Workshop for Prospective Philosophy Grad Students from Underrepresented Groups


Cultivating Underrepresented Students in Philosophy (CUSP), is an initiative of the Department of Philosophy at Penn State. It provides programs for “prospective graduate students in philosophy from traditionally underrepresented groups (including African Americans, Chicano/as and Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asian Americans)”.

[Lillian Blades, “Abundanscape”]

One of CUSP’s programs is their Fall Workshop. It’s aimed at “college seniors, recent graduates, and working professionals who want to continue their graduate education in philosophy and are currently working on their graduate applications for the following Fall term.” It includes seminars regarding the graduate application process and materials (writing sample revisions, statement of purpose preparation, program selection, etc.) as well as discussions with philosophy faculty and graduate students. Funding for the workshop comes from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Fall Workshop will take place online this year from October 18th-21st. The application deadline is September 25th. Please share this with your students and others you think might be interested.

(via Dwight K. Lewis)

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Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

Should theists, political conservatives, or libertarians apply?Report

real_email_fake_name
real_email_fake_name
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

I’ll bet the questions asked in the form accurately convey the dimensions of underrepresentation that are salient for admission to the workshop. There are no questions about political, religious, or sexual orientation.Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  real_email_fake_name
1 year ago

There are no questions being discussed at the workshop. Its only aim is “to advise students who are currently working on applications to Philosophy Ph.D. programs for the upcoming 2021-2022 Fall Semester.”

There are many of us concerned about the direction that academic philosophy is going–that it’s becoming more activist than academic. When we talk about inclusion and diversity, unless we’re looking to indoctrinate our students, ideological diversity should be the most important. While it is certainly likely that you will achieve ideological diversity by having people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds at the table, these things are not a proxy for ideological diversity.Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

Ideological diversity is achieved when various ideologies are openly shared and discussed, not when a certain percentage of people are convinced by the arguments or hold the requisite beliefs/values of those ideologies.

Anyone can discuss free markets or arguments for the existence of God without being true believers (though, perhaps they are argued more passionately by the true believer). Anyone can come to hold the positions and take up the particular ideological perspectives that you list (the same can’t be said about others). It is a strange assumption to think that ideological diversity of this kind can only be achieved by bringing in true believers. It’s an odd assumption to think that those who are not true believers cannot introduce or engage a particular ideology as well as a true believer.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

Oh, sweet summer child. When you have sat through the tenth talk in which your cherished philosophical thesis is misrepresented by a critic who genuinely believes they are doing justice to it (but that, now they’ve done justice to it, the flaws are just Obvious), get back to me.

(This is not a personal anecdote; basically everyone I know in philosophy has had this experience.)Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

(Also, this would work just as well as an argument why a department should not, say, hire a philosopher of race, since the philosophers already in the department (though highly skeptical of philosophy of race) can still represent it just as well.)Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Ideological diversity is not the only reason representation matters in philosophy departments.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

Indeed not, but that doesn’t seem relevant to your previous point, which was about what ideological diversity requires. That point, and my reply to it, are neutral as to the absolute or relative desirability of ideological diversity.Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Being a true believer doesn’t make you an expert in your own ideology. A philosopher of race (here, I’m taking it that you mean someone who studies the philosophy of race) is an expert in that area, more than their peers who could teach the subject, but not as well.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

That’s fair. Though it does require a purely subject-matter-based conception of the area of philosophy in question, so that one could be, say, a philosopher of feminism whilst rejecting all the tenets of feminism. That’s been contested on DN in the past (though not by you as far as I recall).Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

No, I don’t frequent this site and I’ve never posted before. Thank you though for engaging my posts–I’m not sure what I actually think about these issues yet–I’m just arguing.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

People, if you think that lack of ideological diversity is an issue in philosophy (I don’t have strong views on this, except, perhaps, that I don’t think libertarians, as opposed to other types of conservative views, are underrepresented in n philosophy), why not put together your own workshop for underrepresented students in philosophy, rather than insisting that you must be able to piggyback on the work of others?Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
1 year ago

Yes, just to echo Sergio (and as someone who oversees a program that focuses on racial and ethnic diversity and not every kind of diversity that we might care about), build what you think is important. There are quite a few dimensions of underrepresentation, but that doesn’t mean it works well to try to address them all at once, in one workshop setting. The issues and challenges are different. The people running the workshops might know a lot about some things, but not about everything. Speakers might be invited who can speak to some issues, but not all issues. And so on.

Also, I know you know there is money for building things for political conservatives (particularly in red states), libertarians, and theists. I mean, we’ve got many entities funding huge projects in these areas in philosophy already. 10 grants of $5000 from the APA is a tiny tiny tiny sliver of what the Arizona Center for the Philosophy of Freedom gets or what Templeton gives out.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
1 year ago

I think that’s reasonable. (Speaking as someone who thinks we should do more to increase ethnic/gender diversity *and* ideological diversity in philosophy.)
My only caveat is that the way programs like this are advertised and described can give the impression that the only axes of diversity that exist (or, perhaps, that matter) are ethnic/gender axes. If programs that aim to encourage traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic/gender groups were to market themselves more explicitly that way, and not just use the phrase ‘underrepresented groups’ unqualified, I suspect there would be less confusion and fewer hackles raised.Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

That’s fair, but talk to in-house counsel at a public university in the shadow of a far-right SCOTUS and you get what we see.

Also, I know that we consider applications from everyone, and have admitted applicants who were diverse in all of the ways Chris mentions and more. I imagine that is true for other programs as well, whatever their typical focus might be.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

“That’s fair, but talk to in-house counsel at a public university in the shadow of a far-right SCOTUS and you get what we see.“

Fair enough.Report

Lori
Lori
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

Chris does have a point regarding diversity of ideological leanings. I mean it is a fact that theists, political conservatives, and libertarians are not as plentiful in philosophy (or in academics in general). However, 1. Libertarians in general are not as plentiful in society as other political groups, 2. Sometimes theists (more dogmatic types) aren’t open to the type of thinking/reasoning involved in philosophy (as if questioning one’s beliefs *doesn’t* benefit), and 3. Because of the often spread belief that higher ed is full of nothing but liberal elites, political conservatives may have a predisposition to avoid.

Regardless, do you think that if someone fell under one of Chris’ categories (and not under a category the original post examples), the workshop coordinators would turn them away?Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
1 year ago

First, “African Americans, Chicano/as and Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asian Americans” and “theists, political conservatives, or libertarians” are not mutually exclusive groups.

Second, being a member of the former named groups is not a choice, while being a member of the latter named groups is. At any juncture, a department could diversify in the latter way by present department members making a choice. But no choice present department members could make could bring about the diversity that comes with having individuals from the former mentioned groups present within the department.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

What choice can I make that would make me (e.g.,) a theist? I don’t believe that God exists; I can’t alter that belief just by choosing to do so.Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Yes you can, at least, this is what some people (some theists) believe happens–believing in God requires fist choosing to believe in God, then God comes in and does the rest (“months of making choices to believe”; “I had some type of conversion, and some type of testimony, of the gospel that’s more than just a choice, and that is based on the fruits of making that choice”): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51x6TPV1NfUReport

Daniel Muñoz
Daniel Muñoz
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

“Some theists believe X is a choice, therefore X is a choice.”

Where have I heard that before…Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

But I don’t believe that, because I’m not a theist. And if I did believe it (while still not being a theist) it would be the belief that certain things I could do would warp my rational faculties enough to make me believe irrational things.

Which, sure, is probably true – I could mainline LSD, come to that, and plausibly that would diversify my department along certain axes. But by now I’m really unclear what this has to do with Chris Surprenant’s original point.

(To say nothing of the fact that, even if (some) theists believe that acceptance of their position is a free choice, very few conservatives or libertarians do, and I could have made the point with respect to those viewpoints mutatis mutandis.)Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

“very few conservatives or libertarians do”–Is this true? Yes–if you’re thinking about Conservatism as a sort of mindset derived from an immutable personality-type, and not as a political viewpoint. But Libertarians? Why do you think most Libertarians don’t see being Libertarian as a free choice?

Here is what I took to be Suprenant’s original point:

If support for members of under-represented groups is important for increasing ideological diversity, then Theists, Conservatives, and Libertarians should apply, as they are members of under-represented groups, and supporting them is important for ideological diversity.

What I am trying to argue is that these under-represented groups are not all the same simply because they are all under-represented groups–people can enter/exist some of these groups based on free-choices. Therefore, IF support for under-represented groups is important for diversifying the ideological landscape of the department (assuming being X or being a true believer brings ideological diversity), then that funding should be spent to bring in individuals from groups that are named in the advertisement, versus the groups that Suprenant names, because all one needs to do to “get more Conservatives/Libertarians” is just present more convincing arguments for those viewpoints (which doesn’t cost anything!); whereas, to get the ideological diversity that arguably comes from the groups named in the advertisement, the department actually needs to bring in members of those groups ($).Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

And you don’t need to be a true believer to present compelling arguments for Conservatism or Libertarianism.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grasshopper
1 year ago

“very few conservatives or libertarians do”–Is this true? Yes–if you’re thinking about Conservatism as a sort of mindset derived from an immutable personality-type, and not as a political viewpoint. But Libertarians? Why do you think most Libertarians don’t see being Libertarian as a free choice?”
I was thinking about both as a political viewpoint. And in both cases, I can’t adopt that viewpoint as a free choice because the viewpoint requires one to have certain descriptive and normative beliefs that I don’t in fact have, and you can’t change your beliefs as a matter of free choice.Report

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

But why don’t you have the relevant descriptive and normative beliefs? How can those be acquired? When it comes to descriptive beliefs: by freely choosing certain examinations of the empirical world–let a Conservative guide you to the relevant facts. What about the requisite underlying values for normative beliefs? How do you come to hold those? That’s harder, but still, I think, a matter of choice. No? You can decide what to value or not.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I don’t think that’s at all a plausible epistemology, but I’m not sure a blog comment thread is the right place to discuss it.Report

Rollo Burgess
Rollo Burgess
1 year ago

There seems to be a bit of a spurious binary here between something like ‘I have my beliefs for reasons that have nothing to do with my inclinations’ (e.g. they are manifest in the clear light of reason or selected by impeccable statistical logic or some such) and ‘I choose my beliefs in same way I choose what socks to wear today’. I think that both of these are pretty obviously false.

One cannot just choose to be a theist, or a liberal, any more than I now can choose to believe that it is Tuesday (I am writing on a Friday).

But equally a) there is a level of choice and determination that goes into forming certain beliefs, particularly those which are existentially core to one (such as being a theist) and b) we very often know what we want to think on a topic viscerally and then find reasons and arguments to support our beliefs. This is clearly the case with fields like philosophy of race/feminism etc. where many practitioners pre-theoretically endorse certain of the high level doctrines of the field (though probably not all) and then develop their ideas and become more sophisticated at expounding and applying and defending them through study, but I would argue that it is also the case with fields further removed from day to day concerns; I think some people are temperamentally inclined towards empiricism vs idealism and others vice versa, for example. I think that being a conservative or a libertarian is probably similar.

So in the context of discovery, vs that of justification, of one’s beliefs the actual reasons why one thinks how one does may be murky and hard to determine. Which is, I think, a good reason why – even if one’s goal is solely intellectual diversity and one doesn’t care at all about fairness or whatever – one cannot ignore cultural/social etc. diversity along the way – because people with different perspectives will likely have different ideas, even though they have to develop and justify them according to shared norms.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Rollo Burgess
1 year ago

There seems to be a bit of a spurious binary here between something like ‘I have my beliefs for reasons that have nothing to do with my inclinations’ (e.g. they are manifest in the clear light of reason or selected by impeccable statistical logic or some such) and ‘I choose my beliefs in same way I choose what socks to wear today’.

Was anyone arguing for the first disjunct of the binary? I certainly wasn’t.Report

Preston Stovall
1 year ago

Interested parties might have a look at the ‘Heterodox Philosophy’ group at the Heterodox Academy:

“HxPhilosophy, like the Heterodox Academy, seeks to improve the level of open-mindedness and respectful dialogue throughout the academic world and beyond. We seek to do so specifically amongst philosophers and those in cognate fields, in part by making space for ideological diversity. We value freedom of expression as an integral part of a genuine liberal arts or humanities education.”

https://heterodoxacademy.org/hxcommunities/Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

I’m glad I started what seems like (at least in parts) a thoughtful discussion here.

I still never had my initial question answered: Should theists, political conservatives, or libertarians apply, or are race and ethnicity the only underrepresentation that matter for this workshop?

My question wasn’t one of those fake questions that was meant to jab someone. I have undergraduates who are theists, political conservatives, or libertarians, and who may be interested in going to graduate school. Should they apply or would it be a waste of their time?Report

2020 Applicant
2020 Applicant
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

If they are cisgender, able-bodied white males who are not first-generation college students, then based on the application for this particular workshop, I imagine they would be unlikely to receive a spot. It seems as though given a limited number of spots, they have chosen to prioritize these social identities.

Different diversity workshops have different requirements. For example, some do not include first-generation status, some also include sexual orientation, and some focus exclusively on gender or race.

As someone who attended a diversity workshop (which was the deciding factor in my deciding to pursue graduate studies in philosophy), I can attest that at least one woman there was a devout Catholic. I can also attest to how life-changing it was to hear from other graduate students from socially marginalized groups interested in pursuing philosophy. That was incredibly important in my deciding to pursue graduate studies.

Theists, conservatives, and libertarians, are not currently socially marginalized (though many of them claim that such marginalization is on the horizon). While they may be underrepresented in academic philosophy, their dominance in traditional industries (business, politics, etc.) seems to provide a compelling reason to prioritize those identities that are marginalized both within academia and society-at-large.Report

2020 Applicant
2020 Applicant
Reply to  2020 Applicant
1 year ago

And considering my picture is attached, perhaps it’s worth mentioning that I attended a diversity workshop that also included LGBTQ+ students.Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  2020 Applicant
1 year ago

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m not arguing with you, but would like to get your thoughts on the following. It says, “prospective graduate students in philosophy from traditionally underrepresented groups” — presumably that is underrepresented groups in academic philosophy and not socially marginalized groups in society generally, right? If so, there’s no question that theists, political conservatives, or libertarians should qualify, right? That would be in addition to members of the group you mention, of groups they mention, and of other groups like the physically disabled.

I guess it would be helpful if someone associated with this workshop would respond and be clear on who isn’t going to be considered.Report

2020 Applicant
2020 Applicant
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
1 year ago

It looks like my original comment never posted, perhaps because I included an email address in it. I will try posting again! Here is what I wrote:

You bring up an interesting point! One thing that is different about this application from the application of the workshop I attended is that it does not provide a space where the applicant is able to express their own experience being underrepresented. For example, if there were an open-ended question on this application, I would take that as a sign that the fields provided in the application were not all-encompassing of the various demographics they are seeking to serve for this particular workshop. However, my own personal interpretation would be that because they went out of their way to include a lot of different fields, and they do not include a field for the expression of any other factors that place an applicant in an underrepresented group, then the demographics mentioned in the application (race/ethnicity, gender, first-gen status, ability) are given a significant priority over other demographics.

With that in mind, it would probably be beneficial for the organizers to be exceptionally clear about who is eligible, just to ensure that someone wouldn’t waste their time. If you end up emailing them for clarification (cusp(at)psu(dot)edu), I would definitely be interested in hearing their response!

One final consideration would be to take into account the common usage of the term “underrepresented group.” For example, the mission of Minorities and Philosophy is “to address structural injustices in academic philosophy and to remove barriers that impede participation in academic philosophy for members of marginalized groups.” So, while the term “minority” might technically apply to theists and conservatives when it comes to academic philosophy, I don’t think it’s clear that they would fall into the type of group advocated for by MAP. Do you think theists and conservatives face structural injustices in academic philosophy to the same degree that women, BIPOC, and LGBT people have faced, or if not perhaps to a non-negligible degree? If so, then perhaps a case could be made to include such groups. If not, then I think we can differentiate between “underrepresented” as strictly a numbers game and “underrepresented” as “having less representation due to social marginalization,” placing theists and conservatives in the former camp and the aforementioned groups in the latter.

I would wager that the workshop was designed with the latter understanding of “underrepresented” in mind, but as I mentioned before I think providing very explicit clarification could be beneficial!Report

John
John
1 year ago

Institute for Humane Studies…do they not run these kind of workshops and professionalization programs already for undergraduate and graduate students? Aren’t they already reaching out to HS students? Is there not enough funding and support there for libertarians and political conservatives?Report