The City College of the City University of New York listed an open assistant professor, tenure-track position in philosophy last fall. Lou Marinoff, chair of philosophy at CCNY and founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, decided to chronicle the search for an Aug. 31 InsideHigherEd article. [Hat-tip to the ever-intriguing Historiann for bringing this to my attention. Try to ignore my extremely salty comments on her post.]
While I’m sure that philosophy searches differ from those in history, I believe it’s probably more by degree than kind. For instance, Professor Marinoff relayed that 637 applications were received. As a result they committee resorted to “practical” sorting methods. Here’s an excerpt that narrowed my pupils:
How did we prune our field from 637 to 27? An important selection criterion was holding a Ph.D. from a good university. Members of our department earned their Ph.D.s at Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, and University of London. Additionally, City College is known as the “Harvard of the Proletariat,” with distinguished alumni that include nine Nobel Laureates, more than any other public institution in America. Our faculty members are expected to live up to this legacy.
What did Marinoff mean by “good university”? Highly ranked universities? Solid departments? Schools with which he and his CCNY peers were familiar?
Second, third, and fourth criteria included evidence of research and publication, evidence of undergraduate teaching ability as well as versatility, and evidence of administrative service, respectively.
Notice what’s missing: an intriguing, weighty dissertation topic; collegiality; affirmative action data; conference presentations; good grades, etc. Also note the ordering of criteria: institutional choice, publications/research (which I concede could include your diss. topic/approach), teaching, admin. service.
So what’s the message to past and present students who either are on, or will be on, the market? Well, everything centers on your very first choice—the nearly immutable decision of where you go to school. I wonder how true this might be in history? Is that kind of career determinism empirically evident in history?
Next? Start working on publications the minute you get on campus. This means you need to know your diss. topic quickly and make your classes work with your research and writing goals. Otherwise you need to come to campus with some publications cemented or at least pending.
As for teaching, screw it. Slack off—do the minimum—on your TA-ship because it just doesn’t matter. Now, say that in your best Tripper Harrison (aka Bill Murray in Meatballs) voice: