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the missing link

First, I think it is very rewarding to get involved in a university campus when you have a full time job. You will sit on committees with these people anyway. And you may develop rewarding research and teaching relationships. I have. You may even be able to save the humanities!
Second, you are not part of the profession at all if you are not connecting with other people at other campuses. Many of my supports at other universities far away. Some I see only every few years. Some U have never met in person (Indeed, I have collaborated with three people I have never seen in person). But if you are not connected with others, you are not in the profession.


On (1), I think it probably depends on what things are like at your school. Of course, there are the intellectual benefits, which should exist no matter what; I've really enjoyed co-teaching with faculty in other departments, and more generally getting a feel for how people with a different disciplinary background than mine will approach the same question.

But speaking purely strategically, I think it probably turns on tricky questions about university politics. I teach at an R1, and a friend of mine in a small language department has given me the impression that, to get tenure in a department like that you need to have impressed people in the larger humanities departments. Basically, English professors will see themselves as competent to substantively evaluate the tenure file of somebody in an American studies department who works on Caribbean literature (more generally, of somebody who works on literature written in English), and at least some English professors will be on the tenure committee of any humanist. So if you're a humanist in a small department, it's probably a good idea to network with humanists in other departments.

But, at least here, philosophy is seen as quirky enough that people in other departments often don't really think of themselves as qualified to substantively evaluate our work--of course it depends on the case, and I imagine plenty of classicists would see themselves as competent to evaluate the research of a philosophy who works on ancient philosophy--and more weight is placed on external letters in the tenure process. Is philosophy like that everywhere? Probably not; I imagine department chairs often find themselves having to make the case for philosophy's distinctiveness when presenting tenure cases to university committees.


Definitely get to know academics in departments that have little to do with yours. You need to be able to complain to someone that is outside your circle. You need to be able to ask questions about the university to people who have no interest in making the university look a certain way to you. You need to know people who are on committees that will be your allies. You need as many sources of information about university resources as you can get. People from different departments have very different access and friends than you do. They will be valuable.

North of the equator

I am tenured at a teaching-focused institution. (1) is one of the primary drivers of tenure for us. We are allowed only one optional external letter in our tenure portfolio, but are expected to have about 10 internal letters of recommendation from colleagues around the university. It is frowned upon to have too many of these letters from one’s own department. Early on, I adopted a strategy of getting on a lot of committees and making significant contributions to the university. Having letters from established faculty members goes a long way toward tenure. On a side note, faculty meetings and university events are much more enjoyable, since I have gotten to know a variety of colleagues from many disciplines, and it has opened administrative opportunities outside of philosophy.


I would just add that the only thing that keeps me going--in the profession as well as research-wise--is my network. I really like philosophy, and I really enjoy reading it, and attending conferences, and my network is entirely to blame for that!

I don't mean fancy-pants people, although I know plenty of them. I just mean the regular friendly acquaintances I see at several conferences a year, whose social media feeds I follow, whose work I read, etc. They inspire me, and I just enjoy reading their work.

Mine is purely a teaching job (although I publish quite a bit), and the network is certainly not necessary. But it makes my professional life bearable, and so much richer. If it weren't for that, I'd probably feel crushed and bored by my teaching load. It makes my job fun! And for me, that's pretty necessary. I wouldn't stay in a job I hated.

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