I was surprised to see that you did not include any reference to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community. This surprised me for three reasons. First, like the aforementioned issues in our profession, these are pressing. Second, in the country at large, LGBTQ equality is among the most important civil rights issues of our time. Third, you have repeatedly gone to bat for LGBTQ equality on your blog--something that I and many other readers have truly appreciated.
This is a fair point, and was clearly an oversight on my part, due in some degree to the fact that (1) LGBTQ philosophers have been less vocal about continuing discrimination on social media in my experience, and (2) my sense that the profession has done better by LGBTQ philosophers than some other groups (for example). But it should have been included as a category for voting purposes, for which my apologies.
IHE has the details. The averages understate the possible differentias, obviously. Most state university salary data is now on-line via newspapers in most states, if one wants to do even more specific comparisons.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--originanlly posted March 6, 2009)
Applicants to PhD and MA programs are now receiving offers of admission and, if they are lucky, are beginning to weigh choices between different departments. I want to reiterate a point made in the PGR, namely, that students are well-advised to talk to current students at the programs they are considering. There are often things you will want to know that you won't glean from familiarity with the excellence of the faculty's work, even if that remains the most important, if defeasible, reason for choosing a particular department. Here are some examples of information that no ranking, no departmental brochure, and no "official" departmental representive will tell you about; all of these are drawn from stories I've heard from students over the last few years about ranked departments (the departments will remain unnamed, obviously). You can think of them as representing "types" of problems you should be aware of before enrolling. I've tweaked some of the details to protect identities.
The Absent Faculty: Are the faculty who look so good on paper actually around and interested in working with students? I heard a story about a key senior person in one department who is an alcoholic, and who simply ignores his students. In another department, almost all the graduate students had to sign an open letter to the faculty a few years ago protesting the failure of faculty to return graded papers and their general lack of interest in mentoring the students. In yet another department, a well-known senior member of the faculty spent so much time travelling and lecturing around the world, that he rarely had time to review or discuss work carefully with students.
The Sexual Predator Faculty: Are women treated as young philosophers and aspiring professionals, or do faculty regularly view them as a potential source for dates and sexual liasons? It's a bit shocking to realize that this is still a live issue in some departments, but, sadly, it is. Are faculty-student sexual relations common in the department? What happens when the relations end? Are there repeated cases of sexual harassment complaints against faculty in the department? Do they ever result in discipline? I suppose it is possible this could be an issue for male students, but all the reports I've gotten over the years have been from women victimized by male faculty.
The Nasty Faculty: Talented philosophers and scholars often differ, dramatically, in how pleasant they are personally and professionally. I recall the story of one department where a member of the faculty was known to reduce students to tears in seminar. In another department, a faculty member regularly refuses to work with students, even those interested in his areas; he works only with those he deems "worthy," and there are not many of them! In another department, faculty openly express doubts about the competence of the graduate students and their ability. Make sure the philosophers who seem most interesting to you don't fall into these categories!
The Factionalized Faculty: Many faculties are "factionalized," in the sense that there are sub-groups that rarely see "eye to eye" about departmental issues, from appointments to admissions. Where this becomes worrisome, though, for a prospective student is when certain members of the faculty who share interests and approaches control all the key resources--fellowships, resources for speakers etc.--and use that control to define "in" and "out" groups of faculty and students: students with the "wrong" philosophical interests or who express an interest in the "wrong" faculty members are denied access to important perks and support. This kind of ugly factionalization is less common, but it exists.
I wish it were possible to meaningfuly measure and evaluate faculties along these important dimensions, but, alas, it is not. I have no doubt there are many programs that are really exceptional for how pleasant they are as places to do graduate study, and the way for a prospective student to discover them is to talk to lots of current students.
It has been a mantra of those calling for Marquette political science professor John McAdams to be sanctioned for his blog criticisms of a philosophy teacher and graduate student, Cheryl Abbate, that as a student, Ms. Abbate was uniquely "vulnerable." Thus, the letter sent to Marquette by some number of Harvard philosophy graduate students stated:
Universities owe their graduate students—who are among the most vulnerable members of their communities—a guarantee of protection from this kind of treatment. But at Marquette, we were recently disturbed to learn, Cheryl Abbate was put in a position where her best option was to transfer out of her doctoral program.
We call on Marquette to articulate a clear policy for protecting its graduate students from abuses by more powerful members of its community.
As I noted at the time, the idea that universities have an obligation to protect teachers from criticism of their pedagogy by other members of the university is unworkable. But what I want to remark on here is the assumption that Ms. Abbate was "vulnerable" and Prof. McAdams was the "more powerful member" of the community. As a generalization, it is true that graduate students are more vulnerable to various professional and other setbacks than tenured faculty. But it wasn't true in this case, as should now be clear: It is McAdams who now faces the full might of the university as it tries to end his career, while Ms. Abbate has had the good fortune to move on to a much better PhD program, where she will hopefully flourish and move on into her own academic career. Assumptions about "vulnerability," like other stereotypes, may sometimes belie a more complex situation. And "protection of the vulnerable" can not, in any case, trump all other values, for when it does we end up with injustices like that at Marquette.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR, SINCE TIMELY AGAIN (thanks to Prof. Inglis for the reminder):
Students admitted to graduate school have until April 15 to respond. You can't be made to respond sooner--let me know of schools violating that rule!--but if you can respond sooner that helps a lot of people! Philosopher Kristen Inglis (Pittsburgh), for example, writes:
Because many prospective philosophy graduate programs read this blog, I’d like to reiterate Anthony Laden’s and Keith DeRose’s suggestions that prospective graduate students aim to decline admissions offers in a timely way. As the chair of an Admissions committee, I agree with DeRose that nearly every program appreciates knowing as early as possible that an admitted student is declining an offer. Most importantly, declining an offer early greatly helps waitlisted students who are otherwise in the tricky position of having to decide whether to accept an offer or to wait to get off the waitlist at a better program.
Of course, no one is suggesting that prospective students decline offers before they’ve had the chance to gather the relevant information, think the decision through, and discuss the decision with their advisors. Still, if one knows before April 15 (most schools’ decision deadline) that she will decline an offer from school X, then she can do a good service by declining the offer from X before April 15.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEBRUARY 25--AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION IN THE COMMMENTS--SEE ESP. #25 FROM A COLLEAGUE OF MINE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Alan Patten, the editor of PPA and a professor of Politics at Princeton, kindly offered to answer some questions about editorial practices at PPA. My questions to him are bolded, his answers are in regular font.
PPA is unusual in that the Editor and Associate Editors do almost all the reviewing of submitted work. How and why does PPA use this model? And is the reviewing blind nonetheless?
When Marshall Cohen, Tom Nagel and Tim Scanlon founded the journal in 1971 they did not, I think, see themselves as creating a professional journal to serve or represent an already well-established subfield of philosophy. Rather, the journal was started in order to encourage members of several disciplines to publish work that reflected rigorously and critically about urgent public problems of the day, and in order to create a venue in which the exciting new work of the time in moral, political and legal philosophy could be published. The P&PA editorial model has its origins in the ferment of this time, in which, for better or worse, some of the questions of professional ethics in journal editing that we debate today were overshadowed by the urgent public problems of the day, and by the sense that the journal should encourage both established and younger scholars to take the intellectual and professional risks involved in contributing to what was essentially a new literature.
Over time, as the journal settled into its niche in the profession, questions about fairness in the editorial process came to loom more largely. After he took over from Marshall Cohen in 1999, Charles Beitz made blind reviewing a required part of the editorial process. Other editorial practices were revised under Beitz’s tenure, and I have continued to review and adjust them since I took over as editor in 2010. The journal’s website contains a statement on our editorial practices.
As you note, a distinctive feature of the journal is that much (although not all) of the reviewing of submissions is done by our group of associate editors. Because most reviewing is handled by this small group of people, who are distinguished scholars in their respective fields, the journal is able to maintain high and fairly uniform standards. The journal’s editorial model also encourages articles that are well written and that are not narrowly specialized or highly technical in character. And the fact that the Associate Editors have agreed in advance to handle much of the reviewing for the journal helps to speed up the decision-making process.
Someone wrote me alleging that in volumes 37 through 41, there were 57 papers, with the following characteristics: “Of those 57 papers, 17 had at least one author who received their doctorate from the same institution as the current Editor, Oxford. Another 13 were written by authors whose doctorates were from Harvard, where a number of editorial staff work or studied. The next most common place for authors to have received their doctorate is Princeton, where the journal is based. Of the ten papers in those five volumes published by authors who were last year employed by institutions in the western United States, four are by members of the editorial staff, three are by former visitors at Princeton, where the journal is based, and two are by people who were supervised by members of editorial staff. Only one of the ten has an author with no obvious links with editorial staff.” What should readers make of patterns like this? Are they worrisome? Should they be?
I`ve looked carefully at the first cluster of allegations about Harvard/Oxford/Princeton authors. Since your correspondent connects them with the current editor`s doctoral institution (Oxford), it makes more sense to look at volumes 38-42 (the years I have been editor) rather than 37-41. (I`ll briefly comment on 37-41 afterwards).
Out of the 57 articles in volumes 38-42, 25 had at least one author with a highest degree from either Harvard (13) or Oxford (12). This contrasts with the figure of 30 out of 57 arrived at by your correspondent. It’s also worth noting that 25 of the 62 authors were from Harvard or Oxford, so by this metric Harvard/Oxford accounts for 40% of our authors rather than the 53% figure generated by the previously reported measure. Moreover, the third most common PhD institution of P&PA authors in this period was Berkeley (6), not Princeton (4) which was tied with NYU for fourth.
The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors (25 out of 62 (or 57)) is substantial so it’s worth trying to look deeper into the data. Right from the start of this discussion, I’ve worried that that the multi-disciplinary character of P&PA was being overlooked. Throughout the journal’s history a significant fraction of the articles were authored by people whose highest degree was not in philosophy. Political theorists, lawyers, and (to a lesser extent) social scientists of various stripes have been frequent contributors to the journal.
This multidisciplinarity matters in several ways to this discussion. For one thing, it makes it harder to believe that all of the people coming from a particular institution belong to the same network. I think we all recognize how important disciplinary boundaries can be for shaping networks. The second point is mainly about political theory, though I suspect a version of it may apply to academic law as well. Philosophers should not underestimate the plurality of ways in which political theory is approached, especially in the United States. Many major political theory programs don’t have a substantial presence in the kind of normative analytic political theory that tends to be published in P&PA.
Of our 62 recorded authors, 22 have their highest degrees in a discipline other than philosophy. This proportion is strikingly different, however, for Harvard and Oxford authors. Only 6 of the 13 Harvard authors have philosophy PhDs and only 5 of the 12 from Oxford took their DPhils in philosophy. If one were just comparing P&PA authors with philosophy PhDs, there really isn’t much of a difference between Harvard and Oxford and other leading institutions of our authors. The differences that there are can, I think, be explained by variation in the size, quality, and (especially) the intellectual focus of the different programs.
The main factor explaining the Harvard/Oxford numbers are the political theory authors we published with PhDs from these institutions. Harvard and (especially) Oxford are among a fairly small group of strong graduate programs that have consistently over the years trained political theory students who do the sort of analytic and normative work that the journal tends to publish. Of course, Harvard and Oxford are not the only political theory programs meeting this description. Princeton is another such program. But I take it that the people who think there is some kind of bias problem at P&PA are not complaining on behalf of Princeton Politics graduates, since this is the institutional home of the current and previous editor. Indeed, the dearth of publications by Princeton Politics authors during this period is an embarrassment to the bias hypothesis. More generally, if one just thinks about the papers authored by political theorists, the outsized presence of Harvard/Oxford doesn’t strike me as especially surprising if one factors in size, quality, intellectual focus, pluralism in the subfield, and the noisiness entailed by looking at only five years of data.
If one were to look at volumes 37-41 (as your correspondent does), then the Oxford number does indeed go up to 17 (although, by my count, the denominator goes up to 59). But the same basic explanation of the numbers still apply. 4 out of 5 of the 2009 Oxford authors have their doctorates in politics, a result that is comprehensible if one considers the size, quality, and distinctive intellectual focus of Oxford`s political theory program in the preceding decades. Moreover, if one looks at an even longer stretch of time, Vols 36-42, something like the pattern discernible in 38-42 reappears. The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors is 40% and the proportion of papers with at least one Harvard/Oxford author is 46%.
Years ago, Marshall Cohen told me that PPA did have a policy of publishing pieces submitted by those on the editorial board with rather de minimis review. Is that still the policy? If not, do you know when it changed?
Submissions by people on our masthead have been fairly unusual while I`ve been editor – around ten in total I would guess (a number of which we did not publish). (We did appoint some associate editors and members of the editorial board who were previous authors in the journal, but I doubt that anybody would object to that).
Submissions by members of the editorial board are subjected to the same procedures as everyone else and enjoy no more presumption of acceptance than anything else we receive. Submissions by associate editors are slightly more complicated since these individuals do the lion`s share of reviewing for the journal.
There is some discussion of how we handle submissions by our associate editors in the statement on editorial practices. In general, these submissions are handled in the same way as other submissions (e.g. they are fully anonymized) except that, as a rule, at least one of the reviews is done by somebody who isn`t a current associate editor.
These are the editorial practices I inherited from my predecessor in 2010. I`ve made some minor adjustments in the procedures and may tend to rely even more than Beitz on outside readers when handling associate editor submissions. These special safeguards are something our associate editors want. When they do manage to publish something in the journal they don`t want blog commentators questioning whether their achievement is tainted somehow by our reviewing practices. Since they work together closely as journal colleagues, they also don`t appreciate being put in the awkward position of having to evaluate one another`s work.
How do you see PPA’s role in the profession as compared to Ethics, the other major journal publishing in similar areas?
I`d like to think that P&PA hasn`t completely lost touch with the original vision of the founders of the journal. We still aspire to publish work that is of the highest philosophical quality but that also engages directly or indirectly with important questions of public concern. We still anticipate publishing articles by authors from a range of different disciplines, and we still prefer articles written for a fairly broad audience rather than narrow and technical contributions to specific debates in some corner of the field. We don`t aspire to be the main journal representing a particular field or subfield, although we do recognize that publication in the journal has implications for professional opportunity and advancement and we are therefore committed to assessing all submissions in a way that is fair and unbiased.
I'm opening comments for further discussion, but I will moderate with a somewhat heavier hand. Since Prof. Patten has been kind enough to answer these questions, please engage the responses in a similar spirit and stick to substance. Thanks.
MOVING TO FRONT, GIVEN THE LIVELY DISCUSSION OF THE ADJUNCT ISSUE. MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES APPEARS TO HAVE MIGRATED HERE.
In light of Peter Railton's important lecture that everyone is discussing, may I suggest that one topic worthy of discussion is mental illness, and the experiences of faculty and students in dealing with it, what support they have found from universities and their departments, and related issues. And whatever other issues arise, please, let's also take a hiatus from bashing the FP blog.
With over 1500 responses, more than 60% of respondents reported some diagnosis for mental illness, with almost one in four respondents mentioning depression in particular. There is substantial co-morbidity between depression and the various anxiety disorders, as there are among the anxiety disorders, so, e.g., the 24% that report depression may also include some of the 5% that checked social anxiety disorder or the 4% that chose OCD. I assume in a poll like this, people are not so perverse as to vote "strategically" or otherwise try to muck up the results. So I think we can conclude from this that the majority of faculty and students in philosophy have confronted some kind of mental illness in their lives. I've opened comments if readers have other thoughts about these sobering results.
Philosophy faculty and students: which, if any, psychological disorders have you been diagnosed with? Check all that apply.
...than the moderation on this blog already brings about:
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
Apart from purging apparent defamation and gratuitious insult and abuse, I am approving almost all comments in a Milllian spirit.
Various blogs have been remarking on this study about faculty hiring networks and hierarchies: the short version is that very few graduates of PhD programs place at higher ranked programs, and most research-oriented tenure-track jobs are secured by graduates of a small number of elite PhD programs. The same, of course, is true in philosophy, though that was not the focus of this study. Particularly striking is the data reported here to the effect that in 2013-14, 88% of all reported tenure-track hires were graduates of PGR-ranked programs, and that a whopping 37% of all reported tenure-track hires that year took their PhD from one of the PGR top five programs. Fortunately, the PGR makes the relevant information about the hierarchy available to everyone, not just a select group of undergraduates.
Much of the discussion pertains to whether there is any correlation between these patterns and "merit." The original study (the first lilnk, above) looks at this in terms of publications, which isn't a very useful measure in philosophy. Based on my own experience, I'm inclined to say that, on average, graduates of the top programs (or the top programs in some specialties) are stronger candidates on the merits than others, but there are substantial minorities who are mainly riding the prestige effect out of the top programs, as well as substantial minorities handicapped by not have the halo effect of a top program.
ADDENDUM: Mason Westfall, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, writes:
While the correlation between graduates of top programs and tenure-track placement is robust, there are at least two causal hypotheses consistent with that fact. One explanation is the one that you highlight---a halo effect students enjoy by being from top programs. Another explanation is that the best undergraduates get into the best programs and choose them over less prestigious programs. That would mean the best students entering graduate school would be disproportionately at the most prestigious departments. It may be that the best students entering graduate school tend to be the best students leaving graduate school and then the best students leaving graduate school get the jobs. In order to test the contribution made by the department in particular, it seems like it would be necessary to locate a population of students who got into both higher and lower pedigree programs, but chose to go to lower pedigree programs. Even this would conflate the teaching/training contribution of the school with the halo effect, but it would give us substantially more information than the correlation highlighted.
I agree with all this. To be clear, I think there are some relatively weak candidates from top programs who nonetheless do well because of the "halo" effect or, in some cases, the loyalty of alums in teaching to graduates of the program.
ANOTHER: David Wallace (Oxford) writes:
Let me add to Mason Westfall’s two causal hypotheses a third: the training you get from top programs (undergraduate or graduate) makes you a stronger philosopher. I wouldn’t find it at all surprising, given two basically equally strong undergraduate philosophers who went to very different-strength grad programs, if one turned out much stronger than the other at the end. Indeed, I’d be depressed if that wasn’t so, at least on average and other things being equal: it would suggest that all the effort people put into providing a good education and good educational environment for students is pretty much epiphenomenal.
Nick Alvarez calls my attention to Brown's program:
The Brown Philosophy Department is pleased to announce a call for applications for the Summer Immersion Program in Philosophy at Brown University. SIPP@Brown is a two-week residential program for members of traditionally underrepresented groups in philosophy, including women and students of color. This year's program will run from May 31, 2015 to June 13, 2015 and will feature seminars taught by Brown faculty and the SIPP@Brown research conference. Students will have travel and lodging expenses covered and will receive a $500 stipend. More information is available at http://www.sippatbrown.com/
A philosopher elsewhere forwards an e-mail sent recently to graduate students at a top department, which said:
Just a reminder that your funding is for your program of study. It does not pay for you to take classes of mild interest or for the purpose of personal enrichment.
My correspondent added:
The email advises students to check with the DGS for special cases, so it's nice to see that there's some way to get around this (it's hard to see how one would do a specialization in philosophy of science or ancient philosophy without that), but suggests that tuition for non-philosophy courses will not usually be covered. It strikes me as dismaying almost to the point of absurdity that something like "personal enrichment" would be explicitly discouraged for philosophy graduate students. It seems to me that graduate students of any discipline ought to be encouraged to explore and study as widely as possible, and that this is particularly true for philosophy grads. A policy like this breeds insularity, which something that professional philosophy struggles with in the best of cases.
I'm curious what others think. Are policies like this common? How is "personal enrichment" interpreted?
...has been dismissed. Unlike his defamation suit against the media outlets that falsely reported he had been accused of "rape"--which was wrongly dismissed by a state court judge--this decision seems well-reasoned and on some points clearly sound. (Note that this case, unlike the earlier one, was in federal court, where the quality of the judges is higher on average.) Note, however, that the judge leaves open that Ludlow may file an amended complaint on some of the counts; in a motion to dismiss, as the judge's opinion explains (see p. 6), the court accepts the plaintiff's statement of facts, and then determines whether they state legal claims. (In some instances, as the court does here, the court may also conclude that no reasonable jury could find in favor of the plaintiff on the facts as pleaded.) Some of Ludlow's claims may be salvaged with an amended complaint--most obviously, the defamation claim against the graduate student, which was dismissed because of failure to allege facts sufficient to find that the student's "qualified privilege" in reporting misconduct should be forfeited. (On the issue of privilege, see this earlier discussion; note that the defamation claim against Professor Lackey was, correctly as far as I can see, dismissed because of the statute of limitations.) (Remember, too, that Professor Lackey and the graduate student have been indemnified by the University for their legal expenses--the latter because of Professor Lackey's foresight in the matter.)
Berkeley's Alison Gopnik, the well-known philosophically-minded psychologist, writes:
I’m attaching a link to my WSJ column taking off from the Leslie & Cimpian Science study on innate talent in philosophy. I had no room in the piece to say this but the more I’ve thought about it the odder it seems that philosophers, of all people, haven’t taken the time to see how incoherent the “innate talent” concept actually is. Maybe its because its so seductive as part of “folk psychology". In fact, when I first read the Science piece my first thought was “But that doesn’t apply to me because I’ve always known that I had a strong innate talent for philosophy, much more than for psychology, and I made my major affiliation to psychology for all sorts of other intellectual reasons”. But literally as I was thinking this I was also preparing the very first standard lecture in my intro developmental psychology course which is about why the nature/nurture distinction for psychological traits doesn’t make sense.
What would an innate talent for philosophy actually mean? That there is some set of genetic instructions that evolved in the pleistocene which just happens to consistently lead to an "appetite for Hume” phenotype? That some newborn infants are particularly good at asking piercing questions at seminars? That by the age of twenty the vagaries of genes, motivation, environment and culture have all interacted to produce a “sit around late at night asking about the meaning of life” phenotype that is immutable from then on? That heritability estimates for ethical reasoning will be constant across all the possible environments in the past and future?
Its weird, though certainly not unprecedented, that philosophers in their everyday life would endorse an idea that in their thoughtful professional life they would surely see is about as useful as the medieval theory of elements.
Perhaps too much weight is being put on the idea of "innateness" (which Prof. Gopnik aptly criticizes). What seems true in my own experience, both when I was in graduate school, then in 20 years of working with PhD students, is that some students arrive in graduate school with more "talent" for at least the styles of philosophy dominant in the Anglophone world than can be explained simply by prior education.
My colleague Geoffrey Stone, a well-known liberal legal commentaor and First Amendment scholar, has a very sensible piece in Huffington Post; some excerpts:
[T]he concern with campus sexual assault has begun to take on the characteristics of a panic in which government officials and school administrators have increasingly lost sight of other fundamental values that must shape the culture of institutions of higher learning....
[T]he Department of Education has declined to define precisely what it means by sexual assault. Clearly, it includes the crime of rape. But the meaning of sexual assault, at least as used in this context, can be extremely, and dangerously vague.
Fundamentally, it is bound up with such concepts as "consent" and "unwanted" sex. The problem is in defining how those concepts apply in this context. In many instances, especially where alcohol is involved, as it often is, extremely difficult questions arise about the meaning of "consent" and "unwanted." Is it measured by the subjective state of mind of the "complainant" or by the reasonable understanding of the "accused"? How are the participants, and the institutions, to know whether in any given interaction the accused crossed the line?....
The Department of Education has...sent strong signals, however, that colleges and universities must be tough on those who commit "sexual assault," however defined. The result is that academic institutions feel compelled to adopt very broad definitions of sexual assault for fear that if they get it "wrong" the Department will find them in violation of federal law and strip them of federal funds -- a penalty that strikes at the very heart of many colleges and universities.
To eliminate such overreaction on the part of academic institutions, the Department should set a clear -- and sensible -- standard for what counts as sexual assault. This standard should focus on the reasonable understanding of the accused rather than on the subjective understanding of the complainant. To impose serious discipline on students for committing sexual assault when they could not reasonably have understood in the circumstances that the sexual interaction was unwanted sets a standard of culpability that is both unfair to the accused and demeaning to the complainant....
[A] second issue concerns process....By what standard should the fact finder have to decide whether her story or his story is true, before expelling him?
According the Department of Education, in all such proceedings "the evidentiary standard that must be used" is "preponderance of the evidence," that is, whether it is "more likely than not" that he committed a sexual assault. In my judgment, that is the wrong standard. Indeed, many if not most colleges and universities have traditionally applied the "clear and convincing evidence" standard in such circumstances. The difference between these two standards is roughly the difference between being 51 percent confident that the student committed the sexual assault before expelling him and being 75 percent confident that the student committed the sexual assault before expelling him....
For a college or university to expel a student for sexual assault is a matter of grave consequence both for the institution and for the student. Such an expulsion will haunt the students for the rest of his days, especially in the world of the Internet. Indeed, it may well destroy his chosen career prospects. This is especially likely, for example, for law students.
Moreover, the procedures used in these disciplinary hearings do not come close to those employed in civil actions [which use a preponderance standard], which involve judges, juries, rules of evidence, lawyers, discovery, and a host of other procedural protections designed to enhance the reliability of the proceedings. Even at their best, college and university disciplinary proceedings are a far cry from civil actions in terms of fairness to the accused.
Thus, although the Department of Education may well be right that "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" is unnecessary in these circumstances because there is no risk of imprisonment or a formal criminal record, it is completely unfair, in my judgment, for a college or university to suspend or expel a student on the ground that he committed a sexual assault if the institution is only 51 percent confident that he did so.
A number of philosophy professors are on what increasingly seems to me to be the wrong side of these issues; that is their right, but they should stop acting as though they occupy the moral high ground. They do not, and Prof. Stone's piece usefully explains why.
Few would disagree that the systems for preventing and prosecuting sexual assault on US campuses are in need of change. But the efficacy and fairness of recent reforms that focus on making college grievance procedures more favorable to complainants and on codifying strict new definitions of sexual consent remain highly questionable. Advocates of these reforms tend to dismiss their opponents as reactionaries and “rape apologists”—a characterization that is probably accurate in some cases—but feminists, too, have cause to view these measures and the protectionist principles on which they are based with alarm.
UPDATE: Ethan Jerzak, a Berkeley PhD student and Wisconsin native, writes "with deep shame for my home state":
It might be worth pointing out that, the same day that malevolent idiot Scott Walker announced the $300 million cut to the UW system, he pledged $220 million in state funds to build the Milwaukee Bucks a new arena. (The latter being, of course, a "common-sense, fiscally conservative approach"!)
In recent years, philosophers have increasingly reflected on how various kinds of privilege and advantage are at work in the profession with an eye towards improving the lot of the disadvantaged. This blog is a space for philosophical reflection on various kinds of disadvantage (e.g., discrimination based on racism, classism, sexism, hetero-sexism, ableism, and the intersectionality of these and related phenomena) as well as discussion of such disadvantage within the philosophical community.
The impetus behind the blog began with a simple question posted by Kevin on Facebook concerning the perceived need for a group blog or FB page for discussing these and related issues. We both agreed that a blog could be an important vehicle for encouraging an ongoing discussion concerning the philosophy of discrimination and disadvantage as well as the role that discrimination and disadvantage play within the discipline of philosophy. In this sense, the blog has a theoretical as well as a practical purpose. While our initial motivation was focused more narrowly on the philosophy of disability, we soon realized it was important for us to broaden the scope to include not just ableism but also other forms of discrimination and disadvantage.
Mitchell Aboulafia is Professor of Philosophy at Manhattan College. He is a former member of the SPEP Advocacy Committee, who took his PhD at Boston College, a SPEP department, and then taught at the University of Colorado at Denver and Pennsylvania State University, the latter a longstanding SPEP bastion. He appears to have developed a bit of an obsession with the PGR lately, though readers should be aware of his bias and of the fact that many of his postings contain factual errors, indeed, easily correctable ones if he were at all intereseted in accuracy. But he is not. And, as I've noted before, it's not worth the time to engage with the lies, falsehoods, and silliness.
UPDATE: I suppose I should not be surprised that Aboulafia doesn't know what an ad hominem argument is. Of course, everything I said, above, is true, though we may now add that Aboulafia has another source of bias that would explain his misrepresentations and distortions, namely, his membership in SAAP. As I said originally: caveat emptor.
This is an informative overview of the law and the developments emerging from the current OCR in interpreting Title IX. My guess is the courts will eventually undo some of the interpretations promulgated by the current OCR.
I have been forwarded the latest legal filings in the undergraduate's lawsuit against Peter Ludlow: they are Ludlow's motion to compel the plaintiff to comply with discovery requests--Download Motion to Compel-
I have not been able to review all this in detail, though I do note that the motion to compel includes allegations that the plaintiff may have destroyed relevant evidence which, if true, will doom her case. (It is impossible to redact all references to the plaintiff in these materials, and, in any case, filings in this case have appeared elsewhere unredacted multiple times now.
UPDATE: One reader points out that the exhibits included some personal information about the plaintiff, and thought it better not to put that into circulation, so I have removed the exhibits.
CHE has the story. Among the researchers involved in this study was Princeton philosopher Sarah-Jane Leslie. My own impression has been that there are people who arrive in graduate school with what looks like an innate talent for philosophy (I can think of one man and one woman in the last 20 years that fall into that category), but that lots of others, through hard work, end up doing substantial work. What do readers think? And why would philosophy be more prone to such "innate talent" judgments than other fields?
Story here. Unfortunately for Barnett, the faculty panel's finding is non-binding--a faculty panel in the Ward Churchill case also came out against termination, which the University leadership and Regents ignored.
Someone reported the Philosophy Metametablog to Google for spam activity, and Google has shut down the blog with an option to reopen it. We will not be reopening it because:
1. Commentators regularly defamed each other and other philosophers by name. A trickle of comment deletion requests grew, and could well have become an unmanageable deluge.
2. Sockpuppetry was rampant, which we know because we tracked IP addresses. (Contrary to speculation, the Blogger platform can be modified to accommodate this.) Some commentators would post incendiary (mean-spirited, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transmisogynistic) remarks about Philosopher X, only to reply in the next comment with a spirited defense of Philosopher X. Comments of this sort often originated from the home institution or city of Philosopher X.
3. Though we regarded many comments with horror, we stuck to a program of non-intervention. This program is difficult to sustain when it requires that we permit both the identification of students who are alleged survivors of assault and the promulgation of ugly rumors and gossip.
Philosophers, plainly, have a lot of things they want to say. Some of the things they wish to say are funny and insightful (many are neither). There is also a large and interested audience. In its final week, the Philosophy Metametablog received over 2,500 unique visitors per day.
It's worth thinking about why the Philosophy Metametablog accrued so many visitors and comments so quickly. Some topics or perspectives simply cannot be breached at the major blogs: even reasoned, well-written, and respectful comments not in line with whatever orthodoxy happens to prevail are deleted or shouted down. So those who dissent can only turn elsewhere in frustration. It is sad that the only venues to which they may turn are unmoderated forums characterized by defamation, abuse, and sockpuppetry. One such forum is now gone. Other unmoderated forums will, of course, appear. But we hope that in the future, forums like Daily Nous and Leiter Reports will adopt a lighter touch in comment moderation.
I can't speak for "Justice Whineberg" as he was amusingly known there, but my plan is to run an open thread for discussion of issues in the profession once each week--but I will moderate it, but only for the nuttiness and defamation--heterodox views will be welcome, and anonymous postings will be permitted. I will approve comments with which I do not agree, so posting of comments is not endorsement. There is clearly a climate of fear among a lot of philosophy faculty and students due to the 2014 craziness on social media; since I have pushed back against a lot of this, starting with the attacks on due process last March, I might as well host the discussions. I read PMMB only irregularly, and it seemed to me there were often important perspectives represented there, perspectives otherwise silenced on philosophy-related social media. To reiterate, I will not approve defamatory or otherwise tortious commentary.
So this is "open thread" #1. Please be patient, as I am only on-line to moderate at irregular intervals.
I go in for some outpatient eye surgery, and all of a sudden weird legal stuff happens in the philosophy world. Several who sent this asked whether Heidi Lockwood's affidavit about what others said or allegedly knew about Peter Ludlow prior to his appointment at Northwestern didn't constitute "hearsay" (out-of-court statements offered to prove the truth of what they assert). The answer is that most of it does not if, as I suspect, the claims are being offered only to show that people at Northwestern were allegedly on "notice" as to alleged prior misconduct by Ludlow, and thus Northwestern failed in its Title IX obligations by not investigating the allegations and by hiring him nonetheless. (The out-of-court statements don't have to be true to nonetheless show the party hearing them was on notice of possible wrongdoing.) It does not help, of course, that the parties Lockwood purports to quote or ascribe prior knowledge to (Professors Goldberg, Lackey and Reed at Northwestern, and Professor Kvanvig at Baylor) have flatly denied the accuracy of her affidavit. Lockwood may be right that Ludlow's lawsuits have chilled discussion of the case, but insofar as the speech chilled is false and defamatory, as Ludlow has alleged, then it should be chilled. Certainly the case has been extensively discussed notwithstanding some pending legal actions and the merits will ultimately be adjudicated not by blogs but by courts.
I was struck by the fact that while some allegations in the Lockwood affidavit would be relevant to the undergraduate's case if true, other allegations struck me as simply bizarre and irrelevant, even if true (a failure to "like" posts on Facebook, among them!). It's hard for me to figure what the plaintiff's lawyer was thinking. In any case, to the best of my knowledge, even false and harmful statements in an affidavit part of a legal motion can not be grounds for a tort suit. I do fear Professor Lockwood's statement in the Northwestern student paper that she came forward "because there are philosophers who have knowledge and want to talk, but are afraid to" could, in context, be grounds for tortious liability.
UPDATE: Professor Kvanvig gave permission to post the following statement about the Lockwood affidavit:
I am on the side of doing whatever I can to stop the insanity in our profession regarding sexual misconduct. But I will not be a pawn to be used by those on the same side, and I have been.
I was cited extensively in the most recent affidavit from Heidi Howkins Lockwood and the lawyers involved....
Citations to me were included without my permission and without prior efforts to allow me to correct attributions. Both elements, by themselves, are egregious.
In addition, the citations are inaccurate in the following way. Heidi and I have had several conversations about the current state of the discipline regarding sexual misconduct. In every case, I have expressed support and willingness to do whatever I can to make things change. But also in every case, the conversations were about the rumor mill in philosophy regarding the cases in question, and in every case the conversations were about this rumor mill. So when I am cited as saying that "X happened," the context was always, and would have been understood to always involve, the qualifier about the rumor mill. I have no knowledge of what has happened in the cases that have become public, nor of the cases that are still secret, with the exception of those at institutions where I have taught (which are, of course, not part of the issue here).
So, to attribute claims to me that certain things have happened is grossly irresponsible, since all that could be responsibly attributed is the claim that I, too, had heard rumors to such an effect.
Regarding this earlier post, Rebecca Kerley, an undergraduate philosophy student at the University of Alabama, writes:
I worked as a teaching assistant for Introduction to Deductive Logic last year and last semester we taught the course to a visually impaired student. We’re currently working on writing about the methodology we used in the hopes of making logic more accessible to other students through our example and are researching the ways logic has been taught to visually impaired students in the past.
We would be very interested in learning about your experience, either as a visually impaired student learning logic or as a professor teaching logic to a visually impaired student. If you would like to share the problems you encountered, the ways you adapted course material to make it more accessible, the methods you learned either to learn or teach the material, any other facet of your experience, or if you have any questions about our project, feel free to contact me or Julie Wilson, the secretary of the department with the contact information below.
The full text is here, but I'd call particular attention to this given recent mischief by universities carrying the fake Civility Banner:
[I]t is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)