We had hoped for better; What’s next?

By Carolyn Dicey Jennings and Berit Brogaard

In 2014, following the September Statement, in which “six hundred twenty-four philosophers [signed] a pledge not to provide volunteer work for the Philosophical Gourmet Report under the control of Brian Leiter,” Brian Leiter posted the following at his blog:

“The Advisory Board and I have agreed on the following statement regarding the plan for the PGR: … Brian will step down as an editor of the PGR … After 2014, Berit will have ultimate decision-making authority over the PGR.”

Unfortunately, this agreement does not appear to have been honored. Instead, Brit was excluded from any PGR-related decisions when her co-editor Christopher Pynes and Will Croft from Wiley (the publisher of the PGR) found out that she was a member of the APDA board of advisors.

Brit had hoped that future iterations of the PGR could include not only reputational surveys but also placement data and other scientifically-grounded empirical measures to supplement the PGR project, and had envisioned a future collaboration with APDA. Brit has been on the APDA board of advisors since Fall 2020, when the board was formed. Carolyn raised this idea with the full board of advisors in October 2021 and offered to provide a statement about placement findings for this year’s PGR report, pending the publisher's approval.

In November 2021 Brit’s co-editor Christopher Pynes told her that her involvement with the APDA board of advisors was inappropriate. She then received a message expressing a similar sentiment from Will Croft from Wiley. Brit communicated her perspective to both Christopher and Will on this issue in late fall 2021. She emphasized that there was no conflict between the projects and that the APDA was not competing with the PGR but was gathering supplementary data on placement. Instead of honoring Brit’s role on the APDA board of advisors and taking her suggestions seriously, Christopher and Will completely stopped communicating with her, leaving her in the dark, and they have now published the report without her final approval. Clearly, she did not have “ultimate decision-making authority,” nor even the level of authority one might expect from a co-editor. Instead, it appears that someone else has final say over the PGR.

We had hoped for better for philosophy: a way of evaluating our field that is less divided and toxic. We thought that a potential future collaboration between the APDA and the PGR “might be healing for the discipline,” as Carolyn put it in the APDA board meeting. We no longer think this is possible through the PGR, despite our best efforts and intentions. We suspect that most other philosophers will feel similarly, given the events described.

We are hard-working, future-focused people who love our discipline, so we don’t want to dwell on past grievances. Instead, we want to move forward and try to find a solution that works for all of us. APDA collects and reports on some data about the profession, but it does not have the resources to be the only major source of information about graduate programs, and it isn't clear that we would want just one project to do that. How can we, as a discipline, provide useful information to prospective students and the field at large in a way that reflects our values as a diverse group, without putting all this power in the hands of one or two individuals? We hope that if you are reading this that you, too, want this. So we would like to hear from you as we consider these issues moving forward.

(Thanks to the APDA board of advisors for feedback before this post went live.)

Link to: http://placementdata.com:8182/we-had-hoped-for-better-whats-next