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04/28/2020

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Alepersichetti

Dear Marcus. It would be useful to talk more about the back-up career paths for mint philosophy PhDs. And how to switch to them. This is more necessary than ever since Covid19 will disrupt the already competitive academic job market. If people like me had some hope before the pandemic, now university cuts on jobs and post-docs lead us to face reality: fresh PhDs have passed from having little chances to zero chances — not only in Humanities. So, many would be grateful if even more space could be given to non-academic careers in either the US and Europe. At least, I see also the positive side-effect: the situation will push to think more about the prospectives philosophers have outside academia. Thank you in advance!

Flaming_Like_A_California_Wildfire

Dear Marcus, I'm excited to finally be wrapping up the coursework stage of my PhD program. This is a milestone for me because, as much as I like philosophy, I really don't enjoy sitting still, usually in a shamefully tiny desk, and listening to class. I'd always prefer to talk philosophy in office hours or read at home. Now that I don't have to go to classes, should I? How should I go? To what end? Should I disregard time in classroom and just work independently? Should I do something like take one grad seminar a term, just so I keep learning? I see more advanced graduate students in my department taking this last approach pretty frequently. I realize this is a pretty personal decision, but I'd like to know how people have navigated the change from required to optional coursework. I would especially like to here from people who do not particularly enjoy spending time in a classroom.

Marcus Arvan

These are both really good queries. I'll get posts up on both of them ASAP!

Mike

Here's my suggestion about taking courses after the coursework stage of the PhD program. First, if you do it, keep in mind your priority is (now) qualifying exams, dissertation proposal, dissertating, etc. Second, since you only have a finite amount of very limited time compared to all the possible things you could do, you can't afford (at this stage) to whimsically take courses just because they sound interesting. Any courses taken should serve some real purpose. For example, if your dissertation is on topic X and professor Y is running an advanced graduate seminar covering new work on X, then take that seminar. Similarly, if someone's teaching a survey seminar on topic Z and you have reasons to want a teaching competence in Z, take it. If you don't enjoy spending time in the classroom, this approach may help as well. Graduate coursework, at this stage of your journey, isn't really "coursework" or about "learning" (as a *student*) per se. It's about being a good colleague by participating in research discussions or professional development.

link

Quick correction: the link goes to a HCWHY from 2019, not the most recent one.

Martin Shuster

I don't think there's a right answer as to what to do after coursework. In my opinion, you should focus your energy on finishing your dissertation and on preparing yourself for life after the dissertation (whether it is attempting to stay in academia by entering the academic job market or by seeking alternative job possibilities). Apart from these two, if you have time left over, then I would approach this like anything else: figure out what you want and then see how sitting on classes fits in with that.

In my case, I would frequently continue to sit in on classes, sometimes even at other institutions. Why? Sometimes, it was because I wanted to learn more about a topic, sometimes it was because I wanted a different perspective on a topic I already knew a lot about, and sometimes it was just to see what I could learn from a particular professor with respect to pedagogy (i.e., the topic may not have even been that interesting to me, but how the person would teach it was of great interest).

VAP

Something I'd be interested in seeing discussed here: How should job-market candidates next year deal with the effects of COVID-19 in their documents?

For example, I suspect teaching evaluations for this term will be all over the place: some will have remarkably good evals, I bet; but many will have terrible ones (the transition might have gone poorly, communication expectations weren't met, etc.) Should instructors issue some sort of caveat? (I mean, obviously everyone will know that COVID happened; but is it worth making this explicit?) Or should we omit these evals altogether?

A related issue concerns syllabi: I would typically put my syllabus in my dossier among the others for courses I've taught. But now I have this weird, ad-hoc syllabus-within-a-syllabus that attends to all the issues that have arisen from COVID-19, including adjusted expectations, new assignments, etc. I think this showcases important skills and highlights innovative approaches to teaching, etc. etc. But I am curious as to its relevance (in the eyes of search committees) going forward.

Any thoughts on these and other issues would be useful. (And yes, I'm aware the market will be a ghost town next year. But many of us are surely going to prepare for it all the same, so we might as well start thinking about some of these things now.)

anon

There's about six published analyses of concept X, one of them by me. I want to write a paper saying something like the following: "Everyone agrees that Y is a case of X. But all these conceptual analyses except mine fail to capture that fact. So mine's the best."

(There's more to the paper than this, but this is the part that raises some problems for me).

My question is, what would it look like to remove identifying references from such a paper? Should I cite my paper on the concept of X, but call it [Removed for anonymous review], or should I refer to myself in the third person?

The former is what I feel pulled to do, since that's what I normally do. But I guess why I'm confused is that in all my other cases of self-citation, the citation was pretty offhand and I said so little about the paper that it would be very difficult to know which paper I was actually talking about. But that won't be the case here, and there would be pages and pages of, "As [Redacted] has argued...", "[Redacted]'s view would predict that ...", and so on.

Amanda

So this is one of those actual, "asking for a friend" questions.

My friend is an academic but not a philosopher. He works in the social sciences. He is finishing up his fourth year as an assistant professor at a large state/regional university. His tenure odds look very promising. However, he applied to a few jobs this year because, (1) he wants to live closer to family, and,(2) he would rather work at a slac, his dream job is an elite slac.

Well, this year of all years, he was offered an interview, and then a job, at a research leaning slac that is a very good school, but not necessarily an elite slac. (it has an acceptance rate of about 30% .) This job is offering a 3/3 load and his current load is 4/4. The pay is about the same.

The "problem" he is having (I know, I know, cry him a river) is that with COVID, he is very hesitant to leave because, (1) for various reasons, his current school and department are in an unusually strong financial position, i.e., there are factors about his school and department that allowed them to manage the COVID crisis better than most. While he doesn't have any reason to believe that this other school is in financial trouble, they lack the special features of security that his current department has. He also is somewhat scared of even negotiating with his current department, insofar as they might (he imagines) be insulted that he isn't grateful for his job at a time like this, and he worries that maybe the administration will look happily upon any opportunity to get rid of a tenure track line. Lastly, he is not sure what his position will be re tenure at the other department. He is tempted to ask for a reduced tenure clock or even a tenured position, but supposing, say, they only give him two years off the tenure clock, what should he do? He is pretty sure that he would decline if they gave him no time toward tenure.

Any advice? He fears that if he takes the job, he will be throwing away too much security at a time where nothing is more valuable than security. On the other hand, if he declines, he risks throwing away a job that is pretty close to, and might be a great stepping stone toward, his dream job.

anonymous junior faculty

Re: Amanda's question--I think this is a mostly personal decision and so it's hard for others to shed light on it, but I just went through a somewhat similar decision-making process. While I don't have much that is helpful to say about the actual decision, I will say that both my home institution and the university I had an offer from seemed to expect me to negotiate. That being said, I tried to do so in a particularly careful and respectful way (given that, e.g., both institutions had instituted hiring and raise freezes before I was doing my negotiating). And I went through less back-and-forth negotiating than I think I would have in normal circumstances.

I also worried that my institutition would be happy to get rid of me, but they were not at all. That being said, both institutions in my case had important differences to the case you describe.

I think your friend's best bet for figuring out the answers to these questions about his home institution is to ask a more senior person in his own department (or some other dept at his university) who he trusts (and, preferably, who has been tenured for long enough that they have decent experience with administration) for advice. If he has a good relationship with his chair, that would be a good bet. Under normal circumstances, chairs are both motivated to try to get their administrations to retain their junior faculty, and will have a level of understanding of what is and isn't going to fly with the administration that your friend probably does not yet have.

(As an aside: I made the decision in my case that involved less security, though I suspect that I will still have more security than your friend would at his job. I just had to spend a bunch of time thinking about how to weight/balance that job security against other factors.)

Amanda

Thanks anonymous junior faculty. I'm glad your department was still in the position of trying to keep you. I think that asking a senior department member would be a good move also. As far as I know, my friend gets along with everyone in his department, so I think I will recommend that. When I left from my former job to my current one, I remember being very grateful that the chair person had recently switched. Some people take these kind of things so much better than others.I had 2 faculty members, the chair being one of them, who were very nice to me. But the rest of the faculty kind of gave me the cold shoulder. It was uncomfortable, even if I see their perspective to some degree. I wonder how all this animosity might be made worse by COVID.

I think everyone is just very nervous these days, especially anyone without tenure. Speaking of that, have we heard of philosophy, tenure-track professors being let go do to COVID? I haven't heard this yet, but I have heard a lot of talk about how it is likely to happen. What a time of unparalleled anxiety for so many of us.

Ed

Dear Marcus,

I'd be grateful to hear thoughts from you and others on what new assistant professors should do in their ~five years on the tenure clock to make themselves as competitive as possible for other positions at the widest range of institutions when going up for review at their home institution.

Thanks!

Hoping to be a helpful reviewer without spending a full week on a review

I'd be interested to know how people approach manuscript reviewing. While publishers (in my experience) offer $100-200 to review a manuscript, the time commitment can be anywhere from ~5 hours to several days depending on the level of involvement of the reviewer. How long do people spend reviewing a manuscript (does this depend on the remuneration offered?) and what kinds of comments do they give (or what kinds of comments are expected and helpful)? I'd like to get a better picture of what is appropriate, as I have a good sense of how to review articles but not manuscripts.

Author, King of the Britons

Hoping,
You are not being paid to review a book manuscript. You are being given an honorarium, a small token of their appreciation. Keep in mind, if the press does not publish the manuscript, the whole process has cost them a lot. They have others to pay, etc.

Hoping to be a helpful reviewer

Thanks Author, that's a helpful way to think about it. Given that, what kinds of feedback do you think it's best to receive and give? I imagine line edits are too extreme, but that authors/publishers expect something more than a summation of the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript. I could be wrong on this assumption though, so any help would be appreciated.

Marcus Arvan

Hoping: I'd like to ask you and Author to hold off on further discussion on this for now. I plan to run a post on it later today.

Illusion of Terra

Reading one of the recent posts, I came across something I have wondered quite often. 'Teaching evaluations' seem to be quite a standard thing in the US and I have seen them as a requirement on postdoc offerings as well, but at least from my experience, they aren't really a thing here in Europe. We do have evaluations but often they are not really anything that is shared.
Any ideas on what to do if I don't have any teaching evaluations and my university won't supply them for whatever reason, but I have taught or tutored courses?

Dispelling the illusion

Illusion
If you cannot get teaching evaluations, have a senior colleague write a teaching letter. Ideally, they have seen you teach. When I taught in North America, and was on the market, I routinely asked senior colleagues to sit in on a lecture. They then review your teaching materials, and write a letter based on that.

O Canada

I'm not sure if this has been covered before in different posts, but I have been thinking about applying for either a postdoc or grant in Canada. Anyone knows if and how this would be different from the system in the US? If this hasn't been covered here, does anyone have any useful website or simply tips when it comes to being a early-career philosopher in Canada?

Canadian Prof at R1

Hi O Canada,

It depends on whether you're Canadian (or have Canadian residency status), and on the kind of job you apply to. To hire a non-Canadian, many schools have to make the case that there were no qualified Canadians who applied for the job. This is perhaps easier to do insofar as the position is (1) advertised more narrowly and (2) research oriented/long term. If a research school is hiring a tenure track position, there will be pressure (and in many cases support from the relevant Deans) to hire the "best" person, regardless of their Canadian status (because many of these schools are trying to improve their overall research reputation, however that is measured). For more temporary jobs, there is usually less pressure to do this.

But otherwise, I don't think there is anything especially different from applying to positions in the US.

There are post-doc positions from the Canadian govt (through the Social Science and Humanities Research Council - SSHRC) that Canadians can apply for. I'm somewhat surprised when I run into former Canadian undergraduates of mine who went off to fancy schools in the US for their PhD who have forgotten about these or don't think to apply. Maybe you're in that position.

O Canada, the second

Hi Canadian Prof at R1 and thanks for the reply!

Interesting to see what has to be considered. I don't have any Canadian status, but am still interested.
From what you describe, it seems to me, creating your own non-long-term postdoc position through a grant would then, apart from it being difficult in general wherever one is, be difficult also because of the regulations in Canada, or would giving preference to qualified Canadians only apply to posted jobs?

Generally speaking though, given those regulations in place, it seems to be quite a hassle to hire a non-Canadian compared to a Canadian for any research school or department.

Canadian maple leaf

O Canada
Let me clarify something. The US has the same sorts of protections for US citizens. I know... I am a Canadian who has worked in the US. This is normal. You can get jobs in other countries but it is never a straightforward affair. I now work in another country. Again it was complicated to get a job here. But the US is as protectionist as any other country.

Ross Campbell

Hello
I wish to write a book on philosophy but I'm not sure what topic would be a good one to get it published. I want to write a book about philosophy in a broad sense covering a range of different fields within the subject. Also it's a popular work aimed at the general reader. The title I have in mind is "Why philosophy matters" . Asking the Big Questions".
Does anyone know if this sounds like 9a good theme or not. I welcome your comments. Regards Ross

Canadian Prof at R1

Hi O Canada:

I am originally an American (now with dual US and Canada citizenship) - so certainly you can get jobs in Canada as a non-Canadian. But we've also done a lot of hiring over the years, and I would say that when it comes to a long term job, we hire without paying much attention to their Canadian status, but when we hire short term, we pay more attention to it.

You mention "creating your own post-doc through a grant" - I guess it depends on the kind of grant. Lots of grants are country specific (e.g., Faculty or graduate students working in Canadian aren't eligible to apply to the National Science Foundation, even if they're American). There might be some - maybe the Templeton grant - that would support post-docs in different countries. But I don't know how you'd go about just "creating your own" - a more realistic option would be to look for advertisements of a particular post-doc and apply! We have certainly had post-docs in which we've hired non-Canadians. Again, if the post-doc is looking for your specialty and you're the most promising researcher, you've got a good chance.

torn professor

What are our duties as professors? We clearly have duties to teach the material well and to be decent human beings and all that entails. But I'm also wondering if we have duties, or at least the freedom, to teach moral/life lessons to students. I'm curious what you all think.

I have in mind the following kind of case, which is very common in my position. A non-philosophy student needs my upper-level class to graduate at the end of the semester. But they simply don't do the work. I send them personal emails, spread out over months, about how they're at risk of failing. They don't respond, or they do respond but don't do the work at the rate or level required to pass. Time passes and final grades are due. Suddenly they're asking for any chance to pass. I tell them that I have been warning them about the situation for months now. Do I have a duty to teach them a moral/life lesson here? I tend to think I do. This doesn't necessarily mean I fail them, though I sometimes do that. Other times I make them do twice as much work after the semester is over and give them a grade after it's completed.

My thought process is this: many of these students seem to think they're entitled to something they put no effort into, or that there's never a point when they won't be given another chance, or it's rational to do as little as possible and bet on the mercy of others. So in giving a lot of extra work, or failing them, I aim to do my part to disabuse them of these notions (and the extra work option still lets them graduate, thus neither delaying their careers nor costing them more tuition money).

For anyone who responds, please set aside circumstances related to COVID, depression, family stresses, etc. For one, this kind of situation isn't unique to COVID. Second, I not only grant those in special circumstances exceptions, but I also to try and suss out who is in special circumstances to begin with (e.g., by reaching out, contacting their advisor, etc.). Assume, for the sake of discussion, that the students I'm talking about are not these kinds of students.

curious person

I have a question about how to approach sample syllabus development when heading onto the job market. Obviously, in this day and age, it’s important to have all aspects your teaching dossier / other materials stand out. Take, for example, a sample syllabus for an introductory course (whether intro to philosophy or intro to some sub-discipline). One way to make your syllabus stand out might be to include readings that are non-standard and hence eye-catching. Maybe this means including readings on non-standard topics, or maybe it involves ensuring the inclusion of authors whose work is overlooked in many syllabi for similar courses. Whatever exactly is involved here, it seems like the important thing to do is to ensure that the readings you select all express your pedagogical commitments in a way that will be clear to a search committee.

However, now say that you discover an excellent textbook. Using this textbook in lieu of a bunch of papers might make it look, to a search committee member, like you were lazy and didn’t want to curate your own list of readings. In fact, however, you might have several good pedagogical reasons for using this textbook. It may even be that you selected this textbook at the last minute, only after having spent painstaking hours developing your own list of readings. In such a situation, do you go with the carefully curated list, or do you go with the textbook? The textbook itself may include a carefully curated list, but it might still look lazy to use (you didn’t curate the list yourself, after all).

The reason this sort of thing strikes me as a worry is that I can’t think of places in your dossier where it would be appropriate to justify your use of the textbook. Do you say in a cover letter that, while you recognize that the use of a textbook may look lazy, you have reasons X Y and Z for using it? Do you say this on the sample syllabus itself? This puts you on the defensive, and could raise more suspicion than it assuages.

I figure that the textbook case is an instance of a more general worry: if you think you are making a pedagogically sound choice that might look worse to a search committee than some alternative, what do you do? How far should I go out of my way to look original, rather than simply doing what I think is right?

G

I have a question about the tenure standards at state schools that focus on undergraduate teaching. It seems clear that research schools really emphasize publications and SLACs emphasize teaching (with ok publications). What about those state schools that only have undergraduate programs? The jobs at these schools require people to focus on teaching, and the workload is similar to (or heavier than) the SLACs. However, some of these schools are research universities. Is teaching still the main focus when one is considered for promotion at those schools?

CC

I have a question about interpreting and incorporating instructor evaluations into my courses involving allegations of political bias. I am first year professor (tenure-track) teaching ethics and philosophy at a small public science and engineering school. My students are all undergrad scientists and engineers, which I am relatively well prepared for with my background. I've enjoyed teaching, and the Fall was hard but overall very good. One tricky thing has has arisen with my Spring 2020 evaluations is a small set of comments (5/45) noting and complaining about the "left-leaning bias" of my ethics courses. One was about my requiring of students to state and respect other pronouns, but the others where about content presented, readings, discussion questions, etc.

My institution takes these evals seriously, though the general expectation is for improvement and adaptation. I have good overall ratings (4.5/4), so this is more of a small aspect that I think might attract the attention of deans/admins (outside my dept.), especially at my technical (read: apolitcal, moderate) institution. While I do not think the students are wrong per se about the bias (at least given my own views), I am not quite sure how to understand these comments or what to do with them. (Not to mention that this was Corona semester!) Any advice?

Erik Magnusson

Here's an interesting one (I'm not sure if this issue has been addressed before, but I'm curious to hear people's thoughts):

I was recently asked to review a paper and was halfway through doing so when I realized that the author had revealed their identity through a footnote. I quickly contacted the editor to let them know that anonymity had been breached, was thanked for bringing it to their attention, and was subsequently let go as a reviewer (as I think I should have been).

My question is this: would it ever be appropriate to forward my comments to the author in this type of case, or would this be an inappropriate interference in the editorial process? I thought the paper made a valuable contribution to the debate that it centered on, and I had a number of ideas about how the author's argument could be improved, which I had started to outline in my report. These may still be of use to the author, and I'm wondering if there is any definitive reason to keep them to myself.

To be clear, I have not forwarded anything to the author, and don't really have plans to. But it made me wonder about the ethics of doing so, and I know that the community here will have some thoughts on this. Thanks!


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