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Tufts faculty on leave '15-'16


luciddream33
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Five full time Tufts philosophy professors will be on leave next year. Admitted students should be aware of this, especially those thinking they'll apply to PhD programs at the start of their second year and are worried about rec letters.

Erin Kelly, Associate Professor (moral philosophy, political philosophy, philosophy of law) is currently on leave and will be extending her leave through the Fall 2015 semester. She'll be back Spring 2016.

Lionel McPherson, Associate Professor (ethics, political and social philosophy) is going on leave beginning Spring 2016.

The following four faculty members will be on leave for the entire 2015-2016 school year:

Sigrún Svavarsdóttir, Associate Professor (moral philosophy, practical rationality, moral psychology, action theory)

Brian Epstein, Assistant Professor (metaphysics, philosophy of social science, philosophy of language)

Dilip Ninan, Assistant Professor (philosophy of language, metaphysics, philosophy of mind)

Patrick Forber, Associate Professor (philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, philosophy of probability). Forber is the current DGS and it's not known who will take over for him next year.

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This doesn't concern me personally but wow this in unreal! Any idea why? Is this perhaps because of some kind of upheaval in the department? It seems that it's a rather odd coincidence this many would happen to go on leave at one time.

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Good to know.
 
I might also mention that the data displayed on Tufts' website concerning placement is not only misleading (e.g. since it does not include students who have been shut out during past application cycles, which in some years has been upwards of half), but is, in some places, simply incorrect (e.g. including placement of undergraduate students from Tufts within the chart alongside MA students, such as the Columbia and Northwestern placement from 2013-14). 
 
I contacted the DGS (Patrick Forber) almost a month ago, and he says that the website is currently "undergoing revision," and that the inaccurate placements should be corrected once that is done.
 
For accurate placement data, I would recommend people consult the "2014 Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy" from the APA.
 
Looking over the APA numbers, it would appear that while 90 students have entered the MA program at Tufts since 2009, only 25 have been admitted into PhD programs in philosophy. This means Tufts has an overall placement rate of 28 percent, substantially lower than the 100 percent their posted data has led some to infer.
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"Is this perhaps because of some kind of upheaval in the department?"

If there is, they have concealed it well from the students.


"which in some years has been upwards of half"

If you are referring to last year, the final tally, AFAIK, was 5 Master's students admitted to philosophy PhD programs and 2 (maybe 3?) shut out.

" it would appear that while 90 students have entered the MA program at Tufts since 2009, only 25 have been admitted into PhD programs in philosophy. This means Tufts has an overall placement rate of 28 percent,."

No, it doesn't, because the first figure includes the 25-30 students attending at the time the report was published, while the second figures ignores students who were accepted into PhD programs but decided to pursue other careers.  The website is misleading, but the APA guide isn't any better.

I should mention that Tufts had excellent placement this year, comparable to 2012 and 2013.  If anyone is admitted or waitlisted at Tufts and has further questions, feel free to PM me.

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In case this wasn't clear, I am a current Tufts student, and one of my interlocutors is a former Tufts student.  Obviously, neither of us are privy to the details of faculty contracts, but when I cite placement data and say that everything seems copacetic among the faculty at Tufts, this is indeed coming from a place of knowledge.  

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"If you are referring to last year, the final tally, AFAIK, was 5 Master's students admitted to philosophy PhD programs and 2 (maybe 3?) shut out."

While I am unwilling to name the names of those shut out last year (even though I know of several), I am willing to identify those placed into programs last year. As mentioned on the APA data, there are three: one at Arizona (Tyler Millhouse), one at Brown (Rachel Leadon), and one at Duke (Bryce Gessell).

 

Concerning the Northwestern posting on Tufts’ website: as mentioned above, I have contacted the DGS (Patrick Forber), and have been informed by him that it is a mistake. The only student coming from Tufts last year accepted at Northwestern was Kyle Scott, who was an undergraduate. I realize this does not account for the Columbia acceptance on the Tufts website, but given that (1) it is not reported in the APA data, (2) the DGS has already confirmed that the current data is inaccurate, and (3) no names on the Columbia website for incoming students appears to be recognizable as a recent Tufts MA student, it seems reasonable to believe this is also a mistake. If you have information that could confirm the Columbia acceptance, I am more than willing to hear it. 

"No, it doesn't, because the first figure includes the 25-30 students attending at the time the report was published, while the second figures ignores students who were accepted into PhD programs but decided to pursue other careers."

 

Where in the APA data do you believe the currently enrolled students are located? I see no space for them given the rows of the chart displayed. Furthermore, I think it is extremely unlikely that the APA would make such a careless statistical mistake. Unless there is reason for thinking otherwise, I think it is reasonable to believe that presently enrolled students are not included in the data (since, once again, there does not appear to be a section for them). Also the exact wording in the APA data is "Accepted into a Ph.D. Program," and so (I would assume) would include those that were accepted, yet declined the offers to pursue other careers. 

 

"The website is misleading, but the APA guide isn't any better."
 

I’m glad we agree that the Tufts website is misleading, but I don't understand how the APA data is not far superior. Granted, it is still incomplete in some respects (since it isn't broken down by individual student), and I wish all programs would move over to a display similar to Georgia State's. However, I fail to see how a display could be more misleading than Tufts'. It records all of the hits and none of the misses. As mentioned before, this has caused some to conclude that their placement rate is 100 percent!

In various posts on Leiter's Blog in the past is has been claimed that often schools will fail to update their website or will provide misleading information displays that give a more favorable presentation of the department to prospective students. Until sufficient pressure is put on programs from the outside to give non-misleading displayof their placement data, they will be able to get away with displays such as the one currently present on the Tufts website.

 

One final point: I realize that in my previous post I used the phrase “placement rate” to refer to the fraction of those accepted into PhD programs in philosophy to all of the students no longer enrolled in a program (for whatever reason). I realize that some may think that this is a misuse of language, and would prefer to use the phrase placement rate” to refer to the fraction of those accepted to those that applied. I can see the merits of this; however, if I were a prospective student of a program, it is the former number that I would be most concerned with. In other words, I would want to know what chances the statistically average student entering the program has of gaining admittance into a PhD program in philosophy.

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that there may be as many as two other acceptances for the 2013-2014 season from Tufts that are unaccounted for on the Tufts website (since the website only tracks where students become enrolled). These acceptances may be included in the APA data, but since it is not broken down by individual student it's impossible to tell. Even so, the concern about misleading presentation and misinformation present on Tufts' website still stands.

Edited by LennyBound
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Five full time Tufts philosophy professors will be on leave next year. Admitted students should be aware of this, especially those thinking they'll apply to PhD programs at the start of their second year and are worried about rec letters.

 

As someone who attended an MA in philosophy, I believe (assuming that the post is accurate) that this is *huge* news for anyone considering Tufts and other MA programs. To be frank, this absolutely should change some minds about going to Tufts next year. This reply isn't meant to be a knock against Tufts generally. It's a fantastic program, perhaps the best in terms of placement -- but it is a program with some weaknesses, and it's more expensive than some other strong programs. It's also a program with a recent decline (a slight decline) in placement.

 

I've said elsewhere that Tufts is still probably the top in terms of MA placement. But the historical record means little if a great many of the faculty will not be around to advise next year. Someone from Tufts could let us know more about who's there, who's gone, and what that means for grad students. Five is a huge number. Are these five members of faculty who work with grad students, who write a lot of letters, etc.? Are they people who *don't* do those things? Do they ordinarily teach a lot? Are they the only members of faculty covering a certain range of philosophical interests?

 

I'll also say again that Georgia State, UW Milwaukee, and Brandeis have strong placement records. UW Milwaukee had perhaps the strongest record last year, though Brandeis did perhaps as well, depending on how the records are compared. Brandeis has had three fairly strong years in a row. Last year -- though the website isn't clear on this point -- Brandeis had a very strong record. I believe there were five (or more) very strong placements last year. One person each to Michigan, UNC, Cornell, Berkeley, WUSTL, if I'm not mistaken. The website is not clear on this, so people need to do some independent research on this point.

 

In other words, considering the last few years, and considering these leaves at Tufts, I won't be surprised to see UW Milwaukee and Brandeis pull a few people away from Tufts. Georgia State, too.

 

Here's the main take-away: Before you accept an offer to a program, find out whether the faculty with whom you're most likely to work, will be available for the year(s) when you'll be there. Find out whether the program is experiencing any weaknesses, whether those weaknesses are temporary or permanent, and whether those weaknesses are likely to affect you (as opposed to the program generally). Avoid attending a program only because it's "generally" a good program. Find out whether it's strong, right now, in your area of interest.

 

Edit: When I say that Brandeis has had three strong years in a row, I'm *not* including this year. I haven't heard too many details about this year's placement record. I heard about an NYU placement, but I haven't heard about too many other placements.

Edited by ianfaircloud
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I have it on very good authority that this year's Brandeis cohort has been accepted at NYU, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Brown, UC-Davis, Virginia, UMass-Amherst, LSE, and Miami (though to reiterate, these are merely acceptances and do not represent an actual placement record - it seems that a single applicant is responsible for a few of the more impressive acceptances listed above).  

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Can we talk more about this claim that Tufts has reported undergraduate placements on its MA placement page without marking them as such? Has this really occurred? I know it's fairly common, unfortunately, for graduate programs to mislead by omission, for instance by making no mention of students who were not placed anywhere. However, I've never heard of a department doing what it's been suggested in this thread that Tufts has done, although maybe that's just because I haven't been paying enough attention. I think students considering whether or not to enroll should get a clear answer as to whether this is really taking place, especially since attending Tufts isn't cheap, and one of the main draws of the program is its placement record.

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Can we talk more about this claim that Tufts has reported undergraduate placements on its MA placement page without marking them as such? Has this really occurred?

 

As I stated above, the error has been confirmed by the Tufts DGS who says that "The website is undergoing revision" and that "Once done that change should be reflected." However, I informed the department of this mistake almost a month ago, and it still hasn't been corrected. Also, for what it's worth, I personally know both the Tufts DGS and the entire incoming class last year at Northwestern (which includes the Tufts undergrad). 

EDIT: Just sent another e-mail. I also asked about the Columbia acceptance, which I also suspect is a mistake. I will post again if/when I hear back anything new. 

Edited by LennyBound
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As I stated above, the error has been confirmed by the Tufts DGS who says that "The website is undergoing revision" and that "Once done that change should be reflected." However, I informed the department of this mistake almost a month ago, and it still hasn't been corrected. Also, for what it's worth, I personally know both the Tufts DGS and the entire incoming class last year at Northwestern (which includes the Tufts undergrad). 

EDIT: Just sent another e-mail. I also asked about the Columbia acceptance, which I also suspect is a mistake. I will post again if/when I hear back anything new. 

 

Thanks for keeping us informed! I'll assume that all this is inadvertent on Tufts's part. Still, as you suggest, it's pretty irresponsible not to immediately correct an error in the placement page when that error is seriously misleading, particularly in the midst of admission season, and particularly when placement is the main draw to the program. Maybe there's a good explanation for that, too. In the end, if Tufts has negligently misled prospective students who accepted offers of admission under the reasonably-mistaken belief that the placement record is correct, those prospective students may have a claim (or at the very least a complaint on moral grounds).

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UPDATE: I've been informed by the DGS that (1) the Columbia acceptance on Tufts' website is not a mistake (which would mean that the APA data is incomplete), and (2) the update for their website correcting the Northwestern mistake "will probably be in a couple weeks." 

Edited by LennyBound
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