A Guest Blog for the Leiter Report

This morning I found, to my surprise, that Brian Leiter had invited me to write a guest blog for him on “Tips for Writing Your own Wikipedia Entry.” I love a good joke, even an  April Fool’s one like this.  But now the joke is on him — because if anyone has expertise on writing one’s entry, it’s him.

I’ll get to that; but first, let me address the nasty insinuation that I wrote the Wikipedia entry on Noëlle McAfee. Now all one needs to do to see if this is so is to go to the history tab of the entry and see who created it.  If you do so, you’ll find that someone named Kevin Gorman wrote the entry:

This and the following eight entries are by Kevin Gorman, who I’ve since discovered is a high-level Wikipedia editor in California. The day after the entry was created, there were several minor edits by a chrisclaire88, a pseudonym for an editor who has started pages on other women philosophers.  For the sake of argument, what if I am chrisclaire88?  If that is the case, then that would have been in bad form and readers might wonder if the entry is biased. To check, readers could go through the boring changes that chrisclaire88 made and decide for themselves. If chrisclaire88 were indeed my pseudonym and I had used it to guard the entry, reversed things that made me look bad, and been an all around nasty and vile person, there would be cause for concern.  But chrisclaire88 was instead a tedious editor making trivial changes. And she seems to have moved on to other ventures.

Before turning to the edits that Brian Leiter made to the Wikipedia entry on him — and there are many! — let me offer my tips.

Tip number 1: Don’t write an entry on yourself.

Tip number 2: Don’t edit an entry on yourself.

Tip number 3: If you want to edit an entry anywhere on Wikipedia, start an account so you are accountable, otherwise you’ll be identified by your IP address.

Tip number 4: Don’t guard the entry on yourself and remove things that make you look bad.

Tip number 5: Be aware that an entry on you is not your entry. It belongs to the wikiuniverse. There are guidelines on entries on living persons. Follow those. If you think someone else has violated them, report the matter to wikipedia.

Tip number 6: Don’t accuse anyone who has edited the entry on you in a way you don’t like as “vandalizing” the entry. That just makes you look like an idiot for (1) thinking the entry is “your” entry and (2) being so clueless about how wikis work.

In keeping with those tips as well as the guidelines on entries on living persons, the most egregious thing to do is guard your own entry and remove things that make you look bad. Let’s say someone else finds that a reference in the entry has been removed, say to an old Boston Globe article that said, basically, you’re a schmuck, and then this person puts it back in the entry. Don’t remove it. Again, this is not your promo piece; the entry should be well-sourced and balanced. And, yes, the Boston Globe counts as a good source.

For example, from IP addresses that Brian Leiter has used (click on the “diff” button to see a comparison of the previous entry and the subsequent edit made by this IP address):

50.158.111.229:

128.135.240.117:

Here are other changes that were made to the entry on Brian Leiter from IP addresses that Brian Leiter has used to comment on my blog,

70.112.29.7:

128.83.152.213:

I also believe that Brian Leiter has used IP address 70.112.222.175 while he was still in Texas. Here are the results I get for this one:

70.112.222.175 on Brian Leiter (4.71% of the total edits made to the page)

Next 500 results →

More on how the PGR is toast

I would genuinely like to know how the Philosophical Gourmet Report evaluators were selected, how many were asked, what percentage they are of the entire philosophy faculty, how representative they are of the faculty overall, and how many have declined to participate this time given all the negative publicity. But I don’t expect much information.  And many others are seeing this too. Another reason to think that the PGR is toast.

Lots more info here.

Documenting the meltdown on Leiter and bad tactics in rankings

If you are a philosopher in the English speaking world, you no doubt know that the old self-appointed emperor has lost his clothes. As of this writing, more than 520 philosophers (including the original signatories at the top) have signed a statement that they will decline to support his Philosophical Gourmet Report so long as he’s running it.  Twenty-four members of his board have asked him to relinquish management. Since I’ve been one of the characters in this tale, I’ve been keeping up with all the talk in the philosophy blogosphere.  For those interested in what’s going on, Leigh M Johnson has been keeping track here.  Also Richard Heck is starting to collect accounts and analyses of what is wrong with the methodology of rankings in general and the Philosophical Gourmet Report in particular on his blog here.

Sign on to the September Statement

The list of philosophers unwilling to take part in the Philosophical Gourmet Report so long as Brian Leiter is editing it keeps growing: https://sites.google.com/site/septemberstatement/ .  Any philosophy professor with an academic appointment is invited to join the list.  You need not be someone who would have been likely to be an evaluator.

If you wish to add your name to those declining for these reasons to volunteer their services to the PGR while under the control of Brian Leiter, please email septemberstatement@gmail.com with your name and affiliation.

Please use your verifiable university email account to avoid confusion.

Is the PGR sexist?

Just to round out my current round of complaints about the rankings of the Philosophical Gourmet Report (and then I really will finish those article revisions!), I want to point out another way in which bias shows up. The “top” 25 programs overall have smaller percentages of tenure-stream women faculty than even the already-dismal percentage in doctoral programs throughout the profession. Only eight of those 25 do better than average.

Julie Van Camp estimates that the national average is 22.7 percent. I’m rounding up, so let’s say that anything above 23% is better than average.

Below is the list. For all the programs listed in the APA’s guide to graduate programs, I’ve used their self-reported numbers.  For those who did not submit their data to the APA (shame, shame, shame), I’ve used Julie Van Camp’s numbers.  The latter I list here with an asterisk. I’ll  italicize those better than average.

  1. NYU 21%
  2. Rutgers 21%
  3. Princeton 17%
  4. Michigan 26%
  5. *Harvard 21%
  6. Pittsburgh 22%
  7. MIT 18%
  8. *Yale 16%
  9. *Stanford 25%
  10. *UNC 17%
  11. *Columbia 35%
  12. UCLA 25%
  13. USC 20%
  14. CUNY 18%
  15. Cornell 33%
  16. Arizona 23%
  17. UC-Berkeley 27%
  18. Notre Dame 16%
  19. *Brown 27%
  20. *Chicage 20%
  21. UT-Austin 17%
  22. UCSD 17%
  23. UW-Madison 22%
  24. Duke 20%
  25. Indiana 22%

Of the next 26 that made the top 51, 16 are better than average.

So, what to make of this?  Is the problem that these “top” schools are not that interested in hiring more women?  Or is it that they are deemed “top” because they are not hiring more women—and hence not doing the kind of “non-philosophical” work those women tend to do? Linda Alcoff writes that the PGR “works to reward convention and punish departments that take the risk of supporting an area of scholarship that is not (yet) widely accepted or respected in the profession. Hiring in the areas of critical race philosophy or feminist philosophy is not going to improve a department’s ranking. As a result, philosophy departments are trying to outdo themselves in conformism and ‘tailism’—tailing the mediocre mainstream rather than leading.”

Additionally, could the fact that 85% of the evaluators were men have anything to do with the problem? There’s not a lot of use in speculating, since the report never pretends to be objective. It is a reputational ranking based on views of those who have, in certain circles, a good reputation.  So it is all circular.

And now I worry that it is also sexist. I am not saying that the group of evaluators are themselves sexist but rather that unconscious biases are bound to slip in to a survey that is shoddily constructed.

Can this survey be saved?  No, dear colleagues, it is time we walked away. I urge anyone who has been involved in this exercise, whether by turning over your list of faculties or serving on the board or as an evaluator, to stop.

PGR participation…

For the 2009 Philosophical Gourmet Report ranking of US doctoral programs, Brian Leiter circulated a list of the faculty at 99 US programs. But for the 2011-12 rankings, the list was of only 60 programs.  That’s a 39% drop, in the space of just two years, of departments willing to participate. No wonder Leiter has not published the list in the usual spot under methodology.  But it can be retrieved as an rtf document from this page.  [Edit: see correction below in my comment replying to Leiter.]

[Nonetheless] I compared the list of 60 faculties [used for the Philosophical Gourmet Report’s 2011 rankings] to Julie Van Camp’s ranking of departments by their percentage of tenure-stream women faculty. From top to bottom of these women-friendly departments (in terms of having above average percentage of women faculty), here is a list of those that do not participate in the PGR rankings:

  • University of Georgia
  • University of Oregon
  • Emory University
  • Villanova University
  • SUNY-Albany
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of South Carolina
  • Arizona State
  • SUNY Binghamton
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Loyola University – Chicago
  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Kansas
  • DePaul University
  • Fordham University
  • Marquette University
  • Temple University
  • University of Memphis
  • Duquesne University
  • University of Kentucky
  • Michigan State University

Bravo to all these programs — both for hiring women to the tenure stream and for saying no to the PGR.

[Edit: For background see yesterday’s post on the PGR’s un-women-friendly epistemology.]

The PGR’s un-women-friendly epistemology

Julie Van Camp just updated her Spring 2004 article, “Female-Friendly Departments: A Modest Proposal for Picking Graduate Programs in Philosophy” that pointed out the under-representation of women on the advisory board of Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report. This month Van Camp expanded the postscript with numbers showing that in the past ten years little has changed.

Postscript: November 20, 2004 [updated 2/3/2014]

The 2011 Report:
The list of the Top 51 doctoral programs is included in the 2011 Philosophical Gourmet Report. The 56 members of the  Report’s Advisory Board for 2011 included nine females (16.1%) and was based on the reports of 302 evaluators, including 46 women (15.2%).

The 2009 Report:
The 55 members of the  Report’s Advisory Board for 2009 included eight females (14.5%) and was based on the reports of 294 evaluators, including 37 women (12.6%).

The 2006-08 Report:
The 56 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2006-2008 included seven females (12.5%)  and was based on the reports of 269 evaluators, including 26 women (9.67%).

The 2004-06 Report:
The 59 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2004-2006 included eight females (13.6%) and was based on the reports of 266 evaluators, including 32 women (12.0%).

The 2002-04 Report:
The 43 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2002-2004 included five women (11.6%) and was based on reports from 177 evaluators, including 24 women (13.6%).

Van Camp also notes that the very “top” six programs in the PGR have  a lower percentage of women on the faculty than the national average for doctoral-granting programs. Go HERE to see her helpful chart showing percentages of tenured and tenure-track women faculty in doctoral-granting programs.

On that chart she includes when and how a school was ranked on the PGR since 2002.  Of the top ten on her list, six have no ranking——meaning they have not shown up (since 2002) as one of the PGR’s top 51 programs . That can happen in two ways: (1) the program was ranked at 52d or worse or (2) the program did not turn over its list of faculty, meaning, it chose not to participate at all.

The 2009 PGR was based on a list of faculty from 99 doctoral programs.  How many were on the 2011 list?  Leiter provides previous lists under methodology, but not the 2011 list, at least not as of this writing. I know anecdotally that many of the programs with more women on the faculty choose not to turn over their lists to Leiter.  I think this is because of his explicit bias against self-identified pluralist programs, most of which tend to have more women on the faculty. Regarding some problems with this bias,  see this post on see  on the New APPS blog.

Is there a systematic bias in the PGR methodology that leads it to value more male-dominated departments?  Well, yes.  An unrepresentative and hand-picked advisory board plus unrepresentative and hand-picked evaluators will lead to a slanted take on the value of the work going on in the profession. You don’t have to be a stand-point epistemologist to see this.