Following up on last week's post: I have informed the Advisory Board of my response to the letters initiated by Jonathan Schaffer, David Chalmers, Susanna Siegel, and Jason Stanley in response to the recent controversy generated by selective release of e-mails sent in February and July of this year. (The two e-mail letters appear at the end.) I indicated that two of the options mentioned in the letter, both involving my immediate departure from the PGR, were unacceptable: I have already invested hundreds of hours in correcting and updating the spread sheet with more than 550 evaluators, as well as the spread sheet containing more than one hundred faculty listings. Any report based on that work is a report I have at least co-edited.
I have also informed the Board that I am still considering the third proposal, namely, proceeding with the 2014 PGR (with Brit Brogaard as co-editor) while simultaenously committing to turn over any future PGR to others. I am also considering two other possibilities: (4) proceeding with the 2014 PGR (again, obviously, with Brit as co-editor) and postponing any decisions about the future of the PGR until after the 2014 PGR and after the current controversy; or (5) simply discontinuing the PGR altogether. I've asked the entire Board to weigh in, especially because a number of signatories to the Schaffer et al. letter indicated, in individual correspondence, that they were open to something like (4) as well. And some other Board members have told me they consider this a "tempest in a teapot" or that, while they consider my e-mails inappropriate, they think them irrelevant to the responsible way I have run the PGR.
Practically, what this all means regarding a new PGR is the following. In the original scheme of things, the plan had been to start the surveys this past Monday, but some of the work that needed to be completed could not be completed after the campaign against me began a week ago Tuesday since my limited time was taken up with that. Now the term has begun here at Chicago, I have week-long lecture/seminar tours to Italy and India coming up in the next six weeks, paper deadlines, administrative and teaching responsibilities, not to mention obligations to students and family. If we go forward, I hope it will be in late October or November. I realize this pushes things very close to when students need to decide where to apply. I may post some general observations about changes since 2011 and what they mean for prospective students over the coming weeks. But if there is a PGR for 2014-15, it may not appear until December. I do apologize to the students who were planning on utilizing it.
The additional prospective co-editor (besides Brit Brogaard, who is on board and has already committed to do some important work that needs to be done) and I had a useful discussion, and agreed it wasn't clear that he would serve a meaningful purpose at this stage (given what I have already done and what Brit has agreed to do), beyond what he has already done as an Advisory Board member.
After I've had more discussion with the Board, I will post a further update.
ADDENDUM: The two letters follow; my comments are primarily in response to the October 1 e-mail:
Email to Brian Leiter sent on Thursday September 25:
We are writing in our role as PGR advisory board members. Many of us have been urged in recent days to resign from the PGR board because of concerns about your conflicts with other philosophers. So far we have resisted those calls, because we think the PGR plays a valuable role in the profession, but we take the issue seriously.
We all value the extraordinary service you have provided with the PGR. At the same time, we are worried that the enterprise is about to be damaged irreversibly. We see that you have floated the idea that you might not run the next PGR, and that this idea appears to have widespread support. We think that there is a way to proceed without the PGR ceasing entirely.
Our suggestion is that you turn over the PGR over to new management. Specifically, you could turn over the report to a committee (e.g. of board members), perhaps rotating, who would administer the report henceforth. You have said that running the PGR is a headache, and the PGR has become a central enough institution in the profession that it does not really make sense for it to be identified wholly with one person. We think that for a majority of the profession, continuing the PGR under new management would be an option preferable both to the PGR continuing as is and to its ceasing entirely.
This is our advice, respectfully submitted as members of the PGR advisory board.
[Names of PGR board members are omitted as not all board members have agreed to their names being made public]
Email to Brian Leiter sent Wednesday October 1
You had said that on Oct 1st you might want to have a more extended discussion. So we want to update you on where things stand.
In the interim we have had some discussion among board members of the various options. The consensus of the board members we have talked to is that we should request that you either step down from the leadership now and relinquish control of the PGR, or at least that you make a commitment to doing so by a specific date in the near future (with the consensus being that something like January 2015 would be the latest appropriate date, though the details could be discussed).
The central point is that this controversy, whatever its merits, will seriously undermine our ability as a group to produce a legitmate ranking. Over 500 people have already signed a statement committing them to boycotting the PGR if you are in control. Many others who have not signed the statement are waiting to see what happens. We think that any ranking produced in this circumstance will be seriously compromised, and that the authority of the PGR will be undermined.
The board's request specifies that you step down from the leadership and relinquish control of the PGR, meaning there should be a leader or group of leaders without your playing a direct or an indirect controlling role (an advisory role would be fine). Ideally this leader or group of leaders should be appointed by the board, and the board rather than any individual should retain ultimate control of the PGR.
There are various ways in which this might occur. In a previous email we suggested the following options:
(a) You step down from the leadership now.
(b) We postpone the survey until 2015 while you (publicly or privately) commit to stepping down before the survey.
(c) You remain on as co-editor for a 2014 survey and publicly commit to stepping down as soon as the survey is completed.
Our view is that (a) would be best, (b) second best, and (c) third best. Some board members have said to us that they would find (c) unacceptable. It is clear that many philosophers (including some board members) would still boycott the PGR under this circumstance, and that serious damage would be done, though less damage than would occur without the public commitment. Still, many board members say that (c) would be acceptable.
We are not conveying any of this publicly at this point. We want to leave room for you to frame your decision in the way that you prefer. It may well be that you were planning to take one of these options in any case. We think that on all of these options you would secure your legacy to the profession as the creator of a thriving PGR, and as someone who has continually acted in the best interest of students of philosophy around the world.
Yours in friendship and respect,