...when, of course, it is the ACTA report itself that is a threat to academic freedom, including the freedom to advocate for BDS. The report muddies the issue--it has to, of course, given its Orwellian task--by pointing to cases where Israeli speakers were shouted down by protesters who were, indeed, violating free speech norms that should prevail on college campuses. Those who did so should have been arrested or subject to university disciplinary proceedings. But that does not change the fact that academic freedom must protect the right of faculty to advocate for BDS, and principles of free speech must protect the right of students to advocate for BDS on college campuses.
Here's a compilation of some reported incidents that should be alarming. One assumes that in most or all these cases there were no repercussions for the speech, but the idea that they would even be reported and scrutinized is bizarre.
Besides being a massive violation of academic freedom, it's almost certainly unconstitutional for a state university to mandate this kind of political balance (which would require, among other things, an unconstitutional invasion of the privacy of faculty to elicit their political affiliations). I assume it won't be passed, and that if it is passed, it will be enjoined by a court right away and then struck down.
(Thanks to Michael Swanson for the pointer.)
UPDATE: More from CHE. There's already pushback in the legislature on this nonsense. Apparently the bill would rely only on voter registration records, exempting from consideration those not registered.
...it would appear. His Facebook remarks are largely factually false, but his ignorant extramural rant is plainly constitutionally protected and so his university has no grounds for sanctioning him, as I trust they will not. But what a knuckle-head!
Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.
In other words, pontificating in the classroom about the issue of the day enjoys no legal protection given the influential AAUP definition of academic freedom--which is in the U.S. still the benchmark for the contractual and (in the case of public univeristies) constitutional protections. (In the UK, academic freedom is a statutory right, with some similarities to the AAUP provision; in Germany, it is a constitutional right, though one that does not encompass extramural speech, as the AAUP definition does.)
A university could, in principle and consistent with the AAUP standards, fire an instructor for dereliction of duties for using classtime to pontificate, even about wickedness. (Of course, various procedures would have to be followed before such a decision could be taken.)
But not all political references are forbidden. One can use examples drawn from contemporary events to illustrate topics that have a clear "relation to the subject." I recently discussed in a graduate seminar whether David Velleman (in a famous 1992 paper) was correct that no one could be alienated from having reasons for action--Trump, I suggested, might be a counter-example (maybe not, that was the main topic of discussion). So, too, per the linked article, discussing "lies" might make Trump-related examples quite relevant.
The main takeway, however, is this: being in front of a classroom is not a license, under academic freedom, to talk about whatever you want. Academic freedom as a legal right protects your disciplinary competence in both teaching and research. it is not a license to say whatever you want to a captive audience!
Thousands of academics have pledged not to attend U.S. conferences because of the immigration ban. The only effect of this is to punish U.S. academics--who, overwhelmingly, did not and do not support Trump--who might benefit from foreign scholars participating in conferences. It will have no effect on Bannon polices, since Herr Bannon and his lapdog have nothing but contempt for knowledge and academics. So what is the point? I'm opening comments, I'm genuinely curious to hear what people think. There's also a poll to gauge reader reaction:
UPDATE: With over 350 responses in just the last five hours, sentiment here is pretty negative: 17% favor the boycott, 70% are again, 13% are undecided. I would like to hear from supporters about their reasons in the comment section. I'll let this run into tomorrow, so that more readers in Europe and Australasia can participate in the poll.
SO AFTER 24 HOURS and nearly 600 votes, the results are not much changed from yesterday afternoon: 19% favor the boycott, 70% oppose, the remainder are undecided. (A couple of readers pointed out that Justin Weinberg [South Carolina] ran a similar poll on his blog, which again revealed only minority support for the boycott. [Advertisers take note: that poll got only about 250 votes, despite being open for more than 48 hours!])
Some Breitbart bozo named Milo Y. (I can't be bothered to figure out how to spell the last name) runs around to college campuses being an arse and insulting people, and students protest. (The student groups that invite this malevolent clown ought to try something novel: think about what you're doing.) At Berkeley, there was a large, and peaceful, student protest in advance of the bozo's speech, and then about 100 outsiders also showed up and started a riot, started fires, destroyed property etc. Berkeley went to great lengths to try to permit the event to take place, but when the riot started, they cancelled the event out of legitimate concerns for safety. The Ignoramus-in-Chief then tweeted that Berkeley should lose federal funding. This has no basis in existing law.
Republicans, please impeach this pathetically stupid and inept person before it's too late for you too.
ADDENDUM: Whether Berkeley students were involved in the rioting, I should add, is irrelevant: existing law does not authorize withholding federal funds from Berkeley because of this incident.
[The authors] analyzed a hand-curated set regarding 45 years’ worth of articles (5,664 total) in four top humanities journals -- Critical Inquiry, New Literary History, PMLA and Representations. They took into account each author’s college or university affiliation at time of publication, Ph.D.-granting institution and gender. Some 3,547 authors were represented, from 344 Ph.D. institutions and 721 authorial institutions.
Regarding Ph.D.-granting institutions, the top 20 percent of universities represented in the sample account for 86 percent of the articles, and the top 10 universities represented alone account for 51 percent: Ph.D.s from Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale Universities and the Universities of Chicago, Oxford, and California, Berkeley, wrote 2,866 of 5,664 articles.
Authors with Ph.D.s from just Yale and Harvard account for 20 percent of all articles.
Why is this not surprising? Because in many humanities fields there are no real disciplinary standards, other than what the anointed deem worthy. Philosophy suffers from some of this too, though I would be surprised if it were to the degree found in the literary fields, but perhaps that is wishful thinking.
As we all know, there is an organized network of right-wing websites, sometimes with help from Fox News, that are devoted to exposing faculty who think verboten thoughts and launching cyber-jihads against those faculty by their brain-dead readers and followers. Now the AAUP weighs in.
...does not greatly concern me, at least at this stage. It sounds like the point will be to deregulate, to make it easier for for-profit institutions to operate and religious institutions to discriminate. Both are bad, but not nearly as bad as everything else going on! But we'll see whether the taskforce's mission changes.
I hope other universities will follow suit. The biggest obstacle to the fascist proclivities of Trump & Co. will be local and state refusals to comply; the country is too vast, with too many centers of political power, for the gangsters in Washington to succeed without voluntary cooperation from localities and states.
I would urge all U.S. faculty to sign this statement, which was drafted when President [sic] Trump was only proposing a 30-day suspension of visas from certain Muslim countries, as opposed to the actual 90-day suspension he enacted. Mousa Mohammadian, a PhD student in HPS at the University of Notre Dame, who called this to my attention, also shared some examples of the immediate harm and disruption this is causing:
What is happening is truly terrible. A friend of mine, a sociology PhD student at the University of Chicago, is doing her dissertation’s field work in Iran now. She had plan to come back in March and teach her own course but now she cannot. Another friend of mine, a PhD student at CUNY had a flight from UAE to the US some hours after Trump issuing the order. Officials in Abu Dhabi International Airport didn’t let her to take the flight. She is going to miss her second semester, if not the whole opportunity of studying here.
The New York Timesarticle on this calls attention to a philosophy student affected by this malicious stupidity:
Shadi Heidarifar, a philosophy student recently admitted to New York University, said in a message on Twitter that she had spent three years applying to universities in the United States.
“I had to work to save money, gather documents. The application fees were so expensive that a whole family could live for a month” on them, Ms. Heidarifar wrote. When she was accepted recently, she was elated. “But now my entire future is destroyed in one second.”
Per the instructions:
to sign, email your name, [major distinctions], title, affiliation to: firstname.lastname@example.org
By "major distinctions," they clearly mean only things like, "Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences," or "Nobel Laureate [Physics]." See many of the first names on the statement. (You'll notice that many of the leading representatives of the right-wing Chicago School of Economics have signed this statement, which I was pleased to see.)
Just to add one more immediate consequence of the executive order, students and scholars with the wrong nationality who are studying or working in universities outside the US can no longer attend US conferences. For instance, an Iranian student of mine cannot go to the Central or the Pacific APA meetings as they are within the 90 day period. Needless to say this is not just a loss for the philosophers with the targeted nationalities (though, of course, they are the ones who suffer the most), but to all APA members who’ll no longer be able to interact with these scholars in our conferences.
The even bigger question is what happens after 90 days. My bet is that they settle on vetting procedures that are so onerous and unpleasant as to effectively discourage people from those countries, at least those who have a choice, from even trying to enter.
The Lincoln Center campus denies approval for students who wanted to start a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The Center for Constitutional Rights' letter to the Fordham admin sets out what happened and why it is unlawful. This is all-too-typical of the brazen hypocrisy about free speech on American campuses when it comes to Israel. Shame on Fordham. I hope their President will reverse this decision promptly.
My "academic ethics" column this week at CHE will be on a similar topic, but this author does a good, concrete job on arguments to avoid and arguments to make. The idiotic comment by the Northern Iowa professor disparaging postal workers also lept out at me when I read it.
Apparently these legislators are too stupid to realize that tenure is non-monetary compensation, and that ending tenure will require enhanced compensation--unless of course the plan is just to destroy the public universities in the state. Which may be the plan. (The Iowa legislator apparently doesn't even know about breach of contract--it would certainly be a constructive expenditure of state resources to have to defend against a lawsuit by every tenured professor in the state were this legislation to become law!)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JANUARY 9--SOME USEFUL COMMENTS, ESP. REGARDING PRACTICES AT BERKELEY (see esp. comment #19)
A student applying to PhD programs in philosophy writes:
I'm currently applying to PhD programs, and several of them are in the University of California school system. Many of these schools (Berkeley, UCSD, and UCLA, at least) of these schools either require or strongly recommend submitting a "personal history statement." Unlike the well-known (and relevant) "personal statement," the history statement says,
"Please describe how your personal background and experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. In this section, you may also include any relevant information on how you have overcome barriers to access higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups."
I don't mind the first part of the question regarding how your personal experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. I can see its relevance (it speaks to the applicant's motivation and perhaps can be a useful predictor of how likely the applicant will be to finish the degree), and I can even see some students feeling pleased that they can personalize their application a bit more, expressing the unique things they can add to the program.
That said, besides the first sentence, the rest of the things on this personal history statement bother me quite a bit, especially when the essay is *required,* and therefore is likely being used to evaluate an applicant.First, the latter part is completely irrelevant to academic fit of the prospective student, like requiring an applicant to describe their medical history. Second, it seems overtly politicized, displaying a left-leaning preference in the institution. Since academia is *already* taking flak for being a politicized enterprise, this only brings that problem into sharp relief. Third, and most deeply frustrating in my opinion, is that this seems a clear selection mechanism for applicants who belong to a certain moral club -- that of making their dominant moral aims helping underprivileged students -- instead of being a selection mechanism for applicants with a strong moral character (having a strong moral character I could see being relevant, since most academics will draw on public funds for their work).
Not long thereafter, Ciccariello-Maher's tweets were picked up by the Daily Caller, Breitbart and other conservative [sic] news sites....
Reached on Monday by The Inquirer, Ciccariello-Maher offered a reaction to the reaction.
"On Christmas Eve, I sent a satirical tweet about an imaginary concept, 'white genocide,'" he said in an e-mail. 'For those who haven't bothered to do their research, 'white genocide' is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I'm glad to have mocked it."
Many readers and social media followers didn't get the humor, though - and his employer didn't either.
On Sunday night, Drexel issued an official statement saying: "While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher's comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University."
The university also said it "contacted Ciccariello-Maher today to arrange a meeting to discuss this matter in detail."
Ciccariello-Maher said Drexel's statemenet lacked "understanding either the content or the context of the tweets," and that "while Drexel has been nothing but supportive in the past, this statement is worrying."
"What is most unfortunate is that this statement amounts to caving to the truly reprehensible movements and organizations that I was critiquing," he said. "On the university level, moreover, this statement - despite a tepid defense of free speech -sends a chilling message and sets a frightening precedent. It exposes untenured and temporary faculty not only to internal disciplinary scrutiny, but equally importantly, it encourages harassment as an effective means to impact university policies."
He added that he has been the subject of "a coordinated smear campaign [that] was orchestrated to send mass tweets and emails to myself, my employer, and my colleagues," and that he has "received hundreds of death threats."
"This satirical tweet became fodder for online white supremacists to systematically harass me and my employer, Drexel University," Ciccariello-Maher said. "As my students will attest, my classroom is a free-for-all of ideas, in which anyone is welcome to their opinions, but expected to defend those opinions with argument. I teach regularly on the history of genocidal practices like colonialism and slavery -genocides carried out by the very same kind of violent racists who are smearing me today."
Drexel would do well to show that it does not render judgments about faculty based on reporting from the fascist fake news media like Breitbart and Daily Caller.
A curious piece at IHE, which is mostly just a composite of various blog postings, including from here. It appears IHE had trouble finding anyone to defend this character, so they reached out to the bizarre Carol Swain (Vanderbilt)--see, e.g., here--whose contribution is to assert that since Jorjani has not advocated violence, he is not a NeoNazi. Apart from that amusing non-sequitur, there's not much of additional interest: no evidence yet that Stony Brook is re-evaluating the award of his PhD, for example (which, as I've said already, they would have no basis for doing).
The book is, indeed, silly (and basically incompetent), but I've never seen the point put so succinctly:
It seems to me absurd to suppose that McCumber’s book comes within cooee of excellence . He argues that the triumph of the unduly disengaged school of analytic philosophy in the USA was due to McCarthyism. It is a moot point whether analytic philosophy IS unduly disengaged (Russell, Ayer and Hart, for example, were notable as as public intellectuals and one reason that so many logical empiricists had to flee to America was because of the anti-fascist tendencies of their thought) , but whether it is or not, McCarthyism can’t be the chief explanation of its triumph in America since analytic philosophy *also* triumphed in other Anglophone countries where McCarthyism was either muted or non-existent. The book is typical of one of the two ways in which American scholars tend to go astray. Because America is such a big, powerful and important country, they find it hard to keep the rest of the world in focus. As a result they are prone to two opposing errors: seeking a global explanation for what is mainly an American phenomenon or seeking a specifically American explanation for what is a global phenomenon. McCumber gives an American explanation for the triumph of analytic philosophy which is a global or at least a pan-Anglophone phenomenon (though one should not forget the triumph of analytic philosophy in countries such as Sweden and Finland). There is the further problem that analytic philosophy had largely triumphed in America BEFORE the political advent of McCarthy whose glory days were from 1950-1954. Now you can get around this difficulty by defining McCarthyism more broadly to encompass the red-baiting anti-radical and anti-Communist hysteria (often with an anti-New Deal agenda) that began in the nineteen-thirties and found institutional expression in the House Un-American Activities Committee which began its sessions in 1938 as well as the its predecessors such as the McCormack-Dickstein Committee whose co-chair, Dickstein, turns out (hilariously) to have been in the pay of the NKVD. But in that case the theory becomes even more bizarre as the most high-profile victim of this kind of proto-McCarthyism was Bertrand Russell, one of the founding fathers of analytical philosophy, who was blocked from a job at CUNY in 1940 because of his social and sexual radicalism and his anti-religious writings, reducing him temporarily, to near destitution. So McCumber’s thesis metamorphoses into the claim that philosophers sought to avoid the fate of Bertrand Russell by philosophizing in the style pioneered by -– Bertrand Russell. Well that’s not quite right (someone might reply); the point is that the triumph of analytical philosophy is to be explained by the fact that philosophers sought to avoid the fate of Bertrand Russell a) by philosophizing in the style of Bertrand Russell whilst b) *eschewing the public role that Russell had played for so many years as an activist for left-wing causes*. But then it seems that what McCarthyism (in this extended sense) explains is not the triumph of analytic philosophy (which was well on the way by 1940 and which happened elsewhere without the aid of McCarthyism) but the relative silence of left-leaning philosophers on social issues that was characteristic of American philosophy in the forties and fifties. In other words, what McCarthyism explains is not the triumph of analytic philosophy in America but the retreat of those triumphant analytic philosophers to the ‘icy slopes of logic’ . (This is confirmed by the fact that in other countries, where McCarthyite tendencies were relatively weak, you get the triumph of analytic philosophy without the retreat to the icy slopes: Russell, Ayer and Hart were all pretty vocal on social issues in the forties, fifties and sixties.) But this is not McCumber’s thesis but Reisch’s thesis as developed in ‘How the Cold War Transformed the Philosophy of Scince’. I have reservations about Reisch’s book but at least it isn’t as obviously silly as McCumber’s.
So it turns out that equally silly thread on Babette Babich's fantasies about the Continental traditions in philosophy produced several useful comments!
Also Thursday, the regents added stronger language to a policy that faculty members already believe takes power out of their hands and places it in the hands of campus administrators.
The new language spells out that every five years, campus administrators must do "independent, substantive reviews" of tenured faculty, a process that faculty members fear could open the door to arbitrarily overturning positive performance reviews given by faculty peers, and ultimately justify a firing.
Regent Tony Evers, the state's superintendent of public instruction for K-12 schools, said the policy seemed to be "a solution seeking a problem, and I don't think this is a problem."
We have commented on the ridiculous but probably irrelevant APA "Code of Conduct" over the last few weeks. The biggest risk is that this document will be used as an excuse to fire some temporary faculty, citing the authority of the Dear Abbys of the APA. But a number of readers have asked: who wrote this nonsense?
The document was, as it happens, produced by the following committee:
Nancy J. Holland (Chair) (PhD, Berkeley), Professor of Philosophy at Hamline University. Specialties include Continental philosophy (esp. Heidegger) and feminist philosophy.
Scott A. Anderson (PhD, Chicago), Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia (he appears to have been at the Assistant Professor rank since 2003). Specialties include ethics, social & political philosophy, and philosophy of sex and gender.
Leslie P. Francis (PhD, Michigan; JD, Utah), Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Utah. Specialties include bioethics, environmental ethics, philosophy of law, disability law, and health law.
Ned Markosian (PhD, U Mass/Amherst), Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst. Specializes in metaphysics.
Diane Michelfelder (PhD, Texas), Professor of Philosophy at Macalester College. Specialties include 20th-century Continental philosophy (esp. phenomenology), philosophy of technology, and applied ethics.
Julinna Oxley (PhD, Tulane), Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Coastal Carolina University. Specialties include ethics, applied ethics, social and political philosophy, and feminist philosophy.
As well they should. Of course, this is all part of a concerted effort by libertarians and in some cases Ayn Rand fanatics to find a foothold in the universities. At least they care about "ideas" (in a fashion)!
UPDATE: Reader Bennett Gilbert sends along the abstract of Dr. Jorjani's dissertation:
Technological science has shattered the worldviews of all traditional cultures subjected to it, at times provoking reactionary religious responses that only underscore the traumatic force of this worldwide development. Yet, as I argue, this world-colonizing force is not neutral. The anticipatory projection and world-building characteristic of scientific theorization are grounded in a practical comportment, so that the essence of technology or Craft is ontologically prior to theoretical science. In other words, science is always already Technoscience. Moreover the theoretical concepts and methodologies involved in predictive calculation and in crafting frameworks that model and mold the world are derived from pre-conceptual ideas of an aesthetic character, namely Prometheus and Atlas—titanic gods with a Greek genealogy and a cosmopolitan promise.
Diabolically, this reveals itself through attention to what it is about Nature that eludes the grasp of theorization. The ideas or idealities foundational to Technoscience are not abstract, as the concepts derived from them are. Rather, they are spectral personae. The mathematical and geometric structure of scientific projections cannot model those phenomena that most strikingly manifest the spectrality of Nature. These so-called "paranormal" phenomena are perfectly normal in animals and even simpler organisms still guided by instinct. It is our hypertrophied technical intellect that has atrophied them, but they can be regained through a cultivation of intuition. Indeed, only aesthetic intuition can consciously recognize the specters of Technoscience and transform our hitherto unconscious relationship with them to one wherein we are superhumanly empowered by embodying them rather than experiencing them as alienating instrumental forces.
ANOTHER: Reader Christopher Faille writes with an apt observation: "The abstract of Jorjani's dissertation you sent along makes him seem, predictably enough, a bit like Heidegger. This Nature worship, technophobia, worshipful reversion to Greek myths ... this is the common coin of brown shirts when they're doing their best to be obscure, intellectual, and high-brow."
MORE INSIGHT INTO THE NEONAZI from this bizarre essay. (Thanks to Kathryn Pogin for the pointer.)
While sometimes unavoidable, anonymity in online posts should be used judiciously.
In what possible sense is anonymity "sometimes unavoidable"? One can either post using one's name or not. And what constitutes "judicious" usage of anonymity? Surely, for example, a blog like Feminist Philosophers with many pseudonymous posters operating for years under their pseudonyms--e.g., "Philodaria," "Monkey," "Magical Ersatz," "Lady Day," "Prof Manners"--are not using anonymity "judiciously" but continuously, effectively shielding themselves from being accountable for what they write. And such anonymity is clearly avoidable, as others (for example, the philosophers Anne Jacobson and Jennifer Saul) post under their own names at the very same blog.
Various readers have sent this silly list of anti-American, anti-free speech faculty, or something like that. We've seen these lists before, and they fade away fairly quickly because, "Who cares?" The organizers of this one are especially stupid: when it first appeared, they had both my colleagues Eric Posner and Judge Richard Posner on the list--Eric for noting that private schools can regulate student speech, and maybe some schools should since their students are children; and Richard...well, there are so many possible reasons. But now they're gone from the list, I guess someone told the ding-dongs that, "Those guys are on the right," or something like that. Here's what I suggest: ignore it. It's a badge of honor to be on it, of course, but it's just a publicity stunt by pathetic right-wingers. And if you can't ignore it, self-nominate!
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)