Here. Please do sign! This is really ghastly behavior by the Turkish government, which warrants international condemnation.
(Thanks to Robert Hockett for the pointer.)
Here. Please do sign! This is really ghastly behavior by the Turkish government, which warrants international condemnation.
(Thanks to Robert Hockett for the pointer.)
MOVING TO FRON FROM YESTERDAY--UPDATED
My source in Turkey (who, for obvious reasons, does not want to be identified) writes:
We have some more horrible news. One of Boğaziçi's undergraduate philosophy students, Jülide Yazıcı, was arrested, along with 3 other students, and has apparently already been charged with the extremely serious charge of "being a member of a terrorist organisation". She had been posting in support of faculty under attack.
I'm trying to find out more about the other 2 students. One of them is from Bilgi University, the other one is from Bogazici too, named Heja Türk; nephew of Ahmet Türk, one of the most famous Kurdish politicians.
6 were detained in a police operation involving house raids in İstanbul two days ago. Out of the detainees, 4 students were arrested with charges of “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “making terrorist propaganda”. The names and affiliations of those arrested are as follows: -Jülide Yazıcı, Boğaziçi University Philosophy Undergraduate Student. She lately supported a petition in Philosophy Department to support 'Academics for Peace'. -Heja Türk, Boğaziçi University, Western Languages and Literature Graduate -Mehtap Demirci -Çağrı Kurt, Bilgi University, Political Science
I believe all 4 are still in custody.
Comments are open for more information and links.
A philosophy professor will be put on trial. Note that under Turkish law, insulting the President is an actionable offense. It is the law, and not necessarily its application in this instance, that is rotten.
UPDATE: A philosopher in Turkey writes: "I think it might be worth pointing out that Orsan is an important part of Turkish philosophical community - being the person behind 'Philosophy in Assos'": http://www.philosophyinassos.org/assos.htm. These events are an important part of Turkish philosophical calendar. Ironically he was supposed to be giving lecture in Assos on 'Freedom, Justice and Courage' and I think this falls on the day they set for his Trial."
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--MORE INFO FROM PROF. WHITE IN COMMENTS, PLUS OTHER COMMENTS/SUGGESTIONS--MORE DISCUSSION WELCOME
Philosopher Alan White (Wisconsin/Manitowoc) has been involve throughout in the process of revising the Regental rules on tenure after the assault on tenure by Governor Walker and his Republican allies in the legislature. The current proposed polices can be viewed here. Prof. White kindly gave permission to share his letter to colleagues about the current draft:
1. The faculty tenure document.
This document is the Regents' policy replacement for the statement of tenure formerly ensconced in Wisconsin state statute 36.13. You may recall that the Regents immediately adopted the verbatim language of 36.13 as interim policy after the state removed it. Except for the inclusion of the next to last entry "Oversight, Roles and Responsibilities"--needed, I suppose, to authorize administrators to do their jobs in carrying out Regents' policy--this document largely just copies 36.13. So in letter and spirit, I'd say this just codifies what the Regents did last year with the interim action. While that's good news, it's in fact limited by newly adopted state statute 36.21, modified to specify that termination may be for conditions ("certain budget or program changes") that do not qualify as financial emergency--and deletes "financial emergency" from the old statute as the standard for layoff or termination. An entirely new law, 36.22, details procedures for "layoff or termination of [a] faculty member due to certain budget or program changes." So, in fact state statute has abandoned the AAUP gold standard of financial exigency as sufficient reason to terminate tenured faculty.
2. The Procedures Relating to Financial Emergency or Program Discontinuance Requiring Faculty Layoff and Termination
The title of this document has at least some good news: Regents' policy reinstates financial emergency as a standard of terminating tenured faculty, but note--only *a* standard. That's because of 36.21-22 of course. It has a couple of added statements referring to procedural protections for laid-off faculty set out in 36.22 and deleted a couple of definitions from the previous draft, but it looks very much like the one you saw prior to our final meeting. There are some added passages that *appear* to afford extra protection. For example, notice on page 5 F. there is a statement added: "It is recognized that the chancellor should make a recommendation adverse to the faculty recommendation with respect to discontinuance of an academic program only for compelling reasons which should be stated in writing and in detail." But please note this language is not a *requirement* but "recognized" as optimally the case. "Should"s are not "Must"s. At the very least we need to fight for language changes like that.
My suggestion if that if you are going to comment on this document, please read 36.21-22 as well. I provided those in an earlier email.
3. The Periodic Post-Tenure Review document
Despite my own protests--joined by Madison reps--this document is largely unchanged from the draft we had at the final meeting. On page 3 point 12 following, we argued strenuously for including an extra step prior to what is described in 12. b., which essentially allows only an administrative reconsideration in the case of a negative review. We argued for a second faculty review in the case of a negative review, just to ensure that the negative review was justified. It's not included here. I think we need to press for that. In addition, I and other committee members argued that the time frame to asses remediation in the case of a negative review(12. c. ii)--18 months--was too brief to be realistic for some cases, and that it should be expanded. The time frame is unchanged. And of course page 4 16. is unchanged as well. The only option for a faculty member terminated by this process is independent of UW grievance processes--filing a civil suit.
As goes Wisconsin--one of the country's best public university systems--so may the nation go. This deserves everyone's attention, as well as everyone's thanks to Prof. White for his work on this. Comments are open for further information, comments, links, etc.
A sensible statement by the chair of Amherst College's Board of Trustees, in the wake of the decision to rename the school's controversial mascot:
A statement issued by Cullen Murphy, chair of the college's board, said that while the college would prefer that people not use the Lord Jeff nickname or mascot, the college will take no action against those who -- as individuals -- do so. "The college has no business interfering with free expression, whether spoken or written or, for that matter, sung. Period," Murphy said. He added, "To those who argue that stepping back from Lord Jeff as an unofficial mascot takes us down some sort of slippery slope that calls into question the name of the town or the college, the board would respond that you can find slippery slopes anywhere you look, that real life isn’t a philosophy class or court of law, and that people long ago figured out the commonsense way to deal with slippery slopes: just draw the line. Amherst College will always be the name of the school."
Good for him. Undoubtedly this will be challenged in court, since the gun crazies have many lawyers at their disposal. But civil disobedience is the right posture, and Weinberg can afford to do it, literally and symbolically. (He and his wife, who is a law professor at UT Austin, earn over $800,000/year; they are also both senior enough that they could retire in protest. And given that he rather clearly the most famous member of the faculty, with an international reputation, even some of the yahoos in the state legislature may be given pause about the ramifications of driving him off the faculty.)
News release here. I'm glad to see the APA join the other professional organizations that have spoken out about this, especially since a dozen or more philosophy faculty (including, as I understand it, some APA members) have been targeted in this campaign.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the statement by APA Board Chair Cheshire Calhoun (Arizona State) is not very good. She is quoted in the press release as follows:
Cheshire Calhoun, chair of the board of officers, said, “It is extremely disturbing that Turkish academics have been subjected to severe governmental and university pressures, including detention and criminal investigations, for doing exactly what one might hope that any academic would do—protest the violation of basic rights protected by one’s country’s constitution and international conventions.”
But the Turkish government denies that anyone's basic rights are being violated, and that it is the rights of Turkish citizens which are under threat from Kurdish rebels. Thus, this objection will be easy to dismiss as partisan ("Armenian lovers" is, I am told, the preferred term of abuse by Turkish nationalists). The correct and relevant objection is to the persecution of academics for ordinary political speech, regardless of one's view of the merits of their position. The message the Turkish government needs to get is that its university system will fall into worldwide disrepute if the government persists in persecuting faculty for their political speech, regardless of the merits of their position.
It starts here, and continues here, and receives scathing commentary here. For the life of me, I can't even figure out what the purportedly offending passage even means: its English is barely intelligible. Synthese should be embarrassed to have published this on the latter ground alone. What do readers think of all this?
The joint statement, delivered to the Turkish Embassy in Germany, is here: Download Erklärung der DGPhil und GAP zum Vorgehen der Türkei gegen Hochschullehrer
The APSA's letter to the Turkish President is here. Given that a number of philosophers have been targeted, I would hope the APA will come to life on this issue. The Turkish government, I am told, may in fact be very sensitive to adverse international publicity in this case.
Marvin Krislov, the president, said that while some of the demands "resonate with me and many members of our community, including our trustees," he would not respond directly to the proposals from black students, which were termed non-negotiable.
"[S]ome of the solutions it proposes are deeply troubling," Krislov wrote in a response posted on Oberlin's website. "I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement. Many of its demands contravene principles of shared governance. And it contains personal attacks on a number of faculty and staff members who are dedicated and valued members of this community."
The 14-page list of demands at Oberlin was detailed and contained many controversial items. Among other things, it demanded the immediate firing of some Oberlin employees, the immediate tenuring of some faculty members, specific curricular changes, a review and possible revision of the grading system (to be overseen by students), the creation of "safe spaces" for black students in at least three buildings on campus, the creation of a program to enroll recently released prisoners from a nearby prison as undergraduates, divestment from Israel, and a requirement that black student leaders be paid $8.20 an hour for their organizing efforts.
The students also demanded changes at Oberlin's noted conservatory. For instance, the list of demands said that students should not be required to take "heavily based classical courses that have minimal relevance to their jazz interests." Stating that classical music students are not required to study jazz, the list of demands says that students of jazz "should not be forced to take courses rooted in whiteness."
As we noted in December, the Oberlin student "demands" set a new low for their unreasonableness, demanding actions that were plainly illegal. It's a oood thing the President drew a firm line on this nonsense.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JAN. 14--MUCH MORE INFORMATION IN THE COMMENTS, INCLUDING A LINK TO AN OPEN LETTER FOR U.S. ACADEMICS TO SIGN (see comment #9, below)
Several philosophers have signed the petition, and are among those now targeted with threats and by their universities (including demands that faculty who signed the petition resign). Turkey's President has attacked them as well.
Unless some political leaders call a stop to this madness--"investigating" faculty, calling for them to "resign" because they signed a petition!--the damage to the international reputation of Turkish academia will be irreparable for a generation or more. Where are the voices of sanity in Turkey?
Comments are open for links and further information, including suggestions for how the international academic community should respond.
The ASsociation's letter to the university President is here.
Here is a fairly good overview of what transpired. FAU's stated rationale for termination--failure to file reports about his "outside activites"--seems feeble and implausible. What they should have argued is that, given his academic specialty, his conspiracy-mongering suggests professional incompetence--it would be as if a biology professor taught creationism instead of evolution by natural selection, or an astronomy professor taught that heliocentrism was false. This process would have taken longer, but the fired professor's grounds for a breach of contract suit are probably stronger given how the university actually went about terminating him.
I am not an administrative law expert, but it looks like it was the latter, and that is the view of at least two Senators. This will force an important clarification of what's going on.
The legal philosopher and legal scholar Alon Harel (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) writes:
I was asked to examine again carefully the case of Hanoch Sheinman. I was told that I was misled with respect to some of the facts. I tried to do my best to explore all the relevant facts and here are my findings. [Ed.-see Prof. Harel's earlier comments]
Let me first say that the accusations that decisions of promotion and tenure at Bar-Ilan are politicized are not new and are unfortunately based in evidence. The most famous case in which Bar Ilan used political considerations was that of Menachmen Klein, who for a long was not promoted despite his scientific achievements. I believe therefore that the academic community is justified in exploring the issue carefully. Decisions concerning promotion and tenure at Bar Ilan should be scrutinized in cases of suspicion. The suspicion is of course particularly grave in the case of Hanoch because of the threats issued in an earlier letter sent to Hanoch by his dean during the operation/war Zuk Eitan.
As I see it, the current accusations against Bar Ilan University are based on the following:
1) Bar Ilan established a mid-term review process retroactively.
2) The faculty deviated in its instructions from the instructions of the rector as the rector instructed faculties to perform the process during the third year while the implementation at the law faculty included individuals who have completed three years.
3) The implementation was inconsiderate, hasty, and unfair because it was sent to Hanoch when he was abroad, the deadline was much too short (one week) and Hanoch was also on sabbatical and had some family events which made it particularly difficult for him to meet the deadline.
I think claim 1 is not justified while there is some merit in 2 and 3.
I do not see that there is a problem in the 'retroactive procedure'. This is because the procedure of mid-term review does not impose harsher requirements for tenure. It is merely a procedure designed to provide feedback to the candidate. I do not think candidates are being made worse off as a result of this process.
On the other hand I think that the faculty unjustifiably deviated from the instruction of the rector in making a decision to extend the mid term review to people who have completed third year. Hanoch is right that the language of the rector's instruction does not apply to his case. Although I think the rector can extend the process to candidates at their fourth or fifth year, the faculty should not extend it to such cases.
I also think that given the circumstances of Hanoch at this time, the fact that he is on sabbatical abroad and the Bar Mitzva of his son all justified greater empathy than the one shown by Bar Ilan. This is particularly true given the history of his case at Bar Ilan.
I will again open comments, but will moderate for relevant substance, and edit accordingly. Only comments with a full name in the "name" line and a valid e-mail address (which will not appear) will be published.
Last month's fake controversy du jour--complete with false accusations and selective presentation of evidence ("Lebron-gate" for short)--included an appearance of the weirdest trope to infect philosophy cyberspace over the last couple of years, a variation on "think of the children!" This is the idea that criticizing a graduate student (even if you didn't intend to, and even if you didn't use his name!) is a line that can not be crossed in the minds of some putatively "professional" philosophers. One aspect of this I find puzzling is that in academic law and its associated social media, no such norm is recognized by anyone (I realize it's not recognized by most philosophers either, but the question is why philosophy social media behaves so differently). So, for example, right-wing law professor David Bernstein (George Mason)--an always reliable apologist for Israeli crimes and punishment of anti-Israeli speech--here chastises by name a law student at the University of Texas at Austin who disrupted a speech by an Israeli. (As a sidenote, I think universities should prevent these kinds of disruptions, and not just of Israelis.) Academic law blogs did not erupt in horror (real or feigned) that Prof. Bernstein had criticized a "mere" student. And Bernstein did this on a much bigger platform, a blog nominally hosted by the Washington Post.
Maybe academic philosophy is just more of a hotbed of New Infantilism and faux-sensitivity than academic law? That's probably true, but I think there are some other factors at work; in no particular order:
(1) There is no culture among law students of feeling "vulnerable" and in need of "protection," whereas there clearly is in philosophy cyberspace (recall the bizarre letter from some Harvard PhD students regarding the Marquette case).
(2) There is more respect for free speech norms among law students and professors than among philosophers; this is not surprising, given the strong libertarian tendencies of American free speech law. As a result, there is more skepticism about the idea that certain topics can't be broached (and especially when it is something as odd as "not criticizing a student").
Here. (Prof. Green has comments open at his site, so I will not open them here.)
Professor Enoch asked me to share his response: Download Following the nine Bar Ilan Professors response Enoch
I am opening comments, but they will be moderated for relevant substance, and perhaps edited to that end. Only comments with a full name (in the name line) and a valid e-mail address (which will not appear) will be approved.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--UPDATED
The victim is the legal philosopher Hanoch Sheinman, one of the leading scholars in the field of his generation, who is a member of the law faculty. The persecutors are the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Shahar Lifshitz, aided and abetted by the University Rector Miriam Faust. Readers may recall that when, during the assault on Gaza, Prof. Sheinman expressed sympathy for all victims of the violence, a controversy ensued and more than two hundred academics signed a petition in his support. Although the Dean purported to back down at that time, it's now clear he did nothing of the kind. As now reported in Haaretz (behind a paywall, alas) and set out in Prof. Sheinman's lawyer's letter to Dean Lifshitz ( Download Letter to Dean Bar Ilan), in the last week of November, the Dean announced a new (and retroactive) "midway review process" for Prof. Sheinman, affording him one week to produce all the necessary materials to the Appointments Committee. (The lawyer's letter sets out all the sorry details of this episode).
The continued harassment of Professor Sheinman by Bar-Ilan University is shocking and a disgrace. I and others will continue to monitor the situation. I hope it is not necessary to call for a general boycott of the university, but unless the political persecution of Prof. Sheinman stops that seems the likely next step.
UPDATE: Several law faculty from Bar-Ilan dispute Prof. Sheinman's account and have asked me to share their statement: Download Bar Ilan Faculty Response
AND ANOTHER: Les Green (Oxford) replies to the preceding.
...for unreasonable, unethical, and illegal demands, including summary firings of tenured faculty, promotion without review of other faculty, and (best of all) a salary for Black student leaders making these demands!
(Link now fixed.)
Philosopher Nathan Powers (SUNY-Albany) writes:
After being in touch with some of the faculty there, I've learned more about the situation, and it is very discouraging. What I've been hearing is that the college's administration cooked up this plan without any meaningful input from (or consultation with) faculty -- a clear violation of both the spirit and the letter of the institution's shared-governance rules. (See also http://m.timesunion.com/local/article/Saint-Rose-facing-protest-6644752.php).
In any case, I wanted to share a link to a petition started by a St. Rose undergraduate in protest of the cuts:
I suspect (and hope) that some of the readers of your blog would like to sign it in solidarity with the St. Rose faculty and student body.
I hope readers will join me and Prof. Powers in signing.
UPDATE: Philosopher Christopher Pynes, who is also Chair of the Faculty Senate at Western Illinois, confirms "that tenured full professors have been given informal notices that they are being laid off."
Saint Rose, a small and financially troubled Catholic college in Albany, New York made the announcements on Friday. A Catholic college without a philosophy program? Are there any others? They are firing 23 faculty, including some with tenure--on financial exigency grounds? I'm unsure. More information welcome.
A survey of literature and arts faculties found that,
Although fewer than 1% of survey participants reported that their institution had adopted a policy on trigger warnings, 7.5% reported that students had initiated efforts to require trigger warnings on campus, twice as many (15%) reported that students had requested warnings in their courses, and 12% reported that students had complained about the absence of trigger warnings. Despite a media narrative of "political correctness," student requests concerned a diverse range of subjects from across the ideological spectrum.
There's additional details at the link, above.
IHE details recent lengthy lists at Hamilton College and Emory University; some of the demands are plainly illegal (as the article hints), and some are just unwise. Administrators are going to need to push back firmly on some of these. One "demand" that has surfaced elsewhere too is to ban or block Yik Yak, yet another cesspool of vile stupidity made possible by cyberspace. Private institutions are well within their legal rights to do so, if it were technically feasible. Public schools could probably do it too, on the grounds that it interferes with the pedagogical functions of the institution, though that might be a harder argument.
Signatories include one philosopher (Karsten Harries) and the psychologist Paul Bloom, among names likely known to philosophy readers.
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.