Labor & Work-Life Issues

A Disciplinary Association Aims to Rein In a ‘Chaotic’ Hiring Calendar

February 19, 2016

Amy Ferrer, executive director of the American Philosophical Association: "Protecting job candidates and ensuring fair and equitable hiring practices are major priorities."
The faculty-hiring calendar in philosophy, as in many disciplines, has long followed a standard arc: Most institutions post openings in late fall with deadlines of November 1 or later, hold interviews in December or January, and do not require answers to offers before February.

That timeline has largely gone by the wayside in recent years. Departments that were once tied to promoting positions in hard-copy publications released in the fall now advertise openings online around the clock. And while first-round interviews were once held almost exclusively at disciplinary conferences like the American Philosophical Association’s annual Eastern Division meeting, in late December, the rise of video chats has allowed hiring committees to interview candidates anytime anywhere.

The association hopes that a statement it issued this week will help restore the discipline’s traditional job-market calendar. The statement asks hiring institutions that post openings on PhilJobs, its popular job board, to set application deadlines in November or later, and to accept applications for at least 30 days. Departments that don’t do so will have their ads on the site flagged.

The association plans to introduce the new policy for the 2016-17 hiring season. The statement was approved by the APA board in November, but wasn’t released until after the 2015-16 hiring season to avoid confusion, APA officials said.

Why push for change? Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina at Columbia who runs the philosophy blog Daily Nous, said the free-for-all calendar that has emerged recently is "inconvenient and chaotic for those trying to prepare for being on the market." Mr. Weinberg said the association’s push for uniformity would be welcomed by the philosophy community.

Amy E. Ferrer, the association’s executive director, provided further information on Thursday in response to emailed questions from The Chronicle:

Q. What problem is this statement reacting to?

A. Over the last few years, as more philosophy departments have moved away from in-person interviews at the APA’s Eastern Division meeting and toward other approaches, such as web-based interviews or elimination of first-round interviews altogether, we’ve begun hearing from members that application deadlines have crept earlier and earlier, as have deadlines for accepting offers of employment.

These changes have disadvantaged job candidates by, for example, forcing them to make a decision on an offer from one institution before having even been interviewed by another. Many members, as well as an internal APA task force, have suggested that an APA policy statement would help to address these concerns about the job-market calendar.

Q. What are the goals of this statement? What would the APA like the calendar to look like?

A. Our goals with this statement are to set clear expectations for hiring departments, and also, by including a notice on ads for jobs that don’t follow the calendar, to provide job candidates with better information at the outset of their job searches so that they can make more-informed decisions.

The statement specifies the earliest date by which applications for academic positions should be required, and the earliest date by which final acceptance of offers of employment should be required — the two portions of the job-market calendar that are of most concern to our members. We respect that different departments have different approaches to the hiring process, so the statement is limited to just those two dates.

Q. What prompted the APA to weigh in on this topic?

A. We were hearing from concerned APA members, including the members of an internal APA task force, about shifts to the job market that were disadvantaging job candidates. Protecting job candidates and ensuring fair and equitable hiring practices are major priorities for the APA, and the board felt that adopting this statement would be an important addition to our existing efforts in those areas.

Q. Do you think the statement the APA issued will help bring about change? Is it enough?

A. We think so, yes.

Q. Do you think this is an issue in other disciplines? Or is there something specific about philosophy?

A. I don’t have direct knowledge of whether other disciplines are experiencing similar phenomena with the increase of web-based rather than in-person interviews, but I suspect philosophy is not alone in this respect.

Q. The statement mentions that advertisements on your job board that do not meet the guidelines will come with a notice to that effect. What will that notice look like?

A. I can’t provide specifics on how the notice will appear, as the changes are still being developed. However, in addition to being asked whether they will follow the statement, I expect job advertisers who indicate they will not follow the APA Statement on the Job Market Calendar will be given the opportunity to provide a brief explanation.