Ignored Editor Departs PGR, Raising Questions About Its Leadership & How to Best Guide Prospective Philosophy Grad Students (updated)


As mentioned in an update to last week’s post about the new edition of the Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR), a ranking of the reputations of some PhD programs in philosophy, one of its editors, Berit (“Brit”) Brogaard (Miami), has announced that she is no longer associated with it. A statement made this evening by her and Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced) provides a partial explanation.

In short, Brogaard says she was “excluded from any PGR-related decisions”—including the decision to publish the current version of the report—when her co-editor Christopher Pynes and an editor from Wiley (the publisher of the PGR) found out that she was a member of the APDA board of advisors.” APDA (Academic Placement and Data Analysis) is a guide to philosophy graduate programs based on job placement data and student experiences, originally created by Jennings (related). Brogaard and Jennings write that it is unclear who currently “has final say” over the PGR.

Some background may be useful. In 2014, over 600 philosophers signed a letter, known as “The September Statement,” saying that they “pledge not to provide volunteer work for the Philosophical Gourmet Report under the control of Brian Leiter.” Leiter (Chicago), had created the PGR in the 1990s, but the philosophical community increasingly objected to the hostile and insulting behavior he exhibited publicly on his influential blog as well as in private, unsolicited correspondence. In October of 2014, Leiter agreed to step down from the editorship of the PGR, naming Brogaard as his successor, and saying that after the 2014-2015 PGR was published, “Berit will take over as editor until such time as a co-editor can be appointed to assist with future iterations of the report. After 2014, Berit will have ultimate decision-making authority over the PGR.” In 2017, Brogaard brought on Christopher Pynes (Western Illinois) as a co-editor of the PGR.

Brogaard and Jennings write:

In November 2021 Brit’s co-editor Christopher Pynes told her that her involvement with the APDA board of advisors was inappropriate. She then received a message expressing a similar sentiment from Will Croft from Wiley. Brit communicated her perspective to both Christopher and Will on this issue in late fall 2021. She emphasized that there was no conflict between the projects and that the APDA was not competing with the PGR but was gathering supplementary data on placement. Instead of honoring Brit’s role on the APDA board of advisors and taking her suggestions seriously, Christopher and Will completely stopped communicating with her, leaving her in the dark, and they have now published the report without her final approval. Clearly, she did not have “ultimate decision-making authority,” nor even the level of authority one might expect from a co-editor. Instead, it appears that someone else has final say over the PGR.

Brogaard and Jennings were seeking to work together to make use of “placement data and other scientifically-grounded empirical measures to supplement the PGR project.” They write:

We had hoped for better for philosophy: a way of evaluating our field that is less divided and toxic. We thought that a potential future collaboration between the APDA and the PGR “might be healing for the discipline,” as Carolyn put it in the APDA board meeting. We no longer think this is possible through the PGR, despite our best efforts and intentions.

To my knowledge, no members of the PGR’s Advisory Board have commented publicly on Brogaard’s treatment, or otherwise recently discussed any issues concerning its leadership.

Meanwhile, Brogaard and Jennings are interested in figuring out how to best help prospective graduate students in philosophy, and solicit your suggestions:

We don’t want to dwell on past grievances. Instead, we want to move forward and try to find a solution that works for all of us. APDA collects and reports on some data about the profession, but it does not have the resources to be the only major source of information about graduate programs, and it isn’t clear that we would want just one project to do that. How can we, as a discipline, provide useful information to prospective students and the field at large in a way that reflects our values as a diverse group, without putting all this power in the hands of one or two individuals? We hope that if you are reading this that you, too, want this. So we would like to hear from you as we consider these issues moving forward.

Their whole statement is posted at the APDA Blog and below (with permission).

Statement by Berit Brogaard and Carolyn Dicey Jennings, originally published at the APDA Blog

UPDATE (1/11/22): Christopher Pynes has authored a response to Brogaard and Jennings. An excerpt:

On September 27th Professor Brogaard informed me of her APDA advisory board membership, which she equated with our PGR co-editorship.  The contract Brit and I signed with Wiley-Blackwell has always included a non-competition clause, and based on the contract language and Brit’s characterization of her work with the APDA, I believed this work violated that contract.  As such, I asked Wiley-Blackwell to review our contract and advise us on how to proceed. Wiley-Blackwell determined Professor Brogaard’s work on the APDA did violate the non-competition clause in our contract. My only concern was ensuring the integrity of the PGR and our work on it. 

Until a few days ago, I was under the impression that Wiley-Blackwell was negotiating with Professor Brogaard on how to move forward as an editorial team.  I emailed Dr. Brogaard as recently as November 4th, asking if she could attend to some editorial matters with the advisory board.  She wrote back that she would. She hasn’t communicated with me since, and I subsequently worked with the Advisory Board to produce the 2021-2022 PGR. 

You can read the whole response at Leiter Reports.

COMMENTS POLICY

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Lewis Powell
4 months ago

Were any members of the PGR advisory board even aware of this? It seems odd not to have been publicly announced that the lead editorship was changing or for the board of advisors to be consulted on a conflict between lead editors.Report

Joe
Joe
4 months ago

This seems very odd. They should have resolved this before publishing the report. It would have avoided this unnecessary mess. It’s also hard to see why PGR and APDA create a conflict of any sort. They measure/record different things and both are rather valuable and complementary (and neither is perfect, obviously!) and it’s great to have them both when advising potential grad students, or even in general learning about departments with grad programs in US. Too bad.

I don’t know where BL stands on this issue (if he was aware at all), but I would hope he would offer support to BB – her goal of integrating the reports seems sensible and very useful (and one that would not, I think, take away from the usefulness of either) and it seems very odd she has been so excluded.Report

pike
4 months ago

The PGR is not about “helping grad students” and it never was. It’s about ensuring that the most prestigious grads from the most prestigious departments get jobs, especially if that means securing them at programs lower on the prestige scale while those from less prestigious programs are forever consigned to adjuncting. It’s the mask of democracy serving as a fig leaf to cover the academic caste system inevitably produced by neoliberal academia.Report

Lowlygrad
Lowlygrad
Reply to  pike
4 months ago

How do you think people got jobs before?Report

Lowly Professor
Lowly Professor
Reply to  Lowlygrad
4 months ago

through a more diverse and localized (and arguably healthy) ecosystem of professional relationships, and also through sending in high-quality application materials, which were actually read throughReport

Mike Titelbaum
Mike Titelbaum
Reply to  Lowly Professor
4 months ago

There are many unhealthy things about the philosophy job market now, but we shouldn’t discuss them in light of a false narrative that it was a healthy market until the PGR came along. Before the PGR came along, everyone had their own personal lists of which they thought were the best schools, and some people used those lists in all the pernicious ways that some people use the PGR now.

Example: A very famous philosopher you’ve all heard of once told me how he got his job out of grad school at Ivy League department X. This philosopher was working on his dissertation at Ivy League department Y, when a professor from X called up his advisor and said, “We need some one in such-and-such area. Do you have anyone good in that area?” Advisor recommended his advisee, contract was extended, and young dissertator was off and running with a prestigious position.Report

harry b
harry b
Reply to  Mike Titelbaum
4 months ago

Further to Michael’s point. What he describes was the norm in the 1960s and 1970s in all disciplines, as higher education expanded much faster than PhD granting institutions could keep up with. Obviously high prestige departments got their students high prestige jobs. (Also, much lower research expectations for tenure, obviously, as they couldn’t afford to fire people). And when things slowed down in the 1980s a very small number of departments dominated the market for research positions (especially Harvard and Princeton).

I know three other disciplines reasonably well — Economics, Sociology, and Ed Policy. Of those, only Economics rivals Philosophy in terms of mobility from lower prestige programs to higher prestige departments. Ed Policy and Sociology are (ironically, perhaps?) much more elite-dominated.Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Mike Titelbaum
4 months ago

I mean, that may be true, but it also seems irrelevant to how we should think about what to do now? Unless this is generally still how jobs are doled out in other disciplines and there are not better ways to govern advice about where graduate students should attend graduate school, we could probably just ask whether this is in fact doing something net-useful or not?

I see that Harry B suggests that philosophy offers particularly good opportunities for what you might call “prestige mobility” but, I do think that actually comparing us to other disciplines as they exist today (perhaps not merely anecdotally) seems more relevant than observing that we didn’t even used to have quasi formal norms on running interviews in anything like a fair manner? I’m not even sure you can credit the PGR with the bulk of the credit for that, as much as like, shifts in the level of HR oversight on job searches/the APA’s role in interviewing, etc.?Report

Filippo Contesi
Reply to  Lewis Powell
4 months ago

Good points. If I may add, the two functions you highlight in your first paragraph, and that the PGR does serve currently are distinct: one is to inform graduate students about the better programmes, the other is to give hiring committees a heuristic/justification to quickly discard applications of PhD graduates from not- or lower-ranked PhD programmes. Not only are these two functions distinguishable but the only one that the PGR officially purports to serve is the first—not the second. Indeed, there are lots of reasons why the second cannot be justified on the basis of the first: (1) philosophers are people, and people mature in talent, accomplishments etc. with time (e.g. during the decade they spend in graduate school); (2) the best philosophers research-wise are again humans, and so they are not necessarily the best mentors, nor are they the best at recognizing early talent in PhD-programme applications etc. etc. I wish philosophers stopped using the PGR for the second function it currently serves informally, but I find it much less objectionable as far as its first and official function is concerned.Report

Ted Sider
Ted Sider
Reply to  Mike Titelbaum
4 months ago

I agree with Mike about this. Also, back then, whereas undergraduates at elite institutions had the benefit of the advice of their in-the-loop teachers about where to apply to; undergrads elsewhere were on their own. Their only information about which philosophy grad schools were good came from their knowledge (if they even had any) about which institutions are good in general. PGR has obviously had a complex effect on the profession, but I think one big (and positive) effect has been to help undergraduates from nonelite institutions make informed decisions. More generally, it has decreased the degree to which the general eliteness of an institution affects how it is perceived within philosophy.Report

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
Reply to  Mike Titelbaum
4 months ago

Bill Lycan regaled me with more than one 1970s era story along these lines. Must have been a common practice.

BTW, I know these were about a long long time ago, but the stories Ruth Marcus told me about how she was treated as a woman in philosophy (and probably the smartest person in every seminar and meeting room in which she found herself) were chilling. Ruth emphasized to me that one of the bad aspects of it all was how much of hiring was just friends/advisors hiring friends/advisees/advisees of friends.Report

Mike Titelbaum
Mike Titelbaum
Reply to  Matthew Smith
4 months ago

Just to follow up: In my recollection, one of the early stated justifications for the PGR was that undergrads were getting unreliable, idiosyncratic advice about which were the prestige institutions—or no advice at all. The PGR aimed to standardize that advice and make it widely available. At the time it was widely accepted that prestige information was important; the issue cited was about who would have access to it.

I agree with Lewis Powell that this history shouldn’t determine what we as a profession do now. The point of my earlier comment was just to be sure that people weren’t thinking about the current problem in the context of misunderstandings about how we got here.

And of course there’s room for a huge amount of distance between the stated intentions of the PGR when it originated and the roles and functions it plays now.Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  pike
4 months ago

I don’t fully see your logic. perhaps the PGR is about keeping the power in the “most prestigious departments” but what do you mean by “the most prestigious grads”? Were they born prestigious or were simply accepted to those prestigious departments because the department thought they have a better chance of becoming better philosophers?
Somehow the vast majority of good papers I read are written by people with some affiliation to a high PGR ranked university (either as previous students or as professors). I almost never encountered a really good paper from someone who has never studied nor taught in a high-rank department. If grad students from a low-rank department are as good, why aren’t we flooded with great papers by people from those departments? Are the journals part of the conspiracy as well?
Or perhaps you argue that philosophical talent should not play a role in hiring/admission decisions?Report

Enzo Rossi
Reply to  Grad Student
4 months ago

Like you, I think Pike and Lowly Professor are both wide of the mark. Having said that, you might want to google “halo effect” and “Matthew effect”.Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Enzo Rossi
4 months ago

Thank you for the references. I was not familiar with those terms (though reasonably familiar with effects themselves).
Of course, there are some cases of positive feedback here. If you liked on paper by x you’ll probably look for other papers by x. And x’s chances to cite y probably rise if x is in the same department of y or studied x’s Ph.D. together with y and so on.
But still, the fact is that I have already had quite a lot of opportunities to freely look for papers around a general subject, with no guidance from above. Sometimes, if the issue is thin enough, I could even read the majority of the papers written about it. You do encounter many papers by less-known figures from less-known departments. Rarely, you discover an interesting thinker you were not familiar with. On average, though, these papers are not very good. That’s my experience at least.Report

Last edited 4 months ago by Amit
Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Enzo Rossi
4 months ago

I should also add, that as a rule, if I don’t know the writer I usually don’t check the background of the writer before I read the paper. It’s more healthy and less biased this way and indeed aims to avoid a kind of halo effect.Report

postdoc
postdoc
Reply to  Grad Student
4 months ago

Speaking from personal experience: I come from a very low ranked PGR program. However, I have multiple publications in the top ranked journals in my field (all of which have been cited, some of which have been cited a fair number of times) and lots of teaching experience… yet I continue to not get interviews to TT jobs, and I see those jobs be filled by people from top PGR ranked programs who have fewer pubs and less teaching experience than I do. It seems I’m not alone (see: https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2018/01/grad-program-rank-publications-and-job-market-a-hypothesis.html )

Coming from a low ranked department has been a Scarlett letter that I attribute, at least in part, to the tyranny of the PGR.Report

Bryce
Bryce
Reply to  postdoc
4 months ago

I think you’re right that the PGR exacerbates this problem, but I wonder to what extent it creates it. Even without the PGR, it’s hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be a standing bias in favor of the Princeton/Harvard/Yales and against the University of Utah/SUNY Buffalo/Purdues of the world.

EDIT: This post is also relevant (and some of the comments get it right, in my opinion):

https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2020/07/can-good-publications-offset-grad-program-rank.htmlReport

Last edited 4 months ago by Bryce
Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  postdoc
4 months ago

Of course, I don’t know the specifics of your case, but I felt obliged to state that I think good publications should be dramatically more important than the institute where you did your Ph.D. and if it’s not, in general, the case, then it does reflect badly on our profession.Report

R B
R B
Reply to  Grad Student
4 months ago

Unfortunately this issue isn’t just a reflection on philosophy but academia in general. There are pretty strong pragmatic reasons for provosts and deans to be biased towards hiring PhDs from well known R1 institutions. The fact is that non-philosophers academic or otherwise don’t know that Utah/SUNY/Buffalo/Purdues of this world are top institutions for some sub-areas of philosophy but do recognise a Harvard/Oxford Yale as being cream of the crop. Thus for the head of school/provost/dean making hires there is some rationality in hiring people from R1s simply due to the prestige that it carries. Especially at second tier places having faculty from PhD from Oxford, Harvard, Yale etc…. has real material benefits on how a department fares in attracting students, getting internal funds etc…Report

umm
umm
Reply to  Grad Student
4 months ago

Somehow the vast majority of good papers I read are written by people with some affiliation to a high PGR ranked university (either as previous students or as professors). I almost never encountered a really good paper from someone who has never studied nor taught in a high-rank department

I agree that the PGR, despite its imperfections, is good for prospective graduate students. But this statement is just plain silly.Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  umm
4 months ago

Truth might appear silly sometimes. I choose to stick to the truth and appear silly. I also assume that the audience here can tell anecdotal experience from empirical research and take my comment as anecdotal without the need for me to say it. I tend to think that my experience is not vastly different from that of other people around here, but I will be very glad to be proven wrong because proving me wrong necessarily means references to great papers.Report

Michel
Reply to  Grad Student
4 months ago

Your anecdote is not data.

Here’s my anecdote: I’ve read *tons* of really great papers by people from lower-ranked or unranked departments.

In fact, *I* came from a lower-ranked department myself, and teach somewhere you’ve never heard of. I regularly publish in the top generalist and specialist journals, despite also teaching 8 courses a year (11 one year!).

If you listen to what editors are saying, they *are* flooded with good submissions, most of which they have to reject. Philosophy journals have some of the lowest acceptance rates in the academy. Even so, it’s not just grads and faculty from the PGRT10 publishing in these journals (though the lower teaching loads and better library access certainly help).Report

Last edited 4 months ago by Michel
David Wallace
Reply to  Michel
4 months ago

There is an empirical question in the vicinity, if anyone’s got some time on their hands: pick a few top-ranked journals, go back through the last 10 years or so of their publications, and see whether an anomalously high fraction are from PGR-high-ranked departments.Report

Mike
Reply to  David Wallace
4 months ago

The devil would be in the null model, no?Report

another postdoc
another postdoc
Reply to  Grad Student
4 months ago

Agree with the other responses above. One other thing that I saw as a grad student of non-PGR ranked institution while often auditing classes at an Ivy-league school: it does matter whether your advisor has a 3-2 or a 1-1 teaching load. You’re going to get much more support and feedback in the latter case, and those things matter when you’re just starting out.
It also matters how much of your time you have to devote to teaching as a grad student in order to get funding.
In my experience, the grad students at the Ivy league weren’t in general smarter than the ones at our institution. But they had opportunities we didn’t, or not that easily — so yes, they may have had, statistically, more good publications.Report

Observer
Observer
Reply to  another postdoc
4 months ago

But here’s the thing: for those post-phd, whether they produce elite work depends in part on how much time they can dedicate to research. I imagine almost *everyone* can produce better work, and more frequently, under R1 conditions. The fact that many good papers are written by Leiterrific alumni is likely due in part to the fact that they are more likely to have jobs that allow them to dedicate time to research.Report

Anonymous Grad Student
Reply to  Grad Student
4 months ago

If departments are more likely to hire someone from a high prestige program (on the basis of that prestige), then the base rate of working philosophers from high prestige programs will be higher. The more working philosophers there are from those programs, the more papers in general that are published by people from those programs. A good paper is, then, all things considered, more likely to be written by someone from a high prestige program because all papers are more likely to be written by someone from a high prestige program (because the students from low prestige programs are more likely to be pushed out of philosophy).Report

Alexandra Bradner
Alexandra Bradner
Reply to  pike
4 months ago

I was the ombudsperson on a joint search for a cross-division biology / women’s studies position more than a decade ago. We were instructed to black out both applicant and recommender names and PhD-granting institution on the applications. It was revelatory.Report

Chris Bertram
4 months ago

So who ran this iteration of PGR? It wasn’t Leiter, it wasn’t Brogaard. Did Pynes do it on his own or just with a publisher (Wiley)? Does the “advisory board” actually do anything, or is it just a list of names for the masthead? Some transparency and a statement of responsibility would be welcome.Report

Benj
4 months ago

Wiley, a huge corporation, has a financial stake in the PGR. Undoubtedly the co-editors of the PGR were employed by Wiley under a contract including a non complete clause. Presumably the Wiley lawyers took note of the involvement of one of the co-editors with what they regarded as a competitor, assessed this as a violation of the non-compete clause, and advised that she be fired.

One might also go further and suspect that the secrecy around this is due to non-disclosure provisions in the contracts. These would likely prohibit disclosure of those provisions themselves, or of employment related actions taken under other provisions of the contracts. Presumably the advisory board is beyond the wall of disclosure.

Who has ‘ultimate authority’ here? Presumably it is divided: over ‘editorial’ matters, the editors; but not over everything: why expect otherwise?Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Benj
4 months ago

This explanation makes sense and is likely true. Nevertheless, it is boring and, more importantly, fails to stimulate further scorn upon the head of Brian Leiter, which scorn is a desideratum of any PGR-related discussion.Report

Justin Kalef
Reply to  Moti Gorin
4 months ago

Very well put, Moti.

I think the same sort of point applies to much of what has been happening in philosophy over the past decade. The simple explanation there is the uncontroversial fact that there are far too many of us competing for too few positions, many of which a reasonable person would not otherwise find desirable but which they avidly compete for, regardless, because they don’t like the alternatives and they’re already prone to sunk-costs thinking. Hence, we all become more expendable, those who don’t have status or security tend to be covetous of those who do have it, and those with even less of it are even more desperate and tend to look for scapegoats. As usual in such cases, the urge to socially climb becomes very strong among everyone jumping into the game, and the opinions, mannerisms and attitudes of the elites tend to be aped embarrassingly by those just below them, while those lower still tend to ape those of those just above them, and so on down the line. Those who fail to adhere to whatever new etiquette rears its head are thus easily spotted and called out by the resentful social-climbers, who see the chance to publicly stomp on the nonconformists as a nice way of preening in the eyes of the new ascendant class while at the same time a useful outlet for their pent-up hostilities. Meanwhile, those who enjoy great popularity tend to offhandedly direct disapprobation at this or that supposed wrongdoer (wrong or right, new or old, it doesn’t much matter), which keeps them at the center of attention and channels more resentment at the target at the day or even at themselves (they can usually weather the storm). In this way, much of the profession continues on its undignified and not-so-merry way, losing social esteem in the process but forever aiming blame at this or that would-be villain and never doing much about the underlying problem of too many people playing the same limited game of musical chairs.

Actually, I think this generalizes even further: those who work in journalism, publishing, and the arts seem to be going through much the same thing. The particular people who get attacked, and even the particular opinions that happen to be trendy, could easily be changed for others. It would make little difference.Report

David Wallace
Reply to  Benj
4 months ago

The statement from Christopher Pynes at Leiter Reports (https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2022/01/update-on-the-2021-pgr-from-professor-pynes.html#more) seems to support this hypothesis.Report

Jon Light
Reply to  David Wallace
4 months ago

Yup. It also raises questions about whether the editor was “ignored” (per above), or just stopped participating? How could the two editors not be able to get a hold of each other?Report

Benj
Reply to  Jon Light
4 months ago

Justin did not paste in the first long paragraph of Pynes’s statement, which can be seen at the Letier Reports, and provides important context.Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
Reply to  Benj
4 months ago

Strange that Justin wouldn’t give the whole of Pynes’s statement. Why not?Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 months ago

This is a, perhaps, naive suggestion, but this sort of issue could be more easily avoided if the personal blog of former lead editor who stopped serving in 2014 were not used as the primary vehicle for announcements, updates (and this year: dissemination of the contents of the report), and instead, the Wiley-Blackwell hosted website for the report itself, were used for those purposes?Report

Craig Burley
Craig Burley
Reply to  Lewis Powell
4 months ago

I have to say, the degree to which everyone is buying into the kayfabe here is *remarkable* and speaks really ill of a profession that still widely ascribes value to something that is playing each and every one of you for fools.Report

Craig Burley
Craig Burley
Reply to  Craig Burley
4 months ago

All of which is to say, “perhaps naive” indeed Lewis (you of course are not actually naive in the slightest) and thank you for raising the point.Report

Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

It always makes me chuckle when people defend the existence of the PGR through the example of some hypothetical poor undergraduate student at some public school who has no elite connections, but is bright and wants to know what are the best institutions to apply for. The reality is this hypothetical student doesn’t exist. Not I imagine for a lack of trying on their part, but because the early educational path dependence of any graduate student at an top 10 PGR institution is pretty totalizing. So there really may be some undergraduates who on their own find out which departments they should apply for, unfortunately as Eric Schwitzgebel shows, the number of students who did their undergraduate study outside elite universities such as public universities at top 10 PGR ranked universities is almost 0. http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2011/10/sorry-cal-state-students-no-princeton.htmlReport

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

This hypothetical student does exist at my small public liberal arts college, which also happens to have sent some such students to excellent graduate programs. You’d be surprised what schools most students consider applying to before asking faculty for guidance, or how many times I’ve informed them of the very existence of excellent programs that were not on their radar. Chuckle along but not all students are as knowledgeable as you are about the quality of graduate programs. Nor are their odds so hopeless as you seem to think.Report

Last edited 4 months ago by Nicolas Delon
Jon Light
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

Hmm… I went to a SLAC, majored in something other than philosophy, and wouldn’t have had any idea what to do without the PGR. I think there are more of these hypothetical students than you realize.Report

DLP
DLP
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

the number of students who did their undergraduate study outside elite universities such as public universities at top 10 PGR ranked universities is almost 0.

Uh, just looking at current grad students at Rutgers (#2 PGR), I count 29 students from non-top-10-PGR universities, 20 of which from non-top-30-PGR.Report

Muhammad Velji
Reply to  DLP
4 months ago

I’ll concede, I posted a link form 2011, and certainly things have changed at Rutgers. But also I looked at NYU (the non-Ivey star of the PGR) and found literally zero from outside elite institutions. Also, I mentioned public universities because Schwitzgebel mentions public universities. Since people aren’t reading the link, he points out that 0 students got into a top 10 Leiter school from the Cal state system, the largest public school system in the country.
Also, as far as I know, SLACs are considered elite private institutions so I don’t count them even as outliers.Report

Bryce
Bryce
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

There are many different kinds of liberal arts colleges. Some are elite, some are not even close to that.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

Not all SLACs are private or elite. People are telling you: there are plenty of counterexamples so the hypothetical does exist. No one suggests it’s a majority of students.

We’ve read the link. It doesn’t say no students from non-elite institutions make it to well ranked programs. Many students outside the Cal State system get into top 10 programs and surely many Cal State students make it to well ranked programs outside the top 10.Report

Muhammad Velji
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
4 months ago

Well, as a Canadian, much of this SLAC stuff is still new to me, thank you.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

You bet. As a Frenchman it used to be totally cryptic to me too!Report

Devin
Devin
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

Not interested in defending the PGR, but I am one of these “hypothetical” students.Report

Steven DeLay
Steven DeLay
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

Students of the type you describe are undeniably rare. But they do exist. I know, because I was one of them. I did my own undergraduate philosophy studies at California Polytechnic State University (SLO), and ended up taking a DPhil at Oxford.

That said, you’re entirely correct that applying from a “non-elite” undergraduate institution hinders one’s admissions chances at a Leiter-ranked program considerably. I have a telling anecdote in that regard.

I once took a trip to a major US city, during which I visited the campus of a top-twenty Leiter-ranked program. When there, I popped into the philosophy department to take a look around. The chair of the department, who happened to be in his office, invited me in for a chat, and when I told him about my background, he told me it probably wasn’t worth my time to even bother applying. I applied anyway, and didn’t receive an acceptance. In fact, of the fifteen or so PhD programs to which I applied, I received only one acceptance.Report

Muhammad Velji
Reply to  Steven DeLay
4 months ago

Thank you for your generous reply, this is all interesting to knowReport

Steven DeLay
Steven DeLay
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

You’re welcome! Glad my tidbit could be of some help. As demoralizing as I found the experience to be at the time, it ultimately proved edifying. Experiences such as that are able to prepare one for future obstacles!Report

Last edited 4 months ago by Steven DeLay
Joe
Joe
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

I think it is worth noting that it is a bit deceptive to, say, introduce CalState as a counterexample. The students at CalStates are, generally, of the more “practical and local” kind (for a lack of better word). Or – to put it another way, if you look at an application pool for grad school, you will see a lot of people from liberal art colleges and from top university systems (like UC system as opposed to CalState) but relatively few from a system like CalState, even as it is much bigger. You will probably see also more international applicants. This is not to say that CalState is lower quality or has worse students. It is just that when you decide to go for CalState as opposed to UC (let’s assume that it is a matter of decision rather than admission), there are probably some practical considerations in place and those feed into further decisions about one’s career path. So it’s a bit misleading to put things as Schwitzgebel does (in other words, it seems rather unsurprising that you see even less Community College students in top philosophy grad school or even far less vocational school graduates, and so on even if their numbers far exceed those of people at UC’s).Report

Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Joe
4 months ago

Hi Joe,

I want to go on the record as disagreeing with your post here about CSU students, at least as an empirical claim about the psychological motivations of a quarter million students.

Students, like I once was, can end up at a CSU for a whole host of reasons: some may prefer to stay close to family (there are far more CSU campuses than UC campuses). Some may prefer the dramatically lower cost of attending a CSU (as a CA resident) even in comparison with UC campuses (especially if, as I did, students live at home and commute to class). Students may have been academically talented but ill served by their school system (I went to one of the bottom quintile high schools in my state – we didn’t even teach calculus!) and so weren’t competitive for UC admission. Many CSU students, at least in my experience, were first-generation (and/or undocumented) and so didn’t have the benefits of parents who knew how to prepare their children to “look good” for college admissions committees. The list goes on and on.

I think there’s a genuine elite bias in favor of UC students over CSU students (with otherwise equal applications) in part fueled by the sorts of judgments I see you making here. Certainly it’s easier to gain admission into a CSU than a UC, all things considered, but that, by itself, is irrelevant to graduate progrmas who aren’t looking at statistical generalities but instead at concrete specific students. Much more would need to be shown, I think, to support your claims about CSU students in general and CSU students applying for graduate admission in particular.

An alternative hypothesis, perhaps in the neighborhood, may be that the CSU system in general (and many philosophy departments in particular) may be overworked, overstaffed with adjunct instructors, and thus that it is comparatively (and unjustly) more difficult for a talented CSU student to both get a solid education and build the sorts of personal connections that might make one an attractive candidate for PhD programs but this too isn’t about the psychological motivations that drive someone to attend a CSU but instead a structural injustice whose causes are driven by things like public disinvestment in higher education, adjunctification, and so on.Report

about to start an academic position
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

I was somewhat one of the hypothetical undergraduate students, but more precisely someone from a “third world” non-english speaking country. PGR is super useful for us, even if we do know and talk about its limitations. We would of course welcome a better version of it, but the existing versions are much better than nothing.Report

Daniel Weltman
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

I am not the world’s biggest fan of the PGR, but as a professor at a small liberal arts college (not a public school, but definitely a school where the students have no elite connections) that has sent very bright undergraduates to some fancy places, I can say that it’s useful as a way of giving students a list of places to look into, places that they might not otherwise know to check. Sure, they could ask me and the other professors here, but all we’re going to be able to do is give our impression of what we take to be good programs, and the PGR is merely an aggregate of that, so I don’t think it’s worse than their other alternative, and in many ways it’s better. Here at my SLAC we only have a few professors, whereas the PGR polls a wider swathe. Moreover, the people the PGR polls are probably more plugged into what’s going on than I am. If I really have no idea what places are good for philosophy of science, my students are either out of luck, or they can turn to something like the PGR.

The PGR is not the only source of info: thankfully now we have the placement data stuff, and of course we always advise students to do their own research on philosophy, Google the names of authors they like, and see who is still alive and teaching at a PhD granting institution. But acceptance rates are low, there are lots of considerations when applying such that it helps to have a wide swathe of places to pick from, and the PGR helps students come up with a longer initial list that they can then narrow down on the basis of the other relevant factors.

Even when I was an undergrad at a pretty fancy place, when I was coming up with a list of places to apply and I asked my professors whether I should add any schools to my list, one of my professors pulled up the PGR to remind himself of any that he might’ve forgotten to recommend. The PGR is far from perfect but it’s a useful shorthand in the same way the SPEP list is useful for people interested in Continental philosophy.Report

another postdoc
another postdoc
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

As a European, completely unaware of the US academic system at the time, I applied to a single US grad school (where I ended up getting my PhD) because I wanted to work with a particular person. In retrospect, I wish I had known about the PGR for some general orientation, but didn’t (and none of my professors at home seemed to either).
I can imagine it being helpful for someone like a little better informed past me, if there are such people.Report

Craig Burley
Craig Burley
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

Heh. Exactly. Those students may be bright, but they ain’t getting in. Maybe to an MA, but we know what happens next.Report

Another Grad Student
Another Grad Student
Reply to  Muhammad Velji
4 months ago

This is atotalizing response. I am at a top 10 PGR program; I went to a public university, had no knowledge of professional philosophy, and would not have known to apply to the school I’m at without the PGR.Report

Last edited 4 months ago by Another Grad Student
Grad Student 2
4 months ago

Why is Wiley-Blackwell still associated with the PGR? I understand that maintaining a website and the tasks associated with creating the Report cost money (including paying the people who do the work), and that going to an academic publisher is a relatively easy way to get that money, but part of what this episode shows, I think, is that getting companies into the mix usually ends up at some point introducing unneeded complications. The APDA is funded, IIRC, by non-publisher entities, and doesn’t have weird non-compete clauses and NDA stuff. My guess is that Wiley-Blackwell’s defense for the non-compete clause is that they don’t want to be embroiled in a scandal where someone is compromising the integrity of both the PGR and, say, the APDA. But now all that’s done is taken someone who is, in good faith it seems, trying to be part of the effort to include as much useful info for prospective grad students as possible, in this case by being part of both the PGR and APDA, and booted her from being able to do that to the full extent she can. The NDA stuff is also making me think that there might have been relevant aspects of the PGR creation process that will never be disclosed. There is no widespread trust in the PGR, for both substantive and procedural design reasons, so they need to be maximally transparent, and NDAs go in the face of that. If Brogaard wasn’t doing her fair share then this could have just been settled between her and Pynes, but now it seems like the business mechanics of the Wiley-Blackwell stuff have made this into a hermeneutical mess for all users of the report.Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
Reply to  Grad Student 2
4 months ago

The non-compete and NDA are likely boiler-plate, a standard contract form not one crafted for the particular project. Off-hand, it is not clear why either a non-compete or NDA would be necessary for this sort of activity or whether enforceable.Report

Last edited 4 months ago by J. Bogart
one of the crowd
4 months ago

I hope people can see that there is good reason to keep these two projects separate – the Leiter Report and the Employment counting. Why? Because we want them to be independent sources of information. Were they merged, as some recommend above, it is likely that efforts would be taken to ensure (or rather, impose) consistency. The wisdom of the crowds depends on independent judgments …
Each of us can, ourselves, determine how we weigh the information in the two sources.Report

Prof L
Reply to  one of the crowd
4 months ago

Right! Having competing ranking systems is better than having a monopoly, for obvious reasons. Having two ranking systems is not “divided and toxic”, as the joint statement claims. It’s completely fine to have two different systems and methods of evaluation.

Most of us know of both sets of rankings, we look at both from time to time, and don’t think of them as manifesting some kind of toxic divide in the discipline that requires “healing” (i.e., centralization of reputation-determining power).Report