Drawing on helpful facebook discussions in the wake of yesterday’s post, I now think there are at least three (pernicious) versions of the perceived connection between being a ‘real’ philosopher and social norm violation.
- First, we have a tendency to excuse systematic social norm violations in (successful!) (male!) philosophers, taking them as adorable quirks that go with the territory of being a ‘true intellectual.’ You hear people saying that “all philosophers are a little Aspergers-y.” (Why that’s problematic is worth a post of its own.) We admiringly comment on some famous dude’s inability to button his shirt straight or brush his hair. We proudly find it adorable that many of our own can be mistaken for hobos.
- Second, philosophers will cultivate their own tendency to violate social norms and conventions that apply to others and to cross boundaries, taking this as some sort of performance of their intellectual hipness and depth. This I’ve already discussed and we have all seen it on display.
- Third, we put pressure on new philosophers to join in on the norm-violating culture of the discipline. This can make people feel like they have to use profane language, push sexual boundaries, avoid the appearance of concern with their looks, etc., in order to earn their place in the philosophical community. Many of us remember the letter of recommendation that made the rounds this year, in which the writer said that he associates philosophical ability with lack of concern for personal appearance, and hence found a student’s high quality surprising since she was pretty and ‘well-groomed’.
The problem with all of this (or one of the many problems) is, again, that it comes at the cost of the most vulnerable members of the profession - those likely to be the targets of the boundary-violations and judgmental expectations rather than their instigators. Likewise it leaves us with no recourse when we feel violated. If we complain, we are just not understanding how to be a cool philosopher, or we are not intellectual enough to get the joke. It also generally puts women, people of color, and other disciplinary minorities in a different kind of impossible position: we can’t get away with the hobo look without repercussions, but we also get dismissed if we look like we care about social conventions (please extend the synecdoche as needed).
Of course, as philosophers, our commitment to challenging and questioning norms is real, and important. Far be it from me to claim that we’d be better off if we all had to be more conventional or couldn’t play around with taboos. Doing so is essential to both the philosophical method and the high quality of life we enjoy as philosophers. It’s just a dangerous game, is all, and people get hurt, and the hurt is not evenly distributed, so serious collaborative reflection on the dynamics at play is in order. We also need to get better at distinguishing between random, thoughtless bits of ideology and convention that deserve critical challenge, and norms that are in place to protect people from damage.
UPDATE: Upon consultation and reflection, and with trepidation, I am opening up comments on this thread. I will be moderating them *heavily*.
FURTHER UPDATE: I will not publish any pseudonymous/anonymous comments unless there is an obvious and compelling reason to do so.
UPDATE TO THE FURTHER UPDATE: Opening up comments has turned out to be all-in a mistake for what were probably predictable reasons if I had half a brain. Some productive comments have made it through and I am now closing comments back down again.
Jennifer Saul has recently discussed sexual harassment in the profession on Salon and with Slate. Although Colin McGinn and his hand-themed brand of humor have been the catalyst for the recent round of attention to this issue, Saul rightly focuses on the broader systematic culture problem that the discipline of philosophy seems to have.
In one sense, it is gratifying to see this issue get attention in the wake of McGinn's resignation. At the same time, I have found it frustrating watching people gleefully vilify and demonize him. Not because he wasn't creepy and way out of bounds, but because the kind of remarkably inappropriate 'banter' he engaged in and his complete tone-deafness to the power dynamics that structure the performative force of that banter happen ALL THE TIME in philosophy, as far as I can tell. Through his pompous and narcissistic attempts at self-defense, McGinn made himself an easy target for ridicule. I worry that this has allowed us to write him off as a moral monster, rather than reflecting on just how pervasive this kind of behavior is. In fact, I think that McGinn's clear belief that his inappropriate sexualized communication made him somehow a bold, hip, unconventional intellectual is implicitly shared by many men in the profession.
That this kind of 'banter' is common doesn't make it harmless, by any means. It's easy to be insouciant about boundary-busting when you do so from a position of power. But in fact, this idea that we philosophers are somehow above such trivialities as social boundaries comes at the cost of the discipline's most vulnerable members (and potential members).
Here is one articulate and moving first-person account of the impact of sexual harassment on a graduate student that has been making the rounds.
UPDATE: Signed comments preferred. Non-sketchy email addresses required.
Hi all! It is, as always, some combination of fun and anxiety-producing to be guest blogging here again. Many thanks to Brian for inviting me back, and happy start of the fall term to everyone.
So my unit is making a MOOC.
I will admit that I’ve been underwhelmed with much of the hand-wringing about MOOCs. Most of the time the critique seems to be that they will threaten the traditional classroom. I’m just not that convinced that the kinds of traditional classrooms they plausibly threaten - mostly overcrowded, underfunded classrooms taught by underpaid, undersupported adjuncts - are serving anyone so wonderfully that they don’t deserve a little healthy competition. This widely-circulated letter from the San Jose State University Philosophy Department articulates powerful criticisms of Michael Sandel’s MOOC, but they seemed to me to be specific to that class and not generalizable to the technology as a whole. Watching my colleagues put a MOOC together, I am pretty impressed with the technological and pedagogical creativity involved. I am not prone to nostalgia or luddism, and it strikes me as an utterly open question whether the traditional classroom is the best educational forum for the vast majority of students who are not enrolled in fancy advanced seminars at top schools.
Now that I am in on the making of one of these, though, it seems to me that there are interesting problems they raise that are getting little to no attention. I want to mention a couple, although I can’t delve into them in detail in a blog post. I don’t claim these are the most pressing issues MOOCs raise; they are just examples.
There is something kind of beautiful happening on Facebook right now, as people riff on an image honoring the goal of marriage equality on the day SCOTUS hears opening arguments. This kind of super-fast, bottom-up, collective creativity is one of the most interesting and delightful things enabled by the Internet, I think. If you haven't logged on today, you should check out your feed.
Each year the Eastern Division of the Society for Women in Philosophy comes together to honor a woman philosopher whose contributions to the support of women in philosophy and to philosophy itself are outstanding and merit special recognition. A panel and reception celebrating the honoree's accomplishments will be organized for the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association, December 27-30, 2013.
Nominations should include a copy of the nominee's curriculum vitae and a minimum of two supporting letters, which summarize the nominee's contributions to philosophy and support of women in philosophy. NOTE: Two-thirds of letter writers for any given nomination must be members of the society for women in philosophy, in good standing.
Please e-mail all nominations to Rochelle Green, ESWIP Distinguished Woman Philosopher Award Secretary (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than April 1, 2013.
As far as I can tell no one is vetting this to assess how suited all of these readings actually are for intro classes. (Color me dubious about some of them.) And for my part, I wish it were a broader database that included canon-stretching readings of ALL sorts and not just readings by women. All the same it seems to me to be a useful initiative, and it may grow into an even more useful one.
UPDATE: Here is another, similar database coming out of Australia. This one has a nicer interface and some vetting. It's for readings by women for undergrads, not just intro classes. Thanks to Patrick McGivern for the tip!
Thomas Nadelhoffer just pointed me towards a spam folder whose filter was overzealously censoring many of you, including me. I have now posted comments that were hanging around in there. Many apologies to those of you who have been wondering why your comments were not showing up.
Recently, Cassie Herbert (one of my grad students at
Georgetown) and I have been thinking and writing about what we have dubbed
peripheral speech. Peripheral speech is a kind of speech within expert
communities – that is, any communities held together by shared expertise
combined with a shared social identity.
These could be professional communities (tort lawyers, physicists,
philosophers, philosophers of race, experimental philosophers…) or avocational
communities (trekkies, antique car restoration fanatics…). Peripheral
speech is not institutionally sanctioned expert speech such as giving colloquia,
teaching, or publishing an article, nor is it just expertise-irrelevant
chit-chat. It’s speech that draws on the shared expertise and social identity
of the community but in an informal way, around the margins of official expert
speech. It is often but not always playful. It can include blogging,
professional gossip, facebook interactions, and professional ‘insider’ jokes,
for instance. (One of our favorite examples is the ongoing circulation of the
‘Philosophers' Proofs that P’.) There is no crisp line between peripheral and regular expert
speech, of course, and while peripheral speech is often pleasurable it is not
inherently bad or good; it can have powerful positive and negative effects, we
Cassie’s and my main philosophical interest here is in the pragmatics of peripheral speech, and in
particular in how the performative force of peripheral speech acts can serve to
include and exclude expert community members, as well as to solidify,
constitute, and negotiate community norms.
Pragmatics aside, Cassie noticed something suggestive, a
couple of days ago, about who engages
in peripheral philosophy speech, at least on blogs. She got interested in the gender of the
commenters on this blog and the Newapps blog, both of which often take up
issues pertaining to the discipline as a whole. Here were her Totally Unscientific and Already Out of Date Yet
Suggestive findings. In the last eight
blog posts on this blog (as of a couple of days ago) that received at least 16 comments, 71% of the commenters
were identifiably male, 7% were identifiably female, 11% were by the post
author (rightly a separate category) and 18% were anonymous, pseudonymous, or
unidentifiable. In the last eight corresponding posts
on Newapps, 55% were identifiably male, 11% female, 24% by the post author, and
11% were anonymous/pseudonymous/unidentifiable.
She also found that on both blogs, later commenters were nine times less likelyto refer explicitly back to female commenters as to male
commenters. It’s not clear that this means that individual
women got significantly less uptake, but it is an interesting snapshot of who
is in the conversation.
Again this is all wildly unscientific but it is suggestive of interesting trends concerning who engages in peripheral
speech in philosophy and who receives uptake for doing so. The relationship between this and issues of participation
in formal expert speech is worth exploring, I think. If peripheral speech really does play a central role in solidifying and negotiating expert communities and their boundaries, then who participates in it can have all sorts of interesting consequences.
(Bonus thought: Cassie could not collect meaningful numbers
for the Feminist Philosophers blog, because such a high percentage of the
bloggers and commenters there use pseudonyms. She pointed out that this in
itself has an interesting dynamic to it, since the identity of those folks is
somewhere between private and public. Many of us know who is speaking and whom we are addressing when we
comment on FPB, and many of us do not. It occurs to me that this in itself
raises questions about inclusion, exclusion, and the pragmatics of peripheral
speech; the use of semi-private pseudonyms can create a kind of insider
discourse and identity for those ‘in the know’ and can have an exclusionary effect on others.)
Given the vigorous interest many philosophers clearly have in the composition of the discipline, and in what we can do to diversify it in appropriate ways, readers may well be interested in this conference on diversity in philosophy, hosted by the APA committee on the status of women.
Hi everyone! I am
grateful to Brian for giving me the honor of guest-blogging here again. It’s
been about a year and a half since my last stint, and there have been all sorts
of vigorous and controversial discussions going on in the discipline since
then; I hope to touch on several of them over the next week.
In the mean time I will start with something seasonally
appropriate, as this year’s job market starts to wind down just as the Amazing
Graduate Admissions Race hurdles towards its April 15th climax.
I’ve been on the graduate admissions committee at Georgetown
for the last several years. It is striking to me what a hefty – and I think
growing – percentage of the students we admit are coming out of terminal MA
programs, or in some cases other sorts of graduate programs. The large majority
of the people we admitted this year had some graduate training already. My informal
sense is that it’s getting hard for undergraduates to compete for spots in PhD programs. And
while I have no numbers, I know it’s not just us, because top-ranked programs
like Pitt, Stanford, and NYU keep scooping our admits (curses!). A quick glance
at the placement records of good terminal MA programs like Georgia State and Tufts reaffirms that students with MAs are nabbing top PhD spots, although that’s not
comparative data obviously.
Anyhow all this seems to me to be a sea-change. Doing a
terminal MA in the US was quite uncommon back when I was a grad student, and it
certainly wasn’t any kind of prerequisite for getting into a good PhD program, to understate the point.
Meanwhile, though again I have no systematic data, clearly
more people are doing postdocs before they settle into tenure track jobs. There are 29 postdocs listed so far on this Brian’s
annual list of hires and I suspect there will be many more to come. This too is a sea change.
It’s unclear to me what is driving all this. Why are people doing terminal MAs? Why are people funding philosophy
postdocs? (It’s not mysterious why people are taking them.)
It seems to me that one clear co-traveling phenomenon is a
sharp increase in professionalization among young philosophers. I am certainly
blown away by how professionalized the PhD applications are from the top people
coming out of MA programs; these people have mastered the form and tone of
professional philosophical writing and often have several conference presentations
and even publications. I can’t tell how much is cause and how much is effect
here, although surely the causality goes both ways. (Students need MAs to be professionalized enough
to compete, partly because so many of their competitors have MAs…) And on the
other end, people coming out of postdocs and into tenure-track jobs have
mind-blowingly impressive cvs. The post-doc model is clearly pushing us more in
the direction of the sciences, which traditionally have a different publication
rhythm than we do.
My question is, what should we make of all this? What are the
upsides and downsides of this kind of professionalization and this new and
increasingly routine trajectory? How if at all is it changing our evaluative standards? What are the consequences for people’s lives
of extending the whole path to a secure job at both ends? We might think about
two sorts of questions here:
Does this all make for better or worse
philosophy getting done, in the end? Or neither?
If a terminal MA and a postdoc become standard
parts of the career path, might this create disadvantages (or advantages) for
already-vulnerable would-be philosophers, such as people from working class
backgrounds, or people with family responsibilities?
My own tentative view is that things cut both ways on both sets of questions. Anyhow, thoughts? I’d love to hear from anyone, but it would be
especially interesting to hear from people who have recently chosen to do MAs and/or postdocs.
UPDATE: Some people are posting anonymous comments using fake email addresses. I am not going to post those. Some of these seem to me to be completely reasonable comments, and I encourage people to re-post using a real email address (and ideally your name, but that's not necessarily a deal breaker).
I'm very pleased to report that philosopher Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown) has agreed to return as a guest-blogger here for the next week (and perhaps a bit beyond, her schedule permitting). I may have a few items as well during this time, but Professor Kukla will be the main attraction.
Implicit bias is a hot topic in philosophy these days; for instance, there are awesomely interesting-looking upcoming conferences advertised here and here. (Incidentally, this strikes me as a little corner of the discipline in which those with explicitly feminist training and interests and those without are working together and learning from one another beautifully.)
As job market season enters full swing, many of us - job candidates and search committee members both - are concerned about how to mitigate the effects of implicit biases. Voluminous empirical research shows that impressions of candidates can be impacted not only by coarse identity features such as their apparent gender and race, but by minutiae from the way they sit to how much they weigh to what they wear. Research also suggests that no matter how well-intentioned and diligent we are, those of us assessing candidates cannot just think or will ourselves out of the problem. Insisting to yourself that you will assess candidates impartially and ignore irrelevant features does little to help, and may even backfire. When we actively suppress our biases, they re-emerge with a vengance once we become less vigilant or when we are under stress. Our lizard brains are remarkably insouciant when it comes to listening to and taking directions from our mister-bossy-pants conscious, reflective minds, it turns out. Furthermore, we just don’t have enough data to know how to minimize the effects of implicit bias by brute force; we may have various intuitions about whether bias kicks in more during APA interviews than skype interviews, or whatever, but there isn’t enough science out there to say, and the phenomenon has turned out to function counterintuitively many times before. (For a bibliography of psychological and philosophical literature on implicit bias, see here.)
What is to be done? Well, I don’t think any of us really has a sufficient answer, although there are some concrete tools out there that help to focus our attention on relevant rather than irrelevant traits. (There are some nice resources here, although I can't get the links to the online tool links to work, unfortunately.) But recognizing that good intentions are not a solution is surely important, at least in fostering necessary epistemic humility. It seems to me that people are persistently and dramatically over-confident both about their ability to consciously compensate for bias, and in their intuitions about how to avoid it in the first place. See, for example, this recent thread, in which several people simply asserted that they had various techniques that enabled them to filter out noise and bias. Many of us have already played around with this, but taking some of the online tests bouncing around the web can be a useful eye-opener. (Thanks once again to Bryce Huebner for helpful discussions.)
Thus ends my stint as guest-blogger. Many thanks to all who participated in what I think were some excellent discussions over the last week and a half, and many thanks again to Brian for inviting me to do this. And good luck to all job candidates!
I've mentioned that I do not publish nasty or ad hominem comments, or comments that are anonymous unless I can tell that there is a good reason for the anonymity. If your only reason for wanting anoynmity is that you want to say things that are nastier than you are willing to take the consequences for saying, this doesn't count as a good reason; rather, you're an example of why many people think that allowing anonymous comments is a bad idea. I should have added: If your comment is anonymous AND you provide an intentionally invalid email address, I will not publish your comment; neither will I be able to contact you to discuss your reasons for desiring anonymity and/or ways to make your comment more productive and less nasty.
Readers at the University of Chicago may be interested in this petition that the university is submitting in support of the Occupy Chicago movement. Thanks to Jacob Swenson for the pointer. Jacob also suggests that those at other universities should consider drafting similar petition letters.
SECOND UPDATE: David Velleman (NYU) comments: "I note that although the university petitions mention several important grievances of the protesters, they omit a central grievance that hits closer to home - namely, the crushing debt with which today's students graduate from college. (For examples, flip through the "We Are the 99 Percent" tumblr at wearethe99percent.tumblr.com). We academics bear some responsibility for the costs of higher education. It is all very well to cheer on the protests from the sidelines -- or to join them in the streets -- but we should not pretend that we are entirely on the side of the angels."
As the discussion about the climate for women in the subdisciplines heats up (thanks all!), it seems a good time to provide a pointer to a growing resource, the What We're Doing About What It's Like blog, an initiative of the Women in Philosophy Task Force, where people write in with concrete examples of steps they have taken or witnessed that aim to improve the climate for women in philosophy (at the individual, departmental, or any other level). There's lots of interesting stuff up there, including for instance a departmental climate survey tool devised by social scientists and submitted by Ruth Chang and used at Michigan. Take a look! And, help build the resource by submitting something if you can.
BREAKING NEWS 10/21: Cathy Kemp writes: Informal report of results for SPEP resolution in support of "'Pluralist' Guide": 118 yes 24 no 5 abstentions.
(In other news: eminent philosopher Jon Cogburn forced to eat hat.)
* * * * *
I firmly intended not to guest-blog about the "Pluralist's Guide", as I considered the issue sooooo July 2011, but the Flying Spaghetti Monster seems to have different plans for me. It was just brought to my attention that SPEP members will be voting on a proposed resolution in support of the guide at their annual meeting this coming weekend. Here is the full text of the resolution:
I The membership of the Society of Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy supports the independent efforts of the new Pluralist’s Guide to Philosophy to:
1) provide new sources of information on areas of philosophy that remain underrepresented in most doctoral programs in the discipline and
2) provide information on the conditions for women and minorities in graduate philosophy programs. The membership of SPEP has long championed pluralistic approaches to philosophy, as well as increased diversity in a field that continues to have the lowest representation by women and people of color compared to all other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.
II. We commend those committed to providing enhanced information about doctoral programs in philosophy in the US, as well as those working to promote diversity in the profession. While we appreciate those who have engaged in constructive dialogue about the Guide and its production, we condemn the incivility that has marked some criticisms, especially ad hominem attacks on the Guide’s organizers and contributors as well as on SPEP and its membership despite the latter's independence from the construction of the Guide. We are grateful to the authors of and contributors to the Pluralist’s Guide for their work. Philosophy currently faces unprecedented marginalization within the academy; we support efforts to move past archaic divisions and find common ground.
A few months back, pretty much every philosophy blog was ablaze with discussion of how and whether to evaluate and compare the climate for female students in different philosophy departments. The issue was discussed ad nauseum (and yes, I realize I was surely a major contributor to the nausea). Lately I’ve been reflecting on a slightly different issue, namely the climate for women in different subdisciplines within philosophy. After all, departments are not the only ‘natural’ social groupings in the discipline.
My reflections were triggered by my going to back-to-back major conferences in philosophy of science (EPSA) and bioethics (ASBH)- two subdisciplines of philosophy that feel to me to be ‘healthier’ than most other parts of philosophy when it comes to gender issues. I tried hard to articulate what I meant by ‘healthier’ to my friend Eric Winsberg, who, as so often happens, convinced me that I had no clear idea yet what I was trying to say, and helped me notice several important distinctions that needed to be drawn. I’m still not confident I know exactly what I think, but here are some ground-clearing thoughts.
The question of how hospitable a subdiscipline is to women has to be separated clearly from the question of how hospitable it is to feminist work. I think that much damage has been done by not separating these questions. Indeed, I think that support, recognition, and full social and intellectual inclusion for women who do not work on feminist philosophy, regardless of their personal politics, is one of the most pressing climate issues in the discipline. Such women risk devaluation and rejection from both the male-dominated discipline at large and from their colleagues who identify as feminist philosophers. Nonetheless the questions are not completely independent, for at least two reasons. (a) A subdiscipline that refuses to recognize the validity of feminist work basically tells women that some of their most pervasive and formative experiences are not appropriate topics for philosophical reflection, and cannot interestingly condition their philosophical responses and insights. This is probably true for a few select subdisciplines, such as logic and philosophy of math, but they are exceptions. (b) As a matter of unsurprising though contingent empirical fact, many women in philosophy, regardless of subdiscipline, do have feminist interests. So hospitability to feminist work is conducive to but not sufficient for hospitability to women. Furthermore, there are at least two different ways in which a subdiscipline x might acknowledge feminist approaches: ‘feminist philosophy of x’ might be a thriving sub-subdiscipline, or feminist approaches and insights may be frequently incorporated into and recognized by the mainstream of the subdiscipline. When a subdiscipline has the former but not the latter, there’s a high risk that feminist philosophy - and with it, many women - will be ghettoized.
Tentatively, I think that for a subdiscipline of philosophy to be truly woman-friendly, it needs all of the following to be true. (1) There are a sizable number of leaders and up-and-coming stars in the field who are women, regardless of whether they take up feminist issues, and (2) it has a culture of taking women seriously, treating them respectfully, and including them in social networks and professional opportunities. If feminist approaches to the field are helpful, then also (3) there is a thriving community of feminist scholars who have the means to network with one another and exchange ideas and support, and (4) feminist insights and approaches are not relegated to a ghetto but incorporated, as appropriate, into the mainstream - anyone can draw upon feminist insights and approaches without having to join a dedicated ‘feminist philosopher of x camp’, and these insights and approaches are recognized as (sometimes) helpful and philosophically legitimate. Furthermore, (5) the subdiscipline as a whole does not presume that all of its female members do feminist philosophy, and (6) the women in the field who do feminist work and those who do not are friendly towards and in solidarity with one another. My totally anecdotal, soft sense, for what it is worth, is that both philosophy of science and bioethics score above average on all six measures. (NOTE my original post here contained some musings about particular subdisciplines, but David Chalmers convinced me (with comment #3 below) that this was a bad idea.)
Many thanks to Eric Winsberg and Bryce Huebner for helping me think through these issues. Comments very welcome, although I will not post anything nasty or ad hominem, nor will I allow any anonymous posts without a really compelling reason to do so.
A few days ago I blogged about the potential assault on tenure and liberal arts funding in Florida, and mentioned that Florida is looking to Texas, where proposed changes to the tenure system are also afoot. I've now done some looking into the Texas situation, which strikes me as quite chilling. (Brian pointed out several months ago that these changes were afoot in this post.) As in the Florida case, I don't feel qualified to judge how likely it is that the proposed reforms will go through or what exactly their long-term effect will be, but (1) it is worrisome that Republican legislators are becoming so interested in micromanaging academia, and (2) the general tenor of the assault is telling.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation has put together a '7-step plan' for 'strengthening' higher education in the state, at governor Rick Perry's request. Perry has urged the regents of the state universities - all of whom have been appointed by him - to adopt the plan. This plan urges adopting a 'business model' for running universities, in which students are the 'customers'.
Part of the plan is to make 75% of tenure decisions depend pretty much entirely on teaching, evaluated by objective, state-defined measures, while 25% of the faculty positions would be set aside as pure research positions. Along with the obvious downsides to judging most faculty solely by their teaching, I am deeply disturbed by the assumption that there is no symbiotic relationship between teaching and research - that students need no access to strong researchers, that being a researcher is in no way an important condition for certain kinds of high-quality teaching, and that our teaching does not enhance or help develop or direct our research. Indeed, somewhat ironically, the report refers to teaching as a 'burden' from which researchers could be freed according to the plan. (I couldn't find anything about how graduate advising would fit into this - does anyone know?) The details of how teaching would be evaluated are particularly troubling: Teaching professors could only receive tenure "by having taught an average of three classes per semester and thirty students per class for ... seven or more years" and "average teaching ratings must be a minimum of 4.5 on a 5.0 scale" (my emphasis - see here). I think it would be condescending of me to spell out on this blog why these are terrible ideas, in light of the effect on the kind of topics that could be taught, the need to pander to students, and so on. The writers of the report do have the chutzpah to claim that this would not turn tenure into a 'popularity contest'. This has been brewing for a while, and the Chronicle of Higher Education did a story on the Texas situation a year ago; here is the link, although you'll need access to the Chronicle to read it.
I am curious how worried philosophers at state universities in Texas and Florida actually are about all of this; although I have some Florida ties, I don't really know how things feel on the ground. I am opening comments, and particularly encourage signed comments from folks who are working in one of those two states. I'm also curious if anyone knows if there are other states jumping on this bandwagon.
Hi all! This is my first guest post. I am grateful to Brian Leiter for giving me this exciting opportunity. I am starting with something informational as a warm-up. I plan to post something more chewy and discussion-worthy shortly.
In his October 12th post Florida Goes Nuts, Brian noted that Florida’s ‘brain-dead’ governor Rick Scott is calling for cuts to specific disciplines, but claimed that philosophy is not among them. This is not true: Scott has specifically targeted philosophy, although anthropology is his favorite target (for instance see here).
Since cutting public university and especially liberal arts budgets is a state pastime in Florida, this is all less notable than the fact that Scott has made it clear that he intends to ‘raise questions’ about the tenure system at state universities, with an eye to perhaps eliminating it. This, I suspect, is no idle threat. He has already eliminated tenure protection for K-12 teachers and he has said that it is one of the priorities on his 2012 legislative agenda to challenge it at the university level. Plus, Florida already has a young state university (Florida Gulf Coast University) that has no tenure system, and state Republicans apparently think it’s splendid. The Director of Public Affairs at New College of Florida, which is a state school, issued a letter to the faculty yesterday, basically telling them not to panic yet. I suspect that this person never took a class that covered Grice.
I’m fond of this highly literate quotation from Scott: “If there’s a logical reason to do tenure, I’m fine. But my first reaction to things is the rest of society we don’t get these guarantees.” (See here.)
I’ve been unable to find much information about his proposed alternatives; I doubt there are any. I did find some scary gibberish from some local Republican lawmaker about replacing the tenure system with a set of salary incentives for people who ‘do well’, defined as having large classes and things like that. Florida is apparently following in the footsteps of Texas, where lawmakers are also seriously interested in eliminating tenure. I of course have little sense of how real this threat is or what its consequences would be. In the mean time, I guess that job candidates lucky enough to be considering multiple offers should keep their eye on legislative developments in Florida and Texas.
I am very pleased to announce that philosopher Rebecca Kukla will be guest-blogging here starting October 14 and continuing through October 23. Professor Kukla has wide-ranging philosophical interests ranging across bioethics, epistemology, philosophy of language, feminist philosophy, and the history of eighteenth-century philosophy. I will be doing some posting during that time period as well, but mainly I'll be reading Professor Kukla!