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Yes, Canadian universities do discriminate against their own graduates

The following is a response to the 2009 article, “PhD: To what end?,” which showed that Canadian philosophy grads are less likely than foreign-educated PhDs to be hired at Canadian institutions. The article has received more than 40 comments to date, including this insightful reply.

by Douglas Mann

Louis Groarke and Wayne Fenske’s analysis of the woeful lack of success of graduates of Canadian philosophy programs is entirely accurate. I did very similar research myself several years ago, and came up with similar numbers. The only flaw in the article is the authors’ timidity in drawing the obvious conclusion that Canadian universities discriminate against hiring their own graduates. The other horn of their dilemma – that Canadian graduates are “inferior” – would be very difficult to prove in a systematic fashion. My own experience is that much of the vast “potential” of these prestigious foreign hires fizzles away once the person in question gets tenure.

I graduated from a middle-level Canadian PhD program in the late 1990s. Even though I’ve taught 75 courses, published three books and over 90 articles (half of them academic), I’ve never gotten an interview for a tenure-track job. I’ve taught in six disciplines at five universities and colleges, and have gotten a few limited-term contracts, but have never been within shooting distance of the plum jobs reserved for graduates of foreign programs and the University of Toronto. When I apply to a tenure-track job today, I’m about 95 percent sure that I’ve out-published the entire appointments committee that sends me a rejection letter three months later. Many of these people are the graduates of the so-called “prestigious” foreign programs that defenders of the system laud.

Enough about me. What’s interesting about this article is not so much the conclusions the authors come to, which I think are unassailable, but the shoddy, arch-conservative criticisms from some of the commenters. Even though these arguments often come from people in positions of authority at the departments Dr. Groarke and Dr. Fenske attack and are thus little more than ideological defenses of personal economic and political capital, I’ll take on their main points seriously and counter them one by one.

1. The Neo-Conservative Argument: “Canadian English-speaking doctoral universities represent only a small fraction of the worldwide total. The fact that 30 percent of those hired come from Canadian programs isn’t proof of anti-Canadian discrimination – instead, it’s proof of pro-Canadian bias!”

My jaw dropped when I read this argument repeated over and over by the article’s critics. Yes, Canadian PhD programs probably don’t spit out more than five percent of English-speaking philosophy graduates. But assuming that this figure is somehow relevant reduces academics to the social status of migrant farm workers. It may be the case in neo-conservative economics textbooks that labour is perfectly mobile, but in the real world people often feel a sense of loyalty to the land of their birth. This may be the result of a connection to family, friends, patriotism, a love of the city or countryside of their homeland, or a feeling of comfort in a liberal democratic state with a reasonable social safety net such as Canada. The critics assume that anybody is willing to move anywhere in the world for a job. This assumption is plainly false, and is so conservative that it would make Dick Cheney grin with approval.

Added to this is the fact that the Canadian state has long supported Canadian content programs in various aspects of culture and media, these being fairly successful in building local publishing, music and TV production industries. Why would such programs not be relevant to academic life, where at least in history, sociology, economics, political science, literature, media and popular culture having a lively knowledge of Canadian content is very relevant? Not to mention having people in the sciences who can actually speak English. So a pro-Canadian hiring policy can be supported ethically as being in the public good.

Further, if you think about it, it’s very unlikely that the Americans heading north to take Canadian positions are, in fact, the “cream of the crop” from Ivy League institutions. Why would a hotshot Harvard or Yale graduate want a job in at a Canadian school they’ve never heard of if they have a chance to be hired at a “prestigious” American school? Most of the hires from south of the border are, in fact, middle-of-the-pack scholars with little teaching experience and next to zero publication record. I’ve proven this to be true in the 50 or so times I’ve looked up CVs of people who have gotten on short lists or gotten hired to Canadian jobs I’ve applied to – 90 percent of the time they are generic candidates with about a year’s worth of teaching experience and one to three publications (and no books), sometimes without even a finished PhD (which raises the separate question of age discrimination).

Added to this is the niggling question of facts. My one glimpse through the dense fog surrounding hiring procedures came during my doctoral days, when I noticed that 80-90 percent of people applying to an open tenure-track job at a middle-level Canadian school were either Canadian, had Canadian PhDs, or both. Several critics have pointed out that this is a mystery we’ll never penetrate; one even suggested that maybe 10 percent or less of applicants to Canadian jobs are from Canadian programs. This is nonsense.

My challenge to the critics is this – if I’m wrong that the majority of applicants to Canadian tenure-track jobs have Canadian PhDs, prove it by releasing figures that break down the origins of applicants to each job. This isn’t a mystery. It’s a secret: there’s a difference. As far as I can see the facts support Dr. Groarke and Dr. Fenske. So the “30 percent hired” figure for Canadian graduates is very low, and provides prima facie evidence for discrimination.

2. Bad Causality: “Inferring causality from the facts presented in the article is impossible. The authors are committing a host of statistical sins. Hey, maybe those applying from outside Canada actually have stronger CVs and that’s why they all get hired!”

My jaw is getting sore from all this dropping. As any student of Hume knows, constant conjunction IS an element of causality. If three percent of non-smokers and 50 percent of smokers get lung cancer, one can safely guess that smoking is bad for your health. Of course, the other element needed to show causality is some sort of causal mechanism. And we have at least two: first, the neo-colonial mentality in Canadian academic institutions that everything American or European is better; second, that like hires like. If hiring really were an impartial, discrimination-free process, it’s almost impossible that a department like the University of British Columbia could have hired only one Canadian graduate. Instead, it’s far more likely that departments dominated by Americans hire more of the same via the old school tie, ideological affinities, or personal connections, perhaps so they can discuss the intricacies of college basketball in the corridors. The department I graduated from had, at the time, about ten Americans, two Canadians, one German and one Brit. The four or five least-published and least-effective teachers in it were all American. The two Canadians were both well published scholars.

3. The Silly Non-Sequitor: “Not all Canadian profs are competant.”

This is irrelevant: if you take any large group of people sharing some common factor, some of them are competent, and some of them are incompetent. But at least we can spell the word “competent.” Probably the worst philosophy conference paper I ever heard was by an American grad student studying at U of T; I’ve heard several colloquia presentations where tenured presenters managed to talk for a half hour and say nothing, while I’ve also heard some very interesting papers presented by unknown Canadian graduate students.

Again, the relevant comparison for competitive Canadian graduates isn’t with the best Harvard PhD student, who is unlikely to venture north; instead, it’s with the A-minus graduate from the Indiana University or the State University of New York who can’t find a good job in the U.S. Having met some of these A-minus types, they’re certainly not any more astute scholars or harder workers than the best graduates from Queen’s University, the University of Waterloo, or Simon Fraser University. Yet they get hired over such graduates.

4. The More-Study-Needed Fallacy: “We need a qualitative study of the hiring process, from dossier creation through the nature, tone and quality of letters of reference, to attitudes towards interviews, and a trans-cultural analysis of how candidates, Canadian and non-Canadian, fare in this complex process.”

The interesting thing about this suggestion from a university official, which sounds so reasonable, is that it excludes the most important element in the hiring process: the attitudes, values and rationale of those doing the hiring. It utterly fails to question those in power as to why they make the decisions that results in what looks like to any reasonable outsider as discrimination. “Dossier creation” and “attitudes towards interviews” by a Canadian candidate don’t matter if the cards are stacked against him or her from the start.

In short, Canadian universities, especially philosophy departments, are neo-colonial and neo-conservative institutions that systematically ignore qualifications and practice discrimination in hiring tenure-track professors. Funding shortages have forced them to employ a large army of sessional teachers and grad students to do the drudge work: teaching large undergrad classes, marking essays and exams. That’s what the Canadian PhDs are for, to serve as a reserve army of the semi-employed. As others have said, it’s a caste system.

Douglas Mann is a sessional professor of media studies and sociology at the University of Western Ontario.

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Comments on this Article

Yes, discrimination is pervasive in Canadian institutions. At the moment, I want nothing more than to walk into the front office of the university of my PhD and rip up the degree while burning my robes. It makes me sick to evn step foot on the campus. God helps the alumni association member who makes the mistake of asking for a donation.

Posted by Mary hates her university, Jul 1, 2013 8:26 PM

To clarify and provide some context for my earlier remarks about the role played by 'old school tie', I am Australian originally and have my degrees from one of the top 3 Australian universities and was tenured there before moving to Canada. The Australian universities are just as prone to hire based on which university you were educated at, and other connotations of 'old school tie', and in my experience in a far worse way than Canadian universities. Its not just a Canadian malaise.

Posted by foreign prof, Feb 6, 2012 5:01 PM

As a non-Canadian and non-Canadian trained prof at a small Canadian university (but with tenure ...), I think the bias is strongly rooted in networks; hiring committees hire people from places they know personally (old school tie), based on recommendations from people they know (cliques).

Like the commentator I watched in the 1990s as I was passed over time and again for younger individuals with far fewer publications than I, but who were from the 'right university' or who completed their PhD with the supervisor regarded as 'best'. Now as a tenured senior academic (I am a full prof), I see younger colleagues who are not quite in the right group (not U of T or any US university, didn't come from the 'right' lab ...) being passed over and languishing in contract jobs.

Let's face it, Canadian universities, whether Philosophy Depts or any of the physical sciences, hire within their tribe. If you're not 'connected', forget it.

Posted by foreign prof, Feb 6, 2012 2:23 PM

(Part 1 of 2)

Outside of the 'hard sciences', where one can 'measure' the innovative nature and quality of output a little more objectively, it is indeed very, very true that Canadian Universities hire in a mafia style. In some areas, this is blatantly obvious. I have heard of posts 'offered' to favoured candidates before the job is even posted. There are so few jobs in each given recruitment year; tenure means you can never get rid of a colleague: you are stuck with them forever, since they never retire, and you can't make them retire, so people want to hire friends, buddies, disciples and other versions of like minds; anglophone Canadians are weirdly passively-aggressively reticent to work interpersonal conflict through (so small departments are a nightmare of whining and backbiting and festering nothingness when they go wrong); the University infrastructure is identikit across institutions with little innovation in learning style and no real institutional identity beyond 'prestige', with some very rare exceptions (an institution like Mount Allison has a real identity, but what a rarity in Canada!); profs have great working conditions in Canada (trust me, I work in the UK and the bleating Canadian-working profs at conferences are very aggravating when my teaching workload and research pressures are double theirs, in a tenureless system, and my salary is about 60% of a Canadian salary).

Despite the image Canadians like to maintain of themselves, we *are* fairly provincial people with a massive inferiority (to the US) and superiority (to the US) complex. So, therefore, are our institutions. We have long had a culture where going away - to the bigger, 'important' countries - proves you must actually be good at what you do, particularly among intellectuals. Canadians don't move around a lot within the country. Each city, each province is its own tiny country. Toronto thinks it's a pretentious combination of New York City and London with a chip on its shoulder. Calgary and Edmonton think they're sort of Dallas and Denver. Montreal thinks it's a little Paris, a little New York and a little Brussels with a dose of Burlington, Vermont. Vancouver thinks it's San Francisco crossed with Auckland. Nowhere thinks it's Canada, despite the blood on snow flag planted all over the place. And everywhere looks outside for its role models, no matter how much rhetoric there is about how wonderful, special, etc, Canada is. This just ends up being reflected in Universities, their hiring culture, their structures, their innate conservatism, and their corporatist standpoints that never emphasize originality of thought - they emphasize prestige and PR, but in a cheap way.

Bitter comments? Yes. But every country has its HE mafias; the very structure of PhD and MFA study means that there will always be 'right' ways to do things in order to get jobs, and that many of those 'right' ways have nothing to do with real originality or achievement - they have to do with the way you play the game, and with departments' politics, agendas, and inferiority complexes. Let's not forget that many/most humanities academics don't like people and have not great social skills. That's why they choose careers sitting in corners, writing, alone, or giving papers in utterly monotonous voices to rooms full of notetaking colleagues with dead eyes. They aren't the greatest at outreach, engagement with new ways of doing things, pedagogical progress, creative endeavour. Let's also not forget that they are, like everyone else in consumer society, susceptible to fashions, wanting to be cool (imagine hiring someone with a subspecialty that is not on what, this year, is considered the cutting edge!) etc.

Posted by Admittedly bitter expat, Jan 24, 2012 11:16 AM

(Part 2 of 2)

Depressing? Probably. But that different from anything else? No. The arts councils in the provinces and the national one are just as filled with mafia-like 'giving the money to the buddies and friends who are fashionable and who have paid their dues in the way we want to be seen to make them pay them'. It's the nature of the world today. Sometimes, you just need to go where you and the fashionable map on to each other - it worked for me - and, well, for many, many people, that's never going to be Canada.

Until our Universities shift, until institutions genuinely renew their working blood, until there is an effervescence in Canada that looks at quality not image, until we stop making people think that getting a PhD will get them an academic job (! sadly) there is little hope and much to be cynical about in hiring processes and career development. The country might be large, but the departments and population are small, and the most innovative people are not the ones holding the reigns of academic power.

Posted by Admittedly bitter expat, Jan 24, 2012 11:16 AM

Ronan doesn't seem to make a distinction between hiring from American schools and hiring Americans.

At my institution, the ideal candidate seems to be a Canadian who went to do their PhD at a top-20 US school, and who now wants to return home.

Posted by canuck, Jan 13, 2012 6:57 PM

Ronan doesn't seem to make a distinction between hiring from American schools and hiring Americans.

At my institution, the ideal candidate seems to be a Canadian who went to do their PhD at a top-20 US school, and who now wants to return home.

Posted by canuck, Jan 13, 2012 6:57 PM

To Young Philosopher:
You are right that some of us writing here graduated from the UW. Speaking for myself, I enjoyed doing graduate work in that department at the time ('90s) as the professors were not beholden to some of the rhetoric and politics floating around in some other philosophy departments. It jibed with our sentiment as grad students. Perhaps this is why some of us now are speaking out against the unfairness we have witnessed (it's nothing new to the university).

About your academic career: the best advice a professor gave me years ago was to go to the most prestigious university that will accept you. He knew, as a pragmatic truth, that graduating from Harvard, Yale, Princeton etc. would give you the best chances of getting hired (rightly or wrongly). While doing your PhD, get some articles published in some good academic journals, give papers at conferences, teach a broad range of courses. And network. Hopefully you'll be able to discern the line between being cordial with senior professors and sucking up (some, you will realize, don't see this line in academia).

And, as you are probably aware by now, you should do your thesis in one of the "serious" areas of philosophy like the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind or epistemology. Don't even consider specializing in the philosophy of religion, existentialism, or some branch of Continental philosophy (the analytic types in philosophy departments don't consider those areas real philosophy and won't look at your cv twice). If you think that departments in Canada are inclined to hire American Ivy League grads, you ain't seen nothing until you apply with specializations in the non-analytic fields.

In the end, given the hiring practices of the university and the economic downturn, you'll need to consider very carefully whether you wish to pursue grad studies in philosophy, especially in Canada (with the U of T being an exception. They are one of the few philosophy departments who hire their own and one of the few departments other departments in Canada will hire from).

It also depends on whether you are willing to chance living under the poverty line for the rest of your life. Also, are you prepared psychologically? Even if you do all the work you'll have to be prepared to be passed over for a job (with your published books and journal articles) for someone with no publications and perhaps with little teaching experience. You might learn how to become qualified for a job but you'll be mystified about how to become less qualified for a job.

As a caveat: if you love philosophy and can cobble together a couple of courses to teach a semester after you graduate, you might find that what you have, as a thinker and being true to yourself, is worth it.

Posted by G. Elijah Dann, Jan 12, 2012 3:04 PM

Wow, this place suddenly looks like a U of Waterloo alumni gathering. It sounds like you guys now regret not going to a US program but instead getting a Canadian PhD from a school like Waterloo, which looks like one of the science/tech schools that have expanded indiscriminately into the humanities over the last couple of decades. What's your advice for young Canadian philosophy majors? There's no hope in Canada for people like me who want to pursue graduate study in philosophy? It seems a lot tougher to get into a US program....

Posted by Young Philosopher, Jan 12, 2012 1:26 PM

I think an important point (as has been mentioned) is also that there is a legal requirement to give priority to Canadian citizens (though I grant some of these may have degrees from US institutions). I find it really inconceivable in competitions that attract 200 + applicants all with Ph.D.'s one so freequently finds that there is no suitable candidate. I.e. not a single Canadian in that pool was qualified for the job. Does anyone really believe that is likely who doesn't have a personal stake in the issue?

Posted by Dr. Jason West, Jan 11, 2012 11:59 PM

Mann, Groarke and Fenske's argument is about transparency and accountability. Extended into the comments that have been made about their argument, I know why those who agree with their thesis hesitate to disclose their names. There will be a blacklisting by regular faculty of such critics, an irrationality illustrated by the very responses made in the comments below in the choice of words like "Entitled" "Whiners". But it's interesting that while we use our actual names (what is there to lose at this point in our careers?) our critics use pseudonyms. Why? Are they afraid we will look up their cvs to see how many stellar publications they have working "90 hours" a week? Or do they afraid that their own colleagues will practice the exact sort of politics against them that Mann describes? Curiouser and curiouser. Just like hiring policies in the university: Power politics coupled to no transparency and no accountability.

Posted by G. Elijah Dann, Jan 11, 2012 2:19 PM

A few follow-up points.

First, none of the people who have offered caustic criticisms here have addressed my main arguments, especially my claim that Groarke and Fenske’s critics are working from neo-conservative assumptions. This isn’t a matter of statistics or government reports or whining – it’s a political argument that remains unanswered. The absolute mobility of labour is a very strange assumption to make. Connected to this is the failure of anyone to take up my challenge and prove that only a small minority of those applying to Canadian jobs have Canadian PhDs. I see no evidence of this, but have seen evidence of the opposite.

Second, although I don’t raise the issue of class-action law suits in the article, how is it “whining” to demand fair hiring procedures from publicly funded institutions? Surely no one on this site would defend racial or sexual discrimination – why are you defending discrimination in hiring tenure-track professors based on age and national origin? My own view is that hiring professors would be better off left to administrators who knew nothing of the discipline in question but knew how to read and understand CVs: at least you wouldn’t get the very strange outcomes I’ve seen in dozens of rounds of hiring.

Third, my critics seem to have totally misunderstood the point of my anecdotes about the American grad student and elsewhere – I was trying to prove how difficult it is to judge a group of people from a small sample of experiences, not the opposite. So to say that all Canadian graduates are inferior since you met one who was indeed mediocre is bad reasoning, a statistical and logical fallacy. I wasn’t making an anecdotal argument – I was ATTACKING them.

Lastly, the assumption that a program’s historical prestige or its being listed on a website called The Philosophical Gourmet casts a magical spell over everyone graduating from it is uncritical thinking to say the least. A good empiricist operating scientifically wouldn’t just look at a website list and see if Candidate X’s degree is from it before judging their merit – they would also look at their teaching experience, evaluations, letters of reference, writing sample, and most important, the number and quality of their publications. Unless you’re willing to read some of these, you can’t judge X. It would be like writing a movie review based on its poster or the reputation of the director of cinematography. My sense is that only a small fraction of work submitted in job applications is actually read, and that spurious factors such as social capital and the reputation of the program the candidates graduated from are used as ways to avoid a truly critical examination of their work.

To argue that Canadian graduates are de facto inferior without actually investigating their merits is a prejudice, a pre-judgment. There’s nothing in the climate, genetics, health-care system, or mediascape of Canada that prevents Canadian graduates from being the equal of American, British or other grads. Besides, just how important is the academic institution to the key moment in a grad student’s career, the writing of the PhD thesis? With the digital superhighway in place, I would argue that many theses could be written as easily in the wilds of British Columbia (whether or not you’re a lumberjack) as in a garret in Oxford or Cambridge, Massachusetts. I wrote much of my own thesis in a student computer lab surrounded by people who probably knew nothing about the issues I addressed in it.

Doug Mann

Posted by Dr. Douglas Mann, Jan 11, 2012 12:36 PM

Funny how everyone seems to have "anechdotal" evidence of the abuses taking place. In my discipline, we call that preponderance of evidence.

I agree that administrators should make the call on hiring decisions when it comes to faculty, with depts playing an advisory role. These jobs are for life and you cannot based such decisions on the will of a small group of professors who tend to evaluate applicants on what are too often petty terms - are they ivy league, am I interested in their area of study, are they using the "right" theory, will they bring us grant money, are they the right gender/race, etc.

Posted by Dr.doinglittle, Jan 11, 2012 11:46 AM

Dr.N, we are not whining, we want the law to be applied. We want to have our merits considered, not just where we went to school. And the law does say that the department must make an effort to hire a Canadian and, if there is a qualified Canadian, hire that person: just read down a bit on the page you cited.

Before a degree-granting educational institution can hire a foreign academic for a position in Canada, it must:

•Advertise vacant positions in Canada;
•Make sure any vacant position advertised abroad is also advertised simultaneously in Canada;
•Advertise for a reasonable length of time (about a month) to allow broad exposure of the vacancy to Canadians and permanent residents;
•Demonstrate that the advertising medium used - web, print or electronic - is effective in attracting appropriate candidates for the position;
•Include in the advertisement this statement: "All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority";
•Meet all conditions of applicable collective agreements;
•Complete the Foreign Academic Recruitment Summary (PDF 127 KB) - HTML Version outlining the educational institution's hiring decision and providing summaries of Canadian applicants verified by the vice-president (academic) or other senior academic official of the educational institution.
•Be prepared to complete a yearly summary report on recruitment practices for Canadian academics and results.
Hiring Steps
Educational institutions hiring foreign academics for Canadian positions must :

1.Submit your application form.
2.Submit the Foreign Academic Recruitment Summary (PDF 127 KB) - HTML Version.
3.Employers using a third party representative must complete the "Annex to the Appointment of Representative" form and send it with the LMO application.
4.Send documents to:
◦Service Canada
Temporary Foreign Worker - Centre of Specialization
1 Agar Place, PO Box 7000
Saint John, NB E2L 4V4
Fax: 1-866-585-7524 (toll free)

◦For Quebec, please send your applications to:
Service Canada
Temporary Foreign Workers
715 Peel Street
Montréal, QC H3C 4H6
Fax: 514-877-3680

Learn more about the HRSDC/Service Canada Labour Market Opinion assessment criteria noting that a Quebec Acceptance Certificate issued by the province is also required for jobs in Quebec.

A Certificate of Registration from the Government of Manitoba is required for employers in Manitoba. You can register online with the province. For more information on the Manitoba's new Worker Recruitment and Protection Act, consult the Questions and Answers.

5.Once HRSDC/Service Canada has approved your job offer, send a copy of the HRSDC/Service Canada confirmation letter to the foreign academic.
6.Tell the foreign academic to apply for a work permit from CIC.
Next, CIC decides whether the foreign academic will get a work permit according to the requirements to work and reside temporarily in Canada.

Some countries may require that their citizens meet certain conditions if they want to work in Canada (e.g. approval to leave the country, employer to pay transportation costs and/or medical coverage). Ask the foreign worker to verify if additional conditions apply in his/her country, contact the country's consulate in Canada or check its website to find out if you must meet additional requirements.

Posted by N. Ronan Coleman, Jan 10, 2012 7:24 PM

M. Iqbal,

Look at how the top five Canadian Philosophy PhD programs fare against the other programs in the Anglophone world:

According to this Philosophical Gourmet Report, there's only one decent Philosophy PhD program in Canada.


Posted by Young Philosopher, Jan 10, 2012 12:33 PM

A simple question: What motive or incentive are there for recruiters (chair, dean or other administrators) from Canadian Univeristies to be less likely or reluctant in hiring their own PhD graduates, at least from top 5 Canadian schools? Especially, if they are as good or better than US graduates (as the writer claims)?

It appears that above views and comments are just personal anecdotes that lack academic authencity. Show some facts from published reports or statistics.

Posted by M. Iqbal, Jan 9, 2012 10:55 PM

I am a Canadian graduate working in the USA. My area is not philosophy, but I can say that English Canada is a closed, hierarchical, old-fashioned society. Too much networking.

Posted by Dan Simson, Jan 9, 2012 10:43 PM

What's all this crying about class action lawsuits? No wonder nobody wants to hire you. What a bunch of entitled brats. Nobody owes you a living and there is no law that says Canadian universities must hire Canadians.

As for wondering what tenured faculty would do "with all their spare time" should graduate programs shut down, does it not occur to you that we would actually praise the gods that our workload would be cut down a bit? I could then work an 80 hour week instead of a 90 hour week!

Posted by Dr. N. Titled, Jan 9, 2012 5:20 PM

With the study of employment trends and practices described by Mann and the other authors, why would young men and women even want to pursue a PhD anymore (coupled to the economic outlook)? If young undergraduates really think it through, Canadian graduate schools could soon lack candidates for the program. Then, aside from collecting hefty paychecks but without graduate students, what will the tenured professors do with their spare time? Maybe they'll be reduced to sessional work? Hmmm... Karma.

Posted by G. Elijah Dann, Jan 8, 2012 10:19 PM

Thank-you so much for this follow-up to the Groarke and Fenske article. I too was very unimpressed with the elitist indignation that it elicited among already tenured faculty, who obviously have an interest in maintaining the status quo.

What I find so sadly hilarious is the fact that every job posting seems to state that special consideration will be given to Canadian candidates, provided of course that those candidates have attended an ivy league university or U of T, I guess.

One job I was interviewed for in 2007 was given to an unpublished ABD simply because the candidate had been ivy many of the senior faculty.

What I can't understand is why the federal and provincial governments don't take an interest in this problem within institutions that they fund. I was fortunate enough to have my graduate studies fully funded by provincial and federal grants (including a two-year postdoc), although six years after graduating I've been unable to obtain a tenure-track appointment. I had hoped that the nearly $100 000 that had been invested in my education and training to be a professor at a Canadian institution was money well spent. Apparently it was not, since for the last several years, in spite of a strong teaching and publication record, I continue to fight it out with other part-timers with Canadian PhDs for sessional scraps. All the while dealing with severe depression and a nearly broken marriage.

To quote a Bruce Springsteen classic: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Perhaps it is time for a class action lawsuit...

Posted by tjp, Jan 8, 2012 4:43 PM

- Inciteful commentary from University Affairs! -

I checked the Oxford University Philosophy website, and as far as I can tell, hardly more than half the faculty there have their highest degrees from Oxford.

Some say that shows favoritism of Oxford towards its own. But I say: why so few? I mean, who else could have been applying for those jobs, after all? Other people in Britain? I imagine they hate snobby people from Oxford and wouldn't want to go there. And nobody from America would apply -- do you know how far away America is from England? People wouldn't just apply for a job across an ocean, I'm pretty sure. After all, I've applied for hundreds of university jobs, but they've all been in the same suburb where my house is.

The dozens and dozens of philosophy graduates from the most prestigious American programs will all stay home to accept the dozens and dozens of philosophy jobs at Yale every year. So only the really bad ones -- did I tell you I met a dumb American at a conference one time? anyhow -- only the bad ones would apply to Oxford.

In short, the facts are definitely on the side of people who claim that Oxford Philosophy has been discriminating against its own graduates. We can probably maybe safely conclude that at least 88% of applicants for Oxford philosophy positions have Oxford degrees. The fact that only 65% of faculty there have Oxford degrees therefore shows discrimination. (One person told me that this somehow was bad statistical reasoning. He sure reminded me a lot of Dick Cheney!)

Only by releasing its job application data and maybe also giving me a job can Oxford free itself from the terrible shadow of hiring malfeasance that we have seen to hang over it.

Dr Sheesh Ferpeetsake

Posted by Dr Sheesh Ferpeetsake, Jan 6, 2012 10:54 PM

As for my area of the humanities, a reliable friend told me he heard the head of a middle-quality Canadian department assert unambiguously that as far as he was concerned no Canadian-trained student was good enough to teach in his department. Of course he had a Ph.D. from Cambridge. In my department, a Canadian candidate for a tenure-track job, who met all the specified qualifications, was not hired in favour of a foreign trained, non-Canadian citizen. Some one needs to do a study of how often this happens. I have suggested in the past that a class action suit should be filed by qualified Canadian candidates against a handful of Canadian universities based on those universities' violation of Canadian hiring laws.

Posted by N. Ronan Coleman, Jan 6, 2012 1:39 PM

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