In the last 12 hours, the blog has gotten an extraordinary amount of traffic due to the McGinn case, and social media has been awash with debate. I offer a few, further observations of my own:
1. Sexual harassment, from the mild to the severe, is widespread in academic philosophy. That a famous philosopher, Colin McGinn, has had to resign from his academic position because of allegations of misconduct of a sexual nature is seen as a major vindication for all those who have been harassed, abused, and mistreated but never seen a remedy. It will, hopefully, put others engaged in misconduct on notice.
2. The public allegations against McGinn are far less severe than allegations that I and many others are familiar with against other well-known philosophers. There is a dam waiting to break here, and it should break.
3. Tenure is an important academic institution, under widespread assault in our neoliberal world. Although in the reactionary United States, tenure is an anomaly, reserved for university professors and certain unionized professionals, in most affluent democracies, tenure is the norm: it does not mean lifetime employment, it means termination only for "good" or "adequate" cause. Tenured employment imposes upon employers procedural obligations to establish such cause before forcing those with tenure out of their job.
4. Due process protections in employment apply even to those who turn out to be miscreants. Here I tend to wear my lawyer's hat: an employee can not receive due process in a situation where the arbiter of his fate has already decided on the outcome. That observation may have no relevance to the McGinn case.
5. Sending e-mails with sexual content to students is, in my view and under the law (as I understand it), a disciplinary offense: suspension without pay, psychological evaluation, restrictions on one's interactions with students are all warranted and well-established remedies. I can imagine circumstances in which such e-mails would constitute a termination offense.
6. The termination of tenured faculty is, and ought to be warranted, when faculty engage in quid pro sexual harassment, commit criminal sexual offenses, or repeatedly engage in conduct that creates a hostile environment for students or colleagues on the basis of their sex. Right now, all indications are that far too few tenured faculty are terminated for such offenses.
7. It has been disturbing to me that some of those jumping on the "get McGinn" bandwagon in the last 24 hours are, themselves, rumored to be guilty of sexual harassment or misconduct. The rumors may have no merit, but that is precisely why due process is important, even for wrongdoers. It has also been disturbing to me that some of those jumping on the "get McGinn" bandwagon in the last 24 hours have so little understanding of or simple contempt for due process and tenure.
8. The student who brought the complaint against McGinn did the right thing; given all the facts in the public record, her complaint was clearly warranted and some disciplinary remedy against McGinn was clearly warranted.
UPDATE: McGinn has now disputed the account in CHE.