Another very interesting piece on the issue du jour in American universities.
Another very interesting piece on the issue du jour in American universities.
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.
(Thanks to David Dudrick for the pointer.)
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.
The Brown economist Glenn Loury responds:
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.
...but putting an appropriate and discerning spin on the "infant" aspect:
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.
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.
ADDENDUM: It appears they revised #5, if anyone has a copy of the original version, send it to me. (It's still pretty bad.)
ANOTHER: Philosopher David Merli (Franklin & Marshall) kindly sends along the November 13th versions of #5 and #6:
5. President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” and “Free Speech” posters. Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.
6. President Martin must issue a statement of support for the revision of the Honor Code to reflect a zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech.
I can't wait to read the definition of "racial insensitivity" for which there is zero-tolerance. This spectacle could be the end of Amherst College.
Kate Manne (Cornell) and Jason Stanley (Yale) have a piece purportedly on recent events at Yale here. (Some if it invokes some of Jason's ideas about propaganda, discussed here. I won't rehash any of the criticisms made in that review, though it does seem to me this is another case of treating everything as a nail because you have a hammer.) I find it a disappointing and misleading intervention (and I've heard similar comments from other philosophers), and for the sake of the reputation of our discipline, I would urge philosophers to write letters to the editor; feel free to make any of the points, below.
The trouble comes early, when Manne and Stanley write:
More worryingly still, [the students] are held to be attacking freedom of speech rather than exercising it to call for institutional reform....
Rather obviously, they can be, and were, doing both. In spitting on speakers, petitioning for the removal of people from their jobs because of their speech, and heaping vulgar abuse in public on a faculty member in order to shut him down, they are trying to suppress and punish speech. Why pretend otherwise? At the same time, some students (maybe some of the same ones!) were speaking on behalf of institutional reforms. Perhaps someone, somewhere has called for shutting down that lawful speech; if so, they are mistaken too.
There was a funny, if over-the-top piece by a Harvard Law Student, denouncing the "fascist" techniques of some of the students at Yale. The word "fascist" is being abused here: the "fascist" response doesn't involve spitting or cursing, it involves breaking people's head open with bats. But put the hyperbole aside, the author correctly identifies the misconduct at issue (substitute "behavior incompatible with the functions of a university" for "fascist," and "speech compatible with the functions of a university" for "not fascist" and you'll get the point):
|Tactic||Fascist or Not Fascist?||Explanation|
|Blocking people you disagree with on Facebook||Not Fascist||Maybe a bad idea, but you’re not actively transgressing on another person’s right to speech.|
|Calling for people to be fired for expressing their beliefs||Fascist||You are (1) calling for reprisals (2) for people expressing what they believe.|
|Organizing a protest against an editorial you disagree with||Not Fascist||You are condemning a belief you disagree with, but not trying to punish the speaker for saying it.|
|Calling to defund a newspaper for publishing an editorial you disagree with||Fascist||You are (1) calling for reprisals (2) for people expressing themselves.|
|Putting up fliers demeaning people that disagree with you||Not Fascist||Using an ad hominem attack is silly and hurtful, but does not use positions of authority to punish free speech.|
|Spitting on people attending a meeting you disagree with||Fascist||You are (1) committing a crime against someone (2) because they exercised their free speech.|
|Calling for a University to change its seal||Not Fascist||You are not punishing anyone for their beliefs. Not fascist in the slightest!|
|Tearing down fliers that you disagree with||Fascist||You are (1) committing a crime against someone’s property (2) because they exercised their free speech.|
|Condemning people for wearing offensive Halloween costumes on Facebook||Not Fascist||You are expressing indignation at someone else’s choices, but not calling for them to be punished because of their expression.|
|Calling for students to be expelled for wearing offensive Halloween costumes||Fascist||You are (1) calling for reprisals (2) for people expressing themselves (even if in a hurtful, offensive way).|
Manne and Stanley simply obscure what is at issue, not once acknowledging that calling for people to be fired for their expression, or spitting on them, or heaping vulgar abuse on them to shut them up are not behaviors compatible with a functioning university environment--as little as racist abuse and racial discrimination are. But the key difference, of course, is that no one is rationalizing or justifying the latter, whereas lots of people--even philosophers!--are rationalizing the former.
Manne and Stanley repeatedly obliterate the pertinent distinctions throughout their essay, setting up their opponent as a strawman. For example:
Following Christakis’s email, protests erupted among students of color and their supporters. Their political activity has since been written off by many commentators as a silly tantrum thrown in response to a one-off email, rather than a reaction to chronic, structural racial injustice — such as the persistent paucity of black faculty members and administrators at Yale, the common experience of being the only black student in some classes, and being disproportionately likely to be stopped and asked for ID — or worse — by campus police officers, as students have movingly testified. An article in the National Review went so far as to call these students of color "defective people from defective families" — an eyebrow-raising choice of language.
Students responded to Christakis's odd e-mail (see the careful discussion of its actual content here) by calling for her to be fired. When her husband defended her, they called for him to be fired, leading to the now notorious mob scene. This is what is objectionable: that students respond to ordinary speech and a defense of free speech with calls for sanction and vulgar abuse by a mob intent on intimidating the speaker. (Manne and Stanley even manage to misrepresent the absurd National Review piece [a tantrum in its own right]: the "defective families" being criticized have nothing to do with race, rather the author is explicitly attacking "a certain strain of upper-middle-class American culture that cultivates an excess of self-importance that grows cancerous when it isn’t counteracted by a deep understanding that the world is full of things that are much more important than you are...That American striver culture has many invaluable aspects...but in the absence of transcendent values it turns everybody into a miniature Donald Trump.")
This whitewash of the objectionable behavior pervades the Manne & Stanley piece. Describing the reaction to the Associate Master's e-mail opposing the campus-wide e-mail about Halloween, they write: "the students then opposed her opposition--alleging that she ought not to have spoken as she did, given her position as associate master of Silliman College. And many pundits have, in turn, opposed their opposition--holding that the students ought not to be protesting thus..." But the alleged "symmetries" here are fabrications by Manne and Stanley: the students didn't simply criticize or "oppose" the Associate Master, they launched a petition to have her fired; when her husband came to her defense, they added him to the list of people who needed to be sanctioned for their speech. When the husband tried to talk with the students, he was shouted down and subjected to vulgar abuse. That is what sane people are objecting to: some students are behaving horribly and utterly differently than those they are criticizing.
It's true that sometimes "sounding reasonable can be a luxury," but not at a university: it's how the whole place works. And, contrary to Manne and Stanley, it's quite clear the student concerns, despite the absurd misconduct by some, have been met with a "receptive, even sympathetic audience" (contrary to Manne and Stanley's suggestion that the students could not presume such an audience). Witness not only the Master's forced apology, but now this interview with Yale's Dean of the College (who does, tactfully, note towards the end that today's students are less "resilient"). Ivy League students, including students of color, enjoy unprecedented attention and solicitude. (You'll notice there's not even been any talk of disciplinary action against any of the students engaged in the documented misconduct.) 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. Racially tinged rudeness and insensitivity (e.g., so-called "microaggressions") is not the same as murder or beatings: why cheapen the coin of racist "violence" by abusing the language this way? Thank God there are no bodies on the pavement at Yale.
Yale students have legitimate grievances (e.g., the scandal of a college named for an apologist for chattel slavery!). And it's sometimes true that (as Manne and Stanley write) the "notion of freedom of speech is...co-opted by dominant social groups, distorted to serve their interests, and used to silence those who are oppressed and marginalized." But it is an irrelevant point when, in fact, some of the Yale students are trying to suppress the kind of free speech that is part of academic life, and through tactics--calls for firings, spitting, shouting down by a mob--that would spell its end.
It is true that "the protesting Yale undergraduates have become pawns in the culture wars," but it is false that it is a mere "myth" that some of them pose "threats to freedom of speech": they obviously do in the ways noted. Why can't Manne and Stanley acknowledge that? It's mystifying.
ADDENDUM: Several readers point out that Manne and Stanley also, falsely, state that "hate speech" is an exception to the constitutional protection for speech, along with 'fighting words" and slander. Although this mistake is perhaps telling, it's also largely irrelevant to what is so wrong-headed with the argument in this piece. The Constitution does not constrain Yale, and it's constraint on public universities is tempered by Pickering and progency, as we discussed in the context of the Salaita case.
UPDATE: For those interested in reactions to the preceding, see here.
Professor Sanders asked me to share the following:
In an email earlier today to faculty and staff of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson announced the approval of a negotiated settlement with Dr. Steven Salaita, whose offer of appointment as an Associate Professor of American Indian Studies had been revoked last year. Throughout the ensuing controversy, the Department of Philosophy at UIUC repeatedly proved itself a vocal opponent of the revocation of Dr. Salaita’s offer and a strong supporter of academic freedom and shared governance more generally.
Ours was the first unit on campus outside of American Indian Studies to approve a resolution of “no confidence” in the Chancellor, President, and Board of Trustees. Several members of our faculty were deeply involved in efforts in the Academic Senate and across campus to seek Dr. Salaita’s reinstatement and to publicly reaffirm the university’s commitments to core principles of academic freedom and shared governance.
While the university remains under AAUP censure as the result of the actions of its administration and Board of Trustees at the time, it is important to note that the key players in the decision to fire Dr. Salaita no longer occupy positions of power at UIUC. The former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chris Kennedy, no longer sits on the Board; former President Robert Easter retired; and former Chancellor Phyllis Wise and former Provost Ilesanmi Adesida resigned their respective positions following the revelation that they had used non-university email accounts for university business in an apparent attempt to evade Freedom of Information Act requests, including ones related to the Salaita case.
Now that Dr. Salaita himself has agreed to a financial settlement, the motivation for the academic boycott of UIUC that arose in response to his case would seem to be entirely gone. Though the pledge that so many of our colleagues in Philosophy signed stated in part: “We, the undersigned, will not visit the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus until Professor Salaiata is reinstated to the position offered him …,” the terms of Dr. Salaita’s settlement effectively preclude the possibility of reinstatement.
While we respect Dr. Salaita’s decision to settle rather than to continue to pursue the matter in the courts, despite the clear merits of his case, a financial settlement of the sort agreed to leaves many of the core issues regarding the university's commitment to principles of academic freedom and shared governance unresolved in a way that his reinstatement would not. The AAUP report on UIUC suggested that a retraction -- or at least clarification -- of certain comments made by Chancellor Wise and the Board of Trustees concerning "civility" in the infamous mass emails of August 22, 2014, will also be a necessary condition of ending censure. Now that the legal issues surrounding Dr. Saliata's firing seem to have been resolved, one hopes that such a retraction will soon follow.
In the meantime, it is my sincere hope that colleagues in Philosophy across the country and around the world will once again feel comfortable accepting invitations to come and speak on our campus. We’ve missed having you here.
Statement from Salaita's lawyers here. Some portion of that settlement will go to legal fees (my guess would be around a quarter million). I'll have more to say later, once I get some more details.
ADDENDUM: The Urbana-Champaign newspaper reports that $275,000 goes towards Salaita's legal fees, and he gets $600,000. Note that that amount will be subject to federal (and probably state) tax. (Damages to compensate for physical injuries--say, in a medical malpractice case--are generally not taxable, but damages in a case like this [breach of contract, violation of constitutional rights) will be.) It's not clear yet whether there is any confidentiality agreement between the parties in place; hopefully not. I'll have more to say about the settlement later today.
ONE MORE QUICK ONE: My own view is that, with the settlement, there is no further productive reason for continuing to boycott the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
SOME FURTHER OBSERVATIONS: Notice that with roughly a year of litigation, just enough to survive the motion to dismiss, the case has already cost over a quarter million in legal fees. If Salaita had gone through discovery, other motions, then a trial and to a verdict, additional legal fees would have easily topped a million dollars (note that, according to the report, above, the University of Illinois has already spent well over a million dollars so far defending itself!). As I've noted previously, institutional actors have the resource advantage in cases like this. In a best-case scenario, if Salaita had gone to trial and gotten a verdict in his favor on some of his claims (as I expect he would), he might have gotten several million in damages and perhaps some legal fees (some of his civil rights claims might have included legal fees, other claims would not). All of this could easily have taken two or three more years. And, of course, there was a chance that instead of getting compensated for 30 years of employment, he might have gotten smaller damages and/or he might have lost. (If this had gone forward, one can rest assured that the University of Illinois lawyers would spend a lot of their time smearing Salaita even further, both by using his tweets and by pointing to his employment status [assuming, as seems likely, that he would not be able to secure permanent employment while the litigation was ongoing]--who knows how that might have played with a jury?)
At the end of the day, the question is: if, say, there is an 80% chance of getting three million dollars after three years, of which half the amount will go towards legal fees, and a 20% chance of a far worse outcome...well, you can see how the calculations would go. Salaita was deprived of a job that paid $85,000/year plus benefits (maybe worth another 25K?). In effect, he has gotten compensation for about six years without having to wait any further. He can hopefully resume his academic work and secure permanent employment, pointing to the legal and non-legal (e.g., AAUP censure) evidence that he was treated wrongfully. I hope a courageous private (or even public?) university will seize the opportunity to make a strong statement in support of academic freedom by hiring Salaita: in doing so they will get someone who was tenure-worthy at a major research university, and someone who also behaved with admirable courage and clarity of purpose when subjected to grotesque malfeasance by now disgraced university officials and Board members.
ANOTHER: Lawyer/philosopher John Bogart writes: "People often forget the appeal process. If the University lost at trial, it could easily afford the appeal bond, leaving Salaita to slog through the appeal. That is another couple of years and more fees. And if he gets a fee award for some but not all claims, then his fees have to allocated among the claims (to the extent reasonably possible)." All good points.
It examines the e-mail and the reaction (including the petition) in some detail. The author notes:
Christakis believes that he has an obligation to listen to the views of the students, to reflect upon them, and to either respond that he is persuaded or to articulate why he has a different view. Put another way, he believes that one respects students by engaging them in earnest dialogue. But many of the students believe that his responsibility is to hear their demands for an apology and to issue it. They see anything short of a confession of wrongdoing as unacceptable. In their view, one respects students by validating their subjective feelings.
Prof. Strossen, former head of the ACLU, focused in particular on the implications of the Office of Civil Rights expansive interpretation of speech that can constitute sexual harassment.
There's a lengthy account here along with three videos; the third is the most shocking. The student behaving that way should be subject to disciplinary proceedings for her abusive misconduct. The student reader who sent this to me asked not to be named (for fear of repercussions given how nuts philosophy cyberspace is), but offered the following apt commentary:
Note the typical absolutist rhetoric of "acknowledging hurt". One must simply answer the question and acknowledge that one had bad thoughts that need to be corrected. Red Herrings are offered in order to rule out the possibility that there is nothing that needs to be apologized for: "We're not saying that you're intrinsically bad for having the bad thoughts. We just want to help correct you. Even if it wasn't your intent, you still caused hurt and need to apologize." The ideology simply does not provide room in logical space for the possibility that the student was being over-sensitive. The real crux of the discussion occurs about 30 seconds into the third clip. It is the precise moment when Christakis says "I don't agree, I have a different vision than you" that the student explodes in rage. Note also how Christakis has been encircled by a couple dozen students shouting him down and demanding his resignation for not providing them a safe space. No doubt the irony is lost on them.
This account sums things up. What an embarrassment for Yale.
According to the Philosophy Metablog, philosopher Aidan McGlynn (Edinburgh) could not let the embarrassing reaction to a link to Les Green's piece on Greer earlier this week rest. Please note that what Dr. McGlynn referred to as a "problematic" and "offensive" article is this perfectly sensible and informed analysis of the sense in which gender is a social construct and its bearing on the question whether or not transgender women are women. The thought crime at issue was Justin Weinberg's linking to one small part of this essay by the Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford University (who, as informed readers will know, has written quite a lot of important work about sexuality and gender). Here's McGlynn (in part):
I’m still disappointed with [Justin Weinberg]. The twitter post that created the fuss is still up, days after people pointed out how problematic it is, and Justin’s preferred tactic seems to be to ignore many of the people raising concerns (particularly Rachel)....First, some people don’t see anything wrong with linking to a problematic or offensive article so long as it’s made clear which bits one is cherry-picking. I don’t agree, and I don’t agree that it was clear in this instance....This discussion has nothing to do with ‘thought-policing’ (though in fairness, to my knowledge only one person has suggested otherwise). We’re not talking about Justin’s thoughts – we’re talking about what’s on the twitter feed associated with one of the places members of the profession need to go to for information and discussion concerning issues about the profession. Moreover, this is clearly how Justin took my remarks – he explicitly responded in terms of what he thought appropriate to take a stand on with the twitter feed associated with the Daily Nous [blog]. No one should expect Leiter to care about that distinction, of course....
It's fair to say I don't "care about" an irrelevant distinction, but put that aside. This finger-wagging produced a number of rude and sometimes quite apt rebukes at the Metablog, of which this one made me laugh:
The vocabulary is one of the main things I just can't stand: 'I'm still disappointed... deeply problematic...' Don't these people realize they sound like passive-aggressive schoolteachers, as reimagined by your worst nightmare? I actually prefer McKinnon's style to this, and that's really saying something.
And then there's the suggestion that it doesn't count as 'thought-policing' unless it involves the metaphysically impossible feat of actually policing people's thoughts. Does McGlynn seriously doubt that, if the relevant people could do that (whatever that would amount to), they would?
But the best was this gem, which is worth reposting and linking to anytime these "pathologically self-righteous...fundamentalists" start their sermons:
The vocab is hard to keep up with. Should we start a running glossary?
"Problematic": adj. (of arguments) false; (of pratices) must be banned; (of utterances) must be retracted and apologised for; (of tweets) must be deleted;
"Free speech": n. a problematic concept [see above]
"Censorship": n. the alleged suppression of problematic ideas, a largely mythical practice. [compare "silence"]
"Silence": v. (1) to ignore, not talk about. (2) to disagree with (3) to discuss a marginalized individual [see below] in terms they would prefer not to be discussed
"erase": v. synonym for silence
"identity": n. an (esp. marginalised) individual's conception of themself. NB all other definitions, such as those which have been explored by philosophers over the past two millennia, are problematic [see above]
"offense" - n. something nobody ever complained about [compare "harm"]
"harm" - the inevitable consequence of erasing [see above] an individuals identity [see above]
"listen" - (to a marginalised individual), agree with, show deference to,
"bully" - v. synonym for erase
"expert" - n. a marginalised person
"educate" - v. to inform a non-marginalised person of the correct opinion
"safe space" - one in which no identity is erased. Unsafe spaces are problematic [see above].
When I asked Dr. McGlynn via e-mail whether he had written the piece in question, he acknowledged doing so, but added, "I have been reflecting on this, and I have subsequently decided that I should not have written it. Therefore having initially edited it, I have taken down the entire post from my facebook page. Please accept my apologies." I am happy to accept his apology, though I don't feel he owes me one. I worry, alas, that the views expressed are consistent with the views he has expressed elsewhere, and are indicative of how some (hopefully small) portion of the profession thinks about these issues. Since this way of thinking is anathema to academic life, it's time for those who believe in freedom of thought and discourse to object, and object strenuously.
Meanwhile, Rachel McKinnon (Charleston) continues her twitter tirade against Justin Weinberg* (South Carolina), whom she apparently believed to be an "ally." (Her idea of an "ally" seems to be what everyone else would probably call "a spineless toady.") In any case, I will let Prof. McKinnon speak for herself:
Les Green (Oxford) has an illuminating discussion of the tempest in a teapot du jour; a taste:
Sex is cluster-concept, a bundle of attributes, some of which do not develop until puberty or later. And gender is another cluster-concept. Gender is constituted by norms and values that are conventionally considered appropriate for people of a given sex. Gender is a lot more vague than sex, and a lot more historically and geographically variable.
But gender has another interesting feature. It is path dependent. To be a woman is for the pertinent norms and values to apply a result of a certain life history. Being a woman is not only ‘socially constructed’, as they say, it is also constructed by the path from one’s past to one’s present. In our society, to be a woman is to have arrived there by a certain route: for instance, by having been given a girl’s name, by having been made to wear girl’s clothes, by having been excluded from boys’ activities, by having made certain adaptations to the onset of puberty, and by having been seen and evaluated in specific ways. That is why the social significance of being a penis-free person is different for those who never had a penis than it is for those who use to have one and then cut it off.
The whole piece is worth reading.
Ironically, in the last paragraph, Green writes,
Greer’s remarks are correct and are neither dangerous nor hateful. The number of critics of students who supposedly want to ‘no-platform’ speakers dwarfs the number of students who want to ‘no-platform‘ anyone. Maybe the transgender tsunami hit the press, not because of some seismic event in our universities, but because commentators want threats to freedom of speech and inquiry to come from a politically safe source.
The second sentence, alas, is unduly hopeful. Nearly 3,000 people signed the petition to cancel Greer's talk, and incidents like this are cropping up all over the U.K. and the U.S. In the U.K., there are certainly other more serious (government) threats to free speech, but that is neither here nor there: at least those threats are recognized, usually, as wrongful, while the "I'm offended" crowd thinks their authoritarian preoccupation with controlling thought and speech puts them on the moral high ground.
As if to make the point how wrong Green is in that last paragraph, note the reaction when one tweeter, Justin Weinberg (South Carolina), quoted only the bit from the last paragraph, ignoring the actual substance of Green's essay. He was denounced quickly and furiously by those purportedly rare "no-platform" folks. Aidan McGlynn (Edinburgh) demands clarification whether Weinberg is endorsing the actual content of the piece. Toby Meadows (Aberdeen) worries that Weinberg is making a "broad endorsement" of the whole piece. Weinberg then tries desperately to deny that he has committed a thought crime: "I was clear in response to Aidan what exactly in Green’s post I was endorsing." And then from Rachel McKinnon (Charleston) there's this: "You're endorsing a post that *agrees* with Greer's transphobic view of trans women. How do you not see that?" And also this:
@DailyNousEditor So if I say "The sky is blue" in a post on "The Nazis were right about the Jews," you'd endorse my post? Seriously?
@rachelvmckinnon Hi. I’ve been on a plane. Can’t engage now but look forward to learning more about this from you soon.
Which produces the following from McKinnon:
I'm not optimistic either, given that these people may be the future of the "profession." In any case, Green's nuanced discussion is worth reading.
UPDATE: It's good to see that Prof. McKinnon has learned from this episode that throwing a tantrum because someone committed a thought crime (or, in this case, a link crime!) and trying to bully them into submission on Twitter is not the right way to behave. Or maybe she didn't?
Argh, I'm too busy writing my second book and 4 new articles to deal with this distraction. Fuck y'all. I'm going back to work.0 retweets 5 favorites
ADDENDUM: Even the metablog is feeling sorry for Weinberg! (For those not familiar, the irony is that Weinberg has repeatedly championed violations of academic freedom and punishment of lawful speech in the name of sensitivity to the children.)
Here. The idea that anything Greer said is "hate speech" is preposterous, but also shows how dangerous that category can be in the hands of zealots.
The response to Greer and her alleged transphobia is just one example of a creeping trend among social justice activists of an identitarian persuasion: a tendency towards ideological totalism, the attempt to determine not only what policies and actions are acceptable, but what thoughts and beliefs are, too. Contemporary identity-based social justice activism is increasingly displaying the kinds of totalising and authoritarian tactics that we usually associate with cults or quasi-religious movements which aim to control the thoughts and inner lives of their members. The doctrine of "gender identity" – the idea that people possess an essential inner gender that is independent both of their sexed body and of the social reality of being treated as a person with such a body – has rapidly been elevated to the status of quasi-religious belief, such that those who do not subscribe to it are seen as not only mistaken and misguided, but dangerous and threatening, and must therefore be silenced.
If you haven't witnessed this first hand, this might sound a touch hyperbolic and overwrought. But in the methods and reactions of those who espouse the doctrine of gender identity, we see many, if not all, of the features of thought control identified by Robert Jay Lifton in his classic study of indoctrination in Chinese re-education camps, to varying degrees:
As with so many of the current high-profile no-platforming cases, Greer is being ostracised and shunned, cast out of our moral community and declared beyond redemption, simply for the crime of believing the wrong things, of holding the wrong thoughts in her head, of defining concepts in ways that run counter to those of the newly-established doctrine of gender identity. It is not sufficient to behave towards trans women in a certain way, to respect their preferred pronouns and to support their right to receive the medical treatment they need. You must also really and truly believe that they are women. And if you cannot be made to hold this subjective mental state in your head, that is sufficient to justify silencing you, in the name of protecting the believers.
What all of this assumes is that we have the right to make these kinds of claims on each other's inner lives. It supposes that I can legitimately demand that you believe the things I believe in order to validate my identity, that I can demand that you share my perception of myself because it would be injurious to that perception if you do not. And from there, it's a quick step to the belief that if you do not share my perception of myself, you are committing an act of psychic violence against me. That by refusing to accept the narrative I tell myself about who I am, you harm me just as much as if you really did incite physical violence against me. Thus I become justified in using any tactics at my disposal to ensure that you see me the way I see myself, in making use authoritarian methods of thought control and indoctrination. Acceptance of the doctrine is the only path to salvation and enlightenment, and dissenting views are not only mistaken, but threatening - both to my understanding of myself, and to the ideology itself.
We're familiar with this in academic philosophy too, though mostly, so far, in the bowels of cyberspace. But if the current offenders actually get academic jobs and/or get tenure, then we will be in real trouble.
"New Infantilism" has clearly touched a nerve, and readers now regularly send me apt illustrations of this unhappy development. A few recent ones:
The attack on lawful speech at UCLA (via Curtis Franks).
South Park makes fun of "safe spaces." (A graduate student, whom I'd best not identify given the censorious atmosphere in certain dysfunctional parts of academic philosophy.)
Reader Michael B. sends along this item from Wales and sums up the stupidity aptly:
By now you know the routine: someone says something that some students don't like, so the students quickly muster their rage and start a petition to have that invited speaker banned. Which makes sense: universities are neither the time nor the place to hear or read, much less discuss, things with which one disagrees...
I remember Bertrand Russell writing that he would get attacked by angry mobs when he tried to talk about equality between men and women. Some of the worst were women who would react dramatically to the planned release of rats by saboteurs with whom these women were in cahoots. I suppose these students are too stupid and arrogant to realise their chosen tactic of silencing unpopular (with them) opinions is exactly what kept - and helps keep - people oppressed.
They belong in a church, not a university.
And here is an interview with Germaine Greer about this latest.
...because he really finds homosexuality yucky. It would be less of a disgrace if he just stated the latter clearly and admitted the role that religious dogma plays in driving this whole display.
(Thanks to David Austin for the pointer.)
Posted by Brian Leiter on October 10, 2015 at 09:44 AM in Academic Freedom, Of Cultural Interest, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
MOVING TO FRONT FROM OCTOBER 7--UPDATED INFORMATION IN THE COMMENTS
Jamin Asay, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong, writes:
I'm writing to let you and your readers know about some of the struggles over academic freedom that are taking place in Hong Kong right now.
Fears about encroachment from mainland China into Hong Kong politics are of ongoing concern across the territory, and there is growing worry that the autonomy of the universities in Hong Kong is under attack. The latest dustup revolves around the blocking of the appointment of Professor Johannes Chan to a senior leadership position by the University of Hong Kong Council, a body that includes several members appointed by Hong Kong's Chief Executive. Chan's appointment was blocked despite a unanimous recommendation of him for the post by the selection committee, and many suspect that political reasons are the source of his rejection. As former dean of HKU's law school, Chan is a colleague of Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the "Occupy Central" movement that overtook Hong Kong one year ago. Many believe that this action of the Council is serving as a punishment to HKU for its role in Occupy Central and the "Umbrella Movement", as many of the leaders of the movement are students or staff at HKU. Background on the issue can be found here:
My colleague Timothy O'Leary, Professor of Philosophy and Head of the School of Humanities, is one of the leaders of a protest movement to fight back against any threats to academic freedom in Hong Kong. He helped to organize a silent protest march yesterday that attracted upwards of 2,000 HKU students and staff, and future demonstrations are in the works. News reports on yesterday's protest are here:
I'm hoping you and your readers will stand in solidarity with us in Hong Kong, and will be pleased to know that philosophers are at the front lines of the battle.
I'm opening comments for more information about the situation in Hong Kong.
...has a "safe space policy" which, in non-Orwellian language, is actually a "policy to suppress speech in the name of equality", as its application to the lesbian feminist writer Julie Bindel plainly demonstrates. (Thanks to Phil in an earlier thread for pointing this out.) This is the road some would like American universities to head down, alas. I wonder if anyone familiar with Manchester and this policy can comment on how frequently it is invoked for the suppression of speech that is clearly not unlawful, even under English law?
UPDATE: As explained by several commenters, the Student Union (responsible for the "safe space policy") is a legally distinct entity from the University, over which the latter has, it appears, no control.
...but this comment by a student who subsequently complained about the professor's failed pedagogy is very telling:
“My mind was racing but physically, I was frozen,” she wrote. “How do I react to this? In high school, I would have walked out of the room straight to my car. I would have called my mother on the way home, and she would have arrived at the front office in under an hour to rip the principal and his employees a new one. All is well when you are young and do not have to deal with these issues head-on. But in college my mother is over 1,800 miles away. This time around I was on my own.”
UPDATE: Here's the full statement by the complaining student--the one whose Mom wasn't available this time. Its contempt for tenure and for academic freedom is appalling. Its inability to distinguish between racism and failed pedagogy is also alarming.
(Thanks to Paul Elbourne for the pointer.)
ADDENDUM: I'm opening comments, in case anyone has more information about the actual content of the banned publication.
(Thanks to a reader who asked not to be named for the pointers.)
ADDENDUM: Things are going a bit further off the rails at the second link, alas, but there's one interesting comment a bit further down worth noting, so I quote it here:
What's tiresome about the Rini piece is that she writes as if those of us interested in promoting dignity for all individuals and groups are somehow blind to the importance of solidarity with the marginalized.
We're not. Solidarity is *obviously* very important. We are, however, suspicious of this particular instantiation of solidarity, because it is bound up with a variety of ills that conflict with other important values. Trigger warnings, overzealous speech codes, changes to syllabi, and the need for "safe spaces," are all outgrowths of this instantiation of solidarity, all cause real intellectual harm, and all cater to a childish mentality.
Moreover, there is a performative aspect to all of this, amplified by social media, that is simply off-putting. And the performative element feels increasingly 'mandatory' in some quarters; one's denunciation of the most recent outrage must be swift, harsh, and public.
Rini is of course under no intellectual obligation to address all of this. But then, to whom is she really talking? Does she really believe that those of us who object to 'call out' culture are uninterested in solidarity, or do not recognize it when we see it? We recognize it, but at the same time we also recognize other characteristics that ought to be kept at arms' length. This latter insight doesn't disqualify one from upholding the value of solidarity, and claiming that it does is simply another feature of this increasingly ridiculous debate.
If I were Cary Nelson, I would call for his tenure to be revoked for lack of collegiality.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM SEPTEMBER 17, GIVEN THE RATHER LIVELY (AND GENERALLY SUBSTANTIVE) DISCUSSION IN THE COMMENT THREAD
Philosopher Tomis Kapitan (emeritus, Northern Illinois) writes:
I think it would be interesting and appropriate to see discussion of academic boycotts as a tool of political protest and persuasion, specifically in relation to the BDS movement and Israeli policies in the occupied territories. A recent article in the Electronic Intifada raises issues that some American philosophers might be interested in.
Comments are open. Please try to keep it substantive and calm.
I will state my own view (which everyone is welcome to reject or dispute): while there might be situations in which academic boycotts would be effective tools of political persuasion, Israel is not one of them. An academic boycott would punish innocent parties, without any prospect at all that the government would change its policy because of the inconvenience to academics. Economic boycotts or sanctions would surely make a much greater difference to Israeli policy towards the occupied territories.
Kate Manne, an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell, has an op-ed on "trigger warnings" in the New York Times. She makes some good points contra this piece (though that piece was not primarily about "trigger warnings"), but elides the real issues which are: (1) PTSD is a clinical diagnosis, and no one I know has argued against (legally required) accomodations for someone with that medical condition; (2) instructors, with no clinical competence, making ad hoc judgments about what warnings *might* be necessary for students who *might* have PTSD is an invitation to both insufficient accomodation and unnecessary "warnings" that may have, as their consequence, precisely what the critics claim, namely, shutting down discussion. Prof. Manne is aware of the latter risk, but says only that, "Common sense should tell us that material that is merely offensive to certain people’s political or religious sensibilities wouldn’t merit a warning." Common sense is sometimes in short supply, alas (The Atlantic article is actually full of useful examples.)
ADDENDUM: The AAUP statement is also useful, and see esp. its discussion of the Oberlin policy, which was distinctly lacking in "common sense."
The government directs universities to close down humanities and social science faculties, and many universities will comply. Can any readers supply pertinent context, links, more information?
Interesting report here, though I'm not aware of the loss in the philosophy department alluded to (unless they are referring to the political/legal philosopher Colleen Murphy switching her main appointment to law, though she is still in philosophy).
UPDATE: A reader reports that Andrew Arana, previously at Illinois, has moved to the Sorbonne.
ANOTHER: Prof. Murphy tells me that Jonathan Waskan (philosophy of science), previously a tenured associate professor, decided to leave academia. She reports that none of these developments (Waskan's, Arana's, or hers) were related to the Salaita affair.
IHE has a good account (thanks to several readers who sent this along). Having looked at one of the syllabi in question, I should note that it prohibited use of words like "The Man" and "colored people." I imagine the instructor was motivated to include those based on past experience. And an instructor is well within her legal rights to discourage use of pejorative terms like these. Students in a classroom at a public university do not enjoy unbridled First Amendment rights, just as instructors don't either: both are subject to reasonable regulation to insure a constructive educational environment. (Recall our earlier discussion of Pickering in connection with the Salaita case.) Some of the syllabi arguably overreached, both in what language they sought to regulate and in specifying excessive punitive measures. Anyway, what's really noticeable here is that despite the right-wing crazy storm in cyberspace by the usual smear merchants, Washington State came up with a balanced response that corrected the excesses without caving in to the witch hunt.
More on Canada's apparently most dysfunctional university. The culture of bullying clearly extends to the philosophy department, where Alan Richardson (the Chair of the Department at UBC and a longtime PGR hater, going back to 2002!) tried to bully colleagues, as we've since learned, into signing last fall's PGR boycott statement, until there was a backlash in the department--at which point Richardson had to make clear that he and Jenkins didn't want to force anyone to sign. Once that happened, five members of the Department who had signed prior to the release of the statement withdrew their names just days before its publication! (Amusingly, outside UBC, David Velleman also withdrew his name too: he obviously realized it was absurd to suggest that my derisive e-mail to Carrie Jenkins after she threatened me was especially "harmful" because of my role in the PGR.)
One can garner some insight into the institutional pathology at UBC by viewing this statement of university policy (which calls to mind this) and contrasting it, say, with a statement about fundamental principles from a serious university.
ADDENDUM: The Board Chair has (at least temporarily) stepped aside, while the investigation proceeds.
More here. Another hopeful sign--Chancellor Wise is gone, Board Chair Chris Kennedy is gone, now the Provost. With the original micreants out of the way, this will make it much easier to reach a settlement with Salaita, involving reinstatement, and rescuing the reputation of the University (and saving it millions).
This rather odd piece is making the rounds (thanks to reader David Zimmerman for sending it to me initially). It is titled, "5 Reasons to Be Skeptical of 'Campus Coddling' Scare Pieces," alluding to this. Oddly, though, there's only one actual reason given, since the other four points are irrelevant to whether or not these "scare pieces" are accurate. Here are the five purported reasons:
1. Most of the examples to support these pieces are purely anecdotal
True, but what in the world would data even look like in this context? And the denial that there is a problem is, of course, anecdotal too. What's clear by now is that there are a lot of anecdotes from a lot of different places; if they have anything in common that would caution against generalizing it is that they come overwhelmingly from elite colleges and universities, which probably have disproportionate numbers of coddled, spoiled narcissists in the student body.
2. Conservatives are in fact more likely to be “sensitive” and “babyish” about content, yet all the alarm is about liberalism.
Even if this were true, it would be irrelevant to the claims about the "New Infantilism" on campus. But is it true? The author offers this further non-sequitur:
A recent op-ed in the Washington Post also used facts and numbers to push back on the idea that “political correctness” was a left-wing phenomenon. Citing a survey about censorship, Catherine Rampell noted that: “In almost every category, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to endorse book bans.” Why is no one calling these censorious types squeamish babies who demand to be coddled?
Well, for one things, the attempts to ban books are not happening at colleges, typically, but at the pre-collegiate public schools, and one typically calls those trying to ban books more unpleasant names, e.g., "fascists" or "the Texas Taliban."
3. There may be real ways that millennials have a different cultural outlook, but no one is exploring the cause and effect of technology and culture on that outlook.
The question is how widespread the New Infantilism is, the question about its cause is separate, so this is irrelevant.
4. There are crises in academia, but they are not solely curricular or student-caused.
The author mentions the problems confronting adjuncts, as one example. Who could disagree? But the truth of the presence of the New Infantilism on college campuses does not depend on whether there are other more serious crises in the academy.
5. PTSD is not a being a baby.
No one called those suffering from PTSD "babies." Someone with PTSD is entitled to systematic accomodations under the Americans with Disabilites Act, and should receive them.
Given how absurdly unresponsive this piece is, one might note that another problem confronting universities is graduating nitwits who can't reason--though, as a friend on facebook quipped, for a site called "flavorwire," coming up with one feeble reason out of five alleged ones isn't bad!