Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Female-Friendliness in Ranking Departments

Julia C. Van Camp has an interesting article on the issue of women in philosophy, looking at some questions raised by Leiter's The Philosophical Gourmet Report. (Thanks to Ektopos for the link.) It is an important issue. It occurred to me recently that a great deal, and perhaps even a strong majority, of philosophical work being done at present that I find especially interesting and worthwhile is being done by women: Margaret Atherton, Anne Jaap Jacobsen, Martha Nussbaum, Onora O'Neill, Eleonore Stump, Marleen Rozemond, etc. And yet there does seem to be a tendency in which either the best departments are getting away for some reason with not hiring many women, or (this would be even worse, and, unfortunately, there is at least anecdotal evidence that this is so) departments are considered the best departments because they are more male. As with everything for which we have only anecdotal evidence one way or another, it's hard to know what's really going on. I didn't pick graduate schools on the basis of any sort of ranking - I mostly just applied to any schools I knew of that had large departments (because I wanted a bit of freedom of intellectual movement) and a decent reputation for good history-of-philosophy work. But students who do use rankings in picking grad schools should certainly follow Van Camp's proposal and look at female-friendliness as part of their assessment. I think in particular the following questions mentioned in the paper are important:

1. Does the department show an openness to hiring female faculty members for tenure-track positions?

2. Are female faculty hired mainly for temporary, visiting, or adjunct positions?

5. Does the department have an established policy on faculty-student dating, and is it enforced? (I think this is a very important issue, but it needs to be approached carefully. The University of Toronto, for instance, has an obscure and, if I may say so, weasely policy - it's hard to find and it doesn't say much. But the philosophy grad students here are exceptionally professional in their approach to students, so the practice is exactly what one could hope.)

7. Does the department include a reasonable proportion of women among its invited guest speakers at department events and conferences?

Van Camp is right that these sorts of questions are important for women who are looking for non-hostile departments. But they are also, I think, of interest to male students, because they are usually at least moderately good indications of the quality of thought in the air in the department.

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