MOVING TO FRONT FROM JULY 10--MORE DISCUSSION WELCOME
Philosopher Cheyney Ryan, Director of the Human Rights Programs for the Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict at Oxford University (who taught previously at the University of Oregon), writes:
The University of Oregon recently settled a case against it for almost $1 million brought by a young woman who had been assaulted by one of its basketball players. The basis of her suit was that the University knew or should have known that the player had been involved in a sexual assault incident at his previous university but still admitted him and did nothing to address the potential danger to others. Her suit cited other instances where universities have been held responsible for admitting students with histories of sexual assault/harassment. The new U of O president, a distinguished law professor, thought there was enough merit in the argument to settle the case immediately.
I should think that universities would evidence the same level of concern towards professors with such histories. Yet the impression up to now is that the Yale Philosophy Department was entirely too passive in this regard, in the Pogge matter. This impression is now confirmed by the remarks of Seyla Benhabib in the New York Times.
The article states,
"Professor Benhabib, who served on Professor Pogge’s selection committee, said that she and other committee members had heard about the Columbia case but did not discuss it.
“I didn’t think it was my place to go searching into his history at Columbia,” she said. “Everybody slips once. That was our attitude.”
One can only hope she was misquoted. Otherwise, her remarks are absurd. "Everybody slips once"-- was this really the search committee's attitude about acts of harassing/assaulting female students?
If Pogge had been involved in an incident raising a weapons charge, would it then have been her place to go "searching" into his history? (How many "slip ups" would have been permissible in a gun violation?)
It's a matter for serious discussion how such histories should factor into a hiring decision. But progress in providing a safe environment for students will only be made when departments treat these matters as of more than casual importance.
I, too, was astonished by the "everybody slips once" comment attributed to Prof. Benhabib. What do readers think about the issues raised by Prof. Ryan?