A memorial conference to honor the life and works of Kurt Baier will be held Saturday, October 22, 2011, 1:00-5:00 pm, in the University Club on the University of Pittsburgh campus. There is no registration fee for this conference, but those who wish to attend should register. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a post for Jason Stanley (Rutgers), who complains on Facebook that he can't make heads or tails of the Synthese debate* (Jason does have the excuse of being a sleep-deprived parent of an infant), and wants something more amusing and provocative, like a post making inflammatory remarks about analytic metaphysics. So here it is: a poll. What do you think of analytic metaphysics? Have fun. We'll discuss the results later in the week.
*Simple version of the Synthese issue for sleep-deprived parents of infants: journal editors should not issue insulting disclaimers about articles they publish, and particularly without forewarning the contributors; and they especially shouldn't do so when it's at the behest of wicked people, like Intelligent Design apologists.
Historian Juan Cole (Michigan) is worth reading on the subject.
...in the history of the world. Scroll down into the comments to #3, for a reply from Thom Brooks (Newcastle).
(Thanks to Adam Carter for the pointer.)
A useful survey of developments and trends, mostly unhappy ones.
My impression so far is that there is much unhappiness among philosophers, for some good reasons, with the latest "response" from the EICS of Synthese to the petition. At best, the new response addressed points #1 and #4 in the petition, at least partially. But there was no apology for the manifest misconduct of the EICs and no indication that the disclaimer will be retracted, and, given the new information, those demands remain paramount.
The public statement of the EICs in response to the petition from nearly 470 philosophers reads as follows:
We have considered the demands contained in this petition very seriously. We have implemented a moratorium on new special issues and we have begun planning appropriate changes to the editorial procedures of Synthese.
This moratorium was imposed prior to the petition, it is worth noting.
The petition asks for full disclosure of all legal threats. There have not been any communications received from Christian philosophers that constituted legal threats. There was a single email from a member of the public expressing the view that the entire special issue was ‘scurrilous and libelous’. We did not consider this email to be a legal threat. It is important to note that this email was received after our initial contacts with Professor Beckwith.
Professor Beckwith initiated those contacts, so I'm not sure of the relevance of the timing. That a "member of the public" (friend of Beckwith? of Intelligent Design?) did contact Synthese throwing around the "libel" charge (manifestly absurd) is notable, though I accept at face value their claim that they did not think of this as a legal threat.
As far as meaningful legal action is concerned, we have received messages that we take seriously as legal threats but these have not come from Christian philosophers. Our ability to provide detailed responses in the blogs is constrained by these challenges.
This is certainly cryptic, and so a bit hard to interpret. The allegation all along has been that Synthese caved in to lobbying and threats from friends of Beckwith and Intelligent Design, not "Christian philosophers." Since nothing in the issue of Synthese in question was actionable, it is hard to believe this other threat of legal action was deemed "meaningful." I think in the interest of honest and open intellectual inquiry, the editors should risk legal action in order to clear the air. Since anyone threatening legal action is "blowing smoke" (as we say in the US), the journal should not succumb to that nonsense either. The response continues:
Professor Beckwith requested an opportunity to respond to Professor Forrest’s paper. We agreed that this was a fair course of action.
I expressed the view initially that it was fair to let Beckwith respond, but it was not at all fair, as Eric Schliesser (Ghent) has documented, to let him respond as he did, both exploiting and misrepresenting the "disclaimer" of the Synthese EICs. The response continues:
As regards the inclusion of our editorial statement and the email correspondence with Professor Forrest, it is true that there was considerable discussion between the editors of all aspects of the special issue. We took these matters very seriously and as is often the case with serious deliberation there were some oscillations prior to our reaching a conclusion. Eventually the editors arrived at a shared position, in consultation with the publisher, based on what we judged to be the offending language in two papers.
With respect to the claim that the guest editors were given assurances that no editorial statement would appear, it is true that the guest editors were privy to internal discussions between the editors-in-chief at earlier stages. We were unable to properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors.
This is, at least, a clean confirmation that the "disclaimer" was inserted "behind the backs" of the Guest Editors, as claimed originally. Finally:
We are ultimately responsible for what appears in the journal and we decided to publish the special issue without amendment to any of its papers. We wish to emphasize that our editorial statement should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of ‘intelligent design’.
I am glad the EICs have added their non-endorsement of Intelligent Design to the public record, but that barely mitigates the damage they have done.
It is telling that Beckwith (for those coming late to this issue, scroll down the original post for some of the details about his shenanigans and history), after maintaining silence about this whole affair the last few weeks, has now linked both to the latest "response" and the New York Times article, obviously because he thinks they vindicate him. It is clear why he would think the latest 'response' supports his position (hence he posts it without comment under the heading res ipsa loquitur ["the thing speaks for itself"], which ought to really embarrass the Synthese editors!), though the Times piece is a bit more mixed, confirming, as it does, that Synthese was, indeed, lobbied by friends of Francis Beckwith and/or Intelligent Design (two of whom are now named: Kelly James Clark [Calvin] and Alvin Plantinga [Notre Dame]; William Dembski denies involvement, about which I'm skeptical, but that matter doesn't need to be resolved). But clearly what Beckwith is pleased about in the Times article is that parts of it support his whitewash of his long involvement with the Intelligent Design movement, including his many years as a Fellow of the Discovery [sic] Institute and his work lobbying school boards and the public to permit the teaching of Intelligent Design in the public schools. The freelancer in question, Mark Oppenheimer--with whom, sad to say, I'm familiar--is lazy, so he just repeated Beckwith's standard whitewash verbatim, rather than examine the public record, as described in detail, for example, in Professor Forrest's work. He even accepted at face value Beckwith's claim to have played no role in getting others to lobby Synthese. (Given that Mr. Oppenheimer's last intersection with me raised "conflict of interest" questions, about which he was quite upset, one might have thought he'd haved steer clear of this topic, but that's a side-issue of interest, if at all, to students of journalism.)
So we have some more information, all of which confirms earlier allegations, but no retraction of the disclaimer and no apology. The question now is: what to do? A separate thread for that.
The reply of the Synthese editors-in-chief to the petition is now available here. (UPDATE: That site is now down--there is a copy here.) It is, I am happy to say, more substantive than their earlier response to the Guest Editors, and provides some additional information. It does not, however, appear to indicate that either an apology or retraction of the disclaimer is forthcoming.
In addition, The New York Times has a short piece on the affair, which also provides some additional details.
It does seem clear from these materials that there were only two "offending" articles in the issue, the sweeping character of the disclaimer notwithstanding.
I am travelling at the moment, but I did want to get this information into circulation. I will open a thread for discussion Sunday afternoon.
ONE MORE: Obviously, the author of the NY Times article was suckered by Beckwith's whitewash of his long involvement in the Intelligent Design movement. I'll have more to say about this later.
The past is my present I soak in it
Bathing my aging body which softens mellows
At some point yesterday outruns tomorrow
Leads the way forward by calling up
The million recollections of a life
It reassures powerfully gives me not courage
But the confidence of having been time and again
Alive and aglow alert to stimuli that call me still
Keeping me from the emptiness that
Outwits life and snubs its nose at death
Living like this has its own excitement
For curiosity about what was
Is as revelatory as what is
The old is new age is reversed
Discovery is not only tomorrow’s toy
Once I was a man
Now I am a boy
Copyright 2011 by Maurice Leiter
Posted with permission
MOVING TO FRONT: SEE THE UPDATE
Philosopher William Mark Goodwin (Rowan) flags the following ad from Jobs for Philosophers (I added the bolding):
27. UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS, ST. LOUIS, MO. Visiting Associate Professor, two-year appointment (non-tenure track), Department of Philosophy. Begins Fall Semester (August 15) 2011. AOS: logic, philosophy of science, game theory. AOC: decision theory, philosophy of biology, ethics. Undergraduate and graduate teaching; two courses per semester; thesis advising; no service except professional. Research expectations in keeping with the highest level (“research intensive”) described in our departmental workload document (http://www.umsl.edu/~philo/PhilosophyDepartmentWorkloadDocument.pdf). Applicant must have a record of securing outside grants and be prepared to submit grants to fund research in Rational Preference aligned with the interests of our campus’s corporate partner, Express Scripts. Salary competitive. Send CV, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample to VAP Search, Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri-St. Louis, One University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121. The University of Missouri is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer committed to excellence through diversity. Minorities and women are encouraged to apply. Application review will begin May 26, 2011. (190W), posted: 5/12/2011.
UPDATE: Stephanie Ross (Chair of Philosophy at UM St Louis) writes with a useful correction to the misimpression the ad creates:
The CEO of Express Scripts is an alumnus of UM-St. Louis. He recently built new corporate headquarters on the edge of our campus and generously made available research funding for which all our faculty can compete. We expect the first round of funds to be disbursed next year. There are no strings attached re: the focus, let alone the results, of the research that can be supported. And Express Scripts plays absolutely no role in our hiring. The specification of Rational Preference in our ad comes from our desire to establish an emphasis area in Reason and Rationality within our M.A. program. That area would embrace the research of a good number of our faculty and thus make for interesting synergies. I would like to assure readers of your blog that we have not sold out to the corporate world.
They still haven't budged or explained themselves. Thom Brooks (Newcastle) and Leslie Green (Oxford) have prepared this final petition:
"The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) puts public money behind research in English universities. Its new delivery plan for strategic priorities mentions in several places their potential to contribute to the 'Big Society' agenda. As everyone knows, the 'Big Society' is a political campaign slogan; it is not a field of inquiry in the Arts or Humanities. The term belongs in a political manifesto, not in a document that shape the direction of scholarly research.
More than 3,200 academics have already petitioned for the removal of the 'Big Society' from the AHRC plan. More than 30 professional associations in the arts and humanities societies oppose its inclusion. In response to such broad, reasoned and unprecedented opposition, Rick Rylance, the AHRC Chief Executive, has neither given a public justification for including this slogan, nor suggested any amendment that would bring the plan into conformity with the principles of higher education funding to which the AHRC is committed and which taxpayers are entitled to expect.
The signatories of this letter have grave doubts about Professor Rylance's capacity or willingness to defend these principles. When a campaign slogan finds its way into a spending plan, things go badly wrong. When those responsible for its presence refuse to listen to their stakeholders, things have gone from bad to worse. We again call on Professor Rylance to amend the plan or to explain to the public why he is unwilling or unable to do so.
We are members of AHRC Peer Review College, grant holders, grant reviewers and others with an interest in the integrity of the AHRC."
If you are a member of any of these groups--which basically means anyone who cares about the academic integrity of research in Britian!--please sign the petition.
Brett Stephens is apparently part of the editorial stable of right-wing know-nothings and smear merchants at the Wall Street Journal; I had never heard of him prior to reader Thomas Noah sending me this bizarre piece trashing Chomsky's comments on the assassination of bin Laden and comparing Chomsky and Heidegger. (Apart from one amusingly apt line about the relative scale of bin Laden's and Bush's crimes, Chomsky's comments strike me as not very interesting in this case: the killing of bin Laden was almost certainly consistent with international law [contrary to Chomsky's assertion, though why he even thinks it is relevant in this case isn't clear], and there is obviously more reason to credit bin Laden's proud claim of responsibility for 9/11 than Chomsky's assertion to have won the Boston Marathon--but the merits of Chomsky's remarks in this instance aren't really at issue.)
Here is Mr. Stephens, in relevant part:
In 1946, Martin Heidegger, incomparably the most significant philosopher of the 20th century, was banned from teaching for five years at the insistence of occupying French forces. The crime? He had been a Mitläufer—a "fellow-walker"—of the Nazi Party during its time in power....
Mr. Chomsky is no Martin Heidegger: His contributions to linguistics and cognitive psychology, considerable as they are, pale next to Heidegger's contributions to political philosophy....
Heidegger's "contributions to political philosophy"? What contributions to political philosophy? That's the first giveaway that this is just a smear piece, and that Mr. Stephens has no notion of anyone's intellectual contributions. Chomsky invented the modern discipline of linguistics, and his work has had profound ramifications across psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science. Even putting aside that Mr. Stephens obviously doesn't know what Heidegger's philosophical work is about, it's manifestly silly to say that Chomsky's contributions "pale" next to Heidegger's (indeed, plenty of philosophers of course think not that Heidegger is "the most significant philosopher of the 20th century" but that he is the most over-hyped philosopher relative to his actual substantive contributions and originality). A quick look at, say, Google Scholar for Chomsky and Heidegger paints a very different piciture of scholarly contributions and influence.
In any case, there is no need to settle the silly question of relative contributions, especially since Mr. Stephens is pretty clearly in the dark about either man's work. His real point is to argue (seriously) that, just as Heidegger was banned from teaching, so too should we entertain the idea of banning Chomsky for holding opinions of which Mr. Stephens disapproves (but which he mostly doesn't understand). Mr. Stephens writes:
...Todd Gitlin (Columbia) has a nice piece on the Koch Brothers meddling at Florida State and the corruption infecting the economics profession more generally.
Here, though the commenters do a pretty good job on her nonsense.
(Thanks to Rob Sica for the pointer.)
Ms. Riley, a college graduate and right-wing journalist, had some trouble reasoning her way through the Kushner honorary degree fiasco at CUNY, as we noted the other day. In response to my query as to who the heck she was, readers came up with some interesting tidbits. One philosopher wrote:
I'm not sure if you wasted time looking through Shaefer Riley's earlier posts, but I am sorry to report that I did. She is predictably reactionary on the question of collective bargaining for university faculty, is dismissive of the William Cronon affair at UW-Madison, seems to be against tenure, and is openly contemptuous of actual academics. I suppose the Chronicle thinks she adds a distinct voice to their blog. Quite odd.
Odd seems an understatement. A philosophy PhD student at Loyola/Chicago wrote:
[A] quick look at her website reveals her stance regarding higher education. In her "Books" section, this is the overview of her book titled "The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get The College Education You Pay For":
"Veteran journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley contends that tenure–the jobs-for-life entitlement that comes with a university position–is at the heart of so many problems with higher education today. She explores how tenure–with the job security, mediocre salaries, and low levels of accountability it entails–may be attracting the least innovative and interesting members of our society into teaching."
Given her non-existent credentials, all Ms. Riley appears to have going for her is the misguided idea that in addition to perspectives that are cosmopolitan, informed, and supportive of higher education, CHE needs for "diversity" sakes to have the perspectives of reactionary and anti-intellectual cranks. As it is, the CHE "Brainstorms" blog features some conservative academics and scholars. As her idiotic intervention in the Kushner affair illustrates, Ms. Riley adds nothing of any intellectual substance. Shame on CHE.
"General philosophy of science," that is. Mohan Matthen (Toronto) comments.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MAY 8: I realize readers may be suffering from petition overload at this point, but please take a moment to read and hopefully sign the petition in support of our colleagues in the CUNY system.
As the Kushner fiasco winds down (with only one real issue remaining, namely, securing the resignation of the moral reprobate Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld), there is a much more serious threat to academic freedom in the CUNY system brewing, namely, a proposal to take control of the curriculum out of the hands of the faculty at the individual colleges. (The co-author of the latter piece is philosopher Matthew Moore at Brooklyn College.) The proposal is sufficiently unusual that the national office of Phi Beta Kappa even weighed in in opposition.
There is a petition in support of the CUNY faculty, which I really urge everyone to read and please sign.
Here. (Our earlier coverage here and here.) The full list of questions the GC submitted to the Faculty Senate--at the request of the Faculty Senate--makes clear that the academic freedom of bioethicist Carl Elliott was not the central focus. The crucial bit of the new article:
[The General Counsel's] efforts have been intended to vindicate faculty members who conduct controversial research, not squelch discussion, he added. "The faculty, as a collective body, should take an interest in attacks on their members that serve to deter or chill controversial research,” Rotenberg told The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The clinical trial that resulted in the death of a patient was not simply "controversial" research, however; it was, on Professor Elliott's accounting, not real research at all, but instead part of the business activities of a pharmaceutical company in which the "researchers" had a financial stake. Presumably the clinical researchers in question deny that, and they too have a claim to academic freedom at the university.
In another response Rotenberg wrote: “Consistent with our University’s tradition of encouraging a wide diversity of viewpoints and perspectives, we support Dr. Elliott in raising some important issues.
“The protection of the rights of individuals who participate in clinical research is fundamental to the clinical research enterprise. …We take seriously the concerns raised by Prof. Elliott, and value an academic environment in which he and others of our colleagues can raise issues critically, and, we hope, constructively.”
Rotenberg argued that the issue before the senate was an exploration of how the academy deals with internal disputes. Punishing faculty was never part of the discussion. “That’s just not what the senate does,” he said.
In an e-mail to CorpCounsel.com, Engstrand said that Rotenberg’s question was not interpreted by either the executive committee of the faculty senate or the AF&T as raising any academic freedom question.
“The question did not suggest to faculty leaders that he or the administration was seeking to discipline or otherwise restrain professor Elliott from exercising his legal and academic rights to criticize other faculty research,” he wrote, “or that the senate should be involved in doing so.”
It's good that the GC and the Faculty Senate are now both on record on this score.
...is now heading towards the flagship, UT Austin. In UT President Bill Powers he will have a formidable opponent. I wish Bill and my other friends at UT success and good luck in this fight against the know-nothings.
Well, not yet anyway, but I guess it's coming--after all, ceding control of faculty appointments to a donor's control is a huge first step.
(Thanks to several readers who sent this one.)
...and also confirms that he is still teaching and eligible to teach in future terms. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding on the latter point. Let us hope the UMSL Administration maintains the courage of its convictions.
(Thanks to Eric Wiland for the pointer.)
There's an interesting discussion going on here.
...and how did this brainless non-entity end up with a blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education? To be on the wrong side of the Kushner honorary degree fiasco is really something. Imagine if Ms. Riley had to think about a hard issue?
The editors acknowledged receipt of the petition last week and indicated a response is forthcoming. I have offered to post that response here, or to link to it if they post it elsewhere.
Republican legislator proposes bill that will financially penalize universities to the tune of 5% of their appropriations if they offer benefits to same-sex partners of employees.
(Thanks to Nathan Stout for the pointer.)
...beating out mathematician and chiropractor, though trailing audiologist, computer programmer and dietician.
Who makes this stuff up?
(Thanks to John Doris for the pointer.)
...and why did they tell Francis Beckwith before anyone else? Good question.
(Thanks to Ingo Brigandt for the pointer.)
...and in his honor, a Hume love story in The New York Times.
(Thanks to Tom Carson for the reminder!)
Here; an excerpt:
Members of the Board should be committed to public higher education and qualified to determine policy. It is not, and must not become, a place for political grandstanding, McCarthyism, and bullying. Mr Wiesenfeld’s recent comments in the New York Times – suggesting that Palestinians are “not human” (“A University Trustee Expands on His View of What Is Offensive,” by Jim Dwyer, May 5, 2011) – demonstrates that he is unfit for continued service on the Board. Mr Wiesenfeld is entitled to his opinions, and he is free to circulate them as he wishes as a private citizen. When he represents the Board, and by extension, the University, this kind of bigotry is unacceptable.
I respectfully call on Mr Wiesenfeld to resign his position on the Board immediately. If he values public higher education, and if he cares about the fate of the City University of New York, he will do the right thing and resign. The rest of the Board should reflect on whether or not each of you are willing to place the interests of the University above your own opinions and preferences, and more importantly, to stand up when other members try to do so. If you are not willing to stand up for CUNY, you should also resign.
(Thanks to Anita Bernstein for the pointer.)
A hopeful sign. But Michael McIntyre, Associate Professor of International Studies at DePaul, kindly shared with me this letter he sent to the Trustees, which is still timely, and takes up the new issue, namely, the presence of an openly racist member of the Board of Trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the one who led the charge against Kushner initially. Here is Professor McIntyre's letter:
I learned yesterday of the CUNY trustees' decision to table the recommendation that John Jay College award Tony Kushner an honorary degree, a motion that in effect amounts to a decision not to award him the degree. Rather than rely on press reports, I listened to the last ten minutes of the board proceedings to find out what really happened. I was shocked by the lack of care taken while making this decision. After a short diatribe by one trustee, Mr. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, and the lack of an absolute majority on a motion to approve the honorary degree to all of the nominated candidates, Mr. Kushner's candidacy was separated from that of the other nominees. His nomination was then tabled without further debate. Perhaps this decision was made hastily because the meeting was drawing to a close and everyone wanted to move the agenda and adjourn. Whatever the motive, this decision should not have been made so thoughtlessly. On those grounds alone I would urge the Board of Trustees to reconsider its decision.
In today's New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/nyregion/opponent-of-honor-for-tony-kushner-criticizes-palestinians.html?_r=1&hp), however, I learned a bit more about Mr. Wiesenfeld. He is, to state matters plainly, a bigot. See here his comments on the Palestinians and their humanity, or lack thereof:
‘On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Wiesenfeld took a phone call about the events at the board meeting, and said he was surprised to get enough support from other trustees to block the Kushner degree. He had thought, he said, that he was going to register his dissent for the record and move on.
‘I tried to ask a question about the damage done by a short, one-sided discussion of vigorously debated aspects of Middle East politics, like the survival of Israel and the rights of the Palestinians, and which side was more callous toward human life, and who was most protective of it.
‘But Mr. Wiesenfeld interrupted and said the question was offensive because “the comparison sets up a moral equivalence.”
‘Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “People who worship death for their children are not human.”
‘Did he mean the Palestinians were not human? “They have developed a culture which is unprecedented in human history,” he said.’
A bigot of this sort has no place on the CUNY Board of Trustees. I urge you to call for his immediate resignation.
Professor McIntyre also forwarded the e-mails of the members of the CUNY Board of Trustees:
Charles Shorter: email@example.com
Carol Robles-Román: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rita DiMartino: email@example.com
Dr. Hugo Morales: DRHMORALES@msn.com
Freida Foster: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph Lhota: email@example.com
Judah Gribetz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathleen Pesile: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Pantaleo: email@example.com
Philip Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cory Provost: email@example.com
Sam Sutton: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandi Cooper: Sandi.Cooper@csi.cuny.edu
Valerie Lancaster Beal: email@example.com
Wellington Chen: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld: firstname.lastname@example.org
The United Association of Labor Education has posted an on-line petition to UMSL Chancellor Thomas George asking that he defend academic freedom and labor education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Please sign!
Some background from Judy Ancel (University of Missouri, Kansas City):
On Monday April 25, Andrew Breitbart posted his first attack and two videos on his BigGovernment.com website. They attacked me and my co-instructor Don Giljum. I am Director of Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Our class is taught by teleconference for students at UMKC and UM St. Louis (UMSL), and videos of our classes were available only to students in the class on the UMKC Blackboard system. In a statement I put out as an individual (because my university had not yet spoken) on Thursday the 28th I called Breitbart's videos "chop shop" editing, using 18 hours of tapes of our classes that were taken by a student enrolled in the class, disassembling them and reassembling to make it appear we were teaching violence, sabotage, and communism. The tapes also showed our students in class discussion, violating their privacy. (A copy of my statement is at http://labornotes.org/files/pdfs/AncelBreitbartResponse.pdf).
Later that day, UMKC issued a statement stating, "From the review completed to date, it is clear that edited videos posted on the Internet depict statements from the instructors in an inaccurate and distorted manner by taking their statements out of context and reordering the sequence in which those statements were actually made so as to change their meaning. Such selective editing is disturbing and the release of students’ images without their permission is a violation of their privacy rights.” UMKC went on to underscore its commitment to academic freedom and to labor studies, and they assured me that my job is not in danger.
Unfortunately UMSL took the low road. They turned a statement by Don Giljum on the 26th that he’d resign if it would save labor studies into an offer to resign, which two days later they accepted. Don is an adjunct, thus an at-will employee. UMSL made no public statement until yesterday, May 4th stating that he had resigned. Don fired back a letter saying that he had no intention of resigning.
Currently there is much protest among faculty, students and the labor community in St. Louis and across Missouri. Please join their protests by sending a letter to UMSL Chancellor Thomas George at email@example.com with a copy to Provost Glen Cope firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send me a blind copy at email@example.com.
Obviously there are significant issues of academic freedom and the rights of adjunct instructors as well as the rights of students to privacy and the freedom to express ideas freely in the classroom without fear that their images and words will be plastered all over the internet. (The original videos have been removed by You-Tube after privacy complaints were made, but more have followed. It takes at least 3 days to get them removed. Even though they’re running out of steam, they are still posting new videos.)
Breitbart and his Tea Party backers rely on the kind of reaction UMSL has had: to disassociate themselves from the victims of the attack rather than oppose the lies. The timing of this attack coincides with the right wing’s final attempts to pass “right to work” and “paycheck protection” legislation in the Missouri Legislature. These despicable tactics must be opposed.
For more information, see Jane Slaughter's excellent article in Labor Notes at http://www.labornotes.org/2011/04/right-wing-hoaxster-smears-labor-educators. The statement by the AAUP at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/newsroom/2011PRs/Ancel.htm.
Read it yourself. So not only has CUNY embarrassed itself internationally, it has done so at the behest of a stark raving racist and disgusting moral reprobate.
In New York City, you can not be honored for your creative or intellectual work if you express views that are aired all the time in Israel itself. Ain't that grand?
I'll have more about another academic freedom travesty at CUNY tomorrow.
(Thanks to David Leech for the pointer.)
The response of the General Counsel's office is fabulous!
UPDATE: The story has been corrected, and the alleged response of the GC's office removed, since it was not accurate. One additional detail that has come to my attention is that the GC was repeatedly asked by the Faculty Senate to propose questions for internal deliberation, so it was not the case that the GC became proactively involved in the matter. That being said, it still seems to me the question posed is not an appropriate one for the Senate to deliberate about, and does infringe upon the academic freedom of Professor Elliott and the other bioethicists investigating the ethics of clinical trials.
Posted by Brian Leiter on May 04, 2011 at 02:13 PM in Of Cultural Interest, Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor) | Permalink
A PhD student in philosophy writes:
I’ve been following your blog posts about the Synthese matter and the Labor Studies business at the University of Missouri. I signed the petition about Synthese and wrote a letter to the UM chancellor and dean, and I appreciate your work on making these travesties known so that I could take some action.
Although I’m glad I acted in both cases, I was wondering about your take on whether graduate students should, in general, take public stances on issues like these. Basically, I’m worried that they might affect job prospects. Since I work on philosophy of math, logic, and language, Synthese would generally be a natural place for me to publish. Similarly, it’s possible that I eventually get a job interview at Missouri. In both cases, I’m worried that taking a public stance on the issues in question might jeopardize possible publication/job opportunities. More generally, I’m worried that graduate students may not want to take action because of concerns like mine.
So, I’m writing to ask about your thought on this issue: does taking public or semi-public action on these kinds of issues have a serious prospect of affecting a graduate student’s career?
I think these are reasonable concerns. My own take is that the risk is directly proportional to how controversial the matter is. Signing the petition to the Synthese EICs or e-mailing in support of the Missouri teachers targetted by Breitbart are not very controversial moves: even those who didn't sign the petition recognized it as a reasonable gesture, and a smear merchant like Breitbart has no academic constituency, and the University of Missouri appears to be on the side of at least one of the two instructors (one resigned, under circumstances that remain a bit unclear). But taking a public stand on more controversial issues may, of course, pose professional risks. Sometimes one should take those risks, sometimes not, but I couldn't formulate a general rule or principle for telling the cases apart. Thoughts from readers? Signed comments strongly preferred, as usual.
[Assistant Professor Rachel] Tudor was recommended for tenure and a promotion by her colleagues last year... However, the Vice President of Academic Affairs issued an unprecedented memo prohibiting Tudor from applying for tenure, and even after a faculty committee unanimously ruled that Tudor should be allowed to apply, the President refused to honor their decision.
Professor Tudor teaches in the Department of English, Humanities and Languages, and teaches philosophy courses, among other humanities subjects. There is a petition in support of Professor Tudor here. And there is yet more information on this case of egregious discrimination here.
(Thanks to Ben Ostrowsky for the pointer.)
UPDATE: I have corrected the headline: the school in question is public, but the university official is apparently Baptist.
MOVING TO FRONT: THIS NEEDS INPUT AND DISCUSSION!
As Professor Ancel correctly noted, vicious stunts like Breitbart's are going to have a chilling effect on speech, which, of course, is part of their point. A philosopher, for example, writes:
I am an assistant professor at a regional public university located in a small, liberal town in a much larger conservative area. I have made video podcasts of my courses available to my students for several years now, both here and previously at a much larger R1 public university. At both schools, my students and I have found the videos incredibly useful. Students have the opportunity to review material they miss or review difficult content; some use the videos as a general study aid. I find that the students I see in office hours ask questions that go deeper into the material because if they have simple questions of clarification they simply go to the video. I have also found the videos invaluable for assisting students who must miss class for legitimate reasons. Student athletes find them very helpful, and I know of at least two cases where students who were unable to attend significant amounts of class because to health problems were able to complete courses successfully due to the availability of the videos. (Class attendance and participation has not decreased significantly compared to courses without such videos.)
In light of Breitbart's latest antics, I am seriously reconsidering my practice of making these videos available. I realize now that it only takes one student to record video and send it to Breitbart (or someone like him) and that even having the videos on a password protected page does not provide any defense. I regularly teach controversial topics--it would be incredibly easy to selectively edit videos of my courses to make it appear that I advocate any number of views across the political spectrum. Though our faculty are unionized and that provides some security, I am not completely reassured.
I would very much appreciate if you could open this topic for more general discussion (and would appreciate my identity remaining anonymous so as not to attract undue attention if I do continue to offer the videos). I'm currently inclined to think that the danger of offering the videos outweighs the benefits I've enumerated above. But perhaps I've not appraised things correctly. In light of the danger to myself and instructors who make video of our courses available, are there any arguments that we should continue to do so? Is this something that only more secure faculty should consider doing? Is there some way in which I might protect myself institutionally? (I believe there is no technological fix.)
Thoughts and ideas from readers?
UPDATE (MAY 4): I've asked a few colleagues in legal academia with pertinent expertise to comment on these issues, and I'm hopeful some will do so later today or tomorrow.
(Thanks to Saba Bazargan for the pointer.)
Conservatives gain clear majority for the first time, the Liberals destroyed, the NDP triples its share of seats, and the Quebec nationalist party also destroyed. And apparently no one knew it was coming! So, dear readers, what happened? (For U.S. readers, bear in mind that the "conservatives" in Canada would mostly be moderate or liberal Democrats in the U.S.--Canadian "conservatives" were not, last time I looked, reactionaries or crypto-fascists, unlike in the U.S.)
The petition went on-line on Monday, April 25, and has garnered nearly 470 signatures from members of the philosophical community during the past week. I will be e-mailing the editors a link to the petition and this post this morning.
For the benefit of journalists covering or watching this issue: the roughly 470 signatories includes nine Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (Ned Block [NYU], Don Garrett [NYU], Daniel Hausman [Wisconsin], Geoffrey Hellman [Minnesota], David Malament [UC Irvine], Charles Parsons [Harvard], Elliott Sober [Wisconsin], Robert Stalnaker [MIT], and Stephen Stich [Rutgers]; Professor Stalnaker is also a member of the Advisory Board of Synthese); two Fellows of the British Academy (Jeremy Butterfield and Hugh Mellor, both from Cambridge University), as well as almost every leading senior philosopher of biology in North America (I can think of only two exceptions, who may not know about the petition!), and many of the leading younger scholars in that field as well, including from abroad (Colin Allen [Indiana], Andre Ariew [Missouri], Marc Ereshefsky [Calgary], James Griesemer [UC Davis], James Justus [Florida State/Sydney], James Lennox [Pittsburgh], Elisabeth Lloyd [Indiana], Mohan Matthen [Toronto], Roberta Millstein [UC Davis], Sandra Mitchell [Pittsburgh], Samir Okasha [Bristol], Alexander Rosenberg [Duke], Sahotra Sarkar [Texas], Elliott Sober [Wisconsin], Christopher Stephens [British Columbia], C. Kenneth Waters [Minnesota], Michael Weisberg [Penn], and William Wimsatt [Chicago/Minnesota].) Philosophers of biology are, of course, especially sensitive to the consequences of decisions that give ammunition to the political forces that lobby for Intelligent Design.
Perhaps most notable is the range of philosophers, senior and junior, from many different parts of the discipline (from logic to moral philosophy to the history of philosophy), and a wide array of institutions (from leading PhD programs like Princeton, Oxford, Cornell, University College London and Arizona; to liberal arts colleges like Wesleyan, Hamilton, and Middlebury; to a variety of community colleges throughout the United States; to universities throughout Europe), who have registered their concern about this issue.
By my rough estimate, more than a quarter of the signatories have also published in Synthese.
A number of signatories added comments. A small sampling:
John Gardner, the Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford University, wrote: "The evidence of editor-in-chief error is now overwhelming. The disclaimer should be revoked and an apology issued."
Ken Gemes, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, who has published with and refereed for Synthese for many years, wrote: "I sign this with a heavy heart as I have always been proud to have made contributions as both a referee and author to this august journal. I strongly urge the editors in chief to retract their prefatory statement and to apologise for its inclusion. Then we can all happily forget this unfortunate incident and get on with keeping up the world class quality and reputation of Synthese."
Ken Aizawa, Charles T. Beaird Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Centenary College in Louisiana, wrote: "I have for many years been very happy with the support my work has received from Synthese and have also been happy to support the journal in turn. It is, therefore, a serioius disappointment to me to observe this sad development with the journal. As one can already see with the first page of Beckwith's reply, Synthese has abbetted the weakening of the already weak educational system in Louisiana. Please respond to the serious concerns of the philosophical community."
If and when the editors do respond, I will either post their response here or post a link to it whereever it appears.