NYU and Pitt To Waive PhD Application Fees For Some Students


The philosophy departments at New York University and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the Department of  History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) at Pittsburgh, will be waiving the fee for applications to their PhD programs for some students.

Jessica Moss (NYU) and Edouard Machery (Pitt, HPS) write:

There are now several well-established initiatives aimed at addressing the lack of diversity of philosophy. To support these efforts, NYU and Pitt have recently decided to waive application fees related to their PhD programs in Philosophy (NYU and Pitt) and in History and Philosophy of Science (Pitt) for students who participated to these initiatives. We suspect other schools have similarly waived their application fees and we invite them to advertise their efforts in the comments thread.

If your department is or soon will be waiving application fees for its graduate programs, please do share the details in the comments here.

Mister E, “Benny Jr.”, “Independence Hall”

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Michael Smith
Michael Smith
3 years ago

Applicants for the PhD at Princeton who have participated in a COMPASS workshop will have their application fee waived as well. Information about Compass workshops can be found here: http://dailynous.com/2017/04/18/diversity-philosophy-compass-workshops-guest-post-sukaina-hirji/Report

Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

Disabled people are vastly underrepresented in philosophy, both as students and staff. These diversity initiatives are certainly commendable; however, I am concerned that they inadvertently leave out (at least some) disabled students. I am aware that some disabled students have attended these institutes. However, I doubt that disabled students whose participation and attendance in academia and whose daily living more generally require significant institutional support (support that often goes unaddressed) are attending these institutes and summer schools, most (all?) of which require that students board at them. I would love to be shown otherwise.

If disabled students are not involved in these institutes because, e.g., too much planning and institutional change would be required for them to attend, then fee waivers that are granted on the basis of attendance at these institutes thus serve to exacerbate the current state of affairs, that is, enable the absence of disabled people in philosophy to go unaddressed by some of the very measures designed to ameliorate the situation.

Would any of the departments offering fee waivers to participants of these institutes consider developing strategies that specifically target disabled students, one of the most underrepresented groups in the university?Report

Edouard Machery
Edouard Machery
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

Shelley

You are mistaken at least when it comes to PSP1 i organized at the center for philosophy of Science. The call for participation included undergrads with disabilities and many applied. Edouard Report

Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

Edouard,

it is very good that your call for participants took into account disabled students and also good to know that some disabled students applied to your institute. Notice, Edouard, that I allowed that some disabled students have attended such institutes (you didn’t indicate whether any attended yours). My concern however is that disabled students who require substantial supports, for e.g., personal assistants around-the-clock, do not attend the institutes. Report

Merely Possible Philosopher
Merely Possible Philosopher
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

Prof. Tremain,
Since this is something you seem to think and care deeply about, I wonder what whether you have some suggestions for departments to consider. What sort of accommodation would such students need? An extra room? Travel for their personal assistant? A personal assistant to be provided for them?

What would the approximate costs of such accommodation be? Are there external funding sources set up for this sort of thing that may be of help if the budget is tight?

These seem like all hard questions to address from an outside perspective, as many departments would be doing. Perhaps the school-wide disability services would be able to provide some support, and maybe even provide additional funding if they have such discretionary funds available. I’m sure that specific suggestions would be welcome. In many cases the shortcomings you point out in this and other posts are the result of ignorance and budget restrictions. So if you could help to guide departments towards improvement along either dimension — by noting the sort of accommodations that they endeavor to provide as well as sources of supplementary funding to cover additional costs — then I’m sure that would go a long ways towards addressing the problem. Report

Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
Reply to  Merely Possible Philosopher
3 years ago

Hi Merely Possible Philosopher,
Thanks for directing these remarks at me. Some of them require specific responses and some of them deserve more general responses. I hope my responses to them will be satisfactory to you.

Let me start with the more general responses. In my book that comes out at the end of the month, I argue that the underrepresentation of disabled philosophers is inextricably entwined with the conception of disability that predominates in the field. In brief, a medicalized and individualized conception of disability prevails in philosophy. The distinct nature of this conception of disability is important for philosophers to recognize (and redress) because it continues to condition how disabled students and staff are perceived, how their participation is addressed, and how their underrepresentation in philosophy is understood.

In my view, there is a discipline-wide and profession-wide assumption—even amongst the well-intentioned organizers of these various diversity institutes, workshops, summer schools, etc.—that the “inclusion” of disabled students (and staff) requires relatively minor adjustments to the current states of affairs with respect to the infrastructural, institutional, conceptual, discursive, social, and political scaffolding of the discipline and profession (and indeed society at large). But why would this be so? Indeed, it is not so. Nevertheless, this assumption is evident in much of the literature and other promotional material of these diversity endeavours, which (I hazard to say) seem in large part designed for nondisabled students. In short, it is not enough to merely invite disabled students say in one’s call for participants.

From my searches, I was unable to find accessibility information for these institutes, workshops, and summer schools on all but one of their websites; that is, I could find an explicit statement about accessibility funding on only the PIKSI-Boston site. I knew to look for it there because I advised Sally Haslanger a year or two ago that such a statement should be made on the site. Of the diversity initiative websites that I visited, furthermore, almost all of them seem inaccessible to blind students and students with low vision.

When, last year, I recommended to an organizer of a certain diversity initiative that information about accessibility be provided in the call for participation in the program, they said that they would not treat accessibility for disabled students in this way; rather, they would deal with accessibility requests on a case-by-case basis. Now, those of us who work on these issues know that many disabled students are reluctant to approach the Accessibility Offices at their own universities and colleges and many of them do not even do so because they do not understand the nature of their entitlements, have internalized ableism, feel ashamed, etc. Why think that a disabled student would nevertheless be more inclined to make a request for goods and services from a pseudo-professional organization that has given no indication that such goods and services will be provided? For an event in which they aren’t guaranteed a place, a place for which they must (let’s be frank) compete against nondisabled students whose own requirements are taken for granted and regarded as “standard” and “normal”?

The application form for one of these initiatives explicitly asks disabled students what “accommodations” they require. If I were a disabled student, I would wonder why I was asked that question on the *application* to the program. Do they want to figure out if they can afford me? Do they want to know if my attendance will require too much extra planning on their part?

My remarks about the lack of information about accessibility on these sites and the implicit veneration of the requirements of nondisabled students leads to your questions about budgetary constraints and sources of funding. In all honesty, I had to read your remarks in this regard a few times because I didn’t quite know where you were coming from. It just seems obvious to me that the diversity initiatives themselves should be providing these requirements and funding them. The role of departments should be to ensure that their disabled students get the goods and services that they require to attend and fully participate in these initiatives. (If I have misunderstood you, please write again and clarify.)
In my Dialogues on Disability interview this coming Wednesday (the 18th), I talk with a disabled graduate student whose new department made a number of modifications to its own physical surroundings to increase its accessibility for the student. After you read the interview, you could contact the chair of their department and make further inquiries about funding if your questions refer to the daily operations of departments, rather than to funding for diversity initiatives (as I interpreted them to do).

My initial comment addressed the issue of fee waivers for students who have participated in diversity initiatives. I expressed concern that disabled students whose needs are currently regarded as “significant” and “extra-ordinary” cannot avail themselves of this policy. I have talked to some disabled students who have participated in one or another of these initiatives. None of these disabled students requires much in terms of accessibility (don’t get me wrong-I’m glad they participated!). Over the years that these initiatives have been run, I have not seen a single photo or heard a single personal account or anecdote to make me think that disabled students in the former group attend and participate in the events.

There are many reasons why this would be so. I have given some of them above. Here is another: the university itself is designed to weed out disabled people (students and staff), especially the disabled people in the former group. The underrepresentation of these disabled students deserves more attention. A fee waiver policy directed specifically at them is one strategy to begin that process. It would be good to think of some other
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Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

The last sentence was meant to be: It would be good to think of some others.Report

slartibartfast
slartibartfast
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

Hi Shelley, I have a question for you that just occurred to me, and may not be relevant to this particular conversation. If you’ve already considered this question elsewhere please point me in that direction rather than go to the effort of educating me here, if you prefer. My question is about what you think about intellectual disabilities and how they preclude people from academia, given that academia is for the honing and expression of intellectual excellence. Do you think that kind of exclusion is justified, in the same kind of way a person being excluded from the Olympics for physical disability is justified? Report

Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
Reply to  slartibartfast
3 years ago

Slartibartfast,
Thanks for your comment. The question you posed is one that seems natural to ask, especially subsequent to the sort of debates about disability that Rawls precipitated with his remarks about “handicaps” in A Theory of Justice. Indeed, some normative ethicists and political philosophers continue to debate and write about this sort of question.

Nevertheless, I follow Foucault who compellingly argued us that philosophical questions and problems have histories. The problems and questions that philosophers consider aren’t timeless, natural, or self-evident, but rather are artifacts of discourse. We can trace the histories of philosophical questions and problems and the power relations from which they emerge, including the constituent parts of the questions and problems.

For example, the question you posed assumes that “intellectual disabilities” and “physical disability” are something like natural kinds: we can distinguish people by these natural human properties, attributes, or differences, that is, some people have these properties and some people don’t. The question assumes, furthermore, that we can distinguish the former type of property (intellectual disabilities) from the latter (physical disability).

But, in fact, the histories of the former type of allegedly natural (i.e., prediscursive) and objective property and the latter type of allegedly natural and objective property can also be traced, as well as the history of the distinction between the two properties. A great deal of work has in fact been done in this regard. In short, these supposedly natural, that is, prediscursive human characteristics are contingent constructions, artifacts.

My own position is that disability is an apparatus of power, rather than a natural attribute, characteristic, or property of individuals. In my view, furthermore, the distinction between intellectual and physical disability (among other distinctions made about “disabilities”) contributes to the very naturalization and materialization of disability as natural, as a personal characteristic, attribute, etc. in the first place.

I maintain that when philosophers acknowledge that intellectual disability and physical disability are historical artifacts, then they should concede or at least seriously entertain the fact that the justifications for exclusion that have been advanced on the basis of these constructs are themselves historically contingent products of political, institutional, social, and economic forces.

On the topic of the construction of intellectual disability you might like this video about D.J Savarese: https://www.deejmovie.com/.

On the topic of academic excellence, I encourage you to read my colleague Jay Dolmage’s forthcoming book Academic Ableism (University of Michigan Press, Dec. 1, 2017).

On the topics of distinctions between kinds of disability, disability as an apparatus of power, and the historical contingency of disability, I encourage you to read my forthcoming book Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability (University of Michigan Press, Dec. 1, 2017).

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slartibartfast
slartibartfast
Reply to  slartibartfast
3 years ago

I worry here that your response depends too much on your interlocutors accepting your theory of language and the metaphysics of disability. I am inclined to think that terms like “cognitive disability” and “physical disability” often do track real kinds. It is also a very popular distinction, and you would have your work cut out for you to succeed in undermining it, and I am not sure that is the best political strategy.

It’s also not the most important part of the question: essentially, the question is, do you think universities need to include people with diverse cognitive abilities? For example, should people with Down’s Syndrome (I have a cousin who has Down’s) be included in the university or would this completely change what we mean by “university” in an unwlecome way? Do you have a response to my question on its own terms?Report

Merely Possible Philosopher
Merely Possible Philosopher
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

I agree that diversity initiatives *should* be funding the additional costs to enable participation by disabled students. My question was more regarding what these additional costs were and how they could be funded. After all, the budgets for diversity intitiaives are finite and hard choices may need to be made about what sort of support they can provide in light of this. Since you seem to acknowledge concerns about whether such programs can afford to fund the additional costs of disabled students with significant need (like a personal assistant) I’m not sure what about my concerns was baffling enough to require multiple readings — you acknowledge the same concerns in the preceding paragraph.

I agree with you about what *should* be the case, and the thrust of my questions was about whether you knew of resources departments could draw on to bring us closer to this ideal state of affairs. That was the point of my asking about specific sources of additional funding that might be drawn from in these instances.

Your responses seem to be directed at the poor nature of the existing power structure. I agree it needs to be reformed, my questions were all concerning *how*. That fee waivers benefit some but not all underrepresented groups seem to not count against them absent a way that money could be spread more equitably. Otherwise this complaint seems to be a case where the perfect is the enemy of the good.Report

Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
Reply to  Merely Possible Philosopher
3 years ago

Hi Merely Possible Philosopher,
Thanks for your comment. Despite what you suggest, I eschew the very idea that the requirements of disabled students should be regarded as “additional costs.” I referred to “needs [that] are currently regarded as “significant” and “extra-ordinary.” In other words, I was drawing attention to the fact that some students’ requirements are at present regarded as “significant,” unusual, and abnormal, while other students’ requirements are regarded as “standard” and “normal.” On this distinction, you might consider looking at my article “Introducing Feminist Philosophy of Disability” and also my forthcoming book. The article is available at both philpapers and academia.edu.

At the outset of my initial response to you, I indicated that more than minor adjustments must be made to include disabled students and staff in philosophy. The idea that social justice and inclusion for disabled people is both idealistic and can, at the end (or even the beginning) of the day, be reduced to a cost-benefit analysis of whether disabled people can be afforded is testament to the fact that a conceptual revolution is urgently needed for philosophers to understand how the discipline and profession must change in order to include disabled students and faculty, or at least, become less unwelcoming to them. There is no need to talk about “additional funding” or “additional costs” if one regards disabled people as equal to nondisabled people with the same entitlements to resources, goods, education, participation, and community.

Many resources are available on the web, in your community, in your university, etc. if you wish to learn about the sorts of lives disabled students (and other disabled people) lead and what they require to thrive. I encourage you to research them. To think that I could (and should) sum them up in a blog comment in response to you seems both fanciful and audacious (if not insulting?).
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Merely Possible Philosopher
Merely Possible Philosopher
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

It’s fine if you’d like to “eschew” the notion of “additional costs” as used here. Since you are understanding it in a normative, rather than purely budgetary, sense it’s clear we aren’t appealing to the same notion. Call it whatever you’d like.

Once again I agree that “more than minor adjustments must be made to include disabled students and staff in philosophy”. My questions are purely of the budgetary nature: how can we best fund these more than minor adjustments, to the extent that doing so requires financial resources?

To the extent that these financial resources aren’t already being expended under the current budgetary scheme, they must be incorporated into it. I was hoping that you would have some suggestions for how this might be done. Since you engage in activism for disabled philosophers, it seemed reasonable to hope you might have more knowledge that you could share with those of us that don’t have the same expertise to draw from. But apparently the thought that your theorizing and activism would give you greater knowledge about what actions can be taken to improve the state of things — particularly knowledge about how to ensure that disabled students receive the financial support they deserve and require — is fanciful, audacious, and possibly insulting. Report

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Shelley Tremain
3 years ago

Shelley, nowhere do you point to actual steps that could be taken to address the precise issue of enabling disabled students to access those institutes and not face unfair burdens in applying to graduate programs. You keep inviting people to read your own work, but you should not expect people to do this, and as slartibartfast points out above, it is politically a risky bet to have concrete inclusive initiatives depend so heavily on your own theoretical views, especially when many disability scholars and advocates are far from sharing them.

[JW: this comment has been edited]Report

John Brunero
John Brunero
3 years ago

Nebraska participates in the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) FreeApp Program, which allows undergrads from underrepresented groups to receive graduate application fee waivers. (http://www.btaa.org/students/freeapp/introduction)Report

Recent Applicant
Recent Applicant
3 years ago

To my knowledge, any students who apply to SROP (https://www.btaa.org/students/srop/introduction) can request fee waivers at the participating institutions if they end up applying. Additionally, most universities that participate in the Leadership Alliance (SR-EIP) (http://www.theleadershipalliance.org/programs/summer-research) offer waivers to students who complete the program regardless of where they complete it.Report

David Hyder
3 years ago

This changes everything.Report