Wednesday, 9 September 2009

APSA recap

I really don’t have that much to say about my visit to Toronto for APSA; I was a rather bad political scientist when it came to attending panels, so I can’t report on much of the doings at those. Judging from the panels written up at IHE, I can’t say it seems like I missed much anyway. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the panel I attended discussing the future of the American National Election Studies was very informative and reassuring, considering that whether or not I get tenure is likely to ride in large part on the quality of the 2008–12 surveys.

Since all three of my official conference activities were, to borrow the colorful phrasing of IHE writer Scott Jaschik, conducted “in the faux privacy of a large room with tables, off limits to journalists,” I suppose I shouldn’t really spill the beans here about them. Suffice it to say I’ve learned enough in the past six years to know that reading the tea leaves of the interview room is virtually impossible—some meetings that have gone “well” in my opinion went nowhere, while some awkward meetings eventually ended with job offers. Hence the vibe that the discussion regarding the position I was most interested went the best is pretty much meaningless.

More likely of interest to readers: here are my photos from the trip on Flickr.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Your day-before-conference APSA links

A brief “I have three classes to teach today” roundup:

I have nothing in particular to add, except to say that most of my conference activities will be off-the-radar in one way or another. But any readers of more-than-passing acquaintance who are interested in coming to a Friday evening “recession-beating reception” may contact me via email for an invite, with the caveat that it’s a BYOB event.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Death of a discipline

Inside Higher Ed reports (as does the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) that Wisconsin Lutheran College has decided to eliminate its political science department and, with it, two apparently-tenured faculty members to better focus on its “liberal arts mission.” I find myself in agreement with the thoughts of Michael Brintnall, executive director of the APSA:

“It would be thought to be a central component of a liberal arts education,” [Brintnall] said. “The subject matter is too central to civic life and understanding where we are going in the world to not offer the content.”

There is an argument to be made that the political dimensions of life can be explored in other social science and humanities disciplines—principally, through history, economics, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and psychology—but somehow I doubt Wisconsin Lutheran will be devoting the attention those dimensions deserve in a well-rounded education.

Then again, Wisconsin Lutheran may have made the right decision in its current circumstances: according to the Journal Sentinel article, the abolition of political science only affects 5 majors directly. Considering that we had political science majors beating down the doors at Millsaps, which isn’t much bigger than Wisconsin Lutheran, I’m not sure what is going on with that.

þ: John Sides and Steven Taylor.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Get your learn on

My APSA Teaching & Learning Conference paper co-written with my colleagues Lynne and Marcus is now done; I’m looking forward to my quick trip to Baltimore to present it and catch up with the methods-teaching crowd this weekend.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


So I assume the usual suspects at APSA will now be calling for a boycott of all future meetings in California.

The sad thing is that I agree with the boycott ringleaders on policy but it’s hard to take their specious arguments against the 2012 New Orleans meeting as being motivated by anything other than uninformed or outdated stereotypes of how New Orleanians would behave, as if there are absolutely no gay and lesbian couples in New Orleans today who have successfully dealt with the lack of a legal right to have their relationship with their life partners legitimized by the state. If, as a social scientist, you want other social scientists who aren’t fully committed to your personal crusades to take your public policy arguments seriously, you need to present at least some sort of data in support of your arguments.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

QotD, embarrassing former APSA/US presidents edition

Radley Balko picks my least favorite American president for dishonor:

Woodrow Wilson. Jailed political dissenters, created the Federal Trade Commission, got us into World War I. He also enacted the first federal income tax, the first modern military draft, and the first federal drug prohibition. Wilson also re-segregated the federal government. When blacks protested, he told them to consider segregation a “benefit,” not a debasement. An all-around loathesome human being.

I agree with Balko’s assessment except on the World War I point, if only because I think U.S. involvement was inevitable based on rather boneheaded provocations by the Central Powers, most notably the Zimmerman telegram.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Make Your Own Damn Boycott

Jacob Levy reports on efforts by some conservative APSA members to organize a boycott of the 2009 APSA Annual Meeting, to be held in Toronto, Canada, not-very-proud home of Human Rights Commission Kangaroo Courts ‘R’ Us.

I, as always, support all boycotts of APSA in body, although not in spirit—in spirit, I agree with Jacob that this boycott is at least as dumb as “NO-LA 2012.”

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Having a gay old time in the Times-Picayune

The tempest in a very tiny teapot over the APSA‘s meeting siting policy has hit the Times-Picayune.

Mind you, there are there are thousands of very good reasons to boycott APSA meetings already—I believe they’re called “political scientists.” In a city the size of Chicago you can escape from the teeming hordes of them, even at APSA, but there’s likely to be no such luck in New Orleans. In my mind, the fewer folks who show up the better, at least in terms of improving the experience for those who do attend.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Having a gay old time

The debate over the proposal before the APSA to move the 2012 annual meeting out of New Orleans due to the state’s voters’ approval of an anti-same-sex marriage initiative has hit the rumor blogs.

I didn’t bother to keep a copy of the message I sent to APSA from the website regarding the proposal—silly me expected it would be copied to me once it was sent—but I generally made the argument that both proposals on the table (either an outright policy of avoiding states that had passed anti-same-sex-marriage constitutional amendments or some sort of bizarre “case-by-case consideration” provision that reeks of committee-generated compromise) were fundamentally stupid and missed the point if the stated goals of the proponents—namely assuring the legal protection of individuals who are part of legally-recognized same-sex-married couples who attend the meeting—were the actual goals of the exercise. I also associated myself in my comments with the statement made by my colleagues at Tulane in their entirety, although I was not a signatory of their letter and my signature was not solicited.

My admittedly non-expert understanding of the legal situation—as someone who is neither gay nor in any sort of marriage-like partnership—is that legal recognition of same-sex marriage or an approximately equivalent status is confined to (within the realm of North America) Massachusetts, Vermont, and Canada. Of these places, there are perhaps a half-dozen or so cities capable of hosting APSA, and only one of them is in the United States (Boston, the site of the 2008 meeting). The symbolic opprobrium of anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendments is, in practice, insignificant; California, Illinois, and New York authorities are no more likely to recognize a Massachusetts same-sex marriage than Louisiana’s authorities. So, in reality same-sex-married couples from the states and provinces that recognize such things are no more “at risk” of legal troubles in New Orleans than they would be in San Francisco, Chicago, or New York City.

If members of the APSA want to protest the symbolism of these amendments or just don’t want to be seen in retrograde states that don’t comport with their vision of a just and liberal society, they should be honest and forthright about that position rather than hiding behind outlandish hypotheticals that really don’t distinguish between the “enlightened” and “backward” states—and given the success of Oregon’s anti-same-sex-marriage ballot measure, that distinction is far narrower than most of us would care to admit.

Update: You can also have at the discussion here if you so choose.

Monday, 14 January 2008

ABDs and VAPs of the world, unite!

Michael Bower has an op-ed at Inside Higher Ed about the role of disciplinary associations in the job-search process that’s worth posting to one’s office door, even though it’s about history rather than political science. Make the appropriate substitutions in the quote below and it applies equally, if not more so, to our discipline:

As a national organization and the most powerful entity in the historical job market, the AHA has done surprisingly little to help the newest members of their profession. On the whole, historians pride themselves on their concern for social justice. In 2005, for example, the Organization of American Historians uprooted its annual conference and moved it to another city in a show of solidarity with hotel workers. When it comes to the plight of the discipline’s own working class, the unemployed job seeker, this compassion and concern is absent. In its place is an annual report from the AHA talking about how good it is for some. For others, there isn’t much the AHA can do. I find this lack of action, especially when compared to what is normally shown for the less fortunate, disheartening.

While the AHA can do nothing to overcome the dearth of tenure-track positions (which is a reality that deans, trustees, and legislators control), the association has a great deal of control over two things: job market statistics and the interview process. These areas, which some might say are of secondary concern, have made the job search a very inhospitable place. For one, the association could conduct a statistically sound study of the job market based on an actual survey of departments and job seekers. Drawing attention to the total number of jobs and the number of Ph.D.’s produced in the past year overlooks the fact that visiting faculty and independent scholars are also on the market. A more thorough census would provide better information to AHA members and possibly even a snapshot of many other employment concerns, including how the positions stack up in terms of pay, tenure-track status, and other key factors.

More importantly, the organization could do a number of things to reform the poorly designed hiring process that leaves applicants floating in a limbo of uncertainty throughout much of November and December [for political science, since we don’t even have a real hiring event: add September, October, January, February, March, April, and May – ed]. The lack of communication between search committees and job seekers is so common that it is now taken for granted along with death and taxes. Job applicants no longer expect any professional courtesy. While this results in a good bit of anxiety for anyone on the market, it can also lead to undue financial hardships that could easily be avoided. As a former editor of the H-Grad listserv and one currently searching for a tenure-track position, I can safely say that these concerns are pressing on the mind of most applicants.

The recommendations:

1. Take a more accurate census of the job-seeking population annually.

2. Make the Job Register service a privilege that has to be earned. The AHA has a good deal of influence on the job market but has yet to utilize it in any significant way. Since most tenure-track positions are advertised in the AHA Perspectives and interviews are conducted at the AHA annual meeting, the AHA should mandate certain conditions that must be met before interviewing and advertising space is sold. If those conditions are not met, the AHA should deny departments the right to use their facilities and their ad space, thus adding substantial cost to the interviewing institutions. ...

3. Require that search committees inform applicants of their interview status via e-mail 30 days before the annual meeting. [This would require a real hiring event in political science to be effective in the first place. – ed]

4. Establish a general listserv for search committees and job seekers. Search committees are notorious for their lack of communications. Job seekers have pooled their resources into a number of academic career wikis, but these can be misused and are dependent on the truthfulness of the poster. The AHA can alleviate this uncertainty by creating a listserv and mandating that those who use the Job Register would agree to notify the AHA by e-mail at important phases of the job search process. Which steps those are would be open for negotiation, but everyone, committees and candidates alike, would know what those benchmarks are ahead of time. The AHA, and this is the critical step, would aggregate these notifications and send them out via a daily listserv to all job applicants who choose to subscribe. Under this system, for example, all who applied for the position in Pre-Modern China at Boise Valley State could know that the search committee has made AHA invitations, has made invitations for on-campus interviews, or that Dr. Damon Berryhill had accepted the position. Job applicants, who usually have no idea how the searches are progressing, would be more informed when fielding other offers and would no longer need to contact each institution directly for updates. Participation would also be in the hiring institution’s best interests, as it would reduce the need to communicate one on one with job candidates (a very time consuming task for search committee members) but still create a much more open system of communication for job seekers.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Kabuki politics, APSA style

This explains that. My inner spidey sense wonders if it would have passed in Orleans Parish post-Katrina; my eyeballing of the precinct numbers says no.

Monday, 15 October 2007


I just found out that my presentation proposal for the 2008 APSA Teaching and Learning Conference in San Jose next February was accepted. Now I just need to figure out how to get away from school for the weekend.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The contents of my APSA nametag barcode

Using the SWIPE Toolkit, I found out what Big Brother knew about me in Chicago due to the barcode on my name tag:


Nothing you couldn’t have figured out with Google, I suppose.

Monday, 3 September 2007

There and back again

I got back from APSA in Chicago last night, after a relatively uneventful conference; most of the highlights involved locating the best bar specials on Goose Island 312, although I think I had a few good interactions at the meat market and got a couple of leads on other jobs. It was nice seeing a few old friends here and there, mostly all-too-briefly; with the exception of Frequent Commenter Scott and his grad school buddy John, I didn’t spend much time with anyone except Marvin and a few of his grad students at dinner Thursday, and Dirk and his family, who hosted a nice lunch for me and a couple of friends out in the ‘burbs on Sunday. (Particular apologies to Michelle, with whom I only interacted via cell phone.)

Alas, nobody seemed to take me up on my suggestion of creating a scene at the registration desk when their name tag appeared bearing the mark of the beast. One of these days I’ll figure out how to create mass mischief at APSA, but not this year.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Replication and extension

An anonymous commenter on the rumor mills posted a link to, which seems like a semi-promising attempt to create a service that partially bridges the gap between online job listing sites and credentials services like Interfolio.

To my mind, the ideal site would function more-or-less like Interfolio from the candidate’s point of view: you submit a virtual “packet” for each job, which can be accessed by the receiving department as a web page, an email with every item in the packet as an attachment, or (for departments in the dark ages) a paper file sent to the department.

Indeed, Interfolio functions like this now, but hardly any political science departments are registered to receive packets on there (only one job I applied for last year, at New College of Florida, accepted electronic applications via Interfolio). My expectation is that will have similar problems achieving buy-in from departments, as would any political science equivalent not coordinated by APSA.

Meanwhile, APSA‘s eJobs system has about 80% of the needed infrastructure, but as far as I can tell the association has no interest in saving job candidates and departments time and money by finishing the job, even though I’m sure they could get people on the market to pony up $50+ a year for such a service.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Sleep is overrated

I should be in bed since I have an 8:45 flight tomorrow to Charlotte for the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference. In addition to seeing Michelle and a fellow Ole Miss grad at the conference, I’m being put up (with?) by Frequent Commenter Scott and his family during my stay, so I’m only out my airfare, the absurd $190 conference registration fee, and my rental car.

I’m particularly looking forward to hobnobbing with all the people who got the jobs I wanted this year. That’s going to be great fun.

Friday, 20 January 2006

APSA wastes my time, again

It’d be nice if the trained primates who manage the APSA eJobs service were actually mentally capable of distinguishing between visiting and tenure-track positions when they classify them in the listings.

(For those with eJobs access, I specifically refer to posting 9773, a position at a leading liberal arts college, which quite clearly states it is a “one-year replacement position” yet is classified by these dopes as “Assistant Professor” rather than “Visiting Professor.”)

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Don't need no education

I decided today to spend President’s Day weekend in Washington at the 3rd APSA Teaching and Learning Conference. Vita fodder, catch it!

Thursday, 1 September 2005


Well, I’m here, physically if not mentally. If you are too, drop me an email if you want to engage in the traditional (i.e. alcohol-soaked) conference activities.

Monday, 13 June 2005

Another reason I'm going to like Durham

I just bought a round-trip ticket from RDU to BWI for Labor Day weekend for APSA in Washington for $69.40, including taxes and everything.

Of course, I’d rather not be going to APSA in the first place, but my third consecutive year on the meat market doesn’t leave me with a lot of choice in the matter.

Monday, 16 May 2005

Stopped clock watch

Eszter Hargittai and Brendan Nyhan point out (as I noticed sometime in the past few days when surfing eJobs) that the American Political Science Association has condemned the AUT boycott of Israeli universities. I’m glad to see the $77 I sent the association last year (not to mention the hundreds of dollars I have spent in the past) has finally produced something of even minor value.

Of course, the complete uselessness of the APSA has been a recurring theme on this weblog…