and prestige bring with them, and that seems right and important to me. But I think we need to recognize that similar concerns attach to emphasizing teaching experience, especially since the usual (and, as demonstrated here, recommended) pathway to acquiring it is via adjunct labour.

It makes a lot of sense to require extensive teaching experience from candidates. And one nice thing about it is that it gives people who've been on the market for a while something of a leg up. On the other hand, it also contributes to a pretty awful and exploitative aspect of the academic economy. It means that we're basically requiring people to spend years doing jobs that don't pay a living wage, just to enter the marketplace with an additional lottery ticket.

And I don't think that requiring lots of teaching from grad students is much of a solution, either. I've seen many of my American friends ground down by their teaching loads, so that their time to completion increases beyond the department's funding limit, and they're forced to take on more adjuncting to be able to stay enrolled and crawl to a finish. This also takes away from their ability to conference and publish, which is essential for other aspects of the job market. But also: this kind of grad student labour is seriously exploitative. They're hardly ever compensated well for their teaching, and are often effectively paid below the regular adjunct rate (since it helps earn the tuition waiver, or whatever). Departments and universities benefit a great deal from this cheap labour, not least because it enables faculty to teach far fewer classes and because it reduces the need to hire full-time lecturers, VAPs, and adjuncts.

A lot of these problems are interconnected and self-reinforcing. And I guess I just worry that we often seem to forget that when we're having these kinds of discussions. There's nothing fair or good about the structure of the academic economy, especially in philosophy, and we shouldn't forget that fact. We can bow to practical necessity, but in doing so we shouldn't forget what a better market looks/looked like.

Pendaran Roberts

I want to reiterate some things posters have said about international PhD programs, and the UK specifically. I came to the UK to do my PhD. I am a dual citizen, have family in the UK (although I grew up in the US), and wanted the adventure of living overseas. I also liked that in the UK I could concentrate on my own research. I already had an MA and a dual major BA. I was tired of taking classes. I knew what I wanted to write about for my dissertation already.

I had a great advisor, Philip Percival, until he got sick (that's another story), with 2-3 hours of one-on-one tutoring every 2-3 weeks. He was brilliant and sharp too. I was able to write my dissertation in 3.5 years and publish a few articles in good places as well. In the US, it would probably have taken me a couple years longer to complete my PhD. So, this is an advantage of the UK system: if you are self-motivated, know what you want to say, and not a procrastinator, the UK system allows you to write a dissertation and publish articles off of it straight away. There aren't years of classes, exams, and all that nonsense to get in the way of your developing your own work. (As a corollary, I don't recommend the Uk system for a procrastinator or someone who doesn't have passion yet for a particular topic to write about. There isn't enough structure for people like this. You really have to dive in head first.)

However, where the UK system really lets students down is with teaching. I understood that teaching was important, so I TAed every year of my PhD. However, there were not readily available opportunities to run your own class(es). What opportunities there were seemed to be handed out in a questionable way. I won't get into too many details, as that could open a whole can of worms. What prospective international students should know is that it's difficult to get classes to teach. While I was at Nottingham all the classes available for teaching were given to two students.

So, I graduated with a strong dissertation, some top publications, but with no classes taught, just a list of classes for which I TAed. For the most part (not counting oddities), there are three career avenues that fresh PhDs can take in the UK:

1. the 1 year teaching position

2. applying for your own grant funding

3. working on someone's else's grant

1 is the most usual way for students to proceed in their careers. Now, I think, traditionally, having taught your own classes wasn't required to get a 1 year teaching position, but in my experience, it is required today. 2 is almost impossible to do, especially in Philosophy. Philosophy just isn't handed out many awards by funding bodies. I think the committees comprised of non-philosophers cannot really understand our topics. Philosophy is too arcane. 3 is a possibility, but you probably need to already be working in the relevant area. So, long story short, without teaching experience, you're way behind in the UK. It's probably EVEN WORSE when applying in the US, as those programs do a better job of dividing teaching among the students, so everyone has some experience.

Now, I can't say that where I did my PhD, Nottingham, is the same as other UK departments (or whether they've gotten their act together since I left 4 years ago). I have heard that some UK departments do try to allow all their students to run a class. However, it's my understanding that this isn't the norm, or at least wasn't the norm 4 years ago. So, if you're thinking about doing a PhD in the UK, and there are some advantages to their PhDs, as I've mentioned, you should carefully check with the program about what their teaching policies are. I wouldn't go to a program (outside Oxford?) that didn't basically guarantee the ability to run your own classes, AND NOT JUST TAing. I think TAing is next to worthless on the CV.

For the US, the reality is that most are going to work for teaching schools, and for the UK, although the REF makes research output number one right now, teaching is becoming increasingly important. The new insane tuition fees have caused universities to place more weight on student satisfaction, and the government is soon rolling out a national teaching excellence framework (some attempt to divide university funding based partially on teaching quality). O BRAVE NEW WORLD, THAT HAS SUCH PEOPLE IN IT!

The sharp minded might wonder, 'if teaching is required for 1 year teaching positions, but many (most?) UK programs don't hand out teaching, how do UK PhDs progress in their careers?' I think the answer is that many (most?) don't, or they go back to their home countries. I don't have any solid data, but from my experience, most do not go into academia in the UK. The reality is that there are way more PhDs awarded than jobs, as I've said elsewhere. Most programs do not have placement pages, professors are old and out of touch, and the incentives are to get PhD students, not turn them away. So, it's doubly important to check up carefully on whichever PhD program you're thinking of attending.

Amanda

Michael - you are pointing to large systematic problems - which are all things we should be concerned about. But I am not sure how much they will apply to a PhD student in philosophy. If I do not want to become part of the exploitive system, then it makes most sense I would have not entered a philosophy PhD program in the first place. But if I have chosen to go that route, I want to be successful. And getting teaching experience is a way to help increase those odds. Was I being exploited? I don't know - but I do know I had few alternatives. I needed money to live in the summer - and an adjunct gig was a way to live. The other options were working a low paying, low skill job or leaving the program. I do agree with you about after graduating, that persons should decide how long they are willing to do cheap work until they leave the profession. Likely many people would be happier if they left and found a job outside of academia. On the other hand, I do have friends who make a good living adjuncting with benefits, so each situation is different.

As for breaking the rules, I wasn't just talking about international students. Obviously, no one should do this without looking into everything in their specific circumstance.

Pendaran, the benefits you mention of a UK PhD seem only benefits if there is also not a huge disadvantage on the market. I mean, unless one is doing a PhD for the pure intrinsic joy. But if one is doing it for the sake of getting an academic job, it won't matter if you are done several years earlier if you have a low chance of getting a job. I get the impression that this is the case with UK PhDs, but I don't know this for sure. I would love to see stats on the odds of UK PhDs getting permanent academic jobs. Was that included in CJ's data?

Pendaran Roberts

‘Pendaran, the benefits you mention of a UK PhD seem only benefits if there is also not a huge disadvantage on the market. I mean, unless one is doing a PhD for the pure intrinsic joy. But if one is doing it for the sake of getting an academic job, it won't matter if you are done several years earlier if you have a low chance of getting a job. I get the impression that this is the case with UK PhDs, but I don't know this for sure. I would love to see stats on the odds of UK PhDs getting permanent academic jobs. Was that included in CJ's data?‘

Whoa! I was not recommending U.K. PhDs. I was cautioning and warning heavily about obtaining one. I never could get a job despite my strong pub record. I only mentioned the positives so as not to be completely negative and to explain my decision to do a PhD here. I didn’t know about the negatives at the time. I don’t recommend a U.K. PhD outside of Oxford maybe. Stay away.

Marcus Arvan

Michel: my grad school stipend was something like $13-15K per year—not nearly enough to live on. So I taught a few courses at a nearby community college. I didn’t feel exploited. It felt like a great deal. It gave me experience and a substantial amount of money. While I do think people who adjunct post-PhD are exploited, I’m not at all sure the same is true of people who adjunct pre-PhD. For again, all things considered, it seemed to me a great deal given my situation—and although I don’t want to put words in her mouth, Amanda seems to have expressed a similar sentiment.

anon

"FWIW, it seems like it's a lot harder to get adjuncting gigs in Canada (and it obviously makes little sense to move to the US to get them!)"

Just to follow up on this comment of Michel's, I wonder if anyone could chime in specifically about their experiences with the short term teaching market in Canada. My sense is (also) that there is less of this kind of work available, overall, and that when the work is available chairs/deans are less willing/able to give it to a relatively inexperienced worker. But maybe this is varies depending on the region.

(Also, often this doesn't come down to an unwillingness to move to the US to get the work, or the move just not being worth the money - this year some advertisements for both part time and full time temporary positions have said that they're unable to consider candidates who don't already have standing to work in the US).

Pendaran Roberts

Let me clarify. There may be some good programs in the UK that have good placements, but I’d be very careful. Also, outside of Oxford, you don’t see many U.K. PhDs hired in the US. I suspect this has a lot to do with the lack of teaching experience that U.K. PhDs get, but can’t be sure. My advice is stay away from U.K. PhDs unless you can verify that a particular program has good placement and offers teaching experience. Perhaps Oxford is the exception, just because it’s known around the world as a top university. Prestige matters a lot. But for everyone else, unless the U.K. program can compete with US programs in offering job relevant experience, particularly teaching experience, I wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.

Canadian

Anon,
As a Canadian you CAN work in the USA. That is, you can teach at a college or university. You can get a TN Visa - it is part of NAFTA. They cost the university nothing. You are issued the visa at the border and it is good for one year. You can get one after another. Some USA colleges will still not touch you because they do not know anything about immigration or NAFTA, etc. In Canada, there used to be Sessional Lecturer appointments. They were limited contracts that required 2-3 or 3-3 teaching, and they paid far more than a USA adjunct. They paid a living wage, and some even came with pension contributions.

Amanda

Fair enough Pendaran! I guess I misunderstood the gist of your post. Glad we are in agreement.

And no, for many reasons I did not at all feel exploited when I did my adjunct work. And not all adjuncts are exploited. The working conditions vary a lot by state and institution. Some states, and some private schools, actually pay adjuncts well and give benefits. Of course, many do not, so it all depends. And as Marcus suggested, even when places do not pay well, it can still be a good deal for someone in grad school. Arguably the grad school institutions are more exploitative, given the amount they pay TAs and the necessity of TAs for research professors to enjoy their plumb positions.

Anon

This is just one data point on the teaching experience issue, but NAU's recent ad explicitly requires a fair bit of previous teaching. Under minimum qualifications: "One year full-time teaching experience in Philosophy (minimum six courses in a single academic year)". I wonder if more searches will start building in requirements like this.

https://philjobs.org/job/show/9834

Amanda

I am curious about the motivation for NAU. I mean, if the search committee wanted to only hire someone with at least a year of experience, they could just do that. No need to say so in the add. Perhaps they were trying to get less applicants?

Ad man

Amanda
Sometimes there is a need to be really specific. I worked with an HR dept. that said the criteria for choosing a candidate are the criteria in the ad.

Michel

Marcus: I’m actually talking about a different sort of situation: one wherein the graduate student is paid a stipend of, say, $13-15k *and has to teach in the department*. I know several people currently in such a situation, some even teaching as much as 2-2 and 3-3 loads. If that’s not exploitative, I’m not sure what is. And they’re not all at unranked schools, either.

FWIW, I do think it’s wrong and exploitative to require PhD students to teach or TA for no pay over and above their stipend (beyond, say, a single class a year). And I think it’s wrong and exploitative for a student’s funding not to total up to a living wage, thus forcing them to take on other work (especially adjunct labour at institutions that don’t pay enough). I recognize that we might disagree about these particulars, but graduate school is supposed to be a professional training program, not an unpaid internship scheme.

And just to be clear: my larger worry is that too much emphasis on teaching experience warps the market in such a way that people are effectively required to take unethically low-paying and low-status work just so that they have the tiniest chance of maybe eventually landing employment that pays a living wage. It creates an unofficial requirement rather like a medical residency, but without adequate pay and with no real prospects beyond a lottery ticket. This isn’t the root of the problem, obviously, but it clearly reinforces a broken system, and helps to move us further from a workable solution. Like I said above, I see nothing wrong in principle with requiring teaching experience; I just worry that we're getting close to tipping the scales too far in one direction.

Canadian: Yeah, my experience has been that just about nobody knows about the TN visa, including hiring committees and HR departments (and they also don’t know how easy it is to get—you pretty much just show up at a border crossing). I think that any Canadian applying for jobs in the US would be best advised to tick the box indicating they’re allowed to work in the US (since it’s true), even though it feels like what’s being asked about is citizenship/residency status (as denoted by holding a green card).

Amanda

PhD programs are not free. But (in almost all cases I know) students get to go for free ,(often funded in party by working tax payers) and on top of that are paid. In addition, no one has to go into a PhD program. This is a choice, and those who are smart enough to get in have other options. I don't get how it is exploitive. (This is not to say some adjunct situations are not exploitive, or that some programs do not treat their students well - those are all things to be concerned about). Yet I am not sure why anyone would think PhD students should have their entire, 5-7 years long educated funded, at no cost to the student, AND be paid the same amount as people working full-time (as opposed to grad students who are going to school full time and working part time - you pay to go to school - people do not pay you.)

Michel

Amanda:

I think PhD students shouldn't pay tuition, and should be paid a liveable stipend, because

(1) That's what's required to ensure that they're able to concentrate on taking classes and doing the research necessary to complete the dissertation. There's a reason we all tell students that they should only ever attended a funded PhD program--and I'll note that philosophy is exceptional among the humanities and social sciences in funding its graduate students (especially at the departmental level, rather than through individual professors' grants).

(2) The job prospects are so abysmal that it's irresponsible and morally wrong to charge people for the dubious privilege of earning a PhD in philosophy. (And, indeed, who would do a PhD in philosophy if PhD programs didn't fund their students? If you think the makeup of the discipline is problematic now [rhetorical; I have no idea whether you do!], you won't like what would happen then!)

(3) PhD programs derive significant benefits from the existence of a graduate program. Some are financial: e.g. faculty have reduced course loads, and don't do much grading in the few classes they do have to teach. Others are social: e.g. faculty members and universities enjoy added prestige from being able to afford the luxury of training PhD students, and faculty research benefits tremendously from the existence of the training program. And some are service-oriented: e.g. organizing conferences, serving on committees, acting as an editorial or research assistants, etc.

As a graduate student, you're already doing your home department as many favours as it's doing you; it's a symbiotic relationship. You're not just begging scraps from the table, and if that's what you're being told by your department... well, that's a problem, and shame on them.

Regardless, my points were (I) that there are a great many departments whose teaching requirements seem excessive (e.g. 2-2 from year two onwards) and detrimental to student progress, and whose remuneration seems inadequate (e.g. the 2-2 load earns your inadequate stipend, nothing more), and (II) that it's easy to slide from emphasizing teaching experience to reinforcing a highly exploitative unofficial requirement post-PhD. Again, I'm not saying it's wrong to emphasize teaching experience or to have graduate students teaching classes. I'm saying that I worry sometimes that our discussions about teaching experience aren't paying enough attention to bigger trends in philosophy and academia.

SM

I'm not going to read all the above comments, so maybe this was already said. However, what I find simply annoying is the expectation built into the first conversation partner's remark. Does this person just assume that it's easy for graduate students to get the opportunity to solo-teach their own classes from the word "Go?" Because that is also a foolish assumption. If I am being told that, say, teaching your own class only twice counts for nothing, that seems to imply that grad students ought to have done this 4-5 times in grad school. But that is just simply not how it works at a lot of places. I'm just finishing by 4th year at a Leiter top 25, and I've not taught my own course twice. I hope to do this some more, but what if I don't get the chance? There are other grad students that need a chance to do this, I might wish to apply for a fellowship, etc.

That comment is just infuriating. If you are on a search committee and you cannot acknowledge that we don't always have a say on when we are permitted to solo teach our own courses as grad students, then you need a reality check.

SM

Sorry for the typo, that should read that I have now* taught my own course twice.

Marcus Arvan

SM: Part of the reason I am doing this series is my sense that Leiter-ranked programs are not getting their students nearly enough teaching experience to be competitive for teaching jobs.

Yes, of course, search committees know grad students do not always have a say in how much they teach in their program. But this is irrelevant from the hiring side of things. Hiring, for better or worse, is not an act of charity. People are looking to hire the person the most well-qualified for a job at their university--and having worked at a teaching university for nearly a decade, I can say in no uncertain terms that the amount of teaching experience people have is very much relevant to whether they can be expected to do the job well and get tenure.

I understand this may infuriate you, but it should not infuriate you with search committees or my friend. It should infuriate you that your grad program doesn't give students sufficient experience to compete with people who have more teaching experience and a longer, broader track record of teaching success. Grad programs need to do better if they want their students to succeed on the market. They should take a lesson from the programs whose students are doing well.

Also, Amanda has it right: if people's PhD programs aren't getting them much teaching experience, they need to go out and get it elsewhere. That's what I did. I went out and taught courses at a community college.

Amanda

Hi SM,

we covered this. My grad program didn't offer me opportunities either. I went and found them. And I explained how that can be done. Second, it doesn't matter whether you had the opportunities or not, because programs are hiring for their needs. So it makes no difference if you couldn't have taught even if your really wanted to - the point is you still lack the experience.

Hi Michael,
you seem to be overlooking where this money is coming from. If it is a public university, it is tax payer money, and I see no reason why tax payers would care if philosophy grad students are being paid enough to write a good dissertation. Second, you are forgetting all the opportunity costs. Money that goes to pay grad students 40k a year is not money that is going to other valuable needs. Also, the competition for philosophy grad programs is already stiff in a market that has way too many people for the jobs. If we paid grad students 40k (or more) a year, that would make the problem much worse.

Lastly - nobody is forcing anybody to get a PhD in philosophy. If it is a bad deal - no one has to do it. Students who do take their own risks, and others should not have to pay the costs for those risks. If Josh decides to not go to college and spend the next 5 years trying to become a professional baseball player, it is not my job to fund this dream. It is no one's job to fund the unrealistic career dream of someone else. And sadly, given the philosophy market, wanting to become a professional philosopher is not too far off from wanting to play pro baseball. Go for it if that is what you really want - just do not expect others to fund it in an overcrowded market.

Amanda

Michael,

I do, however, agree with you that many grad programs are acting immorally. While grad students are adults who make their own decisions, grad programs are enablers of these bad decisions. Grad programs who let students in even thought they have a low level of placement are acting immorally. At the very least, if they let students in and do not make great efforts to improve their placement recored, they are acting immorally.

SM

Marcus,

Let me be clear. I think my grad department does a better job than most letting us teach our own classes early and often. I am just noting that even with their allowing us to do this, which DOES show that they are in the loop about the importance of this aspect of our resume, it does not follow that we'll get to do it more than 2-3 times. And if your friend is implying that it ought to be the case that we do this, say, more than 5x as grads, that just seems unrealistic.

SM

I of course understand that we need to solo teach, and I appreciate this advice, as I do most of the advice I receive from the Cocoon. Something about that post simply struck me as being out of tune. Again: I think my department is NOT one of the clueless ones that this post is speaking about. And even still, it's likely our grads will at most get 3-4 opportunities to teach their own class.

I know this isn't a pity party.

Marcus Arvan

SM: cool, sorry if I came down too heavy handed in my response. In any case, I think the lesson of Amanda’s case still applies. If your program can only get you 2-3 teaching opportunities while you’re there, that’s not enough—and you should look for opportunities elsewhere. Amanda adjuncted outside of her program throughout grad school. So did the person my department hired this year. So did I. For my part, I’ve heard many PhD programs either prohibit or strongly discourage their students from adjuncting while in the program, all in the name of “not getting in the way of research” and “getting your dissertation done.” I think this is a mistake. Amanda adjuncted and got her dissertation done, so did the fellow we hired this year; so did I. It’s just a simple fact that someone with experience teaching only 2-3 courses is going to be at a severe diadvantage relative to candidates with experience teaching a variety of 7-8+ courses.

Amanda

Out of tune with what? It is not out of tune with what it takes to get a job at a teaching school.

Michel

Amanda,

My name is not 'Michael'.

I also didn't say anything about paying graduate students $40 000. I was talking about paying them ~$20 000, and about not making stipends contingent on teaching 2-2 loads throughout their time in graduate school. I don't know where you got the $40 000 from.

And while "taxpayer money"- and "choice"-style rhetoric is popular among some politicians and their followers, I quite simply don't think they're at all relevant, in either this situation or those. (In fact, I think that in other political contexts they act as a smokescreen for pretty vicious and regressive policies. Besides which, that's not how public funding works.) As far as graduate school and teaching experience are concerned, I think you'll find that buying these canards as premises licenses some rather unpalatable conclusions. And frankly, I don't know about you, but I don't especially feel up to fighting over it here and now.

Finally, with respect to Josh the aspiring professional athlete: all I'm saying amounts to the claim that he should be fairly compensated for his endorsements and uses of his name, image, profile, etc. in advertising, video games, entertainment more broadly, ticket sales, etc. And that, despite the fact that he's still a university athlete (perhaps drawing a scholarship), and not a "professional" yet. I know that's heretical thinking in much of the US, but there it is. To my mind, anything less is wage theft. Choices are red herrings.

SM

Oh, I don't know Amanda, how about being out of tune with the amount of slots available to grad students for self-taught courses at your institution? I'm all for seeking external opportunities, and I just might consider this, thanks to your post. But this isn't a utopia. Departments aren't setting aside 10+ slots every semester, year after year, for their grads to teach. So if the post was suggesting that is how it is, then it is indeed out of tune with how things go at most places. I agree this is a problem. But do I foresee it turning around in a heartbeat in some way that would immediately open the door for students to get enough teaching opportunities within their department without having to adjunct, etc.? No. So to the extent that the post demonstrates ignorance about the opportunities actually offered to us, even at a school like mine that lets us teach our own courses from an early stage, it is out of tune.

Amanda

Michel - sorry for getting your name wrong.

If you are telling me my reasons are bad (or "rhetoric") but do not feel like having a discussion about why they are bad....well, I can't respond to that, can I?

As far as paying grad students 20k - many places do that (mine did), and that seems fine to me. The places who pay less - well, grad students need to think long and hard if they want to accept such an offer.

Re Josh - I never said he was a university athlete.

SM - I don't think the post was suggesting that. I think it was suggesting three things - (1) Departments should not discourage their grads from adjuncting or otherwise getting teaching experience, (2) As far as they are able, grad programs should allow their students to teach solo classes. (You may be right the current way universities are set up, there are limits to this. But that is compatible with many programs not offering as much solo teaching experience as they could), and (3) Many jobs in the US require substantial teaching experience in order to be competitive.


anon

Amanda, Michel did offer up a reason for disagreeing with you that I think you haven't commented on yet: that departments and universities "derive significant benefits from the existence of a graduate program".

More broadly, I would suggest that underemphasizing the contributions of PhD students to the university, and overemphasizing what they get from the university, mirrors the argumentative moves that various American university administrations are currently making in saying that their TAs and RAs are students, and not workers, and therefore shouldn't be allowed to unionize.

Michel

Amanda,

You're right, it isn't fair of me to pull that dialectical move. But I'm not interested in having that kind of discussion on this forum. You might be keen to, and that's fine, but I'm just trying to signal that I'm not up for it. It's not the kind of back-and-forth that I think is going to be productive, and I suspect it will easily shade into more acrimonious territory.

And, knowing myself, I also know that if I start, I won't be able to let it go until the thread is completely taken over by it, everybody but us has been chased off, and the two of us are too exasperated to continue. Not unlike some of the discussions which have taken place on other threads here, which I have found discouraged me from posting elsewhere on the site.

Amanda

As Michel notes, that point about grad programs was a different discussion. Michel doesn't want to have the discussion about whether public universities should fund philosophers with tax money : fine.

And yes, grad programs derive a benefit from cheap TA labor. But it is rarely the case that those who derive this benefit (mainly tenure professors) make decisions about how much to pay grad students. I bet lots of them would be happy to pay grad students more, but there is a lot of administration issues which are complicated. And money from one place always takes money away from another place (yes - universities waste money, but they waste money on things that people with power are happy wasting it on).

Grad students are students and workers. And I support their right to unionize. But they are still getting a free education - which is a very valuable thing.

Tom

So.... Maybe I'm weird, but
(a) it never occurred to me to care if my university had a policy about adjuncting (I have no idea if they did. I never looked into it. It never crossed my mind to look into it.),
(b) if they did and I violated it, I would have felt exactly 0 compunctions about lying about it,
(c) I imagine my department chairperson would have felt fine lying about it too, as would any other administrator up the chain of command who had ever gone to graduate school,
(d) I imagine any such policy would be, in typical university fashion, the sort of thing that exceptions could be granted to and that, if it came down to it, would in all cases be granted to, and finally
(e) I also figure if the university wants to institute a (silly) policy against grad students adjuncting, it's on the university to find a way to police that policy and I simply see no viable way to do that.

So yeah. If you're a grad student and you think adjuncting will be a good thing for you to do, go do it.

Amanda

Tom I might have violated university policy - idk and wouldn't care. That is one of the things I was talking about when I mentioned breaking the rules. However I think the concern is that the departments (not the universities) pressure students not to teach. I was pressured this way - told it was too much and I couldn't focus on my work. Because I published the pressure wasn't too much. But I know some other places where advisors will refuse to write letters for their students if they adjunct, and have other serious forms of disincentive.

Tom

That's pretty messed up on the part of those people. And fwiw, I've never heard of that happening myself. But I take your word for it that you've heard it does. My advice to anyone in such a situation is to lie. If you think you need the money, and you think you won't get a letter from your advisor if she knows you're getting it, then it seems to me the right thing to do is to lie to your advisor.

Of course, anyone who is arrogant enough to think they know about the financial situation of their grad students better than their grad students themselves do is unlikely to be actively inquiring into their grad students' lives enough to end up actually asking about whether they're adjuncting. So it'll probably be lying by omission, which is better for those who are bad at lying at least.

Also relevant is that the distance between "I won't write you a letter if you adjunct" and "I won't write you a letter if you have a child" is exceptionally small. This observation is no help to anyone impacted by such a policy, but may be worth keeping in mind in case you encounter a colleague with this policy.

J

On a different aspect of the post: I'm an undergrad who's hoping to become a philosopher, ideally at a teaching school. I'm heartened to hear that some grad schools actually prepare students for teaching positions--but where should I look to find these schools and avoid the horror stories above? Can good teaching grad schools be measured by, say, TT-job placement rate minus Leiter ranking? Are there any red flags? Thanks!

Thinker

J,
You must go to the highest rank school that you can get into that specializes in your area of interest. That will open the most doors for you. Some schools that are lower ranked really only place grads locally, that is, in state and in the surrounding area at even lower ranked places.

Amanda

J look at the CJ data. Basically all the lower ranked schools that have high placement records are good places to go if you want to land a gig at a teaching school. The data Marcus has above is a good start, but you should see the entire data set.

Marcus Arvan

Thinker: I think that's the conventional wisdom - but it seems to me to belie the available data. Judging from the ADPA report, there are about a dozen unranked schools with better overall (full-time, permanent) placement records than highly-ranked institutions like NYU, Harvard, etc. Yes, the highly-ranked institutions have much better placement rates at R1 schools, but Virginia has a 70% overall placement rate compared to about 50% for the higher-ranked schools.

Case in point: I have a friend who went to an unranked school and now has a comfortable TT job at a teaching school. He tells me his unranked program places the vast majority of their PhDs in permanent academic jobs. Many Leiter-ranked schools could only dream of that!

Amanda

J's advice does not bear out with the data. And I can never understand why so many people believe this. All of the evidence says it is not true. (And in this case the questioner was specifically asking about teaching schools. ) Also, while I don't think it's true that non-ranked schools only place people locally - I am curious why this would matter? What is wrong with a local job? And what does "even lower-ranked" mean in this context? Almost no one ends up with a job at a ranked institution (I think it is 3%, if I recall correctly) - and if one is specifically looking for a teaching school, then they don't care about ranks.

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