The REF and temporary staff

Folks might be interested in signing this petition…

More and more university lecturers and researchers are now employed on short-term contracts that force them to spend huge amounts of time looking for their next job and to move constantly from one place to another. Among the many ways these people are exploited is that universities hire them on short-term contracts just before the REF; now, when we are reacting to the REF results, it is easy to forget that some of the people responsible for certain universities’ success have already lost their jobs at those universities.

The next REF should give universities an incentive to employ staff on longer-term contracts, by weighting submissions so that a researcher on a long-term contract is worth more than the same researcher on a short-term contract. (For details of this plan, see here.) We call upon HEFCE to implement such an incentive.

Market Boost for Women Philosophers seeking jobs

An amazing new programme.

The purpose of the program is to provide support to women candidates on the job market. Since candidates already receive advice and support from faculty in their departments, this program has a particular kind of support in mind. This is the kind of support that can only come from female peers and mentors who have very recently had a similar experience. The program has several goals:
– To connect female candidates with others in their equivalent positions at other schools.
– To provide female candidates with a “junior mentor” from an outside department, someone who has relatively recently been in their position. Having distance from the candidate’s home department will allow for a mentoring relationship that complements the candidate’s own departmental relationships, and it may even help the candidate better handle and leverage those relationships.
– To facilitate the development of relationships between candidates, their mentors (individually), and their peers (collectively). These relationships take time, as they must involve trust in order to work effectively, so the program design includes multiple points of interaction.
– To provide a structured process for interaction among candidates, peer candidates, and mentors such that candidates feel they are connected to a wider network of females who, on the one hand, have been successful in philosophy, but on the other hand, are not so far out ahead that their success seems unattainable.

Check it out here!

It’s Halloween and they’re back! Williams and Ceci again

Recent  research reports significant faculty bias against women students in science.  

However, Williams and Ceci have an op-ed piece in the NY Times stating a conflicting conclusion from their recent research:  there’s no bias aainst women in math-intensive fields in STEM.  Their piece links to a forthcoming article by them.

Are they right?  If you have the time, you might try to analyze their work.  I don’t have the time, so let me simply urge a lot of caution when you read about the recent work.  They published a similar conclusion in 2011, and there turned out to be serious problems with their reasoning.  We discuss some of them here.

These men are NOT saving room for cats!

Irritated by the seemingly inexplicable behavior of men who spread their legs wide whem sitting in public spaces? Feeling forced to collapse in on yourself?

Here we’ve enjoyed laughing at the phenomenon and the idea that they are making room for cats.


However, what may be going on is a quite serious and quite deep reinforcement of differences valued by patriarchy.

We’ve known for some time that one’s facial expressions can affect one’s mood, but according to the NY Times, Amy Cuddy (assoc prof, Harvard Business School), has shown one’s stance and how much space one occupies affects how powerful one feels and conveys. People spread out on the subway wil feel more powerful than thoses crunched up. Before an interview you will be more confident if you’ve been practiccing wonderwoman poses

Lately, she has been examining the differences between subjects who sleep sprawled out versus those who curl up. Early results show that people who arise with arms and legs extended feel brighter and more optimistic than the 40 percent who start the day in a fetal position.

But there’s hope. “If you wake in fetal pose,” Ms. Cuddy said, “open yourself up like the guy on the subway taking up too much space, and soon enough you’ll feel like a happy warrior.”

Taking Aim at Student Evaluations’ ‘Air of Objectivity’

We’re asked fairly often for publications discussing biases in course evaluations.  Now the Chronicle of Higher Ed links to an article which notes biases and other faults in course evaluations.  E.g.,

Some of what Mr. Stark and Mr. Freishtat write repeats critiques by other researchers: that evaluations often reflect snap judgments or biases about an instructor’s gender, ethnicity, or attractiveness; and that they fail to adequately capture teaching quality. While economists, education researchers, psychologists, and sociologists have weighed in on the use and misuse of these tools, it is relatively unusual for a statistician to do so.

and they have a number of other objections, ones that should appeal to administrators who don’t like claims about ‘identity issues’.

The bottom line? “We’re confusing consumer satisfaction with product value.”

The biblio for the research article looks wonderful.

COACHE: Faculty assessing their university

Or: Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education.

COACHE is a product of Harvard’s School of Education. One of its main outputs is a survey that is taken by faculty and then analyzed by COACHE. As I remember, the survey gives one standard assertions such as “The administration of this university strongly supports interdisciplinary research” and then gives one an option of five answers from “agree very strongly” to “disagree very strongly”. (Or at least something much like that.) One great thing is that the score the university gets is a comparison with what are counted as peer institutions. So if your university is ranked in the bottom third in interdisciplinarity, for example, that is not simply because you have a lot of malcontents. Rather, it is because your faculty are much more negative about that feature than most of the faculty in your peers. And that becomes a problem for the university.

If you are on the job market or if the tenure decision is coming near, do think of asking if your (prospective) university has a COACHE report, and ask to see it. (Those applying to grad school may also benefit; see the next para.) At least the one for my now former university reveals two things: (1) major weaknesses and (2) differences between tenured and non-tenured (tt) points of view; see below for a remark about this. If you want to dig a bit deeper, it may also show you more general facts about the university that are holding the problems in place. In my experience the report is stunningly accurate. That is, the university ranks low on features that, to be perfectly frank, drove me crazy. The faculty, however, love the upper administration, a fact that shows a very important disconnect.

TENURED VS. NON-TENURED points of view. In my former university the tt are generally more positive than the tenured profs. It would seem easy for the tt also to be much more negative, as I would guess they are in some other places. In any case, there are contexts in which this won’t matter, and ones in which it will. If a set of discontented tt faculty have been bullied into being enthusiastic for prospective grad students, those who believe them may be in for a shock. Equally, if the tt folk are much happier than those with tenure, they may not be a good source of information about whether you should join the department as a faculty member. Now the COACHE report does not mention specific departments, so differences in these respects are really just warning signs.

The differences between tenured and tt points of view are interesting, and I don’t really know what explains them. When I was following the literature on sexism in STEM quite closely about ten years ago, it appeared that STEM women did not perceive the sexism until the tenuring process started. One can think of a number of possible reasons for this, and some of them would spread across genders and disciplines. Perhaps, for example, some senior faculty feel protective about the younger ones, and smooth things out for them a bit. Another might be that the tenured faculty may try to draw on more resources, and so discover what the weaknesses are. On the other hand, it would seem most unfortunately easy to make the tt faculty miserable, so differences in directions different from those at my university would seem to be more understandable.

Can one be hugely disappointed but not at all surprised?

If so, here’s a good case, from CHE

U. of Illinois Board Votes Down Salaita Appointment
The University of Illinois’s Board of Trustees voted on Thursday to deny the appointment of Steven G. Salaita to a professorship on the Urbana-Champaign campus, in the latest chapter of a month-old saga that has inflamed academe.

That Mr. Salaita’s appointment appeared on the list of proposed faculty hires to be voted on by the board came as a surprise. The campus’s chancellor, Phyllis M. Wise, who has been the subject of several no-confidence votes at the college, maintained in recent weeks that she would not send the appointment to the board. Trustees have expressed support for her leadership.

H/t also to Dailynous

Study Raises Questions About Why Women Are Less Likely than Men to Earn Tenure Research

You can read the article here

 

“Not only are men more likely than women to earn tenure, but in computer science and sociology, they are significantly more likely to earn tenure than are women who have the same research productivity.”

 

““It’s not that we need to make women more productive. It’s that we need to change the processes,” said Kate Weisshaar, a graduate student at Stanford University who did the study.”

On Mitigating Bias in a Job Search

I write a lot about implicit bias, and about how we should all be taking steps to mitigate it. I’m also Head of Department. So when I was placed in the position of hiring for two permanent posts, I decided to take the opportunity to put in place what seemed to me, based on what I know about implicit bias, to be the best practises. It went remarkably well, so I thought I’d report on what we did, and how and why we did it. And also on some of the difficulties, because it wasn’t QUITE as smooth as it could have been.

1. What we had candidates send: Anonymised CV and writing sample, with identifying information on a detachable cover sheet. In keeping with widespread UK practise, we only asked for names of referees at this stage, not references.

Problems:

a. Detachable cover sheet only actually makes sense if these things are going to be printed out, and if they’re not being submitted electronically. I’m not sure why I asked for it, but I wouldn’t do it again. For electronic documents, removing it is a tedious bit of editing. Just ask for anonymised CV and writing sample.

b. Candidates weren’t always sure what was meant by ‘anonymised’ or ‘identifying information’. Some worried they should leave off their publications, or place of PhD, or employment. Much better to put in brief clarification of what to leave in. [What we actually wanted left off was just name and email.]

c. The e-recruitment system sticks candidates names into the file names of every file downloaded by those on the committee, adding *another* bit of anonymisation to do. Unless you have a system which doesn’t do this, you’ll need a bit of administrative help retitling all of these. (And we really should advocate for systems that don’t do this!)

It IS vital to have a bit of administrative help– someone who can check to make sure that everything actually is anonymised, who can also write assign numbers to the candidates and keep a list of name-number pairings.

2. How we long-listed: We long-listed on the basis of CV alone, to get down to 15-30 candidates. Our focus was primarily on meeting area needs and publication record.

3. After long-listing, we read anonymised writing samples. We also sent away for references. This decision was the subject of debate. I favoured waiting until we’d shortlisted, because of well-documented biases in reference-writing, and also because of national differences (e.g. US references are MUCH more glowing than UK ones). However, some wanted references to be used in shortlisting. Our compromise was to have references sent to a special email account, to which committee members would only be given access a couple of days before the shortlisting meeting. At that point, they were also given access to the name-number pairings.

4. How we shortlisted: Shortlisting was based on full information: CV, writing sample and references. Fascinatingly, though, even those who had advocated the use of references in shortlisting found them to be not of much interest after close examination of CV and writing sample. All felt that use of references had in the past been a merely apparently useful short-cut, which probably served to short-circuit proper consideration of more significant information. We also found that in many cases we had failed to recognise the written work of those we actually knew, so the anonymity had worked remarkably well.

You might wonder why we didn’t anonymise references. One reason is that it’s a lot of work– need to eliminate every occurrence of name or gendered pronoun. Another is that if a reference is anonymised you can’t try to take into account the tendency for referees to e.g. describe women as ‘hard-working’ and men as ‘brilliant’.

5. How we hired: Our process is a long one by UK standards and a short one by US standards. The main events are job talk (1.5 hours, including discussion) and interview, though there are also a couple of meals. The most important bias-fighting measure I took at this stage was in the discussion of each candidate post-interview. I did not allow overall gestalt evaluations or comparative evaluations until the very end. Instead, we agreed a list of topics we would discuss about each candidate in turn. I listed these on a whiteboard to make sure they got covered in every case. We carefully distinguished such things as written work, job talk, and discussion period so as not to give any of these undue weight. (There’s a good case to be made that written work is a better indication of research ability than job talk under immensely stressful conditions, including in many cases stereotype threat. Yet nonetheless it’s all too easy to focus more on job talk.) Only after each candidate was discussed in detail did we turn to comparative judgements. This lead to much richer and more useful discussion than I’d experienced before in such circumstances (and I’ve lost count of the number of hiring committees I’ve been on!). In both cases, we had very strong fields, and therefore extremely difficult decisions to make. But we all felt that this process helped enormously in making these decisions.