Virginia Tech Hires Six


The Department of Philosophy at Virginia Tech is beginning its 2020-21 academic year with six new faculty members.

Wendy Parker, previously associate professor of philosophy at Durham University, is now professor of philosophy at Virginia Tech. She works on a range of subjects in philosophy of science and philosophy of climate science.

Wendy Parker

Joining Professor Parker are five new assistant professors: Gil Hersch, Daniel Hoek, Justin Horn, Gregory Novack, and Philip Yaure.

(via James Klagge)

[Note: The original version of this post incorrectly identified Dr. Parker’s previous position.]

 

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FeministPhilosopher
FeministPhilosopher
1 year ago

So, 5 white men and one white woman?Report

Jon Light
Jon Light
Reply to  FeministPhilosopher
1 year ago

That’s the first thing you think of when a school gets *six* tenure-track hiring lines *during a pandemic*? Also seems a little ungenerous: I’d be more inclined to congratulate the department for managing to figure this out.Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

Yes. That is the first thing I think of. Along with the pandemic, we are living through a cultural awakening about racism in this country. VT’s hires demonstrate that the problem of racism (and misogyny, amongst other things) are alive and well in the discipline of philosophy.Report

Wondering
Wondering
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

If some of these were spousal hires, would that make it more acceptable in your eyes (at least with respect to misogyny)?Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
Reply to  Wondering
1 year ago

I’m not familiar with the nuances of the situation. All I know is that if you aren’t actively working to be anti-racist, then you are part of the problem. The department may very well have been hiring with anti-racist intentions and I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. However, when a single department makes six hires and it is 5 white men and one white woman, it demonstrates to me that (at the very least) the discipline is in really bad shape as far as diversity goes. At the very worst, it implies that the philosophy department at VT is not an anti-racist department.Report

Victoria
Victoria
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

But in order to draw such conclusion you _need_ to know the details of the hiring process. How many minority applicants were there? What affirmative action practices are already in place? You _have_ to know these things in order to make claims as strong as that the hires “demonstrate that the problem of racism (and misogyny, amongst other things) are alive and well … in philosophy”. Otherwise these very hefty accusations are just grabbed completely out of thin air.Report

FormerGrad
FormerGrad
Reply to  Victoria
1 year ago

Former grad student checking in who was there during the (initial?) hiring process for two of these folks. Unless things have changed Dr.Parker is a spousal hire. Considering that she was asked (verbatim) “how is what you’re doing philosophy” in the job talk by one of the men in the department I am surprised she accepted. This question was often asked of women job candidates, and colloquia speakers, at least when I was there. Hopefully things have changed by now though I know that another faculty member also was asked that question during her hiring process.

Both Gil and Greg were VAPs at VT for quite a number of years (Gil specifically doing PPE related things which is important for the department) and I believe that Dr.Hoek’s partner is in the department already.

When I was there the majority of the job candidates for open positions were men (I remember one candidate being a non-white man). Dr.Kovaka’s hiring pool included another woman as a final candidate (along with problematic comments from grad students about how it was “obvious” one of the women would get the job since the department was looking to hire a woman which was obviously quite problematic and ignored the qualifications of the candidates qua candidates) and the department did have another spousal hire while I was there who was a woman (but I believe that she has since moved to a different institution). The department recently hired Dr.Jordan McKenzie within the last couple of years but I don’t know anything about her hiring process.Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
Reply to  FormerGrad
1 year ago

Thanks. This is very helpful. I have had similar experiences. I have been through many many hires (at a different institution) and I have had the same experience of faculty members asking women and BIPOC candidates if their work qualifies as philosophy proper. This is the root of the problem. Why do white men get to define what “philosophy” is and how it is done? We need to let other voices into the ivory tower and broaden the range of perspectives. This is why representation is so important!Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  FormerGrad
1 year ago

FWIW I’ve been asked that question (I’m white and male). I don’t actually think it’s an unreasonable question of a philosopher of science doing interdisciplinary work, in principle, though it can come across as hostile if asked in the wrong way or at the wrong time. (That’s not to deny that there are gatekeeping problems that interact with representation issues.)Report

FormerGrad
FormerGrad
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I agree that these sorts of questions *can* be asked of anyone (and certain areas are more likely to be asked the question)–when the trend was that women only ever seemed to be asked while men doing similar research were never asked (and in one case the professor had already explicitly addressed the question proactively in her presentation), that’s a bit alarming and that is the context from which I was writing. I was only there for two years and can only share what I saw and the trends that were shared with me by older grad students who had seen similar things.

I have no idea how things may have changed in the meantime (hopefully, for the better!) and I know several of the hires were a long time coming/expected given the needs and ways the department was expanding with PPE especially–one reason why I’ve only been said mostly context setting/descriptive things since it’s a complex hiring year it sounds like. And, I also still think we can critique the (hopefully now historical) trends even as we celebrate the 6 folks who now have been hired by VT.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Yes, sorry: I should have been clearer on that. You were there and I’m sure you’re right that it was inappropriate in that context. (And your point about men doing similar research not being asked is pretty telling.) My comment was intended as a bit more general and abstract – I think philosophers of science and other people in interdisciplinary areas should have a good answer ready as to why their work is a good fit to a philosophy department in particular.

I suppose the legitimate question is something like ‘why is this highly interesting and valuable work something that’s best done as part of the philosophy department rather than (say) the physics department?’ But often the implication is more ‘why is this worth doing at all?’Report

Curious
Curious
1 year ago

Feminist Philosopher: do you know whether VT made any offers to philosophers of color during this hiring cycle? Without knowing this, it’s hard to see how you could draw such conclusions.Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

I disagree. I know for a fact that there are hundreds of talented, passionate, and excellent researchers and educators on the job market who do not and cannot get jobs. If (and this is largely true across the entire discipline) the majority of people being hired are white men, then that tells me we have a problem of representation in the field. There are clearly plenty of choices. Given the plethora of hiring options, it is chilling to see a lineup of 5 men and one women (all white).Report

Victoria
Victoria
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

In a recent hiring process in our department we had fewer than 5% applicants identifying as POC. With numbers so low you can’t just commit to hiring someone from that group, unless you are willing to make potentially hefty compromises in quality. Maybe one is lucky and someone from a group that small meets the standard—we’d take them with open arms. But more likely that won’t be the case, simply by virtue of the numbers. Anecdotal reports of “many excellent researchers and educators” simply don’t count for much; you have to go from data.Report

Todd Marsch
Todd Marsch
Reply to  Victoria
1 year ago

Our last TT hire a couple years ago was similar to what Victoria described…very few women and POC applied for the job. Maybe 10% were women and 5% were POC (at least as identified in their applications). And the better applicants in those categories turned down interviews with us, since they’d already lined up better jobs.

I’m also at a regional state school in a rural town in a purple state, so that might have something to do with it as well. I can’t blame POC especially for not being interested in living here.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Todd Marsch
1 year ago

I know that many people are hoping to have more diverse programs, since it will make them stronger, more creative, etc., but may feel overwhelmed with the process of getting there. For those who have had issues like the above, it is worth thinking about how to avoid this problem long before you get to your applicant pool.

1) How are you wording your job ads? Are you making a list of the qualities you would like in an ideal colleague in this position, and then writing the job advertisement with those qualities in mind? This helps everyone to keep in mind the qualities that they are looking for: this helps the committee to avoid hiring based on stereotypes but it also helps candidates to see that the committee takes seriously its role, making it less likely to hire based on stereotypes. Also: many don’t realize that the wording in their job ads is gendered, and throwing off potential applicants: https://www.idealrole.com/blog/gender-job-ads.

2) How does your program look right now? Hostile to diverse groups? How might you improve it to be more attractive to people from different backgrounds? You want to recruit women, non-binary philosophers, and people of color, but do you have an environment in which they will succeed? They are more likely to apply and to be excited about your program if it doesn’t look like a place that will make it harder for them to succeed, simply because of their identity.

3) When you reach out to people to apply to the job, are you including women and people of color in that process? You may need to do so actively, since their names are less likely to be at the front of your mind when you think of excellent candidates

Do others have suggestions like this? .Report

AD
AD
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

2 is false. Given the job market, philosophers will apply anywhere and everywhere.

The problem is that there are so few jobs, such fierce competition, and so few women philosophers as well as philosophers who aren’t white.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  AD
1 year ago

Not in my experience or the experience of people I know who went on the market last year.

More than 30% of PhD graduates are women. We would normally expect 2 of 6 hires to be women, not 1. More than 15% of PhD graduates are POC. We would normally expect 1 of 6 to be POC, not 0.Report

SC
SC
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

I was on a SC for an ethics position last year. We got fewer than 100 apps, despite being near a big, very popular city, and the POC/women made up 10%, at most. The job is tenure-track, but not prestigious and with a high teaching load. There are how many ethics people on the market? 500? 1000? Many did not apply, probably many of whom saw the ad.Report

Jacinda Bernoulli
Jacinda Bernoulli
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

Statistics pointer: the expected value is not necessarily the value you would expect. If you roll a fair D100 die six times, you probably won’t get 2 out of the 6 rolls landing on the first 30 numerical values, even though this is approximately the expected value.Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
Reply to  Victoria
1 year ago

I’m curious how you are defining “the standard”. If it’s the usual way of doing things in philosophy departments, then a LARGE PART OF “the standard” is to hire candidates that attended “highly ranked” and Ivy League grad schools. Maybe we need to rethink how we are evaluating the candidates. It is a fact that BIPOC are generally afforded fewer educational resources, which makes it more difficult to be accepted to highly competitive PhD programs. By using these highly ranked programs as “the standard”, we are excluding BIPOC in the name of “quality”. In doing so we are forestalling the careers of many talented philosophers of color.

(Also, while I empathize that there are fewer BIPOC candidates out there, VT could AT LEAST have tried to hire more women. The same scarcity of candidates does not apply to white women philosophers).Report

Dmitri Gallow
Dmitri Gallow
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

Out of curiosity: what percentage of hires in a category would you expect an anti-racist department to aim for? Would they want the percentage of hires in group G to match the percentage of applicants in G, or the percentage of citizens of their state/country in G, or the percentage of people in the world at large in G? Or something else altogether?Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Dmitri Gallow
1 year ago

I think minimally a program in the U.S. should aim for 15% people of color, since that is the percentage among PhD students in the U.S.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

(If your pool is only 5%, that strikes me as a serious problem.)Report

Victoria
Victoria
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

I’d be curious whether there’s data that breaks those percentages down by AOS. Perhaps 5% may well be within a normal range of fluctuation for certain subdisciplines? ThanksReport

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Victoria
1 year ago

I am not sure if APDA has reported this data specifically (whether there is an AOS where it is ok to get a 5% POC applicant pool) but this has some different stats for people who are interested, including a chart on p 24 on keywords reported by more underrepresented philosophers: https://www.dropbox.com/s/iqo388oa9e78xo6/APDA%20Final%20Report%202019.pdf?dl=0Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

Keywords more often reported by those with at least one underrepresented factor (i.e. all but white non-hispanic cis straight men with no reported disability and no military status): ethics, historical, history and philosophy of science, mind, logic/formal, cognitive science, early modern (vs. analytic, epistemology, continental, metaphysics, etc.)

Worth keeping in mind: the choice of what AOS you are looking for can also be exclusionary. Why that AOS? How does it enrich the program? Could other areas benefit the program, too?Report

Victoria
Victoria
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

Thanks for the data!Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

Re: Curious
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. With hundreds of highly qualified philosophers on the job market (and this number has gotten bigger due to COVID) ending up with 5 men and 1 woman (all white) as the final result is unacceptable. There needs to be explicit goals for women and BIPOC Philosophers to have a seat at the table. Representation matters!Report

Victoria
Victoria
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

I agree that representation matters, but not at all costs. A candidate’s academic qualification is and should be the most important criterion in hiring.Report

Just visiting
Just visiting
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

Some of what is implied by Feminist Philosopher, while likely honorably intentioned, may in fact be illegal:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: SEC. 2000e-2. [Section 703]
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer – (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.Report

Grad
Grad
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

I don’t think qualifications matter that much – we’re not brain surgeons. But I also think it is not rare for small departments to try and give TT positions to their long-term adjuncts as a form of class solidarity (and gratitude). Worth also considering in the equation, though I’m not sure how much it affects our conclusion.Report

Thomas Mulligan
1 year ago

It is unjust to hire on any ground other than merit.

If VA Tech discriminated against female applicants–as “Feminist Philosopher” conjectures–that is indeed unjust. However, if VA Tech gave preference to an applicant on the basis of sex (or “BIPOC” status)–as Feminist Philosopher explicitly wants–that also would have been unjust. It would have been, in particular, sexist. That is simply what sexism is–treating someone better, or worse, on the basis of sex. The fact that sexism might create a salutary benefit (e.g. diversity) does not make sexism any less unjust.

These are merely special cases of a general rule. It is unjust to hire on grounds other than merit. It is unjust to hire someone because of whom that person’s husband or wife is (i.e. “spousal hiring”). It is unjust to hire someone because he or she is your friend. It is unjust to hire someone because he or she is attractive (this happens all the time–the so-called “beauty premium”–yet gets almost no attention in our sex- and race-obsessed world).

We all know, deep down, what the right thing to do is (and the empirical literature on justice validates the intuition). Hire on merit.Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
Reply to  Thomas Mulligan
1 year ago

Ok. Then nothing is ever going to change. It seems like you are OK with the status quo. Meritocracy is a convenient myth for propagating white supremacy.Report

SC
SC
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

There are earlier locations in the pipeline.Report

Victoria
Victoria
Reply to  SC
1 year ago

Agree with SC here. It’s a long causal process which leads to demographic underrepresentation. Way too quick to assume that the problem lies in the proximate causal factor.Report

Thomas Mulligan
Reply to  Feminist Philosopher
1 year ago

I am not “OK with the status quo”. I have argued, at some length, that it is unjust. And meritocracy is the solution to that injustice.

Meritocracy has two essential elements: The first is merit-based selection, as described above. The second is robust equal opportunity. A just society has both; we have neither. The reason that there are disparate (say) racial outcomes is that there is enormous inequality of opportunity between the races. The mean white child is born into a family with 10x the wealth of the mean black child’s family. You’re not going to fix racial injustice by being a racist yourself–that is, by treating people better, or worse, on the basis of race. You’re going to fix it by establishing equal opportunity (through, I argue, robust public education, high top marginal income tax rates, and a strong inheritance tax).

If you have equal opportunity and merit-based selection you will probably find, within any given profession, a demographic breakdown reflecting the demographics of the broader society. But you also might not, and for perfectly unobjectionable reasons. Anyways, no one would care. Everyone would have an equal opportunity to develop their merits as they desired, and would be judged, when in competition for a scarce good like a job, on those merits alone.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Thomas Mulligan
1 year ago

You’re not going to fix racial injustice by being a racist yourself–that is, by treating people better, or worse, on the basis of race. You’re going to fix it by establishing equal opportunity (through, I argue, robust public education, high top marginal income tax rates, and a strong inheritance tax).

Yes, and yet these are things that your average academic philosopher in the US is unable to make any meaningful contribution to (Twitter posts, opinion pieces, and articles that point out how deficient public education and unjust tax policies hold back equal opportunity are unlikely to make any difference policy-wise). I think that for many conscientious academics, this leads to a lot of guilt. They hold a privileged position as a university professor (many would say they work for the “establishment”) within a society that is fundamentally unjust and they are not making many/any meaningful contributions to the task of addressing that injustice.

One unhealthy response to this predicament is to find various things that you and your colleagues can do within your institution and convince yourself that these really would make a meaningful contribution to addressing social injustice when in fact they wouldn’t. When you then enact these things with your colleagues you can tell yourself that you have made a “real” contribution to tackling social injustice and thus not feel so bad about the privileged position your hold (if you are vain you can also announce this to all your friends on social media and have your department issue a self-congratulatory press-release).

I think that this kind of psychological effect offers a good explanation of some of the misguided, non-evidence based, and often self-defeating “social justice initiatives” that we have seen at US universities in recent years. It is actually a very “human” response to the predicament I describe. Even though it is frustrating to watch these academics do damage to HE and society while wrongly thinking that they are serving social justice, I can see how this comes from the deep need for self-validation that we all have.Report

blackgrad
blackgrad
Reply to  JTD
1 year ago

Like.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Thomas Mulligan
1 year ago

What exactly do you mean by “merit”?

We all know that there are many different things that go into being an effective philosophy professor. It’s not enough to have brilliant ideas – you have to figure out how to communicate them to other people in ways that influence them (usually measured by conference talks, colloquium invitations, refereed publications, and invited collection, but no reason it needs to be limited to these). It’s not enough to have great research ideas that you can communicate to others well, but you also have to administrate a department – teach classes, serve on graduate committees, organize a department budget, bring in outside money, respond to the administration. Obviously this second sort of criterion I mention is one where no individual needs to do all parts well, but a department *must* have people who can do each of these, and enough such people that the work can continue getting done even when someone is on leave or sick.

Does it count as hiring someone based on “merit” when we hire someone who is a good departmental citizen and can actively resist university administrators when needed, over someone who publishes a ton but can’t even figure out how to express themself on a committee?

It’s quite plausible that to be a minimally adequate department, a department must have some amount of diversity within it. Everyone will accept that when it comes to service abilities, and it’s quite standard to think this is true for research subfields of philosophy. I’m not sure why we shouldn’t think that something like this is likely to be true for certain types of demographic factors as well.Report

Jacinda Bernoulli
Jacinda Bernoulli
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
1 year ago

“What exactly do you mean by “merit”?”

What exactly do people mean by “representation” or “diversity”? I don’t see a lot of exactitude in this thread, including in your comment. But I like that you ask for it.Report

Despairing
Despairing
1 year ago

I think we should all (at the very least!) grant Feminist Philosopher that there is something *highly lamentable* about all of this – i.e., even if locating blame is a complicated affair. Not to mention, for all of the BIPOC folks entering the (already dismal) job market this year – what an unfortunate symbol of discouragement.Report

Wondering
Wondering
Reply to  Despairing
1 year ago

I agree. On the flip side, we should also grant that probably all those hired were deserving and capable, with their own challenges to overcome. Getting a TT job is difficult for everyone in this job market. We can criticize an unjust system and still recognize and congratulate those who secured a position.Report

Feminist Philosopher
Feminist Philosopher
Reply to  Wondering
1 year ago

I 100% agree.Report

Victoria
Victoria
Reply to  Despairing
1 year ago

This talk of symbolism just seems to buy into cognitive bias. For a (in my opinion) much more meaningful sign of _encouragement_, people should look at actual long-term departmental hiring statistics. Those statistics which I’m aware of all show significantly better chances of getting hired if one is a member of underrepresented groups. As far as I am aware, affirmative action programs are already firmly rooted in academia.Report

Despairing
Despairing
Reply to  Despairing
1 year ago

Wondering: Absolutely. Certainly the blame does not fall on them! – and of course kudos to them for their hard work and perseverance (though of course luck plays a role too).
Victoria: Symbolism is complicated.Report

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
1 year ago

Here’s an epistemic question I haven’t seen addressed yet, in addition to the question of the actual hiring process. How does everyone here know the racial and gender dentities of the hires? People here seem pretty confident.

Do we know that these light-skinned people who are interpreted as white are, in fact, white in terms of their family histories, identities, cultures, etc? If, for instance, one of them is a “white-passing” black person, or mixed race person, would that matter–should a department be concerned only about visible representation?

Likewise, sure, statistically speaking, the hires are one (cisgender) woman and five (cisgender) men, but not everyone is cisgender, you know. Some people are non-binary or transgender even if they don’t have a sign posted on their website or wear a pride pin on their lapel. Should that make any difference in the hiring process? If so, why and how?

I get that there are clear cases of falling into racial and gender categories, and we should absolutely be concerned about broader involvement of people who are excluded. But I find the race to judging the represenatation on faculties based purely on headshots and inferences from names to be simplistic.Report

Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
Reply to  Academic Trans Guy
1 year ago

Yes, THANK YOU.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Academic Trans Guy
1 year ago

As a further complication, I think at least 2 of these 6 are from outside the US – one from the Netherlands, one from Israel. (Others might be – this is just from a cursory CV search.) I’m not even sure what it means to take US-defined racial categories, which on almost anybody’s account have at least a big socially-constructed aspect, and then map them into completely different countries.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

A yet further complication is that the research agenda of one of the hires is not your typical white male’s colorblind research:
https://www.philipyaure.com/researchReport

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

Yes, and I’ve seen some comments on Twitter about him already, assuming he’s a white dude capitalising on his work on race. I don’t know (or actually care) if he marks “white” on his US census form, but wouldn’t it be embarrassing if he is mixed race, light skinned, has a deep and long history of engagement with black culture? Again, you can accept that “white-passing” is a real thing but still not police who is black on the basis of a headshot and a name.Report

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Yes. For instance, if one of these candidates is an Israeli Jew, now we have the vexed question of “Are Jews white?” and how the answer impacts the assessment here of a whether this is a diverse set of hires.Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  Academic Trans Guy
1 year ago

These issues are complicated, given that we often get no other information about race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc., class, but may care to notice how the profession is doing with respect to these markers at various junctures. Some of the comments above suggest a kind of mysterianism or skepticism is appropriate: who knows, we can’t know, so we mustn’t say anything. But that is problematic for fairly obvious reasons.

Three further points.

First, there is an excellent resource that many (not all) philosophers who are members of underrepresented groups will have already taken advantage of: the UPDirectory run by the APA. It allows for self-identification, which can be very helpful for this kind of thing (add yourself if you should be added): https://updirectory.gear.host/Default.cshtml

Second, just to answer the “why and how” question above: for some purposes, if no one can tell by appearance or by any other indicator that you are a member of an underrepresented group, and you don’t make this known in anyway anywhere online etc., then although this may play a huge role in your life, it may also limit the way in which it makes a difference to how you are treated in the profession, how you are viewed and judged by students, who seeks you out as a mentor, and the extent to which you are asked to do all kinds of extra work and to play important additional roles professionally and otherwise. Passing is a complex real thing, but it might affect things in a material way that makes a difference for these purposes.

Third, although there is an international community that takes part in the Anglophone philosophy world, many of the relevant categories in the U.S. are still salient to people, wherever they may come from, or however they may see themselves. These identities might be overlaid in complex ways, certainly. But I don’t think we need to go in for any kind of deep mystery here. There are many borderline identities, and those matter, but I don’t think we need to have a full worked out theory of philosophy of race/ethnicity/gender/linguistic identity/etc. to start noticing and tracking demographic categories, even if we may want to revise and refine those along the way.Report

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

” Some of the comments above suggest a kind of mysterianism or skepticism is appropriate: who knows, we can’t know, so we mustn’t say anything.”

To clarify:
1. I do not think that we mustn’t say anything or that we cannot know, but that we ought to be careful about what we do know before we make assertions.

2. The UP directory is great, but my personal hobby horse, as is evident by my refusal to list my own name here and the comments I’ve made elsewhere, is that no one should be required to disclose their gender history, their race, their disability status, etc. etc. to gain a position in discussing these issues academically.

3. Further, the point I am trying to raise is about the very point of what diversity efforts are about. You state, correctly that nondisclosure “may also limit the way in which it makes a difference to how you are treated in the profession, how you are viewed and judged by students, who seeks you out as a mentor, and the extent to which you are asked to do all kinds of extra work and to play important additional roles professionally and otherwise.” But is the sole or main purpose of having people of certain groups on faculty for their role as a mentor, their being picked out as representatives, etc.? (We want women faculty primarily because of their ability to lead MAP?) And does mentoring always require being of the same group that you’re mentoring? If so, then we need to be expanding our scrutiny of these new hires to whether they’re appropriately disadvantaged socioeconomically, or are first-gen academics, etc. to help students in those positions.

Perhaps the reply is that someone who doesn’t disclose has attained that success because of their not being “visibly” X. Fair, but now we’re saying, I think, that successful diversification means including people of X groups who would not have otherwise succeeded because they are not visibly X. So we only want very dark-skinned black people, brown-shaded Latinx people, “visibly trans” persons, and those disabilities mean they are in wheelchairs?

I’m in favor of a more visibly diverse faculty and of flushing out racism, misogyny, transphobia, ableism, etc. We should check ourselves in our hiring practices–on the basis of robust evidence about who we’re hiring and why. Anonymize CVs, reconsider the weight you give to testimony from letters, and so on, to cast a wide, equitable net. I believe there are imbalances in hiring based on actual self-reports about category memborship, plus a wealth of testimonial evidence.

But I’m also against hasty inferences and epistemic pride, which is what I’m seeing here.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

I wasn’t intending to imply a global skepticism. If I were to convert my quick observation into a positive suggestion, it would probably be: break out demographic analysis into US/non-US (or possibly US+Canada/others) and do ethnic breakdowns within the US cohort. (I actually suspect we’d look worse on that metric, FWIW.) If we then also want to do a breakdown on ethnic lines in the non-US cohort we can do that too, but it would be clearer that we’re considering two rather different issues. Perhaps there are good arguments as to why it’s better to recruit a student or faculty member from China than from Latvia, but if so, they’re not the identical arguments that apply in domestic recruitment and hiring.Report

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

I wrote a longer reply that’s disappeared, but I’ll try once more, a short version: I’m not arguing for mysterianism or skepticism, just for reflection on why inferences from names and headshots to these categories (white/male) is a problem. Also, not everyone wants to ID themselves in a database for these purposes, and surely the goal isn’t just that faculty “look” diverse, but actually are diverse for purposes other than having people members of category X act as mentors for students of category X, but also for the sake of people in that category being hired, whether or not the rest of the world recognizes that’s the case. And…maybe we shouldn’t just be asking visible members of certain groups to be doing those “all kinds of extra work”?Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Academic Trans Guy
1 year ago

On the point about just asking visible members to do “all kinds of extra work” – much of that work is the informal work of mentorship and role modeling to young people in various communities. I think all of us think it is a good thing that this work gets done. Much of that work requires the young people to reach out first, and so having more faculty members to whom young people reach out is how we ensure that this extra work is at least divided in such a way that it doesn’t become a huge burden on any one person. If passing people aren’t reached out to in this sort of way, then they aren’t easing this aspect of the burden on their more visibly minority colleagues, and that does matter.

But of course, random participants in this thread aren’t in a position to know whether any relevant person is known to the relevant community of young people seeking mentors and role models.

(None of this addresses the point of university committees that seek out minority members and thus put additional burdens on minority faculty – there are surely ways to address this that don’t bear directly on how one passes in society generally.)Report

Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
1 year ago

How are these positions funded?? (Noticed mention of PPE–are these Koch-related hires?)Report

FormerGrad
FormerGrad
Reply to  Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
1 year ago

When I was there Gil and another VAP were both working with a Michael Moehler who had received funds from the Koch-brothers. Gil is now core faculty with the department’s Philosophy, Politics, & Economics program. (of course the concerns raised above by others about why it is that the subarea seems to be mostly, well, men still stands from the systems perspective and we can congratulate Gil and the rest while critiquing the trends)Report

Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
Reply to  Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
1 year ago

Speaking of trends: I wonder how many Koch-funded positions at different institutions are occupied by women.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
1 year ago

I don’t claim to speak for VA Tech but I am someone who a) is a member of several intersecting underrepresented groups in philosophy, b) has been on many hiring committees, c) cares pretty deeply about hiring great philosophers, and d) thinks that identity representation matters in the classroom for a host of ethical reasons.

I think that one thing that those who perhaps have only been on the application side of hiring may not realize is how underrepresented philosophers are genuinely underrepresented and that the rate of under representation in a job’s applicant pool is often significantly lower than the general distribution of philosophers if you were to only use the APA’s statistics as a guide. For example, Carolyn wrote that having a pool of “only 5%” under represented candidates would be a “serious problem.” I’m not sure that it is, at least not a problem for the university doing the hiring. At an R1 you can probably be expected to see applicants from all across the spectrum because we’ve been trained to think that those are the best jobs (falsely..I would say but that’s a conversation for another day). This is definitely not true at my university (most definitely not an R1 or R2) and we’d be lucky to get 10% applicants from under represented groups for our tt jobs. There is some self selection going on at the applicant process depending on where the job is, what kind of university / college is hiring, and the student demographics (my own guess on this last one). Everyone wants to apply to NYU, not everyone will apply to “rural no-name university that might not exist in 10 years because of the coming enrollment cliff.”

Despite this relatively low number of applicants that we’ve received, we’ve made concerted efforts to hire philosophers that increase our department’s diversity and yet, the very fact that some philosophers are underrepresented means that we’ve lost out on almost all of the diverse applicants that we’ve offered jobs too. Literally almost all of them. Excellent diverse candidates are in demand and most of them, at least those I’m aware of personally, get multiple offers. I don’t blame them! If I had had multiple offers, I almost certainly wouldn’t be working where I’m working (despite the fact that I’m pretty happy where I am).

So you can’t see the process just by looking at the end result and you can’t infer that 15% of an applicant pool were under represented philosophers just by looking at APA statistics or by generalizing from what the applicant pool at an R1 looks like to all applicant pools.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Caligula's Goat
1 year ago

“So you can’t see the process just by looking at the end result and you can’t infer that 15% of an applicant pool were under represented philosophers just by looking at APA statistics or by generalizing from what the applicant pool at an R1 looks like to all applicant pools.”

Right. Those interested can see above a link to the data from APDA (the 2019 report at placementdata.com) which found that more than 15% of PhD graduates are POC. This is neither APA data nor data from an R1. If your pool is far below that, you likely have a problem somewhere. I know that in the UC system a search can be cancelled if the applicant pool is not diverse enough. It is expected that the search committee run the search in such a way that it attract people from across all demographic groups. I give some suggestions on how to look into this above, but I would suggest serious consideration of the whole process if you are having this problem. Don’t assume that POC or women are not applying because you are rural, have a high teaching load, etc. Do research on the best methods for a fair and equitable search.Report

NM
NM
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

The same kind of concern occurs internationally, especially with regard to women … A recent instance in the country I work in, I know a department (actively trying to reduce the gender imbalance in their programme) that had women as options (1) and (2) (from the shortlist of 3), and both declined. Without knowing this detail, it looks as though the department simply hired *another* man. But if you know the detail, the department tried very hard not to do so. (Before anyone suggests it, not hiring in order to run a search again is not an option, that would probably result in hiring no-one and having the search cancelled).Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

Of course the UC system doesn’t have to worry about some of the factors that many institutions have in trying to recruit faculty of color. It’s one thing to try to recruit a person of color to come to Merced or Riverside to teach a diverse student body that comes from many parts of California. It’s another to recruit faculty of color to work in Alpine, TX or Morgantown, WV. Even College Station, TX and Lynchburg, VA present distinct challenges for faculty recruitment that none of the UC institutions have – even though we are flagship institutions for systems in diverse states, our states are associated in many people’s minds with centuries of racism, our institutions aren’t the most prominent ones in our state, and they are located in smaller towns, so many candidates might reasonably choose not to even bother applying. There are things we can do to help get past that hurdle (making the case up front that we do draw from all parts of the state, and that we aren’t as far from the major cities as people think), but some institutions just won’t be able to make that case.Report

Grad Student4
Grad Student4
1 year ago

If we designed a simple model in which we have the pool of applicants assigned to a number of nodes (universities) completely randomly, we would still have plenty of outcomes with 5 of them being white men. If we then altered the model to have a premium preference for any specific identity group (progressive affirmative action), we would still get plenty of outcomes with 5 white men. And certainly if we had a system where spousal or previous employment premiums were added, we would get 5 white people.

I guess I’m just not sure how any reasonable person can look at this outcome and infer some kind of racial bias. This is coming from someone who embraces all of the standard progressive positions on hiring and affording resources to faculty from certain identity groups. It is likely that the spousal preference, as Mulligan above suggests, exacerbates these outcomes, so I can see a disparate impact argument there. But I don’t understand why anyone would react to this otherwise as a signal of discouragement.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Grad Student4
1 year ago

Yes.
If you pick six people at random from a large group one third of whom have characteristic X, the probability of getting one or fewer with X is about 35%. If one sixth in the group have characteristic X , the probability of not picking any with X is again about 35%.Report

VT Philosopher
VT Philosopher
1 year ago

It’s disappointing and embarrassing to see that people in my field have descended into such shallow, mindless criticism without even knowing the details of each hire. No wonder commentators do not use their names. The VT dept lost faculty over several years (it is still smaller than it had been), and the logistics of the replacements just happen to fall in one academic year (in some cases because a faculty member asked to spend initial years elsewhere). One had been a visiting faculty member here for years, and obtained the opportunity to have a regular position. Another was a post doc. Two involved hiring couples, one has been in the works for many years. The dept is one of the few developing a strong area of expertise in race studies. At least one commentator mentioned some of these facts.Report

Another Grad
Another Grad
1 year ago

I would like a job one day. 🙂Report

Avalonian
Avalonian
1 year ago

I find it sort of depressing that I saw this post, saw the number of comments on this post, and immediately knew what virtually all of the commenters would be saying. Just on a personal level, is anyone tiring of this same old run-around that we all do on this issue every time? Someone sees an outcome and illegitimately infers bias, someone else points this out, then we get into the stuff about the process and the larger environment that is creating the problem, then the meritocrats say the thing they always say, the skeptics about “merit” say their thing… it’s the same conversation every time.

I would love to see some suggestions about how we can have more productive commentary/discussion on this issue. Starting with, for example, how to deal with the knee-jerk anger that about 25% of our field seems to inevitably feel and express whenever a particular outcome isn’t ideally diverse. This anger isn’t totally misplaced; repeated bad outcomes mean that something isn’t going right somewhere in the chain. But the anger is also both unhelpfully moralistic and unresponsive to simple statistics and to contextual factors, given that it is directed at real people in real situations. The resulting conversation is always defensive and not particularly constructive (with some noble exceptions). How do we move past this dynamic?Report

Seymour Borgman
Seymour Borgman
1 year ago

5 of the 6 have non-institutional web sites, and 3 have their own domains. What explains this?Report

Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
Reply to  Seymour Borgman
1 year ago

A grooming process on how to play the part of a “professional” philosopher.Report

Grad student
Grad student
Reply to  Delicious Vegan Sandwiches
1 year ago

I didn’t understand this comment—could you elaborate?Report

Seymour Borgman
Seymour Borgman
Reply to  Grad student
1 year ago

It seems to be saying that grad students these days are being told, explicitly or implicitly, that getting a job is likely to depend on looking “professional”, including having a web site to promote their own work, a particular style of CVs and teaching statements (and nowadays diversity statements). In other words, the weight of form over what was classically understood as intellectual/academic substance has increased.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Seymour Borgman
1 year ago

This seems to me to be unnecessarily uncharitable conspiracy-mongering. When I hire someone I’m not just hiring a sack of meat that’s going to churn out articles. I’m hiring a colleague. I’m hiring someone whose job will be equally divided between research, teaching, and service. I need to know that this person is not just going to have a research agenda with a good enough trajectory to get tenure but that they’re willing to work on department, college, and university committees. I need to know, to the best of my ability to gauge it, that they’ll be good colleagues whom I’m okay with being around for 10, 20, or 30 more years.

A website signals an understanding that academia isn’t just about publishing but that it very much does have a personal aspect attached to it and that you’re comfortable with that aspect. The bitterness here and complaints about form seem misdirected and focused on fragility. The real answer is that the job market sucks and when you have your pick of among a slate of fantastic candidates, you (and I mean both of you, Seymour and Delicious Vegan Sandwiches) are likely to make the same choice (i.e., to pick the best all-around candidate even if they aren’t the one with “the most pubs” as if that were the only, or even the single most important, thing that matters).Report

Seymour Borgman
Seymour Borgman
Reply to  Caligula's Goat
1 year ago

A harsh job market certainly *can* demand as much as it wants from candidates, such as videos of them standing on their heads, or, like an undergraduate Ivy League admission application, proof of their excellence and accomplishment in sports and hobbies. Any such hazing ritual really would tell us important and useful things about the applicant as a Real Person, arguably more so than a “professional web site” that rehashes the CV.

Teaching and diversity statements make sense, on paper, in this respect in that they would appear to provide information orthogonal to everything else in the application. In practice they are Keynesian beauty contests in which everyone tries to guess what everyone else (on the committee) thinks the most beautiful baby looks like. For the same reason, these web sites mostly have a similar style and format, and they are not orthogonal at all to other info (the CV). So it seems more a test of administrative skills, hoop jumping, expected-signal-sending and the like.Report

J.
J.
1 year ago

For what it is worth, VT hired Sukaina Hirji (and Daniel Wodak), and lost both to Penn.Report

Seymour Borgman
Seymour Borgman
Reply to  J.
1 year ago

Adding those to the data, 7 of 8 hires have non-institutional web sites, and 4 of them have their own domains. It would be interesting to tabulate this for recent hires in the broader job market.Report

Jedediah
Jedediah
Reply to  Seymour Borgman
1 year ago

nearly every philosopher i know has non-institutional websites, why on earth would this be surprising or mean much of anything at allReport

Seymour Borgman
Seymour Borgman
Reply to  Jedediah
1 year ago

I know of no other field in which personal FirstnameLastname.com domains and personal self-promotion websites are pervasive for ordinary (i.e., not frequently in contact with media) academics, and I think that it is a recent development in philosophy. If there was an impression, accurate or not, that early users of such sites had an advantage in getting jobs, it’s easy to see how that could catalyze a relatively quick conversion into standard practice for the whole job market.Report