On Campus Visits: A Job Candidate’s Critique (guest post)


Below are critical suggestions from a graduate student, who’ll go nameless, who was on the market this past season. The suggestions are for departments, in regard to how they arrange and manage campus visits. We’ve discussed some flyout horror stories before, but there seems to be no lack of resourcefulness in how departments can make things lousy for job candidates. Feel free to share your relevant experiences in the comments. And also be sure to take a look at the brief “best practices” document on interviewing at the American Philosophical Association (APA) site. 


On Campus Visits: A Job Candidate’s Critique
by a graduate student and current job candidate

I am a graduate student and I am on the job market. Woe is me. Sure. But this year, I was lucky to have a couple on-campus visits. Unfortunately, I had a few experiences that made me think the APA should do a better job of publicizing, and perhaps elaborating upon, its guidelines for on-campus visits. Perhaps some of the issues I experienced cannot be fixed through departmental action. Either way, I would like to know if any other candidates (especially graduate students) have experienced problems while doing on-campus visits that should be brought to light.

Here are few suggestions based on what happened to me:

  1. Hiring Departments should be required to make clear their University’s reimbursement policies. While interviewing for a TT position in the American Southeast, I went out to dinner with a faculty member. At the end of the dinner, I picked up the check and said that if s/he would like I could pay for it since I would be reimbursed (I had been told to “keep all your receipts”). S/he agreed and I paid for dinner and drinks. After the interview, I submitted all my receipts. When I got the check in the mail, I realized that they didn’t cover any of my food costs. Not my individual meals and not that two-person dinner + drinks. When I emailed the secretary, I was just told I would not be reimbursed.
  1. Hiring Departments should ask whether candidates would prefer to book airfare themselves or have it booked by the department. The same department mentioned above, after informing me they wanted me to come for an on-campus visit, told me it was “easiest” (presumably for them) if I just bought my ticket on my own and got reimbursed for that later. I wasn’t really given the option to have them book it. And I didn’t feel comfortable requesting it. This particular trip also required international travel, so it really wasn’t cheap. At the time I had limited financial resources.
  1. Hiring Departments should pay for accomodations ahead of time. During a different campus visit, this time in the Northeast, the department “booked” a hotel for me. The hotel was nice. But the hiring department didn’t actually pay for it. When I checked out after my visit, I was asked by management to pay. I couldn’t leave, of course, until I paid. And I had a flight to catch (which I also was told to pay for on my own, see #2 above). Again, the hotel was quite nice. It was also $500.00/night. So I had to dish out slightly over $1,000 on the spot just to be able to leave. Thankfully I (again, a grad student) had enough in my savings account this time to cover this. I don’t know how long the reimbursement will take. That was summer money.
  1. Hiring Departments should educate the faculty members they include in the process about what is and is not appropriate. While interviewing for another position in the American Northwest, I went to dinner with a group of faculty (four of us in total). Halfway into breakfast, a professor started expressing discontent about the culture of “political correctness” that has recently “taken over” academia. Now, I disagree with the general sentiment, but not the worst thing that has ever happened. The issue emerged when this faculty member went on to say that s/he (a white professor) felt oppressed because s/he felt s/he couldn’t teach “the truth” of things to students anymore (let’s be real, it was a man). I then made the horrible mistake of asking: “What truths exactly do you feel you cannot teach your students?” To which s/he answered: “Well, for example, that it is a scientific fact that different races have different degrees of intelligence. That is just a fact.” Um. Ok. Um. Not sure what to do. I waited to see if any other attendees (all white) would say anything. Nobody did. I was the only person of color at the table. I felt like I had to engage the argument, which I did (quite aggressively). I didn’t get the job.
  1. Hiring Departments should have a protocol for post-decision debriefing (should they choose to engage in it). After interviewing for a TT position in the American Midwest and not getting the job, I was asked by a faculty member whether I would like to debrief. I really, really appreciated the offer since this is not common, and I personally find it valuable to hear what reasons were discussed by the committee when making the decision (e.g., “we thought the job talk was too technical and hard to relate to” or “we really wanted someone with some postdoc experience, so we went that route”). So, I was excited to debrief. In this case nothing went wrong per se. The “issue,” if I may call it that, is that I was told that the debriefing was “private” and I should keep it to myself. That’s not a big deal. I can do that. I just wish debriefing were viewed as just another stage of the search process. It should be done openly and with the full knowledge and support of the hiring committee. Still, kudos to the faculty member who reached out to me.

Any other people have similar experiences or recommendations for improving the on-campus experience?

Chad Person, "Kraken"

Chad Person, “Kraken”

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Keish
Keish
5 years ago

Scheduling bathroom breaks. I’ve been on many interviews that had every hour filled and they followed the schedule so closely that I had to ask for a bathroom break after 2-4 hours of consecutive interviews. I am not disabled or a nursing mother, but if I were, I could imagine bathroom breaks being even more important, especially if I did not want to reveal to the committee that I had a young child that I was still nursing and needed a moment to go pump.Report

PhD Student
PhD Student
5 years ago

I am so sorry you experienced these things! The financial burdens departments expected you to take on are bad enough (completely unfair), but to have to explain to a search committee that they are citing debunked racist pseudo-science is truly horrific!!!Report

jones
jones
5 years ago

Sadly, the experiences this candidate had are not that uncommon. I’ve also had campus visits in the last few years where I was required to front the airfare and hotel costs. While reimbursement was usually pretty quick, in one case, it took several months (and numerous, increasingly angry emails to the department chair from me — after I knew I did not get the job!) to get reimbursed. This is really an outrageous imposition on a job-seeker.Report

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

Horrific on multiple fronts. The fact that a professor can, in 2016, say such things to a person of color in an *interview* scenario and face (I presume) no censure or reprimand from his colleagues shows that we have a long, long way to go. He’s a shit-head, but his colleagues are also shit-heads for not doing or saying anything. Pretty hilarious that the guy refuted his own claim about political correctness by spouting racist pseudoscience in an academic context.

Less important but still bizarre: a $500 USD hotel room? *HUH*? One way to reduce the financial risk to job prospectives is to not book absurdly expensive accommodation.Report

Sinvergüenza
Sinvergüenza
Reply to  Joe
5 years ago

This year, on the job market, I had a (tenured, white male) professor tell me a racist joke. The punchline was about a Texan killing a Mexican. I, a Mexican citizen born in Texas, was very uncomfortable.Report

Matt
5 years ago

In many (perhaps most) cases, reimbursement procedures (including booking hotels and flights) are set by the university, and there isn’t anything a department can do, except be more explicit about them up front. (I’ll admit that I have never heard a candidate trying to get reimbursed for someone else’s meal before, especially as the meals are often enough not covered for the faculty. The person shouldn’t have agreed to that, but it seems like a mistake on the part of the candidate. Also, many state schools cannot cover alcohol in any instance.) So, departments should surely be more explicit about what the policies are, and be accommodating when they can be, but there are often big limits on their own flexibility and their ability to, say, get the accounting department to send out checks.Report

jones
jones
Reply to  Matt
5 years ago

In every case where I was required to front the travel costs, I was told it was university policy. It’s still a lousy policy.Report

MC
MC
5 years ago

Isn’t the behavior of the hiring committee described in (4) illegal according anti-discrimination laws? (I believe it would be in the EU.) At the very least this department should be investigated by the APA and not be allowed to use APA hiring services until corrective measures are taken. This is not about policing appropriate speech but about providing equal opportunity of employment. This clearly is not possible when members of a department with race-based beliefs about the intellectual inferiority of other humans (which includes job candidates!) are in a position to influence hiring decisions.Report

Matt
Reply to  MC
5 years ago

“Isn’t the behavior of the hiring committee described in (4) illegal according anti-discrimination laws?”
No, at least it would not by itself be illegal under federal law. (Lots of states and some municipalities have anti-discrimination laws that are more stringent than federal law, but I know much less about them. I doubt that many of them make saying offensive and untrue claims, by themselves, a violation of anti-discrimination law, though I cannot say for sure.)Report

MC
MC
Reply to  Matt
5 years ago

My question is not about the saying of offensive things (which I know is not illegal) but whether, in the specific context of a job interview, the candidate’s rights to equal opportunity were violated by having an openly racist individual involved in the hiring process. Whatever the law, I’m not shocked about the continued presence of racist individuals in philosophy, but that none of the colleagues at the dinner felt the need to say anything, and indeed, that this individual should be interacting with candidates at all and presumably making decisions about their employment. If departments can’t be trusted to regulate this, then the APA needs to step up and investigate such incidents. It is *completely* unacceptable. Not to be brushed off as just like having an embarrassing relative at the dinner table (read “racist [and sexist] crackpot” — with tenure).Report

Matt
Reply to  MC
5 years ago

Well, you asked (in part) a legal question, and I gave what the legal answer is. I’m not a specialist on labor and employment law, though I do know a bit about it, and I’m pretty sure that’s how it would be treated. Whatever we may think of the moral rights, saying stuff like this in such a situation doesn’t violate a legal right to equal opportunity, at least not without showing an awful lot more.

The APA actually has procedures for looking at things like this. It does require filing a report with them, though.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  MC
5 years ago

I assume the professor in question meant that different races have different IQ bell curves around different averages. That is true; I’ve never heard of anyone credibly denying it. (The debate is about whether these differences are environmental or biological.)

That what he said is true, as opposed to a debunked, crackpot theory (as other commentators have claimed), is somewhat relevant to assessing the professor’s behavior, but it’s not the only relevant issue. Expressing this truth in the context described is, in my view, deplorable–as is the fact that none of his colleagues took him to task for saying it.

But is what he said racist? That’s pretty unclear. Was it said out of hostility towards the races with lower average IQs? If so, I’d say racist. Or was it said out of exasperation with political correctness? In that case, it’s less clear. If racism is “in the heart”–a matter of negative attitudes–as Garcia claims, then the statement was probably not racist in this case. Perhaps there are other theories of racism according to which it could have been racist under these circumstances.Report

MC
MC
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

The candidate reports this as direct quotation from the professor in question:
“Well, for example, that it is a scientific fact that different races have different degrees of intelligence. That is just a fact.”
Why strain ourselves to give this a charitable interpretation?
…. and yes, sadly I know that there are philosophers out there who will now do just that.

I’d be interested to know if the incident would have legal implications in the EU. I believe that certain questions, like asking women about their marital status, violate equal opportunity regulations there. I guess that equivalent regulations don’t exist in the US.

Since another very serious incident has already been reported on this thread, I think the APA should be proactive about this and invite all persons of color who’ve experienced racist hostility in interview situations to report these incidents under the assurance of anonymity. Once we have an idea about the extent of this problem, a strategy needs to be put in place to deal with it. I don’t think voluntary bystander training will change much.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  MC
5 years ago

“Why strain ourselves to give this a charitable interpretation?”

Do you think it’s a strain to interpret the professor in question as talking out of exasperation with perceived political correctness, as opposed to hostility towards certain races? I don’t find that very implausible. I know a lot of people who are exasperated with political correctness but who aren’t racist, and I could imagine them thinking what he said. If they had no filter between their minds and their mouths, I could see them saying what he said. Also, although that interpretation is more charitable than interpreting him as hostile towards certain races, it still doesn’t make him look very good, imo.

Or maybe the strain is in interpreting “the races have different degrees of intelligence” as “the races have different average intelligences”. If that’s an exact quote, then the professor could easily have meant the interpretation I attributed to him, but just be a bit dumb or inarticulate. Or so I would have thought.

I guess since I don’t see what he said as demonstrably racist, I don’t think the law or the APA should be brought in. It should be up to bystanders–in this case, his colleagues–to set him straight.Report

Matt
Reply to  MC
5 years ago

I believe that certain questions, like asking women about their marital status, violate equal opportunity regulations there. I guess that equivalent regulations don’t exist in the US.

Again, though I’m a lawyer with some interest in this area, it’s not my specialty. So, I am glad to be corrected by actual lawyers who are specialists here. But, my understanding is that asking (anyone – as the rule should be) about marital status during an interview is at least very close to the line of a legal violation, and perhaps over it, in the US. (I have no experience w/ the EU law on this topic so won’t comment on it.) It does seem to me to be straight forward why there is a difference between asking someone about their marital status and expressing an (odious) opinion during an less formal part of a job interview, though, at least for legal purposes.Report

Kate Norlock
Reply to  MC
5 years ago

MC, you guess incorrectly. For the sake of all applicants, here’s the deal. Regulations exist in the USA regarding prohibited practices in employment and recruitment that violate Equal Opportunity protections. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/practices/index.cfm

Regarding marital status, the EEOC says,

It is clearly discriminatory to ask such questions only of women and not men (or vice-versa). Even if asked of both men and women, such questions may be seen as evidence of intent to discriminate against, for example, women with children.
Generally, employers should not use non job-related questions involving marital status, number and/or ages of children or dependents, or names of spouses or children of the applicant. Such inquiries may be asked after an employment offer has been made and accepted if needed for insurance or other legitimate business purposes.
The following pre-employment inquiries may be regarded as evidence of intent to discriminate when asked in the pre-employment context:

Whether applicant is pregnant.
Marital status of applicant or whether applicant plans to marry.
Number and age of children or future child bearing plans.
Child care arrangements.
Employment status of spouse.
Name of spouse.Report

GS
GS
Reply to  MC
5 years ago

“Why strain ourselves to give this a charitable interpretation?”

I’ve never understood these calls for uncharitable (or non-charitable) interpretations. I think *all* people should be interpreted charitably – it is the best way to understand another’s view and is the best way to sway someone (and it is how we would want to be treated, after all – *the golden rule does not go away in situations where you wish it didn’t apply*).

(Furthermore, I’m just not comfortable jumping to conclusions about an anonymous person based on the testimony of an anonymous person (it might be different if the accuser were actually in front of me, though I would still remind her/him that we ought to be charitable in our interpretation.)Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

Johnny Thunder, just a suggestion for another way of exploring this question: There is some great recent work by Haslanger where she argues that ‘generic’ statements like “blacks are X” strongly implicate the further claim that something essential to blackness *explains* their being X. (http://www.mit.edu/~shaslang/papers/HaslangerIGCG.pdf)

I suspect that she is right and that speakers implicitly know this. If this is right, speakers can cancel this implication at will by citing the environment as an explanatory factor, but I am guessing that Tenured Guy did not do this. So perhaps he intentionally communicated the belief that some races are *essentially* less intelligent, which is certainly racist in one important sense of the word.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Joe
5 years ago

I’ll check this out, thanks!Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

I don’t see why any of this is hard. That one may interpret the remark as expressing frustration with political correctness can only carry the point so far against seeing it as racist given the fact that it is fairly common practice nowadays to thinly veil one’s prejudices by making oneself out to be merely issuing a challenge to the PC thought police (or ‘Infantilists’, or whatever) in the name of free speech. Whatever qualms generally non-prejudiced people may have about prohibitions against offensive expressions, surely those with (say, racist) prejudices will share the same and more. But this is all ultimately beside the point. Whether or not his heart was gripped with racist intent in the moment, his remark certainly and foreseeably had the effect of singling out the job candidate for being the only person of colour at the table in a negative and racially problematic way. Of course it was racist; there’s a picture of it in the dictionary next to the definition of ‘casual racism’.Report

Patrick Mayer
Patrick Mayer
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

“The debate is about whether these differences are environmental or biological.”
Really, what debate is this that you speak of? Who is part of this debate? Because every moderately informed person I have ever spoken to on this accepts that races aren’t biological kinds at all, making it hard to see what kinds of explanations you think biology might provide of the data you have in mind. Do you think there might be biological explanations of why motorcycle enthusiasts tend to not like showtunes?
I found this video of Edouard Machery on the subject helpful, I imagine you will too:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc4xh3L6vvYReport

Patrick Mayer
Patrick Mayer
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

Does it need to show the video? Can we not trust people to follow links?Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

Mayer:

“Really, what debate is this that you speak of? Who is part of this debate?”

A quick literature search suggests that discussions of the relative contributions to intelligence of environmental and hereditary factors are still mainstream in psychology, and taking place in reputable areas of the peer-reviewed literature; see, e.g., Nisbet et al, “Intelligence: New findings and theoretical developments”, American Psychologist, Vol 67(2), Feb-Mar 2012, 130-159, and references therein.

“every moderately informed person I have ever spoken to on this accepts that races aren’t biological kinds at all”

It’s not my territory, but I’m sceptical that “biological kinds” really makes sense as a category. But in any case all that’s necessary for this to be a coherent debate is for there to be genetic differences, on average, between the populations of people we categorise in different races, whatever the basis of those categorisations. And it’s uncontroversial that there are: look at hair and skin colour variations. That’s compatible with there being no *other* salient genetic differences, on average, but that’s an empirical question, not one answerable by conceptual analysis. It’s also compatible with the fact that within-race genetic variation is large compared to between-race genetic variation, which as I understand it is pretty clearly correct.

(I fully agree that raising these issues in an interview context – at all, really, let alone with a person of colour – is wildly inappropriate and really dumb.)Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

“But is what he said racist? That’s pretty unclear. Was it said out of hostility towards the races with lower average IQs? If so, I’d say racist. Or was it said out of exasperation with political correctness? In that case, it’s less clear. If racism is ‘in the heart’–a matter of negative attitudes–as Garcia claims, then the statement was probably not racist in this case. Perhaps there are other theories of racism according to which it could have been racist under these circumstances.”

Yes, there are non-volitional theories of racism according to which such an act might count as racist. Garcia cited some of them in his “The Heart of Racism” paper, and others have discussed them in their responses to him.Report

Dan Hicks
5 years ago

I’ve been on a half-dozen or so campus interviews, with several different categories of higher ed institution (big state research, private research, regional state university, religious liberal arts college). In *every* case, *all* of my expenses have been paid. (I’ve never gotten room service or other hotel “incidentals,” but all of my travel, lodging, and food expenses have been covered.) So I’m a surprised and appalled at ##1-3.

#4 is also appalling, but also not surprising. Even good departments can have racist [and sexist] crackpots — they got tenure in the ’70s, what’re you going to do? — but keep them away from the applicants.

The other thing I would mention that is often overlooked is to give the applicant some quiet time alone. I think an hour or so right before the job talk is perfect. A hot beverage, an empty office, a chance to check email or close one’s eyes for a few minutes makes a huge difference. It’s important to respect the schedule, though, so that “an hour break” doesn’t turn into “ten minutes in the bathroom before the talk starts.”Report

Dani
5 years ago

Other recommendations:
– Don’t put an applicant up at the cheapest hotel you can find. I had a fly-out a couple of years back and the room I was put in was totally infested with bed bugs. I didn’t feel comfortable asking the hiring committee chair to move me to another hotel, so instead I had to get the hotel to move me to a room as far away as possible from that floor & wing of the hotel. My new room featured a non-functioning heater (in the middle of winter in the NE) and a bed that was actually broken right down the middle. I slept in the crack with 2 extra comforters I had to get from the front desk.
– Male faculty: DO NOT presume to order dinner for a female applicant. ESPECIALLY without even asking what she wants! Enough said (this has actually happened to me).
– Don’t take candidates who are candid about dietary restrictions to a restaurant where there is only one item on the menu they can eat. If someone is a vegetarian, a surf-n-turf restaurant is not appropriate (in this instance, I got the impression that dinner was more about a few of the faculty getting the nicest dinner they could on the dep’t dime, and who cares if there’s anything the candidate can eat?)Report

CW
CW
Reply to  Dani
5 years ago

The dietary restriction issue came up for a friend of mine. The school he was to visit sent an itinerary that included a meal at a steakhouse. He told them he’s a vegetarian. They pointed out that the place sold salads. His response was something along the lines of “Do you like your food cooked? Me too.” They found a more appropriate restaurant. Anyway, I wonder if this isn’t more common than it seems. We take candidates to a place that has good veggie and good meat dishes. Not the best place in town, but it has a variety of quality options.Report

CW
CW
5 years ago

1. Seems right. The search chair and area budget manager should be able to answer questions accurately. That said, candidates, I wouldn’t ask just anyone in the dept either. (And I’m not suggesting that OP did.) It’s just that some dept members are more likely to have accurate info than others.

FWIW, I don’t know of a school that will pick up the meal for a candidate and faculty member when the candidate pays. It does sometimes work the other way around for faculty members. I wonder if lack of experience didn’t bite OP here. I’m not blaming OP — the faculty member’s acquiescence seems strange to me — but many candidates do not have a lot of experience with this sort of travel (I sure didn’t), so this is all the more reason for schools to make sure reimbursement rules are clear to and known by candidates.

My school brings lots of candidates to campus each year. We should probably have a faq or “quick review” kind of thing from HR for candidates. Links to a lot of relevant information can be found on my school’s travel page, but the site is a bit of a labyrinth, and the documents are not always easy reading for the uninitiated. (But our area budget person is great — she knows her stuff.)

2-3. At my school we don’t have the option of paying for rooms or airfare (or anything else) in advance for candidates. This would constitute a “travel advance” and we’re explicitly forbidden from doing this. The place where I got my Ph.D. actually has a travel agent’s office on campus, so they could probably do this sort of thing. At my current post, a mid-sized regional state u, we simply aren’t allowed.

4. His colleagues could use bystander training. Does APA’s best practices page have links to info about bystander intervention?Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
5 years ago

One relatively minor (perhaps) thing, based on an experience of a friend of mine: When you take candidates to a meal, make sure that you don’t interrogate them so continuously that they don’t have time to eat their food.Report

Matt
Reply to  Matt Weiner
5 years ago

Yes. Also, it’s possible that you, committee member, have eaten at this restaurant dozens of times and so know the menu very well without looking, but for the candidate it is almost certainly her or his first time there so they might want to look at the menu for a minute when they get there. Please give the candidate a chance to do so before peppering him or her with question.Report

alice
alice
5 years ago

This is a reply to GS, (for some reason I can’t reply directly to the comment):
I’ve never understood these calls for uncharitable (or non-charitable) interpretations. I think *all* people should be interpreted charitably – it is the best way to understand another’s view and is the best way to sway someone (and it is how we would want to be treated, after all).

I absolutely agree with this, but I think one problem with situations like the one above is that interpreting the faculty member charitably involves being uncharitable to the job candidate – the job candidate was, after all, the person who was there at the time, and it’s uncharitable to assume that they are not capable of distinguishing between the kind of statement that wouldn’t warrant an objection given the circumstances and the kind of statement that would. They are privy to all kinds of things we’re not – tone, context etc. So shouldn’t we be charitable to them to, and assume that before raising the issue they had at least considered the possibility that there was no problem at all with a statement like that, and rejected it given what else they knew about the situation?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

The OP contains golden advice. I’m very glad that I read it. What to do about cases like 4 leaves me puzzled, though.
It sounds grossly inappropriate, but I don’t know what rule at what level (if any) would be an appropriate to check such behavior. What a nightmare scenario for the candidate, though!Report

postdoc
postdoc
5 years ago

I’m so grateful that none of my on-campuses have featured any of these issues… Not a single one.

I will say that at one on-campus, the driver tasked to take me to and from the airport made me slightly uncomfortable. He was merely hired by the college I was visiting, of course, and not part of the college. During the ride, he asked me if I had a boyfriend and said things like “well, when you get married..” I’m a woman. He just assumed I was straight. And set on marriage. Harmless, I’m sure, but these rides felt very long to me. I even got slightly nervous when, on the way back, he suggested we take a “scenic route,” which wound up taking us very, very far off the usual route to the airport. For a very brief moment I did have the anxious thought, “where is this guy taking me…?” but then at some point I realized he was harmless and merely clueless.Report

Jane Austen
Jane Austen
5 years ago

I just want to repeat the point made above: for a candidate of color to be lectured to over a meal about the innate differences in intelligence among different races certainly violates all the non discrimination clauses in employment law and practice, both as they are stipulated federally and as they are part of the stated rules of the institution itself.Report

Patrick Mayer
Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

To David Wallace (since it won’t let me reply),
To be clear I am not suggesting that genetics are not relevant to intelligence. I am confident they are. But whatever facts there are about how genetics relate to intelligence, this is not going to be of help in explaining differences in IQ by race. Why? Well consider your claim that :
“But in any case all that’s necessary for this to be a coherent debate is for there to be genetic differences, on average, between the populations of people we categorise in different races, whatever the basis of those categorisations. And it’s uncontroversial that there are: look at hair and skin colour variations.”
1. I did not say the debate was incoherent. I said that I had a hard time seeing how biology was going to explain the data that Johnny Thunder is pointing to. It is coherent to ask whether there is a chemical explanation of why adults don’t like One Direction as much as teenagers, but it is still hard to see what explanatory work chemistry is going to do.
2. ‘genetic differences, on average, between the populations of people we categorize in difference races’. Well yes there are, but there are greater genetic differences between people we categorize into the same race (or at least this is true of people who Americans categorize as black). This is part of why race isn’t a biological kind, or if you prefer, our race talk has no foundation in biology. So again it is coherent to ask the question, but the ‘yes genetics does explain the data’ claim is one that we should give very little credence, given what we already know about the history of our racial classification systems and how those systems line up with genetics.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

(1) Your original statement was that there was no debate going on here (” what debate is this that you speak of? Who is part of this debate?”) If you’re now simply presenting your own academic judgement on the correct answer in that debate, that’s a very different thing.

(2) I agree that there are greater genetic differences between people in the same race than between races; indeed, I said so, pretty much verbatim, in my previous post. (“Within-race genetic variation is large compared to between-race genetic variation.”) But that’s irrelevant to the question. Consider: within-sex height variation is larger than between-sex height variation. The difference in average height between sexes is still mostly genetic in origin. (To be clear, I’m not saying that IQ differences between races are wholly or even partly genetic – I have no idea at all whether they are – just that this wouldn’t be a good argument against them being wholly or partly genetic).Report

Patrick Mayer
Patrick Mayer
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

1. What you produced was a citation showing there is a debate about a question that is not the question I asked about. And I didn’t say there was no debate. You are reading snark into what was genuinely an expression of surprise, since the existence of a debate between informed researchers on the genetic bases of variations in IQ scores between races would be genuinely surprising.
2. My apologies for missing that you already acknowledged that. An oversight on my part. As for your height example, I would say it matters that sex clearly does track a biologically determined feature (of course you express skepticism about biological kinds, so I don’t expect you to grant that this is a dis-analogy between your case and mine). But we know what the lines of descent are when it comes to human populations, we know what the genetic makeup of various populations are and we know how these facts don’t line up with Western racial categories. This all makes it very unlikely that we will find good generalizations connecting race and IQ. The fact that sex is more clearly tied to biological kinds is why you can get generalizations that do explanatory work there (though I suppose the explanation goes in the other direction). I am making what I thought to be the very simple and non-controversial claim that we should not expect to find well supported natural scientific generalizations concerning kinds that are not natural kinds (perhaps this is more controversial than I thought). In particular we should not expect to find generalizations from biology connecting race to anything. That along with the claim that such generalizations would be needed for there to be biological explanations of these differences between the races I take to show that we should not expect to find biological explanations of the kind of IQ data summed up in, for example, the Bell Curve book. Is it possible? Sure I guess. It is logically possible that in the process of developing the American conception of ‘black’ white colonists accidentally mapped on to a genetic feature tied to intelligence. But would any serious researcher make a proposal to figure out whether that is what happened? No. It is the plausibility, not the logical possibility of the explanation that I was questioning.Report

Patrick Mayer
Patrick Mayer
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

Take back on the claim about Nisbet. I keep screwing up and publishing comments without checking them first.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

“we should not expect to find well supported natural scientific generalizations concerning kinds that are not natural kinds”

I think this locution “we should not expect to find” is carrying too much weight here. The people researching this stuff have, on the basis of empirical studies, moved beyond these kinds of default assumptions. There is empirical evidence in favor of heredity, and the way to respond to this evidence is through the usual kind of empirical debate.

Here’s a debate in which some of the evidence on both sides is presented and critiqued:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KD6i5TkjSs

(For the evidence that the racial IQ differences are hereditary, jump to number 3 in this video series, 8 minutes in.)

Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s still a debate about whether human races are biological. Quayshawn Spencer has a nice paper arguing that they are. (I have no idea whether the specific biological basis for distinguishing race that he proposes should be expected to track IQ.)Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

Sorry, try 4:15 of this one for a discussion of the role of environment vs. genes in racial IQ differences:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSziwPS5ZQ0

To be clear, I’m not arguing that the differences are in fact genetic, but only that there’s a debate about this, and to take the position that the differences are due to genes is not obviously a reliable indication of racism.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

I’m not sure that citing a debate in which Charles Murray argues that IQ differences between races are due to genetics shows that this position is not obviously a reliable indication of racism.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

I wasn’t offering Murray as an example of a person who’s not racist and who believes racial IQ differences are heritable. I was offering the debate as a source of arguments on the subject. These arguments are what were supposed to show that one can believe their conclusion without being racist. If you’re convinced by ad hominem arguments, then I guess you won’t find this convincing.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

It’s not an ad hominem to point out that someone who is arguing on an issue has an extensive track record of citing works published in a racist journal of pseudoscience. That tends to cast doubt on the reliability of the sources he cites. In a world where we can’t go to the trouble of replicating everyone’s findings ourselves, that is highly relevant information. If someone footnotes me to a debate over abiogenesis and I say, “Dude, that speaker is from the Discovery Institute,” it’s not an ad hominem, it’s a reason not to trust that speaker’s argument.

Also, it’s a disgrace that this discussion has managed to get derailed into a lot of people defending the idea that it’s perfectly OK for someone to rant to a non-white job candidate about how they’re not allowed to teach the inherent superiority of the white race. For shame.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

Ok, I accept that your argument wasn’t ad hominem.

I disagree with you about how to best react to Murray’s arguments in the videos (I would respond more as Flynn does), but I that’s probably not worth the time to debate. It would be more productive to just start over and make the point I was trying to make through a different source:

http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/rushtonpdfs/PPPL1.pdf

This paper was published in a respectable journal and, from what I can tell, doesn’t cite any racist, pseudoscientific sources. (I’m open to evidence to the contrary.)

Like you, I can’t myself replicate the studies it cites. But, of course, that’s a red herring. What I can do is look into rebuttals. Having looked into the rebuttals a bit, I don’t have low credence in Rushton and Jensen’s conclusion. But I do acknowledge that Rushton and Jensen’s conclusion is based on legitimate evidence and so I’m not tempted to accuse them of racism, just of (probably) being wrong.

As for “the discussion being derailed by people defending the idea that it’s perfectly OK for someone to rant to a non-white job candidate about how they’re not allowed to teach the inherent superiority of the white race”:

1. Who has defended this idea? I haven’t read any comments that do that.

2. The faculty member in question didn’t say anything about the inherent superiority of the white race. If he believed that higher average IQ made one race “superior” to another, then he would presumably hold that view. But if he believes that about IQ, then he’s even dumber than we thought.

3. To my mind, the claim that a blog comment thread has been derailed approaches a category error. But in any case, and for what it’s worth, I don’t take myself to have disagreed with anything in the original post. It was subsequent commenters who claimed that the hypothesis that the racial IQ gap is due to heredity was pseudoscience.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

Philippe Rushton? Philippe Rushton is the racist pseudoscience. Here’s a damning review of some of Rushton’s more genital-obsessed work. For instance:

The Rushton and Boagert paper is striking for its use of non-scholarly sources (Weizmann, Wiener, Wiesenthal, & Ziegler, 1991). These include a book of semi-pornographic “tall tales” by an anonymous nineteenth century French surgeon that makes wildly inconsistent claims about genital sizes in people of different races. Lynn also refers to this book without mentioning any problems with this as a source of information. Another odd data source cited by Rushton and Bogaert is an article authored by a certain “P. Nobile” published in Forum: International Journal of Human Relations. This publication is better known to the public as “The Penthouse Forum”, a popular men’s magazine.

(To verify that last assertion, you can follow this not-safe-for-work link. If you dare. I suppose the safer way to do it is to visit Philip Nobile’s Wikipedia entry.)

We’ve moved rather far afield here, but I just wanted to say that Rushton’s scholarly standards are so lacking that I don’t think we can assume that anything he says is based on evidence. And he was a very influential figure in that field, as can be seen by his coauthorship with someone like Jensen, and his longtime stewardship of the (itself very dubious) Pioneer fund.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
5 years ago

First and less importantly, the passage you quote is highly misleading. Rushton and Broegert don’t rely on Nobile or the French Army Surgeon for data; they discuss how the findings compare to their own, independent analyses of the same data sets or with more recent publications in peer reviewed journals. I grant that it’s incredibly *weird* to cite a Penthouse magazine in that context. But weirdness doesn’t imply pseudoscience.

More importantly for present purposes, the paper I linked to, by Rushton and Jensen, has gotten a lot of scholarly attention, none of which that I’ve seen dismisses it as pseudoscience (see, for example, the Nisbet paper that’s been cited many times). Some of the same arguments in that paper are made by Murray in the video I linked to above. Flynn, his opponent, again doesn’t dismiss the argument as pseudoscience. If the arguments have received serious scholarly attention by the experts, as opposed to dismissals as racist pseudoscience, then, to my mind, this defeats the issues about Rushton’s past weirdness you bring up.

Look at it this way. Read Nisbet’s treatment of the Rushton and Jensen paper and tell me whether you see a difference with how global warming denial is treated by the climate science community or how evolution by natural selection is treated by the biology community.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

I probably was reading snark; my mistake, sorry.

I think the Nisbet paper is (in part) on the debate you discussed; certainly it has explicit discussion, and literature references, to several racial case studies. So “serious researchers” are after all doing research here. (Possibly your “take back” comment acknowledges this?)

If you want an analogy that doesn’t have “biological kinds”, look at sickle cell anaemia. The within-race variation is again much higher (in that you either have the condition or you don’t) than the between-race variation, but its variation across races is fairly clearly genetic.Report

Patrick Mayer
Patrick Mayer
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

Yeah, the take back was because when I said the Nisbet was not on the topic I had questions about I was halfway through the paper, and I forgot to delete when I got all the way through the paper.
I will stick to the claim that serious researchers shouldn’t pursue such questions, and I think the only people who do are doing so in ignorance of where their racial concepts come from. It is unlikely that the kinds that people like Thomas Jefferson came up with to assuage their guilt are going to be fruitful kinds for figuring out things about human beings and how they work, and I think that much of our racial categories were created in just such a way. This is a case where I think interdisciplinary work between history and the experimental sciences might help the latter avoid some fruitless research projects.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

Why wouldn’t the same logic rule out looking for a genetic origin for racial variation in sickle cell anaemia incidence?Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

“It is unlikely that the kinds that people like Thomas Jefferson came up with to assuage their guilt are going to be fruitful kinds for figuring out things about human beings and how they work, and I think that much of our racial categories were created in just such a way. This is a case where I think interdisciplinary work between history and the experimental sciences might help the latter avoid some fruitless research projects.”

The proposition you’re referring to might be unlikely enough to warrant dismissal when you’re conditionalizing on no empirical evidence. But conditional on some of the research, absent some critique of said research, it becomes likely enough to be entertained. The points you’re making just aren’t convincing as responses to actual empirical research.

The other thing is, the point of the research isn’t “to figure out how human beings work”. It’s merely a question about the average property of a group, whether the group is arbitrarily selected or not. Let’s say that the people we arbitrarily classify as “black” come from common ancestors A, B, and C and the people we arbitrarily classify as “white” come from common ancestors X, Y, and Z. The arbitrariness of the classification doesn’t significantly reduce the likelihood that A, B, and C had lower average IQs than X, Y, and Z, and that this difference was reproduced in their offspring.

Furthermore, disgenic processes could have operated on the descendants of A, B, and C more than the descendants of X, Y, and Z consistently with the classification being arbitrary.

If you make two populations based on two arbitrary characteristics (characteristics that track nothing of biological interest) today, if the groups are small enough, it’s likely that they’ll have different average trait T. Now suppose T is partly hereditary. Later generations of the two groups will also have different average T. So if you find two groups who now have different average T, it’s not unreasonable to investigate whether the difference in average T is hereditary. The arbitrariness of how the groups were formed doesn’t really bear on the question of whether the groups will have different average hereditary traits. You’re barking up the wrong tree.Report

LK McPherson
LK McPherson
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

Patrick Mayer, I’ve appreciated your efforts to be constructive. Throughout the discussion, David Wallace has continued to talk about genetic “variation across races,” “racial variation in sickle cell anaemia incidence,” and the like. I confess to having little idea what he means by his talk of races — apart from some vague, not very scientific or even stable notion of “populations of people we categorise in different races, whatever the basis of those categorizations,” as he tells us. But given the confidence he conveys, I’d prefer to imagine he does know what he’s talking about and has read enough philosophy of race literature (rather than merely piggyback off of psychology literature that might simply reproduce conceptual confusions) to understand why some of us might be confused by his familiar enough type of “race” talk.

I’m not feigning ignorance, for example, when I wonder about persons such as me and my daughters. I’m dark enough to be commonly categorized as “black,” though I’m not sure in what distinctively “racial” sense: like most African Americans, I also have traceable non-African ancestry (via the American custom of slave rape). My older daughter, though a couple shades lighter than I am, also would be commonly categorized as “black,” at least in the United States, despite having less than 50% traceable African ancestry; my younger daughter, despite having the same mother, is even lighter, enough that quite a few people might feel uneasy characterizing her as “black,” though most in the U.S. would (they are convinced, say, that “hair and skin color variations” can support recognizing, sans circularity, “uncontroversial” major racial categories). We haven’t been to Brazil, for instance, so I don’t know how my daughters would be racially categorized there.

When people like David Wallace appeal to common sense or perception about genetic races, I can’t help but wonder what the guideline is supposed to be. A more PC version of the paper bag test? A certain majority, or perhaps plurality, quantum of African ancestry? Indicators such as sickle cell trait that might represent essential blackness and not merely correlate highly with having some traceable African ancestry? And I wonder who these blacks are who invariably have come up short in racially comparative IQ testing. Are they native Africans, mostly racially “unmixed”? Or can whatever-the-basis blacks of the North American variety, who are mostly racially “mixed,” be included? Was there any attempt even to disambiguate different varieties of know-them-when-we-see-them blacks for purposes of reaching broad conclusions about racially comparative IQs? If the racially mixed, visibly black (does that make sense?) are included, would this implicitly suggest a racial eugenics story of cognitive degradation through blackness (i.e., non-negligible African ancestry)?

I gave a talk in Rome a couple months ago about the idea of race. Interestingly, the students and professors seemed genuinely baffled by the notion of genetic races (and genetic racism), which means they had a hard time taking seriously the notion that there are genetic, socially significant differences in IQ across populations of people that get categorized in one of five or so different major races. I tried hard to get them to understand that many people, even smart ones, in the U.S. and UK believe in such genetic races. As basically Hegelians, one professor said, they found this belief deeply implausible. All I could do at that point was assure them I wasn’t joking.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

I don’t think I mentioned either common sense or perception even once; I’m pretty certain I didn’t use the phrase “genetic race” and I’m quite sure I didn’t use the phrase “essential blackness”; I was explicit that the (frankly pretty minimal) argument I was making works “whatever the basis of those categorisations” (it works fine with “having traceable African ancestry” for instance; it will work fine with self-identification); my word “uncontroversial” is being quoted out-of-context to the point of being misrepresentation. If I’m being misread to that degree I doubt it will be productive to engage further.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

LK McPherson,
Studies on race and IQ generally classify people into the races based on their self-identification. In so far as David Wallace is talking about this research, he need not be interpreted as relying on his own conception of race (or a paper bag test conception).

This method of classification might be imperfect, but it seems to me it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand as obviously philosophically confused.

You ask, “If the racially mixed, visibly black (does that make sense?) are included, would this implicitly suggest a racial eugenics story of cognitive degradation through blackness (i.e., non-negligible African ancestry)?”

The hypothesis that the average IQ differences are racial predicts that more mixed black-white populations should have higher average IQs than black populations that are less mixed. This has been studied; in section 8 of this paper, it’s argued that the data are consistent with the hypothesis:

http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/rushtonpdfs/PPPL1.pdf

Many others argue that the data on mixed-race people refute the hypothesis of genetic racial IQ differences. For example, p. 146 of the Nisbet paper cited earlier:

http://people.virginia.edu/~ent3c/papers2/nisbett2012int.pdf

I’m curious about your claim that you’re black but not obviously in a racial sense. In what other sense could one be black?Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

“The hypothesis that the average IQ differences are racial…”

sorry, I should have ‘genetic’ where I wrote ‘racial’.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

LK McPherson,
Sorry, I see that my last question was based on a misreading of what you said; you said you’re commonly classified as black, though not in an obviously racial sense, whereas I asked you about being black, though not in a racial sense.

So to rephrase the question: how can a classification of someone as black, not be a racial classification?Report

LK McPherson
LK McPherson
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

I’m not sure why David Wallace thinks that my use of certain phrases is supposed to refer only to phrases he used. But he’s free to divert attention to that non-issue and to some bogus claim about “misrepresentation.” Priorities. Of course, we still have little idea what he means by his talk of races. We have no reason to think he does, either.Report

LK McPherson
LK McPherson
Reply to  LK McPherson
5 years ago

Johnny Thunder,
You ask, “So to rephrase the question: how can a classification of someone as black, not be a racial classification?” There’s recent literature that addresses this:
http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2F5492_0F3DC8C010D8B7A89A64750DC88D4842_journals__APA_APA1_04_S2053447715000196a.pdf&cover=Y&code=788d30d92ab707adb810d4d41529542fReport

LK McPherson
LK McPherson
Reply to  LK McPherson
5 years ago

I’m not sure the link worked when pasted. Try this:
http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S2053447715000196Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  LK McPherson
5 years ago

Thanks, interesting paper!

From your latest comment, I take it you disagree with Wallace’s claim that his argument works “whatever the basis for [racial] categorisation”; I take it your reason for saying he seems to have no idea what races are is that his argument requires some definite understanding thereof. Could you say why his argument can’t be neutral on the nature of racial classification, as he claims it can?

Also, you worry that Wallace reproduces psychologists’ confusion. What’s wrong with using self-identification as an imperfect but pretty reliable indicator of race? I skimmed your paper and also looked up the Neisser and Block papers you cite (couldn’t get my hands on Gould). The only argument I saw in any of those that would, as far as I can tell, cast doubt on psychologists’ methods of racial classification is Taylor’s eliminativism.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

(A caveat: obviously “genetic in origin” means something different in the height case; it doesn’t refer there to men and women having different genes!)Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Patrick Mayer
5 years ago

Patrick Mayer, believe it or not, but “hereditarianism,” as it’s called, is a completely mainstream position in the psychology and psychometrics literatures. Go browse the archive of “Intelligence” (the leading journal on intelligence research) to get a flavor of the debate, or see the following introduction from a philosophical point of view: http://www.ln.edu.hk/philoso/staff/sesardic/POS-2000.pdf

Nevertheless, I do agree that it was inappropriate for the interviewer to bring this up during an interview.Report

mrd
mrd
5 years ago

Even in the spirit of charity, I’m having a difficult time imagining why a white person would find it “oppressive” to not be able to teach “that different races have different degrees of intelligence.”Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  mrd
5 years ago

The mystery is why he thought this was a demonstrated fact. Once you accept that it is a demonstrated fact, the step to finding it oppressive to not be able to teach it is straight-forward.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

I think mrd’s imagination is likely not as feeble as you’re making it out to be. I take it that his point is to count something like that as an instance of the same class of wrongs as the pervasive injustices suffered by, say, blacks in the US is outrageously wrongheaded, even for someone who enjoys most, if not all, of the privileges that come with being an upper-middle class straight white man who lives and works in the West. He’s not wrong. There’s a gulf the size of an ocean between not being able to teach what one wants because others will take offense at the material and being, for example, actively discriminated against and targeted by the police because of one’s race (or by employers because of the spelling of one’s name, or…). Sure, it would be wrong and it would suck, but it would still pale in comparison to the myriad interpersonal and institutional affronts against the dignity of actual victims of oppression.Report

mrd
mrd
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

Essentially I just can’t imagine the context in which a philosophy professor needs or wants to teach this “fact.” There are many things that I can’t say In the classroom that I also have no need or reason to say in the classroom. Why does this professor want to teach this? How is his teaching harmed by not teaching it?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  mrd
5 years ago

Oops! Accidentally clicked “report” for this post above. Sorry Justin! 🙁Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  mrd
5 years ago

The ability gap that manifestly exists between various racial and ethnic groups is important empirical background to any debate on e.g. discrimination, affirmative action, and education policy. Whether the gaps are genetic in origin (and this is highly controversial) also seems very relevant.Report

OneShot
OneShot
5 years ago

It was a little awkward being asked by an interviewee where else I was interviewing, since the answer was nowhere.Report

mrd
mrd
Reply to  OneShot
5 years ago

Yes, I am curious about how to answer this also in any case. I just said, this is the first place I’ve had an on campus interview but I really want to teach here for xyz reasons. No one else asked me that at futures interviews.Report

Sigrid
Sigrid
5 years ago

This old thread has some things to very definitely avoid:
http://philosophersanon.blogspot.com/2011/01/worst-experience-with-on-campus.htmlReport

Jane Austen
Jane Austen
5 years ago

Give philosophers some anonymity around the topic of race and intelligence and watch the toxic sludge that follows. Happens. Every. Time.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Jane Austen
5 years ago

This may well get taken down, but my reaction, every time: Ugh. White people.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Jane Austen
5 years ago

Where is the “toxic sludge” in this thread?Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

Ugh.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

No seriously.Report

Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

As Louis Armstrong said, if you have to ask, you’ll never know …Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Jane Austen
5 years ago

I see. What a shame.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Jane Austen
5 years ago

Don’t bother. It is too much to expect those still blinded by white privilege to seek to understand the perspective of people of colour by listening without interrogating, or to inquire about what concerns us by talking to us rather than simply about us, as if we are mere objects and not subjects in our own right.Report

HFG
HFG
5 years ago

This conversation is so embarrassing.Report