The latest sexual harassment scandal in academic philosophy has, predictably, brought the usual know-nothing pontificators out in force, busy signaling their rectitude while actually harming the interests of the complainant against Pogge. Let me explain.
We are told by Jonathan Ichikawa (British Columbia) that the "presumption of innocence,"
is rightly considered a pillar of civilised society. But people have a tendency to over-apply it in irrelevant cases. The presumption of your innocence means that the state can't punish you for a crime unless it proves that you committed it. That's it. It has nothing to do with how one individual should treat or think about another, or whether an organisation should develop or continue a relationship with an accused individual. The presumption of innocence doesn't protect you from being unfriended on facebook, or shunned at conferences, or widely thought by other people to be a criminal. It just protects from being criminally convicted.
Why is the "presumption of innocence" considered "a pillar of civilized society"? Presumably because there is moral value in avoiding sanctioning the innocent, and we can avoid sanctioning the innocent if we shift the burden of proof to the accuser. That moral value exists outside the legal context, though it is particularly important in the legal context because the sanctions are very serious. But even when the sanctions are less serious, the moral value of the presumption remains. Think of it this way: the First Amendment protection of free speech prevents the state from sanctioning you for the content of your speech (except under very special circumstances), but that doesn't mean "freedom of speech" has no value, and deserves no moral weight, in contexts other than the exercise of state power. I do not suggest that there should be a legal remedy for "unfriending" on Facebook or for swarmy pontificators and shunners like Ichikawa et al., but I do think it obvious that a "presumption of innocence" plays a useful role in regulating our informal dealings with others, even if it is a defeasible assumption (and is defeated in this case, about which more in a moment).
We are also told by too many sanctimonious posturers to link to that one must always "believe" (alleged) victims. This is idiotic general advice, regardless of the victims or the alleged wrongdoing. Those who claim to be victims sometimes lie, dissemble or misremember, just like other human beings. While observers without much information should err on the side of caution and consideration for possible victims, they have no reason to accept any complaint at face value.
But this is particularly idiotic advice to trot out when, as in the case of Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, the evidence in support of her allegations doesn't require us to invoke an irrational principle of deference. Consider what is now on the table by way of evidence: the fact that Professor Pogge was sanctioned for sexual harassment at Columbia University; the fact that he confirmed in correspondence with 'Aye' a general modus operandi in pursuit of young women of color that she described in detail (much of this conduct may have been lawful, but it was certainly creepy, and creepy in a way that is on a continuum with all the other allegations); now Fernanda's allegations of sexual harassment (including allegations that are not in dispute, such as the fact that Professor Pogge asked his female research assistant, who had just graduated college, to share a hotel room in a foreign country, and that he slept with his head on her lap during a lengthy plane ride--normal professionals don't do shit like this, period); and now, just today, more testimony about creepy behavior by Professor Pogge towards an undergraduate.
All of the preceding more than suffices to defeat any presumption of innocence in the present instance.