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12/02/2022

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Search committee member

We expect to fly out as usual, we recently concluded first round interviews via zoom.

Bill Vanderburgh

Our department really values spending a day in person with potential colleagues, so we would never (except in extremis) replace on-campus with Zoom. However, I can see a case for doing a second round of Zoom interviews (first round with fifteen at 30-45 minutes, second round with 5 at a couple of hours, then on campus with two instead of three--or something like that).

That said, if you really can't distinguish the top 2 or 3 from the rest of the pool based on initial interviews and application materials, perhaps the department is simply shying away from making hard decisions, or hasn't established its decision criteria sufficiently in advance. I'd say it is unfair to candidates to have long Zoom sessions with them instead of having a difficult conversation in the department to make a shorter list of finalists.

ABD

I was invited to a couple flyouts this year, and both were in person, not Zoom.

no more zoom

Zoom is the worst. Please don't make hiring decisions like this.

non-tt faculty

I have attended two interviews so far this season, and I am very grateful that both are final rounds online. I currently work at a place where flying to interviews would take roughly 24 hours, and it would be a bit silly to try to reimburse the flights given the current travelling costs.

Perhaps just speaking out of self-interest, but I don't think judging someone's performance after they've travelled almost to the other side of the world would be informative. I'd rather wake up after midnight to do the interviews.

non-tt faculty

Also want to add that on-campus interviews are awesome for those who don't have kids or other caring duties. So if this is what you're looking for, keep doing it.

Look East

non-tt faculty,

There's also the tough choice between either the expense of spending enough time near the campus to overcome jet lag or being judged on what you are like when you are jet lagged.

For example, Cape Town is 10 hours ahead of California and it's a very, very long flight. Delhi is 13 hours ahead. Seoul is 17 hours ahead. If Californian colleges are confident that they don't want to hire anyone currently in Africa or Asia, they should keep doing on campus interviews.

Also, I don't know how much this affects search committe decisions, but the financial difference between flying someone from South Africa to California or from Florida/Western Europe to California certainly matters to somebody.

You could view this issue as a question of how much the profession actually values diversity and inclusion: are we willing to give up anything for these aims that professional philosophers actually consider costly? If not, then maybe these aims aren't actually that important to us.

EFB

Look East brings up important issues. THere's also the fact that many people are from countries where visas are required to visit the US/Canada/Europe. Given how short notice most interviews are, there is often not time to arrange a visa, thereby excluding these people from on campus visits. If some candidates are interviewed in person and some on Zoom, it seems to be a distinct disadvantage for the Zoom candidate, further disadvantaging people from Africa/Asia/South America.

time-zones

Look East and non-tt faculty
I think is quite resonable for a department to want to meet with someone in person before they hire them. I have been the victim of interviewing across time-zones. I hear your concerns. Departments need to take this into account, of course. BUT, if you are hring someone for a life time job, it is also reasonabel to expect to meet them in person, especially if the department is paying their travel costs.

Look East

time-zones,

It's certainly an understandable preference on the part of a department, but whether it is reasonable depends on whether it makes sense given a department's aims.

After all, if philosophers were not willing to give up things they value a lot in order to improve diversity and inclusion, this would show that they do not actually value diversity and inclusion. So the question is what constitutes a reasonable sacrifice for these objectives.

Are the advantages of on campus interviews equal to the costs in terms of D&I by severely handicapping the majority of the world's population from applying? I'd be interested in hearing your reasons for answering this question affirmatively.

time-zones

Look East
I am not an American, though I have in the past worked at a university in the USA, and my sense is that the "diversity" commitments of typical American univerities and colleges is concerned with ensuring that traditionally under-represented groups in the American population (that is, amongst their citizens), are given opportunities that have traditionally been denied to them. After all, veterans are one of these groups - US universities are not concerns to hire veterans of wars and armies in other countries. They want to ensure that the men and women who have served in the US armed forces are given a fair chance at an academid job. And the same goes for women, people of color, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, etc.

Come on

I think this is getting a bit out of hand. Obviously diversity initiatives are not intended to represent the make up of the entire world!

non-tt faculty

I wouldn't say it's (just) about diversity. Simply speaking, in person fly outs just seem to be a practice that refuses to tap into a wider pool of talents. It allows arbitrary factors penalise the performance of candidates who live in countries far far away and/or those with parental/caring obligations.

Of course one can make the argument that having no parental/caring obligations makes someone a better colleague/researcher, but I'm not sure many want to go down this line of argument, at least explicitly. (For example, I often skip drinks and dinner after departmental talks.)

In addition, I find it amazing that search committees can come to know people just by interacting with them f2f for a few hours to reliable screen for people they want to work with for the rest of their lives. It might be better than interacting online only, but I'm skeptical about how much better it actually is. So does the benefits justify the costs?

Zoom Zoom Zoom

I think people's opinions here will just go with their wider opinions of Zoom. I can't stand Zoom, it destroys my enjoyment of conversations, my interest in talks, my patience, my attention span. It strikes me as a wholly terrible way to try and evaluate someone as a potential colleague (or, indeed, as pretty much anything—except someone who's good at Zooming, whatever that might be).

Others don't mind it. I can't really understand how that can be so, but that's what they say, and so be it. (I also don't understand how people can enjoy Whisky, but people insist they do.) I reckon those same people also think it is a fine way of evaluating potential colleagues and perhaps it is for them.

Regardless, so many of the discussions around Zoom (including many of those on this site) just fall along this same divide.

Look East

time-zones,

Yes, I think we're in agreement: such instances indicate that what is values is not diversity and inclusion as such, but fairness towards particular groups within US society. If this argument applies in the fly-out case, those groups apparently don't include US citizens with caring responsibilities that are severely challenged by fly-out culture.

Come on,

It depends on the argument for diversity. it's advocated as a rectification for past wrongs against marginalized groups by the US government and power groups, then I suppose you might argue that these have only occurred against marginalized groups in the US. Historians would probably disagree.

Another common justification is cognitive diversity: US philosophy benefits from bringing in a wider variety of perspectives. You could justify an asymmetry between, say, hiring a US woman vs. hiring an Zambian man (or woman) on the basis that the US woman brings a more different perspective to US philosophy. I don't know the cognitive diversity literature in detail, so I don't know if this line of argument is plausible.

However, while I'm not sure that those arguments can work, I think you're right in your basic point: the intention of diversity initiatives is not to be representative of the demographic etc. composition of the entire world. From a person who know more about it than me, they argued that the aim should be something close to the demographics of the local city, with respect to marginalized groups. (So e.g. a 30% non-white department in a 90% white city is ok but not a 90% white department in a 30% non-white city.) But the main reason I think you're right is that most people I know who advocate diversity do so more on the basis of the benefits for philosophy rather than achieving some representation target.

Zoom Zoom Zoom,

For what it's worth, I greatly prefer in person interviews to Zoom interviews, not least because I have never been hired except by people I had already spent time with a few times in person or at the interview. I would like to think that that's due to my overpowering charm, but it's more likely because we all really do value getting to know someone a bit and if you're not well-networked, then in-person interviews are a great way to compensate for that.

Ultimately no approach is going to maximize everyone's goals: cognitive diversity, checking a person before you given them a shot at tenure, including people who aren't well-networked, saving us from the horrors of Zoom... My point is that we can use our preferred systems to infer which of these we value the most.

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