Grad Students: What Would You Tell Your Professors, But Can’t? (Volume 2)


Philosophy graduate students, what would you like to tell your professor(s) right now, but can’t?

[Kate Marling, “Classical Sculpture Mask”]

As philosophy professors and philosophy departments get ready for the upcoming year, it would be useful to hear from graduate students things it may be difficult, awkward, or risky for them to express or ask about in person to those in their program.

We asked this question here around five years ago as a follow-up to “Grad Students: What Do You Wish You Knew?“. It seemed like a good idea to pose it again, since we recently posted “Grad Students: What Do You Wish You Knew? (Volume 2)“. There might be new issues or concerns, and some previously mentioned ones might still be relevant.

Given the possible sensitivity of the subject matter, pseudonymous comments will be allowed. Please note that if you enter in the comment box the email address with which you regularly comment on blogs, your regular avatar will appear next to your comment (and be sent out to those who receive email notifications of comments). So if you do not wish your identity to be revealed, enter “[random word]@DNgrad.com” or some such alternative as your email address when you comment.

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Tilda
1 month ago

One-year postdocs should be illegal.Report

Pseudonymtellectual
1 month ago

Your biases (race, sex, ability, etc.) are painfully obvious and you are never as aware of them, nor doing as much to redress them, as you think you are.Report

5th year
1 month ago

Not everyone wants to be a professor. Stop pushing for that and help prepare your students for the ability to succeed outside academia. There are so many things we can do with our degrees. Stop limiting our imagination and possibilities.Report

Exactly
Reply to  5th year
1 month ago

I once sat down with a professor around my 2nd year of a PhD program and mentioned that (for various reasons) I was losing interest in becoming a professor. Their response was, with a condescending tone, “Well, *what else* would you do?”. These folks are limiting our imaginations with their limited imaginations.Report

Recent grad
Recent grad
Reply to  5th year
1 month ago

As a recent grad who failed to secure academic employment and am now scrambling to find employment elsewhere, I’m all for preparing grad students for non-academic jobs. Still, this comment rubs me the wrong way. Imagining enrolling in a nursing program and complaining, “not everyone wants to become a nurse. Stop pushing for that!” By all means, help prepare students to succeed outside academia, but that’s plan B–if you didn’t want to be a professor in the first place, you’re probably in the wrong program.Report

Exactly
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

Someone can discover *within* a PhD program (roughly 6 years of their life, I’d remind you!) that they would prefer not to be a professor. Your thought that, once they discover this, they are “probably in the wrong program” is exactly the toxic mentality that should be removed. But, right, the most important thing is helping folks succeed outside academia – or at least not making them feel like failures for looking elsewhere!Report

Recent grad
Recent grad
Reply to  Exactly
1 month ago

There is nothing wrong with discovering that you didn’t want to be a professor after all, but the appropriate reaction to that discovery is to reassess whether your current program is still the right program for you, i.e. whether it suits your newly-found professional goals, not to demand that your program prepares you for those goals! Philosophy graduate programs are geared towards a very specific goal, i.e., becoming a professor. They may or may not be suited to other professional goals. I don’t see how it’s “toxic” to recognize that.Report

Exactly
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

I’m glad you are not the chair of our department.Report

Evan
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

Your comment assumes that a philosophy degree isn’t portable like a nursing degree. This is false. Unlike nursing, philosophy is more portable and can be supplemented and complement by other career paths e.g. law, business, finance, politics, computer science.

There was a recent post about how some philosophers are working with US cabinets and serve as advisors.

So to answer the question: “What are we suppose to do?”

Learn from philosophers working in industry and encourage your students to take certain classes that will be highly relevant in industry and encourage them to make friends outside of philosophy.

Right now, my local bank is looking for entry level employees as data analysts. They’ll train you. The job description requires people to be critical thinkers and be analytical and have some basic understanding of ethics. My friend wants me to join him since I’m very analytical and he’ll refer me if I decide to join.

My piece of advice: Make more friends outside of philosophy since they’ll know you and can refer you for certain things. I’m fortunate to have diverse friends who know me as a person and who are thoughtful.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
Recent grad
Recent grad
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

Your comment assumes that a philosophy degree isn’t as portable as a nursing degree.” No, it doesn’t. It just assumes that, like a nursing program, a philosophy graduate program is also geared towards certain professional goals, i.e., becoming a professor, which is why it’s unreasonable to demand that professors stop pushing for grad students to become professors themselves. That’s what the program is for!Report

Evan
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

There can multiple assumptions. That’s just one of them. There is no mutual exclusivity here in terms of training your students to be professional philosophers while also encouraging them to take non-philosophy classes and make non-philosophy friends that can be beneficial to them.

I don’t think most people here are arguing that professors should stop training their students to be philosophy professors. Just be realistic with them about the prospect and tell them what they can do if professional philosophy doesn’t work out.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
whoneedsphilosophy
whoneedsphilosophy
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

I think your understanding of the purposes of graduate study in philosophy is very narrow. It ought not to be the case that students studying philosophy are not encouraged to seek employment in a suitably related field; for example, a field directly related to the area in which the student wrote their dissertation. I knew a grad student in my first year of grad school who wrote his dissertation in dialethic logics, and he now works as an analyst in Silicon Valley. His advisor helped him find and secure this job given his (the student’s) focus. How would you respond to his advisor’s role in helping this student to secure this job? I’m just curious because I’ve never heard anyone talk this way during the last eight years I’ve studied philosophy. It’s rather depressing, and I don’t agree that this is the best way to think of the purpose of graduate school in philosophy.Report

Recent grad
Recent grad
Reply to  whoneedsphilosophy
1 month ago

As I said, I am all for preparing students for non-academic jobs. So, how would I respond to the role of your fellow grad student’s advisor in helping them secure a non-academic job? I would say that’s great! I wish my advisor would have done that for me. My point is that if you think about the structure of a graduate degree–the course requirements, the things you are expected to do (e.g., teaching and service), etc.–and you ask, what career path does this degree best prepares me for? The answer is pretty obvious, namely becoming a professor. That doesn’t mean that it cannot prepare you for other things as well, e.g., business or tech. But it’s pretty obvious that it won’t prepare you for those other things as well as other degrees, e.g. an MBA or a CS degree. In a pinch, you can use a knife to cut paper, but you probably want scissors!

I would think that’s all pretty obvious. Does that strike you as a narrow understanding of the purposes of a graduate philosophy degree?Report

whoneedsphilosophy
whoneedsphilosophy
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

No, this is not narrow, but it is more qualified than the comment above that students should question whether they ought to be in grad school for philosophy if they are reconsidering their desires to teach philosophy.

Sure, other degrees would prepare students better– but once a student is in a program, it becomes harder to switch to another department just because she or he might have cold feet or self-doubt, or whatever. So, I think it is more reasonable for those students not to be judged as people who may need to leave their programs (or reconsider their reasons for being there), but just as students who might reasonably be happier in non-academic employment, although, of course, teaching philosophy is the most obvious career choice for any student in a phil PhD. But I don’t think it will be the best path for every phil PhD, and I think that many departments support students finding non-academic jobs, as they do students going on the job market.Report

A. jouis
A. jouis
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

nursing doesn’t have a barely 40/100 placement rate, if the formula (of focusing on professorship) is failing it makes sense to try something else, not so much to keep trying to edge a shrinking sliver, especially given the money and time costsReport

David Lu
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

As someone who works in industry (tech), philosophy PhDs are not particularly portable. My advice for grad students who aren’t near completion and decide not to pursue academia is to leave earlier rather than later. The time is better spent gaining job specific skills than finishing the PhD. The former are a lot more valuable on the job market than the latter.

Job descriptions that require people to be “critical thinkers” or “analytical” are almost completely meaningless — terms you can see in postings for cashier jobs.Report

Evan
Reply to  David Lu
1 month ago

That depends on what you’re *doing* in “tech.” The tech industry can involve things like AI Ethics, business strategies, cost/benefit analysis, management, etc.

Many CEOs works in tech, but many are not an engineer. A philosopher who works in ethics could be beneficial at board meetings with tech companies since philosophers compared to most are often more critical of certain proposals and who could ask good questions to avoid disasters. In fact, there is research that has shown that people often agree with others when there are people in the same room vs when they are alone looking that a problem by themselves called the Solomon Asch Conformity Problem. Having a philosopher who is unapologetically critical can be epistemically beneficial at these meetings.

If you’re thinking about the engineering and mathematical aspects of tech, then perhaps not.

Other than that, you’re pretty much saying what I’ve been saying: take some non-philosophy classes that can beneficial for industry or dual-major.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
David Lu
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

I absolutely don’t regret my philosophy degrees, and I think students absolutely benefit from a dual-major or minor in philosophy.

A PhD in philosophy, however, is a different story, and I thought this thread was about what (primarily PhD) grad students would like to tell their profs. In most cases, the PhD is not particularly helpful on the job market, especially for the time and effort spent getting it. I’ll grant it’s usefulness if you’re looking specifically for ethics board jobs. But it’s not like philosophy PhDs are especially good at critical or analytical thinking outside their domain.

I’m saying that most philosophy PhD students who don’t plan on going into academia should probably quit earlier than later and focus on gaining some other skills. Maybe you agree with the gain some other skills part, but it doesn’t sound like you’re advocating leaving a PhD program. Outside of some very specific industry roles, I don’t see that PhD programs prepare us well for non-academic jobs.Report

Evan
Reply to  David Lu
1 month ago

Most of them don’t plan on quitting a Ph.D. program. They often see it as a last resort to go into industry. That’s why a lot of people are advocating that philosophy Ph.D. advisors should prepare them at least in terms of advice and suggestions so that it’s not too late.

Should philosophy professors train students for industry? Not necessarily. Most are not competent enough if at all. I do think we should have more philosophers who have industry experience be hired so they can offer classes that incorporate more real-world things for philosophy (grad) students. In other words, grad schools should be more pluralistic in terms of professors. Give students as many options as they can provide.

I don’t know how long you’ve been out of philosophy, but I’ve been seeing a lot of applied stuff in grad schools recently. Yes, it’s not where it should be, but a lot of people here are making the normative claim that grad schools *should* include more applied stuff. And I think some philosophers are putting the effort to learn more of real-world problems. Some philosophers are brushing up on international law, international bilateral agreements, negotiation strategies, investment agreements, etc.

I’m not necessarily suggesting people leave their program early since that might be too much for many of them. I do think they should take some certification programs at their school in conjunction. Many undergraduate programs now have Philosophy, Politics, and Economics concentrations and other combinations.

I would also advise many political philosophers to study political science so at least they could be hired in those departments as well just in case a philosophy department doesn’t want them.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
David Lu
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

Yes, on some of these points we agree. It’s been almost a decade since I was in a philosophy grad program, so it could be that things have changed drastically. Philosophy students definitely need to interact with and learn more about real-world problems. Many (most?) of them aren’t going to get a full-time philosophy position.

These days I teach in a CS department (in addition to research work in tech industry). It’s a much more balanced department with research faculty and industry experienced and networked faculty. Our PhD students have tons of resources whether they want to remain in academia or go out to industry.Report

whoneedsphilosophy
whoneedsphilosophy
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

Nursing, though, is a trade, while studying philosophy (or other subjects in the humanities) is a vocation. There is more one can do with a degree in philosophy than one can do training for a particular kind of job in the medical field. If one was training in logic, than it might make sense to say, why not use your skills in logic as an analyst or teacher? But philosophy is sufficiently broad enough of a field that teaching does not have to be the only option for grad students.Report

Derek Bowman
Reply to  whoneedsphilosophy
1 month ago

I don’t think it behooves us to underestimate nursing, either as a set of adaptable skills or as a vocation. The nurses I know are following a calling that’s at least as noble as anything I’ve done, and I suspect none of them would describe their working lives as mere rote application of narrow job skills provided by their degrees. Ask any nurse you know how well their vocational training prepared them for the reality of COVID-19 and now of the delta variant.

I’m certainly an advocate of thinking about the application of philosophy beyond the academy (see the link at my name), but it’s a mistake to think that there is something special about philosophy which makes it uniquely adaptable in ways that other forms of learning are not.

I also think the wide variety of paths PhDs have followed casts doubt on how much we can reasonably expect our academic philosopher mentors to be able to prepare us for those alternatives.Report

whoneedsphilosophy
whoneedsphilosophy
Reply to  Derek Bowman
1 month ago

I agree. I agree that nursing can be a vocation and isn’t a narrowly proscribed field; nor, I’m sure, is the training for it. I think these are all very good points. I guess my point of critique was that philosophy grad school is singularly preparing students to be professors. In my experience, I don’t think that is how things are, nor how they ought to be, and I agree that many students follow their own unique career choices in many humanities Phd programs.

I’m not sure whether I think advisors should be more ‘hands-on’ in this regard, but at least, it should not be the only expectation of advisors that their students are solely focused on the job market after they finish, which rings true in my program so far (some students are on the market, and some have gotten jobs).Report

5th year
Reply to  Recent grad
1 month ago

I understand where you are coming from, but consider a better analogy, what about a political science program? Should the become professors? Are PhDs only meant as teacher-trainers? Isn’t a philosophy PhD valuable for a hospital ethicist position? Why be so linear with our degree when no other PhD program operates that way?
Also, our degree teaches us to be researchers. The assistantships are where we learn the teaching trade. Don’t conflate the two.Report

Evan
Reply to  5th year
1 month ago

I agree. Some people on here really do lack imagination.Report

Gradstudent anonymous
1 month ago

1.) It’s pretty damn obvious you value problematic academics over the students that they harmed and your silence on questions of why you’re still using searle given what he did is deafening.

2.)No, women in philosophy are not doing ok. It’s not ‘all fixed’.

3.) Your students DO NOT want to sleep with you. Ever.Report

Retired
Reply to  Gradstudent anonymous
1 month ago

Do you say this, (3), to the students now married to their former teachers? There are so many such couples at PhD philosophy programs, including those with good climate reputations, that claims such as (3) are hard to understand.Report

Gradstudent anonymous
Reply to  Retired
1 month ago

I would say that luckily this is becoming less and less common and that this is a good thing. Back in the ‘good old days’ or what you may be referring to, a lot of problematic stuff was flying under the radar. Also yes, 3) was oversimplified. Surely, sometimes your students might want to sleep with you – but you should always assume that they do not. Because you shouldn’t sleep with them, however interested you might be. Not if you’re supervising them.Report

Resist
1 month ago

The job market is really bad. This is stressful for grad students and for reasons it would be impossible to enumerate here. The response to a really bad job market should *not* be an increase in severe and restrictive bureaucratic measures to keep us all in line (as a means to “better prepare us for the job market”, or, worse, a means to filtering out the less promising candidates). If hardly any of us are getting jobs, then perhaps emphasis should be placed on making the experience of grad school intrinsically worthwhile, rather than a more concerted attempt at funneling us into non-existent jobs (or, jobs that are not really worth anyone’s time). In general: please resist the many temptations to make philosophy a more toxic, less inclusive, less creative, less friendly, more competitive, more superficial, and more careerist space in response to a market which seems to demand these things. *Don’t be cowardly* (doing what’s easy or comfortable rather than what’s right) – stand up for your students and the discipline as a whole in whatever way you can.

(I write all this knowing that hardly any professors will actually read and take seriously these comments. But maybe some fellow grads will be sympathetic.)Report

Resist
Reply to  Resist
1 month ago

A brief follow up, because I can’t help but hear a professor’s voice in response (one I’ve heard many times): “Well, what are *we* supposed to do?” Something! Do *something*! Nothing is not the thing to do. Show your support. Take a stand. Acknowledge directly the shitty-ness of things and show an openness to help improve. You are tenured. You have a wonderful salary. You have power and privilege. Use it for good.Report

anon
1 month ago

Trying to be friends with your students isn’t the same thing as supervising them. I didn’t need my drinks to be bought, I needed someone interested in my project. The fact you could not register that the power dynamics at play, that I as a student could not refuse your crossing the professional line to want to be friends–this all derived I think I think from you just being a terrible human being.Report

Evan
1 month ago

Please brush up on philosophy of education. It’s strange to me how many professors don’t (want to) understand their own institution from the lens of their own discipline e.g. philosophy of education, sociology of education, legality of education, politics of education, history of education, psychology of education, economics of education.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
Anonymous
1 month ago

Why are SO MANY professors horrible at teaching? Is it so hard to assign a text and work through that assigned text in class? I get pretty bummed when I think about how many of my professors have stood in front of a class and wasted months of my time.

Also, fwiw, tearing a paper to shreds isn’t the same as giving feedback.Report

formergrad
1 month ago

You’re not doing me a favor by supervising me. It’s your job. In my case, tax-payers pay you to do this job.Report

Sthother
Sthother
Reply to  formergrad
1 month ago

I wholeheartedly agree with this one! Professors are so uninterested in students in my university that you actually can’t find a document that states the supervisors actual obligations. We also have extremely limited access to literature and when you ask for help, they say it is not their duty to revise your bibliography. My thesis advisor’s participance in my work has been “Sent me 20 pages in 2 months time”. I do, he reads them after a few reminders and then says “All is good, go on”.Report

david
Reply to  Sthother
1 month ago

If all your advisor says is “all is good, go on”, I wouldn’t complain too much if I were you. He might not be reading your thesis too carefully, but consider some of the other, more brutal (and not wholly uncommon) possibilities, e.g., “this thesis sucks” !!!Report

Modest Proposal
1 month ago

Here’s easy advice: Give some positive reinforcement, at least semi-regularly.

I suspect many faculty don’t notice that 99% of grad students’ interactions with the profession (faculty, journals, other grad students) come across as 100% discouraging. Not necessarily very discouraging. But discouraging to the extent that, without receiving any encouragement, any interaction will read like we’re wasting other people’s time (which is discouraging).

Consider even a ubiquitous conversation like:

Faculty: “Hi, hows your day? What have you been working on?”
Grad student: “Well, I’ve been trying to figure out… [fumbles for a minute or two to explain paper they’re reading / writing].”
Faculty: [after a moment of silence, asks some clarificatory question]
Grad student: [fumbles to answer it, because they’re still figuring things out]
[This Q&A maybe repeats a couple times.]
Faculty: [Quietly bobs their head a bit.] “… Well, I have to get back to work. Have a nice day.”

This is utterly routine, but it’s crucial to note that the take-away of this conversation is ambiguous. If you’re optimistic, you’ll interpret the faculty as showing interest—a good sign. But the pessimist will see them as politely passing over the ineptitude of the grad student—a bad sign. The problem then becomes that, without clear reasons to adopt the optimistic interpretation, grad students will gravitate toward the pessimistic one, because they (regularly) do receive explicit bad signs that they’re wasting other people’s time (e.g. journal & conference rejections, even just having objections raised to them when not coupled with advice on how to respond). Now imagine 5-6 years of this happening, where 99% of interactions are either explicitly discouraging or ambiguous at best, and only 1% contain a single explicit bit of encouragement (I mean anything as slight as, “Thanks, that’s a helpful question”). Without such reasons for favoring the optimistic interpretation, the at-best-ambiguous interactions that are utterly ubiquitous to philosophy (again e.g. even just hearing someone quickly raise an objection to what you’ve said) will be seen as evidence for, “Wow, I’m an idiot. I really don’t belong here; I’m wasting everyone’s time. And I’m even dumber for only appreciating this x years after enrolling.”

So really, we don’t need a bullshit compliment sandwich. We’re not necessarily craving for approval or flattery. Just something to stop the avalanche of pessimistic evidence. A single, “Hm, thanks, this helped me think of this stuff in a new way,” at the end of each conversation would go a long way.Report

Matt
Matt
Reply to  Modest Proposal
1 month ago

I have been at my school for 5 years and have yet to witness such an interaction.Report

whoneedsphilosophy
whoneedsphilosophy
Reply to  Matt
1 month ago

I’ve seen it and felt it. You might be an outlier, so to say (or maybe not, but I do think that a chilly climate in philosophy is not an anomaly). Say, for example, that there is a graduate philosophy program with no women and no black people, and then one black woman gets accepted and goes to the program. This black student might notice and feel the above types of interactions differently than the rest of the grad students in her program, since no one else in the program looks like her, to say the least. I’m not saying that would apply to your comment, but I know I have felt a very chilly climate in the grad program(s) I have been in. If you been encouraged, maybe we can take your advice, if so.Report

Modest Proposal
Reply to  Matt
1 month ago

Since I described two sorts of interactions, I’m not sure which Matt referred to. I can easily read him as meaning he’s never seen an interaction with any explicit encouragement, or as meaning he’s never seen an interaction of the student-faculty sort I described as ubiquitous. But I’ll point out that if Matt was saying he’s never witnessed an interaction that lacked any positive reinforcement whatsoever (as whoneedsphilosophy took him), then Matt’s own post (as an interaction with me) counts as the exact sort of thing I described. That is, it’s just a flat/bare disagreement, which has ambiguous implications. Pessimistically, the force of Matt’s post might be interpreted as saying my post was just a waste of people’s time. Optimistically, we might instead see Matt as implicitly validating me by giving me his time and attention. (Notably, this silver-lining optimism feels weak and strained.) But our optimism/pessimism will also influence how we interpret the ambiguous content of Matt’s post—whether the interaction he reports never seeing is that where no explicit encouragement is given, or whether he means the sterile student-faculty interaction I described as ubiquitous—since this will amount to whether you interpret Matt as expressing solidarity with me or as effectively giving me an incredulous stare. Again, the whole problem is that how you interpret these exchanges turns on your disposition, which will be more or less reasonable given your other experiences in philosophy.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Modest Proposal
Matt
Matt
Reply to  Modest Proposal
1 month ago

My apologies for not being specific. I have not seen, to date, the first kind of interaction you described at my current university. To be fair, it was common at my previous school (undergrad + MA), although that school lacked a PhD program.Report

Anon
Anon
Reply to  Modest Proposal
1 month ago

I had to tell my committee that it would be nice if not everything they said to me was critical. I remember a professor being shocked: “Oh! We just assumed that you already knew you were great, so we could skip that and get to the things you didn’t know.”

I think a lot of profs think this way, and it’s understandable that they do, but they should make a concerted effort to get themselves out of this mentalityReport

Prof Siriani
Prof Siriani
Reply to  Modest Proposal
1 month ago

I honestly don’t quite get what is supposed to be wrong with how the Prof responded in the sample dialogue you mention? Let’s be honest, Profs are only sometimes genuinely interested in what students are working on, and they can’t be expected to always be truly interested (that would be an unreasonable expectation!). What they *can* be expected to do is to politely ask — as the Prof has done in your example. If when they do ask and the student can’t really string a sentence together, I don’t think that politely excusing oneself from the conversation (especially as one is busy) is problematic in any way. I don’t think the Prof should be expected to just stand there and wait. Making the polite gesture to ask in the first place is more than sufficient! ( I am not at all referring to actual meetings – there Profs should engage seriously, regardless of whether interested. But in passing in the hallway or whatever, the kind of dialogue described passes quality control!)Report

Modest Proposal
Reply to  Prof Siriani
1 month ago

Like I said, there’s an optimistic interpretation readily available. And it’s equally plausible as the pessimistic one. But your personal history (e.g. the one that got you that ‘Prof’ title in your name, which early grad students lack) will make one interpretation less of a stretch than the other.

To be clear, I didn’t say the professor should wait. I suggested they give explicit positive encouragement. I never even said professors must always give it; I suggested “semi-regularly.” I think it’s more of an imperfect duty to do better than the interaction I described. And like all imperfect duties, you can point out cases where (a) they’re not fulfilled but (b) things are in good order. My whole point was that the prof is being minimally decent; they did the least they could be expected to do; they were only being polite. I could stress ‘minimally,’ ‘least’ and ‘only.’ But yes, it would be out of order to chastise the prof individually for not doing more on that occasion. And I myself did not do so: I offered the case specifically as one where profs can contribute to the problem despite doing nothing wrong—or as you put it, “passing quality control.” But then again, it also passes quality control for each prisoner to defect in the prisoner’s dilemma, for each member of the commons to contribute to their tragedy, etc. — Yet in all these cases, something at least like disappointment could be in order (barring extenuating circumstances like the prof being particularly busy at that moment), and for that reason I disagree with your take that the prof’s conduct isn’t “problematic in *any* way.” (Rule of thumb: there’s something disappointing if a person’s only defense is that they’re “being polite.” Norms of etiquette aren’t a crutch to be leaned on.) Anyway, the prof described could obviously, and easily, have done better while serving themselves by giving the student explicit positive encourage without politely sticking through their rambling (e.g. by saying “That’s interesting! We should talk about this sometime, but unfortunately I really have to rush”).

But to repeat, all I asked is that professors chip in (again, “semi-regularly”) to slow down the overwhelming sense of personal worthlessness the profession imposes on grad students.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Modest Proposal
gradstudentstruggleposts
1 month ago

I dove into this program confident I’d swim through it smoothly. Now I’m just hoping to tap the other end of the pool before the whistles start blowing. There are so many things in the water you don’t see. I spend every breath on the next stroke and it leaves none to tell you.Report

postdoc
1 month ago

The profession is burning down around us. Tenure will be a thing of the past in a few years. Philosophy is shrinking or disappearing at a huge number of universities. Please, do something! You’re the only ones who can. Organize, unionize, resist administrations that attempt to slash humanities budgets. Jostling to join or build the shiniest philosophy department is rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. The audience of people who cares is dwindling rapidly, and it’s doing so because of your own inaction.Report

Anon
Anon
Reply to  postdoc
1 month ago

While this needs to happen to stop a total collapse, I don’t think it will. There is, I think, a sociological explanation for this: academic philosophy’s work is solitary in nature, which ingrains a professional libertarianism (even in the most collective of us!); this plus the rat race produced by academia’s scarcity economy re: jobs makes us averse to organising along lines of solidarity.Report

ForThePeopleInTheBack
1 month ago

I wish professors cared more about the PhD program in Philosophy’s effect on marginalized students. We are brought in to programs with a dozen extra pitfalls for us, which include but are not limited to: microaggressions, economic disadvantages, the dismissal of our projects that deal with our lived experience, sanctions of intelligibility or lacking knowledge because what we study is not canon, inhabiting spaces that don’t look like us (and often faculty that don’t look like us), attempting to be activists for our causes while achieving already lofty junior-junior faculty expectations, and a general lack of support compared to our peers. I had faculty that gave up on me early and told other faculty members I didn’t belong there. And my department, by the way, is one of the better ones with diversity. I’ve been told I was “in the wrong place” when picking up my registration tag for a conference. Also, Quarantine not only messed with my mental health, but watching the chaos in the country happen to marginalized people like me, and being expected to teach, grade, and write (virtually) like normal hurt even more. Put accomodations and procedures into your diversity initiatives. Don’t just bring us in and expect us to swim in a discipline so centered around one demographic in both population and practice. P.S. Don’t even diversify if you’re not decolonizing.Report

ContinentalandAmerican
ContinentalandAmerican
Reply to  ForThePeopleInTheBack
1 month ago

I hate to sound overly bitter, but if you’re appealing to lived-experience and studying philosophy in the typical white and analytic department, then what the #$%^ are you doing there?! Assuming that your department is overwhelmingly white and analytic, there is no serious methodology inside analytic or post-analytic philosophy to conceptualize and talk about the problems of immediate experience. Pragmatism and phenomenology are well-suited for those frameworks and take your lived-experience seriously. You cannot expect vanilla Leiterite-benefiting departments to somehow respect marginalized groups that want to use their experience as a basis for talking about social and political problems. Such an approach is outside metaphilosophically of what they consider proper philosophy. So, I invite you to take up both Continental and American philosophies and leave them behind.

If you are inside these departments and attracted to their approach in doing philosophy, then you should realize that social concerns addressed philosophically and what we might call “public philosophy” are post-tenure projects. The argument in favor of attending these analytic and white departments is that you fit in the legacies of what passes for philosophy in that tradition and then you benefit from the prestige bias of placement from these departments.

And don’t get me wrong. Continental can be just as bad oftentimes, but there is *at least* room to take up concerns of one’s own lived-experience and others as a starting place to philosophize.Report

Rosa
Rosa
Reply to  ContinentalandAmerican
1 month ago

As a professor in a heavily analytic department, I disagree with ContinentalandAmerican – there are lots of us who think that there is fantastic philosophy done in these modes within analytic philosophy. I am certain I screw things up with my students in areas like these, but I hope that readers like ForThePeopleInTheBack know that there are lots of us in analytic departments who want you to do the work that you do because we think it’s good, and important, and we want to be reading it. (Which is in no way to minimize the ways we let you down.)Report

ContinentalandAmerican
ContinentalandAmerican
Reply to  Rosa
1 month ago

If you’re a professor in a heavily analytic department, but you’re not reading Fanon or George Yancy as part of that actual discourse, then you’re not taking the work that actual Black Marxists, Black Existentialists, Duboisians, Kingians, and early 19th century Black Dialectical Idealists were doing and continue to do. If you do not take history seriously nor take and read Baldwin and Douglass seriously, then you cannot help yourself to the want of doing good work on these issues. You can vaguely gesture that you want work done on these topics, but seriously if you have no methods in an analytic department to ground philosophy in experience or in marginalized philosophical traditions, then you have no way to facilitate this type of work or leg to stand on.

Continental and American philosophy are far superior in the many ways that I can attest to how experience is thematized. Can you?

The analytics should feel threatened on this point since their time has long since passed, Rosa.Report

Huh
Huh
Reply to  ContinentalandAmerican
1 month ago

Whose time has long since passed? Analytic philosophers in general? Or just those that engage with subjects related to or heavily affected by “experience”? I’m not sure what you are referring to, or why you’re attacking Rosa for their comment (there’s not enough information in Rosa’s comment to make many of the inferences you’re making about them). Rein it in, buddy!Report

Evan
Reply to  Huh
1 month ago

I don’t think they are attacking Rosa, but making a general statement. I don’t think they claim to know things about Rosa. Hence, the “If…then” logic being used throughout the first paragraph.Report

Huh
Huh
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

Combine the “if…then” sentences with the subsequent sentences (and their prior comment) to see that their point with the “if…then” sentences is not merely a general statement–conditionally true of Rosa–but also an attack on Rosa.

Even if the context doesn’t license reading the “if…then” sentences as attacking, which I maintain, how should we parse this:

“Continental and American philosophy are far superior in the many ways that I can attest to how experience is thematized. Can you?

The analytics should feel threatened on this point since their time has long since passed, Rosa.”

Surely the “Can you?” should be read in a doubtful/critical key, and since Rosa identified as a professor in a “heavily analytic” department, the latter sentence is directed at Rosa’s department, at the very least.

As Randy Moss would say, c’mon man!Report

Evan
Reply to  Huh
1 month ago

I read that part more as giving an opportunity for Rosa to defend analytic philosophy. Not all criticism is an attack. Was their criticism and certain claims about analytic philosophy faulty and not justified? Sure.

What I would have done was said, “Your criticism and claims of analytic philosophy are unjustified because of X, Y, Z.” This is what anonymous grad student did in response.

I worry about quickly calling arguments and critiques attacks. A philosopher would critique the claims made and not just jump to claiming it was an attack.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
whoneedsphilosophy
whoneedsphilosophy
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

The inferences that were made were critiqued by Huh. It doesn’t make sense to critique analytic methodology as having no room for phenomenology or studying experience, as people currently are working in these areas in analytic departments. Rebecca Tuvel writes about cultural appropriation, there are so many people working in analytic feminism now trying to answer questions about the ontology of sex and gender groups. This all relates to questions about experience, using analytic methods, rather than so-called continental ones. Plus, I’ve heard many professors calling into question the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy, as a divisive rather than a helpful distinction.

There’s no point to criticizing someone from an analytic department that wants to be inclusive with methodology. That is what ContinentalandAmerican has done in the above comment; I don’t have reason to believe otherwise, and there is no need to defend analytic philosophy because the arguments against it were filled with assumptions, like the one that Rosa was not reading black Marxists. This seems rather extreme…Report

Evan
Reply to  whoneedsphilosophy
1 month ago

We don’t know whether Rosa reads these authors or not, which was why they used the “if…then” hypothetical syllogism. I do agree that there are many in the analytic tradition that are influenced by continental philosophy.

I think by “experience” they meant works that are written narratively e.g. story-like instead of an argument or theory. Of course, lots of analytic philosophers take these first-person stories and use them in their theories. But they’re not the same even if they are working on experience. I say this because they referenced King and he used a lot of rhetorical style writing that many or most analytic philosophers would not approve of in their journals.

I don’t know if analytic philosophy is ready for rhetorical styles, which (I think) according to them, continental philosophy is more accepting of. The English department probably doesn’t have much qualms about rhetoric or this kind of style since creative writing is allowed. Philosophers like analytic philosopher Martha Nussbaum used a lot of literature references in her works, but only to analyze them and to support her conclusions/thesis.

Although both philosophical traditions are working on experience. It is highly unlikely that styles like many of King’s writing (”I Have a Dream”) would be accepted in analytic philosophy journals. Works like that are meant to *convey* or trigger emotions to the reader. That approach is very different.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
anonymous grad student
anonymous grad student
Reply to  ContinentalandAmerican
1 month ago

This comment is just ignorant. What about analytic standpoint epistemology? The work on social metaphysics pioneered by Sally Haslanger, Elizabeth Barnes, Robin Dembroff, and various of their students? The work on race in the mode of analytic political philosophy done by Tommie Shelby, Charles Mills, Lionel McPherson, etc. None of these topics are “post-tenure projects” but rather work that graduate students and young scholars are pursuing actively. I’m sure that there are many analytic philosophy departments where this work is not as supported as it should be, and furthermore that analytic philosophy should be criticized and pushed to be more open to these ideas than it currently is. But throwing around outdated stereotypes about very broad schools of thought isn’t helpful.Report

Gerry Pseudonym
1 month ago

[1]: If academia really had the standards of professionality you invoke, you would not have a job.

[2]: You act like you take student suicides as your own personal triumph, people overwhelmed by your greatness and high standards.

[3]: You’re not as good at manipulating people as you think you are. You’re actually not good at it at all. But you’re faculty so it doesn’t matter.Report

"recent" grad
1 month ago

1. Find ways to enable grad students to stay in the program, if they want, for substantially longer than the standard five or six years. More time makes it that much easier to do intellectually risky projects, ride out some of the vicissitudes of the market, and have a life during their twenties. (As someone who happily traded that life for job offers I was told to expect but have yet to materialize after years of looking, the last of these would have done the most, by far, to make things easier to weather.)

2. Do not listen to students who call attitudes they disagree with “toxic”, or who think a philosophy department should be a model of a just society instead of a place to learn a difficult and demanding art. They are loud, and the influence they wield on social media can seem daunting, but they are not representative.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  "recent" grad
1 month ago

There are students who don’t think a department should be a model of a just society, but do think a department should not be a model of a sexist or racist or bigoted society. Should we listen to them?Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  "recent" grad
1 month ago

After answering my previous question, perhaps you can advise us about listening to students who think that a department should be a model of a just society AND a place to learn a difficult and demanding art.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  "recent" grad
1 month ago

What about the students at the intersection of th groups to which I’ve already referred?Report

David Wallace
Reply to  Jen
1 month ago

The intersection is empty, isn’t it? The first group of students don’t think a department should be a model of a just society; the second group think it should.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

Yes. Is the group “recent” grad describes as empty? Raising this question was part of the pretense, after describing two groups in which the students “recent” grad derides likely actually belong. (Perhaps I should stick to being directly combative.)

Do you think the students “recent” grad derides actually think departments should be models of a just society *instead* of a place to learn a difficult and demanding art? It seems highly unlikely to me.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  "recent" grad
1 month ago

All my requests for your sage advice have led me to wonder now whether there are any students who, as you said, think a philosophy department should be a model of a just society INSTEAD of a place to learn a difficult and demanding art.

I’m beginning to wonder whether you’re simply foolish.Report

Evan
Reply to  "recent" grad
1 month ago

Even if you are right that these students you mentioned “are not representative,” the “learning” part is not guaranteed or at least is shaky since some commentators here have expressed their dissatisfaction with the way their professors teach, supervise, and treat their professional relationship with them (i.e. being too much of a friend to them instead of an intellectual guide/advisor).

It can be easy to skew the ratio of the friend:teacher role towards being more of a friend for their students because most professors aren’t taught how to be teachers in the first place and because almost all grad students are adults. In other words, professors can and sometimes get too comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly of course, but these professors should really get their priorities straightened out.

One thing I noticed as well from the philosophy blogospheres over the years, is just how much philosophy grad students are unprepared to do and think things on their own. If many or most grad students are learning by themselves for the most part, then they are their own teachers for the most part. If this is true, then we should question whether philosophy grad schools, in general, are even a good place to even “learn a difficult and demanding art” that is philosophy. Philosophy grad school is necessary to acquire a Ph.D. That much is true.

I don’t want to hastily discredit philosophy grad schools since I’m not a grad student, but from what I’ve been reading, it’s not as….how do I put it… Je ne sais quoi as some people claim.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
Paul
1 month ago

Do the bare minimum by your graduate students. Within reason:
–Grade papers promptly w/ comments
–Be available for a chat
–Be encouraging

and so on.Report

alex
1 month ago

I wish professors would remember that, however hard they’ve worked and however truly gifted they are, they are very lucky to be in the position(s) they’re in. many of the graduate students they are interacting with have not and will not be so lucky, despite how hard they work and how gifted they are.

I also wish faculty would care about the well-being of grad students more generally, including paying attention to the effects of other faculty members’ actions.

And finally, most biographically, I wish faculty members wouldn’t agree to be supervisors when they have no interest in supervising or advising and proceed to put no effort into it. Would also be nice if they encouraged or helped each other in this regard.Report

Anon
1 month ago

Philosophy grad school is toxic and exploitive. Many, many grad students find themselves broken, mentally, emotionally, and/or financially. The fact that it’s normalized doesn’t make it okay. The fact that you’re doing nothing about it makes you complicit.Report

JJJ
JJJ
1 month ago

If only a small percentage of your department’s graduates are getting relevant placements, consider reducing or pausing admissions.Report

Big Dawg
1 month ago

Enlighten yourself about the current state of the job market and professional demands and be aware that just finishing and focusing solely on one’s dissertation without doing outside teaching, attending conferences, etc is not really a luxury the current generation of prospective academics has.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Big Dawg
Human person
1 month ago

If you witness sexual harassment or creepiness, please, for the love of god, say something, even if (and especially if!) the person doing the harassing or creeping is your colleague.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Human person
lucky grad
1 month ago

I am having a lovely time at graduate school and have had overwhelmingly positive interactions with all of my professors. I feel extremely lucky about this, and understand that many others do not have such good experiences, and that some have very bad ones. However, I mention this because upon reading a thread like this one might get the impression that grad school is a horrible place for everyone, and in my experience and the experience of many of my friends and colleagues, this is simply not true. I also suspect that experiences vary greatly not only from person to person and based on student demographics–as others have rightly pointed out below–but also, and equally importantly, from department from department. It is good to have a place to air grievances and hold to account those departments and professors who do badly by their graduate students, but also important not to lose sight of those who do well by them.Report

Anon
Reply to  lucky grad
1 month ago

I’m glad you had a positive experience. However, I do wonder how common that is. My department has about 40 grad students. One time some of my grad student friends and I tried to count how many are *not* actively unhappy. We knew of two. I think it’s telling that there aren’t real efforts to even see how grad students are doing, e.g., run surveys, not to mention do anything about it. And it’s also telling that the Leiter ranking purports to rank grad programs without any regard to the well-being of grad students in those programs (or their placement). Both signal to me that grad-student well-being matters only on a superficial level, if at all.

(I remember that a while ago a paper came out with a survey that included questions as to how happy grad students are at different philosophy departments. My own department ranked high on that survey. I wondered how that happened and how come I never heard of the survey even though I was a grad student at the department at the time it was done. Then I discovered that it was because only a handful of grad students was asked to participate in the survey. To me, that is another indication of the lack of seriousness with which grad student well being is taken)Report

Anon
1 month ago

Stop degrading teaching. Lots of graduate students actually want to be good teachers and care about teaching as a profession. Philosophy academia tell us that if you care more about teaching than research then you will never get a job in a university. A lot of professors constantly shit talk teaching and many see it as a burden and a waste of their time.Report

Anonymous
1 month ago

You have the power and obligation to ostracize your toxic colleagues, regardless of how good you think they are at philosophy. Do not hire people who are good researchers but not pleasant to be around; do not invite them to give talks; do not attend conferences where they are participants, and make it clear to the organizers that they are the reason why.Report

"recent" grad
Reply to  Anonymous
1 month ago

Though I do (genuinely!) applaud the trend (if it is a trend) not to reward people who think being good at philosophy gives them license to be assholes, or who revel in the freedom their prestige gives them to abuse their power in any way they like—so long as they’re careful to make sure that it falls well short of anything that would expose them to public criticism or administrative action—some of the cruelest behavior I’ve seen has been cloaked in virtue, and has in many cases been at the hands of people who pride themselves on representing a kinder, gentler approach to professional philosophy than that of the bad old days.

As such, I think that if we all felt empowered to “ostracize” people we judged were “not pleasant to be around”—much less if we held our colleagues to an “obligation” to do this as well—the only result would be a discipline that felt even more like high school than it already does.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by "recent" grad
Jen
Jen
Reply to  "recent" grad
1 month ago

Some of the cruelest behavior? And many cases? Is this hyperbole?Report

Yes, it does happen
Yes, it does happen
Reply to  Jen
1 month ago

Not the OP, but I recognize the behavior described. I spent time in a department in which a bunch of the grads ganged up on and ostracized a female grad who had been the victim of serious sexual misconduct committed by another department member. They gave lip service to various progressive reasons for doing this (she was “toxic”) but in reality it was just old fashioned misogyny, bullying, and kicking a person while she is down. It wasn’t the cruelest thing I have ever seen in the field but it was pretty disgusting.

I support giving the cold shoulder to serial harassers and rapists, because if tenure is involved, that’s sometimes the only sanction that is realistically feasible. But I have seen the word “toxicity” applied not to the tenured men committing crimes but as a cover for bullying vulnerable and marginalized people. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Progressive language and values are often co opted to disguise bad behavior.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Yes, it does happen
1 month ago

The behavior you describe seems different from “cruel behavior cloaked in virtue” because neither being progressive nor invoking toxicity is virtuous on its own. But perhaps this is all that “recent” grad meant.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  "recent" grad
1 month ago

Do you applaud the trend more, or less than you applaud those who think philosophy departments should be models of a just society?Report

Recent PhD
1 month ago

Two themes here that I wholeheartedly agree with: (1) If you’re experiencing discrimination, harassment, or abuse of any kind in your department, that’s wrong, and your department has an obligation to rectify it. (2) Your professors have an obligation to be conscientious teachers (some are better than others, obviously), and *if* they take you on as an advisee (remember, a professor has an obligation to advise students, they don’t necessarily have an obligation to advise *you*), then they must be sufficiently engaged to see you through to the completion of your project.

Much of the rest of what’s been said above, honestly, sounds like sour grapes. If you entered a PhD program without understanding the horrific job market and without a backup plan, that’s your fault. Your committee members owe it to you to write honest letters of recommendation, and your program should have some general infrastructure for teaching students best practices for applying for academic jobs, but the reality is that the majority of graduates won’t find stable, long term academic jobs. You are responsible for planning accordingly.

If you can’t live on the meager stipend that most PhD programs (not just those in philosophy) offer without falling into financial ruin, then maybe you should not enroll in a program without securing some further financial assistance. (This was my situation, fwiw)

If being a graduate student is mentally and emotionally taxing such that your well-being is suffering (assuming this is not the result of (1) above), then perhaps being a graduate student is not for you. Writing a dissertation, teaching, giving talks at conferences, publishing, grading, etc. is A LOT of work. It’s hard, and it’s stressful. That’s the job. It’s up to you to find ways of coping with that stress and maintaining some degree of work/life balance.

Positive reinforcement, I agree, is an important teaching tool. It would be good if more professors employed it. That said, I take it as somewhat obvious that criticism is the currency of professional philosophy. You have to be able to take it without taking it personally. Presumably *you* think your work is good and your ideas are interesting and worth developing. If so, then criticism is far more helpful than praise.

I realize all of this is going to be unpopular and that by writing it I’m going to come across as an old-school, well-established academic who’s just shitting on the younger generation. I assure you that’s not the case. I’m in my mid-30’s, and I finished my PhD within the last five years at an unranked program. I am privileged insofar as I was able to secure stable academic employment (though not on the tenure-track and not in a philosophy department). It just irks me a bit to see threads like this in which grad students seem to be placing all of the blame for their ills on their professors or “the profession” without acknowledging that becoming a grad student was a choice they made. Grad students are not a vulnerable population in need of protecting. They are adults who have voluntarily made a particular life-choice that has real social, economic, and personal consequences.Report

Evan
Reply to  Recent PhD
1 month ago

Would you agree that it’s also the *undergraduate* advisors’ fault for not informing them about the reality of grad school?

When I was in pre-med during undergraduate, my pre-med advisor was very knowledgeable about the job prospects of the medical field and she even recommended me alternative paths if the med school wasn’t going to be an option. Granted she was just a chemistry professor, but she advised pre-medical track students and so she was responsible for keeping up with the job and educational prospects of the medical field e.g. medical school, nursing school, PA school, etc.

I will give credit to my philosophy advisor for telling me that professional philosophy career prospect was and is extremely slim. But I’m not sure about other undergraduate philosophy advisors elsewhere.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan
Recent PhD
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

That’s probably true to some extent. Insofar as the role of an undergraduate advisor is, in part, to advise students about prospects of graduate study in philosophy, then there has to be *some* blame to be placed if they fail to do so.

Even so, given the huge opportunity cost (not to mention actual cost) of enrolling in a PhD program and the ubiquity of easily accessible information about the abysmal job market, it’s hard for me to believe that a prospective student couldn’t have known the risks simply because they had a poor undergrad advisor.Report

Evan
Reply to  Recent PhD
1 month ago

Lots of young undergraduates are naive and hopeful like many young people. It may never have occurred to them to look at the job prospects because they may assume that there already are enough jobs available. You may be right. But ignorance (or even stupidity) here is inevitable not necessarily blameworthy.Report

dcw
dcw
Reply to  Recent PhD
1 month ago

More than sour grapes I see a lack of perspective – particularly a too narrow self-regard – in many of these comments. If you want professors to consider – as they should – individual graduate students’ situations, then it is fair to ask graduate students to consider professors’ situations, too. I have one committee member with serious health issues and another with a special needs child. These things affect their availability. I have my own issues that affect mine. We work it out together, like people who respect one another.

I see this kind of behavior in my own department, and it often stems from the graduate students not talking to their faculty until their frustrations hit a boiling point while venting with fellow grad students who tend to feed each others flames. I think that posts like this tend to encourage that sort of us/them way of thinking. Faculty are people and tend to respond like people to other people. (Sure there are those that don’t. There are grad students like that, too. Try to avoid both if you can. Avail yourself of university and other resources if you can’t. But reading blog comments won’t change their behavior.)Report

Evan
Reply to  dcw
1 month ago

“ More than sour grapes I see a lack of perspective – particularly a too narrow self-regard – in many of these comments.”

With all due respect: no shit Sherlock. This post is about what students want to tell *their* professors. I worry a lot of us may be lacking some commonsense here. I don’t think we should be quick to blame students for doing something that the blog post aims at in the first place! A more productive and fair thing would be to ask Justin to do one for professors towards students.Report

dcw
dcw
Reply to  Evan
1 month ago

The last thing we need is another us v. them blog post.Report

Evan
Reply to  dcw
1 month ago

The first step of solving a problem is identifying it. Then having a conversation about it. This is part of a restorative justice approach. Of course, these conversations aren’t easy, but it’s important to have them (anonymously) if we are to make any progress (small or large). Brushing hostilities, resentments, and problems under the rug can lead to more repeating of these problems.Report

Recent UK PhD Grad
Recent UK PhD Grad
Reply to  Recent PhD
1 month ago

The OP exemplifies the ultimate liberal response to unemployment. Yeah you deserve the misfortune of the labour market. If you try hard (as everyone says you have to) in the hope of making it (as everyone says you need to have to make it in academia) and then you fail well too bad, go live a shit life. Everything the OP says has been said about other unemployed people as well. Too bad miners/factory workers/retail workers for sticking with a job that’s declining, learn to code. So oblivious that there are only two solutions, either there has to be more investment in the Uni sector to create more jobs, or PhD programs have to stop admissions! But philosophy is a lost discipline so it will do neither.Report

Paul
1 month ago

Here is actionable advice.
1) When leaving comments on work, particularly thesis/dissertation work, be very clear which of your comments are just ideas, suggestions of possible new directions, etc., which comments are things that should be considered and ready to be discussed in a defense but should not be shoehorned into the text, and which comments indicate changes that have to be made before you approve the work.
2) Assume that your students are aware of professional activities they should be doing (submitting to conferences, submitting to journals, applying for grants, etc.) but aren’t aware of the actual steps of how to do them. The more advice you can give that takes the form of clear step-by-step instruction, the less overwhelming it will be for your students to try to achieve these professional goals.
3) [Clearly joking] Start a dating service. Using the small sample size of people who actually finished the PhD program I was in, those who finished early tended to be in long-distance relationships and had a major incentive to actually finish, and those who finished at all tended to be in a healthy supportive relationship. Their happiness wasn’t completely dictated by their experience qua graduate student.
4. Learn to talk about sports so that work isn’t the only thing you have in common with students/the only topic of conversation.Report

whoneedsphilosophy
whoneedsphilosophy
Reply to  Paul
1 month ago

(4) Or music, or current events, or food!Report

John
1 month ago

No longer a graduate student, and this will be a bit salty, but necessarily so:

  1. Respond to my emails you self-centered jackass; you agreed to be on my goddamn committee and I’ve been immensely respectful of your time and have asked extraordinarily little of you. But I need a response–three weeks ago.

Report

Poor PhD
1 month ago

Stop going on about the free food at department events. Y’all make a huge deal about how we should attend because there will be food and we’re poor/starving. We do not like talking about being poor with you. Unless you can get us more money, a simple “food provided” in an email or on a flyer is sufficient.Report

former grad student
1 month ago

If you agree to be on someone’s committee, then please read the work they send you and reply with (preferably helpful) comments. If it’s not your area of expertise, that’s okay. You can help in other ways by pointing out areas that are unclear, or try and make connections to other literature.Report

LGBTQ Grad
1 month ago

Stop saying things like “You all may learn to like living in [rural area you decidedly won’t learn to like living in]” when talking about the job market and applying. And stop downplaying and/or dismissing concerns about the geographic restrictiveness of a career in academia. It’s patronizing, insults the intelligence of your students, and makes it look like you either don’t understand or don’t care enough to be bothered to understand your student’s legitimate worries.

For some of us, taking what is by all traditional metrics a “good job” in many places in the US and around the world requires us to give up a great deal. For many people, these will be things of greater value than an academic career. If you’re LGBTQ, you may need to give up certain legal rights, any meaningful access to your community, and even any realistic chance at finding a partner if you’re single (the numbers are against you even in medium-sized towns). If you’re a racial minority, you may have to give up living in racially diverse areas and having access to your traditional support networks. If you’re married, your spouse may need to give up their career, or maybe even their happiness if they hate living in small college towns. Early career academics give up the stable, well-paying jobs and predictability that people in non-academic careers have at the same age. Most people, regardless of background, give up easy access and proximity to family. And all of this for a career path with what looks like a very uncertain future.

So don’t talk about worries like “I won’t have any housing or job discrimination protection there” as equivalent to “There’s no Trader Joe’s within 50 miles”. Just because you can be happy and flourish in an academic career in such an area, it doesn’t follow that your students can do the same. And realize that while your students all love philosophy, it isn’t anywhere close to the most important thing in any of their lives, nor frankly should it be.Report

Anonymous
1 month ago

To tenured faculty in particular:

We see you sitting on your hands when grads, post-docs, and NTT faculty try unionizing. We see it, and we remember it next time we wonder whether you’ll actually stick up for the vulnerable when it counts.

And no, comparing yourself to Socrates or whomever doesn’t make it ok to throw contingent workers under bus as you cross the picket line/scab. It just makes you sound glib and and out of touch.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Anonymous
John
Reply to  Anonymous
1 month ago

This became particularly salient at the beginning of the pandemic when, all of a sudden, some faculty at universities found their political convictions and began to speak out–speak out, of course, about how they might or would be impacted by their institution’s pandemic policies.

It’s not that these faculty were wrong to speak out. It’s just that they spoke out about an injustice while not at all agitating about the fact that the institutions that butter their bread rely on varieties of exploitation.

It’s no wonder the public rolls its eyes at us. Christ, I do too. For, call me nuts, but when the pandemic broke, tenured faculty at private American universities were not at the centre of my sphere of concern. I was wondering instead about my whether my mother-in-law would cope at the minimum wage service sector job she’s held for almost 40 years without a single sick day.

Embarrassing.Report

Anon
1 month ago

Please stop acting like teaching is the worst part of the job and that if we are more passionate about teaching than research then we’ll never get an academic job. Some of us actually care about teaching and it’s disheartening to hear that that’s not valued.Report

CryptoCon
1 month ago

It is wrong to assume that every grad student agrees with your political views. Calling conservatives, Trump supporters, or any non-leftist viewpoint racist, ignorant, fascist, etc. alienates a larger portion of the student body than you would expect. In general, one should not inject personal political views into non-political discussions (e.g. evoking BLM in a class on Hegel’s Phenomenology).Report

Junior woman
Reply to  CryptoCon
1 month ago

I think calling conservatives, Trump supporters, or non-leftist viewpoints *as such* racist, fascist, etc should not be done ESPECIALLY in political discussions – especially philosophical political discussion in the classroom. Analysis, critique, critical argument – all of these are acceptable. Culture war mudslinging is not. It’s an embarrassment to our discipline, whatever your personal political leanings; it should embarrass left- and right-leaning philosophers if they see philosophers doing this in the classroom. I think it’s a small minority that are guilty of this sort of thing, but it’s a shameful minority.

(Although I’m not sure that I agree with CryptoCon that evoking BLM and revealing one’s personal political views about it is in itself a problematic example of politics in the classroom, depending on how it is handled.)Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  CryptoCon
1 month ago

“Calling conservatives, Trump supporters, or any non-leftist viewpoint racist, ignorant, fascist, etc. alienates a larger portion of the student body than you would expect.”

Really? Even calling the viewpoint of white supremecy “racist”?Report

No way
No way
Reply to  Jen
1 month ago

They aren’t saying it’s wrong to call *even a single* conservative view “racist.” They’re saying it’s wrong to call *every*, or *any old* conservative view “racist,” precisely because they’re not all the same—for instance, white supremacy is far worse than most.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by No way
Jen
Jen
Reply to  No way
1 month ago

Is this what you mean: calling any conservative view “racist” simply because it’s conservative.

If that’s what CryptoCon meant, it’s a reasonable thing to have said.Report

No way
No way
Reply to  Jen
1 month ago

Yes, I think that’s a more or less equivalent way of putting it.Report

PostGrad Stickler
PostGrad Stickler
Reply to  No way
25 days ago

More equivalent?
Maybe grads these days don’t deserve jobs.
Just kidding I’m sure you are more or less intelligent.
Just kidding again, love and peace, I’m just on the toilet killing timeReport