The University was informed by FBI counterterrorism officials today (Sunday) that an unknown individual posted an online threat of gun violence against the University of Chicago, specifically mentioning “the campus quad” on Monday morning at 10 a.m. Based on the FBI’s assessment of this threat and recent tragic events at other campuses across the country, we have decided in consultation with federal and local law enforcement officials, to exercise caution by canceling all classes and activities on the Hyde Park campus through midnight on Monday. All non-medical faculty, students and non-essential staff are asked not to come to the Hyde Park campus on Monday, or to remain indoors as much as possible if they are on campus. Students in College Housing are asked to stay indoors and await direct communication from College Housing Staff.
My 13-year-old broke the news to us at dinner, via parents of friends. She was excited! Ah youth!
...after lots of helpful feedback and workshops over the last year or so. My "case" is only against arguments that speech has some unique positive value; I think the libertarian approach towards speech regulation in the U.S. is basically the right one, given the nature of our political culture. I also think, but don't discuss in this paper, that universities are a special case (something Marcuse also thought in the famous, or infamous, essay on "Repressive Tolerance"); I will take that up in a separate paper.
It's good the New York Times is shining a light on this mischief. Illinois was a natural target in one way, given the number of ex-Governors who ended up in jail, and the dysfunctional finances (which the current plutocrat in office, Bruce Rauner, promptly made worse by letting the state income tax slip back from 5% to 3%). But the legislature is controlled by Democrats, so right now there is total deadlock. Rauner had the advantage of running against a weak Democrat in the last election, but unless he is sent back to his country club in three years, things could get a lot worse.
Best-known for his work on the history and philosophy of psychoanalysis, Professor Forrester served on the History and Philosophy of Science faculty at Cambridge University at the time of his death. There is an obituary from The Indepenenthere.
Pretty damning editorial; I'm surprised they weighed in, but the NYT does tend to take a strong interest in Ivy League matters, given the class structure it represents. (I was a residential adviser in "Wilson College" [always known simply as Wilson College] long ago; I didn't realize it was named for Woodrow Wilson until this latest controversy, however! I just assumed it was named for some wealthy white guy of the past.)
[M]any concepts that refer to the negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings. These concepts increasingly extend outward to capture qualitatively new phenomena (‘horizontal’ expansion) and downward to capture quantitatively less extreme phenomena (‘vertical’ expansion). I illustrate these forms of semantic creep by reviewing changes in the concepts of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, and prejudice over recent decades. In each case, the concept’s boundary has stretched and its meaning has dilated. I argue that this pattern of ‘concept creep’ reflects a dominant moral agenda within social, developmental, and clinical psychology, involving an escalating sensitivity to harm.
Hmm, this sounds familiar, doesn't it? Haslam further explains the two kinds of "expansion" as follows:
The first, ‘vertical expansion,’ occurs when a concept’s meaning becomes less stringently defined, so that it encompasses quantitatively milder variants of the phenomenon to which it originally referred. For example, the concept of obesity would have undergone vertical expansion if the critical body mass index threshold was lowered, thereby swelling the number of people defined as obese. The second form, which I call ‘horizontal expansion’, occurs when a concept extends to a qualitatively new class of phenomena, including application to a new semantic context. For example, the concept of ‘refugee’ has expanded to include people displaced by environmental catastrophe, whereas it originally referred only to those displaced by conflict.
The next president of the United States will confront a virulent jihadist threat, mounting effects of climate change, and an economy becoming ever more unequal.
We’re going to need an especially wise and able leader.
Yet our process for choosing that person is a circus, and several leading candidates are clowns.
Of course he's talking only about one party here, and their candidates who aren't clowns are still somewhere on the spectrum from deranged to depraved. So how did the Republican Party sink so low? "Reality Check":
The other night I phoned a former Republican member of Congress with whom I’d worked in the 1990s on various pieces of legislation. I consider him a friend. I wanted his take on the Republican candidates because I felt I needed a reality check. Was I becoming excessively crotchety and partisan, or are these people really as weird as they seem? We got right into it:
Me: “So what do really you think of these candidates?"
Him: “They’re all nuts.”
Me: “Seriously. What do you really think of them?”
Him: “I just told you. They’re bonkers. Bizarre. They’re like a Star Wars bar room.”
Me: “How did it happen? How did your party manage to come up with this collection?”
Him: “We didn’t. They came up with themselves. There’s no party any more. It’s chaos. Anybody can just decide they want to be the Republican nominee, and make a run for it. Carson? Trump? They’re in the lead and they’re both out of their f*cking minds.”
Me: “That’s not reassuring.”
Him: “It’s a disaster. I’m telling you, if either of them is elected, this country is going to hell. The rest of them aren’t much better. I mean, Carly Fiorina? Really? Rubio? Please. Ted Cruz? Oh my god. And the people we thought had it sewn up, who are halfway sane – Bush and Christie – they’re sounding almost as batty as the rest.”
Me: “Who’s to blame for this mess?”
Him: “Roger Ailes, David and Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh. I could go on. They’ve poisoned the American mind and destroyed the Republican Party."
Interesting piece at IHE about campuses (not, yet anyway, UVA) about student protesters targetting statues of Thomas Jefferson. The piece concludes with a long quote from Harvard historian Annette Gordon-Reed (who has famously written about Jefferson's sexual relationship with one of his slaves):
"I understand why some people think his statues should be removed, but not all controversial figures of the past are created equal," Gordon-Reed said. "I think Jefferson’s contributions to the history of the United States outweigh the problems people have with aspects of his life. He is just too much a part of the American story … to pretend that he was not there. This conversation about statues and symbols really got going with calls to take symbols and figures from the Confederacy out of the public sphere. Then it shifted to every famous person who was an enslaver and/or white supremacist, basically letting the Confederates off the hook. That's a lot of people to be disappeared. There is every difference in the world between being one of the founders of the United States and being a part of group of people who fought to destroy the United States."
She added: "It’s a line-drawing function, but we draw lines all the time. Statues and buildings for Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun? No. Statues and buildings for Thomas Jefferson? Yes, but with interpretation and conversations about all the meanings of his life and influences -- good and bad. The words of the Declaration of Independence that blacks have made use of over the years and Monticello, his home, a slave plantation that has now become a site for substantive discussions about race and slavery, exist together as a part of our history, just as he was. He drafted the declaration, he was a president, he founded a university, he championed religious freedom. The best of his ideals continue to influence and move people. The statues should be a stimulus for considering all these matters at William & Mary and the University of Missouri."
An interesting study, though it's still the case that Americans are more tolerant of offensive speech than citizens elsewhere: "our global survey found that a majority of Americans say that people should be able to say offensive things about minority groups publicly. Two-thirds of Americans say this, compared with a median of 35% among the 38 nations we polled." It is unfortuante that this was framed in terms of "offense," which is usually not part of the definition of hate speech in countries that do regulate such speech.
This piece by philosopher David McCabe (Colgate) is quite interesting, and worth a careful read by everyone (those who agree with me, more or less, and those who disagree). Some excerpts, but only to entice you to read it all:
One ideal, repeatedly invoked by the students, is that of college as a secure, nurturing, welcoming home for all. "It's no longer a safe space for me," says one, while another tells [Yale college master] Christakis that his role is "to create a space of comfort and home for the students." Now it must be admitted that within current conversational dynamics, the claim that one has been denied a safe space functions as a dialogical move to unassailably high ground: it brooks no disagreement. But whatever we think of that, the students' claims here not only point to an urgent and wholly reasonable need, but also implicitly invoke Yale's own policies, which describe college masters as entrusted with their students' "physical well being and safety" and with overseeing each college's "social, cultural, and educational life and character." Whether these were genuinely threatened by the email exchange over costumes is debatable, I think, but it is hardly surprising that the students saw Christakis as someone more than just another professor, that they looked to him to confirm their sense of home.
Christakis shows little concern for that appeal. He repeatedly tries to shift the discussion onto the terrain of pure ideas, thus invoking a competing ideal of college as fundamentally a place of intellectual inquiry. But in this context, of course, such a move cannot help but suggest to the students that he does not register their concerns....
What [Christakis] certainly should do is express regret and convey sympathy, but he is so stuck on the conceptual point involved that he cannot see even this. Right here it's important to say that it's not hard to see why he is stuck on that point. Over the last few years college campuses have witnessed the steady erosion of a distinction that is utterly central not just to their mission but, I'm tempted to say, to the general maintenance of social order at some fundamental level. I mean the distinction between on the one hand what a person thinks about an action (feeling that it was offensive, for example, or deeming it unwelcome), and on the other a reasonable assessment of the act itself (that it was genuinely offensive, say, or a truly wrong thing to do).
Christakis is desperate not to lose that distinction, and his anxiety is understandable. To imagine a world without it is not to imagine a world with fewer acts that harm others, or one where we all magically get along better. It is instead to imagine a world where the mere declaration of hurt thereby amounts to a legitimate claim, where the moral quality of our own actions is a function of something over which we have no control, and where there is ultimately no verdict beyond a person's own feelings about the reality of what has happened. It is also, and probably most importantly, an abandonment of the raison d'etre of a university: the idea that through careful study in a close community with others, marked by respectful exchange, sympathetic imagination, and shared good will, we can come to better views about questions that really matter - questions about not just our place in the cosmos or the causes of World War I, but about what each of us is owed, the causes and hidden structures of injustice, our obligations to the disadvantaged, and so on.
Now you can find out in one place! My suspicion is the proliferation of demand lists is going to dilute their impact, but we'll see. The lists vary a good bit. Duke's, I thought, was especially interesting (both in terms of concreteness, but also in recognizing the interests of people other than students), though I've not read all of them by any means, just sampling.
ADDENDUM: As one reader points out, the Duke students' definition of "hate speech" is crazy and dangerous, but this kind of stuff appears in a lot of the documents. No serious university is going to adopt such a rule, and I expect the students who draft these things are too inexperienced to know how to craft credible proposals regarding speech.
The student "demands" are here, and include the following:
We demand visible and administrative accountability for departments and centers that have a tradition of racist hiring and retention policies and anti-Black pedagogy. With regards to accountability, we demand that these departments and centers meet with representatives from graduate organizations that have signed below along with the Vice President of Academic Development, Diversity, and Inclusion, and the incoming Dean of Diversity Initiatives and comply with all prescribed actionable steps provided to them at these meetings. Furthermore, we demand annual public fora and an annual report be made publicly available to assess all racist hiring and retention policies and anti-Black pedagogy. Furthermore, we demand that the university support monetarily and otherwise departments and centers committed to social justice, as evidenced through anti-oppressive pedagogy, and the satisfaction and retention of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty of color. These departments and centers must be incentivized to continue their work with increased departmental resources and faculty hiring lines, like target-of-opportunity hires, cluster hires, postdoctoral fellows, and additional funding for centers....
We demand the introduction of compulsory, in-person, and regular anti-oppression training for faculty, staff, DPS, and administration. Anti-oppression trainings should be led and organized by people of color with significant experience in anti-oppression activism or scholarship. Furthermore, those leading these efforts should be compensated and acknowledged for their labor. This needs to be implemented beginning spring 2016, since many of these key facilitators of anti-oppression training are already present at Brown and in the Providence community....
We demand an in-person and compulsory Title IX training for faculty, staff, DPS, administrators, and students that includes an intersectional framework. The current non-compulsory online Title IX training module is ineffective and does not address the structural racism, queerphobia, economic violence and transphobia that is foundational to sexual violence on campus. Women of color––particularly Black, Brown and racial minority trans* people––are at the highest risk for sexual assault on college campuses, yet the debate over Title IX has thus far been framed as predominantly White. Statistics from across North America show that women of color, and especially trans* women of color, are at a higher risk for sexual assault than their white counterparts on college campuses and beyond.
I have found the university to be an extremely warm, welcoming, supportive and open environment to undertake my work. I know well the people who run this institution, and the notion that they are racially insensitive is a shameful slander with no basis in fact. My colleagues, in the economics department and elsewhere at Brown, have shown themselves to be open-minded, decent and on the whole politically progressive scholars. The administration has lavished resources on me, and has enthusiastically supported any number of initiatives that contribute to promoting a just and decent society, both within the United States and throughout the world.
The notion that Brown needs a revolutionary reshaping in order to become hospitable to "students of color", that idea that "anti-black pedagogy" at Brown needs to be countered with some mandatory indoctrination of faculty, the proposal that external student committees should review purportedly "racist" departmental appointment processes, the initiative of creating "specialty positions" in academic departments to ensure their openness to hiring "faculty of color" -- these are all mischievous intrusions on the academic prerogatives of a distinguished faculty which no self-respecting scholar of any color should welcome. They are a step onto a slippery slope that slides down into intellectual mediocrity, and I will have nothing to do with them.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL. The University of Chicago Law School seeks a Law and Philosophy Fellow, appointed with the rank of Lecturer, for the academic year 2016-17. This is a twelve month appointment and is expected to begin July 1, 2016. A Ph.D. in philosophy by time of appointment is expected, though in unusual cases a Ph.D. in a related discipline, or a J.D. accompanied by strong training in philosophy, will be considered. Applications welcome from new or recent PhDs or tenure-stream faculty interested in spending a year at the Law School. The Fellow will co-teach the Law & Philosophy Workshop with Brian Leiter on "Current Issues in General Jurisprudence" (including, e.g., new views of the relationship between law and morality; the problem of theoretical disagreements about law; the metaphysics of artifacts and the significance of law's artefactual nature; and intersections between legal philosophy, metaethics, and philosophy of language). AOS: any parts of philosophy of law related to the workshop themes; AOC: open. The Workshop will meet about 15 times over the course of the academic year, about half the time to discuss papers by invited speakers, and the remainder of the time just with enrolled students to review invited papers, as well as other background literature. The Fellow will also be expected to contribute to the intellectual life of the Law School, as well as pursue his or her research. Salary $55K + benefits + superb research environment. To be considered a candidate for this position you must apply on-line through the University website at http://tinyurl.com/nwvotq4 by January 22, 2016. Resume, cover letter, writing sample, reference contact information and research statement should be submitted electronically on the web site at the time of application. Three confidential letters of recommendation should be mailed to Joe Pellettiere at The University of Chicago Law School, 1111 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637 with a postmark not later than January 22, 2016.
Many observers of the student protests of the nineteen-sixties noted those movements’ Oedipal aspects. That generation of student activists was seen as killing the father (figuratively) in their organized political resistance to university faculty and administration, and, more broadly, to war and oppression. Today’s student protesters are certainly directing anger at faculty and administrators, but this time the parental dynamic is notably different.
Particularly in the way things have unfolded at Yale, students’ social-justice activism has been expressed, in part, as the need for care from authority figures. When they experience the hurt that motivates them to political action, they’re deeply disappointed with parental surrogates for not responding adequately or quickly enough to support and nurture them. The world in which it’s not bizarre for a young person to rebuke someone for failing to “create a place of comfort and home,” or to yell, “Be quiet … You’re disgusting!,” and storm away, is the world of family, where a child in pain desperately desires empathy and understanding from a parent. The online scorn heaped on the student who was filmed behaving this way represents an unproductive refusal to compassionately translate her behavior across the generational divide. In a piece called “Hurt at Home,” another Yale student wrote, “I feel my home is being threatened,” and contrasted her comforting relationship with her father to the care she felt students emphatically did not receive from the master of Silliman College. Yale tells its students that the residential college is their “home away from home,” but this generation might be the first to insist so literally on that idea.
I've noted some related aspects of this phenomenon, but Prof. Suk puts it quite well. (And note these caveats about the "infantilism" label.) The neediness of these students is quite real, and it's not clear universities are going to be able to meet all those needs in ways consistent with the ideals of freedom that make intellectual life possible.
(Professor Suk, some will recall, was an early entry into these discussions, recounting the difficulties she was encountering teaching rape in criminal law.)
Philosopher Lionel McPherson (Tufts) writes with an interesting perspective on the recent debate about events at Yale:
I wanted to call (or recall) your attention to this:
"Then he left to walk back to his dorm room. He says he saw an officer 'jogging' toward the entrance of another building across the grounds from the building he’d just left.
'I did not pay him any mind, and continued to walk back towards my room. I looked behind me, and noticed that the police officer was following me. He spoke into his shoulder-mounted radio and said, "I got him."’
'I faced forward again, presuming that the officer was not talking to me. I then heard him say, "Hey, turn around!" — which I did.
'The officer raised his gun at me, and told me to get on the ground.
'At this point, I stopped looking directly at the officer, and looked down towards the pavement. I dropped to my knees first, with my hands raised, then laid down on my stomach.'
"...Now, don’t get me wrong: If indeed my son matched the description of a suspect, I would have had no problem with him being questioned appropriately.... The stop is not the problem; the method of the stop is the problem.
"Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?"
[end of excerpt from piece by Times columnist]
You write, "Manne and Stanley go so far as to write that the racism that exists at Yale 'is not the sort of racism that is generally considered newsworthy...There are no black bodies on the pavement to focus on. The violence being done is subtler...' It's so subtle, in fact, that it's not clear how it constitutes 'violence' at all."
But there were black bodies "on the pavement" at Yale recently--Charles Blow's son, at least. Manne and Stanley are mistaken on that front (and I find it somewhat disturbing that they would miss or ignore a recent incident of this kind). Their strong claim, then, about the "subtle" violence being done is also mistaken. Being ordered to the ground at gunpoint, I would think, clearly does constitute violence. The incident involving Blow's son helps to provide a fuller sense of the "racial climate" at Yale, among other PWIs.
(As an undergrad, I was stopped at Princeton and asked to produce ID when walking to the library while Black. A few years ago, as a professor, I was asked to produce ID when working in my office at night, with music playing at moderate volume, while Black. I wouldn't call these campus police encounters violent, since I wasn't ordered to the ground, nor was a gun drawn. I would call them hostile and not "subtle.")
My own view is that it's generally a mistake to look at what's been going on with black (and brown) students on college campuses, post Ferguson, through a skeptical wide lens on "identity politics," "the new infantilism," "trigger warnings," and the like.
I find myself in agreement with almost everything Prof. McPherson says. Racial stereotyping by police (and disproportionately ominous behavior by the police in connection with that [e.g., drawing a firearm!], even when it stops short of killing people) is wrongful and harmful behavior, and to the extent police harassment of students of color at Yale played a role in recent events, that is an important fact that has not, so far, figured in the public descriptions. Unlike so-called "micro-aggressions" (what I had in mind as an example of "subtle violence") police conduct is subject to meaningful regulation and disciplinary oversight, and with no cost to any other academic values. (Police misconduct is sufficiently serious that even if there were costs to academic values, that's a cost universities ought to bear.)
I also agree with Prof. McPherson's last paragraph, with one small caveat: the phenomena I've lumped under the heading of "the new infantilism" are various, but what they have in common is the idea that certain kinds of lawful speech are verboten lest it cause hurt or offense. I would not class complaints about racist abuse and threats in Missouri, or police misconduct as described by Charles Blow and Prof. McPherson, in that category: to be free of that kind of treatment is required by the rule of law and a commitment to equal citizenship regardless of race. My own view (shared, I'm reasonably confident, by Prof. McPherson) is that a residential college named after an apologist for chattel slavery is also an embarrassment for a university and an affront to its students--not an act of "violence," subtle or otherwise, but a wrong that should be remedied.What I call the New Infantilism is largely a phenomenon at "elite" universities, and is primarily, I suspect, an artifact of class (see for example). I do not have the impression that this phenomenon is limited to white students, but I believe Prof. McPherson is correct that it's probably mistaken to look at recent events, even at Yale, through that lens. (The mindless "identity politics" I've criticized is manifested by those [usually posturing faculty] who purport to speak for the students, and usually on social media. I agree "trigger warnings" are also irrelevant, but still a bad idea for a reason I gave long ago.)
My thanks to Prof. McPherson (whom I've never met, alas, but have been fortunate to correspond with for many years) for this contribution.
Kevin Toh, Associate Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, has accepted appointment as Senior Lecturer in Jurisprudence on the law faculty at University College London, where he will start in 2016-17. Toh has done very important work on issues at the intersection of general jurisprudence and metaethics. (UCL's law faculty has also appointed the legal philosopher Scott Shapiro [Yale] as the Visiting Quain Professor of Jurisprudence; he will be in residence each June for at least the next three years.)
A brief comment about the legal restrictions governing the regulation of speech on campus, since correspondence suggests there are some significant misunderstandings of the legal landscape. A few quick observations:
1. Private universities can, legally, do quite a lot of regulating speech if they want--especially of students, a bit less so of faculty due to contractual protections for academic freedom. But even with respect to faculty, private universities have considerable latitude.
2. Public universities are subject to some constitutional limitations, but they are always subject to the legal regime of Pickering and progeny that I discussed awhile back in connection with Salaita and the University of Illinois. To simplify,in the post-Pickering world, a state university can regulate speech if doing so is neecessary to discharge its central functions, e.g., teaching and research.
3. What that means is that even if it is generally unconstitutional in the U.S. to regulate "hate speech," a suitably tailored hate speech prohibition in a public university would likely be constitutional. So, for example, a prohibition on racist, sexist or simply vulgar abuse in the classroom, between students, or students and faculty, would be defensible on Pickering grounds: students can't learn, and faculty can't teach, if the classroom is disrupted by these kinds of verbal assaults. (A private university could do the same thing, and it seems to me any sensible concept of academic freedom should allow for this.)
4. By contrast, a state university could not issue a blanket ban on "racially insensitive" speech on campus; they could not even issue a blanket ban on "hate speech" on campus. The latter isn't sufficiently tailored to promoting pedagogical or research functions to survive legal challenge I suspect.
5. Most discussion of appropriate and inappropriate restrictions on speech on campus are not based on legal requirements, but on ideals of freedom of thought and inquiry that universities are (often uniquely) thought to stand for. (Recall that even Marcuse, in his critique of "repressive tolerance" for harmful expression, thought universities should be bastions of unbridled expression. [It would be fair to say he was not thinking about the Pickering issues, however!]) This is true, for example, of the widely cited University of Chicago commitment to freedom of expression: a university could provide less protection than Chicago without violating the law, and many do. Yale could, for example, forbid any students from shouting curse words at any faculty member. I would oppose such a blanket rule, because campuses include public spaces where discourse need not be tidy, polite or civil. But with respect to the ideal of freedom of expression on a university campus, speech and actions that have as their purpose to suppress or punish other speech or expression are incompatible with the Chicago-style ideal.
That was the title of a lunchtime talk I gave today for law students here, organized by our OUTLAW* chapter, and also sponsored by the Labor & Employment Law society. There was a lot of talk about some themes from my book, as well as constitutional doctrine, the federal RFRA, state RFRAs, Kim Davis, Title VII, Hobby Lobby (basically following my discussion in this paper), and a few other things. But the main theme was that we are on the verge of a ton of litigation in which the new anti-discrimination norms against LGBT people, reflected in the gay marriage decision of the Supreme Court, as well as many state laws, are going to come up against claims of "religious liberty," the liberty in question being the liberty to discriminate on the basis of LGBT status. We no longer have that kind of litigation seeking religious exemptions from laws prohibiting race discrimination, and my expectation is that in a generation, norms against anti-LGBT discrimination will be sufficiently entrenched to make such litigation unviable in that context too. But until then, or until an authoritative resolution by higher courts, we are going to see lots of anti-gay bigotry seeking validation through America's (generally misguided, in my view) scheme for "protecting" religious liberty. The important case out of New Mexico a few years ago illustrates what's in store; the New Mexico High Court reached the sensible result on behalf of equality values, but I'm sure other courts will not do as well.
*"OUTLAW" is the usual name of the LGBT student group at American law schools.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)