Earlier today (Monday, September 22), the executive officers representing fourteen UIUC departments having previously voted no confidence in members of the university's administration issued the following joint statement:
In the wake of the Board of Trustees' failure to reinstate Steven Salaita on September 11, 2014, we reaffirm our votes of no confidence in the Chancellor, the President, and the Board of Trustees. We remain ever more committed to academic freedom, to due process, and to recognition of the expertise of faculty as the foundation of the university. We call on the Senate to allow a full and fair investigation of the case.
A copy of the statement signed by all fourteen executive officers was delivered to the chair of the Senate Executive Committee at today's meeting of the Senate.
The signatories were:
Ronald Bailey, Head, Department of African American Studies Antoinette Burton, Interim Head, Department of Sociology Stephanie Foote, Chair, Department of Gender and Women's Studies Jonathan Xavier Inda, Chair, Department of Latina/Latino Studies Lilya Kaganovsky, Director, Program in Comparative and World Literature Marcus Keller, Head, Department of French and Italian Diane Koenker, Chair, Department of History Andrew Orta, Head, Department of Anthropology David Price, Head, Department of Religion Junaid Rana, Acting Head, Asian American Studies Michael Rothberg, Head, Department of English Kirk Sanders, Chair, Department of Philosophy Robert Warrior, Director, American Indian Studies Gary Xu, Head, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Joseph Heath (Toronto) comments. Unlike Templeton, Koch money often seems to come with way too many ideological strings attached.
UPDATE: A senior philosopher elsewhere writes: "Thanks for the link to Joseph Heath's short piece on Koch money in academics. I remember you opened comments on a piece a few years ago on IHS funding of graduate students. I for one would be keenly interested to see what experiences others have had, with Koch and conferences. An option for anonymous posting would encourage openness."
I've opened comments, and will permit anonymous comments, but include a valid e-mail (I never disclose those to anyone and it will not appear).
In eleven years of blogging, I've only once received a serious threat of legal action for something posted here--serious, not in the sense that the claim had any merit, but in that the person making the claim had a real lawyer and there was a real prospect of a nuisance lawsuit being filed. The case involved jeweler and self-styled metaphysician David Birnbaum, whose curious case we noted last year, and whose story was then picked up by CHE. The trouble did not start, however, until almost six months later when The Guardian contacted Mr. Birnbaum for a story they subsequently ran about him. From that reporter Mr. Birnbaum discovered my original post about the allegations of academic identity theft from Prof. Hagberg. This posting agitated him, so he phoned me up at the office.
The conversation didn't get off to a good start because within the first twenty seconds he used the word "defamatory"; I cut him off and said to him, "If you call up a law professor and start throwing around the word defamatory, then the conversation is over." This sobered him up and we had a pleasant chat and he assured me the whole matter with Prof. Hagberg was a misunderstanding, that he had documents to prove it, that my post was very upsetting to his children, etc. It was an odd ramble. I said to him if he could send me documents proving it was a misunderstanding, then I would revise or remove the post accordingly. I told him to e-mail me the evidence.
Mr. Birnbaum didn't, in fact, have any real evidence, but he did e-mail me. He also cc'd his lawyer, which meant our correspondence was at an end. This was a litigator with a major New York law firm; my best guess is that this lawyer represents Mr. Birnbaum in disputes involving his high-end jewelry business, where there is probably hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars at stake. But I think as part of the cost of keeping his client, he also has to handle Mr. Birnbaum's vanity litigations (Birnbaum apparently made similar threats against Bard College as well, though in the end did nothing).
Fortunately, I have the best lawyer in the United States (truly!), a friend I went to law school with years ago. It's not just that he's really smart and a person of extraordinary integrity, it's that he has impeccable and shrewd judgment, and knows how to handle people--a huge part of successful lawyering is understanding how to get people to do what the law requires without actually having to bring suit (though bringing suit is, of course, the final recourse for certain wrongs). Over the years, my lawyer has recovered bonuses and security deposits wrongfully withheld, secured revisions to factually inaccurate statements in a book put out by a major publishing house, and assisted me in dealing effectively with sundry cyber-crazies. In none of these cases was a lawsuit ever filed (though in one, as I recall, a draft of the complaint did motivate the miscreant to do the right thing).
I felt it necessary to advise prospectives last Spring about some actual or forthcoming senior offers to faculty at Cornell. The good news for Cornell is that Karen Bennett (metaphysics, philosophy of mind) has now turned down a senior offer from MIT--a significant retention coup, that will no doubt help Cornell in retaining two other senior faculty who are likely to be recruited by a different top ten department.
The letter is here. I note that, finally, some faculty from engineering, physics, and math (among other STEM fields) are finally showing signs of life on this issue, and are among the signatories to the letter. Some of them presumably realize that if the Board of Trustees believe they can get away with summary dismissal of tenured faculty for offensive tweets about Israel, faculty in every field are at risk.
I think it's not really fair to ask several million Scots to vote on the question of independence without input from the philosophical community. Therefore, as a public service, I present the following poll:
David Velleman (NYU) last week called my attention to this item about the vicious racist and sexist abuse to which the Illinois Chancellor, Phyllis Wise, was subjected on social media last Winter after deciding not to cancel classes on a particularly bitter winter day. No disciplinary measures were taken against any of the students; as reported in Slate: "A spokeswoman said that the campus judicial officer looked at the tweets and determined they were protected free expression, and so no attempt is planned to punish those who tweeted." Of course, the students could have been subject to discipline had they disrupted classes with such racist and sexist abuse. But they didn't: they used Twitter. And the university spokeswoman got it exactly right as a matter of the law.
Interesting item in IHE, addressing an issue I had not seen addressed elsewhere.
UPDATE: Philosopher Alan Weir (Glasgow) writes (he informs me that he is a member of "Academics for Yes," a pro-independence group, but that he here speaks in his personal capacity):
Mr. Marsicano’s piece on independence and Scottish Higher Education doesn’t get off to a great start, rounding up the Scottish population from 5.3 million to 6 million. Mr Marsicano states that Scotland received 13.1% of UK Funding versus 9% contribution to tax funding (Scottish population is 8.3% of the UK). The UK government document he quotes actually says:
"In 2012-13 Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) secured £257 million of UK Research Council grants (excluding Research Council institutes and infrastructure). This represents 13.1 per cent of the UK total"
But then goes on:
"Including Research Council funding (including grants, studentships and fellowships and spending on infrastructure), Scotland secured £307 million (10.7 per cent of the UK total)."
A somewhat different picture. The tax contribution in 2012-13 is actually 9.1% to be more precise (lower than normal because of tax breaks to encourage increases in oil exploration) but more importantly the presentation of the statistics fits in with the usual unionist line that Scots have been subsidised by the rest of the UK. This unionist claim is an egregiously false one. Over the last five years, Scotland has contributed 9.5% of UK tax revenue but received 9.3% of UK public expenditure, a fiscal transfer from Scotland to the rest of the UK (rUK) equivalent to about £8.3 billion, or about £1,600 per person. If one goes further back, e.g. to the oil boom of the 80s, Scotland was subsidising Margaret Thatcher’s government to the tune of 45% of its non-oil GDP per year. Can’t imagine Canadians being happy about transferring a tax windfall equivalent to nearly half of their non-oil GDP to the US.
Moreover the difference between Scotland’s research funding ‘tax contribution share’ and the 10.7% funding last year was around £46 million, under one thirtieth of one per cent of Scottish GDP. We’d be perfectly happy to make up such a difference should it occur in any particular year, as part of a combined Scottish/Republic of Ireland/rest of UK research framework. Scottish unionists, however, might not be keen on expanding the already existing joint funding arrangements between the UK and Ireland as they tend to be ‘Little Britishers’ and lack the outward-looking civic nationalism of Scottish nationalists. But I don’t think this view is widely shared in England where not only cooperation with our immediate neighbours but EU funding is becoming ever more important. As to Scottish membership of the EU, Mr. Marsicano would be better listening to constitutional lawyers such as Prof. Douglas-Scott, Professor of European and Human Rights Law at Oxford University (Legal Research Paper Series No. XXX July 2014) than a politician such as Barruso, almost certainly primed by the UK government to advance the unionist campaign (known internally as ‘Project Fear’ and replete with scare stories on pensions, demolished by the UK Government’s own Department of Works and Pensions, unsubstantiated claims of intimidation of universities by Scottish Government ministers which the author here repeats and much much more).
One also has to consider the prospects for UK funding if Scotland says no to independence and continues to subordinate its parliament to a parliament answerable to an electorate 84% of whom are English. UK research and science budgets are already being cut. The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) has noted that “the cumulative erosion of the ring-fenced science budget will be over £1.1bn from the beginning of SR10 period up to 15/16”. A No vote would mean a substantial reduction in funds available for universities in Scotland because of the further planned cuts of £25 billion in UK public sector funding plus further reductions to the Scottish budget through the reform or abolition of the Barnett formula which governs half of Scottish public expenditure. Fuelled by the myth of the Scots as subsidy junkies there is almost universal agreement in England that Scottish public expenditure must be drastically reduced and the proposed enhanced devolution powers in the event of no to independence provide a perfect opportunity to do this.
Finally, the anti-immigration policies of the British government are widely recognised in the UK higher education sector as posing a serious threat to universities, whereas the party in power in the Scottish Government, the Scottish National Party, has repeatedly said it wishes to increase immigration into Scotland and use the wider powers of an independent government to bring this about.
I’ve written at far too much length on all these matters at
The good news is that it's clear more philosophers who actually have some idea what's going on are filling out the surveys (even I'm a participant now!), so the results in Philosophy are less totally worthless than before, though the halo effect looms large. (Bear in mind that the way their survey works is you are asked to name 10-15 schools that you consider good in the field--that's it!) But there's also data on citations and h-indices that are interesting (or simply curious)--unfortunately, QS still does not disclose the details of the faculty lists they use.
The overall "rank" factors in an employer score for the university, so that will obviously not have much if anything to do with the caliber of the philosophy faculty. I break out below the scores in some of the sub-areas that might have some relationship to faculty quality (I've done this only for the US schools, if someone wants to break it out for Canadian, British etc., I'll add a link):
Academic reputation according to the QS surveys
Remember that we have no idea who is completing these surveys, and, in the past, they had some rather dubious methods for soliciting participants. They also simply ask for lists of 10-15 leading departments, and that's it--so the least informed participants (e.g., the person who doesn't put NYU or Princeton on his/her list of the top 10) is the one who determines the outcome! Still, this starts off OK--though some of the surprisingly strong showings like Pitt and BU suggest to me that there are a lot of German respondents in the pool--but gets progressively weirder as one gets outside the top 10.
1. University of Pittsburgh (100.0)
2. New York University (93.9)
3. Rutgers University, New Brunswick (92.6)
4. Harvard University (86.7)
5. Princeton University (83.0)
6. University of California, Berkeley (82.4)
7. Stanford University (79.6)
8. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (79.2)
9. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (78.0)
10. University of Notre Dame (74.5)
10. Yale University (74.5)
12. Columbia University (73.5)
13. University of California, Los Angeles (73.1)
14. University of Chicago (72.8)
15. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (68.2)
16. Boston University (67.4)
17. University of Arizona (65.2)
18. Cornell University (63.5)
19. City University of New York (61.0)
20. Duke University (60.6)
Runners-up: Ohio State University (60.5) and Brown University (59.1)
Citations per paper
We don't know, unfortunately, what faculty lists were used for this exercise, but it tells a different story from reputation. I assume the Miami result includes Colin McGinn (but not Brit Brogaard).
1. Rutgers University, New Brunswick (97.4)
2. Stanford University (96.2)
3. New York University (92.3)
3. Princeton University (92.3)
5. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (90.7)
6. University of California, Riverside (90.0)
7. Yale University (89.5)
8. University of Arizona (88.7)
9. University of Notre Dame (85.9)
10. University of California, Berkeley (84.9)
11. Harvard University (84.7)
12. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (84.1)
13. University of Pittsburgh (83.1)
14. University of Massachussetts, Amherst (82.4)
15. Northwestern University (80.1)
15. University of Texas, Austin (80.1)
17. City University of New York Graduate Center (77.7)
18. University of California, San Diego (77.1)
19. University of Miami (76.3)
20. Duke University (75.6)
Runners-up: Penn State (75.2) and Brown University (73.9).
[A]ny lawsuit by Mr. Salaita probably would hinge on the question of whether he was entitled to the academic-freedom and free-speech protections of the university’s faculty members. The answer to that probably will come down to contract law and whether he had gained any employee protections by virtue of being offered a job.
This simply isn't correct: Mr. Salaita's free speech claims do not depend on whether there was a contract making him a faculty member, as I wrote previously. The absence of a contract will also not block his recovery on promissory estoppel grounds.
Now, as we noted previously, there are good reasons to think Salaita was, in fact, a tenured member of the faculty when summarily terminated in August, and that will certainlty guarantee his victory in court. It's also worth calling attention to the fact that Robin Kar, a law professor at the University of Illinois (and a teacher and scholar of contracts, as well as legal philosophy), has come to a similar conclusion.
The University's legal position is wholly untenable; more to the point, as a retired Illinois judge observed, Salaita's lawsuit will survive a motion to dismiss. Let me make clear why this is a significant fact about the legal posture of the cse. If Salaita files a lawsuit, the University will move to dismiss it essentially on the grounds that it states no colorable legal claims, even accepting the facts as alleged by Salaita. For a defendant in a lawsuit, that is always the happiest outcome, but Illinois will not be so lucky, since Salaita has multiple colorable claims, constitutional and contractual. Once a lawsuit survives the motion to dismiss, things change: now the plaintiff is entitled to "discovery" (to collect facts pertinent to his or her case). As I wrote to one of the lawyer/Trustees last week:
[A]s a practical matter of litigation strategy, some or all of Salaita’s contractual and constitutional claims are going to survive a motion to dismiss, at which point his lawyers are going to have a field day in discovery, going through e-mail accounts, minutes of meetings, telephone records etc. All the names of alumni and donors who may have written to the Chancellor will become matters of public record as well. Besides being costly, this whole affair is going to be potentially very embarrassing for a distinguished university.
The University will never let this happen: it will be humiliating, and cost a lot of people their jobs, including Chancellor Wise and Chairman Kennedy of the Board of Trustees. All the behind-the-scenes shenanigans will be aired for public consumption, and the main actors here will be revealed, as I said early on, unfit to run a serious research university. So once Salaita survives the motion of dismiss, he will have considerable power to dictate the terms of a settlement.
Here. It's notable, among other things, for airing doubts about the "civility" nonsense, and for actually putting some of the now notorious "tweets" in a pertinent context--Twitter, for the obvious reasons, lends itself to cherry-picking for malevolent purposes. It is also quite candid about the lobbying the University was subjected to by pro-Israel students and alumni.
Thanks to Jerry Dworkin for pointing me to this fine piece by Rebecca West from The New Republic in 1914; an excerpt:
A little grave reflection shows us that our first duty is to establish a new and abusive school of criticism. There is now no criticism in England. There is merely a chorus of weak cheers, a piping note of appreciation that is not stilled unless a book is suppressed by the police, a mild kindliness that neither heats to enthusiasm nor reverses to anger. We reviewers combine the gentleness of early Christians with a promiscuous polytheism; we reject not even the most barbarous or most fatuous gods. So great is our amiability that it might proceed from the weakness of malnutrition, were it not that it is almost impossible not to make a living as a journalist. Nor is it due to compulsion from above, for it is not worth an editor's while to veil the bright rage of an entertaining writer for the sake of publishers' advertisements. No economic force compels this vice of amiability. It springs from a faintness of the spirit, from a convention of pleasantness, which, when attacked for the monstrous things it permits to enter the mind of the world, excuses itself by protesting that it is a pity to waste fierceness on things that do not matter.
But they do matter. The mind can think of a hundred twisted traditions and ignorances that lie across the path of letters like a barbed wire entanglement and bar the mind from an important advance....We must dispel this unlawful assembly of peers and privy councillors round the wellhead of scholarship with kindly but abusive, and, in cases of extreme academic refinement, coarse criticism.
...is that even as blogs proliferate, traffic here continues to climb. It used to be that August was a sleepy month, with maybe 7 or 8,000 hits per weekday, but here's the stats on visits for the last thirty days (the data for today, the 13th, is obviously incomplete); page views are usualy about 50% higher than the visits for a given day:
Similarly striking are the overall summer stats compared to just a few years ago; for example:
Dave Edmonds (known to many readres from Philosophy Bites, as well as books and his BBC programs) writes:
I am co-writing a book on the Vienna Circle – part biography, part philosophy - and wondered if I can ask for your readers’ help. Many of those linked to the Circle emigrated to the US and lived until the 70s/80s/90s. If anybody met or has any interesting stories or information about thinkers associated with the Vienna Circle, such as Gustav Bergmann, Rudolf Carnap, Herbert Feigl, Kurt Gödel, Karl Menger and Rose Rand (plus Carl Hempel, W.V.O.Quine and Alfred Tarski), I would love to hear from them. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @DavidEdmonds100 (on twitter). Many thanks.
...meaning a lawsuit is now inevitable. Kudos to one of the two lawyers on the Board, James Montgomery, for voting in favor of the appointment. No public statements yet, but I'll add links when they appear.
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)