Thursday, August 13, 2009

Other Advantages

Here is a list of some other advantages to working in a small philosophy department noted by survey participants.

  • Basically, knowing you are making a difference in the students' ability to think critically and to cope with complexity in the world. Being able to connect what students learn in other disciplines with what I am teaching. This enables me to continually learn.
  • We are not driven by professional ambition.
  • Having the ability to debate and shape curriculum in philosophy.
  • I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that our department is small, but it is a very congenial place. Nobody is a hotshot researcher, and nobody has a hotshot researcher attitude.
  • Total scheduling freedom!
  • None. I wish I had colleagues and the opportunity to have intelligent discourse with members of my profession. If I knew that this situation was my future, I would not have attended graduate school for philosophy and instead gone to law school. I consider my study of philosophy valuable on an intellectual level but worthless with regards to making a career/life.
  • Collegial relationships with philosophers and non-philosophers; the liberal arts curriculum and the values embedded within it; ties to alums, esp. given our smaller size;
  • Energy levels are high!
  • Wide range of areas in which I train myself. Downside, of course, is being a "jack of all trades."
  • The department is so far beneath the radar in the faculty and university that we tend not to get caught up in internecine warfare over lab space, allocations of teaching assistantships, etc. Our insignificance removes us from scrutiny and gives us great freedom in our individual research programs and teaching.
  • Life is much better in a science department. My colleagues generally tend to be smarter and nicer people, the department itself runs smoothly, and there are ample resources, so people are not fighting over copy paper and chalk. My work is genuinely interdisciplinary, so most of my contact with philosophy is through professional conferences and editorial duties. I much prefer having logic / mathematics / computer science students to having philosophy students and, although I sometimes miss having philosopher-colleagues, I thoroughly enjoy my non-philosopher colleagues.
  • No faculty meetings with philosophers! (Downside: faculty meetings with the entire college.)
  • The above questions relating to number 22 reveal some misunderstanding of the life at a (or at least my) community college. For instance, I don't have fewer departmental administrative obligations. There also is not a small number of philosophy majors here. And I don't have that much freedom in creating new courses. So I had a difficult time answering some of the questions.
  • I am totally puzzled by the "fewer departmental administrative obligations" item. I've got service obligations coming out my ears and can't imagine what you mean.
  • Freedom to teach what I want to teach--though I realize that might not be something that results from my being in a small department.
  • About the above list: it is not true that I have "fewer dept'al admin. obligations." There are fewer of us, so we each must take on more. And it is not true that I have the freedom to create new courses -- we have so few people and resources that we can't even get our required courses taught often enough, so there's no room for anything new.
  • You've already got this, but I'll repeat: it's a strong community with tremendous autonomy.
  • It is natural to have many good relationships with colleagues in other departments. No strangers within the department!
  • There is a deep satisfaction knowing that one is the sole or perhaps one of only a few representatives of philosophy in an academic community. It puts a constructive pressure on one to maintain the standards of the discipline, to represent it well, and to be recognized as an active participant in the larger community of philosophy outside of the walls of one's small institution. One becomes the (or at least a) "local expert" on the subject (as one of my colleagues put it, the "philosopher laureate"), so one is in the spotlight and one's contributions are magnified accordingly.
  • Lack of comparison to another faculty member who works in a similar area.
  • Less paperwork, fewer departmental meeting. (We had one last semester.) Being able to plan and carry out my own agenda within the department, both in course offerings and departmental service.
  • Very easy "department meetings" since there are only two of us. I also have a very cordial relationship with my Chair and administration, since they know that I don't really have to go back and bring various options to a large body of faculty.
  • I think there are lots of advantages. At this point in my career (2 years out of grad school), I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The freedom to create new courses and get to know students personally is the best!
  • I can more or less shape the philosophy curriculum (such as it is) by myself. I also assume that when we hire another philosopher I will have more say than anyone else in whom we hire. (I could be wrong about that though).
  • Less bureaucracy, red tape. Easier to achieve consensus. A spirit of harmony (mostly!) prevails.
  • I am blessed with departmental colleagues who are also once in a lifetime friends.
  • Department politics are simpler.
  • Working closely and sharing interests is almost obligatory--no room for factions.
  • Sometimes opens opportunities to meet philosophy faculty from departments outside of my institution.
  • This may be out of place, but it seems odd to have a category "having fewer departmental administrative obligations." I have far more obligations at this university than most of my peers at larger universities.
  • Freedom from the most destructive forms of campus politics. I don't have to attend troubled and fractious departmental meetings.
  • Truth is, the advantages are not generalizable. It depends on one's department. For example, I would like the opportunity to work more closely with the other philosopher in my department, but that person is generally engaged with those from other disciplines. I would like to be able to say what I would like, rather than what is the reality at my school. Or, to be able to express both.

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