Robert Grant (Trinity College Dublin) comments.
Good points by Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern).
A strikingly diverse group of signatories, and rightly so given the fundamental legal values at stake here.
Striking piece by journalist Robert Fisk:
Over and over, we have the evidence that it is not Isis that “radicalises” Muslims before they head off to Syria – and how I wish David Cameron would stop using that word – but the internet. The belief, the absolute conviction that the screen contains truth – that the “message” really is the ultimate verity – has still not been fully recognised for what it is; an extraordinary lapse in our critical consciousness that exposes us to the rawest of emotions – both total love and total hatred – without the means to correct this imbalance. The “virtual” has dropped out of “virtual reality”.
At its most basic, you have only to read the viciousness of internet chatrooms. Major newspapers – hopelessly late – have only now started to realise that chatrooms are not a new technical version of “Letters to the Editor” but a dangerous forum for people to let loose their most-disturbing characteristics. Thus a major political shift in the Middle East, transferred to the internet, takes on cataclysmic proportions. Our leaders not only can be transfixed themselves – the chairman of the US House Committee on Homeland Security, for example, last week brandishing a printed version of Dabiq, the Isis online magazine – but can use the same means to terrify us.
(Thanks to Christopher Morris for the pointer.)
Benj Hellie (Toronto) wrote to the researchers mentioned in Wednesday's story about fields in which women are under- and over-represented among doctoral recipients to inquire "where Philosophy falls in the ranking of the 'Gender Imbalance' paper." One of the researchers, Courtney Tannenbaum, wrote back and gave permission to share her response:
Thank you for your interest in the paper. I shared your inquiry with Andrew [Gillen] who led the analysis for the brief. He shared he following with me, which I hope answers your question:
The best CIP code for Philosophy is probably 38.01, which has the figures below:
This shows a bit of over-representation of men. Relative to other fields, it was 80 out of 135 fields when ranked from least to most male over-representation.
Interesting, and somewhat surprising, data here. (The data for "Law" is a bit misleading, since hardly anyone gets a doctoral degree in law anymore, and those that do come overwhelmingly from foreign countries--though it is consistent with my anecdotal evidence that those who do the SJD [as it is usually called] are disproportionately male; the J.D. is typically the highest degree for most lawyers (and law professors), and female/male enrollment for the JD is getting close to around 50-50 nationwide.)
(Thanks to Jeff Roland for the pointer.)
Recently, one blogger has taken to policing my tweets and comments on blogs, in order to find material she can take out of context to try to embarrass me. (I had previously worked closely with this philosopher in assisting a victim of sexual harassment in transferring to a more civilized program, but apparently trying to help victims of actual misconduct is now less important than finding ways to humiliate someone who had the audacity to express concerns about due process in the Ludlow case, to host a discussion of the Colorado Site Visit report (after the Feminist Philosophers blog shut down all discussion of it), and to disagree on various occasions with FP philosophers on various issues). This is juvenile, but par for the course in cyberspace.
Now two other philosophers (one of whom is closely allied with the first, and both of whom are opposed to the PGR, about which more in a moment) have posted portions of e-mails I sent to two faculty who had attacked me, but again stripped of all context. They even claim, falsely,that I made a "threat that 'things will get around'". (In fact, it was the person I wrote to who made that threat, not me, but concern for facts and context do not loom large in this pathetic affair.) They did not even have the courtesy to ask about any pertinent context before posting the e-mails.
I will supply the context here.
During the summer, after I criticized some misleading job placement ranking data, Carrie Jenkins (British Columbia) took to the web to make clear that in her view such criticism was not permissible in our profession and that, therefore, she viewed my blog post as "unprofessional and unethical," and that, in consequence, she was no longer going to treat me as a "normal or representative member of" the profession. (I learned about Jenkins's post attacking me from Catarina Dutilh Novaes.) On social media, Jenkins had long impressed me as a bit of a "sanctimonious ass" (as I said in the e-mail), and this was certainly par for that course. I sent her a sharp and derisive e-mail about her blogged threats, to which she never replied. But I did wonder, as one might imagine, in what ways she was not going to "treat me as a normal" member of the profession. But apparently our profession is so degraded that if one philosopher declares in public that she will not treat Brian Leiter "as a normal member of the profession," that's OK, and I'm supposed to say nothing.
Noelle McAfee took her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, and was on the job market when I was placement director there. Unlike some of those on the current crusade, I am not going to disclose more details, but suffice it to say there is a lot of missing context. I will discuss here only what is already in the public record. Since getting her PhD, McAfee, who teaches now at Emory, has been a member of SPEP, including its "Advocacy Committee" (a Committee created to counteract the PGR), and has for many years made false and misleading claims about me and the PGR. I have corresponded with her off and on for years, asking her to cut it out. The straw that broke the camel's back, however, came earlier this year, when yet again she took to the Internet to lie about me and the PGR; the lies or (more charitably) misrepresentations included claiming that (1) there was a 39% drop in the number of programs that participated in the 2011 PGR compared to 2009 (McAfee can't count); (2) the 2011 PGR failed to disclose the departments that participated in the survey (McAfee apparently could not find her way around the PGR site either in order to locate the lists); (3) Emory and other departments are "refusing" to participate in the PGR (some departments request to be included, but others, including Emory, have been included at various intervals--and Emory did, in fact, once request inclusion, contrary to McAfee's false assertion); (4) the PGR reflects a sexist bias against departments with lots of women (a claim not supported by any careful analysis of the data); and (5) various false statements of fact about my professional situation. Then it turned out that, under a pseudonym, McAfee was vandalizing my Wikipedia page. As I said to her, "I am a philosopher, but I’m also a lawyer, and I’ve grown tired of malevolent misrepresentations about me and the PGR like yours. You are on notice and I hope you get the message." In fact, she got the message, since she revised many of the false statements of fact.
This is how the law works: if you say false things intended to damage someone's reputation, you have acted illegally. U.S. law gives more cover for defamers than elsewhere, but even here there are limits. In the future, I can have my lawyer send these e-mails, but I frankly thought it more gentle to write myself.
Those who posted the e-mails, without any of the preceding context, raise this as an objection to me as the "editor of the PGR." Well, I am the editor of the PGR; I am also one of the leading Nietzsche scholars in the world, a law professor, a New Yorker with limited toleration for the fools our profession breeds, a leading figure in legal philosophy, a leading philosophy blogger, a devoted teacher and mentor (defamation of me has grown so common on this score that I've taken to putting my evaluations on-line), a husband, a son, a father of three, a longstanding opponent of cyber-harassment based on gender and race, and a defender of academic freedom and the rights of everyone from Steven Salaita to John Yoo to speak freely about matters of public concern without state sanction. But those out to attack me now, both those who published the e-mails (without context) and Catarina Novaes, have made clear that this is primarily about the PGR.
So let me be clear: the PGR is a service to students, not to me. For me, it's now nothing more than a headache--both because of all the time it takes, but because it opens me up to slimy attacks by unethical and unprofessional people. It would be in my self-interest to stop publishing the PGR, but it would not be in the interests of students or the profession (well, it would be in the interest of the Emorys and other weak departments for me to stop publishing it). But since those who want to attack me are primarily motivated by the PGR, let me put it to a poll. The next two months of my life would be much more peaceful if I do not do the next PGR. What do readers think? (Sorry, had to repost this due to a technical problem--it was about 50-50 last time--here it is again.)
[Poll closed--with about 3000 votes, it was roughly 56% against, 44% in favor--given the social media campaign to mobilize anti-PGR votes, I'm surprised it was not even more lopsided]
UPDATE: A couple dozen philosophers (many friends or colleagues of Prof. Jenkins), and other longtime PGR opponents, have indicated they will not serve as PGR evaluators to protest my criticism of Prof. Jenkins. (Only a handful of them would have been invited as evaluators anyway.) Like the others, they omit all context, including that Prof. Jenkins targetted me in the first place: I did not send her an e-mail out of the blue. As a commenter "Jean" on the Feminist Philosophers blog put it:
In Leiter’s email to Jenkins you can see what got him riled up is this: “I will not accept or treat those whose behaviour regularly fails to meet these standards as normal or representative members of my profession.” This is not just a pledge to be respectful to others, but a pledge to somehow decommission violators of her norms. Since it does seem to me (from context) that she was primarily thinking of Leiter as a violator, it’s understandable that he takes this personally.
They also repeat the misrepresentation of a Twitter comment, which another philosopher put into circulation. I sent Prof. Jenkins the following letter about that:
Dear Carrie: Laurie Paul and Heidi Lockwood tell me you were upset by the Twitter exchange from the other day. I am genuinely sorry for upsetting you, it was, truly, the opposite of my intention. May I please try to explain what I thought was going on?
Tim Crane and I had a series of back-and-forths on Twitter about the contested Nietzsche review, which he had commissioned for TLS. He needled me, and I needled back. I posted his comment in defense of the review on my Nietzsche blog, and he quipped that I would now call him a charlatan (I told him he was only a charlatan when it came to wine expertise in a separate tweet). You weighed in with a tweet that I took to mean, "Don't worry, Brian calls lots of people charlatans, including me." I thought that was funny and a friendly gesture, so I replied to say, "Well, I did once call you a sanctimonious arse, but never a charlatan, and in any case, I don't dislike you and know there are lots of good things about you." Unfortunately, that's more than 140 characters.
Now as you know several months ago I did send you an intemperate e-mail, which I regret sending, but it was in response to something you had done which really upset me. I read your "pledge" back then (as did Catarina at NewApps, from whom I learned about it) as directed at me and as saying: "I am not going to treat Brian Leiter as a normal member of the profession." I found that very offensive at the time. I should have cooled off for 24 hours, but instead I sent you an intemperate e-mail. I learned you then put it into public circulation, so I took that to be the context of the tweet exchange. Part of what I wanted to convey with the tweet exchange was only that I wasn't annoyed about that earlier incident, and I took the fact that you tweeted what you did to mean you weren’t either.
She did not reply. I do regret my earlier intemperate e-mail, though the context noted above may at least make it explicable.
UPDATE: We presently have over 550 nominated evaluators, and now about two dozen have signed the boycott letter. I would be sorry to lose their input, but given the way the boycott letter sent out by Richard Heeck presented what transpired, I understand and respect their decision, even as I regret it. The actual sequence of events, as I laid it out for a reporter this evening, was clear:
July 1: I posted a sharp critique of some utterly misleading rankings produced by Carolyn Jennings, a tenure-stream faculty member at UC Merced. She quickly started revising it after I called her out.
July 2: other blogs began attacking me for criticizing Jennings.
Later on July 2, Catarina Novaes also joined the criticism, pointing me to the response by Carrie Jenkins, which she characterized, obviously correctly, as “reacting to what many perceived as Brian Leiter’s excessively personalized attack of Carolyn Dicey Jennings’s analysis.”
THE 'SMEAR' CAMPAIGN: A good example of the "smear campaign" aspect of some of what is going on is the false claim promoted by an anonymous website that my targets "recently" have been disproportionately women. In fact, during the exact same time period, far more men than women have come in for criticism, derision, or polemics, including Eric Schliesser, Santiago Zabala, Tom Stern, Matt Drabek, Leon Wieseltier, Dirk Johnson, Ben Cohen, Ed Kazarian, Vince Vitale, William Vallicella, and Mark Oppenheimer, among others (I leave out the 'big names' like Zizek and Niall Ferguson). Why does the smear site mention only one of these men? Because it's purpose is not to inform, but to damage my reputation. I have twice now posted a comment on that site pointing out that there are multiple errors of fact and multiple omissions of fact, and asking the person responsible to e-mail me from their pseudonymous e-mail address so that I may supply a document listing the errors and omissions with hyperlinks. The site owner has not approved my comment nor contacted me, again, for the obvious reasons: the purpose of the site is not to provide information, but to smear me. (That its so-called "resources" include any reference to Paul Campos makes that even more plain.)
Similarly--and contrary to Richard Heck’s latest misrepresentations (which he’s apparently been e-mailing out to the world)--when Noelle McAfee threatened that my e-mails to her would “get around” (a threat she has now made good on), the only thing I told her would “get around” is that I believed she had a personal vendetta against me because she felt I hadn’t done enough for her back in the late 1990s when I was one of the placement directors. That personal vendetta subsequently became a professional one as she became involved with SPEP and its Advocacy Committee.
Fortunately, the smears have receded, and there have been more substantive discussion of the actual issues by Simon May, Alex Rosenberg, and others, for which I'm grateful.
THE 'PGR AURA': The worry that some have, as I understand it, is that "the PGR aura" gives my criticisms a weight and importance they would otherwise not have. Simon May (Florida State) gave the most cogent statement I've seen from any of the boycotters, though in my view the weaknesses of his argument are also illuminating (more on that in a moment).
Here is what I take to be the core issue. I respond aggressively with only a miniscule fraction of my critics out there in the world. (The Internet is awash with literally thousands of criticisms of my rankings, my views, and me, and 99% of their authors have never heard from me--contrary to those falsely asserting a "pattern" of my targetting "vulnerable" people--even in the cases at hand, the "targets" are tenured professors at major research institutions. This is one of many reasons why the description of any of this as "bullying" is absurd). Do such aggressive responses raise questions about the work I have done for many years as editor of the PGR? Simon May thinks it does. He writes:
[T]he point is that Prof. Leiter’s status as the editor of the de facto or quasi-official rankings of philosophy departments indicates the community’s endorsement of his behaviour as within the bounds of acceptability.
I would have thought that participation in the PGR indicates that people think I and the Advisory Board have done a good job running it as a useful service for students and departments. It constitutes an endorsement of my extramural statements to critics as little as it constitutes an endorsement of my atheism, my left politics, or my contempt for Jacques Derrida and Ayn Rand. Perhaps, though, "endorsement" is the wrong word: the issue is whether participation in the PGR constitutes "toleration" of conduct that should not be tolerated?
A lot of Simon's case turns, as he correctly acknowledges, on his judgment that my e-mails were "abysmal and utterly unacceptable." This is strong language, melodramatic in my view, but perhaps not in the view of others. There are no doubt great differences of style and temperment between me and Simon, partly due to culture, to professional background, and to life experiences. I do not think anything I did was "abysmal and utterly unacceptable," even as I regret, as I've said repeatedly, sending the e-mail to Prof. Jenkins. (Although I would have written them slightly differently in retrospect, I do not regret the thrust of the other e-mails to a malevolent and persistently dishonest critic over a period of many years, one who has repeatedly walked the line on defamation and who even took to vandalizing my Wikipedia page under a pseudonym.) But I understand why some people would prefer I not send intemperate e-mails or assert what I take to be my legal rights so aggressively. I will no doubt do it less often in the future, and think more carefully before doing so. (I am hopeful that if I step down from the PGR, there will be fewer outbursts directed my way, and so less need for any kind of redress.)
As things stand, as uncontested PGR editor, Prof. Leiter has relatively free rein to act in as belligerent a manner as he might wish towards any member of the community.
This is also not true. I have "free rein to act in as belligerent manner as" I might wish because I am a citizen of a free society, in which I can speak my mind. Simon's worry, I take it, is that the "PGR aura" enhances the effect of a belligerent critique. I am not sure it does, but maybe there are cases where it does.
The mere knowledge that he is very safely embedded in a social network of esteem and approval, and that he has an unparalleled ability to dictate the content of discourse about the profession, inhibits public assertion of anything likely to raise his ire.
Anyone who spends a few minutes on Google searching discussions of me and the PGR can quickly confirm that this is false: the Internet has been awash with public discourse critical of me, the PGR, my views of philosophy, and on and on for many years. My "social network of esteem and approval" does not insulate me from mountains of criticism. It could still be true, and perhaps this is Simon's real point, that "the PGR aura" mitigates or lessens the amount of criticism that would otherwise occur. This may also be true, neither Simon nor I know. Whether this is a bad thing, of course, depends on the kind of criticism that is not aired. Given the criticism that is aired, regularly, some of which is quite vicious despite the PGR aura, I am skeptical.
Joseph Heath (Toronto) comments. Unlike Templeton, Koch money often seems to come with way too many ideological strings attached.
UPDATE: A senior philosopher elsewhere writes: "Thanks for the link to Joseph Heath's short piece on Koch money in academics. I remember you opened comments on a piece a few years ago on IHS funding of graduate students. I for one would be keenly interested to see what experiences others have had, with Koch and conferences. An option for anonymous posting would encourage openness."
I've opened comments, and will permit anonymous comments, but include a valid e-mail (I never disclose those to anyone and it will not appear).
In eleven years of blogging, I've only once received a serious threat of legal action for something posted here--serious, not in the sense that the claim had any merit, but in that the person making the claim had a real lawyer and there was a real prospect of a nuisance lawsuit being filed. The case involved jeweler and self-styled metaphysician David Birnbaum, whose curious case we noted last year, and whose story was then picked up by CHE. The trouble did not start, however, until almost six months later when The Guardian contacted Mr. Birnbaum for a story they subsequently ran about him. From that reporter Mr. Birnbaum discovered my original post about the allegations of academic identity theft from Prof. Hagberg. This posting agitated him, so he phoned me up at the office.
The conversation didn't get off to a good start because within the first twenty seconds he used the word "defamatory"; I cut him off and said to him, "If you call up a law professor and start throwing around the word defamatory, then the conversation is over." This sobered him up and we had a pleasant chat and he assured me the whole matter with Prof. Hagberg was a misunderstanding, that he had documents to prove it, that my post was very upsetting to his children, etc. It was an odd ramble. I said to him if he could send me documents proving it was a misunderstanding, then I would revise or remove the post accordingly. I told him to e-mail me the evidence.
Mr. Birnbaum didn't, in fact, have any real evidence, but he did e-mail me. He also cc'd his lawyer, which meant our correspondence was at an end. This was a litigator with a major New York law firm; my best guess is that this lawyer represents Mr. Birnbaum in disputes involving his high-end jewelry business, where there is probably hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars at stake. But I think as part of the cost of keeping his client, he also has to handle Mr. Birnbaum's vanity litigations (Birnbaum apparently made similar threats against Bard College as well, though in the end did nothing).
Fortunately, I have the best lawyer in the United States (truly!), a friend I went to law school with years ago. It's not just that he's really smart and a person of extraordinary integrity, it's that he has impeccable and shrewd judgment, and knows how to handle people--a huge part of successful lawyering is understanding how to get people to do what the law requires without actually having to bring suit (though bringing suit is, of course, the final recourse for certain wrongs). Over the years, my lawyer has recovered bonuses and security deposits wrongfully withheld, secured revisions to factually inaccurate statements in a book put out by a major publishing house, and assisted me in dealing effectively with sundry cyber-crazies. In none of these cases was a lawsuit ever filed (though in one, as I recall, a draft of the complaint did motivate the miscreant to do the right thing).
A philosopher elsewhere writes:
Our university has for many years run a small stand-alone Masters in Philosophical Theology. It spends 2/3 of its time teaching analytic philosophy and another third on historical figures who are both philosophers and Christian theologians. Members of the philosophy faculty do most of the teaching. It has evolved into a good feeder Masters program; over the last decade, most of the top 20 PhD programs in philosophy have accepted a least one of our students. For historical reasons, though, it is and will remain under the aegis of the religion department. The religion department is now floating a proposal to kill it, and replace it with a "philosophical" track within the Masters in Theology. Effectively, they want to absorb the PT program within that broader degree.
The religion chair thinks this will be merely a name change. I think this name-change will damage the program. The PT program gets only students who want to move into a philosophy doctorate. Most of these would not even look at a “Masters in Theology” to see if it has a philosophical track, as a “Masters in Theology” does not look like a philosophy credential. And while a degree called "philosophical theology" has (on the evidence) been a good credential for a top doctoral program, a degree called "Masters in Theology" would have no CV value or even be a slight negative. Competent advisors will tell students this, and so this will further reduce applications. There is no evidence that theology students are waiting in the wings to make up the numbers of philosophy students the name-change would lose us. So I think this would probably reduce applicant numbers greatly.
My correspondent wondered what reads of this blog would think; ergo a poll:
ANOTHER: The faculty have also been rebuffed over attempted oversight of sexual harassment investigations:
Aya Gruber, a professor in the law school, said she feels knowledgeable about ODH policies and procedures, and yet the office is still intimidating.
"I have an intimate understanding of how ODH operates, and it makes me afraid," she said. "You can educate me until the day is long, but the fact of the matter is anybody can make a complaint about anybody to ODH, and it is an unreviewable, secret process."
Whatever the precise percentages, the vast majority of readers thought philosophy blogs have had some effect on the profession, most thinking that effect either somewhat positive or somewhat negative, but with others going further in both directions. For purposes of discussion, let's distinguish between what I will call Substantive Blogs like Certain Doubts and PeaSoup, which are primarily devoted to discussing substantive questions in particular areas of philosophy (e.g., epistemology or ethics) and Professional Blogs, which deal with various issues in the profession (as well as news of the profession), like this blog or Feminist Philosophers. Some others do a bit of both. (For amusement, I remind readers of this poll from just three years ago. NewApps, alas, imploded in the interim.)
So in explaining how or why you think philosophy blogs have had positive or negative effects on the profession, please make clear whether you are referencing Substantive Blogs or Professional Blogs, or both. I would prefer signed comments, but if you do not sign your name, please use a distinct moniker and you must include a valid e-mail address (I do sometimes e-mail to suggest how a comment might be made more constructive). Keep the discussion substantive, please, no bald declarations of praise or blame for this blog or any other.
A graduate student in philosophy writes:
I recently received an email invitation to be on the editorial board or serve as an associate editor for an open access journal run by the International Journal Network (http://www.journalnetwork.org). While I’m flattered by the invitation, it also raised a number of red flags. For one, I’m a (very young) graduate student, and an invitation to serve in either of these positions at a journal is unusual. The invitation also included this line: “In either position, you can participate as little or as much as you like.” More importantly, a quick review of the organization reveals it has 325 journals (including, for example, the “International Journal of Paranormal Investigation,” the “International Journal of Astrology,” and the “International Journal of Religious Mysteries”). Most bizarre is that they seem willing to accept submissions now for a number of journals that apparently have no previous editions published and no boards or editors in place. For all the journals I looked at closely, the required submission fee is $125 per article.
I’ve already rejected the offer since, as a young graduate student, I don’t feel comfortable in those roles at any journal. But I wonder if the International Journal Network is worth further scrutiny.
Any other readers familiar with this operation?
A graduate student writes:
I get the impression that blogs are on the whole having a deleterious effect on the balance of power in the profession. The opinionated know-nothings (and insincere posturers) that we now have to pay attention to that seem to have some influence on professional organizations, departmental policies, and professional events (e.g., the Gendered Conference Campaign) would never have had this much influence without the distorting effect of blogs/social media.
I don't share my correspondent's view of the GCC, but the general issue raised is a legitimate one that has occured to me and to others I've heard from over the last year or so. So what do readers think? After the poll runs for a few days, I'll open a discussion.
UPDATE: Alas, someone found a way to get around the Micropoll security devices, which are supposed to block multiple votes from the same IP. After around 1,200 votes, it was roughly 12% neutral, and about 42% positive (12% strongly positive) and 46% negative (about 15% strongly negative). After that, some one (or some group) began pumping up the strongly negative votes. In any case, one conclusion is clear: most readers think blogs have had some effect on the profession, but are divided on whether that effect is positive or negative. I'll run a discussion during the week.
A humanities faculty member at Illinois writes with some reasonable questions:
First: Under what conditions would the academic boycott of UIUC be ended?
I support the boycott -- or probably more accurately, I support the goals of those who are boycotting. I was worried before now because I thought and continue to think that there is zero chance the boycott will actually work. Now that it appears that the boycott has not worked -- at least, not to restore Salaita's job or to protect academic freedom -- what is the current endgame? Will the boycott be lifted if and when Salaita settles with the university? Or if and when Wise is removed from her position? Or if and when the Trustees are replaced? Or what?
Second: Does the academic boycott extend to job talks?
I suspect (hope?) that the university's actions have seriously hurt its chances of making senior hires in the foreseeable future. But would anyone coming to Illinois to give a job talk be seen as crossing the boycott lines? Will the boycott be seen as applying differently to junior and senior people? In not too long, I expect our department to post new job advertisements. How will the wider community view them?
What do readers think?
UPDATE (AUG. 29): See also this later post on Salaita's contractual claims and the AAUP letter.
Corresponding with philosophy friends and colleagues on Facebook and via e-mail alerts me to the fact that there were certain implicit assumptions in my Huffington Post piece that would benefit from some more explicit discussion. (HuffPo generally does not want pieces to be longer than 1,000 words.) So this will be an explanation of American law (to the best of my not-always expert knowledge) as it bears on the Salaita case and related matters, with a couple of links to cases and some pieces by academics more expert on some of these matters.
1. It is crucial in the Salaita case that it involves a state or public university, namely, the University of Illinois. Public universities are government actors, and like all government actors they are subject to the limitations imposed by the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech. (Technical point: the First Amendment, by its text, applies only to the federal government; in the wake of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution, which imposed equal protection of the law requirements on the states; the Supreme Court subsequently interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to incorporate the First Amendment, among others, as applying to the states as well.) One of the basics of the American law of free speech is that the government can almost never suppress or punish speech because of its content or viewpoint. (There are some very narrow exceptions: child pornography, speech that poses an imminent risk of harm [e.g., a fight or violence], and a couple of others.) Speech on matters of public or political concern is almost always protected by the First Amendment. But private universities are not bound by the First Amendment: if the University of Chicago had treated Salaita the way the University of Illinois did, he would have no constitutional claim. (This would not happen here because the Board of Trustees does not approve faculty appointments--the final decision is made by the Provost, and once s/he signs off, it is a done deal.) Against a private university, Salaita would have other claims, about which more in #5 below.
2. One important aspect of the First Amendment protection for the content of one's expression is that government can not (generally) base a hiring decision on the speaker's viewpoint or the political content of his expression. (There is a clear exception for certain kinds of political appointees--e.g., President Obama can take into account the viewpoint of those he appoints to Cabinet positions. And there are institution-specific exceptions, such as in the military. In #3, below, I take up the main limitation on this principle possibly relevant to the Salaita case.) Wagner v. Jones, a case out of Iowa that is still percolating through the legal system, offers a good illustration. Wagner, a pro-life conservative, claims she was passed over for a job teaching legal research and writing at the University of Iowa because of her political views. The district (or trial) court initially granted Iowa's motion to dismiss, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit correctly reversed in the opinion linked above. Section II(A) of the opinion contains a useful discussion of precisely the doctrines that will be at issue for Salaita's constitutional claims against the University of Illinois:
The First Amendment is binding on the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 181, 92 S.Ct. 2338, 33 L.Ed.2d 266 (1972). "`[P]olitical belief and association constitute the core of those activities protected by the First Amendment.'" Rutan v. Republican Party of Ill., 497 U.S. 62, 69, 110 S.Ct. 2729, 111 L.Ed.2d 52 (1990) (quoting Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 356, 96 S.Ct. 2673, 49 L.Ed.2d 547 (1976)). In Rutan, the United States Supreme Court extended Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 100 S.Ct. 1287, 63 L.Ed.2d 574 (1980) and Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 96 S.Ct. 2673, 49 L.Ed.2d 547 (1976) and held that the First Amendment prohibits a state from basing hiring decisions on political beliefs or associations with limited exceptions for policymaking and confidential positions. Rutan, 497 U.S. at 79, 110 S.Ct. 2729. The state can neither directly nor indirectly interfere with an employee's or potential employee's rights to association and belief. Id. at 78, 110 S.Ct. 2729.
Academic freedom is a "special concern of the First Amendment." Keyishian v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of N.Y., 385 U.S. 589, 603, 87 S.Ct. 675, 17 L.Ed.2d 629 (1967). "No more direct assault on academic freedom can be imagined than for the school authorities to [refuse to hire] a teacher because of his or her philosophical, political, or ideological beliefs." Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 581, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972) (Douglas, J., dissenting). But this court has recognized that respect for the "singular nature of academic decision-making" is also warranted because courts "lack the expertise to evaluate tenure decisions or to pass on the merits of a candidate's scholarship." Okruhlik v. Univ. of Ark., 395 F.3d 872, 879 (8th Cir.2005). The Supreme Court has also emphasized the respect due to academic judgment. See Regents of Univ. of Mich. v. Ewing, 474 U.S. 214, 225, 106 S.Ct. 507, 88 L.Ed.2d 523 (1985) ("When judges are asked to review the substance of a genuinely academic decision,... they should show great respect for the faculty's professional judgment."). Thus, judicial review of such decisions is limited to whether the "decision was based on a prohibited factor." Brousard-Norcross v. Augustana Coll. Ass'n, 935 F.2d 974, 976 (8th Cir.1991).
You will notice that the invocation of "academic freedom" here concerns the freedom of the academic institution to choose how to make faculty hiring decisions, subject to the limitation of not relying "on a prohibited factor," such as the political speech or viewpoint of the candidate. (Other prohibited factors would include the race of the candidate, the gender of the candidate, and so on.) I will return to this in #4, below.
Wagner's case clearly presented a factual question for a jury, which is why the district court was wrong to dismiss it without a trial (as the 8th Circuit decided). The factual question is: was her political viewpoint a factor in the University of Iowa's decision not to hire her. The difficulty for Wagner is that she has some evidence to this effect, but no "smoking gun." The decision not to hire her was taken at the departmental level, i.e., the Law School. There is some evidence of hostility to her political views, but it consists mainly in the comments of one faculty member. Salaita has considerably more evidence that it was his political expression that was the overriding factor in the decision not to hire him: the departmental unit (the American Indian Studies Program) voted to hire him; the Dean approved the hire and extended the offer; the University scheduled his fall classes; and so on. But then in July of this year his tweets about Israel became an object of criticism on right-wing websites, and then alumni and others began lobbying the University precisely because they objected to his political point of view. This seems utterly obvious, so how could a court find otherwise?
3. Chancellor Wise's and Chairman Kennedy's statements last Friday were appalling, and they contain material that no lawyer not asleep on the job could have approved (such as Kennedy's bizarre claims about disrespectful and demeaning speech not being tolerated "in our democracy," contrary to the famous "Fuck the draft" case). But in one respect, there was clearly legal counsel at work: the statements are meant to convey the message that Salaita was not denied hiring because of his political viewpoint, but because of the manner in which he expressed himself. This is clearest in Chancellor Wise's statement:
The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate.
What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.
Here the Chancellor disavows (however implausibly) that they are punishing Salaita for his viewpoint, but rather are only responding to the unacceptable manner in which he expressed that viewpoint. As, once again, the Court's famous "Fuck the draft" case suggests, this is going to be a hard distinction to sustain--especially since, as I suspect, the University will be hard-pressed to identify all the other cases where the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees stepped in to reverse hiring decisions because the candidates violated the articulated standard of "disrespectful words...that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them."
Enter now Pickering, another case, oddly enough, from Illinois decided by the U.S. Supreme Court almost a half-century ago (though one involving firing and not refusal to hire, though I do not think that distinction will matter). In that case, a local school board fired a teacher who wrote a letter to the local newspaper criticizing the board's management of district finances; the letter, it turned out, contained some factual inaccuracies as well. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the teacher and against the board. In the crucial paragraph of the opinion, the Court stated:
To the extent that the Illinois Supreme Court's opinion may be read to suggest that teachers may constitutionally be compelled to relinquish the First Amendment rights they would otherwise enjoy as citizens to comment on matters of public interest in connection with the operation of the public schools in which they work, it proceeds on a premise that has been unequivocally rejected in numerous prior decisions of this Court. E. g., Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U.S. 183 (1952); Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479 (1960); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589 (1967). "[T]he theory that public employment which may be denied altogether may be subjected to any conditions, regardless of how unreasonable, has been uniformly rejected." Keyishian v. Board of Regents, supra, at 605-606. At the same time it cannot be gainsaid that the State has interests as an employer in regulating the speech of its employees that differ significantly from those it possesses in connection with regulation of the speech of the citizenry in general. The problem in any case is to arrive at a balance between the interests of the teacher, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.
It's that last sentence, the so-called "Pickering balancing test", on which the University of Illinois will have to rely. Note that in Pickering, the Court did not find that any of the school's interests "in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees" were really affected by the letter, even allowing that some of the statements in the letter were inaccurate. But it's precisely the Pickering balancing test that a state university can invoke if it disciplines a teacher who demeans and disrespects his students in the classroom (or if the teacher harasses, sexually or otherwise, the students). And it was the Pickering test, as elaborated by later court opinions, that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit relied on in deciding that City College could remove Leonard Jeffries from his administrative position (but not his tenured post) in the wake of a controversal speech. The 2nd Circuit gives a crisp statement of the later standard:
Whittled to its core, Waters [the later case refining the Pickering standard] permits a government employer to fire an employee for speaking on a matter of public concern if: (1) the employer's prediction of disruption is reasonable; (2) the potential disruptiveness is enough to outweigh the value of the speech; and (3) the employer took action against the employee based on this disruption and not in retaliation for the speech.
That paragraph gives you the essence of what the University's constitutional strategy will be in the Salaita case. The University will argue that the refusal to hire was based on a reasonable prediction that Salaita's vitriolic attacks on Israel and Zionists would disrupt the educational mission of the university, and that it was this concern that motivated their revocation of the job offer.
In my view, this argument is absurd: only if it is reasonable to think that Salaita's tweeting predicts his conduct in the classroom and with his colleagues will the argument stand any chance (and even then a court should conclude that the clear value of Salaita's core political speech on matters of public concern outweights the speculative worry). Yet presumably the university, in making the initial offer, already had substantial information on both these points (his teaching and collegiality), so that it would not be reasonable to conclude from his tweets that he would disrupt the university's operations, even though his many years of prior academic service provided no evidence to that effect. But--and this is what should, rightly, worry every professor in the United States--social media and academia is new territory for the courts, and I can not guarantee that some court might not side with the university. And if a court does, the message will be clear: all faculty, especially those at state universities and especially those looking to take a job elsewhere, should abandon social media, or make sure they "watch their mouth" really carefully before posting on a blog or a public Facebook account or tweeting.
The odd thing about this article is that neither of the two cases mentioned (David Barnett and Dan Kaufman) involve allegations of sexual harassment: Barnett was alleged to have retaliated against a student who complained about a graduate student, whereas Kaufman was the victim of gross wrongdoing by the university in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, oddly, the article says nothing about a third case in the Philosophy Department, which may turn out to involve sexual harassment (or may not).
MOVING TO FRONT--I CALL READER ATTENTION, IN PARTICULAR, TO THE COMMENTS BY JOHN GARDNER, AND INVITE FURTHER DISCUSSION
The earlier thread generated some interesting, substantive discussion. I'll highlight three comments that made what I thought were noteworthy points.
From Christian Munthe:
What Hilde points out is not that evidence has been discounted by anyone. What she is quoted to say is that while one administration may judge that a body of evidence does not warrant formal charges of harrassment against a person, another administration may be warranted as using the very same body as a reason not to hire this person. Her expressed disagreement is obviously meant to convey the message that, were she a decision-maker in the second type of administration-case, given the boddy of evidence at hand in the present case, she would evaluate the evidence in exactly this way, and that she also thinks that the academic professors handling this case should have assessed the matter likewise. Nothing strange here.
From commenter X (a student):
Isn’t this effectively saying McGinn should never be permitted to teach again. Given the school in question is not a graduate program, the position is pretty clearly a major step-down from his previous post, and the term of the contract is a single year, that’s what it looks like. Considering he wasn’t actually found to have committed sexual harassment (whether we disagree with the finding or not), this is a pretty draconian punishment for an allegation and very public breakdown. So on top of a major blow to his reputation, he appears to have been barred from his vocation of 30 + years without much due process. I don’t know all the circumstances of the case, but I’ve heard suggestions there is much worse conduct a foot in many departments. Conversely the punishment seems pretty maximal - short of criminal charges what more could be done? While I appreciate people what to take a stand against powerful men, this seems a bit draconian.
And from a tenure-track philosopher:
In light of Lindemann's comments and the above discussion, I have one question and one longer comment:
1. The principle behind Lindemann's comments seems to be the following: University administrations have the ability and the duty to override faculty appointments, even when there is no legal impediment per se to the appointment. Doesn't this same line of reasoning apply to the Salaita case?
2. I am worried that the profession's admirable desire to remedy the problem of sexism and harassment has led to a naive reliance on administrative oversight and intervention that, in the end, will only further erode what autonomy faculty as a whole still possess. Lindemann's comments show that she cares more about keeping McGinn out of the academy than she does about the faculty's right to determine who will join its ranks. It is possible to express regret that the ECU faculty decided to make McGinn an offer of employment without defending--valorizing even--the procedurally dubious intervention of the administration to override such appointments. Lindemann does not do this.
Meanwhile, over at the Feminist Philosophers blog, philosopher Louise Antony (U Mass/Amherst) responds to the earlier discussion of Prof. Lindemann's comments from CHE pertaining to the East Carolina decision with the following:
In light of the discussion on Brian Leiter’s blog, I want to say something in support of Hilde Lindemann’s comments in the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on the East Carolina U/Colin McGinn incident. Many commenters are incensed that Prof. Lindemann seemed to endorse the use of “unofficial information” (as Daily Nous put it) in decisions such as the ECU Phil. Department’s vote to offer a distinguished visiting position to Colin McGinn. I’m baffled by this. Is there anyone out there in Bloggo-land who wants to say that scholarly achievement is the only consideration that should count in deciding whether or not to offer someone a position? (Anyone who says that it is the only thing that counts is simply wrong.) Every department I’ve ever been affiliated with has always – and quite rightly — taken into account both the candidate’s likely collegiality and his or her potential as a teacher and mentor. So now the question is: what kind of evidence can one use in assessing a candidate’s collegiality and potential as a teacher and mentor? Postings on a public blog can provide evidence. Disciplinary actions taken by a candidate’s previous employer can also provide evidence. What about the appropriate standard? Bearing in mind that a hiring meeting is not a criminal trial, that there is no “presumption of innocence” to be overcome, and that an individual’s being brought up for consideration does not engender any presumptive right to the position, it’s clear that the appropriate standard is the one typically used in normal hiring deliberations: what, given the evidence, is it reasonable to believe about how this colleague will behave toward his or her colleagues and students? An official finding that a person has engaged in sexual harassment is certainly very strong evidence that that person is untrustworthy – but it’s not the only evidence that can support that conclusion.
I understand that there’s tremendous concern about false accusation and innuendo – at least when the case at hand involves men and sex. So yes, the evidence needs to be looked at carefully in any particular instance. But are hiring committees supposed to ignore the evidence that exists? Are they supposed to disregard the fact of disciplinary actions taken by a previous employer? Are they supposed to ignore what the candidate has to say about the matter on a public blog? A decision not to offer a position to someone because there’s good reason to think the person is a danger to students is not a violation of anyone’s rights. A decision to go ahead and appoint such a person despite the evidence is reprehensible.
(A sidenote: the FP bloggers are, as a matter of policy, actively discouraged from linking to this blog, even when discussing content here, apparently because verboten views are sometimes expressed here. Although I sometimes disagree with content on the FP blog, I do make it a practice to link to FP when content there is being discussed. It's perhaps worth emphasizing, as readers increasingly write to me, that the FP blog represents some feminist philosophers, but it does not represent feminist philosophers tout court.)
I tend to agree with Prof. Antony about the relevant evidentiary standards in the hiring process, but as some of the commenters on the initial thread noted, that isn't quite what happened here: a hiring decision by a department (for a one-year position) was overturned by administrators, for reasons unknown. I will add that I think there should always be serious concern about "false accusation and innuendo"--even in the hiring process--and not only (as Prof. Antony says sarcastically) when it "involves men and sex."
Prof. McGinn was highly critical of much of my commentary on and coverage of his case (for example). But one can believe that he was correctly and effectively sanctioned by the University of Miami (note that the victim in that case does not agree) and still believe that that does not mean he should never be hired again to teach philosophy anywhere. What do readers think? Should loss of a job for sexual misconduct bar someone from any future academic appointment?
I am opening this for further discussion of any of the issues addressed above; as before keep it substantive, and comments must include, at a minimum, a real, identifying e-mail address, which will not appear.
Philosopher Paul Boghossian (NYU) gave me permission to post his comments in support of boycotting Illinois over the Salaita scandal:
We have an important moral issue before us. Academic freedom is endangered. A person, who had resigned his job on the promise of another one, is about to have his life ruined, on the basis of 140 character tweets. Administrators looking on are about to conclude that they can blithely overturn the recommendations of their own rigorous procedures for personal or political gain. Those who want to foster a culture of intimidation about sensitive world issues are about to conclude that their tactics are working. This is a time for clear-minded, assertive moral protest; not for fussing with a thousand little distinctions that no one cares about. We need to speak with a strong voice now and put a stop to this now. We don't want to have to deal with a multitude of similar cases in the near future. And how much of a 'punishment' on our colleagues at Illinois is it anyway? There are so many alternative ways of ensuring philosophical interaction with them, if that's what people really were worried about. And do you think anyone will mind if, in a few years, a signer were to say: Given this or that development, I have decided to abandon my boycott of UIUC? Time to get real, here.
Prof. Boghossian's comments, together with several instructive comments on the earlier thread (including from Illinois faculty), persuade me to revise my original stance. I will join the boycott until such time as the University of Illinois makes things right. I encourage other philosophers to do the same.
Philosopher Sally Haslanger (MIT) writes: "It is crucial to the success of the journal that it represent research done by the many different intellectual constituencies of the APA."
That seems to me the primary danger for the journal, not what is crucial to its success. Only if one thought every intellectual constituency within the APA produced good philosophical work could this possibly be a desideratum: but does anyone really believe that? (One need only look at the MIT faculty to see that no one there does.) As I wrote previously in refereeing the JAPA proposal for another press:
I am skeptical whether the APA is well-positioned to produce the high quality journal it envisions, the one that combines “diversity” with “quality.” The APA’s “pluralistic consitutencies” (as the proposal calls them) are potentially a source of significant difficulty for this project, not an asset. The worry is that the APA is supposed to represent everyone in the philosophy profession, regardless of the quality of their work or approach. When the proposal describes Continental Philosophy Review, for example, as a “top field" journal,” it is quite clear that it is pandering to interest groups within the APA, not philosophical standards of excellence. (Some good work occasionally appears in CPR, but the idea that the best work in Continental philosophy appears there is ludicrous and indefensible; the use of this example suggests the process has already been ‘captured’ in part by those with other agendas.)
We have seen this pattern repeatedly within the APA. The Eastern Division represents the extreme of this phenomenon, with the result that many philosophers no longer participate there because for the sake of alleged “inclusiveness” and “diversity”—meaning neither racial nor ethnic diversity, nor even philosophical diversity, but simply pandering to organized interest groups—the program is no longer very good. As I understand it, The Journal of Philosophy stopped publishing papers from the Eastern because of this problem many years ago. The Central and Pacific have avoided the fate of the Eastern, which gives some reason for hope if they take the lead on the JAPA project. But surely the prospect of an APA-approved journal will bring out “special interest” lobbying in its worst forms. I see no reason to be optimistic that the contemplated journal will not simply be captured by certain groups looking to leverage their position in the field by capturing editorial control of portions of the journal, without regard to quality.
The initial choice of editor and editorial board gives us some reason to be more hopeful. But what will actually be crucial to the success of JAPA is that it publish high quality work, not that it represents every "constituency". I certainly share Prof. Haslanger's hope that JAPA publishes high quality work in many areas, including work on the post-Kantian Continental traditions in philosophy, as well as the other areas Prof. Haslanger mentions.
UPDATE: Comments were closed at the FP blog, based on a concern that the comments could get "ugly." To be clear, the "ugly" comment that prompted this decision was a content-free ageist and gendered smear of me. The author of that unfortunate comment had the courtesy, however, to e-mail me a retraction and apology for it.
ANOTHER: In the bowels of cyberspace, philosopher Eric Schliesser (Ghent) has earned the amusing nickname "the Ghent Balloon," in recognition of the amazing amounts of hot air he can generate on any topic, no matter how trivial. Since he is a serious scholar and philosopher, my own suspicion is that he really doesn't believe a lot of the stuff he blogs, and that he does it mainly to garner attention or to satisfy his apparently enormouos appetite for righteous posturing. Whatever the explanation, his latest balloon ride warrants a couple of observations. First, regarding its juvenile title, there was no "dust-up": Prof. Haslanger made a claim, and I disgreed with it for the reasons given. I often agree with Prof. Haslanger on issues in the profession, but I did not agree with her about this. That is not a "dust-up," but Prof. Schliesser apparently would like to make it one. Second, if Schliesser does not believe that meaningful qualitative judgments are possible, and that all we can do is meet the demands of each "constituency," then he should cut through the hot air with a bracing burst of icey directness and say so clearly. Third, his feigned uncertainty about this line from my original comments--"Only if one thought every intellectual constituency within the APA produced good philosophical work could [representing them all] possibly be a desideratum: but does anyone really believe that? (One need only look at the MIT faculty to see that no one there does.)"--is a bit incredible, even allowing for his rhetorical tendencies. If anyone at MIT believed that all the intellectual constituencies in the APA produce high quality philosophical work, then MIT would have--maybe just once in the last 25 years, say--hired a philosopher trained at a SPEP department, or a philosopher affiliated with the Society for American Philosophers. In fact, MIT hires (even when they hire Continental and feminist philosophers) only from a small handful of departments, about a half-dozen (Princeton, Berkeley, MIT, Oxford, two or three others on occasion). I conclude that no one there believes that all the intellectual constituencies in the APA produce high quality philosophical work. I also think that is the only reasonable view to hold, and I would be astonished if it were not Eric Schliesser's view, posturing to one side.
MORE HOT AIR, alas, but a nice photo (I infer) of Ghent as seen from the air! Most amusing line: Schliesser's brave (and wholly irrelevant) declaration: "I refuse to defer to [MIT's] hiring patterns as final authority in matters of qualitative judgment." No one suggested anyone do that; I certainly wouldn't.
Joshua Smart, a PhD student at the University of Missouri, invited me to share with readers this interesting new service he created:
While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach or have a different focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can increase creativity. Virtual Dissertation Groups are a way to capture some of these benefits.
Here’s the basic setup. Interested students can fill out the contact form below, and at the beginning of each semester participants will receive the information for their three-membered group. Each full month of the semester, one member of the group will submit some of their in-progress dissertation work to the others. Those other members will then email comments in response, hopefully generating some fun exchanges in the process. I’ll send out email reminders when it’s time to circulate work and return comments.
You can sign up to participate here. Fall Semester sign-ups are open through September 5th.
CHE account here. CHE quotes philosopher Hilde Lindemann (Michigan State) as follows:
Hilde Lindemann, a professor at Michigan State University who heads the philosophical association’s Committee on the Status of Women, says professors at East Carolina should have taken the charges into consideration, even though Mr. McGinn wasn’t found responsible for sexual harassment.
"It does seem there is a preponderance of evidence that suggests Colin McGinn is not trustworthy around women who have less power than he does," says Ms. Lindemann. "The fact that nothing has been proved, if anyone thinks that means the evidence should be discounted, then I would respectfully disagree."
She adds: "Until we can fix the climate so that it becomes unthinkable to harass a grad student, we will end up with more departments like East Carolina who feel unless you can prove this sinner has sinned, we’re going to hire him."
I am curious what other philosophers think about this. I would prefer signed comments, but at a minimum comments must have a valid e-mail address. Keep them substantive.
A number of fields, including philosophy, are organizing lists of signatories who will boycott the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign until the contract with Salaita is honored and the Chancellor reverses herself. I'm of two minds about this: on the one hand, the public threat to boycott the university might have some influence; on the other hand, it seems manifestly unfair to punish colleagues there who might want my contributions to a scholarly event, as they have in the past. (Many of these colleagues are as appalled as everyone else by the craven cowardice of the Chancellor in this matter.) Those colleagues, and their students, did not engage in any wrongdoing, yet the burden would fall on them for the Chancellor's misconduct if the signatories make good on the threat to boycott the university.
I'll open comments on this for arguments on either side of this question, but I want full names in the signature line and valid e-mail addresses (the latter will not appear).
A prospective PhD student writes:
I'm applying to doctorate programs this year and before all its controversy Boulder had a lot of appeal given its areas of strength and location. I've read anything I could find and have reached out to people there to try and create as informed an opinion as possible on what it would be like to study there amidst so much drama, but what concerns me now is that even if I am able to find upstanding people to study with there (something I'm sure I can do), I will be associated with its bad reputation afterwards. More than one adviser cringed after seeing Boulder on my list of potential schools, and I worry that one might wonder why I (a male) chose to go there given its reputation. I'm curious if your readers feel it's worth the risk and if they would be suspicious of someone who would go there given its current climate.
I should note, to start, that it's not clear yet whether Colorado will be accepting new PhD students this fall. But assuming the Department is, any new students will be finishing five to seven years hence. All indications are that the University and the Department are moving aggressively to rectify whatever problems there were--the fact that the female PhD student who recently settled a retaliation claim with the university will continue her PhD studies at Colorado is one indication of that. So my inclination is to think that prospective students should consider Colorado on the merits; and that if they are admitted, they should visit with current students and faculty about the current mood of the program and their feelings about the future.
What do readers think?
...not for sexual harassment, but for allegedly retaliating against a graduate student who complained another student had sexually assaulted her. I know nothing more than what is in this article; if there is more information, I will update this post or post about it separately.
UPDATE: Please note that there are two individuals named "David Barnett" in academic philosophy, both with a PhD from NYU as it happens. The David Barnett about whom this story is about teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder; the other David Barnett, about whom this story is not about, teaches at Union College.
ANOTHER: A related article says that the University has not yet officially specified the grounds for moving to terminate Prof. Barnett, so it may or may not be related to the alleged retaliation.
AND FURTHER: The Chancellor's video announcement certainly makes it sound like the move to dismiss is related to the alleged retaliation. It will also be used, I expect, by Barnett's attorney to make the case that Barnett is being "scapegoated."
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FRIDAY EVENING (AUG 1) FOR THOSE WHO MAY HAVE MISSED IT
An undergraduate student writes:
I am a visually impaired—legally blind—philosophy Undergraduate student. As it stands, in order to achieve a B.A. in Philosophy, my University requires that I take a course in logic. Moreover, my personal education goals include achieving a doctorate in philosophy; therefore, I believe this requirement is pivotal for my success in the field.
Being visually impaired, I foresaw some issues with the more visual aspects of logic; namely the symbolic representation of statements. My department recommended I audit the course, in order to observe the possible accessibility requirements for the course. I audited the class this past spring and found no issues up until we got to natural deduction. I have little to no sight. The common solution which has been discussed is to get the degree requirements changed or to receive a course replacement; however, because I was able to successfully understand and utilize the theoretical aspects of logic, I do not find this to be an adequate solution.
My question, then, is there a way that you have either utilized in the past—if you have had a blind student—to make the course more accessible or is there something my professor may be able to do to help?
The student assures me he will be able to read any suggestsions or ideas that readers have.
CORRECTION: The original title ran together two separate events: PhilPapers is incorporating the Philosophers Research Index, which is not the same as the Philosopher's Index (news to me!). The post by the Princeton librarian below concerns the choice of subscribing to PP or PI. Apologies for the confusion!
Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the Philosophy and Religion Librarian at Princeton University, calls my attention to this blog post, and writes to explain:
As you may be aware, the open access site PhilPapers launched a subscription drive a few months ago trying to get institutions that grant philosophy degrees to subscribe because its initial grant ran out. For Princeton, as I suspect with Chicago, this subscription won't be onerous, but for a number of libraries around the country the choice will come down to paying for PhilPapers or for the Philosopher's Index. I wrote the brief comparison for librarians with selection duties in philosophy who might not know much about either resource, and I suspect that they would also be interested in the opinions of professional philosophers about whether dropping a subscription to the Philosopher's Index would be worthwhile in order to pay for PhilPapers. If you think your readers would be interested in contributing to that discussion, I would appreciate you writing about the matter on Leiter Reports.
I invite readers to contribute to the discussion at the Princeton Library blog.
A propos this item, philosopher Kimberly Brownlee (Warwick) writes:
I’m writing on behalf of the British Philosophical Association Exec. Committee about your post this week on journal submission data. At the last BPA Exec. meeting, the committee agreed that we’d like to gather this kind of data from journal editors, as it will be useful for early career researchers deciding where to send their work and for faculty applying for promotion.
We hope to collaborate with the APA to set up a webpage that will make this information publicly available. We’ll keep you informed as this initiative develops.
A philosopher in Europe writes:
Recently I have talked to a number of philosophers about the practice of giving honoraria to speakers for department talks. The practices differ from country to country, and department to department. It has struck me that opinions on best practices are correspondingly diverse, with some (especially junior people) quite strongly opposed to the practice. Reasons vary, but many of those who are opposed to the practice focus on what they argue are more deserving ways to direct the resources—more speakers, speakers from more diverse places, more funding for graduate interactions with the speakers, etc. Some have also mentioned that if honoraria are perceived to be the norm, departments will be under pressure to provide them as tokens of gratitude or respect even if neither the department nor the visitor herself supports the practice more generally. It occurs to me that this might make for an interesting topic for discussion on your blog, and that such a discussion might be of value to the profession.
The "more deserving ways to direct the resources" argument seems to me odd: surely there are more "deserving ways" to direct the travel costs of visiting speakers, indeed the salaries of most philosophers, and so on. (If we are tallying up "deserving" ways to spend resources, it seems to me extraordinary to think that "more speakers" would loom large.) If honoraria turn on a general theory of desert, and deserving causes, then most philosophers may be out of work.
The case for honoraria is fairly simple: a visiting speaker works, and the honorarium recognizes her work. The case against is probably equally simple: the work a visiting speaker does enriches her own research, she doesn't need to be paid for it as well.
What do readers think? What are the norms in your department/region of the world?
Two sobering charts. Assuming philosophy isn't an outlier among humanities fields (in either direction), this would suggest that a program placing about 65% of its graduates in tenure-track jobs is about average (recall the earlier chart).
(Thanks to John Doris for the pointer.)
UPDATE: An alert reader points out that the employed figure (roughly 65%) is not necessarily all tenure-stream employment, so the data is sobering indeed.
Philipp Blum, editor of dialectica, writes:
I think it would be very helpful if philosophy journals would make publicly available much more information on acceptance rates and submission statistics. At dialectica, we have been doing this for the last 14 years:
The main points are:
- The acceptance rate over the last ten years is 8.36% (2320 submissions, of which 194 were accepted).
- In 2013, we published 28 articles and a total of 611 pages (549 excluding commissioned book reviews). Of 298 articles submitted in 2013,
34 were accepted.
- Our turn-around time is reasonably quick (median of 3 months) and our backlog is small (currently accepted papers are published in 4/2014).
- Between 2007 and 2013, 28% of our submissions came from people working in the US, 20% from the UK, 6% from both Germany and Canada, 5% from Italy, 4% from Spain, and 3% from each of Australia, Spain and Switzerland. 12% of the submissions came from Asia (mostly Israel, China, Iran and Hong Kong) and only 1% from Africa.
- Currently, about 12% of our submissions are authored by women. This has been constant over the last 14 years and is surprising, given that about a third of PhDs and a quarter of jobs in philosophy are (held) by women. The acceptance rate of female submissions (16%) is higher than the one of male submissions (14%).
The only other two bits of information I know of are:
- AJP: around 600 submissions a year - cf.
- Mind: around 350 submissions a year, cf. http://mind.oxfordjournals.org/ Does anyone know about others? I have heard that the Philosophy Documentation Center has information on acceptance rates, but my institution is not subscribed to it. Does anyone know whether that information is in the public domain? If so, I'd be very interested.
An APA Code might sensibly counsel against some of the conduct alleged here.
(Thanks to Michael Swanson for the pointer.)
UPDATE: This story suggests it is the medical school.
ANOTHER: Robert Talisse, Chair of the Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt, confirms that this lawsuit does not involve his Department.
Filippo Contesi asked me to share the following message:
To interested academic philosophers in the UK:
In order to examine and address issues of participation faced by minority and underrepresented groups in academic philosophy (e.g. gender, race, native-language, sexual orientation, class, and disability minorities), a number of UK departments have recently started to build a UK network of chapters of MAP ( www.mapforthegap.com ).
With 24 active chapters to date, MAP (Minorities And Philosophy) is already a successful and widespread organization in the US and elsewhere. If you would like to have a MAP chapter at your own institution, this Call For Collaborators is for you. MAP chapters are generally run by graduate students (typically 3 or 4 per department), with some help from academic staff members; undergraduate participation is also encouraged.
At this stage we would be happy to hear especially from graduate students (groups or individuals) at UK Philosophy departments as well as from UK Philosophy academic staff who would like to coordinate graduate student interest in their institutions. Please contact Filippo Contesi ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Yena Lee (MAP Director) & Filippo Contesi (MAP UK Director)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JULY 7: SEE UPDATE
Commentary this time from a philosophy graduate student at Colorado. I'm curious what readers make of this. I will permit anonymous comments, but I ask that you choose a stable handle (e.g., "PhD student in the Midwest" or "Untenured faculty, SLAC") and stick with it. Unlike many blogs, I will adhere to my usual policy of not permitting anonymity to serve as a cover for defamation, irrelevant personal abuse, and the like. Stick to the substance, pro or con, and feel free to be critical in either direction, subject to the constraints noted.
UPDATE: Mr. Case's essay has generated a lively discussion, and he indicates in the comments, below, that he will reply to some of the objections. Meanwhile, Sophia Huerter, another graduate student at Colorado, has posted her own extended response to her classmate's perspective on the situation at Colorado. I commend both Ms. Huerter and Mr. Case for their serious (and courageous) contributions to this debate, and I invite further (civilized) discussion in the comment section here. (Since these are both students, not faculty, "civilized" means be kind, and the more critical you want to be, the more likely it is I will require a name attached to the criticisms. Ms. Huerter and Mr. Case have attached theirs.)
ANOTHER: Mr. Case sends a long a link to his second essay, replying to some of the original criticisms. He also writes:
One...wrinkle was ironed out for the benefit of the popular audience. The article states that conscious, demographic-based discrimination in teacher-student relationships is “clearly wrong.” My own view is more nuanced. I’d rather say “It’s a wrong-making feature” or “it’s prima facie wrong” or something like that. But that kind of language sounds like nails on chalkboards to folks in the journalism business who want it to be quick and punchy.
My column doesn’t address Sofia Huerter’s concerns about affirmative action. I didn’t know she had posted one until after I’d sent this to the editors. It will take me a separate column to do justice to it, and I may write one in the near future.
Interesting e-mail from a senior philosopher who earned a PhD at a top 50 department:
One thing that bothers me about the analysis that CDJ [Carolyn Dicey Jennings] presents, and I agree with you that it doesn't make a lot of sense, is that unlike the PGR which is just about faculty quality as it guides placement, placement itself is about candidate quality. Sometimes well trained candidates are just bad interviews. Sometimes people decide they don't want to do philosophy after graduate school. Sometimes people get married and don't want to live in another region of the country. Some people don't want to risk a wandering life on the job market. Lots of things happen that are beyond the control of the program. And after doing an adjunct search this year, those are not unreasonable things to think as a candidate (from a marginal program at least). The pool of candidates for our shitty 4/4 low paying job in the middle of nowhere was amazing.
When I was a graduate student at [school name omitted], we hired a Ph.D. [from a top five department] and she told me once there that you aren't allowed to drop out of the program. She said that they will give you every opportunity to get your life together and to get the degree done. I'll never forget what she said: "Quitting and not completing the program reflects poorly on their judgment, and for that reason they want everyone to stay and finish."
CDJ is well meaning, but her analysis leaves a lot to be desired. People from great programs have great training and get jobs. People from less great programs have adequate training and often get jobs, but often they don't. And for good reasons. Programs at the bottom of the PGR have poor placement for lots of reasons (the lower you go, the more likely other things will push you out of the profession). But the kind of correlation CDJ is trying to force really isn't useful in any way. Ultimately it doesn't take into account candidate factors when trying to correlate with PGR quality rankings. And that's one thing that no one in this business wants to tell people. Sometimes it's the candidate and not the program.
These are interesting points, and, of course, given the small numbers, a couple of people who fall into some of these categories could make a significant difference. As longtime readers know, I have occasionally linked to other efforts to aggregate placement data that were more sensible than CDJ's, though in one case the underlying data turned out to be sufficiently unsound that I withdrew that link. I think the model I provided yesterday is a good one to follow for anyone who wants to pursue this. But I also think it is very important to emphasize that, as with mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future success, and prospective students should scrutinize with care not just the on-line placement data at each program, but also the results for individual faculty. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for doing this as part of the search process for a graduate program (assuming your goal is academic employment); even rankings of placement that aren't nonsensical are no substitute for doing this.
UPDATE: [The misrepresentations to which I had responded have been removed, so I am removing the original update.]
Philosopher Jonathan Cohen (UC San Diego) invited me to share a rather odd solicitation, which other Southern California philosophers may have received; Prof. Cohen's (apt) response follows the solicitation:
Dear Prof. Cohen,
My name is Dr. Darren Iammarino and I was formerly a lecturer at SDSU and currently I am working at Claremont School of Theology. I am writing to you today to present a unique win-win opportunity that will make you anywhere between 500 and 3,000 dollars per semester. My colleague Chad Tuthill and I, create educational audio podcasts (digital audio files available for download) that specifically discuss the Western and Eastern philosophical traditions in detail. Each podcast is between 45 minutes and one hour long, and they serve as a powerful tool to reinforce the learning week-by-week.
Student evaluations prove that the podcasts are not only well-liked, but also raise the overall GPA of each student. In addition, utilizing ed-tech materials helps to create job security and looks great on peer evaluations, as it will serve to separate you from other faculty members who are not on board with emerging technologies.
The proposition is this: we provide you with a full album of materia l covering all of the major philosophers/philosophical schools and *we will pay you 45 percent of the profit from your students*. In addition, we will give you a bank of test questions for all of the podcasts. The deal is you get 45 percent, we get 45 percent, and 10 percent goes to tech support for our website where the podcasts reside.
What this means is that you do not need to do anything other than assign the material on your syllabus and create an assignment like a quiz or online discussion question that requires the podcasts *on the first week of class*. If you structure it this way we have found that there is a 90-95 percent purchasing rate from the students. The podcasts only cost $24.99 for the whole 16 week album. You can use your current projected enrollments to calculate what that would come out to for your 45 percent. However, on average the pay is around $1,000 dollars per semester based on a class of 85 students, so with two sections it can really add up.
In the end, it truly is a win-win situation because it benefits the students to reinforce the material via a mixed media format, and it benefits you financially as well as pedagogically. We are more than happy to meet with you during your office hours/Skype or elsewhere to discuss the details, but truthfully, it is quite straightforward and a simple way to help boost the income of underpaid and under-appreciated faculty.
Thank you for your consideration. Please visit [link omitted] to hear sample clips of the podcasts.
Darren Iammarino, PhD (Philosophy of Religion)
Chad Tuthill (Audio Engineer/Production)
------- begin response from JC
So let me see if I've got this right. Your idea of a "win-win opportunity" is that I should use my position as a professor at my university to require that my students buy your product (which obviously is completely unrelated in intellectual terms to any course I teach) so you can profit, and in return I get a financial kickback?
I would call that not a win-win opportunity, but a cynical attempt to get me to exploit my position and my students so as to line your own pockets.
That you offer to share the profits with me makes things worse rather than better. While there can be situations in which professors appropriately assign materials that earn them (e.g., royalty) income, these situations are defensible only if (unlike the situation here) there is a plausible intellectual case for the particular materials chosen. And, if anything, the justificatory bar should be higher than usual in such cases. By offering a payoff to the instructor, you are positively inviting instructors to make choices for the wrong sorts of reasons (viz., non-intellectual ones), at the direct financial and intellectual expense of the very students placed in our care.
What you propose is avaricious, intellectually irresponsible, and a fundamental abuse of our role as instructors and scholars. No thanks.
I have unfortunately come to expect the level of cynicism and exploitation you exhibit from a commercial press, but am esp disappointed that a scholar/teacher would stoop to this level.
UPDATE: Prof. Peter Atterton, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at San Diego State University, e-mails to point out that Mr. Iammarino "used to teach in the Dept. of Religious Studies and also in Classics and Humanities at SDSU, not in the Dept. of Philosophy."