This may be purely anecdotal, but there seem to be more schools seeking adjunct faculty this season. In previous years the bulk of adjunct-seeking does not commence until later in the spring portion of the job season, but as we approach the APA later this month it seems that more and more of the late job ads are looking only for part-time workers.
If there is any truth to this observation, then it’s not a good sign. Or, perhaps, it’s not a sign at all. Or perhaps it’s just a sign that schools are uncertain about their financial futures, in which case we don’t really know anything about the state of things other than that hiring departments can’t predict the future.
Just browsing through the early job postings, there appears to be a demand this year for philosophers doing social/political philosophy and/or applied ethics, or some combination of the two. Last year it seemed like you needed to do race theory in addition to whatever your specialization is. Of course, this is anecdotal and the product of my particular perspective on the market, which is focused on a certain subset of advertisements. This year I’ve decided to avoid most job market advice, and to try to stay away from discussions of the market in general. Although, I was intrigued by this discussion at New APPS and a recent thread about uploading letters of recommendation at Leiter Reports.
On Sunday I traveled from Pittsburgh to Boston for an interview at the APA. Unfortunately, I went through Washington, D.C. and got stranded until Monday evening. Upon arrival to D.C. I dashed from C terminal to A terminal, attempting to catch the earlier (and very last) plane into Boston. Having arrived at the gate with 6 minutes to spare, the woman at the counter informed me that it would take too long to change my ticket. ‘You know I’m going to get stuck here tonight’, I muttered as I walked away. By the time I arrived back at C terminal, my 2:30pm flight was canceled.
The airline gave me a deep discount at an airport hotel and booked me for a flight out of D.C. at 10pm on Monday. My interview was scheduled for 2pm on Tuesday. With the slim chance of catching a morning flight, I was also put on standby for the 10am Monday. All the morning flights were canceled, but I made it onto the 4:50pm flight, having been slotted at #17 of 129 people on standby. It was nice not to arrive into Boston at midnight.
Some schools and interviewees never made it. Sessions were canceled. According to some, it was a ‘disaster’ APA. The whole thing has provided ample fodder for anyone wishing to see the APA job interview abolished. My interview went as scheduled, and I could not have asked for a better team of interviewers. I felt welcomed and decidedly not like I was under interrogation. My experience at the so-called ‘smoker’ was unexpectedly pleasant and relatively empty of awkwardness. (For anyone not familiar with the ‘smoker’, Google it.) Frustratingly, I saw Peter Gratton from Philosophy in a Time of Error, but was unable to introduce myself, as I would like to have done.
Other positives included time spent with familiar faces, a delightful dinner with a couple of friends from Duquesne, and a few productive chats with academic press representatives. I even bought a book. My hosts, Lauren and Mark, made sure I arrived to and from the conference hotel without any hassle. For now, I will wait to hear again from my interviewers and come up with a suitable gift of gratitude for my hosts.
The anecdote that keeps cropping up this job season is a familiar one: hiring committees are flooded with dossiers, so many that they are given to applying (and devising) techniques to filter the applications, or to somehow find their interviewees without actually scrutinizing all of the files. The primary reason for this (as admitted by the committees themselves) is that there are just too many dossiers to go through. Why might this be? Yes, because the market is flooded with humanities PhD’s and the number of spots for these folks is constantly dwindling. But also, it’s because job ads are too general.
A general ad is posted to attract a healthy number of highly-qualified applicants. The problem is that it attracts too many underqualified applicants, or irrelevantly qualified applicants. Applicants are desperate; they send their materials to any place that might look at them, and many places that certainly won’t. Sometimes, however, the problem is not on the applicant’s end, but on the institution’s. It’s understandable that institutions want to optimize their chance of finding the right person for their job, but can this person actually be found amid 300-400 files? There’s just not enough time to go through them, which is why it is often necessary to immediately separate the incoming dossiers into ABD and PhD-in-hand piles, for instance. This is the kind of tactic that is devised out of physical necessity, which is not an ideal constraint in this situation.