MOVING TO FRONT FROM MAY 14--SCROLL DOWN TO COMMENTS FOR LATEST DEVELOPMENTS--sASKATCHEWAN REALIZES THEY MADE A MISTAKE
Many readers have sent this story, which is appalling: see here and here for two accounts.
UPDATE: A philosophy student at Saskatchewan writes:
Regarding your most recent post about the University of Saskatchewan, academic freedom is unfortunately not the only problem. A few other problems would be:
1) The university is merging four programs (Philosophy, Women and Gender Studies, Modern Languages, Religion and Culture) into one, and having the gall to suggest that this program will a) be superior and b) produce more research, while providing significant incentives to faculty to retire without replacement.
2) Removing four libraries, including the law library.
3) Guarding the project briefs for the above changes behind passwords, so that only current students and faculty can access the files that tell us what the university shall do.
4) Doing all of this without properly consulting departments or students.
As you can see, the university is quite simply devastating what had been a modest, but creditable, humanities division, as well as damaging its dentistry program, its law program, its political science program and its libraries. I think it would be unfortunate if the focus was only on the academic freedom issue, rather than on the broader problem that Robert Buckingham sought to address before he was fired.
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.
Che-Ing Su, a Taiwanese PhD student in philosophy at the University of Melbourne, writes:
The democracy of my country, Taiwan is in a serious crisis. Since your website 'Leiter Report' is constantly visited by many many philosophers, may I beg you a big favor?
The ruling party of my country is pushing for a trade pact with China. In my opinion, this trade pact will seriously damage our democracy. It is because the trade pact allows China to substantially control the banking system, communication industry and publishing industry of Taiwan.
To protest against the ruling party, hundreds of university students has been occupying our parliament for around two weeks. And, there was a 500-thousand people protest on last Sunday to support the students.
I think, it might be useful to the situation, if we can get more international attention. (Though, what I can do is little.) Therefore, may I beg you a big favor: do you mind posting the following CNN news on your Facebook or Twitter or website 'Leiter Report'?
...for arguing that funding misinformation about climate change should give rise to charges of criminal negligence. That isn't the law at present, and there are a number of reasons why it probably shouldn't be the law, but Professor Torcello's essay raises some interesting points about the harms of misinformation campaigns and whether they are legally cognizable. (If the real target is those who knowingly fund misinformation for private gain, then "negligence" would be the wrong legal standard. The issues here, it seems to me, are closer to those regarding the regulation of "hate speech" and other speech that causes harm.)
Alas, climate change is one of those hot button issues for the far right, which quickly swung into action, starting with misrepresenting Professor Torcello as calling for climate scientists who dispute the consensus to be put in jail. That soon turned into a campaign to get the Rochester Institute of Technology to punish Professor Torcello for his constitutionally protected speech, and speech that falls well within his contractual right to academic freedom. The hysteria and misrepresentations made its way into all the usual far right venues, including Fox News. Professor Torcello made a brief statement in response to the craziness here. RIT made what is, to my mind, a tepid statement about the matter, but one that at least affirms his right to have views of which others disapprove.
I sent the following e-mail to President Destler, cc'ing Provost Haefner and Dean Winebrake; I encourage readers to send the same or similar messages (the e-mail addresses appear below). This kind of organized harassment of faculty by the far right happens too often, and universities should be encouraged to take a stronger stand against this malevolent behavior.
Two state legislatures, New York and Maryland, and now perhaps Congress are looking to punish those who hold verboten views about Israel. There is a kind of petition here, which also includes links and other information.
The regents’ policy, effective immediately, gives a university’s top leader the authority to suspend or fire any faculty or staff member who improperly uses social media, including Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
The policy’s list of improper uses includes communications that incite violence, disclose student information or research data, or are “contrary to the best interest of the university.”
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/12/18/4701383/regents-approve-policy-for-using.html#storylink=cpy
Notice that the prohibition on "inciting violence," if interpreted in accordance with the applicable constitutional standards, would not cover the "tweet" that started all this. A prohibition on disclosing student data is probably already covered by FERPA (the federal student privacy law), while the prohibition on disclosing "research data" and making statements "contrary to the best interest of the university" are probably both unconstitutional (the latter is at least unconstitutionally vague--unfortunately, the courts have been eroding the free speech rights of public employees in various ways over the last decade, but I would be astonished if this standard passed constitutional muster).
Not a great day for public highe reducation in Kansas. I assume a court challenge will be forthcoming.
In the past, the U.S. has sometimes been described sardonically — but not inaccurately — as a one-party state: the business party, with two factions called Democrats and Republicans.
That is no longer true. The U.S. is still a one-party state, the business party. But it only has one faction: moderate Republicans, now called New Democrats (as the U.S. Congressional coalition styles itself).
There is still a Republican organization, but it long ago abandoned any pretense of being a normal parliamentary party. Conservative commentator Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute describes today's Republicans as "a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition": a serious danger to the society.
The party is in lock-step service to the very rich and the corporate sector. Since votes cannot be obtained on that platform, the party has been compelled to mobilize sectors of the society that are extremist by world standards. Crazy is the new norm among Tea Party members and a host of others beyond the mainstream.
The Republican establishment and its business sponsors had expected to use them as a battering ram in the neoliberal assault against the population — to privatize, to deregulate and to limit government, while retaining those parts that serve wealth and power, like the military.
The Republican establishment has had some success, but now finds that it can no longer control its base, much to its dismay. The impact on American society thus becomes even more severe. A case in point: the virulent reaction against the Affordable Care Act and the near-shutdown of the government.
You would think this came from a Sinclair Lewis novel, but it's for real:
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent a letter this week to Carol M. Watson, the acting chairwoman of the NEH, in which he demanded the agency explain its peer-review process for funding grants that explore “very indefinite” questions.
Sessions pointed to seven grants the NEH funded that seek to explore the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why are we interested in the past?”, “What is the good life and how do I live it?”, “Why are bad people bad?”, “What is belief?”, “What is a monster?”, and “Why do humans write?”
The U.S. Government keeps claiming “wins” in the “war
against terror,” but who are these alleged terrorists? In the case of the Cleveland 4, it seems the
FBI used a career criminal to manipulate a groups of indigent kids into a “terrorist
plot” against a bridge. One of them, Joshua
“Skelly” Stafford, was an impoverished developmentally impaired kid who did not
take place in the planning of the event and it’s not clear he understood why he
was in the car on the way to the bridge on the day in question, other than that
he was promised a free meal and cigarettes.
A sane government might provide food, shelter, and
psychological assistance for a kid like Skelly, but instead our government
chose to coerce him and his equally indigent friends into being “terror
trophies” – pawns that could be used to at once scare the public into thinking
we have a terrorist threat within and at the same time to offer evidence of
“success” in their fake war on fake terror.
As Vivien Lesnik Weisman reports in the Huffington Post,
Skelly’s story and the fact that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison is an
indictment of our security state. As she
puts it, it is symptomatic of the failure of the rule of law.
As some of you know I’ve recently been concerned with
Surveillance State’s war on hacktivists.
What does the State have against hacktivists? Well as Chris Hedges has said,
the State can’t abide hacktivists because “they have the tools to expose how
rotten Empire is… and it is completely rotten.”
Hedges might have added that hacktivists also have the tools to *embarrass*
the Surveillance State and its corporate partners. Andrew Auenheimer (a.k.a. weev) is one such
hacktivist, recently sentenced to 41 months in jail for embarrassing AT&T.
More specifically weev and a friend wrote a script that
harvested the email addresses of 114,000 iPad users from web pages that
AT&T had left unprotected on the public Internet. Then, weev and his friend passed the email
addresses on to the online magazine Gawker, presumably so as to embarrass
AT&T for its shoddy security. The
prosecution charged weev with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
– a law forged in 1984 that says you cannot use a computer system for reasons
not intended by the owners. It seems
AT&T didn’t intend for people to visit these public web pages. (This is the same law that was used to
persecute Aaron Swartz and eventually drive him to suicide).
Some months ago, I published an op/ed in the New York Times
Weekly Review in which I argued that weev and others like him were the gadflies
of our age. Weev had a copy of the op/ed, which he rather
enjoyed, but in a letter to his lawyer Tor Ekeland he reports that it has now been seized by the prison guards -- it would seem in
violation of the law. I’ve decided to
share the letter here because it touches on some philosophical themes. Below the fold is
a text version of Weev's letter.
...watch this (and see the commentary that follows by Andrew Sullivan), all of which supports, I'm afraid, Robert Paul Wolff's diagnosis. These sick, sick people need to be caged first, treated second.
(Note: I'm putting this under the "academic freedom" category, but without knowing more about Professor Guth's areas of expertise, it's not clear to me this is an academic freedom issue, as distinct from a generic free speech issue.)
UPDATE: Actually, it turns out Kansas is now punishing him for his speech. Prof. Guth would do well to consult a lawyer, since he is pretty clearly being punished for offensive but constitutionally protected speech.
AND ANOTHER: Professor Guth concurs with being put on leave, given the threats he and others have received. The linked article also reports, unsurprisingly, that the local fascists in Kansas want him fired for exercising his free speech rights.
Rhetorically, it is brilliant, even if moralistic posturing by a crypto-fascist like Putin is ludicrous. (Moralistic posturing by the leader of the United States, the most dangerous country on the face of the earth, is also ludicrous, for somewhat different reasons.) But he is right that it would be prudent for everyone, even the aggressors, not to launch criminal wars of aggression.
Let us be realistic: Russia and America have always done what they can get away with in the regions where they thought they could act without provoking the other: thus we had the American invasion of South Vietnam in 1962, and of Iraq in 2003, among many other cases. So, too, Russia dealt with Hungary, Afghanistan and Chechnya in a similarly brutal manner. But 2013 is not 2003, and Russia has already seen one Baathist party toppled in the Middle East. Putin has made clear that it will not see a second one meet the same fate. The nominal stabilitiy of the so-called "world order" since WWII--i.e., the absence of catastrophic wars of annihilation involving many countries and continents--has depended on this restraint. Putin's movtives are no doubt as impure and mixed as Obama's, but one may hope, for the sake of that part of humanity not within Assad's reach (and no doubt for many of those subject to his criminality), that they will hear each other clearly.
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)