Submit your comment only once, I will approve comments at various intervals during the day.
Submit your comment only once, I will approve comments at various intervals during the day.
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?
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...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.
ADDENDUM: Readers who want to comment on the Stone piece can do so on Monday's "open thread."
Please submit your comment only once, I will moderate and approve comments at various intervals during the day.
Interesting read; an excerpt:
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"!)
Thomas Nadelhoffer (Charleston) sends along word of a new blog, Discrimination and Disadvantage. He writes:
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.
Please submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.
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.
Among the curious findings, most care about faculty civliity (especially towards administrators!), and most think sexual harassment is a problem in higher education, but not at their institution!
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.
...disappeared in the last 48 hours or so. Heres' the e-mail I got from the proprietor(s):
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.
Here. The title is rather unfortunate, since Dr. Haynes, who makes that remark, is in context, I thought, rather clearly disputing that.
(Thanks to Ravi Sharma for the pointer.)
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.
Secretary of University of Alabama’s Department of Philosophy
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.
IHE has a very informative report:
The law school violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal anti-discrimination law that requires colleges to investigate campus sexual assaults, by providing more rights to the accused than to the accusers, the department said Tuesday. In one case, the Harvard Law School took more than a year to make its final decision about an alleged sexual assault, allowing the accused student to take part in a lengthy – and ultimately successful – appeal process in which he was able to be represented by legal counsel.
The student who brought the complaint was not allowed the same opportunities, the department said.
At the time, this was in line with the college’s official policies regarding the post-hearing rights of accused students. The process also used a “clear and convincing” standard of proof, rather than the department’s recommended “preponderance of evidence” standard. During the four-year investigation, many institutions switched to this lower standard, but institutions like Harvard and Princeton University both held onto the higher standard until earlier this year. Princeton entered into its own Title IX agreement, which mirrors Harvard's in several ways, last month.
It does seem prima facie wrongful not to accord the accuser and the accused comparable due process rights, including legal representation. The lowering of the standard of proof is more controversial, but arguable: "clear and convincing" is essentially the criminal standard, while "preponderance" is the standard in a civil action. Whether a university finding of sexual assault, for example, is more like a criminal than a civil finding, in terms of both sanctions and stigma, is what is arguable.
The reaction by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who teaches civil rights and family law, is also notable.
Story here. He and Monton were certainly faculty about whom rumors of inappropriate conduct circulated; on the evidence in the public record, by contrast, Kaufman and Barnett appear to be victims of a university administration trying to appease over-zealous regulators.
(Thanks to Maria Z. for the pointer.)
From a philosopher elsewhere who opposes APA interviews:
Only around 25 depts interviewing at Eastern. Vibe at the (much smaller) smoker detectably less desperate, more like Pacific or Central. Victory is at hand!
Of course, until all departments switch to Skype interviews or direct fly-backs, there will still be a burden on job seekers to attend the Eastern.
In November, I retained one of the leading defamation lawyers in Canada to explore my legal remedies for the misstatements of fact in the boycott statement from September. As I noted on October 8, the fact that half the University of British Columbia philosophy department did not sign on to this letter on behalf of their colleague was a red flag, and further investigation revealed, as suspected, evidence that the boycott statement contained falsehoods.
On December 15, my lawyer sent the following letter to Carrie Jenkins and Jonathan Ichikawa: Download Leiter B re Prof C Jenkins Prof J Ichikawa December 15 2014 Letter, asking for a response by December 31. The letter says, in pertinent part, that, "The September Statement falsely portrays Professor Leiter as a 'tormentor' of Professor Jenkins whose actions had 'very serious' 'effects' on her, including "impacting her health, her capacity to work and her ability to contribute to public discourse as a member of the profession. The September Statement should not have said this," since these claims are not accurate, for reasons my lawyer explains in the letter. (Prof. Ichikawa, very unwisely, misrepresented* the contents of this letter on his blog today; why he picked Christmas Eve for this, I do not know.)
I was hopeful the matter would be resolved without litigation, but on December 22, Jenkins and Ichikawa, through their lawyer, rejected the settlement proposal outright (here: Download 2014 12 22 Final ltr to Schabas). Strikingly, in rejecting the settlement, they did not assert that the challenged claims in the September Statement were true (or "substantially true," the relevant language in this context), but only that they constitute "lawful expression under the law of Canada and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
These words were clearly chosen carefully by their lawyer. Of course, falsehoods and/or misleading statements could turn out to be "lawful expression" under both Canadian and American law (though the reference to American law is bizarre, since my lawyer's letter was explicit that we are going to bring suit in Canada), if, for example, they are not damaging or fall under one of the exceptions for damaging falsehoods. Under Canadian law, this does not appear to be the case in this instance. (In this regard, it is striking that their lawyer prefaces the response by stating, "I am instructed to advise you," which to a lawyer's ear means, "Against advice of counsel, this is the position of my clients.")
In any case, with this response, we now have an effective admission by Jenkins and Ichikawa that they misled the philosophical community with their claims in the September Statement.
A CLARIFICATION: Legal remedies may yet be pursued against others among the original signatories and authors of the September Statement. As I have remarked previously, I do not begrudge those who signed subsequently for doing so given the misleading statements that were presented to them.
*ICHIKAWA'S MISREPRESENTATION OF THE LAWYER'S LETTER: Ichikawa asserts that my lawyer claimed I had been defamed by Jenkins's "pledge on her tumblr blog to behave with civility" (conjoined with a threat to treat those who didn't live up to her standards as "not normal" professionals) and by Jenkins making public my July 2 e-mail to her. This is false; the lawyer's letter does not claim that either of those incidents contain or constitute defamatory falsehoods. The lawyer letter mentions these as part of the relevant pre-history leading up to the alleged defamatory falsehoods in the September Statement--the first, for example, because it was intended by Jenkins as a criticism of me (as everyone at the time knew, and as one of her friends has now admitted), and thus explains my private response, which she chose to make public.
UPDATE: ON THE CULTURE GAP BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY PROFESSORS AND LAWYERS: Corresponding with colleagues elsewhere, including those who share my doubts about the pair in Vancouver, I have realized how my many years as a philosopher in a law school have left me out of touch with the sensibilities of those making careers in philosophy departments. In my world, lawyers are not scary, talk of defamation is not scary, talk of lawsuits is not scary: all this is just part of the civilized infrascture of modern societies in which possible wrongdoing can be subjected to formal procedures for adjudicating the merits.
The reason I retained a leading defamation lawyer in Canada was precisely to determine whether I had a case under Canadian law, where the defendants reside; no letter would have been sent were the answer 'no.' (Canadian law is less friendly to defamers than American law, but arguably in ways more fair to victims.) Despite being subjected to hundreds of defamatory and non-defamatory abusive and harassing attacks in cyberspace over many years, this is the first time I have ever retained a lawyer to explore my remedies formally in order to reach a settlement. That's how serious I judged the wrongdoing connected to the "September Statement" to be.
Someone in cyberspace (I now forget where) claimed it violates "collegial obligations" to challenge suspected tortious wrongdoing by hiring a lawyer. I confess I laughed out loud at this. I have collegial obligations to my colleagues, not to people I've never met who have repeatedly taken to social media to try to harm me. And consulting a lawyer expert in the area and trying to settle a case involving allegations of tortious wrongdoing is what lawyers normally do in situations like this. I now realize philosophers do not understand this and so it seems shocking to some of them. I apologize to those startled by these developments, but it is the civilized way of trying to resolve a dispute when other efforts have failed. Given how much is not yet public, I would hope that fair-minded individuals would reserve judgment.
Consider a hypothetical, not actual, scenario:
Suppose Professor X publishes purportedly factual allegations about terrible harms you have caused him, which ignite a firestorm of protest and anger at you. Suppose you then acquire evidence--from Professor X's friends and colleagues, from documents, etc.--that the factual allegations are false. You also know that Professor X will not respond to any e-mails you send seeking a resolution; in the past, attempts to conciliate have been met with ridicule and further harassment. You could, of course, publish the evidence you have on the Internet, except your sources do not want to be named, and publishing the evidence in a forum without a qualified or absolute privilege could expose you to legal liability. So how else to proceed but to consult with a lawyer, and have the lawyer state the case and propose a settlement?
But enough about hypothetical scenarios; in the real case, when challenged with making false statements of fact, Jenkins and Ichikawa did not defend those statements as "true" or even "substantially true," but only as nonetheless "lawful." This effective admission to having misled the philosophical community in the September Statement illustrates the utility already of my having sought legal counsel on this matter, even if no further action is taken.
ANOTHER: OF ALL THE MISSTATEMENTS OF CANADIAN LAW I've seen the most ridiculous is that truth is not a defense in a defamation action. Of course it is! From a practitioner's treatise on Canadian defamation law (co-authored, as it happens, by Jenkins's & Ichikawa's attorney): "Justification is a complete defence to a defamation action. If the expression at issue is true, the plaintiff's defamation claim concerning that expression must be dismissed." Moreover, "A decision to plead justification should not be made lightly. An unsuccessful plea of justification may be taken into account by the court when assessing damages....[A] failed plea of truth may aggravate the plaintiff's damages or underpin an award of exemplary damages. It may also lead to a more substantial award of costs against a defendant." For these reasons and others, their lawyer's failure to assert the substantial truth of the challenged claims was very revealing.
AND A LAST (12/31): The new unmoderated philosophy blog, it turns out, has had multiple threads about this affair, some insightful, some amusing, some nutty, but also including comments that Weinberg (or "Justice Whineberg" as he seems to be affectionately known there), whose partisanship in this particular matter is obvious (he is a friend of Jenkins's), did not approve. (I've heard from other readers about their comments not getting through.) One set starts here, for example.
If this ruling stands, it will have significant consequences for tenure-stream and adjunct faculty at private institutions of higher education.
Here. The groups here are defined mainly in terms of demographic categories (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, but also disability status), rather than ideological or philosophical orientation. Readers may submit additional names, except in the sexual orientation and disability categories. One category not included at present is socioeconomic background.
(Thanks to several different readers who sent this along.)
It appears there's some work to do:
I regret taking so long to write you an email expressing my regrets and frustration about how you have been treated by many of your colleagues lately. I have been trying my best to ignore it since I am on the market this year with very much to do and can't afford to let myself be so upset by the disturbing eagerness with which so many people (which included some of my friends, who are good people) seem so eager to jump on the leiter-bashing bandwagon. It is hard not to view it as largely the kind of group-think, social-signaling moralistic aggression that I still am apparently naive enough to be shocked and angered by when professional philosophers engage in it en masse. It saddens me to think of a large section of my colleagues as the "public" in Rushdie's famous quote from “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers”:
"We, the public, are easily, lethally offended. We have come to think of taking offence as a fundamental right. We value very little more highly than our rage, which gives us, in our opinion, the moral high ground. From this high ground we can shoot down at our enemies and inflict heavy fatalities. We take pride in our short fuses. Our anger elevates, transcends."
This isn't to say that none of your critics have any valid points, or that I agree with everything you say... What galls me is the eagerness with which so many people want to signal their superior moral status by means of shooting down at you from their ostensibly greater moral heights, when in reality, few if any of your loudest critics have done as much for academic philosophy, or issues relating to the academy more broadly (freedom of speech especially) as you have. Or so it seems to me. I am surely biased since I read your blog more than others.
Again, I'm sorry it took me so long to write you, but I clearly should have earlier, not only for whatever sense of support you might get from it, but because I feel a lot better now too having finally expressed some of these thoughts. In the current climate, I do not feel at liberty to express my opinions on this subject in public. I would feel much safer publicly posting criticisms of U.S. or Israeli state terrorism than I would expressing support for you--or much worse, criticism of some of your critics. That in itself is a very sad state of affairs for the discipline, especially since the people I would be most wary of are many of those who make the loudest demands for (their approved forms of) inclusivity.
An interesting perspective, though I think the salience of social media amplifies what is actually a minority kind of censoriousness and priggishness masquerading as the moral high ground. Just as we can be confident that I won't stop enforcing my legal rights or calling out charlatans and hacks, we can be confident that it is quite a bit more risky to be a vocal critic of Israel than it is to to be a vocal supporter of me against a minority of web-savvy wrongdoers.
IHE has the latest details. The right-wing Volokh blog, whose selective interest in these issues is well-known, suggests this violates the professor's academic freedom. That seems to me dubious, except on a very capacious conception of academic freedom in which anything an academic says is part of that freedom, a conception which has no legal status. Professor McAdams's research profile does not suggest that his blogging critical of a colleague's teaching practices had anything to do with his scholarship, and so academic freedom is not at issue. On the other hand, he is clearly being punished for his speech, and while Marquette, as a private employer, is not bound by constitutional standards, it should honor a moral commitment to freedom of speech. As the IHE article notes, McAdams's suspension also does seem very suspect from the standpoint of AAUP guidelines. The strongest argument that could be made in favor of the university's action, at least on the facts that are public, is that by inciting a right-wing firestorm about the philosophy instructor's teaching, Professor McAdams interfered with university functions, though I'm not sure how persuasive I find that argument. (Consistent with the New Infantilism now running rampant in the blogosphere, some people suggested that because the philosophy instructor was a graduate student, though one running her own class, and McAdams a faculty member in a different department, he had some kind of special pedagogical or other obligation not to criticize her. That argument has no merit as a matter of law or AAUP norms.)
UPDATE: Over at IHE, there is a strong statement in the comments from longtime academic freedom commentator John K. Wilson (one of the few who was consistently on the right side of the Ward Churchill debacle):
I haven't studied the case enough to make a judgment on whether the TA was right or wrong (or both). But I know with certainty that Marquette is wrong to suspend a professor for talking about the case and expressing an opinion. McAdams is perfectly free to publicly criticize a TA's approach, and nothing about it constitutes harassment or some violation of privacy. The fact that the university can't even clarify exactly why they're suspending McAdams is particularly suspect. McAdams' blog should not be grounds for any kind of investigation; the fact that he was suspended without a hearing shows that this punishment is entirely illegitimate.
That last point is particularly important: suspension without even a hearing indicates that Marquette has just left the AAUP universe. What a disgrace.
ANOTHER: Justin Weinberg (South Carolina) offers a rather tendentious characterization of McAdams's offenses in the third update, and even if it were all true, it would not justify suspension without even a hearing. That McAdams is a right-wing creep is not grounds for his being sanctioned for his speech. Particularly odd is Weinberg's complaint that McAdams failed to show "any concern for Abbate’s welfare or future academic career." But McAdams has no obligation whatsoever to be concerned about this: Abbate is not his student, indeed, is not even in his department. The idea that this is a sanctionable offense on McAdams's part is, itself, a symptom of the New Infantilism, for which Weinberg's blog has become a leading cyber-cheerleader (though to his credit, he permits fairly wide-ranging discussion in the comments).
Another procedural horror story. And on the flipside of the wrongly sanctioned are the victims who also found the college adjudicative process let them down. The federal government needs to fund a separate adjudicative system with a professional staff to handle these issues, rather than entrusting amateurs in the universities.
Wes Morriston, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Colorado, lambasts the "reckless" Administration:
[W]e were intimidated by an explicit threat to dissolve the department by invoking Regent Policy 4H (the policy on program discontinuance). The idea was to fire everyone, and then hire back some of us. Those lucky enough to be rehired would be rostered (for administrative purposes) in other departments....[T]he threat to shut down the department — which came directly from the Dean's office — had its intended effect on many of my colleagues....
On Dec. 2, the Boulder Faculty Assembly was at long last permitted to discuss some of the pertinent issues. It passed a motion that includes this sentence: "The administration has taken precipitous punitive measures against faculty members without due regard for [the] rules." The group had previously deleted the claim that the administration had "created a sense of fear, insecurity, and distrust among faculty." It is unfortunate that these words were deleted, since they describe exactly what has been done to the philosophy department. Fear, insecurity, and distrust have been the entirely predictable result of administrative posturing and bullying.
The past couple of years have given me a taste of what it must be like to live in a police state. (Think here of malicious gossip taken as gospel, of email surveillance and anonymous reporting, of secret trials and equally secret verdicts.) Faculty members of impeccable character have been afraid to speak out because they fear retaliation against anyone who challenges the narrative being put forward by the administration.
Title IX issues have lately (and quite rightly) received a great deal of attention. But there is another pressing issue on this campus. The community as a whole is endangered when top administrators are permitted to act with reckless disregard for the reputations and careers of both faculty and graduate students.
The Medill senior suing Northwestern under Title IX filed a motion Thursday asking the judge who dismissed her lawsuit to reconsider or vacate his decision.
The new motion reveals multiple concerns about philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow’s sexual conduct toward students that were brought to the University before the student accused him of sexual assault in 2012....
“The newly-discovered evidence clearly establishes that Northwestern was on actual notice of, and had a prior knowledge of, Ludlow’s past misconduct toward young female students and his predisposition to be involved with them in a sexual and questionably inappropriate manner, but failed to monitor or supervise him,” the Medill senior’s motion claims.
Not a surprise. There's a lot of reasons to be cautious about student evaluations of teaching, this is yet another one.
(Thanks to John Doris for the pointer.)
Several readers have sent this paper, some of which raises a genuine question about the status of psychological findings about implicit bias and stereotype threat to which I'd be interested in hearing from experts. (The authors clearly have an agenda of their own, and some of their points are rather tendentious, which is why it would be good to hear from other experts about whether their representation of the literature is fair.) In particular, I'm curious whether any of the claims below the fold are correct:
A reader writes:
In many state colleges and universities philosophy programs are housed in one department with religious studies. In some of these cases, philosophy faculty would prefer to be in self-standing philosophy departments. To make this change, philosophy faculty must persuade administrators that philosophy programs should be housed in autonomous philosophy departments.
These philosophers need arguments and data. Here are the questions. What are the particular ways in which the "Philosophy and Religious Studies" combination is problematic? What are the most effective arguments against that combination? (The arguments must appeal to Deans and Provosts.)
Regarding data, it would help philosophers in this position to know which other philosophy departments around the country were once in combined departments, and it would help to know when the split occurred. Finally, it would also be helpful to know the ways in which those philosophy programs have improved after the separation (perhaps in major recruitment, faculty recruitment and retention, research output, and so on).
Advice/insight/data from readers?
Noelle McAfee took her PhD in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 1990s. I was one of the placement directors when she was first on the job market, and got a rather irate e-mail from her late in the process, since she felt I had not done enough to help her. She, in fact, got a tenure-track job at the University of Massachussetts, Lowell, and then, through the SPEP network, eventually landed a few years ago at Emory University, a SPEP bastion. Well before her move to Emory, McAfee joined the SPEP "Advocacy Committee," which had as its primary purpose counteracting the effect of the PGR that I edited, so her personal vendetta now turned into a professional one. In that role, McAfee spent years on social media posting lies and misinformation about the PGR and sometimes about me personally. After awhile, this grew tiresome, and past experience with SPEP miscreants (like John McCumber) had taught me that a firm response usually sufficed to pull them back from the defamatory brink, which it did with McAfee, at least under her own name. (Sally Haslanger and David Velleman, the two longtime PGR haters, who released my e-mails to McAfee on the web omitted all this history, of course--indeed, they never inquired about it since their aim was to harm me and the PGR, not inform.) But then it turned out that under the pseudonym "ChrisClaire," McAfee had not only written much of her own entry on Wikipedia, but had also taken to vandalizing the wikipedia page about me (the Wikipedia editors eventually put a stop to her mischief). A class act.
UPDATE: I came across the following remarkable exchange from a public Facebook page. It appears to have been a SPEPPie "circle jerk" (to use the technical term) complaining about me and the PGR, including the fact that I (correctly) called out Linda Alcoff's misconduct regarding the "Climate for Women" fiasco last year. Into the mix stepped SPEP member Catherine Kemp, a philosopher at Brooklyn College (and a former student of mine at Texas in the law school), who is married to Mitchell Aboulafia, whose efforts to address sexual harassment problems at Penn State led to his being ousted as Chair there. Professor Kemp wrote:
I believe that [Linda Alcoff's] refusal to back away from the climate-for-women section of the Pluralist Guide compromised her standing as an officer in a national organization of philosophers. The inclusion of Penn State (not to mention Oregon) and the presence of Nancy Tuana and Shannon Sullivan as members of that faculty responsible for the *desirability* of the climate for women at Penn State was (and is) outrageous. Tuana and Sullivan have together done more to harm female graduate students and female junior faculty there than all the men on the faculty taken together, not least because Tuana and Sullivan protect (and protected) a serial harasser among the men. Linda was perfectly well aware of this situation before the Pluralist Guide was published, before she participated in getting SPEP to support it, and before BL laid a post on it....
When we overlook or pretend not to see that our own house is not in order on these important issues, our outreach is less credible, esp. when it is based in part on criticism that amounts to throwing stones in that glass house.
A strong statement, though I can not vouch for the accuracy of the allegations it contains. Professor Kemp tagged a few other SPEPPies in her post, including Noelle McAfee, who then weighed in as follows:
Noelle McAfee I was tagged to this post but I must say I am not willing to be any party to disparaging other feminist colleagues here. If that's going to go on, I'd just as soon not be tagged.
Solidarity is, apparently, more important than truth or justice, even justice for victims of sexual harassment.
NOELLE MCAFEE, aka, CHRIS CLAIRE UPDATE: Following McAfee's policy of not linking, I will comment briefly without linking to her non-response. McAfee doesn't deny any of my allegations (since they're all true, and as she notes the record of most of her lies and misinformation on the PGR is on her blog, except for the defamatory bits which she wisely removed), except one, namely, that "the Wikipedia editors eventually put a stop to her mischief.” In fact, after I e-mailed the Wikipedia help desk about the vandalism, she did stop vandalizing the entry, as a high level editor assured me she would. Even better, McAfee now admits to using the pseudonym "ChrisClaire" (not only to vandalize the entry about me, but to write most of the entry about herself): after I e-mailed her about her use of the pseudonym "ChrisClaire" to vandalize the wikipedia entry about me, McAfee writes that, "I contacted a high-level editor at Wikipedia and asked for help." The "help" she got--besides being told to stop the vandalism and stop writing her own entry--was the information that Wikipedia actually will pay to defend editors who are sued for defamation--not an issue in this instance, but a remarkable policy nonetheless which readers should keep in mind the next time Wikipedia asks for donations.